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Archive for the ‘EDUCATION’ Category

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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Home page of the Soil Science Society of America’s new blog, Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!

For more than 75 years, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) has informed members and professionals on all matters relating to soil, according to the soils.org website. From bioremediation to environmental quality, SSSA has provided a wide range of services and publications to shape our knowledge on this “living entity,” allowing for the development of better soil-related practices. During a recent website redesign, SSSA saw the opportunity to share this wealth of information with nonprofessionals with Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!—an “all things soil” blog.

Soils Matter covers everything from science-based topics such as how plastic affects the microbes in soil to agricultural practices such as how soil influences the flavor of wine. Each post begins with a question, asked by a follower or curious visitor. The answers are clear and detailed, aimed at the intelligent consumer and non-soil specialist. What’s more, each blog post is authored by an established soil professional and expert on the topic. “We have a handful of SSSA members who are willing to work with us on the answers,” says Susan V. Fisk, director of public and science communications for SSSA. “All the people who do the answers are actual soil scientists.”

Soil is a vital component in landscape architecture, from providing the material to create artificial hills to the planting medium that serves as the fundamental nutrition for our plants. “Soils support buildings and infrastructure,” says Fisk, who has heard many horror stories of poorly engineered retaining walls from landscape architects. “On our end we have the same thing, because people are not using the right soils for their retaining wall, and it might not hold water, or [hold] too much or too little. So it needs to be viewed in a kind of holistic way.” And while many landscape professionals are well versed in the composition and properties of soils, their clients and communities aren’t. Changing  climatic conditions can often mean changing soil conditions as well. And when it comes to designing and managing urban soils,  there’s still a lot of new territory.

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A question on the formation of soils is answered by an SSSA member.

With the growing popularity of community gardens and urban farms, people may find that some urban sites are not completely suitable for the immediate planting of fruits and vegetables. By measuring the amounts of pollutants in the soil, people can better understand which plants are best at filtering specific kinds of pollutants, Fisk says. This in turn helps determine what steps are needed to fully remediate these sites for the enjoyment of future generations.

Soils Matter is a platform where these kinds of specific questions can be answered by soil scientists and professionals. So if you’re wondering if this winter’s extreme cold will have an effect on the growing season or how climate change affects the amount of organic material found in soil, Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! might be a good place to start.

More on Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! and other soil-related topics can be found at http://www.soils.org.

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Maybe you’ve noticed things have been a bit more lively here at the  Landscape Architecture Magazine blog of late, and you’d be right. In addition to cranking up our posting to twice a week (!), we’ve been thinking a bit about what we might do to expand our audience and create more of a community of landscape-minded readers.  There are many changes afoot that will be rolled out in 2014, but we’d like your help with some low-hanging fruit, namely our blog roll.

Yes, the blog roll is a venerated tradition in the webs, but often it just becomes a mutual linkfest that highlights the same five well-known news aggregators over and over. We’d like to do something more substantial, and we’d like your help, friendly reader.

Our current blog roll (over on the right—->>) is pretty good, but some of our favorites aren’t posting so much anymore and our sense is that there are a lot more landscape-oriented blogs out there than there were a year ago when we first made the list. That’s where we’d like your help.

So tell us your favorite landscape blogs in the comments below.  We’re interested in original content, rather than aggregators, and we’re curious about anything that shapes landscape, from agriculture to climate to infrastructure to policy to design theory to design tech.  

Here are some we’ve been reading lately–

Rust Wire. Always a fave. News and urban grit from the rust belt.

BakkenBlog. North Dakota oil and gas.

Big Picture Agriculture. Perspectives on ag policy, food, science.

The Prairie Ecologist. Notes on prairie ecology, restoration, and management.

Small Streets Blog. Life at a plausible scale.

Gizmodo. New life under Geoff Manaugh of bldgblog, but you knew that.

Garden Rant. Various garden-related posts with a strong point of view.

99% Invisible. Blog to accompany the excellent design-oriented podcast.

What are you reading and liking? Suggest blogs in the comments or on Twitter @LandArchMag.

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Energy City Framework

Chen used parametric tools to study how new forms of energy production (wind, solar, biomass) can be overlapped with other land uses in urban areas. Images courtesy of Chen Chen.

The Overlapped City was architect Chen Chen’s second ASLA Student Honor award winner, and because of this, it offers a chance to see how ideas and frameworks can grow and mature over the course of graduate education. Chen’s work is notable for its moody, almost dystopian graphic presentation, but it’s her analytical heft that caught the jury’s eye this year. The project distills the spatial implications of energy production, with the city of Houston as a prototype site. We talked with Chen Chen from her Beijing studio, reMIX, about her project, her abiding interest in energy, and the big opportunities that she believes landscape architects are missing.

You won the Student ASLA Honor Award in 2011 (for Vertical Territories, with E. Scott Mitchell and Amy Whitesides) and again in 2013. How would you describe the difference between your projects, and what have you learned and applied in the interim?
The projects share a lot in common. There are continuities of scale, but with quite different topics. Two projects deal with landscape primarily through vertical dimensions, integrating multiple goals, multiple data sets, and a multilayered approach. What is common is the verticality of those two projects, and they both try to deal with problems in [the] context of compact or dense urban environments. Both try to make a synergy between different types [of] land use. For example, both talk about how energy production can be overlapped with open space or landscape or ecological elements. I look at how those functions can work on different elevations to give some productivity to land and open space. Usually, open space in urban areas doesn’t produce any revenue—that’s usually the first thing to be removed when there is a high-pressure urban development. I am trying to look at ways of putting that back in.

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From the November 2013 issue of LAM:

Outdoor classrooms take shape at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.  Credit: Bob Elbert.

Outdoor classrooms take shape at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women. Credit: Bob Elbert.

After a long day of building at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, Meredith Ver Steeg, Student ASLA, took inventory of the tools. She had to make sure none of them had slipped into a prisoner’s pocket. “If a single hammer is missing, there will be no movement on this campus until that hammer is found,” explains Julie Stevens, ASLA, Ver Steeg’s landscape architecture professor at Iowa State University.

For much of this past summer, Stevens supervised five landscape architecture students and eight offenders as they constructed a complicated new landscape for the prison. Students learned to build walls, cut stone, and move earth with a skid loader.

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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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VogueAUSTIN, TEXAS—As landscape architecture educators socialized Thursday evening with Lone Star beer, whiskey, and wine, conversations frequently returned to that day’s speech by the landscape historian John Stilgoe of Harvard University. What did it all mean? Is Stilgoe a prophetic observer or is he out of touch with the profession? Is he a feminist or the opposite?

The speech was a winding road system with many cul-de-sacs, loosely related observations that cannot be done justice in this format. Its main intent seemed to be challenging landscape architects to think about where they get their conceptions of landscape beauty, and where clients get theirs.

Stilgoe asserted that many people get their ideas about landscape beauty from advertisements. More specifically, he thinks many women get their ideas from the ads in fashion magazines, and so he has become an avid reader of these magazines himself. He challenged the audience to look at the landscapes that fashion models appear in, and showed slide after slide of unsmiling models positioned in similar landscapes of concrete and stone. “The very straightforward formula for producing the background image is very, very creepy,” Stilgoe said. “Notice how often the model is in a derelict environment.” The model is the beautiful thing. Nothing is allowed to outshine her or her dress.

He wondered why we seem to put historicized scenes on our Christmas cards and how our movies, our children’s books, and our camera lenses are affecting the way we see landscape.

Stilgoe has built his career on such questions and observations. “J. B. Jackson told me to get in a car and go look,” Stilgoe recalled. “Don’t ever ask for a grant, because how are you going to ask for money if you don’t know what you’re going to look at?”

He has observed a nation of passive consumers, more concerned about their own bodies than the content of their character or the flowers around them. “We became a people who stopped dancing and started to watch others dance,” Stilgoe said. (more…)

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