Through Many Lenses: The Works of Capability Brown

Chatsworth / Gary Rogers, cropped.
Chatsworth (Cropped) / copyright Gary Rogers

This year is the 300th anniversary of famed English landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown’s birth. To celebrate, the Landscape Foundation and Building Center in London have put together Lens on a Landscape Genius, an exhibition of 100 photographs, depicting some of the 150 landscapes of Brown’s that still exist, out of the 250 he planned or designed in the 18th century.

Compton Verney (cropped) / copyright James Kerr
Compton Verney (cropped) / copyright James Kerr

Brown is viewed as the quintessential English landscape architect, “as deeply embedded in the English character as the paintings of Turner and the poetry of Wordsworth.” He is known for projects of an immense scale: vast estates, including the Hampton Court Palace Gardens, Blenheim Palace, and the landscape of Highclere Castle, known today on television as Downtown Abbey. At many of these grand estates, he removed formal gardens and replaced them with undulating grasslands and constructed hills and serpentine rivers.

Highclere (cropped) / Allan Pollok-Morris
Highclere (cropped) / Allan Pollok-Morris

Brown created elegant, seemingly-simple landscapes that hid deeper complexity. On the website of the foundation that promotes the preservation of his work, they write: “His designs appear seamless owing to his use of the sunk fence or ‘ha-ha’ to confuse the eye into believing that different pieces of parkland, though managed and stocked quite differently, were one. His expansive lakes, at different levels and apparently unconnected, formed a single body of water as if a river through the landscape, that like the parkland itself, ran on indefinitely. This effortless coherence is taken for granted today.”

Dawn at Gatton Park (cropped) / copyright James Bruce
Dawn at Gatton Park (cropped) / copyright Matthew Bruce

While he was highly sought after in his life time, becoming the master gardener for Hampton Court, his reputation declined immediately after his death. His Picturesque style, which would influence Frederick Law Olmsted and others, fell out of favor in the face of Romanticism and later Modernism. His work was viewed as the anti-thesis of the geometric, formal works of French landscape architect André Le Nôtre, but both were long seen as out of style. His style, now known as the English Picturesque, has seen a resurgence though. This year, The Telegraph calls him “the world’s most famous landscape gardener.”

Deer on Rutting Stand (cropped) / copyright Derek Saint Romaine
Deer on Rutting Stand (cropped) / copyright Derek St. Romaine

The exhibition includes noteworthy UK-based landscape photographers such as: Andrew Lawson, Joe Cornish, Andrea Jones, Allan Pollok-Morris, Gary Rogers, Derek St. Romaine, Matthew Bruce,  Gareth Davies, James Kerr, Archie Miles, Gavin Kingcome, Simon Warner, Jacqui Hurst, Stephen Studd, James Smith, and, lastly, Steffie Shields, who has also just published a book of her photographs of his landscapes: Moving Heaven and Earth: Capability Brown’s Gift of Landscape.

If in London, go see the exhibition before it closes on October 27.

Design Competition: A More Resilient West Palm Beach

Shore to Core / Van Alen Institute and West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Authority
Shore to Core / Van Alen Institute and West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency

West Palm Beach, a city of nearly 100,000 some 70 miles north of Miami, is grappling with how to protect itself from sea level rise. Much of this long, thin 50-square-mile city fronts the Atlantic Ocean. While in the past this form of development maximized its appeal as a waterfront city, now that exposure elevates their risk.

To create a sustainable and resilient future, the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency has partnered with the Van Alen Institute to create Shore to Core: Vision for a Waterfront City, an  urban design competition, to rethink its future trajectory. The design competition though calls for interdisciplinary teams of designers (landscape architects, urban designers, architects) along with experts in resilience, economic development, place-making, psychology, and other fields.

The competition brief asks: “How can we recreate an urban core so its design is intelligent, flexible, and responsive to the needs of residents and visitors?” A new urban core is needed to better address the future needs of the community, strengthen the city’s ability to handle storms and flooding, improve the economy, and improve “individuals’ well-being through the city’s design.”

West Palm Beach / Van Alen Institute
West Palm Beach / Van Alen Institute

This last point is essential to this competition: there will also be a separate research competition that aims to bring a team of environmental psychologists, neuroscientists, and other social scientists to “look at the relationship between the relationship between the built environment and the well-being of individuals and communities.” Results from this study will likely inform future plans and designs for a resilient urban core that can also boost public health.

Two multidisciplinary teams selected as finalists will be given $45,000 stipends while a research team will be given $40,000.

According to the competition organizers, West Palm Beach has become a magnet for young people, and some 50 percent of the population is African American or Latino. To continue to draw a young, diverse community and grow far into the future, the city must continue to adapt to its increasingly precarious environment.

West Palm Beach / copyright Christopher Faycom via Van Alen Institute
West Palm Beach / copyright Christopher Faycom via Van Alen Institute

Teams are encouraged to pre-register by July 27 (but are not required to), and submissions are due August 21.

What Problem Would You Solve with $100 Million?

The MacArthur Foundation, creators of the “genius” grant, have just launched 100&Change, a competition for a single $100 million grant that can make “measurable progress towards solving a significant problem.” The MacArthur Foundation seeks a bold proposal with a charitable purpose focused on any critical issue facing people, places, or the environment. Proposals must be “meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible.” The goal is to identify issues that are solvable.

The MacArthur Foundation expects to receive applications mostly focused on domestic American issues, but they welcome international proposals as well.

Cecilia Conrad, MacArthur’s managing director leading the competition, told The Washington Post that the grant competition is designed to inspire more creative problem solving. “We believe there are solutions to problems out there that $100 million might be able to make significant headway or unlock resources, and we want to hear what those are. By focusing on solutions, we can inspire people to focus on problems that can be solved, and we just have to roll up our sleeves and get to it.”

Register your proposal by September 2, 2016. According to the foundation, semi-finalists will be announced in December and finalists in the summer of 2017. The foundation’s board of directors will pick the winner.

In other competition news: AECOM, the Van Alen Institute, and 100 Resilient Cities have announced the latest Urban SOS, an annual student competition. Fair Share will explore the principles of the “sharing economy,” and how it can be applied to “support more equitable access to resources, improve the built environment, and enrich the quality of life of urban residents.” Fair Share is looking for multidisciplinary teams of students “to create a new generation of digital innovations combined with physical design strategies to improve how cities provide housing, open space, transportation, jobs, care, and many other services and resources.” Register by June 14 and submit proposals by September 12, 2016. Winners will receive $15,000 and up to $25,000 in services to support the implementation of the winning concept.

Video Competition: The Landscapes of the Anthropocene

Anthroposcene video competition
Anthroposcene video competition

Many scientists argue we have already entered the age of the Anthropocene, an era in which humanity now determines the Earth’s geology, climate, and ecosystems. While a number of scientists and writers argue this new era marks the decline of nature, others say it may be the start of a future where humans deliberately and responsibly manage the planet’s natural assets. Regardless of where you stand on whether we can achieve a sustainable future in the Anthropocene, this epoch has produced unique landscapes. Anthroposcene, a new competition sponsored by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), National Museum of Australia, and LA+ Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture, seeks the most compelling videos of the “profoundly frightening and yet somehow incredibly optimistic landscapes” of this new age.

The organizers write: “The philosophical and practical consequences couldn’t be greater: in short, nature is no longer that ever-providing thing ‘out there’, it is, for better or worse, something we are creating. The landscape of the Anthropocene is a cultural landscape and therefore a question of design.”

Videographers of any discipline are invited to submit but are limited to just three minutes to tell their story. Entrants can use their mobile phones to craft videos.

The video story that resonates the most will take home AUD $10,000 (USD $7,800). Six finalists will be selected by the jury, which includes University of Pennsylvania landscape architecture department chair Richard Weller, ASLA, for a public screening at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on October 27, 2016, with the winner selected right after.

The competition opens June 1 and closes August 1.

Another great opportunity for landscape architects and students: The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute are collaborating on Memorials for the Future, an ideas competition that seeks to “re-imagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials.” The competition calls for landscape architects, artists, and social scientists to form teams and come up with new ways to “commemorate people and events that are more inclusive and flexible, and that enrich Washington D.C.’s landscape.” Entries will be narrowed down to three final teams, which will be asked to “develop site-specific designs for memorials in Washington, D.C., that are adaptive, ephemeral, virtual, event-focused, or interactive.” Submit concepts by May 4.

Landscape Architects: Share Your Most Innovative Ideas

Driverless highway of the future / Natalia Beard, SWA Group
Driverless highway of the future / Natalia Beard, SWA Group

There are lots of great conferences that offer speaking opportunities for landscape architects. One in particular is SXSW Eco, which has become a leading forum for sustainable design across all disciplines. Last year, SXSW Eco provided a platform for a number of landscape architects, who spoke about everything from the future impact of autonomous vehicles on the built environment to how social media can be used to increase public participation in planning and design. Speaking at these kinds of inter-disciplinary events is important because it helps landscape architects reach a broad audience of influencers. SXSW Eco said last year nearly half of the conference’s attendees were their companies’ lead decision maker.

This year, SXSW Eco will be held in Austin, Texas, on October 10-12. Landscape architects can showcase their breakthrough ideas for the following subjects: cities, communications, conservation + adaptation, corporate responsibility, energy, food systems, policy, and water.

The conference organizers are looking for “content that inspires, educates, and informs, providing motivation as well as the tools to take action.” They want a real “diversity in perspective, opinion, and representation.” Furthermore, “self-promotion and advertorial presentations are not well-received.” Session proposals could include panels, workshops, debates, or any other creative format.

The conference will also feature a keynote speech by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, who will talk about the movement to create swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for all; and talks by Annette Kim, University of Southern California’s Spatial Analysis Lab, who will uncover the “hidden connections between urban residents and their actions through data visualization;” and Raj Patel, University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, who will explore the interconnected global food system.

Submit your session proposals by April 29. Using the “PanelPicker” tool, the SXSW community will then vote on which sessions will make it into the conference. Also, submit ideas for Place By Design, SXSW Eco’s “pitch competition,” which celebrates design with social and environmental impact, by May 27.

For those just looking to attend some conferences and hear some new ideas this spring or summer, here are a few: Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation, Houston, Texas (March 11-13); American Planning Association (APA), Phoenix, Arizona (April 12-15); Dumbarton Oaks: Landscape and the Academy, Washington, D.C. (May 6-7); Grey to Green: Addressing Climate Change with Green Infrastructure, Toronto, Canada (June 1-4); Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), Detroit, Michigan (June 8 – 11); and Resilient Cites: 7th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation, Bonn, Germany (July 6-8).

See hundreds of upcoming conferences at ASLA’s continuously-updated free resource: Conferences for Landscape Architects and also check out LA CES for yet more options that yield PDHs.

Get a Closer Look at Houston’s Green Makeover

ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston. SWA Group / Tom Fox
ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston. SWA Group / Tom Fox

Houston, Texas, America’s fourth largest city, is in the middle of a rebirth, argues Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and a number of design journalists. A city known as “car-centric and zoning-adverse” is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get people out of cars and into parks. Within this sprawled-out city, under spaghetti loops of concrete highways, there are now networks of accessible parks, trails for running and biking, and bayous for kayaking and canoeing. Many of these public amenities also double as green infrastructure, constructed systems that provide habitat for a range of species, manage stormwater, and protect against flooding.

According to TCLF, Houston is “undergoing a monumental landscape architecture-led transformation whose scale and impact could fundamentally change the city and influence city-shaping around the globe.” The questions then are: How has Houston — the mecca of skyscrapers, highways, concrete, cars, and oil — shed some of its bad habits and created places for people? And as Houston undertakes this green makeover, what lessons does it offer to other car-centric cities that want to improve quality of life?

To delve more deeply into how Houston is changing its identity through landscape architecture, TCLF has put together Leading with Landscape II, a day-long conference on March 11. The conference will be followed by What’s Out There Weekend Houston on March 12-13, which will feature two days of free, expert-led tours.

ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Awards. Rice University Brochstein Pavilion by Office of James Burnett / Paul Hester
ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Awards. Rice University Brochstein Pavilion by Office of James Burnett / Paul Hester

Attendees of the conference will hear from Mayor Sylvester Turner, the current Mayor of Houston; Annise Parker, former Mayor; parks department officials; as well as the leading landscape architects who are shaping Houston’s future, including: Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, SWA Group; James Burnett, FASLA, Office of James Burnett; Sheila Condon, FASLA, Clark Condon; Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, Hargreaves Associates; Douglas Reed, FASLA, Reed Hilderbrand; and Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, and many others.

Discovery Green in Houston / H-town Visually Blog
Discovery Green in Houston / H-town Visually Blog

The 26 What’s Out There tours will take visitors everywhere from SWA Group’s award-winning Buffalo Bayou Park, in image at top, to Rice University’s Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion, created by the Office of James Burnett, and Discovery Green, a park Hargreaves Associates designed in 2008.

The Leading with Landscape II conference on March 11 is $250 for professionals, providing 6.5 LA CES professional development hours, and $95 for students. What’s Out There Weekend tours on March 12-13, which run 1-2 hours, are all free, but TCLF asks attendees to first register online.

Learn more about Houston’s green transformation in Birnbaum’s blog and the Texas Monthly.

EU Offers Millions to Cities Willing to Innovate

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Award. Park 20 / 20, A Cradle to Cradle Inspired Master Plan by William McDonough + Partners / DPI Animation House
ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Award. Park 20 / 20, A Cradle to Cradle Inspired Master Plan by William McDonough + Partners / DPI Animation House

More than 70 percent of Europe’s population lives in cities, and that number is expected to grow to 80 percent by 2050. As European cities further densify, they must find new solutions to ever-worsening problems, like congestion, pollution, and poverty. To stay ahead of these challenges, cities must remain the nexus of innovation. This is the goal of the European Commission (EC)’s Urban Innovative Actions program, which seeks bold projects that can push forward innovation in urban planning and design throughout the Union. Projects, which must be submitted by an urban government with a population of at least 50,000 people, can receive up to €5 million over three years. From now through 2020, the EC will be offering €372 million for these urban experiments.

In the program’s inaugural year, the Commission seeks projects that focus on renewable energy, the integration of migrants and refugees into European society, jobs and skills development, and urban poverty.

To be considered, projects must “not be part of your normal activities,” the EC tells city governments. In fact, the projects must be something experimental, never before implemented in Europe. Innovation accounts for 40 percent of scoring. Projects must also show that they have real multi-stakeholder partnerships; a clear plan for measuring results; a scalable and replicable approach; and a solid strategy for implementation, with a realistic budget.

A general lack of urban experimentation is why the EC created the program. As the EC explains, “many urban planners and authorities have proposed new and innovative ideas, but these solutions are not always put into practice. One of the reasons is that urban authorities are reluctant to use their own financial resources to fund ideas that are new, unproven, and hence risky. Budget constraints therefore limit the capacities of urban authorities for experimentation.”

The Commission hopes to identify those city governments with the “imagination to design, prototype, test and eventually scale-up novelties that citizens and users would perceive as having an added value, therefore providing a wider, if not completely new, market for them.”

While there will surely be some failed experiments, it’s an exciting chance to test new approaches that can have lasting impact and spread far beyond Europe’s borders. The rest of the world’s cities can only benefit from the EC’s ambitious investment in the future.

Urban governments should submit proposals by March 31.

Another convention-buster is the annual Buckminister Fuller Challenge, “socially-responsible design’s highest award,” which seeks original submissions from multi-disciplinary teams of designers, planners, artists, and scientists. In 2014, SCAPE landscape architecture won the $100,000 prize for their innovative Living Breakwaters, an oyster reef restoration project. This year, for the first time, the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) will also offer a separate student award. Submissions are due March 1.

ASLA Announces 2016 Professional and Student Awards Call for Entries

ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / Tom Harris
ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Copyright Tom Harris

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces its calls for entries for the 2016 Professional and Student Awards, the world’s most prestigious juried landscape architecture competition. Each year, the ASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture from around the globe, while the ASLA Student Awards give us a glimpse into the future of the profession.

Award-winning submissions will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and in many other design and construction industry and general-interest media. Award recipients, their clients and student advisors also will be honored at the awards presentation ceremony during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, October 21-24, 2016. Award-winning submissions will also be featured in a video presentation at the ceremony and on the awards website following the event.

The prestige of the ASLA awards programs relies on the high-caliber juries that are convened each year to review submissions. Members of this year’s professional awards jury are:

  • Kona Gray, ASLA, Chair, EDSA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Keith Bowers, FASLA, Biohabitats Inc. Baltimore
  • Jennifer Guthrie, FASLA, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle
  • Mami Hara, ASLA, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia
  • Christopher Hume, Architecture Critic, Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario
  • Lee-Anne Milburn, FASLA, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California
  • Willett Moss, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
  • Suman Sorg, FAIA, DLR Group | Sorg, Washington, D.C.
  • Laurinda Spear, ASLA, ArquitectonicaGEO, Miami

Joining the jury for the selection of the Research Category will be representatives on behalf of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA).

Members of the student awards jury are:

  • Laura Solano, ASLA, Chair, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Ned Crankshaw, ASLA, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Terrence DeWan, FASLA, Terrence J. DeWan & Associates, Yarmouth, Maine
  • Janelle Johnson, ASLA, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, Chicago, Illinois
  • Roger Lewis, FAIA, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  • Elizabeth Miller, FASLA, National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • Forster Ndubisi, FASLA, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Trinity Simons, Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Washington, D.C.
  • Barbara Swift, FASLA, Swift & Company Landscape Architects, Seattle

Both the ASLA Professional and Student awards feature five categories: General Design; Residential Design; Analysis and Planning; Communications; and Research. The Professional Awards also include The Landmark Award, while the Student Awards include the Student Community Service Award and Student Collaboration categories.

Entry submissions and payment must be received by March 18, 2016 for ASLA Professional Awards and May 13, 2016 for ASLA Student Awards

Raise Your Sustainable City Ambitions

Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates
Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates

The American Architectural Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA) is looking for innovative public-private partnerships with ambitious sustainable planning and design goals. Teams are encouraged to apply to participate in an intensive 2.5-day design workshop led by SCDA in Washington, D.C., August 3-5, 2016.

Since 2009, SCDA has helped 55 project teams from 50 cities in the U.S. hone their sustainable plans and designs. Some recent highlights:

Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania: In 2009, a team of planning officials and developers met to discuss how best to achieve their goal of urban, mixed-use development on the 1,000-acre former ship yard. The team sought guidance on “best practices in sustainable planning, design, and development, including strategies coordinated with the recently launched GreenPlan Philadelphia and LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) certification process.”

According to SCDA, their experts helped the project team realize “symbiotic relationships that the Navy Yard development could promote with the City of Philadelphia. These included integrating transportation and open space networks throughout the 1,000 acre site as well as developing residential and commercial spaces onsite to promote 24/7 use.” Check out the resulting master plan, which also includes the landscape planning work of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Mill River District, New Haven, Connecticut: A 206-acre urban and light industrial district in New Haven has many underused brownfield sites. “To address these challenges and build on the area’s native advantages, the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven (EDC), and the City of New Haven Department of Economic Development entered a public-private partnership with Mill River District businesses to create a development plan that will maintain the city’s industrial base, establish the district’s distinct identity, attract new businesses, and address sustainability challenges at the local and regional levels.”

With the help of SCDA in a 2012 design workshop, a revised plan was devised to improve pedestrian access, especially to the riverfront; set aside some parts of the waterfront for flood-preventing green infrastructure; and create a better balance between environmental and economic development. Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, said, “the lessons learned through SCDA played a large role in shaping the way we view the district.” Learn more about the resulting phased planning approach.

Mariposa Corridor, Fresno, California: In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the city of Fresno, which is home to more than 500,000 residents, has some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the country. While there are major challenges, city leaders have long sought to revitalize the Mariposa corridor, which connects Fulton Mall, a former main street that was transformed by architect Victor Gruen and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo into a pedestrian mall in the mid-60s; the civic center; and a proposed new high-speed rail transit center.

In 2012, SCDA experts helped the Mariposa corridor project team, which included city officials and local developers, to comprehensively rethink the deteriorating pedestrian mall and vacant buildings along the corridor, creating an integrated transportation and economic development strategy. The team then leveraged the new concepts created at SCDA to win millions in federal transportation planning grants. Plans were also shared with the community and local arts groups, which led to some innovative fundraisers (a rapelling event), and public space improvements, including the construction of an ice rink.

Submit your application by January 28, 2016.

Landscape Architects Announce Call for Presentations for 2016 Meeting in New Orleans

ASLA
ASLA

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has released its call for presentations for the 2016 Annual Meeting and EXPO, which will take place October 21-24, 2016, in New Orleans. More than 6,000 landscape architects and allied professionals are expected to attend.

The meeting will feature a diverse spectrum of industry experts speaking on a wide range of subjects, from sustainable design and best practices to new materials and technologies.

More than 130 education sessions and field sessions will be presented during the meeting, providing attendees with the opportunity to earn up to 21 professional development hours under the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™).

Many of the sessions will also qualify for continuing education credit with the Green Building Certification Institute (toward LEED AP credential maintenance), the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and other allied professional organizations and state registration boards.

Education session speakers selected from this process will receive a full complimentary registration to the ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting and may also be eligible for reimbursement for one night’s hotel stay at an official ASLA hotel (an estimated $750 value). Landscape architecture professionals wishing to present at the New Orleans meeting need to be active members of ASLA. Allied professionals are encouraged to both submit presentations and speak but are not required to be members of the Society.

The deadline for education session proposals is January 28, 2016. Submit your session proposal now.