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Archive for March, 2013

VogueAUSTIN, TEXAS—As landscape architecture educators socialized Thursday evening with Lone Star beer, whiskey, and wine, conversations frequently returned to that day’s speech by the landscape historian John Stilgoe of Harvard University. What did it all mean? Is Stilgoe a prophetic observer or is he out of touch with the profession? Is he a feminist or the opposite?

The speech was a winding road system with many cul-de-sacs, loosely related observations that cannot be done justice in this format. Its main intent seemed to be challenging landscape architects to think about where they get their conceptions of landscape beauty, and where clients get theirs.

Stilgoe asserted that many people get their ideas about landscape beauty from advertisements. More specifically, he thinks many women get their ideas from the ads in fashion magazines, and so he has become an avid reader of these magazines himself. He challenged the audience to look at the landscapes that fashion models appear in, and showed slide after slide of unsmiling models positioned in similar landscapes of concrete and stone. “The very straightforward formula for producing the background image is very, very creepy,” Stilgoe said. “Notice how often the model is in a derelict environment.” The model is the beautiful thing. Nothing is allowed to outshine her or her dress.

He wondered why we seem to put historicized scenes on our Christmas cards and how our movies, our children’s books, and our camera lenses are affecting the way we see landscape.

Stilgoe has built his career on such questions and observations. “J. B. Jackson told me to get in a car and go look,” Stilgoe recalled. “Don’t ever ask for a grant, because how are you going to ask for money if you don’t know what you’re going to look at?”

He has observed a nation of passive consumers, more concerned about their own bodies than the content of their character or the flowers around them. “We became a people who stopped dancing and started to watch others dance,” Stilgoe said. (more…)

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"Say Manure!" -Rich Haag. (Photo by Daniel Jost)

“Say Manure!” -Rich Haag.
(Photo by Daniel Jost)

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture conference began on Wednesday with a rousing and hilarious rant by Richard Haag, the 89-year-old landscape architect from Seattle best known for his design of Gas Works Park and his early advocacy for edible plants. The speech veered in numerous directions. At one point Haag polled the audience to see what topics they wanted him to focus on, and, to his surprise, they chose trees. Some of the most memorable lines and moments:

“I have known for 50 years that landscape architecture is the fine art of visual swindles.” [Arguing that no rendering can truly capture the landscape in all its complexity.]

“Landscape architecture is the only profession that embraces nature as a lover. Biophilic, we were biophilic before they started combining words like that.”

On the landscape architecture profession: “Right now we’re on the top. We have what I call the power of procreation. But it can be threatened by other technologies moving in, and we damn well better take control of it.”

“Every idea you have, give it away, because you get a better one in return.” (more…)

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Northern_Oregon_Coast_Range_logging_road_-_Washington_and_Yamhill_counties,_OregonLast week, the Supreme Court released its decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, a case that considered the ability to regulate stormwater runoff and sediment from logging roads under the Clean Water Act. Some news reports played it as an unequivocal win for the timber industry, but a close look at the decision shows that it’s a little bit more complicated—environmental advocates may even find some comfort in it.

The case (see “On Forest Roads, Loggerheads” in the December 2012 issue of LAM) involved the application of the Clean Water Act’s “point source” permitting requirements to runoff from roads built to transport harvested timber from forested land.

The NEDC, based in Portland, Oregon, argued that building and using these roads, known as logging or forest roads, is “industrial activity” as the Clean Water Act defines it. A lot of logging roads are unpaved, and the group said that sediment from them, carried into rivers and streams by stormwater runoff, is harming aquatic life and impairing water quality.

When it rains hard, these roads do not simply produce “discharges composed entirely of stormwater,” which don’t require permits—the runoff events are more like a byproduct of gathering raw materials for a manufacturing process, the group said. So the owners of these roads should be required to get permits from the EPA or authorized state governments to cover these discharges, just as owners of a factory or mine would have to do. (more…)

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THE FEARLESS GRADY CLAY

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Few journalists have had a greater impact on the field of landscape architecture than Grady Clay, Honorary ASLA, who died on Sunday at the age of 96. He was the editor of this magazine for nearly a quarter century—from 1960 to 1984. He chaired the commission that selected Maya Lin’s solemn design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was intimately involved with one of the first ecological planning studies in the United States, and apparently coined the term “New Urbanist.”

Clay grew up in Atlanta, the son of an ophthalmologist, but he spent much of his childhood on a family farm nearby. There he learned about erosion and the joys of playing in ditches. He attended Emory University and then Columbia University’s School of Journalism, graduating in 1939. During World War II, he served in Europe and was wounded while working for the army’s weekly magazine.

Clay first made a name for himself in Kentucky as the real estate editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal. His critical reports on urban renewal and highways drew the attention of William H. Whyte, who included an essay by Clay in The Exploding Metropolis, his 1958 classic on struggling cities and suburban sprawl.

(more…)

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Courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation

Lovejoy Fountain, Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

The Portland Open Space Sequence, completed between 1966 and 1970, includes two of the most famous landscapes of the modern era—Lovejoy Plaza and the Ira Keller Fountain. At both sites, Lawrence Halprin & Associates designed fountains that abstract natural gorges in concrete and invite people to play in them.  Recently, these spaces, a smaller fountain known as The Source, the grass-covered hillocks of Pettygrove Park, and all the pedestrian malls connecting them were named to the National Register of Historic Places. You can read more about the nomination here.

The landscapes join a very small group of modernist landscapes listed on the register. Peavey Plaza by M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, and Gas Works Park by Richard Haag, FASLA, joined the register in January, though plans are still afoot to demolish Peavey. The Portland spaces have received much more support locally. The Halprin Landscape Conservancy was founded in 2001 to contribute to their care, and Portland’s City Council affirmed its support for the spaces’ registration last June.

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GRADY CLAY, THE AGITATOR

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Photo by Kenneth Hayden

 We were sad to receive word of the death Sunday of Grady Clay, Honorary ASLA, LAM’s longtime, influential, and much-loved editor, at the age of 96 in Louisville. More remembrance and details on observances will follow as we receive them. For now, we are posting a terrific interview that Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, did with Grady for the magazine’s 100th anniversary issue.

From the October 2010 issue of LAM:

By Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA

GRADY CLAY, HONORARY ASLA, who worked as an associate editor and, ultimately, the executive editor of Landscape Architecture for 23 years, has a rich, extraordinary perspective on the profession and its practitioners. As an outsider with tremendous insight, Clay, now 94, helped shape decades of debate and discourse. He chronicled the origins of modernism, the first corporate office parks, The RSVP Cycles, Design with Nature, postmodernism, and both the New American Garden and the Bagel Garden. He plucked out new talent like a gifted curator and gave it a voice. Clay’s arrival came at a major hinge point in the profession, as it coincided with the centennial of Central Park and the onset of urban renewal. His incisive editorial vision marked a passing of the profession’s old guard and the rise of a new generation’s eclectic vision.

(more…)

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LANDSCAPES OVER TIME

Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc.

Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc.

From the March 2013 issue of LAM:

By Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, with William S. Saunders

Unlike architecture, landscape architecture evolves (and almost always improves) through time. Its parks and gardens are never complete. Or rather the finished landscape of today is not the finished landscape of many years from now. Landscape architects must more deliberately include in their work predictions of how it will change. Yet few landscape professionals continue being involved in their built works beyond a year or two after opening day. What happens? The site is taken over by natural processes and unplanned human impacts or by its caretakers, who, at least partially, become its new designers, typically with little direction from the original designer. Yet if the landscape architect’s design matters on day one, it matters equally in year five and beyond.

(more…)

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