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HAVE TREE, WILL TRAVEL

BY KEVAN WILLIAMS

A torreya sapling growing in North Carolina and a photograph of its parent tree.

A torreya sapling growing in North Carolina and a photograph of its parent tree.

From the September 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

For more than 200 years, naturalists and plant enthusiasts have come to the woods along the Altamaha River in south Georgia, searching for a horticultural holy grail: a wild Franklinia alatamaha, William Bartram’s “lost camellia.” First discovered by the famed naturalists John and William Bartram in 1765 at a single site near Darien, Georgia, and seen only a handful of times since, a wild specimen of the plant was last conclusively identified in 1803. Franklinia is considered extinct in the wild, and the species has survived only in propagation: All living plants are descendants of seeds collected by the Bartrams and grown in their Pennsylvania garden. But many aficionados have continued the search for a surviving wild plant, ignoring the seeming finality of extinction. I’m wandering through woods repeating the exercise in the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, but the Franklinia I’m seeking aren’t wild, as such. They’re an outplanting of two dozen nursery-grown plants, attempted by the staff of the Nature Conservancy to see whether Franklinia could still survive in Georgia.

My guides are Alison McGee, the Southeast Georgia conservation manager for the Nature Conservancy, and her husband, Rob Sutter, a conservation ecologist, who lead me down a dusty dirt road to the conservancy’s experiment site. We park near a campground frequented by hog hunters and venture off into the woods, clad in orange. For a couple of hours we wander through a maze of saw palms, searching without success. All the signs seem to be there. There are tattered strands of survey tape hanging from a few of the trees, and machete wounds mark others, but there are no Franklinia. The planting should have had a marker—“That’s the way we usually find rare species these days,” Sutter says—but we can’t find it. Was it kicked over, hidden under the saw palms, or are we looking in the wrong spot? McGee takes home two hog skulls as a consolation prize, signs of one migrant species that seems to be doing well here.

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Digital Tools for uncovering LA's local water potentials

Divining L.A. will fund a geospatial tool for uncovering L.A.’s local water potential. Courtesy the Arid Lands Institute.

The Twitterverse has been alive lately with pleas for votes in the #LA2050 competition, and a few projects have caught our attention for their wider reach and alignment with landscape architecture’s goals. The competition, now in its second year, receives support from the Goldhirsch Foundation and GOOD magazine, and will award grants in five categories: Play, Connect, Learn, Create, and Live. We were pleased to see projects based around the L.A. River (“A River to Live By,” June 4, 2014) make appearances in various categories, along with a project, Divining L.A.: Resilient City Design for the Next Hundred Years, from the Arid Lands Institute (“Drylands Design for L.A.,” January 14, 2014) with Mia Lehrer Associates and a pretty robust team of L.A. water-savvy agencies and firms. Awardees will be selected by a jury as well as the public vote, and the winners in each category can receive up to $100,000 for their project from either public voting or jury selection. That’s a total of $1 million on the table for community projects. Anyone can vote, once registered, and residence in Los Angeles is not required. Voting closes Tuesday, September 16, 2014, at noon (PDT), so read up on the projects and cast your vote. Have a landscape architecture project in the mix for LA2050? Tell us about it in the comments.

UNEARTHED AND UNFORGOTTEN

BY JONATHAN LERNER

Now viewed across the lawn and meadow, the houses evoke the settlement's rural character.

Now viewed across the lawn and meadow, the houses evoke the settlement’s rural character.

From the September 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Nearly 50 years ago, a cluster of old houses, set slightly askew, was “discovered” in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. They had been surrounded and concealed by newer structures aligned to the modern street grid. These modest cottages were the last physical trace of Weeksville, a self-sufficient farming settlement founded by freed African Americans after slavery was outlawed in New York in 1827.

An organization soon coalesced to document the history and preserve the structures. These years later, the newly completed Weeksville Heritage Center has wider ambitions: both to celebrate the area’s black history and to foster its present-day cultural vitality. The historic houses have been restored and are joined by a dazzling new building with exhibition, performance, research, and classroom spaces. Between them is an outdoor area meant for active programming and historical interpretation. Elizabeth J. Kennedy, ASLA, the designer, says, “One challenge was to make the historic land use patterns apparent.” Another was to reveal the idiosyncratic route of long-erased Hunterfly Road, originally a Native American footpath, which the old houses had fronted.

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LAM_Sep2014_Drought-OpeningSpread

For our September cover story, Bill Marken, Honorary ASLA, traveled through California to report on the effects of the persistent drought that is gripping the state. His coverage continues online this month with a series of reports on landscape architects and designers about the effects they’re witnessing from the drought and how it is influencing their practice.

We’ll be posting these below every couple of days throughout the month of September, so check back or follow us on Twitter (@landarchmag) for updates.


 

CHRISTY EDSTROM O’HARA

“Drought is a great opportunity to rediscover design.”

—Christy Edstrom O’Hara, California Polytechnic State University,
San Luis Obispo

 

 

 
 


 

SUSAN VAN ATTA

Susan Van Atta can take the long view on dry periods in Santa Barbara…

—Bill Marken on Susan Van Atta, Van Atta Associates Inc., Santa Barbara

 

 
 
 


 

Glen Dake

GLEN DAKE

“Politicians don’t want to talk about water. There’s never good news. Water is always going to be scarcer and cost more.”

—Glen Dake, DakeLuna Consultants, Los Angeles

 

 
 


NEW IN SEPTEMBER’S LAM

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Drought is said to be too many nice days in a row. Well, in California, three years of nice days has curdled into sheer dread. In the Features section of our September issue, Bill Marken, a frequent LAM contributor and a former editor of Sunset, takes a road trip through California to witness the effects of the drought, which is crippling in certain places and seemingly not such a big deal in others, and to comment on the efforts, or lack thereof, to help soften the drought’s blows. In Mexico, a memorial to victims of the drug war struggles to honor the local impact of this complex, global tragedy. When the ever-encroaching tides threatened an iconic Norman Jaffe house in the Hamptons, LaGuardia Design Landscape Architects pulled it back from the brink and garnered an ASLA Award of Excellence in Residential Design. The landscape historian Thaisa Way takes Michael Van Valkenburgh’s words to heart when she looks at Chicago’s Lurie Garden, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Piet Oudolf, 10 years after it opened beside Lake Michigan.

Also in this issue: The new landscape design for the Weeksville Heritage Center unearths the site’s past as a freedmen’s settlement; the ongoing efforts to contain sudden oak death’s spread (efforts which, it turns out, may be helped by the California drought); ecologists on the cutting edge of assisted migration who argue that it’s the only way to save the trees; and a brief history of pushback on Rails to Trails conversions. All this plus the regular goodies in Species, Goods, Books, and Now. The full table of contents for September can be read here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some September pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: The Lurie Garden, The Lurie Garden; Assisted Migration, Torreya Guardians; Weeksville Heritage Center, Nic Lehoux Architectural Photography for Caples Jefferson Architects; Sudden Oak Death, Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension; Memorial to the Victims of Violence in Mexico, Sandra Pereznieto; LaGuardia Associates Perlbinder House, Erika Shank; San Luis Reservoir, Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos. 

Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed nationwide, 47% said they preferred a cities waterfront space. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed, 47 percent said they preferred their city waterfront to other open spaces. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

America’s move toward urban living can also be seen as a step toward a more sustainable future, but it also unearths a host of questions for the people who must design these spaces. What are the things people living and working in these urban environments gravitate toward? How might that change based on what kind of city they live in? These questions stick with the designer on the endless drive to envision the ideal balance of humans, urban environment, and nature. Sasaki Associates recently published research on these questions in a report called The State of the City Experience, and it turns out some of the answers depend on who you’re asking.

Sasaki surveyed 1,000 urbanites, ranging in age and income, from six cities across the United States (Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). They were asked about four aspects of the urban environment—architecture, activities, parks and open spaces, and transportation—what they currently thought of their urban environment and what they would like to see in the future. “What is written about on cities is from the perspective of the designer, and we were interested in what people experience in the city, what the public might say about how we design city spaces…and how their experience might inform how we think about the design of cities,” said Gina Ford, chair of Sasaki Associates’s Urban Studio.

There are many interesting finds in the report: For example, of the 1,000 respondents, 47 percent said the waterfront was their favorite open space in the city, including landlocked Austin. But a surprising find, according to Ford, was that a whopping 65 percent said their favorite city experiences happened in either an open space or on the street. “[It] is incredibly edifying as a landscape architect, because so much emphasis recently has been put on public realm, [and] investments, as a way of increasing attraction and retention of workforce and identity of cities,” said Ford. “It kind of positions architecture as a supporting player, maybe something that reinforces community but doesn’t necessarily create it. A lot of times people think it’s a building project that’s going to enhance the identity of a city; now we have data that it’s landscape.”

For more information on the report, The State of the City Experience, contact Sasaki Associates at info@sasaki.com.

THE QUEUE, AUGUST 2014

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff reads up on the grand opening of Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia by OLIN, wonders at the possibilities of a man-made leaf, and gets down with Greenpeace and Reggie Watts on climate change.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Dilworth Plaza’s makeover by OLIN (“Follow the Lines,” LAM, January 2014) opens on September 4 in Philadelphia with new transit access, a fountain (and in winter, an ice rink), art, and Cuban food in what had been a desolate sunken plaza.
    • Harsh contentions arise in a current forensic audit on Great Park, designed by Ken Smith in Irvine, California (General Design Honor Award, LAM, August 2009). According to the L.A. Times, the audit finds that more than $200 million has been spent on the project, yet the park has little to show for it.

FIELD STUDIES

    • Dezeen reports on Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the UK, who thinks he’s got long-distance space travel figured out with his new invention—the world’s supposedly first photosynthetic material that absorbs water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen.
    • Looking at climate change and rising sea levels, the township of Choiseul Bay, 6.6 feet above sea level in the Solomon Islands, is moving to where it will be a little less wet in the future.
    • Think pedestrian crosswalk time limits are too short? Planners in Singapore thought so, too, which is why they recently expanded their Green Man Plus program, a system that allows the elderly and disabled to activate extra time for street crossing with the use of a special card.

OUT AND ABOUT

    • Lines and Nodes, a symposium and film festival that will take on media, infrastructure, and aesthetics, will take place September 19–21 in New York.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

    • If you can’t find this bus stop in Baltimore, then you’re not looking hard enough.
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