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LEAN INITIATIVE

Mia Scharphie delivers a dose of start-up energy to people and projects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The merging of soul and role is a laudable idea—it refers, very broadly, to the ability to bring a set of personal, mission-driven values to your professional life—but it’s hard to integrate into full-time practice. For most designers, it means working on public projects with a community engagement component, or collaborating on one-off social impact design projects, or cordoning off pro bono work into a separate part of their business. Mia Scharphie wants to shake that up a bit.

Scharphie runs two consulting businesses—Proactive Practices, a research collaborative with Gilad Meron and Nick McClintock, and Build Yourself+, a workshop series. At first glance, they seem unrelated, but when you talk to her, you begin to see the kind of connections that are at the core of Scharphie’s work. Drawing on her training in landscape architecture (she began her career at the firm Public Architecture in San Francisco), which Scharphie says is “supercore” to spatializing community projects, she also brings in current thinking from the world of entrepreneurship, citing Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, and Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup as touchstones and agents for social change that shape both Proactive Practices and Build Yourself+.

Build Yourself+ is a six-week course aimed specifically at women working in the design fields, investing women designers with the skills to articulate issues and obstacles to their own success and then get past them. Scharphie says designers, and women designers in particular, can be hobbled by the total work ethic of design. “The strange irony of design is that we do these renderings of super-happy people in our parks walking with infinite numbers of dogs and strollers,” yet the design culture of work-all-hours doesn’t permit any of this. “There’s a disconnect between what we try to imagine for people and what our social lives are like.” It’s a workshop approach that frankly acknowledges that the personal is deeply embedded in the professional, and it builds on the current cultural conversations about gender equity and cross-cultural communications in the workplace.

Continue Reading »

THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP

BY PHILIP WALSH

The compensatory mitigation mandate opens a dynamic arena for landscape architects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 

“Konk-la-ree!”

Or,

“O-ka-lee!”

The song of the red-winged blackbird, although instantly recognizable, is hard to put to words, as even Roger Tory Peterson, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, found. These syllables are his best efforts. The trilling, almost metallic-sounding warble evokes summertime, cattails, and the watery landscapes where Agelaius phoeniceus goes to breed.

But at this moment I’m not seeing cattails. I’m at the edge of a parking lot behind a pizza restaurant in a suburb north of Boston, looking at a large pit, about 10 feet deep, filled with Phragmites australis, the infamous invasive species that, along with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), is the scourge of wetlands in the Northeast, choking out cattails and other native species that provide food to the bird population. A few spindly red maples have colonized the embankment, along with some riverbank grape (Vitis riparia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and Rosa multiflora, a pretty though sprawling shrub introduced to America in 1866 to provide rootstock for hybrid roses and now classed as a pest in many states. Despite the red-winged blackbird’s bright song, this is a dismal place, especially in the fading afternoon sunlight, a bit of wasteland left behind by development, one of millions of similar places across the country.

This blighted spot, however, is a mandated compensatory wetland mitigation under Continue Reading »

The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

xxx. Credit: xxx.

There are 12 acres of green roofs and 13 acres of wet native gardens incorporated into the design of the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters. Credit: Taylor Lednum/GSA.

From “The Wetter, the Better” by Bradford McKee, in the August 2015 issue, featuring the new landscape by Andropogon and HOK at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters.

“The explosion of yellow in the middle ground punctures the smoky gray tones of the building and sky beyond.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

PLANT SHERIFF

With new plant varieties hitting the market each year, someone has to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

With new plant varieties hitting the market each year, someone has to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The people behind Plant Watch want the name alone to strike fear into anyone illegally propagating plants that are under patent protection. Plant Watch began in 2005 as the U.S. arm of the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF), a nonprofit group that deals with royalty administration and monitoring for illegally propagated plants by growers who skip out on paying the required royalties for growing protected plant varieties. COPF started as “a gentleman’s agreement to grow plants and remit royalties to each other,” says Sylvia Mosterman, the executive director of Plant Watch and COPF. However, “people aren’t as gentlemanly as they used to be,” so COPF grew in response to monitor patented and trademarked plants from illegal propagation.

Plant patents, or plant breeders’ rights, as they are referred to outside the United States, are granted to “an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant,” according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Patenting a new variety of plant protects only against the unauthorized reproduction of a plant; as an extra layer of protection, a plant can be given a trademarked name, such as Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer, for easy identification by consumers. Breeders are the originators of these new plant varieties, and there are companies such as Bailey Nurseries or Monrovia that actively search for new plants from a variety of breeders to add to their corporate brand offerings. These companies usually have brand compliance rules in addition to Continue Reading »

TINY DANCERS

BY CONSTANCE CASEY

Dedicated and patient arachnologists identified two more species of peacock spider this year. Most of us have never heard of these creatures, but the more the better. They are creatures with whom it’s a pleasure to share the world. Not because they eat flies, though that’s a service much appreciated in their native Australia, but because the male performs an intricate dance with an iridescent fan raised over his body. The performance, which includes percussion with his feet, is all the more impressive because a septet of these showy spiders could fit on a man’s thumbnail. A male peacock spider is four millimeters long; that’s about one sixth of an inch.

The two new spider species add to the 40 or so in the genus Maratus, part of the family Salticidae—jumping spiders. There is Maratus skeletus, named for the bold white markings on the male’s black body. It’s dramatic, but the charmer is Maratus jactatus, nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” by the University of California, Berkeley graduate student Madeline Girard, whose paper in the journal Cell describes its astounding courtship dance.

“Sparklemuffin” spiders have so far been collected only in the Wondul Range National Park in Queensland. Not surprisingly few people have Continue Reading »

The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

xxx. Credit: Lisa DeJong.

Parkgoers enjoy dappled shade from the unique trellis covering the main walk along Perk Park. Credit: Lisa DeJong.

From “Freeze, Thaw, Flourish” by Steven Litt, in the August 2015 issue, featuring Perk Park in downtown Cleveland by Thomas Balsley Associates.

“The shallow depth of field pulls you through the image and creates a sense of movement along the path. That, with the red glow from the trellis, makes a dynamic and exciting image.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

GREEN ROOF GOLD

BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Molly Meyer is capitalizing on a surge in demand.

Molly Meyer is capitalizing on a surge in demand.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Molly Meyer, a Stanford University-trained biogeochemist and the CEO of Omni Ecosystems and Rooftop Green Works in Chicago, is part of the green roof industry’s emerging generation of innovators. Meyer’s approach to green roof design emphasizes affordability and simplicity, with the goal of maximizing biodiversity. Through her sister companies, Meyer sells and installs a specially designed green roof tray system that supports unusually diverse plant species in shallow growing medium, most notably in veneer meadows. Meyer recently cofounded a third company, the Roof Crop, which began cultivating its first rooftop farm in April.

You’re from Indianapolis, which is a fairly large city. What drew you into soil science?

I loved playing outdoors as a kid. By the time I got to college I was looking for opportunities to do schoolwork outdoors. There were a lot of classes and research opportunities [for which] I could work outside and travel for by doing Continue Reading »

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