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“We were ready to fly on our own,” Nancy Levinson said in August as she described the next phase of life for the beloved Places Journal, based in San Francisco, where she is the editor and executive director. In late June, Levinson and Josh Wallaert, the journal’s senior editor, posted the last piece in Places as part of the Design Observer Group’s platform of online design writing. In late September they relaunched Places as an independent site dedicated, as its tagline says, to “public scholarship in architecture, landscape, and urbanism.” The main support for Places comes from a group of 24 universities, each of which has a member on the journal’s board of directors. The site also receives foundation grants and individual donations.

Places was started in 1983 by faculty members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley (Donlyn Lyndon and William Porter were founding editors). It appeared as a print publication until it went online-only in 2009 as part of Design Observer. The decision earlier this year to end the partnership with Design Observer was a friendly one, Levinson said. “It was great to be partners, and it was a great way to move from being a print publication to being a web publication.” The new site, she said, clarifies the stand-alone status of Places as a nonprofit, dot-org rather than dot-com, that offers long-form public-interest journalism. The Design Observer site provides a link to the new home for Places.

SEXPLACE

Hammering out the new site’s design began in May. Levinson and Wallaert hired Kyle Larkin of Extra Small Design, in Phoenix, to create the site; Larkin had been the first web editor of Places in 2009. The new design gives the journal a cleaner look, bigger images, slide shows, and easy sharing on social media. Levinson’s goal was to create a more “immersive” format for Places’s roomy inquiries into design topics that range among media, politics, geography, economics, industry, energy, and sex. There are links from current pieces to those in the journal’s archive of about 1,800 articles published since 1983. At the bottom of a recently posted essay, “From Architecture to Landscape,” by Brian Davis and Thomas Oles, you reach links to other pieces relating to landscape. And you can find the entire Places print archive available in PDF. There is plenty to explore.

“People don’t necessarily go online to read journals,” Levinson said. “They go online to read articles, and as they read articles, they discover journals. Our big focus is our commitment to articles that are serious and substantial. The web has become a very fraught place, and we’re trying to maintain a strong signal amid the ever-increasing noise.”

For more information, visit https://placesjournal.org.

A TREE FOR A NEW WORLD

BY CONSTANCE CASEY

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America's trees.

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America’s trees.

From the October 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 One of the grandest North American trees is the shagbark hickory. It’s dramatic and easy to identify, with its smoke-gray bark warping away from the trunk. Grand, of course, implies big, and that’s part of the reason why the shagbark is not often planted and you wouldn’t see it in a nursery. It spreads itself in the woods from Quebec to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Texas, typically topping out at 70 to 90 feet with an irregular oval crown. It can grow to more than 100 feet, given 350 years or so.

The copper beech, with satiny bark, is British or Continental—Old World. The shagbark, to the essayist Donald Culross Peattie, is New World. “To everyone with a feeling for things American, and for American history, the shagbark seems like a symbol of the pioneer age,” he writes, “with its hard sinewy limbs and rude, shaggy coat, like the pioneer himself in fringed deerskin hunting shirt.”

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2x4_aar_rome_prize_emailIt’s always been a bit of a mystery why more landscape architects don’t apply for the Rome Prize. It isn’t because it’s obscure: The fellowship is one of the best-known and most prestigious awards for designers and humanities scholars, the kind of résumé bell ringer that’s recognized across the professions. At its center is an 11-month (on average) residency at the American Academy in Rome’s Villa Aurelia among a diverse group of scholars, musicians, and artists, and the rich community working in and around the academy. But while the architecture fellowship has always been highly enrolled, perhaps because of the academy’s early association with the architect Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, the two (on average) fellowships for landscape architecture do not receive nearly the same amount of applications. And that’s a shame: “This is an opportunity not to be passed up,” says Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA,  a principal at Hargreaves Associates.

Jones was a Rome Prize fellow in 1997–98, and she describes her fellowship year, when she made topographic models of Renaissance gardens, with unabashed enthusiasm as “life changing” and “transformative.” She now chairs the board of trustees, the first woman and the first landscape architect to do so, and she’d like to see more landscape architects throw their portfolios in the ring.

Despite its lofty origins and association with classical studies, the academy supports a wide range of new work from emerging artists and designers, and the city of Rome is so rich that there are many ways to develop project proposals that overlap with contemporary research and practice. Jones suggests those applying should  focus on the portfolio—the body of work is paramount—and that those at any point in their career should apply. “Juries are looking for people for whom it will be game changing,” says Jones. “It really is a time to take time to really look and see things.”

The current Rome Prize fellows in landscape architecture are Kim Karlsrud and Daniel Phillips of Commonstudio and Adam Kuby, an environmental designer from Portland, Oregon. Recent past landscape architecture fellows have included Bradley E. Cantrell and Elizabeth Fain LaBombard, and Walter Hood,  ASLA, Thomas Oslund, Peter Walker, FASLA, and Eric Reid Fulford have also been fellows. Applications for the next year’s Rome Prize are due November 1, 2014, and carry a small fee of $30 per application. Late applications will be accepted until November 15 with a fee of $60 per application. More info about the fellowship as well as eligibility and requirements can be found on the AAR’s website.

BY ELIZABETH PADJEN

Ramps for the 1,400 car garage are camouflaged by walls and plantings.

Ramps for the 1,400-car garage are camouflaged by walls and plantings.

From the October 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

At 10:30 on a July morning, an east wind brings a damp chill off the harbor and gray clouds hang overhead like sodden hammocks. And still, people come to the park. They are everywhere—perched on walls, settled onto benches, hunched over tables outside the café. Some stare into space. Some check out the passersby. Many more peer at screens. It’s a perfect morning for a cozy cup of tea in the hotel across the street or coffee at a nearby Starbucks. That’s where you’d expect all these people to be. Not in a park.

But this is the Norman B. Leventhal Park—better known to Bostonians as Post Office Square or simply P.O. Square, and it is the recipient of ASLA’s 2014 Landmark Award, which honors projects finished between 15 and 50 years ago that have kept their original design integrity and make a major contribution to the civic realm. “The fact that it’s still there, intact, is important,” said one juror. “How many other parks that are 15 years old haven’t been renovated?” Another juror said: “It’s one of the best landscapes in our country, simply for what it did for the financial district. It allowed people to get outside and get some nature in the urban environment.”

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First, here’s the news that Michael van Gessel, the Dutch landscape architect, took his time and a fair bit of teasing indirection to get out last Friday night in Barcelona: The winner of the 2014 Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize is the North Wharf Promenade and Silo Park on the waterfront of Auckland, New Zealand. It was designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean of Melbourne with Wraight + Associates of Wellington and completed in 2011.

The big announcement came late in the day, near 9:00 p.m. Van Gessel, who served as the president of the six-person Rosa Barba prize jury, sat with his feet propped casually atop a chair on a stage of the astonishing Palau de la Música Catalana—though in the handsome contemporary auditorium belowground, not the 1908 modernista marvel upstairs, designed by Lluis Domènech i Montaner, which at that hour was filling for a dance performance of the Gran Gala Flamenco. In front of van Gessel were several hundred people gathered for the prize announcement as part of the 8th International Biennial of Landscape Architecture, which ran from September 25 to 27. The audience included the designers of the 11 finalist projects for the prize; they each had presented their entry the previous day. There was also a large turnout of landscape architects, academics, and students from Europe and elsewhere.

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THE QUEUE, SEPTEMBER 2014

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye. In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff wades through a myriad of headlines to find $2.4 billion might not be enough for New York City’s new green infrastructure, reads about gender and urban farming, and slows down to enjoy a dancing stoplight.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Frequent contributor Alex Ulam looks at the benefits of New York City’s plan to spend $2.4 billion on green infrastructure, including stormwater management in priority neighborhoods—but some wonder whether it reaches far enough.

FIELD STUDIES

    • With urban agriculture’s popularity on the rise, Michael Tortorello of The New York Times wonders why the majority of workers are female (and why it matters).
    • San Francisco’s new tax breaks for converting vacant lots into urban farms might not make sense when there’s a lack of affordable housing in the city.
    • D.C. residents are slowly shaping alleyways from dark corners of miscreant activity to vibrant social assets for the community—one alley at a time.
    • For every mile of road in Nashville and its county, there is only half a mile of sidewalks, according to the Tennessean. And the city’s new flat rate fee that allows developers to opt out of building sidewalks altogether isn’t going to help.
    • An Op-Ed in the New York Times says Colony Collapse Disorder is in the rear-view mirror, but it’s still too early to breathe a sigh of relief: The United States averages a 30 percent loss of our pollinator friends annually.

OUT AND ABOUT

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

ALL GOOD IN OCTOBER LAM

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From the October 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine:

Several faculty members at different schools recently have told me, unbidden, that remarkable numbers of their landscape architecture students want to find work that has a social impact, such as with a nonprofit or NGO group, after they graduate. To judge by this year’s run of ASLA Student Awards in this issue, it would seem they are having no trouble finding worlds of need. There is a playground designed and built for 350 children at an AIDS orphanage in South Africa, and a project for people in an informal settlement in Lima, Peru. There are two projects that directly benefit military veterans. Another considers the tangible ways people attach to a place as they grow old. And, of course, examples of ecological redemption abound. What I think we are seeing is a natural impulse to do good, compounded by a much greater awareness among young people today of the importance of community service, which is being ingrained in and required of them before they finish high school. Added to that are the signs of starker inequality, food scarcity, and climate volatility that are getting through to students and sticking with them.

In that regard, this issue, with the awards for students plus the ASLA Professional Awards and the Landmark Award, is all good news, which is why we look forward to doing it so much each year. This is our fourth year combining the student and professional awards in one rather mind-opening and deeply heartening package. There are 21 student winners chosen from 313 entries; 34 professional winners emerged from 596 entries. Seriously, if you need a lift as much of the world seems bent on coming unglued, read this magazine.

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