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BY CONSTANCE CASEY

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The opposum is the only marsupial native to North America.

From the January 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Opossums, animals that can eat almost anything, are increasingly joining their fellow omnivores at the suburban garbage can buffet. Opossums are shy, shambling creatures—the opposite of aggressive—but an opossum on its nocturnal foraging rounds often elicits a scream of disgust or fear. People tend to see them as ugly and vicious because their tails are bare and their narrow snouts are full of sharp teeth.

An opossum’s tail is ratlike, bald, and scaly. But to think of them as large rats or naked-tailed squirrels is wrong. Opossums, commonly known as possums, are not rodents; they are marsupials. The fact is that they’re North America’s only pouch-bearing animals. (Marsupium is “pouch” in Latin.) The world’s most famous marsupials, kangaroos and koalas, are Australian and cute. (Possums Down Under are in a different family, the Phalangeridae, and have appealing, furry tails.)

The western hemisphere has about 100 opossum species, all in the family Didelphidae. Of these, only one, the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), lives in North America. When the land bridge linking South and North America formed three million years ago, some opossums trudged north. By the 1600s the creature that would be the Virginia opossum had traveled up to the Virginia colony. There, Captain John Smith of Jamestown observed, “an opassum hath an head like a Swine and a taile like a Rat….” (He derived the name “opassum” from an Algonquin word.) Smith correctly observed that the animal carried its young in a pouch.

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ONE MAN IS AN ISLAND

Credit: Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

Some argue the funding for the Hudson River Park could be put to better use elsewhere in the city.

Barry Diller is a billionaire who has committed to underwriting the lion’s share of a $130 million plan for the construction of Pier 55, a 2.7-acre island of undulating parkland and performance venues that would rest atop mushroom-shaped pilings in New York City’s Hudson River Park.

The city’s power brokers have enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, which also includes a 20-year lease under which Pier55, Inc., a nonprofit Diller founded with his wife, the designer Diane von Furstenberg, would pay for the pier’s upkeep and oversee its programming. And quite possibly, the Pier 55 project would help bail out the chronically cash-strapped Hudson River Park Trust, the quasi-public entity charged with running Hudson River Park and raising funds for its maintenance.

However, at a community meeting last week in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, which abuts Hudson River Park, many residents had a host of concerns about the Pier 55 project. They questioned its futuristic aesthetic, its environmental impacts, and its contribution to the larger public realm. They also questioned whether their input would be considered during the design process and what trade-offs the Hudson River Park Trust was making in exchange for accepting what reportedly is the single largest private donation to a public park in the city’s history.

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GROWING PAINS

BY JONATHAN LERNER

The Museum of Modern Art wonders whether unsanctioned, light-footprint design gestures can humanize the world’s megacities.

From the January 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In exploding cities around the world, ever-increasing populations of the poor find themselves occupying dense makeshift settlements, or dangerously subdivided apartments, or massive, isolating housing estates. Official planning and development mechanisms seem unable to cope as cities expand in ways that are disorderly, unpredictable, and resistant to the provision of infrastructure and services. Can design solutions redress the imbalance of wealth and poverty that underlies this? Can city dwellers themselves transform dysfunctional places into communities with livable futures? Can an art museum help solve this global problem? These are questions posed by Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Uneven Growth is the third effort in MOMA’s Issues in Contemporary Architecture series. The first was Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, in 2010. It elicited concepts for responding to sea-level rise and climate change two years before Hurricane Sandy’s piercing alarm, and some of those ideas have been incorporated into projects now moving toward construction in metropolitan New York. In 2012, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream imagined restorative strategies for six representative American suburbs following the mortgage debacle. These concepts turned out to be more and less radical, but all were more or less doable. In the current exhibition’s catalog, Barry Bergdoll, a former head of MOMA’s Department of Architecture and Design (and still a part-time curator there), describes the series as “laboratorial,” intended to formulate and show “experimental results that do not yet exist.” In that spirit, Uneven Growth paired design firms with local knowledge together with others that have international experience on teams asked to work up speculative proposals for six cities: Lagos, Nigeria; Rio de Janeiro; Istanbul; Hong Kong; Mumbai, India; and New York. They were asked to address their city’s situations via tactical urbanism: to consider what could be effected by citizens themselves; to incorporate the cultures of improvisation that overcrowded cities naturally elicit; and to devise interventions that could be made lightly and with limited resources.

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The new Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County by Mia Lehrer + Associates provides habitat for the city’s surprisingly diverse wildlife and brings the museum’s research outside; Gweneth Leigh, ASLA, compares the dull and outdated playgrounds of the past to two challenging, yet exciting, Australian playgrounds by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and James Mather Delaney Design; and Lauren Mandel, Associate ASLA, looks at how research at the Chicago Botanic Garden roof gardens by  Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architecture are designed to provide hard data on suitable plants and soil depths.

In our departments, Now highlights Louisiana’s wildlife management areas, Dirk Sijmons’s studies of energy and landscape, and a new program that puts chief resilience officers in cities; Water takes a look at the Miami Conservancy District in Ohio; Practice features an unusual partnership between a salt merchant and the firm Landing Studio; and in The Back Jonathan Lerner wonders if MOMA’s exhibit, Urban Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, is as tactically urban as it aims to be. All this plus our regular Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for January 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  January articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “So Cal,” Luke Gibson Photography, Courtesy Mia Lehrer + Associates; “No, No, You Go First,” Brett Boardman; “This Is a Test,” Robin Carlson/Courtesy Oehme, Van Sweden; “A Plan to Plan?” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/The Conservation Fund; “Dry on a Good Day,” Courtesy Miami Conservancy District; “Strange Companions,” Courtesy Landing Studio; “Growing Pains,” Courtesy NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas.

THE QUEUE, DECEMBER 2014

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

California drought, visualized with open data. Courtesy USGS. http://cida.usgs.gov/ca_drought/

In the December Queue, the LAM staff spends way too much time playing with a drought data visualization, reads about rivers reappearing everywhere, and keeps tabs on Chicago’s bid to be an architectural capital.

CATCHING UP WITH…

  Though researchers continue to analyze the sustained ecological benefits of Minute 319, a pulse flow released in March on the Colorado River (“Fluid Boundaries,” LAM, November 2014), the social benefits to local communities were obvious.

 The river restoration and daylighting projects landscape architect Keith Underwood has worked on in the D.C. area have brought life back to what was once buried for fear of disease (“A Filmmaker Who Follows Buried Rivers,” July 22, 2014).

 Despite some criticism over the sustainability of the daylighted Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul (“A View From Below,” LAM, June 2010), the project remains an ecological and social success story.

FIELD STUDIES

 We are what we eat, but does the culture surrounding the food’s cultivation affect us as well? A recent study published by the journal Science says so.

Salon reports that a new study published by the Journal for Nature Conservation reveals a drastic decline in reindeer across the world due to tourism and inbreeding, among other factors.

•  Dalia Zein at Landscape Architects Network visits Parc André Citroën, considered by some as one of Paris’s worst parks.

The UN-Habitat website recently launched a new search platform to access the UN’s publications and reports on a variety of urban topics, from sanitation to gender to housing.

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

 New user-friendly interactive maps created with open data by the USGS visualizes the drought intensity over time in California and the Southwest.

 If you’re an American who doesn’t believe in climate change, you are now in the minority. A new survey conducted for Munich Re America finds that 83 percent of American respondents believe the earth’s climate is in fact changing, though only 14 percent identified it as a top concern.

 Tiny Bubbles department: According to scientists at Leeds University, if you can reduce the bubble size in the wake of oceangoing vessels, you can “counteract the impact of climate change.” 

A recent segment on 60 Minutes reports that the world population is tapping into groundwater at a quickening pace, and looks at ramifications for overdrawing from these vast, but finite, groundwater reserves.

OUT AND ABOUT

 In a bid to cement Chicago as an architectural mecca, the city recently announced calls for entry to the Chicago Architecture Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition as part of the premiere of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Submissions run until March 23, 2015.

Rick Darke, whose firm is known for “landscape ethics, photography, and contextual design,” will be the keynote speaker for the 2015 Ecological Landscape Alliance Conference & Eco-Marketplace, which takes place February 25–26 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 If this doesn’t stop you from jaywalking, we don’t know what will.

 Why plant a real tree when you can get an urban wind turbine that looks like one instead?

Show that you’re landscape cognoscenti with these aerial photos for your phone’s wallpaper.

 Even oil barons can get into the spirit of the holidays.

Every year since 2008 at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, we’ve hosted the Landscape Architecture Magazine Advertising Awards, aka the LAMMYs, to honor our top advertisers from the past year. It’s a competition juried by a group of landscape architects who are also specifiers, and it’s open to any advertiser who bought at least one full-page advertisement or more in the magazine during the previous year. The award categories are Best Graphic Quality, Best Message, and Most Persuasive, as well as Advertisement of the Year. There is also the  Advertising Hall of Fame, for companies whose work has been consistently strong. This year, there were more than 400 advertisers eligible for the LAMMYs.

The 2014 jury included Scott L. Howard, ASLA, of Howard-Fairbairn Site Design; Margot Jacobs, Associate ASLA, of Mia Lehrer + Associates; Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA, of Robert A. M. Stern Architects; Michael Skowlund, ASLA, of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects; Joshua T. Tiller, ASLA, of J. K. Tiller Associates; Jeffrey A. Townsend, ASLA, of Jacobs; and James J. Wolterman, FASLA, of SWT Design.

Best Graphic Quality  was awarded to Concreteworks, Fermob, Knoll, and Maglin.

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Best Message was awarded to 3Form, Belgard by Oldcastle, DCS/Fisher & Paykel, and Sunbrella/GlenRaven.

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Most Persuasive was awarded to Berliner Seilfabrik, Columbia Green, GOALZERO/Street Charge, and Spring Meadow/Proven Winners.

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The Advertisement of the Year Award went to Victor Stanley, who was also the third advertiser since 2012 inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

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Congratulations to all of the 2014 LAMMY winners! You can check out the previous winners for 2013 and 2012 as well.

Don't think of the city as postapocalyptic. Think of it as pre-urban.  Credit: Detroit Future City

Don’t think of the city as post-apocalyptic. Think of it as pre-urban. Credit: Detroit Future City

From the November 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Erin Kelly, Associate ASLA, was giving me the side eye. We were sitting in a Salvadorean restaurant on Livernois, wolfing down hot food after a bleak circular tour of blighted neighborhoods that ring Detroit’s revitalizing downtown core. I had been talking about DesignInquiry, the group of designers I’d come to town with to check out the city and try to understand what design’s role might be here. Kelly thinks she’s seen quite enough of our type in the short time she’s been working in Detroit: parachuting in from thriving cities, Instagramming ruin-porn pictures shot from the safety of rental cars, and hopping back on the plane after a few days.

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