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Archive for the ‘CITIES’ Category

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye. In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff wades through a myriad of headlines to find $2.4 billion might not be enough for New York City’s new green infrastructure, reads about gender and urban farming, and slows down to enjoy a dancing stoplight.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Frequent contributor Alex Ulam looks at the benefits of New York City’s plan to spend $2.4 billion on green infrastructure, including stormwater management in priority neighborhoods—but some wonder whether it reaches far enough.

FIELD STUDIES

    • With urban agriculture’s popularity on the rise, Michael Tortorello of The New York Times wonders why the majority of workers are female (and why it matters).
    • San Francisco’s new tax breaks for converting vacant lots into urban farms might not make sense when there’s a lack of affordable housing in the city.
    • D.C. residents are slowly shaping alleyways from dark corners of miscreant activity to vibrant social assets for the community—one alley at a time.
    • For every mile of road in Nashville and its county, there is only half a mile of sidewalks, according to the Tennessean. And the city’s new flat rate fee that allows developers to opt out of building sidewalks altogether isn’t going to help.
    • An Op-Ed in the New York Times says Colony Collapse Disorder is in the rear-view mirror, but it’s still too early to breathe a sigh of relief: The United States averages a 30 percent loss of our pollinator friends annually.

OUT AND ABOUT

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

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The grim 1960s-era highway architecture east of Druid Hill Park is no more inviting, or more pedestrian-friendly, in the rain.

The wild and rebellious vegetation sometimes found under a highway overpass is an easy thing to forget—especially when you’re whizzing past at 55+ miles per hour. But to the pedestrians whose only option is to dare the uncomfortably narrow sidewalk parallel to these busy roads, it is an environment unlikely to be forgotten. These are exactly the kinds of spaces Graham Coreil-Allen wants you to see, and love. Every Saturday in September, Coreil-Allen has been guiding a pack of urban enthusiasts as part of his free SiteLines walking tours to explore “invisible public spaces” in the city of Baltimore. Along with 14 other people, I braved the elements to join Coreil-Allen on a tour, dubbed Reservoir Chill, where we scrambled up, around, and through varying levels of the Jones Falls Expressway in search of oddball nooks and passageways created by 1960s highway architecture gone to seed.

It doesn’t take a trip to Baltimore to find these forgotten realms: These hauntingly beautiful sites have a sense of untapped potential, similar to visions of the High Line before it was redone, and they ask—if a passion for ownership of these spaces could be instilled, as it was in New York City—could they become an asset not only to the neighborhood, but to the city as well?

Under a pedestrian bridge at the end of Park Avenue, Coreil-Allen points out a road that once led to the entrance of Druid Hill Park, but was cut off by the repurposed and expanded Druid Park Lake Drive when the Jones Falls Expressway was implemented. The bridge runs parallel to this busy street and towers over one of its exits, acting as a divider that visibly separates the Reservoir Hill neighborhood from a labyrinth of car-dominated interchanges and the park beyond.

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The final section of the High Line, the Rail Yards, opened this week. Photo by Alex Ulam.

The nature is wilder and the views more spectacular along the new and final section of the High Line, which opened to the public this past Sunday, fittingly on the same day of the People’s Climate March. Surrounding me was one of the largest expanses of open skyline in Manhattan. Underfoot was a landscape consisting of rusted rails, wildflowers, and scrappy wild grasses fluttering in the wind—an example of the original self-seeded raw landscape that took hold after the trains stopped running in 1980. Photographs of this scrappy bit of urban nature played a critical role in the campaign to save the abandoned elevated rail trestle and convert it into a unique public park 30 feet above Manhattan’s busy streets. Until the opening of the new section, the journey along the High Line primarily ran through narrow canyons of buildings and offered mostly snapshot views of the streets below. Part of the charm was not knowing what was ahead, playing hide-and-seek with the city beneath your feet while discovering hidden gardens and outlooks that the High Line’s design team of James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf had designed along the old rail trestle. (more…)

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Digital Tools for uncovering LA's local water potentials

Divining L.A. will fund a geospatial tool for uncovering L.A.’s local water potential. Courtesy the Arid Lands Institute.

The Twitterverse has been alive lately with pleas for votes in the #LA2050 competition, and a few projects have caught our attention for their wider reach and alignment with landscape architecture’s goals. The competition, now in its second year, receives support from the Goldhirsch Foundation and GOOD magazine, and will award grants in five categories: Play, Connect, Learn, Create, and Live. We were pleased to see projects based around the L.A. River (“A River to Live By,” June 4, 2014) make appearances in various categories, along with a project, Divining L.A.: Resilient City Design for the Next Hundred Years, from the Arid Lands Institute (“Drylands Design for L.A.,” January 14, 2014) with Mia Lehrer Associates and a pretty robust team of L.A. water-savvy agencies and firms. Awardees will be selected by a jury as well as the public vote, and the winners in each category can receive up to $100,000 for their project from either public voting or jury selection. That’s a total of $1 million on the table for community projects. Anyone can vote, once registered, and residence in Los Angeles is not required. Voting closes Tuesday, September 16, 2014, at noon (PDT), so read up on the projects and cast your vote. Have a landscape architecture project in the mix for LA2050? Tell us about it in the comments.

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Now viewed across the lawn and meadow, the houses evoke the settlement's rural character.

Now viewed across the lawn and meadow, the houses evoke the settlement’s rural character.

From the September 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Nearly 50 years ago, a cluster of old houses, set slightly askew, was “discovered” in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. They had been surrounded and concealed by newer structures aligned to the modern street grid. These modest cottages were the last physical trace of Weeksville, a self-sufficient farming settlement founded by freed African Americans after slavery was outlawed in New York in 1827.

An organization soon coalesced to document the history and preserve the structures. These years later, the newly completed Weeksville Heritage Center has wider ambitions: both to celebrate the area’s black history and to foster its present-day cultural vitality. The historic houses have been restored and are joined by a dazzling new building with exhibition, performance, research, and classroom spaces. Between them is an outdoor area meant for active programming and historical interpretation. Elizabeth J. Kennedy, ASLA, the designer, says, “One challenge was to make the historic land use patterns apparent.” Another was to reveal the idiosyncratic route of long-erased Hunterfly Road, originally a Native American footpath, which the old houses had fronted.

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Drought is said to be too many nice days in a row. Well, in California, three years of nice days has curdled into sheer dread. In the Features section of our September issue, Bill Marken, a frequent LAM contributor and a former editor of Sunset, takes a road trip through California to witness the effects of the drought, which is crippling in certain places and seemingly not such a big deal in others, and to comment on the efforts, or lack thereof, to help soften the drought’s blows. In Mexico, a memorial to victims of the drug war struggles to honor the local impact of this complex, global tragedy. When the ever-encroaching tides threatened an iconic Norman Jaffe house in the Hamptons, LaGuardia Design Landscape Architects pulled it back from the brink and garnered an ASLA Award of Excellence in Residential Design. The landscape historian Thaisa Way takes Michael Van Valkenburgh’s words to heart when she looks at Chicago’s Lurie Garden, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Piet Oudolf, 10 years after it opened beside Lake Michigan.

Also in this issue: The new landscape design for the Weeksville Heritage Center unearths the site’s past as a freedmen’s settlement; the ongoing efforts to contain sudden oak death’s spread (efforts which, it turns out, may be helped by the California drought); ecologists on the cutting edge of assisted migration who argue that it’s the only way to save the trees; and a brief history of pushback on Rails to Trails conversions. All this plus the regular goodies in Species, Goods, Books, and Now. The full table of contents for September can be read here.

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 the print issue from 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.

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

Credits: The Lurie Garden, The Lurie Garden; Assisted Migration, Torreya Guardians; Weeksville Heritage Center, Nic Lehoux Architectural Photography for Caples Jefferson Architects; Sudden Oak Death, Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension; Memorial to the Victims of Violence in Mexico, Sandra Pereznieto; LaGuardia Associates Perlbinder House, Erika Shank; San Luis Reservoir, Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos. 

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Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed nationwide, 47% said they preferred a cities waterfront space. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed, 47 percent said they preferred their city waterfront to other open spaces. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

America’s move toward urban living can also be seen as a step toward a more sustainable future, but it also unearths a host of questions for the people who must design these spaces. What are the things people living and working in these urban environments gravitate toward? How might that change based on what kind of city they live in? These questions stick with the designer on the endless drive to envision the ideal balance of humans, urban environment, and nature. Sasaki Associates recently published research on these questions in a report called The State of the City Experience, and it turns out some of the answers depend on who you’re asking.

Sasaki surveyed 1,000 urbanites, ranging in age and income, from six cities across the United States (Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). They were asked about four aspects of the urban environment—architecture, activities, parks and open spaces, and transportation—what they currently thought of their urban environment and what they would like to see in the future. “What is written about on cities is from the perspective of the designer, and we were interested in what people experience in the city, what the public might say about how we design city spaces…and how their experience might inform how we think about the design of cities,” said Gina Ford, chair of Sasaki Associates’s Urban Studio.

There are many interesting finds in the report: For example, of the 1,000 respondents, 47 percent said the waterfront was their favorite open space in the city, including landlocked Austin. But a surprising find, according to Ford, was that a whopping 65 percent said their favorite city experiences happened in either an open space or on the street. “[It] is incredibly edifying as a landscape architect, because so much emphasis recently has been put on public realm, [and] investments, as a way of increasing attraction and retention of workforce and identity of cities,” said Ford. “It kind of positions architecture as a supporting player, maybe something that reinforces community but doesn’t necessarily create it. A lot of times people think it’s a building project that’s going to enhance the identity of a city; now we have data that it’s landscape.”

For more information on the report, The State of the City Experience, contact Sasaki Associates at info@sasaki.com.

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