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Archive for January, 2013

LAM-Jan2013-Interview-HalfDome

From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

By Lydia W. Lee

Even though Alexander Dunkel, Student ASLA, has never visited the High Line in New York City, he can tell you exactly what part of the park is the most popular: the 10th Avenue Square. How? He spent a year analyzing Flickr, the popular image web site, and seeing where people take the most photos. Because many of the images in Flickr collections are tagged with their precise geographic location as well as a descriptor (“Golden Gate Bridge,” for example), Dunkel was able to generate maps of an area’s most frequently photographed subjects. From his home in Dresden, Germany, he spoke about his research at the University of California, Berkeley, which won a 2012 ASLA Student Honor Award.

What inspired you to study Flickr?

Flickr is a unique source of data that shows how people interact with the landscape. Some people take pictures all the time, some people only take a picture of things that are really important to them, but if you look at the whole data set, you see what the majority opinion is.

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HOW SWEET

LAM-Jan2013-SugarBeachSkyline

From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

By Daniel Jost, ASLA

 It’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or, as they say here in Toronto, a balmy 27 degrees. Stephanie McCarthy leans back in a white Adirondack chair and digs her feet into the sand. On Canada’s Sugar Beach she’s just a short walk from her downtown apartment, though as she sits in the shade of a pink umbrella, it seems a little unreal. “It feels like you’re somewhere tropical,” she says, “like a minivacation.”

There are plenty of signs that this is Canada. The CN Tower rises just behind us, and there’s a maple-leaf-shaped fountain full of kids. But if you get a good seat, and angle yourself just right, all you see is sand, water, and sky.

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HIGH TIMES

LAM-Jan2013-Books-HighlineCVR

From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

On the High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park, by Annik LaFarge; New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012; 218 pages, $29.95.

Reviewed by Jane Gillette

Everybody loves New York’s High Line, because what’s not to love? The 1.45-mile park, stretching through the Meatpacking District and West Chelsea along New York’s West Side, offers a pleasant amble with the different perspective of a city viewed from 30 feet up in the air. There are the beautiful steel tracks, places to sunbathe, a big window and benches for convenient traffic and people watching, and a variety of gardens with slightly different moods and uses (the Gansevoort Woodland, the Washington Grasslands, the Chelsea Thicket, the Bog, the Lawn, the Astor Farmland).

Since its opening in 2009, the High Line has attracted some four million visitors a year, nearby real estate values have soared by an estimated $2 billion, and over 20 years the project is expected to produce some $900 million for the city in extra tax revenue. All this at a construction cost of about $152 million (for sections one and two).

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Deforestation in the state of Rondônia in western Brazil. Photo: NASA

Deforestation in the state of Rondônia in western Brazil. Photo: NASA

If you place plants above humans on the hierarchy of desirable beings (ha ha, try that topic at your next dinner party), or if you’re like the naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who recently called humans a “plague on Earth,” you’ll appreciate an essay by Michael Marder, a philosopher, on Al Jazeera’s web site that advocates for plant rights, not least as a possible brake on losses of biodiversity. Marder cites Hannah Arendt’s notion of “the right to have rights” along with scientists’ expanding knowledge of plant behavior and threads of thought from Hinduism and Jainism to build a case for the fundamental protections of plant life based on the “uniqueness of vegetal subjects.” It seems a conversation has already begun about plant rights, obliquely enough, in a 2008 report by the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology called “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” which Marder calls “an undeniable milestone.”

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A salt marsh on Pier 1 that was innundated  during Superstorm Sandy. Courtesy Brooklyn Bridge Park / Etienne Frossard

This salt marsh on Pier 1 was inundated during Superstorm Sandy. Courtesy Brooklyn Bridge Park / Etienne Frossard

Large parts of Brooklyn Bridge Park were submerged for up to four hours during Superstorm Sandy. On the Ecological Landscape Association’s web site, Rebecca McMackin, the park’s horticulturist, describes how the park is recovering from the storm. She credits the landscape architects at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for their “forward-thinking park design”—their use of salt-tolerant native plants and sandy soils that drain quickly. She also explains how the site has been managed since the storm to flush salt out of the soils.  The park’s managers used soil additives in various areas to reduce plant stress and will be monitoring the additives’ long-term effects. Read the whole story here.

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WHAT A BIG FOUNTAIN COSTS

Copyright Daniel Jost

Copyright Daniel Jost

Last fall, the Associated Press reported that the cost of maintaining the huge fountains at the National September 11 Memorial in New York could be as much as $5 million per year.  That got me thinking: It’s hard to find information on the cost of maintaining large custom-designed fountains.

I contacted the parks department in Portland, Oregon, to find out how much it costs to maintain Lawrence Halprin and Associates’ iconic Ira Keller Fountain—you know, the one the late Ada Louise Huxtable said “may be one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.” The cubist fountain was completed in 1970. Its main waterfalls cross most of a 200-foot-long city block and are around 18 feet high.

A representative from the parks department says the Portland Water Bureau spent approximately $73,600 to maintain the fountain in 2010 and $73,500 in 2011. The largest part of those bills (about $34,000 each year) was for electricity. A little over $26,000 went toward labor, and the rest paid for such things as maintenance vehicles and parts. It is worth noting that the Ira Keller Fountain operates about half of the year, so it does not require a heating system. The fountain is run by the water bureau, and their estimate seems not to factor in the cost of the water itself. You can see a slightly more detailed breakdown of the costs here and here.

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LAM-Jan2013_Back-LongViewReflect

The reflecting pool at Boston’s Christian Science Plaza/ Photo by Alan Ward

From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

By Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA

Each generation makes and remakes the city, through grand schemes and incremental acts. As they alter the city’s streets and public spaces, our mayors, developers, institutions, planners, architects, engineers, and landscape architects reimagine the texture and shape of urban life. Aldo Rossi suggests, in The Architecture of the City (1966), that the city is built on the collective memory of events and impulses, achievements and artifacts, and forces of evolutionary change; its cultural ethos accrues through alteration and the passage of time. Would anyone not endorse Boston as a consummate example?

People love Boston’s coherent, identifiable character, one that evolved over four centuries as it has grown from a coastal village to a thriving metropolis. It’s a city rich in cultural assets—America’s Athens. Its iconic spaces have by necessity adapted to changing contexts: the practical simplicity of the Common, which supports varied forms of public life today as it did in 1620; the pattern of crooked colonial streets, which keeps travel downtown confusing to visitors but picturesquely varied and pleasing; the elegant hierarchies and radical urban reform expressed in the planning of the Back Bay and Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, which have proved resilient in the face of massive change; the inspired and majestic rock pile of H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church, somehow even more compelling alongside the prismatic marvel of Harry Cobb’s John Hancock Tower. We can all identify other notable Boston treasures and how they’ve been altered in the face of new realities.

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