Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (September 1 – 15)

Kim Wilkie landscape / The Architectural Digest

Fire Pits Add Flare to the Backyard Gatherings The Los Angeles Times, 9/1/16
“Fire pits — which are portable or permanent troughs or bowls that contain the flames — are expected to be the most popular outdoor design element this year, according to a survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects.”

Clash of Titans? Opponents of Pier 55 Have Secret Backer, Media Mogul Says The New York Times, 9/4/16
“In their quest to build a huge new cultural pier on the West Side of Manhattan, the Hudson River Park Trust and Barry Diller, the media mogul who is paying for it, have faced one seemingly intractable opponent: the City Club of New York, a little-known civic group founded in 1892 that was all but dead a few years ago.”

How an Energy Company Turned a Strip Mine into a Massive ParkCurbed, 9/7/16
“Strip mining is one of the most environmentally unfriendly ways we extract resources from the earth, tearing up enormous swaths of land to access the valuable minerals buried underneath. In some cases, the practice leaves thousands of acres covered in barren waste rock incapable of sustaining plant or animal life.”

‘Ideal Section’ Paved Way for Modern Road ConstructionThe Chicago Tribune, 9/9/16
“After World War I automobiles and trucks were becoming increasingly important modes of transportation in the U.S. for everyone from farmers and manufacturers to tourists. And, of course, the old dirt roads did nothing to speed the way.”

A Glorified Sidewalk, and the Path to Transform AtlantaThe New York Times, 9/11/16
“Could this traffic-clogged Southern city, long derided as the epitome of suburban sprawl, really be discovering its walkable, bike-friendly, density-embracing, streetcar-riding, human-scale soul?”

Meet One of England’s Top Landscape ArchitectsThe Architectural Digest, 9/12/16
“English landscape architect Kim Wilkie prefers to intuit what a site wants to be rather than impose his will upon it. It’s an approach that has brought clients from around the world to the door of his farmhouse in Hampshire.”

ASLA Announces 2016 Professional Awards

ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Underpass Park /
ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Underpass Park by PFS Studio / Tom Arban

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is excited to announce its 30 professional award recipients for 2016. Selected from 456 entries, the awards honor top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications and research projects in the U.S. and around the world. The winners will receive their awards at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans on Monday, October 24 at the New Orleans Ernest M. Morial Convention Center.

The September issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) features the winning projects and is available for free viewing.

The following is a complete list of 2016 professional award winners:

General Design Category

Award of Excellence (see image above)
Underpass Park, Toronto, Ontario
by PFS Studio for Waterfront Toronto

Honor Awards
Framing Terrain and Water: Quzhou Luming Park, Quzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China
by Turenscape for the Quzhou City Government

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Bishan, Singapore
by Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl for the Public Utilities Board / National Parks Board, Singapore

Converging Ecologies as a Gateway to Acadiana, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana
by CARBO Landscape Architecture for St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission

The Metro-Forest Project, Bangkok, Thailand
by Landscape Architects of Bangkok (LAB) for PTT Public Company Limited

The Power Station, Dallas
by Hocker Design Group for The Pinnell Foundation

Corktown Common: Flood Protection and a Neighbourhood Park, Toronto, Ontario
by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. for Waterfront Toronto in Partnership with Toronto Region Conservancy Authority (TRCA) and Infrastructure Ontario (IO)

Grand Teton National Park Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Moose, Wyoming
by Swift Company LLC for the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Grand Teton Association

Eco-Corridor Resurrects Former Brownfield, Ningbo, China
by SWA for Ningbo Planning Bureau – East New Town Development Committee

Analysis and Planning Category

ASLA 2016 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions. Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl / Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl
ASLA 2016 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions. Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl / Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl

Award of Excellence

The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions, Copenhagen, Denmark
by Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl for the Municipality of Copenhagen

Honor Awards
Central Puget Sound Regional Open Space Strategy, Puget Sound Region, Washington
by University of Washington Green Futures Lab for The Bullitt Foundation and The Russell Family Foundation

Rebuild by Design, The Big U, Manhattan, New York
by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rebuild by Design

Memorial Park Master Plan 2015, Houston
by Nelson Byrd Woltz for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, The Memorial Park Conservancy, and Uptown Houston

Baton Rouge Lakes: Restoring a Louisiana Landmark from Ecological Collapse to Cultural Sanctuary, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
by SWA Group for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation

Bayou Greenways: Realizing the Vision, Houston
by SWA Group for the Houston Parks Board

Communications Category

ASLA 2016 Professional Communications Award of Excellence. What's Out There Guides / The Cultural Landscape Foundation
ASLA 2016 Professional Communications Award of Excellence. What’s Out There Guides / The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Award of Excellence
What’s Out There Guidebooks
by The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Honor Awards
Roving Rangers: Bringing the Parks to the People
by BASE Landscape Architecture, for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund

Activating Land Stewardship and Participation in Detroit: A Field Guide to Working with Lots
by Detroit Future City, published by Inland Press

Landscape Architecture Documentation Standards: Principles, Guidelines and Best Practices
by Design Workshop, published by John Wiley & Sons

PHYTO: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design
by Kate Kennen, ASLA, and Niall Kirkwood, FASLA, published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group

DredgeFest Event Series
by The Dredge Research Collaborative

Sea Change: Boston
by Sasaki Associates Inc.

Research Category

Honor Awards
Weather-Smithing: Assessing the Role of Vegetation, Soil and Adaptive Management in Urban Green Infrastructure Performance
by Andropogon Associates Ltd. for the University of Pennsylvania

Residential Design Category

ASLA 2016 Landmark Award. Michigan Avenue /
ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. DBX Ranch by Design Workshop / D.A. Horchner / Design Workshop, Inc

Award of Excellence
DBX Ranch: A Transformation Brings Forth a New Livable Landscape, Pitkin County, Colorado
by Design Workshop Inc.

Honor Awards
Kronish House, Beverly Hills, California
by Marmol Radziner

The Restoring of a Montane Landscape, Rocky Mountains, Colorado
by Design Workshop Inc.

Chilmark: Embracing a Glacial Moraine, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
by Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects

The Rivermark, Sacramento, California
by Fletcher Studio for Bridge Housing Corporation

Water Calculation and Poetic Interpretation, Carmel, California
by Arterra Landscape Architects

ASLA 2016 Landmark Award. Michigan Avenue Streetscape /
ASLA 2016 Landmark Award. Michigan Avenue Streetscape by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects for the City of Chicago / Steven Gierke

The Landmark Award
Michigan Avenue Streetscape: 20 Years of Magnificent Mile Blooms, Chicago
by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects for the City of Chicago/Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association

The professional awards jury included:

  • 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

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (August 1–15)

Rail Deck Park / City of Toronto, via The Architect’s Newspaper

Working to Make Public Space for Everyone in BaltimoreThe Baltimore Sun, 8/1/16
“For writer D. Watkins, it’s a sense of exclusion from what he called the ‘new’ Baltimore. For student activist Diamond Sampson, it’s a feeling of being unwelcome around the Inner Harbor.”

Will Replacing Thirsty Lawns with Drought-Tolerant Plants Make L.A. Hotter?  – The Los Angeles Times, 8/2/16
“Last summer, a revolution occurred in Los Angeles landscaping: Across the city, tens of thousands of homeowners tore up their water-thirsty lawns and replaced them with gravel, turf, decomposed granite and a wide range of drought-tolerant plants at a rate never seen before.”

How Noted Landscape Architect Jim Burnett Counters Dallas’ Concrete Jungle The Dallas Morning News, 8/2/16
“The 55-year-old is best known worldwide as the landscape architect of Klyde Warren Park. But he’s also created visions of greenery throughout Uptown and the Arts District and was part of the team that produced the outdoor master plan for Parkland Memorial Hospital.”

Why Landscape Architects Are the Urban Designers of TomorrowCurbed, 8/4/16
“For landscape architects, the ground has shifted in serious ways over the last few decades. Earlier this summer in Philadelphia, at a mid-June summit organized by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, members of the profession looked back at the changes the last half-century has brought to their profession.”

City of Toronto to Build 21-Acre Park Over Downtown Railroad Tracks The Architect’s Newspaper, 8/8/16
“Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced plans to protect 21 acres of downtown real estate for the future Rail Deck Park.”

Ben Bradlee’s Mausoleum Sets Off a Gossip-Laden SquabbleThe New York Times, 8/11/16
“It lacked the pageantry of the funeral nearly a year before, but when the body of Benjamin C. Bradlee, the longtime editor of The Washington Post, was re-interred in a Georgetown cemetery here last October, it had an air of permanence.”

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (June 1 – 15)

A towering waterfall appears to fall from midair into the Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles / Dezeen

The Forgotten Space Under this Sao Paulo Highway Will Become a Hanging Garden and ParkCo.Exist, 6/2/16
“When an elevated highway was built in the middle of downtown São Paulo in 1971, the city said it was attempting to improve traffic. Instead, congestion got worse. The two-mile stretch of road, called Minhocão (‘Big Worm’) is now one of the most polluted parts of a city where smog kills thousands of people a year.”

DLANDstudio Launches Phase 1 Design for Rails-to-Trails QueensWayThe Architect’s Newspaper, 6/2/16
“After years of debate over what to do with the 60-year old abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR), the coalition has been moving toward the goal of converting 3.5 miles of the railroad—which extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park—into a park similar to the High Line.”

A Look at Apple’s Insanely Ambitious Tree-Planting Plans for Its New Spaceship Campus  – Venturebeat, 6/4/16
“While construction crews work furiously to finish Apple’s mammoth new headquarters in Cupertino this year, another critical piece of the campus’ design is taking shape 100 miles to the east.”

Olafur Eliasson Installs Giant Waterfall at Palace of VersaillesDezeen, 6/6/16
“A towering waterfall appears to fall from midair into the Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles as part of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s latest exhibition (+ slideshow).”

Design Team Led by Mia Lehrer Picked for New Downtown L.A. Park The Los Angeles Times, 6/9/16
“A group led by landscape architecture firm Mia Lehrer & Associates has won a design competition for the 2-acre park, on the site of a former state office building adjacent to Grand Park at the foot of City Hall, city officials announced Thursday.”

His Landscape Designs Take an Artist’s (Quirky) VisionThe Los Angeles Times, 6/10/16
“If there were a competition for tackling out-of-the-ordinary landscaping projects, Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer, would be on auto entry.”

Sensory, Universally Accessible Playground Designed for Chanticleer Park The Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6/12/16
“The Santa Cruz Playground Project and Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space, and Cultural Services revealed designs Sunday for a $4 million wheelchair-accessible playground planned for Chanticleer Park in Live Oak.”

Who Taught You How to See?

Paradise Valley Residence / Coen + Partners
Paradise Valley Residence / Coen + Partners

This is the question landscape architect Shane Coen, ASLA, founder of Coen + Partners, asked as he began his lecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design. For him, the answer is his father, the painter Don Coen. He emphasized the importance of teaching sight, saying “it’s our job to get people to see. It’s our job to inspire spaces that inspire people.”

Coen’s lecture showcased a selection of projects Coen + Partners have completed since its unlikely beginning 25 years ago. Shortly after graduation, Coen was asked suddenly to co-start a landscape practice by the son of the creator of Herman Miller’s famous Aeron chair. The practice began with “no money and no experience, but the unbelievable opportunity” of a five-year, rent-free space. With time and a stable foundation, he applied his “ability to see” to the mid-Western countryside surrounding their Minneapolis-based office.

Coen made clear his work does not replicate nature but rather works in contrast to it. Emphasizing the importance of working with collaborative architects, Coen’s work is in many ways itself architectural, capitalizing on “the simplicity of form and color sitting in a landscape.”

His firm’s guiding principles are manifested in Jackson Meadow, his first project, which was designed in collaboration with architect David Salmela. The award-winning 1999 planned residential community features 64 uniquely-designed but all-while pitched-roof homes, carefully placed in a rolling woodland, with porches precisely oriented toward the community’s 5-mile nature trail.

Jackson Meadow / Coen + Partners
Jackson Meadow / Coen + Partners

Awarded a 2015 National Design Award from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Coen + Partners’ projects cover a range of types and scales, each aesthetically adjusted to their particular context. Despite its expansion, however, the firm’s work remains 40 percent residential, with Coen noting the importance of these projects as educational and exploratory projects for the firm. Yet it is his series of award-winning public and institutional projects have led him to his latest and perhaps most challenging work in Saudi Arabia.

Coen received a sealed letter inviting the firm to interview to design the master plan and open spaces for the lands surrounding the skyscrapers of Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District. Coen soon found himself in the driver seat behind a 1,220-acre project, with a need to “create a vision and build a team” — a role he sees as critical for landscape architects going forward.

Drawing on the star dunes and wadi streams of the Saudi Arabian desert, renderings of the project reveal large star-shaped sun shades and water-centric linear park space.

 King Abdullah Financial District / Coen + Partners

King Abdullah Financial District / Coen + Partners
King Abdullah Financial District / Coen + Partners
King Abdullah Financial District / Coen + Partners

Considered the first inclusive public space in Riyadh, the project was recently approved by Saudi Arabia’s High Commission. With Coen + Partners ”design vision and aesthetic leadership” on the project, it will be interesting to see the firm’s minimalist design approach at this new scale.

This guest post is by Nate Wooten, Student ASLA, master’s of landscape architecture candidate, University of Pennsylvania School of Design.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (January 1 – 15)

Rooftop Garden in Dumbo, NYC / Architectural Digest

Can a Professionally Designed Garden Add Value to Your Home? The Huffington Post, 1/4/15
“This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown – the landscape architect renowned for designing over 170 country house estates and gardens during the 18th century. His elegant style of undulating parkland and serpentine lakes can still be seen at dozens of locations, including Blenheim Palace and Stowe.”

See a Rooftop Garden in Brooklyn Inspired by the High Line Architectural Digest, 1/6/15
“Few cities in the world have real estate as expensive as New York’s. For its millions of residents, the idea of certain amenities, such as a private garden—must be quickly abandoned. Yet one apartment building in Brooklyn’s trendy Dumbo neighborhood is creatively changing all of that.”

The New Dolores Park Will Be Pristine—But Can It Last? Curbed, 1/7/15
“It was another beautiful morning in Dolores Park, accompanied by the soothing sound of jackhammers. City officials—including Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Dolores Park’s Project Manager Jacob Gilchrist—went along on a preview hard hat tour (sans hard hats—it’s mostly just grass out there, after all) of the park’s south end to show off the final phase of the park’s $20.5 million renovation.”

To Preserve and Protect: Working with ArboristsMetropolis, 1/7/15
“As landscape architects we love trees! Be they pre-existing or newly planted, trees are often the backbone to a site design. Mature, statuesque trees add invaluable character to a place and are often a site’s greatest asset or attraction.”

Field Mighty Real The Architect’s Newspaper, 1/11/15
“Once a quarry, then a landfill, the property at Circle Acres Nature Preserve in the Montopolis neighborhood of Austin was purchased by Ecology Action of Texas with the goal of transforming the site into a nature preserve and park.”

Let’s Talk Water Planetizen, 1/12/15
“It is important to note that landscape architects have been leaders in sustainable design since long before it became a hot topic. Environmental stewardship is a core value of the profession, and designing with water in a responsible and beautiful manner is what we do.”

Interview with Christine Ten Eyck on the Beauty of Drought

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA / Ten Eyck Landscape Architecture Inc
Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA / George Brainard

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, is founder and principal of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc. Her firm of 12 has won numerous national ASLA awards. Interview conducted at the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Texas seems to be just coming out of a severe four-year drought. What has the drought taught Texas about water management?

The drought has taught Texas they don’t have enough water for all the people and for growing agriculture. Texas wants to attract more people and industry. But if you attract more people, you’ve got to have water. Texas’s solution is to fund more infrastructure projects that bring water to the people — the Texas Rainy Day Fund, which has $2 billion for water management projects. They will give low interest rate loans to towns or cities to bring water or improve their water supply.

By the way, I don’t think we’re over the drought, even though El Nino has definitely hit.

As you just mentioned, Texas has passed this fund with $2 billion for water management. Is it enough? As a landscape architect, what does it mean for you?

No, I don’t think it’s enough.

I’ve always thought water is precious. In our projects, we make people aware of the path of water. We feel this is important anywhere, but especially in the arid Southwest where people long for a connection with water. Our projects have been a source of inspiration, not only for residential homeowners but also cities and college campuses. That’s the role we play. We can make communities aware that water is a precious resource and that they need to take care of water, not waste it on lawns. Our projects have to be beautiful and sustainable.

I usually work on sites that have immediate concerns with either no water or in a year like this with flooding water rushing off existing transportation systems into these last little shreds of remaining nature, and so we try to improve these systems, just one project at a time.

Significant amounts of groundwater have been used during the drought. Landscape architects are coming up with ways to recharge groundwater, even in urban areas. What will work in Texas? How can groundwater recharge be made more visible or even beautiful?

In Texas, if you own a property, you own the water rights to anything underneath your property. The rivers and streams are owned by the state of Texas. You have to get special permits to use that water. But, basically, in Texas you can still drill a well. There’s not a ton of regulation.

On my own street in Austin, I know of five homeowners who have dug wells. They’ll put signs out in their front yard that, “we’re watering with well water, so we’re okay. We can use as much water as much as we want.” This is just bizarre to me. We’ve still got lots of people with great big lawns. Now that we’re getting all this rain they think it’s perfectly okay to keep them. It’s just going to be a long, hard process.

In all of our projects, we try to slow water down and let it percolate down. I do this even in my own yard and garden. The whole front yard, which is good-sized, is designed to be a sponge to take it down. The more of these sponge gardens that get published, the more projects people see, it will help.

Sponge residential garden / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.
Sponge residential garden / Paul Hester

We’re also trying to get people to appreciate the beauty of drought and appreciate brown. It’s a gorgeous color. Golden colors. We just appreciate that there are seasons when things look a little haggard, just like me. It’s just like part of life. We need to come up with a new kind of beauty that people can have — a resilient, tough landscape that has a harsh beauty unique to its region.

Beautiful drought landscape / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.
Beautiful drought landscape / Terry Moore

In a number of communities in Texas with severe water challenges, it came down to providing water for endangered species or humans. Where do you see the balance?

What can I say? People are having too many children. I hate to sound so rude, but there’s too many people. We’ve got to be satisfied with one or two. Of course I’m the oldest of five, so I love a big family, don’t get me wrong. It’s just there are just so many people, and they use too many resources.

Balance between the wildlife and the humans? Seems like the government is going to probably pick humans. There needs to be a balance, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how we’re going to figure that out.

In your own projects, you’re now even harvesting condensation from air conditioning systems. With your new project at the University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media, you designed a fascinating system. Could you tell me how that works?

In Texas, we have humidity and also have tons of air conditioning. The air conditioning coils create this condensation, a byproduct of a building that typically goes into the sewer. Because of my experience in Arizona, I’ve learned to appreciate every drop of water and look for every little way to honor that memory of water in the landscape.

We made the whole Belo Center garden about the path of water. We were able to convince the Belo Center for New Media to harvest that the condensate along with the stormwater that hit the roof. The condensate and the stormwater go into these three cisterns for irrigation, but when those are full, a valve shuts, and the water then goes through our water fountain, a linear biofilter runnel, where we have native Juncus growing. It’s a great element in the plaza, but it also tells an interesting story about reusing the water that a building produces.

University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media garden / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.
University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media garden / Bill Timmerman

Now, water departments will tell you, “we could have used that water to dissolve the solvents and things in our sewer system and all that.” So, again, is it really an end-all solution? No, it isn’t. It’s a way to use water that isn’t processed by the city and it calls attention to forgotten water.

As you’ve described, your projects make water flow visible in the landscape. For example, your landscape at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus has this series of vegetated arroyos or rivers. Why is making water visible so important?

Our project at UTEP, a campus that was defined by its architecture and abundance of asphalt, is set in a little mountain hillside in the Chihuahuan Desert. They had lost all connection with their fantastic place. The Chihuahuan Desert is a beautiful desert. It was more about really connecting the campus to their place, and creating a sense of pride of their unique spot in the world.

We looked at historic photos of the campus. When it was first built, there were many arroyos, but the campus evolved to become a car-centric campus, with acres of asphalt. We were lucky enough to peel all that off, reshape the land, and carve some of those arroyos back in, in order to slow that water down as it traverses through campus. When they do get rain, as little as they get, it comes in major, epic storms, so the new arroyos and acequias help to absorb and slow the water down.

UTEP campus / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.
UTEP campus / Terry Moore

UTEP has the largest Hispanic student population of any university in the country. They’re just the greatest kids. It was just a blast to give them a heart to their campus, embraced by these arroyos and this central gathering space. The new landscape just celebrates them. It celebrates where they’re from, where their ancestors are from.

We used all the native andesite rock from regrading and native Chihuahuan plants to create these arroyos and, now, you can’t believe the birds and butterflies on this campus.

People’s first impression of El Paso is typically the uninspiring view of industry as they drive I-10. Except for the mountain views, it’s not flattering or reflective of this amazing city. We’re showing the beauty of this place and hopefully instilling pride. It’s had a great impact so far, so that’s exciting. And it’s all working.

Silicon Valley Reinvents the Mall

The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN

As malls die off around the country, and more people shop online, new shopping center models are desperately needed. In Silicon Valley, the source of so much game-changing innovation, the mall appears to be the next format to get a reboot. “Starchitect” Rafael Viñoly and landscape architects at OLIN are transforming Cupertino’s struggling mall into the 50-acre Hills at Vallco, a hybrid retail, commercial, and residential hub, all covered in what they promise will be the “world’s largest green roof.” The 30-acre green roof, which will function as both community park and nature preserve, will offer 3.8 miles of “walking and jogging trails, meadows, vineyards, orchards and organic gardens, children’s play areas and a refuge for native species of plants and birds,” writes the Sand Hill Property company, the developers of the $3 billion project.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal says the unique design came out of extensive community engagement, as developers hosted 20 public meetings and received more than 3,000 ideas through their web site. Reed Moulds, Sand Hill managing director, told The San Jose Mercury News: “There will be nothing like it when we are done. We believe its community focus will make this a remarkable place to live, work, dine, play, learn and recreate.”

At ground level, the developers aim to create from scratch an “entertainment-driven downtown,” writes the Silicon Valley Business Journal. A 15-block street grid will carve out spaces for two new 3-acre “town squares,” which will offer outdoor movie nights and farmers markets, surrounded by a mix of stores and restaurants selling “local and organic food.”

The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN
The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN

Surrounding these squares will be 625,000 square feet of entertainment and retail space, as well as 2 million square feet of office space, reports The San Jose Mercury News. There will also be 680 apartments at market rate, with 120 set aside as affordable housing or apartments for seniors. The idea behind the mix is that the office space will bring in traffic during the daytime, while those living in the apartments will be active there on weekends.

The $300-million-dollar green roof will be accessed via a set of slopes and bridges that will take residents and visitors up to the expanse covered in trails, farms, and playgrounds. According to The San Jose Mercury News, OLIN will use recycled water to irrigate the landscape, which will feature native and drought-tolerant plants.

The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN
The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN
The Hills at Vallco / Rafael Viñoly and OLIN

The developers are aiming for LEED Platinum for the entire development. A mix of sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails may help to reduce car use in the development, probably to the extent other dense mixed-use developments in suburbia have. It will be up to the city of Cupertino, with its lame walk score of 45, to extend the pedestrian infrastructure into a real network.

To sweeten the deal, the developers will build a new $40-million-dollar elementary school as well as an innovation center, an “incubator,” for high school students.

The Hills at Vallco will still have to compete with the nearby Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto and Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, which is perhaps why there are so many extraordinary features. But with Google’s new Mountain View headquarters, with its massive glass dome that will result in its own temperature-controlled climate, and Apple’s giant ring-shaped headquarters, with its ten thousand parking spaces, in development just a few miles away, the developers are betting they can make the Hills at Vallco a magnet for decades to come.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (July 1 – 15)

Craftsman-style Lafayette home and landscape / David Thorne Landscape Architect, Treve Johnson, via The San Francisco Chronicle

Lafayette Landscaping Inspired by NativesThe San Francisco Chronicle, 7/2/15
“The drought has many home gardeners pushing the pause button on major projects and plantings, but we can still garden vicariously through social sites and “pin” (and pine over) gardens that have inspiring ideas.”

Companies Harness Environment to Help Workers Smell the RosesThe Irish Times, 7/3/15
“In recent years, companies have begun looking to incorporate more of the outside into their workplaces to create a better environment for employees.”

Fernando Caruncho’s Shock Waves The New York Times, 7/7/2015
“Instead of planting in a traditional, rigorous grid, Fernando Caruncho, the celebrated Madrid-based minimalist landscape architect, conceptualized the 250 acres as a green sea of voluptuous, undulating waves that ‘traverse the landscape of this ancient place.’”

District Government Gives Green Light to Parks in Parking SpacesThe Washington Post, 7/11/15
“In the past week, carpenters screwed 10 banana-and-mustard-colored triangular planters, a bench and a table to a plywood platform taking up two parking spaces on K Street NW. Then they came back and touched up the paint and put up reflective safety posts. On Sunday, ferns and lavender are set to go in.”

Outdoor Rooms with Not-So-Secret GardensThe Houston Chronicle, 7/13/15
“Christopher D. Ritzert’s quarter-acre garden behind his 1930s stone Colonial in Washington started out as an unremarkable backyard with a jumble of weeds. To fix that, Ritzert worked with a landscape artist to design a series of outdoor rooms that ascend the hill behind the house.”

Resilience: A New Conservation Strategy for a Warming WorldYale Environment 360, 7/13/15
“As climate change puts ecosystems and species at risk, conservationists are turning to a new approach: preserving those landscapes that are most likely to endure as the world warms.”

Revitalizing Urban Projects Win Rudy Bruner Awards

Miller’s Court in Baltimore, Maryland / Courtesy of Billy Michels via Metropolis
Miller’s Court in Baltimore, Maryland / Billy Michels via Metropolis

From a pool of applicants from 40 communities in 26 states, Miller’s Court in Baltimore was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) gold medal and a $50,000 prize. Four other projects were awarded silver medals and $10,000 each.

Since 1987, the biennial award has recognized “urban places distinguished by quality design and contributions to the social, economic, and communal vitality of our nation’s cities.” The 2013 gold medal was awarded to Inspiration Kitchens in Garfield Park, Chicago.

This year’s winning project, Miller’s Court, is a “renovation of a vacant historic tin can manufacturing building, into an affordable and supportive living and working environment for school teachers and education-focused non-profits.” Located in an economically and culturally diverse neighborhood near Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus, the project, which was conceived and developed by Seawall Development Company with Mark, Thomas Architects, was completed in 2009.

The LEED Gold-certified complex includes “40 rental apartments and 30,000 square feet of office space and shared meeting rooms with contemporary, loft-like interiors.” Other features include a teacher resource center and a cooperatively owned independent café, which has become a popular meeting place for teachers, tenants and even President Obama, who visited in January.

miller's court
Miller’s Court / Seawall Development Corporation

One of the project’s crowning achievements is generating additional investment in the surrounding community. At the urging of several building residents, Seawall purchased and renovated 30 vacant neighboring houses to create Miller’s Square. Baltimore public school teachers and police officers are eligible for $25,000 grants toward homes there. Read more about the project in Metropolis.

Renovated row houses at Miller’s Square / Courtesy of the Bruner Foundation
Renovated row houses at Miller’s Square /
Bruner Foundation

Four other projects were recognized with silver medals and $10,000 each:

Located in the center of downtown Greenville, South Carolina, Falls Park on the Reedy is an urban oasis thanks to the transformation of a forgotten 40-foot tall waterfall and overgrown river valley into a 26-acre park. Development of the park, which opened in 2006, included replacing a four-lane vehicular bridge built directly over the falls with a pedestrian suspension bridge designed by Rosales+Partners. The bridge appears to float above the river, offering a dramatic overlook of the falls. Learn more about this project at Metropolis.

IMAGE 1 Falls Park Signature Image
Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, South Carolina / Rosales+Partners via Metropolis

Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a new public space in one of West Michigan’s most challenged neighborhoods. The market “promotes local food producers, entrepreneurship, and education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles” by linking urban communities with the 13,000 farms in 11 surrounding counties and attracting a diversity of customers to the southern edge of downtown Grand Rapids. The state-of-the-art facility, designed by Hugh A. Boyd Architects, is the first LEED Gold–certified public market in the country. Learn more about the market at Metropolis.

Grand Rapids Downtown Market / Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Quixote Village, in Olympia, Washington, is a two-acre community of tiny houses that provides “permanent, supportive housing for homeless adults, including people suffering from mental illness and physical disabilities and recovering from addiction.” Since its completion in December 2013, Quixote Village has attracted the attention of many interested in tiny houses including nonprofits and private developers, as well as The New York Times. Learn more about the project at Metropolis.

nytimes quixote village
Tiny house in Quixote Village / Courtesy of Jeremy Bittermann for The New York Times

Located three miles south of downtown Cleveland, Uptown District is the “redevelopment of a corridor that links surrounding neighborhoods with art, educational, and healthcare institutions, producing outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections in the process.” The development has transformed two previously underused city blocks between two of the city’s most iconic cultural institutions into a “community gateway.” Learn more about the project at Metropolis.

Uptown District in Cleveland, OH / Stanley Saitowitz, Natoma Architects Inc. via Metropolis

The 2015 RBA selection committee included: Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Arkansas; Rebecca L. Flora, Sustainable Practices Leader, Ecology & Environment, Inc.; Larry Kearns, Principal, Wheeler Kearns Architects; India Pierce Lee, Program Director, Cleveland Foundation; Mia Lehrer, FASLA, President, Mia Lehrer + Associates; James Stockard, Lecturer in Housing, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Learn more: A blog series on Metropolis’ web site is chronicling the 2015 RBA process and case studies of the winning projects.