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Archive for the ‘ENVIRONMENT’ Category

By KEVAN WILLIAMS

2013 aerial view of Morelos Dam in the Colorado River with Mexico in the background. Photo:  Bureau of Reclamation

A 2013 aerial view of the Morelos Dam on the Colorado River. Mexico is in the background. Photo: Bureau of Reclamation.

The once expansive and vibrant Colorado River Delta has been dry for a long time. Most of the river’s water is currently captured and siphoned off at numerous upstream dams, leaving empty riverbeds and dry land where once there was a vast estuary. But as part of an agreement between the United States and Mexico known as “Minute 319,” a spring pulse flow has returned the dry Lower Colorado River to life, at least temporarily. The pulse flow is an artificial release of water from upstream dams, designed to mimic the sustained high flows of a snow melt or significant rainfall. More than 100,000 acre-feet of water is now moving down the old river channel, making steady progress toward the sea.

Although occasional high flows have washed down the river, for many decades it’s been largely dry, with devastating ecological consequences. Invasive plants such as tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) have been creeping into the region, taking advantage of changing conditions, and native species have struggled to hold on.

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BY ARTHUR ALLEN

At the Lawrence Berkeley National  Laboratory's cool pavement showcase, research associate Jordan Woods measures solar reflection levels with an albedometer. Credit Lawrence Berkeley National  Laboratory/Roy Kaltschmidt

At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s cool pavement showcase, research associate Jordan Woods measures solar reflection levels with an albedometer. Credit Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/Roy Kaltschmidt.

From the March issue of LAM:

At the Greenbuild conference in Philadelphia in November, the National Asphalt Pavement Association booth featured a provocative report, packaged as a little booklet by three engineers at Arizona State University. The report concluded that, contrary to what federal scientists and green building promoters have been saying, light-colored roofs and pavements were not necessarily superior to dark-colored ones, environmentally speaking, and might even do more harm than good.

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Courtesy Tim Cone/Environmental Film Festival.

Courtesy Tim Cone/Environmental Film Festival.

This year’s urban-themed Environmental Film Festival has an interesting angle for landscape architects. The Washington, D.C.-based festival, now in its 22nd year, will be showing 200 films on a program titled Our Cities, Our Planet that focuses on sustainable cities and the impact of urbanism on our environments. The festival is primarily documentaries, but it also includes experimental films, shorts, children’s films, archival gems (some with live orchestral accompaniment), and works in progress. Many of the screenings during the weeklong festival, which runs March 18–30, 2014,   are free, and include panel discussions with filmmakers and activists. Below is just a selection of the films that caught our eye (with the EFF program descriptions), and a full program and schedule can be seen here.

WATERMARK. From  Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and the photographer Edward Burtynsky, who collaborated on the 2006 film, Manufactured Landscapes, Watermark transports us all over the world, revealing the extent to which humanity has shaped water and how it has shaped us.

THE HUMAN SCALE. For 40 years, the Danish architect Jan Gehl has studied human behavior in cities, starting with what he calls “Life Between Buildings.” Gehl has documented how modern cities repel human interaction and argues that we can build cities in a way that takes human needs for inclusion and intimacy into account. In Copenhagen, Gehl has inspired the creation of pedestrian streets and bike paths and the organization of parks, squares, and other public spaces throughout the city.

RIVERS AND TIDES: ANDY GOLDSWORTHY WORKING WITH TIME. Acclaimed around the world for his site-specific earthworks, beautiful and ephemeral sculptures in the open air made of ice, mud, leaves, driftwood, stones, and twigs, Andy Goldsworthy thinks incessantly about “the veins that connect things.”

THE HUMAN TOUCH (clips). Ten years after making Rivers and Tides, Riedelsheimer and Goldsworthy started a new collaboration, exploring more aspects of Goldsworthy’s work and how it has changed  over the years.

SAND WARS. Sand seems quite insignificant, yet those grains of  silica surround and affect our lives. Every house, skyscraper, and glass building, every bridge, airport, and sidewalk depends on sand.What are the consequences of intensive beach sand mining for the environment and the neighboring populations?

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ALI's high-resolution geospatial model maps stormwater as potential groundwater augmentation supply in the San Fernando Valley.  Courtesy ALI

ALI’s high-resolution geospatial model maps stormwater as potential groundwater augmentation supply in the San Fernando Valley. Courtesy ALI.

Back when we first took note of the Arid Lands Institute (ALI) in the October 2012 issue of LAM, co-founder Hadley Arnold was talking about the William Turnball Drylands Design Competition: An Open Ideas Competition for Retrofitting the American West. In a partnership between Woodbury University, where ALI is based, and the California Architectural Foundation, Arnold envisioned an ideas competition that would promote “placing design in the ring with science and policy” in order “to find a radical, pugnacious beauty in new water thinking.” The competition resulted in an exhibit on Drylands Design at the Los Angeles Art and Design Museum, among other activities.

Now they’re back and they have a new program, titled “Divining LA: Drylands City Design for the Next 100 Years.” The initiative focuses on Los Angeles, and brings many of the ALI’s primary concerns to bear on the region, primarily the variablity of water sources and flows and the impact of climate change on hydrology.  Architect has a posted a piece from its December issue on ALI, and the work of Hadley Arnold and her partner Peter, to bring attention to L.A.’s complex water profile.

ALI will take its show on the road in January and February to Kansas, Utah, and Montana but you can also hear Hadley Arnold talking about L.A.s groundwater on KCRW’s venerable “Which Way LA?”

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POWER TO THE PEOPLE

BY MIMI ZEIGER

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You’ve likely heard of William Mulholland. There’s a ridgetop road in the Santa Monica Mountains, Mulholland Drive, named after him that offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles basin and was the namesake of a David Lynch movie. Tall tales and mythologies swirl around Mulholland, the civil engineer who founded the Los Angeles Aqueduct and brought water to the desert. The aqueduct, which opened on November 5, 1913, and recently celebrated its centennial, would eventually become the water half of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Mulholland’s life would transform into legend. But if the story of L.A. water is well known, what of the power supply, the last letter in LADWP? That’s the question posed by the exhibition LADWP Power, on view at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) through February 2014.

The one-room show, presented on three touch screens and two walls of the center, examines the overlooked electrical infrastructure that seamlessly, almost invisibly, illuminates and drives Los Angeles. “The DWP is iconic and welded to the city’s culture,” says Matthew Coolidge, who founded CLUI in 1994 and is its director. “Mythologized through various media, such as the film Chinatown, it’s part of the noir history of L.A.”

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

There’s been a new salvo in the Crissy Field development project, which we wrote about back in October (At the Presidio, a Field of Schemes, Oct 22, 2013). The National Park Service released a letter last week expressing strong reservations about the development plans at Crissy Field and encouraging the Trust to take the long view. The letter echoes their concerns voiced in a letter earlier in the fall, but this time stating, “There is wisdom in allowing these new uses to settle in before selecting a major new use and tenant for the Commissary site.” For more coverage see John King’s article in SF Gate and read the full  letter from Frank Dean, General Superintendent on the Presidio Trust site.

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2000px-Moose-warning.svgPeople living and working in critical wildlife habitat have a new tool in the box, thanks to big data and the Western Governor’s Wildlife Council. The Wildlife Council has just released the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), which displays information on important wildlife habitat and corridors across 16 western states.

The new mapping tool will allow planners, students, developers, and communities to see what is described as “crucial habitat” at the regional as well as the state and local level. CHATs will enable users to see where wildlife habitat exists and how potential development may affect those areas. The GIS mapping application coordinates data for energy, transportation, and land use planners, but could be used by any member of the public. Several state CHATs are already in use.

Information about the release of the Western Regional CHAT can be found here, but if you want to play around with the state CHATs, they can be accessed below:

State CHATs

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