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Americans throw away more than 146 billion coffee cups every year, says Alex Henige, a senior in the landscape architecture program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. That number may seem low, but with no end in sight to the nation’s coffee addiction, Henige has a plan to take it down even lower—and plant trees in the process.

For his senior project, which Henige has turned into a Kickstarter campaign, he is developing “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup,” which turns a beverage container into a seed packet. The plantable coffee cups, made with fibers from local recycling centers, are embedded with an assortment of California native seeds. In his scheme, their first lives as cups would end one of three ways: The cups could be soaked in water for five minutes and planted in the ground; they could be collected in a special container for use at nearby reforestation sites; or they could be thrown away and would biodegrade within six months or so.

Henige was part of the team that won the 2014 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in Community Service for work on the Ratang Bana AIDS Orphanage Playscape in South Africa. On that trip, he saw the potential for a dual-purpose product. “They don’t have proper disposal techniques over there,” he says, “so what if we had a product that can benefit the communities by dissolving the waste?”

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At this point, the Kickstarter prototype is for the California region, and there are still many tests to complete, such as putting the seeds through the manufacturing process to see whether they can germinate afterward. If they can, he will put the cups in consumers’ hands and monitor usage patterns. “If they’re throwing them in urban environments, then we need certain species” that wouldn’t hurt ecologically, Henige says. “If there are more people who are actually throwing them into our containers where we can collect them, then, okay, these people actually want us to use this product for reforestation.”

For more information, visit “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup” Kickstarter, running now until March 14.

Credit: Courtesy Alex Henige.

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March’s issue of LAM looks at the cultural and environmental consequences of sand mining in Wisconsin to supply the fracking industry; Lola Sheppard and Mason White’s influential research-driven practice, Lateral Office, in Toronto; and three new play spaces in Oregon designed by GreenWorks and Mayer/Reed that embrace nature-based play.

In this month’s departments, Chatham University in Pittsburgh closes its landscape architecture programSiteWorks has kids help turn New York City schoolyards into community parks; the winners of a 2014 ASLA Student Award of Excellence balance landscape and architecture in a home for a wounded veteran; Joni L. Janecki, ASLA, creates a drought-tough landscape for the Packard Foundation’s new headquarters near Palo Alto, California; Jane Wolff’s illustrated flashcards make the San Francisco Bay legible in Bay Lexicon; and we have numbers, however small, on landscape design’s growing impact on the economy. All this plus our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for March can be found 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 March articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Many Sand Counties,” Lonniewishart.com; “Eyes Northward,” Ashley Capp; “Go Wild, Oregon Child,” Courtesy GreenWorks, PC; “Chatham Shuts the Door,” © Chatham University 2015; “DIY, Kiddo,” The Trust for Public Land; “The Drought Will Tell,” Jeremy Bittermann; “Team Effort,” Thomas J. Manuccia; “Bay Q&A,” Jane Wolff.

RAHM EMANUEL’S GIVEAWAY

The two University of Chicago proposed sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and x. Credit: University of Chicago.

The two University of Chicago proposed sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has said he will move “heaven and earth” to bring the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum to his city. As has become apparent in a rather tacky local drama, Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff for President Obama, is not going to let Frederick Law Olmsted get in his way, either.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is expected to announce this month its choice of location for the library from among five proposed sites in three cities: Chicago, Honolulu, and New York. In Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago has offered to host the library on a 23-acre vacant site the city owns on the West Side. Emanuel has said the library can have the land if the site is chosen. Meanwhile, on the South Side, the University of Chicago is offering either of two sites for the library: 21 acres of Washington Park or 20 acres of Jackson Park. The parks are joined, and are Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s only parks in the Midwest. Washington Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004.

Isn’t it big of the University of Chicago to plate up some historic public parkland it doesn’t even own for the president? But it turns out that the ownership question is no worry. Emanuel has promised to hand over whichever chunk of the Olmsted parks the Obama foundation wants. He made that decision after the foundation’s doubts about the South Side proposal became known over the ownership issue. And Emanuel is not experiencing any friction from the Chicago Parks District’s Board of Commissioners, the members of which are his political appointees. They voted unanimously to hand over the land to the foundation if the University of Chicago’s bid were to succeed. (Though it was sort of cute, and perhaps pointless in the larger scheme, that the board’s president, Bryan Traubert, recused himself from the vote because he is married to Penny Pritzker, Obama’s secretary of commerce. Where is there not a conflict of interest in this scenario?)

The idea of taking the parkland to build the Obama library has plenty of support on the South Side, where the Obama family lived before the presidency. Throughout the city, a Chicago Tribune poll in early February found, 62 percent of voters favor the idea, though the poll question mentioned neither Olmsted nor that dozens and dozens of acres of publicly owned vacant land lie near the proposed park site for the library. So you get a response that to the idea’s supporters sounds like the desired tyranny of the majority, under which most anything wrong can be considered righteous.

The opposition to the idea has been fierce but surprisingly isolated among die-hard parks advocates such as the Friends of the Parks group in Chicago and, nationally, the Cultural Landscape Foundation. If any parkland, let alone Olmsted and Vaux territory, can be seized so easily for rank political reasons, then those of us who consider parks sacrosanct have far bigger worries than just these 20 or so acres.

Washington Park, one of two sites being offered by the University of Chicago for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Credit:

Washington Park, one of three possible sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum in Chicago.

Credit: Map, University of Chicago; Washington Park, Photo © Lucas Blair, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

LALH FILMS

 

While many people know the fine books published by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the library’s excellent series of short documentaries, North America by Design, deserves attention as well. The films, coproduced with Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc. and freely available for viewing, are based on the richly illustrated scholarly histories they publish. So far, the series contains four films, all of which can be seen in full on the LALH website:

BLACK LANDSCAPES MATTER

interiro

The work of Janelle Johnson, ASLA, a senior landscape architect at OLIN, is among projects by several designers featured in Johnson and photographer Sahar Coston-Hardy’s takeover of OLIN’s Instagram feed for Black History Month.

The house photographer and videographer at OLIN, Sahar Coston-Hardy, already has a cult following after her recent appearance at the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver, so we aren’t all that surprised that she’s working social media channels in smart and interesting ways. Coston-Hardy (@saharchphoto) and Janelle Johnson, ASLA (@janelle_rla), a senior landscape architect at OLIN, have been handed control of the firm’s Instagram feed (@olininsta) for the month of February to highlight the contributions of African Americans to the field of landscape architecture.

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Olininsta post on the work of 2014 National Olmsted Scholar Sara Zewde, MLA candidate at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Coston-Hardy and Johnson look expansively at how “contributions” might be defined by featuring the work of historical and newly emerging designers, as well as activists, scholars, and landscape architecture programs at historically black colleges and universities, among others. Johnson, whose work is seen here, has also written about ASLA’s recent Diversity Summit (“Diversity—Not Just for Plant Communities“), asking “Why hasn’t more been done to attract African American and Latino students to the world of landscape architecture?” You can see posts from Coston-Hardy and Johnson’s February Olininsta takeover, without signing up for Instagram, here: https://instagram.com/olininsta.

A HAND UP, A HAND DOWN

BY FRED A. BERNSTEIN

Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox.  some can move you ahead. others are just a headache.

Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox. Some can move you ahead. Others are just a headache. Credit: Greeen/shutterstock.com

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Andrea Cochran, FASLA, the San Francisco-based landscape architect, has received the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award, the ASLA Design Medal, and many other honors. But despite her prominence, she says, she still sees sexism affecting the profession. “It’s not overt, but it’s there,” says Cochran, explaining that it is precisely her success that makes her aware of the problem. “If you asked me when I was in my 20s if I had ever experienced sexism, I would have laughed at you,” she says. “But then you get to a certain point in your career and you realize there is a glass ceiling.” In her experience, “It’s still hard to get certain types of jobs, some of the bigger jobs, if you’re a woman.”

So Cochran supports programs that require prime contractors on public projects to award a percentage of the work to “women business enterprises,” or WBEs. “If being a WBE helps me get a job, that’s fine,” says Cochran, her voice rising, “because there are lots of other jobs I would have gotten if I were a guy.”

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EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY PIERRE BÉLANGER, ASLA

Recovering and Reprojecting James Corner's Lost Map.

Recovering and Reprojecting James Corner’s Lost Map.

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

(Correction appended)

Hanging vertically on the basement wall of Room L30C in Gund Hall at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is a seemingly anonymous light box. It’s rarely looked at or recognized and has been that way for more than 10 years. It’s considered a work of art—a sculpture, according to the Harvard University Cultural Properties Database—and it’s the primary source of light for the small underground office of Trevor O’Brien, the assistant manager of building services at the school. “No one has really bothered to ask about it over the years,” O’Brien says. It’s nearly invisible, but behind its anonymity, not to mention its remarkable beauty, lies an interesting backstory.

The rectangular light box was made by James Corner, ASLA, for the 2001 conference, “Territories: Contemporary European Landscape Design,” organized by George Hargreaves, FASLA, and Dorothée Imbert, ASLA, here at the school. The light box is a design project ahead of its time. The aluminum box, 36 inches by 48 inches and 4 inches deep, is part of a proposal for the growth and expansion of Stockholm into the neighboring suburb of Älvsjö. Layered among the collage of transparencies and films of information is a caption that reads somewhat like a micromanifesto:

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