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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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BY ERNEST BECK

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From the June 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

When John Crespo, Student ASLA, was applying to master of landscape architecture programs a few years ago, his target list ranged far and wide, from Texas A&M to Kansas State, University of Illinois, and Cornell University. Admitted to all of them, Crespo opted for the more expensive Cornell, figuring that the school’s excellent academic program and vaunted reputation in landscape architecture might boost his career chances. Next spring, Crespo will graduate with a coveted Cornell degree, but he will also be saddled with an estimated $30,000 in student loans. “It was a calculated decision, because my biggest concern after leaving school was finding a job,” Crespo, 28, recalls about his decision. “I hope the Cornell name will provide me with some leverage and, down the road, the investment will pay off.”

Faced with rising tuition costs and shrinking financial aid opportunities, landscape architecture students are part of the wave of students across the country going deeper into debt to finance their education and professional goals. Some, like Crespo, are banking on that investment to further their careers, despite the debt load, while others are simply trying to obtain degrees that will open doors to their desired fields. Whatever the motive, the total student debt market, which includes private, variable-rate loans and federally backed fixed-rate loans, is surging. In 2013 it topped $1.2 trillion, after passing the $1 trillion mark only two years earlier. More than 70 percent of college seniors who graduated in 2012 from four-year colleges had debt from student loans, compared to 68 percent in 2008. And the average debt load for those graduating with bachelor’s degrees for the class of 2012 climbed to $29,400, up 25 percent from $23,450 in 2008, according to the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success.

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BY ELIZABETH S. PADJEN

Coast_blog

HIgh-tide scenarios for a storm in 2050, and potential location of future design strategies. Courtesy Sasaki Associates.

Can Boston take action—enough action—to protect itself from rising waters before the next big storm? Or will the city tragically require its own Katrina or Sandy in order to muster the will to protect itself against repeated catastrophe?

Those were the questions in play at the “Sea Change: Boston” symposium on April 26, cohosted by Sasaki Associates and the Boston Architectural College. Sea-level rise is no idle threat in this city: If Superstorm Sandy had hit five hours earlier, at high tide, flood waters could have extended to City Hall. Boston is vulnerable to storm surges of both hurricanes and nor’easters, which could hit on top of sea levels that are projected to rise 1 to 2 feet by 2050 and 3 to 6 feet by 2100.

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"Work" by Alex Kwa from The Noun Project

Work by Alex Kwa from the Noun Project.

From the March issue of LAM:

For most of the past several years, there has not been much to say on the employment front for landscape architects, or for the design and construction industry in general, except that nobody was hiring. And that’s a very short story to tell. But by mid-February, there were definite signs of a steady upward trend in the hiring of landscape architects. Of course, this sort of thing must be said somewhat warily, so as not to jinx or overstate it, but designers themselves offer the proof.

In the first week of February, there were 80 jobs listed on ASLA’s JobLink site; 61 of them were placed in January (most are listings that stay up for 30 days). The last time listings ran this high was 2008; there were about 90 ads placed in both January and February of that year. And we all know what happened over the following several months as the housing market nearly brought down the entire financial system. In January of 2009, there were 14 ads placed; the January number stayed in that range through January 2013, when there were 22 ads.

The jobs listed recently have been diverse. A few public agencies are hiring, and so are design/build firms, landscape contracting companies, small design offices, and global multidisciplinary firms. The destination is no longer just China or bust; there are firms all over the country looking for new people.

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By Arthur Allen

"Get your Farm in the Fight", 1941 - 1945." Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

“Get your Farm in the Fight”, 1941 – 1945.” Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Environmental issues don’t always focus the minds of the people who write the nation’s farm bills. A 2012 report showing that corn and soy plantings had chewed up 1.3 million acres of grassland in the upper Midwest raised hardly an eyebrow in Congress. Perhaps unsurprising, it took people with guns to draw the legislators’ attention to conservation.

The warnings came from pheasant hunters, who spend $175 million a year in eastern South Dakota (“It’s fun—like shooting free-range chickens,” says one) and have grown increasingly disheartened at seeing their best hunting spots turned into rows of corn. According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the loss in grassland—two Rhode Islands’ worth over five northern states—occurred during five years starting in 2006.

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Ethanols Environmental Damage

Erosion on land recently converted from pasture to cornfield near Lineville, Iowa. July 26, 2013. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

By Bradford McKee

What has been sold as a great fix to the nation’s fossil fuel problems is rapidly creating a disaster in the American landscape. Ethanol made from corn is supposed to work all kinds of magic for the United States by making us less reliant on foreign oil and, by supplanting petroleum products, cutting the carbon released into the atmosphere. Support for the ethanol industry is now enmeshed in federal policy. In 2007, Congress and the Bush administration passed a law, the Energy Independence and Security Act, that dramatically steps up the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels required to be added to gasoline each year through 2022. The Obama administration promotes ethanol production as a major part of its green-energy strategy to slow climate change.

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By Alex Ulam

In a lecture hall at New York University packed with politicians, planners, and students, an army of designers gathered Monday morning to show the initial stages of their ideas in the Rebuild by Design competition. The competition, for which 10 interdisciplinary design teams were chosen as finalists in August, is a project of the president’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force to generate ideas for protecting coastal communities from big storms such as Sandy, which struck the New Jersey shore one year ago this week, pummeled the New York metropolitan region, and caused more than $60 billion in damage in the United States alone. The competition runs through March. Proposals by winning teams will be eligible for funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and private-sector groups.

The Monday morning presentations, which were reprised at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark in the evening, were a much-awaited midpoint review of the process. For all the deep and lingering distress that Hurricane Sandy created—about 50,000 people are still homeless as a result of the storm—it appears that it has presented one of the most pivotal public moments for landscape architecture in decades, even a century.

 

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