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Archive for the ‘CITIES’ Category

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

In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff reads up on the grand opening of Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia by OLIN, wonders at the possibilities of a man-made leaf, and gets down with Greenpeace and Reggie Watts on climate change.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Dilworth Plaza’s makeover by OLIN (“Follow the Lines,” LAM, January 2014) opens on September 4 in Philadelphia with new transit access, a fountain (and in winter, an ice rink), art, and Cuban food in what had been a desolate sunken plaza.
    • Harsh contentions arise in a current forensic audit on Great Park, designed by Ken Smith in Irvine, California (General Design Honor Award, LAM, August 2009). According to the L.A. Times, the audit finds that more than $200 million has been spent on the project, yet the park has little to show for it.

FIELD STUDIES

    • Dezeen reports on Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the UK, who thinks he’s got long-distance space travel figured out with his new invention—the world’s supposedly first photosynthetic material that absorbs water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen.
    • Looking at climate change and rising sea levels, the township of Choiseul Bay, 6.6 feet above sea level in the Solomon Islands, is moving to where it will be a little less wet in the future.
    • Think pedestrian crosswalk time limits are too short? Planners in Singapore thought so, too, which is why they recently expanded their Green Man Plus program, a system that allows the elderly and disabled to activate extra time for street crossing with the use of a special card.

OUT AND ABOUT

    • Lines and Nodes, a symposium and film festival that will take on media, infrastructure, and aesthetics, will take place September 19–21 in New York.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

    • If you can’t find this bus stop in Baltimore, then you’re not looking hard enough.

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The proposed site for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would replace two parking lots south of Soldier Field.

The proposed site for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would replace two parking lots south of Soldier Field.

George Lucas, the filmmaker famous for the Star Wars franchise, can’t seem to catch a break. First, his bid to build a museum to house his vast populist art collection, along with memorabilia from his films, on Crissy Field in San Francisco’s Presidio fell through when the Presidio Trust “decided not to pursue any of the proposals to build a cultural institution.” The $700 million Beaux-Arts-inspired proposal, designed by the Urban Design Group of Dallas and the Office of Cheryl Barton of San Francisco, had received plenty of negative and positive criticism, and Lucas had vowed to take the museum to another city, such as Chicago, if rejected.

In June, it was announced that Lucas had indeed made good on that threat, and Chicago had successfully lured Lucas to its shores. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, offered the current site, two parking lots covering roughly 17 acres, along the lakefront of Chicago for a yearly lease of one dollar, an offer too good to resist. Like the Presidio, the site could give visitors great access to waterfront cultural sites, along with stretches of green space, but it also offers the reflected glamour of being nestled among such world-class museums as the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium—an area known as the Museum Campus.

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CAP TBD  Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

A Mardi Gras parade passes by one of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s pilot rain garden lots in Algiers, designed by Spackman Mossop and Michaels. Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

This week, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, a new, open, and international competition to develop ideas and policies for dealing with New Orleans’s nearly 30,000 vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Nearly 10 years post-Katrina, New Orleans has thousands of idle urban spaces that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which owns more than 2,000 of them and is a cosponsor of the competition, wants to see turned into community resources.

The Future Ground RFQ stresses the need to develop workable policies for these vacant spaces as well as design solutions. It states that competitors should be multidisciplinary teams of “individuals and firms with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, graphic design, policy, engineering, finance, real estate, community development, and other fields.” Competing teams need to include local partners. Winning teams, the brief says, will receive $15,000 to work on small projects that can have broader applications and also generate policies that can sustain the program for the next several decades.

This is not Van Alen’s first foray into vacant land—it sponsored the Urban Voids competition back in 2005 for Philadelphia, and this competition is part of the multiyear, multiproject Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape initiative.

The timeline is short: The deadline for applications is September 29, 2014, and teams will kick off in New Orleans in October 2014 and wrap up by the spring of 2015. You can find the RFQ and more information, including a list  of advisers, local sponsors, and jury members, on the Van Alen Institute site.

Tell us in the comments if you decide to submit, and what intrigues you about this opportunity.

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