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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.

opener

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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WELCOME TO FEBRUARY

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February’s issue of LAM minces no words, starting with Fred A. Bernstein, who talks with female landscape architects whose firms listed as women business enterprises, or WBE’s, can sometimes attract jobs that make them feel as if they’re on board only to fill a quota; Jerry van Eyck, ASLA, a Dutch landscape architect who transplanted himself to New York, is making his mark in North America with !melk, his firm of four years that has public space and park business projects as lively as his character; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s grand new building by Herzog & de Meuron and ethereal hanging gardens by Patrick Blanc become backdrops to the small yet thoughtful designs of ArquitectonicaGEO, which repurpose the neglected Miami waterfront with native plantings and innovative flood control.

In Now, Camden, New Jersey, proves that park renovations don’t always have to be expensive. In Water, Anne Raver follows up our earlier coverage of Owens Lake in California, where an official decision has now been reached on how to tamp down the toxic dust blowing off the dried lake bed. Planning takes a look at the wave of the future in ecodistricts; House Call visits a picturesque vineyard by Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture, which won a 2014 ASLA Honor Award in Residential Design; and in The Back, the long forgotten Älvsjö Flatbed, produced by James Corner a generation ago, reveals a design language ahead of its time. All this plus our regular Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for February 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 February articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “A Hand Up, A Hand Down,” Greeen/Shutterstock.com; “!melk Man, Jerry van Eyck,” Patrick Pantano; “Soft Landing,” Robin Hill/Courtesy ArquitectonicaGEO; “For A Song,” Sikora Wells Appel and Group Melvin Design; “The Dust Settlement,” Nuvis Landscape Architecture and Planning; “What Ecodistricts Need,” GBD Architects; “Among the Vines,” Matthew Millman Photography; “Everything on the Table,” Pierre Bélanger, ASLA.

THE QUEUE, JANUARY 2015

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

The LAM staff dives into this month’s news and views in the first Queue of the year, including a vacant lot project in Detroit that could unite barbers and landscape contractors, Brazil’s hopeful rails-to-trails project, and a collection of short films about the environment.

 

Timo Hämäläinen, an urban geographer based in Helsinki, blogs about Finnish urbanism at http://urbanfinland.com/

CATCHING UP WITH…

 Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute (“Drylands Design for L.A.,” January 17, 2014) gets some NPR airtime talking about a drought-resistant future for L.A.

 The San Francisco Chronicle visits the Gallery + Ideas Forum at the Presidio Trust Headquarters, where the winning design for the Presidio parkland (“The Lucas Museum’s Rough Chicago Landing,” August 19, 2014;  more), along with the four runners-up, are on display for public comment and review.

 Four finalists for the National Parks Now, a National Park Service and Van Alen Institute (“Take Aim At New Orleans’s Vacant Land,” August 12, 2014) competition, were announced. Each finalist will receive a $15,000 stipend for implementing strategies that connect four parks to more diverse audiences.

 Erin Kelly of Detroit Future City (“Detroit from the Ground Up,” LAM, November 2014) was among the 126 finalists for the Knight Cities Challenge, a competition created to generate beneficial design for 26 target communities in which the Knight family has newspapers.  Out of a whopping 7,000 entries, her proposal for a barber and landscape team up for vacant lots in Detroit moved to the next stage.

 

FIELD STUDIES

• African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. labor force but only 5.9 percent of the labor force in solar industries. Brentin Mock at Grist asks whether “African Americans are obtaining equitable opportunities in the emerging green markets.”  

 Finnish Urbanism—it’s a thing. Timo Hämäläinen, an urban geographer based in Helsinki, helps us catch up with “Six Major Developments Shaping Finnish Cities in 2014″ on his blog, From Rurban to Urban.

 A group of residents in São Paulo hopes to see the Minhocão, a highway by day and cultural hub by night, repurposed into a rails-to-trails project for the local citizens.

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

 Six companies in the Jiangsu province of China were recently fined 160 million yuan ($26 million) for dumping chemical waste into two Taizhou rivers.

 Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, Oregon, was recently appointed as the new director of the U.S. Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute. Adams was one of the key figures responsible for shaping Portland into one of the most sustainable cities in the United States. 

 A year after a drinking water disaster in Charleston, West Virginia, and after a lot of promises for regulatory reform, threats to drinking water supplies are not much diminished. 

 

OUT AND ABOUT

 From February 28 to May 23, 2015, Lotusland in Montecito, California, will play host to FLOCK, a temporary installation that calls attention to the disappearing wild bird population, seen by many as an indicator for the loss in biodiversity.

 The Rethinking the Urban Landscape exhibit looks at the benefits of landscape-focused urbanism through films, talks, and models.  At the Building Centre in London through February 26, 2015.

 Olafur Eliasson: Contact, a series of installations displaying Eliasson’s  multidisciplinary “investigations into the mechanisms of perception and the construction of space,” is on view  at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris through February 23, 2015.

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

  Eight short films that play with the idea of perspective.

• Think it’s expensive where you live? Try living in Greenland.

 What’s inside an iceberg?

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