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BY JESSICA BRIDGER

Venetian bridge with Biennale banner.

Venetian bridge with biennale banner.

Rem Koolhaas, the director of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, calls for the “end of starchitects” and a refocusing on capital-A architecture, which is usually marked by insecurity and ideological cliquishness. While no one, not even the chief starchitect himself, could remove this high school mentality, Koolhaas did succeed in wrangling what is usually a messy biennale of murky disconnection into a unified exhibition of buildings and their contexts. This approach is a switch for Venice and turned the biennale into an introspective, research-driven look at architecture and influence. With any luck, it will resonate into the future and bring more analysis within the building disciplines of what we build, beyond Internet posts of the latest and greatest, as architecture and landscape increasingly draw themselves into the greater task of urbanism.

Koolhaas united the biennale, titled Fundamentals, around the history of modernity over the past century. The most successful national pavilions, all following the modernity theme, gave nation-specific takes on modern life and situated architecture within that context. Connecting architecture to political, cultural, and economic forces is important, but embedding these factors within geographic and environmental contexts is essential, and largely nothing of the sort was done.

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Beneath many older cities across the globe are mysterious worlds hidden from sight since the Industrial Revolution. Rivers, once lifelines to wealth, were exiled underground as they became breeding grounds for disease. Burying rivers solved the sanitation issues of the times, but the aging infrastructure today falls short of modern needs and cuts off humans from nature. Caroline Bâcle, the writer and director of the new film Lost Rivers, which follows the stories of these forgotten waterways, spins an intriguing narrative of the rivers themselves but also of how people might connect with them. I spoke with Bâcle, who is based in London, about her experiences during the project and what Lost Rivers could mean to cities today.

How did you get the idea to make a film about these “lost rivers”?
My producer Katarina [Soukup, founder of Catbird Productions] and I—I think she stumbled upon it first, on the website of Andrew Emond. The film kind of opens with him. He’s a photographer who was living in Montreal but is in Toronto now, and he basically went into the underground of Montreal and took photos of its lost waterways. We were just fascinated by his website and thought, “Oh, my gosh, there are rivers under Montreal, my hometown. How incredible.” We thought it was a unique thing to Montreal, that it was only our city, and we had this amazing, incredible, mysterious history. And so originally we thought, “Oh, we have to make a film, or do something important about Andrew and his work or about the history of Montreal,” and we just developed the idea, and the minute we started doing any kind of remote research on “lost rivers,” we found that it was a part of urban history around the world. So the subject kind of opened up to something much bigger.

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BY JESSICA BRIDGER

Visitors roam the Urban by Nature exhibits on opening day.

The landscape architect Dirk Sijmons wants to make a double point with the name of “his” biennale—the 6th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR)—which opened in late May. Sijmons called the event Urban by Nature to suggest both that it is in our nature to be urban (implying a certain inevitability to our urbanization, now at an unprecedented and alarmingly fast rate) and that our urban areas are, in fact, natural. To Sijmons, humans are undeniably as natural as the world’s flora and fauna, and so are carbon emissions and border crossing checkpoints—it is time to acknowledge as much and to become more explicitly responsible actors in this unified scheme. This is integral to the work of Sijmons and the ethos of the biennale, and it is reminiscent of the epigram on Stewart Brand’s final Whole Earth Catalog: “We can’t put it together. It is together.”

The IABR is a research biennale, where projects are meant to fulfill the curator’s, in this case, Sijmons’s, position or point of view. The research focus also lets the IABR have a scope and effect beyond the biennale’s boundaries—as opposed to what commonly goes on at the Venice Architecture Biennale or a conference. The research comes from an open call for projects and from the IABR’s own test labs or “Project Ateliers.” These test labs investigate and propose ways to tackle issues at specific sites, this year in Texel, BrabantStad, and Rotterdam. Work from the Project Ateliers appears in the biennale along with work chosen from more than 500 international submissions. It’s this continuity between the test sites and the outside work that gives the IABR its lasting quality and that benefits the broad abstract topics the biennale tends to tackle, such as 2009’s Open City or Making City in 2012.

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

This month’s issue of the Queue delights in OLIN Studio’s new digital magazine, absorbs the inevitable wave of backflow on Rebuild by Design, and ponders the goat invasion of Long Island.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

FIELD STUDIES

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 

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This winter, we wrote about the inaugural outing of the North Coast Design Competition (NCDC), Designing Dredge: Re-Envisioning the Toledo Waterfront, and now the winners have been announced. The entrants were asked to envision a useful waterfront space that combined existing and future outdoor developments with dredged materials, and also to provide the placement and design of a research site for the testing and experimentation of dredge material among other possible uses. Garrett Rock’s winning proposal, Re-Frame Toledo, would use Toledo’s dredge material to create sites for the public while also suggesting a phytoremediation step in the dredging cycle to process the sediment for future land use and better water quality. Sean Burkholder, an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the founder of NCDC, said that each of the 21 entries showed a thorough understanding of the subject. Some dealt with the excess sediment associated with dredging by creating riverside parks and recreation; others sought to create new ways of dealing with this material.

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BY JIMENA MARTIGNONI

TRANSIT: Buenos Aires

Peru Street, in Buenos Aires, was transformed into a pedestrian space. Courtesy Cecilia Garros Cardo.

From the June 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Walking around parts of Buenos Aires can be dizzying, with cars speeding down the large boulevards as people walking find themselves having to race from corner to corner to stay out of their way. But a central part of the city that was once quite chaotic is being tamed by two programs that give pedestrians and public transportation priority over cars. The programs—Metrobus, a new bus rapid-transit (BRT) network that is being implemented by the undersecretary of transportation, and Prioridad Peatón, or the Priority for Pedestrians Plan, implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development, both under the auspices of the city government—are recent parts of a long-term Sustainable Mobility Plan that’s making deteriorated parts of the city more navigable, more hospitable, and more appealing to those who want to walk rather than drive.

The Metrobus network has three different corridors in the city: Metrobus Juan B. Justo, which covers 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) and has 21 stops, was completed in 2011; Metrobus 9 de Julio runs along 3.5 kilometers (about two miles) and has 17 stops in the central area of the city; and Metrobus Sur, which has two different lines and a total length of 23 kilometers (14 miles) and 37 stops, and is still in construction in the southern area of the city.

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What is a public garden, and what is it for? The June issue of LAM looks at new works at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, prefaced by a conversation on the public garden’s evolving mission with the landscape architects Sheila Brady, FASLA; Darrel Morrison, FASLA; Annette Wilkus, FASLA; Scott Scarfone, ASLA; Gary Smith, FASLA; and the New York Botanical Garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections, Todd Forrest.

The Foreground sections look at new research on luring the bees to underused parts of Houston, student debt loads for landscape architecture graduates, fetching new transit design in Buenos Aires, and an update on Lawrence Halprin’s neglected Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas. The Species column this month offers up wild pigs and birch syrup, Goods has gorgeous outdoor fixtures, and the Books section reviews a pair of new releases on green infrastructure.

You can read the full table of contents for June 2014 or pick up a free digital issue of the June LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. 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 print issue from the 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 as well as o

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some June pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: Native Plant Garden: Ivo M. Vermeulen; Heritage Park Plaza: Elizabeth Meyer, Courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation; Native Flora Garden: Elizabeth Felicella; Species: Michelle Pearson; Laguna Gloria: Courtesy Reed Hilderbrand; Stone Mill: Elizabeth Felicella; Buenos Aires Transit: Cecilia Garros Cardo; Ethnobotanical: Francisco Gómez Sosa; Visitor Center: Aaron Booher, ASLA/HMWhite Site Architecture.

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