Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘CITIES’ Category

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 two sites being offered by the University of Chicago for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Credit: Photo © Lucas Blair, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

To the annals of things you thought might be sacred but actually aren’t sacred at all, you can now add 20 or so acres of a Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux park in Chicago that will be used to build the Obama presidential library. The Barack Obama Foundation, which had been considering four sites in Chicago, New York, and Hawaii, announced on May 12 that it had narrowed its choices down to a site in either Jackson Park or Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side. Neither the foundation nor the University of Chicago, which lured the library with the promise of using public parkland after a transfer engineered by Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, knows which Olmsted park they’ll decide on. But they seem sure that, despite dozens of empty acres owned by the city near each of the parks, only a park site will do.

When you consider who’s at work behind the idea, it seems inevitable that one of the Olmsted sites would be the choice. There’s Emanuel, who is a former chief of staff to President Obama and recently won re-election to a second term as mayor. There’s Susan Sher, a former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, who is now an adviser to the president of the University of Chicago, Robert Zimmer, and managed the library bid for the university. There are the commissioners of the Chicago Park District, appointed by Emanuel, who unanimously approved the transfer of the parkland to build the library (except for the president of the park district’s board, Bryan Traubert, who declined to vote because he is married to Obama’s secretary of commerce, Penny Pritzker). And then there are the Illinois legislature and the governor, who, in light of potential legal threats to the library project, quickly approved a bill in April to preemptively block legal challenges to the taking of public parkland to build it.

I might have counted on the huge numbers of Olmsted fundamentalists and preservationists, so conspicuous on other occasions, to emerge in force against the library foundation’s plans. But other than substantive counterarguments made by a couple of advocacy groups—the Friends of the Parks in Chicago and the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington—any opposition to the idea of appropriating parkland for the library was muted to nonexistent, notably among landscape architects. A move to develop part of Central Park or Prospect Park, also by Olmsted and Vaux, in New York, would create something close to panic, as would, I suspect, designs on a Mies van der Rohe building or the Tribune Tower in Chicago.

It’s not possible to know whether there are more people who opposed Chicago’s offering of the park but kept quiet owing to fears of political retribution—no more municipal work for you, grouch—or because they didn’t think it is wrong, or because they thought fighting was futile. Not that one reason is more terribly disappointing than the others. This was a moment (and a long moment since word of the city’s plan came out late last year) to defend something that landscape architects and park advocates say they hold dear.

The ultimate responsibility lies with the president and First Lady themselves. When they announced the decision and ended the charade of keeping their distance from the site selection process, they cited, of course, their deep attachment to the South Side of Chicago. This part of the city makes perfect sense for the Obama library for many reasons. But if the Obamas are so rooted on the South Side, you’d think they wouldn’t be quite so indifferent to the gravity of developing part of its most important park, which, for reasons that don’t require much explanation, is, or was, indeed sacred.

 

Read Full Post »

BY JANE ROY BROWN

How designers of Boston’s outdoor classrooms arrived at a “Kit of Parts” that really works.

How designers of Boston’s outdoor classrooms arrived at a “kit of parts” that really works.

From the May 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 “Ms. Thompson, what’s a log?” The question came from a kindergartener in a Boston elementary school in 2006, after his teacher (not her real name) read a story to the class about a possum hiding in a hollow log.

As shocking as the question may sound, teachers all over the country have fielded similar ones for years. By 2005, when Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods launched the term “nature-deficit disorder” into everyday use, generations of kids in some city neighborhoods had had no experience of woods, never mind logs.

Last Child in the Woods has sent all kinds of communities scrambling to offer some experience of nature to their children, and many of them have focused, logically enough, on schoolyards. As more landscape architects join the push to transform crumbling asphalt schoolyards into landscapes for play and learning, they might do worse than to take a page from the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI).

(more…)

Read Full Post »

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TOM STOELKER

BEDIT_IMG_6550

Students stop to take a group photo on their environmental justice tour in Hunts Point.

Last November, Charles Orgbon, the 19-year-old founder and CEO of Greening Forward, was in New York City to organize the annual International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit. Outside his hotel near Times Square, he heard helicopters, sirens, and chanting. People were streaming onto the streets shouting, “Black lives matter!”

Earlier that day, Orgbon had been at the Point, a community center in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. He met with teen leaders from ACTION, a group working on social and environmental justice issues. They took a selfie. Later that night, with frustration flowing through the streets of midtown, he studied the image, trying to make sense of the day.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

BY JONATHAN LERNER

The Museum of Modern Art wonders whether unsanctioned, light-footprint design gestures can humanize the world’s megacities.

From the January 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In exploding cities around the world, ever-increasing populations of the poor find themselves occupying dense makeshift settlements, or dangerously subdivided apartments, or massive, isolating housing estates. Official planning and development mechanisms seem unable to cope as cities expand in ways that are disorderly, unpredictable, and resistant to the provision of infrastructure and services. Can design solutions redress the imbalance of wealth and poverty that underlies this? Can city dwellers themselves transform dysfunctional places into communities with livable futures? Can an art museum help solve this global problem? These are questions posed by Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Uneven Growth is the third effort in MOMA’s Issues in Contemporary Architecture series. The first was Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, in 2010. It elicited concepts for responding to sea-level rise and climate change two years before Hurricane Sandy’s piercing alarm, and some of those ideas have been incorporated into projects now moving toward construction in metropolitan New York. In 2012, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream imagined restorative strategies for six representative American suburbs following the mortgage debacle. These concepts turned out to be more and less radical, but all were more or less doable. In the current exhibition’s catalog, Barry Bergdoll, a former head of MOMA’s Department of Architecture and Design (and still a part-time curator there), describes the series as “laboratorial,” intended to formulate and show “experimental results that do not yet exist.” In that spirit, Uneven Growth paired design firms with local knowledge together with others that have international experience on teams asked to work up speculative proposals for six cities: Lagos, Nigeria; Rio de Janeiro; Istanbul; Hong Kong; Mumbai, India; and New York. They were asked to address their city’s situations via tactical urbanism: to consider what could be effected by citizens themselves; to incorporate the cultures of improvisation that overcrowded cities naturally elicit; and to devise interventions that could be made lightly and with limited resources.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Don't think of the city as postapocalyptic. Think of it as pre-urban.  Credit: Detroit Future City

Don’t think of the city as post-apocalyptic. Think of it as pre-urban. Credit: Detroit Future City

From the November 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Erin Kelly, Associate ASLA, was giving me the side eye. We were sitting in a Salvadorean restaurant on Livernois, wolfing down hot food after a bleak circular tour of blighted neighborhoods that ring Detroit’s revitalizing downtown core. I had been talking about DesignInquiry, the group of designers I’d come to town with to check out the city and try to understand what design’s role might be here. Kelly thinks she’s seen quite enough of our type in the short time she’s been working in Detroit: parachuting in from thriving cities, Instagramming ruin-porn pictures shot from the safety of rental cars, and hopping back on the plane after a few days.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

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

In the November Queue, the LAM staff sees the real Keystone XL story go viral, learns about the most-wanted environmental fugitives, laments that the Arctic may truly be “ice-free” by 2020, and daydreams about an enchanting bike ride inspired by a starry, starry night.

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

KCRW’s “To the Point” aired an extensive report on the Keystone XL and the various strategies Canadian companies are using to move tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico (see “Below the Surface,” LAM, November 2014).

 The EPA has recently released the latest iteration of its report on 30 indicators of climate change in the United States. The third edition of the report compiles new data that links human activities and a warming planet, including wildfire occurrences and the rising levels and temperatures in the Great Lakes, among others.

•  A swoon-worthy four-minute film on global fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions has won a 2014 Kantar Information Is Beautiful award.

Interpol launched Operation Infra-Terra, a list of the most-wanted environmental fugitives in the world. Among the top offenses are animal poaching, illegal mining, and illegal waste disposal.

• The Arctic could be “ice-free” as soon as 2020, according to Cambridge professor Peter Wadhams.

• As part of a $2.4 billion project to protect waterways, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens will add thousands of streetside plots to help soak up excess stormwater, while communities in Maryland seek to add similar measures to avoid large fees under a controversial “rain tax.”

FIELD STUDIES

 A four-and-a-half-minute video recently released by PBS highlights the haunting beauty of the historic McMillan Sand Filtration site in Washington, D.C., echoing the local residents’ advocacy for the site’s untapped potential.

 Seattle no longer has to worry about needing to choose between funding the police or the local park. Voters recently approved a measure that separates park funding from the general fund, though some worry that this money will not make it to the parks that need it the most.

In a recent essay in Places Journal, Brian Davis (see “The Dredge Underground,” LAM, August 2014) and Thomas Oles challenge the term “landscape architecture,” suggesting that  “landscape science” more accurately captures the core values of modern practice.

Berlin’s 33,000 resident artists have taken advantage of the slow regeneration of the city, giving more leeway for the creative improvisation of space and property.

Medium looks at contemporary cartography and the increasing complexity of modern maps. 

OUT AND ABOUT

United Divide: A Linear Portrait of the USA/Canada Border opened at the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Los Angeles on November 14.

• The Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Presidio Trust will host Saving Nature in a Humanized World January 22–24 at the Presidio in San Francisco.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 Ever wonder what your city would look like if we all just turned off the lights?

 If Van Gogh was alive today, he’d want you to use this bike path.

• This memorial in Arizona aligns with the sun perfectly only on Veterans Day at 11:11 a.m.

 These pictures highlight works of art only nature could create.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,199 other followers