BY MELISSA RAGAIN
Los Angeles is fascinated with the improbability of its own existence in an otherwise depleted landscape. As a behemoth system, it has had an almost Faustian capacity to sustain itself by diverting resources away from smaller, less powerful systems. This summer, the Los Angeles Forum produced a show, now on view at the WUHO gallery, with the work of Lane Barden, whose 50-foot-long series of aerial images follows the flow of cars, water, and shipping containers through the city. It’s paired with Joseph K. Lee and Benedikt Groß’s The Big Atlas of L.A. Pools, which delivers exactly what it promises: a catalog of all 43,123 swimming pools in the city of Los Angeles. These projects together address the more subtle flows and stoppages of L.A.’s common-pool resources, using water as a metaphor for global movement and the uneven distribution of capital.
Barden’s piece, Linear City, focuses on the city’s arterial flows. Barden, a professional architectural photographer, has produced an aerial homage to the deadpan aesthetics of Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations from 1963, but without the humor. It’s a cumulative panorama of the Alameda Corridor railroad, Wilshire Boulevard, and the glorified ditch that is the current Los Angeles River.
Continue Reading »
Posted in ART, CITIES, LAM BLOG, PEOPLE, PHOTOGRAPHY, STREETS, WATER | Tagged Cultural Geography, Joseph K. Lee and Benedikt Groß, LA Forum, Lane Barden, Linear City, Los Angeles, The Big Atlas of LA Pools, Urban Cartography, WUHO Gallery | Leave a Comment »
A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.
This month’s issue of the Queue lauds the re-emergence of smart print magazines for landscape architecture, admires a new restorative space behind bars, questions how friendly “bee-friendly” plants really are, and considers a trip to Reno…again.
CATCHING UP WITH…
- Magazines are the new black! First there was Reframe, and now there’s LA+, a new print publication from PennDesign that wants to bridge the gap between trade magazines and academic journals. The aim of the publication is to provide content that is more than just “designers talking to other designers.”
- Navigating the (policy) waters: Two recent reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council offer road maps for cities to “integrate comprehensive urban water efficiency strategies into state revolving funds and Clean Water Act compliance.”
OUT AND ABOUT
DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.
Posted in ART, ENVIRONMENT, GREEN ROOFS, LAM MAGAZINE, NOW, PEOPLE, RESEARCH, WATER | Tagged LAM Staff, Queue | Leave a Comment »
BY JESSICA BRIDGER
Venetian bridge with biennale banner.
Rem Koolhaas, the director of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, calls for the “end of starchitects” and a refocusing on capital-A architecture, which is usually marked by insecurity and ideological cliquishness. While no one, not even the chief starchitect himself, could remove this high school mentality, Koolhaas did succeed in wrangling what is usually a messy biennale of murky disconnection into a unified exhibition of buildings and their contexts. This approach is a switch for Venice and turned the biennale into an introspective, research-driven look at architecture and influence. With any luck, it will resonate into the future and bring more analysis within the building disciplines of what we build, beyond Internet posts of the latest and greatest, as architecture and landscape increasingly draw themselves into the greater task of urbanism.
Koolhaas united the biennale, titled Fundamentals, around the history of modernity over the past century. The most successful national pavilions, all following the modernity theme, gave nation-specific takes on modern life and situated architecture within that context. Connecting architecture to political, cultural, and economic forces is important, but embedding these factors within geographic and environmental contexts is essential, and largely nothing of the sort was done.
Continue Reading »
Posted in CITIES, LAM BLOG, PEOPLE, PRACTICE | Tagged architecture, Fundamentals, Italy, La Biennale di Venezia, Rem Koolhaas, Venice, Venice Architecture Biennale | Leave a Comment »
Beneath many older cities across the globe are mysterious worlds hidden from sight since the Industrial Revolution. Rivers, once lifelines to wealth, were exiled underground as they became breeding grounds for disease. Burying rivers solved the sanitation issues of the times, but the aging infrastructure today falls short of modern needs and cuts off humans from nature. Caroline Bâcle, the writer and director of the new film Lost Rivers, which follows the stories of these forgotten waterways, spins an intriguing narrative of the rivers themselves but also of how people might connect with them. I spoke with Bâcle, who is based in London, about her experiences during the project and what Lost Rivers could mean to cities today.
How did you get the idea to make a film about these “lost rivers”?
My producer Katarina [Soukup, founder of Catbird Productions] and I—I think she stumbled upon it first, on the website of Andrew Emond. The film kind of opens with him. He’s a photographer who was living in Montreal but is in Toronto now, and he basically went into the underground of Montreal and took photos of its lost waterways. We were just fascinated by his website and thought, “Oh, my gosh, there are rivers under Montreal, my hometown. How incredible.” We thought it was a unique thing to Montreal, that it was only our city, and we had this amazing, incredible, mysterious history. And so originally we thought, “Oh, we have to make a film, or do something important about Andrew and his work or about the history of Montreal,” and we just developed the idea, and the minute we started doing any kind of remote research on “lost rivers,” we found that it was a part of urban history around the world. So the subject kind of opened up to something much bigger.
Continue Reading »
Posted in CITIES, ENVIRONMENT, INTERVIEW, LAM BLOG, PEOPLE, WATER | Tagged Film, Lost Rivers | 1 Comment »
BY JESSICA BRIDGER
Visitors roam the Urban by Nature exhibits on opening day.
The landscape architect Dirk Sijmons wants to make a double point with the name of “his” biennale—the 6th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR)—which opened in late May. Sijmons called the event Urban by Nature to suggest both that it is in our nature to be urban (implying a certain inevitability to our urbanization, now at an unprecedented and alarmingly fast rate) and that our urban areas are, in fact, natural. To Sijmons, humans are undeniably as natural as the world’s flora and fauna, and so are carbon emissions and border crossing checkpoints—it is time to acknowledge as much and to become more explicitly responsible actors in this unified scheme. This is integral to the work of Sijmons and the ethos of the biennale, and it is reminiscent of the epigram on Stewart Brand’s final Whole Earth Catalog: “We can’t put it together. It is together.”
The IABR is a research biennale, where projects are meant to fulfill the curator’s, in this case, Sijmons’s, position or point of view. The research focus also lets the IABR have a scope and effect beyond the biennale’s boundaries—as opposed to what commonly goes on at the Venice Architecture Biennale or a conference. The research comes from an open call for projects and from the IABR’s own test labs or “Project Ateliers.” These test labs investigate and propose ways to tackle issues at specific sites, this year in Texel, BrabantStad, and Rotterdam. Work from the Project Ateliers appears in the biennale along with work chosen from more than 500 international submissions. It’s this continuity between the test sites and the outside work that gives the IABR its lasting quality and that benefits the broad abstract topics the biennale tends to tackle, such as 2009’s Open City or Making City in 2012.
Continue Reading »
Posted in CITIES, ENVIRONMENT, LAM BLOG, PEOPLE, RESILIENCE | Tagged Dirk Sijmons, IABR, International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, Urban by Nature | Leave a Comment »
BY JONATHAN LERNER
Flooded agricultural land in payment for ecological services approach in interior Southern Florida.
Low dikes separate pastures on the Florida cattle ranch Jimmy Wohl’s father bought in 1962, when Jimmy was 12. Jimmy runs the 5,200-acre spread now, driving his pickup along the dikes with a rifle ready on the dashboard. “I’m not a killer of everything, but if we see wild hogs I’m going to shoot them,” he says, pointing to a berm the feral animals have torn up while rooting for grubs. “That’s where all the exotic weeds will start growing,” he explains. “This really galls me. I’ve worked hard to keep these slopes grassy so when it rains it doesn’t cause all kinds of ruts.”
Rain and dikes—and invasive species, too—are often on Wohl’s mind. His ranch is about 100 miles south of Orlando in the peninsula’s sparsely populated middle. It’s an area nowadays referred to as the North Everglades, though in its primeval state the terrain was not a “river of grass” like the true Everglades, but pine flatwoods and palmetto scrub skeined with marshy creeks. It absorbed the seasonally heavy tropical rains and then trickled the water south into vast Lake Okeechobee and beyond into the Everglades proper. But over the past century, to dry out acreage for ranches, citrus groves, sugarcane fields, and other industrial-scale farming, landowners and government entities patched together a labyrinth of ditches and dikes, pumps and canals that thoroughly disrupted the region’s natural hydrology. In a climate this wet, “it is the agriculturalists’ mantra to get rid of water,” Wohl says. “We were taking what was considered wasteland and making it an economic driver, the salad bowl of the United States throughout the winter. Everybody kept throwing dollars down here, saying, ‘Drain more land, cut more canals.’”
Continue Reading »
Posted in ENVIRONMENT, LAM MAGAZINE, PRESERVATION, THE BACK, WATER | Tagged Debra Guenther, Florida, Mithun, South Florida Water Management District | Leave a Comment »
BY KATHARINE LOGAN
New design for Seattle’s Elliott Bay Seawall will include habitat for young salmon and a glass-floored promenade to allow light into the ocean.
Before Seattle grew up on its shores, Elliott Bay was a bluff-backed beach, with intertidal marshes and mudflats providing a complex and varied habitat for birds, fish, and marine invertebrates. Its sloping beaches offered salmon a safe passage through shallow waters, with plenty to eat along the way.
The growth of Seattle changed that. The developing city filled and leveled its waterfront behind a seawall built on densely spaced and creosote-blackened pilings. Deep, dark, and toxic, the urban shoreline repels migrating salmon out into the bay on a difficult journey where they become easy prey for other fish and marine mammals.
Continue Reading »
Posted in ECOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT, HABITAT, LAM MAGAZINE, NOW, SHORELINE, WILDLIFE | Tagged Elliott Bay Seawall, James Corner Field Operations, revitalization, Salmon, Seattle | Leave a Comment »