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Archive for June, 2012

Chut Wutty stands on wooden planks in a jungle in Kampong Thom province in northern of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  (AP Photo/The Cambodian Center for Human Rights)

In Cambodia, illegal logging is rampant and very, very profitable. So much so that The Phnom Penh Post cites one case last December where forestry officials, the military, and a conservation group were revealed to be complicit in large-scale illegal logging and corruption in the southwestern Central Cardamom Protected Forest. It’s estimated that the profits from that forest alone were in the tens of millions of dollars.

Chut Wutty, a tireless environmental activist in Cambodia, was responsible for exposing that operation, among others. This past April, Wutty led two journalists to another “protected” forest that had been pillaged, this time in Koh Kong province. Confronted by military police, he was shot dead while trying to drive away.

He is not alone in losing his life while trying to protect his country’s forests. Environmental activism means literally risking your life in some parts of the world, particularly in the Philippines and in some countries in South America, where powerful industries clash with locals who depend on the forests. Here in America, where we’re not likely to get killed for speaking out about environmental destruction, we should remember those who willingly take much greater risks.

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A POX ON IMPATIENS

Gardeners around the country are in shock as their impatiens, the workhorses of the summer garden, suddenly go downhill. The plants’ leaves curl, turn yellow and stippled, their flowers fall off, and they are engulfed in white fuzz before they eventually die. The cause is a relentless form of downy mildew caused by Plasmopara obducens, a pathogen whose outbreaks were first reported last year in the United States and also in Hungary. It is showing up in both flower beds and container plantings. All types of the common Impatiens walleriana are at risk, though New Guinea impatiens seem to tolerate the germ. The disease spreads by water droplets and also through the air. The Ball Horticultural Co. has more information on the disease, as well as advice for controlling and culling it among plants, here.

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Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, FASLA, a groundbreaking designer known for her innovative rooftop gardens and playgrounds, will receive the ASLA Medal—the highest honor awarded to a landscape architect, the Society announced on Tuesday. Oberlander founded her firm in Vancouver in 1953, when the profession was dominated by men. Her playground for Expo ’67, which included a rowboat, inspired a national task force on play in Canada and continues to inspire designers around the world. She has also been an important voice on sustainable design.

PWP Landscape Architecture—whose innovative minimalist work has won 35 national ASLA awards—has won ASLA’s Firm Award, and its founding partner, Peter Walker, FASLA, will receive the ASLA Design Medal.

The awards will be presented at ASLA’s Annual Meeting and EXPO in Phoenix, which begins September 28. Other individuals, groups, and programs recognized by ASLA include the educator Herrick Smith, FASLA; Mary Hughes, FASLA, the campus landscape architect at the University of Virginia; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation;  Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Hon. ASLA; Design Workshop’s Design Week; and the ASLA Potomac Chapter/ACE Mentor Legacy Program.

For more information on the winners, check out LAND. And to learn more about Oberlander and her work, read an oral history prepared by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

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The latest economic data from the American Institute of Architects is rather alarming. Its Architecture Billings Index shows architecture firms experienced “substantial” decreases in billable hours across all regions of the United States during the month of May. The index is derived from a panel of AIA member-owned firms that report whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the previous month.

What these figures mean for the landscape architecture profession is all very murky. Architects are the second-largest client group for landscape architects. But the demand for buildings does not always correlate with the demand for landscape design and planning.

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The luxury home builder Toll Brothers will pay a $741,000 civil penalty and make major changes to the way it manages stormwater on its construction sites, following allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act on more than 600 occasions. The settlement, announced Wednesday by federal officials, addresses 370 sites in 23 states.

Among the permit violations alleged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice were the “failure to stabilize disturbed soil” and the failure to properly install and maintain “stormwater controls such as silt fences, swales, sediment basins, sediment traps, storm drain inlet protection, and construction entrances and exits.” (more…)

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MONUMENTAL PRICES

Gehry Partners, LLP / Eisenhower Memorial Commission

Among the many concerns being raised about Frank Gehry’s proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial is its price tag, currently estimated at $142 million. That’s not the most costly memorial ever built in Washington, D.C., but it may be the most expensive memorial per acre. The proposed memorial would be 4 acres in size, so that’s approximately $35.5 million per acre. Here’s a quick rundown of what it cost to build some of Washington’s most famous memorials. Cost per acre is only computed for memorials that are landscapes. (more…)

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THE STORM AT UVA

Update, June 28

We can now safely report than Teresa Sullivan has her job back as president of the University of Virginia. She and her main antagonist, the school’s rector, Helen Dragas, walked into the Rotunda together on Tuesday before the unanimous vote to reinstate her by the same Board of Visitors let her walk out the door a couple of weeks ago.

Update, June 18

For a Sunday in June, it was extraordinarily busy around the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. The Faculty Senate met yesterday afternoon to voice its almost unanimous support for the departing president, Teresa Sullivan, and to make known its lack of confidence in the school’s Board of Visitors. At that meeting, the provost, John D. Simon, indicated he may leave within the next few days if the crisis is not resolved in a way he considers acceptable. The most potent news yet? A number of university donors are upset. One donor, Hunter Smith, who has given the school $60 million, told the Washington Post that she’s holding on to her money until there are changes among the Board of Visitors. She does not condone Sullivan’s removal, she said. “It’s disgraceful.”

June 17, 2:00 p.m.

Much intrigue and anger is afoot at the University of Virginia since the school’s Board of Visitors suddenly gave the gong to the university’s president, Teresa Sullivan, last week, having grown impatient with the speed of Sullivan’s changes during her whole two years in office. Many faculty and students have taken to their keyboards in reaction, including the dean of architecture, Kim Tanzer. Some of the responses are quite sharp in their protests; others are clearly treading water, and many interesting comments follow. Faculty members seem to feel safest speaking collectively—the message from the Faculty Senate says it was “blindsided” and that the explanation given by the Board of Visitors for pushing out Sullivan is “inadequate and unsatisfactory.”

More explanation for Sullivan’s departure than the Board of Visitors probably wants out there appears in an excellent piece in Slate magazine by Siva Vaidhyanathan, a UVA media studies professor. It includes details of an email mis-sent by a Darden School of Business foundation board member, the investment banker Peter Kiernan, which described what he said was his role behind the scenes in Sullivan’s ouster. Kiernan is no longer a foundation board member, by the way, having resigned in embarrassment after sending the email. A local Charlottesville weekly, The Hook, has more details of the shadowy role that philanthropy among “important alums” may have played in the Sullivan affair.

A devastating story in the Washington Post describes at least part of the tale that led to Sullivan’s departure (more…)

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