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Archive for the ‘COMPETITIONS’ Category

BY ELIZABETH S. PADJEN

BEDIT_0431_Atmosphere

Mohsen Mostafavi, Francine Houben, and Craig Dykers discuss at the Keynote Panel moderated by Cathleen McGuigan.

In the opening scene of the first episode of Mr. Selfridge, an American businessman, Harry Selfridge, tries on a pair of kid gloves in a proper Edwardian department store. When he decides he wants to try something else, the clerk asks what he would like to see. “Well, maybe I don’t know until I see it,” he answers. “Why don’t we get a whole lot of them on the counter and then we can see what we like?” The clerk explains that’s not how things are done. “Come on,” he cajoles, “let’s have a little bit of fun”—and soon a drawerful of gloves is heaped on the counter.

Clients shopping for just the right design, civic-minded organizations browsing the marketplace of ideas—it’s sometimes hard to let go of the notion that design competitions are at their heart a retail experience. How can we know what we like until we see it? And shouldn’t we all have a little bit of fun while we’re trying to figure that out?

Exploring the ways that competitions can reach beyond mere consumerism was the focus of a recent conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 23 and 24, cosponsored by the Van Alen Institute and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The event, dubbed “The Design Competition Conference” (surely “a” would have been more accurate, given the inevitability of future similar symposia), coincided with the release of the findings of a design competition survey conducted by Van Alen and Architectural Record magazine.

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Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. Christopher Marcinkoski, The City that Never Was.

Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. From Christopher Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was.

A few months back, we published a short appeal for more landscape architects to apply for the storied Rome Prize with the hope that the breadth of the field could be better represented. On April 23, the American Academy in Rome announced the 2015–2016 fellows, which included three new fellows in landscape architecture: Christopher Marcinkoski, Alexander Robinson, ASLA, and Thaïsa Way, ASLA.

The Rome Prize, which provides significant time, research materials, and studio space at the academy’s recently restored Villa Aurelia in Rome, has long been a coveted honor. Described as “life changing” and “transformative” by the 1997–1998 fellow Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, it is also a way of benchmarking where and how the concerns of landscape architecture converge with currents in the arts and humanities. Along with a cohort of musicians, writers, artists, scholars, and architects, the new landscape fellows will live and work in Rome for six months to a year.

Christopher Marcinkoski is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former senior associate at James Corner Field Operations. His project, “Rome, Empire Building, and the City That Never Was,” expands from the research in his forthcoming book, The City That Never Was, by looking at the emergence of speculative settlement and infrastructure projects. “My project in Rome intends to use the historical lens of Roman urbanization to think about ongoing projects that are being pursued in Africa,” Marcinkoski says. Using the example of megaprojects in Spain and Ireland that were begun but then abandoned during the recession, Marcinkoski says that these kinds of projects are now appearing in places such as Angola and Morocco, built by outside entities and sometimes in exchange for access to material resources. Coming off a long book project, Marcinkoski plans to use his time for more design experimentation, rather than written critique, though he notes that these speculative projects on the African continent deserve close attention. “There’s an incongruity between what is being proposed and what is needed.”

An interactive interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson

An interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson.

Alexander Robinson’s research deals with some of the major water infrastructure projects in the western United States; his work was recently featured in After the Aqueduct. He says that working on that exhibition helped him understand what he wanted to do with the Rome prize, and his project, “A Projective Picturesque: Reconciling Pictorial with Performance in Landscape Architecture,” will bring his research in infrastructure into a conversation with often-maligned picturesque aesthetics. Robinson is interested in “recognizing that there is a rift between performance and pictorial—there’s a lot more embedded in what we see than the scenic.” The project at the American Academy in Rome will take him back to his roots as a landscape painter to reconcile those aesthetics with the use of the planimetric design tools that are the mainstay of his current position as the director of the Landscape Morphologies Lab at the University of Southern California. “How do we think about the pictorial and the visual syntax of landscape architecture in the context of landscape infrastructure and performance?” he asks.

Thaïsa Way’s project, “Drawing a History of Landscape Architecture,” sounds perfectly scholarly, but it has an unexpected twist. The project will allow Way, a landscape historian, to study the relationship between drawing and landscape from its architectural origins to its current idiom as a form of professional communication. “I’m really interested in the history of drawing. It’s what makes us as a profession, makes us different. We use drawings to think, create, and communicate in a huge range of ways. How did those ways of thinking come to be?” But there’s more: “I am going to also draw—as a historian, to really understand what it is to draw, I need to draw!” she says. To do this, Way will look at the drawings of former landscape architecture fellows—the Rome Prize for landscape architecture was established in 1915, so she’ll have a deep archive to draw from—and then bring them to the sites where they were made, immersing herself in the relationships between the subject, the site, and the hand.  Way says experiencing the act of drawing will inform the way she writes about drawing. “As a historian and a critic, I read differently because I also write, and I wanted to have that same experience,” she says.

Part of why Way is excited about starting the fellowship in Rome is because of the way her work fits together with that of Marcinkoski and Alexander. All of the Rome Prize landscape projects in some way deal with issues that are in the forefront of contemporary practice, and each new fellow has pulled back and asked how history might inform these questions more fully. But they also speak to the field in other ways, tying individual research to the concerns of the field at large. Way says: “They’re all really about the profession, not just about ourselves.”

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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?

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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.

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Bostonians like to think they are smart. Maybe they’re right—they are certainly smart enough to know when to ask other people for help. On October 29, the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boston’s mayor, Martin Walsh, announced a major international design competition called Boston Living with Water to address the threat of sea-level rise and coastal flooding. The competition, which is open and meant to be interdisciplinary, will unfold in two stages and focus on three sites representing three scales of challenge: Building (a condo structure in the North End), Neighborhood (100 acres in the Fort Point Channel District), and Infrastructure (Morrissey Boulevard, a multiuse transportation corridor). Phase 1 entries are due January 29, 2015, after which finalists will be selected to advance to the second stage. An award ceremony and exhibition will be held in June, including the award of $20,000 to the first-place team and $10,000 each to second- and third-place teams.

International competitions aren’t launched every day, but what was more unusual about the kickoff was its context—a new mayor, only 10 months into his first term, assuming regional leadership on climate change. The cities and towns of Greater Boston believe firmly that good fences make good neighbors; regional cooperation is pretty much nonexistent. But, as Walsh noted, “climate knows no municipal boundaries,” which makes his concurrent announcement of a regional climate initiative including 13 metropolitan area mayors seem downright historic. The mayor spoke at ABX, the annual building-industry convention hosted by the Boston Society of Architects, where he was surrounded by the city managers of Cambridge and Chelsea, as well as by the directors of seemingly every city and state agency in any way involved with climate, planning, or infrastructure. It was a scene that would have been unimaginable a year before Sandy. But then, even if Bostonians aren’t always quite as smart as they think, they are certainly quick studies.

Elizabeth S. Padjen is an architect and the former editor of ArchitectureBoston magazine.

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

In the October Queue, the LAM staff catches up with Canada, imagines Boston as the Venice of Massachusetts, finds Florida’s (new) secession threat alarming, reads the phrase “climate apartheid” for the first but probably not the last time, and orders some adult stickers.

CATCHING UP WITH…

Landscape Architecture Network explores the Canadian Museum of Civilization Plaza by Claude Cormier Associates (“How Sweet,” LAM, January 2013), whose graceful, undulating curves reflect the architecture as well as the Canadian environmental landscape.

Finalists were announced for the Van Alen Institute’s Future Ground competition for 30,000 vacant lots in New Orleans (“Take Aim At New Orleans’s Vacant Land”). Public presentations are scheduled for spring 2015.

SCAPE Landscape Architecture (“What Kate Orff Sees,” LAM, May 2012) was one of seven finalists for the 2014 Fuller Challenge aimed at creating holistic solutions from a multitude of disciplinary backgrounds to solve “humanity’s most pressing problems.”

Dredging and the energy manufacturing industry are at the heart of a recent New York Times Magazine cover story on lawsuits around Lousiana’s catastrophic land loss (“The Dredge Underground,” LAM, August 2014).

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

Future Lagos reports on a plan to protect Lagos, Nigeria, one of the world’s most populous (21 million) coastal cities, from the effects of climate change. Will a planned eight-kilometer “Great Wall of Lagos create an eco-urban utopia or “climate apartheid”?

A recent EU analysis says onshore wind is cheaper than other forms of energy when human health, the environment, and other “external” factors are added to the equation.

Several news outlets picked up on the release of ULI’s recent report on Boston, particularly the possibility of turning some of the city’s streets into Venice-like canals.

South Florida might become the 51st state in the union. Salon reports it could happen if Florida’s state government doesn’t start taking climate change seriously.

A new series of webinars on the National Disaster Resilience Competition (“Resilience by Design,” LAM, October 2013) and other resilience topics has been launched.

FIELD STUDIES

Are shared streets a great innovation for pedestrians, or a complete nuisance to motorists? Chicago will soon find out with its very first shared street to begin construction this winter.

Cascadian Farm, owned by General Mills, has launched a new “Bee Friendlier” campaign to promote the cultivation of wildflowers for our pollinator friends. But with Cascadian Farm making up only 3 percent of General Mills, some claim it’s not enough to offset the other 97 percent of bad bee practices.

How do you make a city center more pedestrian friendly? For Zurich, it limits how many cars can enter.

OUT AND ABOUT

On November 7, the New York Botanical Garden hosts a symposium on “The Changing Nature of Nature in Cities.”

Teresa Galí-Izard  (“Auckland Takes the Rosa Barba Prize”) is at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on November 13, 2014, as part of its Landscape Lecture series to talk about her innovative works across Europe.

The public landscapes of Ralph Cornell are on view November 8 and 9 as part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s mini What’s Out There Weekend in Los Angeles.

Making LA is a one-day conference on November 7 to discuss “urgent issues that Los Angeles faces in the areas of water, transportation, density, and community.” Panelists include urbanist Mia Lehrer of Mia Lehrer + Associates, landscape architect Deborah Deets, of the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Public Works, and Hadley and Peter Arnold of the Drylands Institute, among many, many others. 

 Landscape photographer Mishka Henner will talk about “Looking Down, From Up Above” with Andrew Hammerand and Julian Roeder on Tuesday, November 4 at 5:00 p.m. at the Open Society Foundation in New York City. The talk is part of the Moving Walls 22 exhibition; Dutch Landscapes will be on view November 4, 2014–May 8, 2015.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

The all-too-familiar Archetypes of Studio. Which one are you?

These eco wall stickers help save the world one toilet flush at a time.

We hope you’re not still on this London bridge when it opens.

Even Darth Vader is conscious about his carbon footprint.

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2x4_aar_rome_prize_emailIt’s always been a bit of a mystery why more landscape architects don’t apply for the Rome Prize. It isn’t because it’s obscure: The fellowship is one of the best-known and most prestigious awards for designers and humanities scholars, the kind of résumé bell ringer that’s recognized across the professions. At its center is an 11-month (on average) residency at the American Academy in Rome’s Villa Aurelia among a diverse group of scholars, musicians, and artists, and the rich community working in and around the academy. But while the architecture fellowship has always been highly enrolled, perhaps because of the academy’s early association with the architect Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, the two (on average) fellowships for landscape architecture do not receive nearly the same amount of applications. And that’s a shame: “This is an opportunity not to be passed up,” says Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA,  a principal at Hargreaves Associates.

Jones was a Rome Prize fellow in 1997–98, and she describes her fellowship year, when she made topographic models of Renaissance gardens, with unabashed enthusiasm as “life changing” and “transformative.” She now chairs the board of trustees, the first woman and the first landscape architect to do so, and she’d like to see more landscape architects throw their portfolios in the ring.

Despite its lofty origins and association with classical studies, the academy supports a wide range of new work from emerging artists and designers, and the city of Rome is so rich that there are many ways to develop project proposals that overlap with contemporary research and practice. Jones suggests those applying should  focus on the portfolio—the body of work is paramount—and that those at any point in their career should apply. “Juries are looking for people for whom it will be game changing,” says Jones. “It really is a time to take time to really look and see things.”

The current Rome Prize fellows in landscape architecture are Kim Karlsrud and Daniel Phillips of Commonstudio and Adam Kuby, an environmental designer from Portland, Oregon. Recent past landscape architecture fellows have included Bradley E. Cantrell and Elizabeth Fain LaBombard, and Walter Hood,  ASLA, Thomas Oslund, Peter Walker, FASLA, and Eric Reid Fulford have also been fellows. Applications for the next year’s Rome Prize are due November 1, 2014, and carry a small fee of $30 per application. Late applications will be accepted until November 15 with a fee of $60 per application. More info about the fellowship as well as eligibility and requirements can be found on the AAR’s website.

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