Archive for the ‘INTERVIEW’ Category

Shute's Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Shute’s Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Undergraduate Zheming Cai’s ASLA award-winning student project to reimagine the historic military site of Shute’s Folly Island off coastal South Carolina took on the twin behemoths of preservation and tourism and forged them into a refined solution that balanced the site’s architectural and landscape histories. The project, Preservation as Provocation: Redefining Tourism, won a 2013 ASLA Student Honor Award and was praised by the “very impressed” jury for its sophistication. Cai’s design of the historic fortification “broke away from the military history” and “built on other reasons to visit,” according to the comments. Now a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cai talked with us about how to use flooding as an interpretive tool for historic places, understanding the genius loci, and taking a landscape perspective on tourism.

You won the ASLA Student Honor Award for a project that was about preservation and tourism in South Carolina while you were a student at Purdue University. Can you tell us how you got interested in these two concepts and how you chose the site?
This was my senior capstone design project. The previous semester, I had taken a more architecturally oriented historic preservation course with Ken Schuette, who is also my adviser. I had focused on community, cultural heritage, and downtown areas, so that took some of my initial interest in that direction. Schuette discovered a student competition for Castle Pinckney sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He asked me if I had any interest in doing a competition for my capstone, and I said yes, I will do it.

The reason I picked this competition was that I was reading through their brief and they had this attached image of the castle (Castle Pinckney). Lots of my undergrad research is on the genius loci, the spirit of a place, and it reminded me a lot of the picturesque Tintern Abbey kind of image, and that got me really excited. I’m a landscape architect, so I wanted to stick my hat into the ring and do this competition from a landscape perspective. I didn’t win because my project wasn’t architectural enough, which was pretty interesting.

So initially it wasn’t my intention to apply for an ASLA award, but my adviser highly recommended it. At the time, I had graduated already and I was traveling in Yellowstone with my parents, so I had to put it all together in a little cabin.


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A European honeybee (Apis mellifera) cared for by Urban Apiaries, in Philadelphia. The hives live on the roof of the SHARE Food Program in North Philly. Photo by Lauren Mandel.

A European honeybee (Apis mellifera) cared for by Urban Apiaries, in Philadelphia. The hives live on the roof of the SHARE Food Program in North Philly. Photo by Lauren Mandel.

Lauren Mandel is one of rooftop agriculture’s more ardent cheerleaders, but also one of its most helpful handicappers. Her new book, Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture, is a complete guide to making rooftop agriculture work at various scales, and she’s not afraid to let people know about the challenges as well as benefits. We talked with Mandel about what’s going on in rooftop ag today and how farms are showing up in the most unlikely places.

You have a landscape architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania and you’re now working for Roofmeadow, a firm that’s known for roof gardens. How did you get from A to B?
I’ve always been interested in green roofs and rooftop agriculture, and when I went to Penn, my objective was to get really solid training in landscape architecture with the idea that I would eventually work in a slightly different industry but with a landscape architecture lens. Learning how to think like a landscape architect has been instrumental in my ability to design at multiple scales, and understand how all the parties and priorities relate to one and another. So there’s been a lot of things I’ve learned from landscape architecture that I’ve been able to apply to green design and rooftop agriculture.

I had worked for a few years in landscape architecture firms in Philadelphia and Seattle, and then again while I was in graduate school. During my last semester of graduate school, I wrote the first draft of my book; my advisors were landscape architect Karen M’Closkey, urban planner Domenic Vitiello, economist Anita Mukherjee, and Charlie Miller, the founder of Roofmeadow. I thought it was important to have these advisors because it was a very multidisciplinary subject.


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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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Anna Claussen

Anna Claussen. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

We’ve been hearing a lot about the intersection of food production and landscape architecture lately, so we thought we’d contribute to the conversation by opening up our Q+A with Anna Claussen  from the October issue of LAM. Claussen talks about how her work in landscape architecture gave her the social and ethical tools as well as the practical chops to get things done in food policy. –Eds.

Two years ago, Anna Claussen, ASLA, left a Minneapolis urban design firm for the nonprofit world. She talked over lunch with Adam Regn Arvidson, FASLA, about her own rural roots and that a family that still farms made her want to take some responsibility for how food is grown and distributed. She landed at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, where she is dedicated to rethinking the food system, with the goal to create environmentally and economically sound rural communities. These days Claussen may find herself in the fields with midwestern farmers, on the phone with agriculture experts in Europe, or reviewing policy documents with an eye to the bigger landscape picture.

What are you and your colleagues at IATP working toward?
Dismantling a current agricultural system that is unsustainable and unjust. Where I intersect with that is on the ground with solutions to the policy issues and higher-level discussions about what’s not working—about how government is not supporting a system that is fair and sustainable. We start with farmers, so we can collect data, and we can work with them to understand what are the drivers, the motivators, and the barriers to changing landscape practices.


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From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

By Lydia W. Lee

Even though Alexander Dunkel, Student ASLA, has never visited the High Line in New York City, he can tell you exactly what part of the park is the most popular: the 10th Avenue Square. How? He spent a year analyzing Flickr, the popular image web site, and seeing where people take the most photos. Because many of the images in Flickr collections are tagged with their precise geographic location as well as a descriptor (“Golden Gate Bridge,” for example), Dunkel was able to generate maps of an area’s most frequently photographed subjects. From his home in Dresden, Germany, he spoke about his research at the University of California, Berkeley, which won a 2012 ASLA Student Honor Award.

What inspired you to study Flickr?

Flickr is a unique source of data that shows how people interact with the landscape. Some people take pictures all the time, some people only take a picture of things that are really important to them, but if you look at the whole data set, you see what the majority opinion is.


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Brown and Floor small copy

Kristina Floor, FASLA and Chris Brown, FASLA, are two of the most prominent landscape architects working in Phoenix today. Their work on the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead and the “Desert Lives” exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo received national recognition from the ASLA. They are also a married couple. In 2008, their Phoenix-based firm, Floor Associates, merged with JJR, a subsidiary of the large multidisciplinary firm SmithGroup. But as of January 1, they are working on their own again. In a brief phone conversation, they explained why. The conversation below has been edited and condensed.

Floor Associates merged with JJR in 2008. What led you to join them?

Chris Brown: We really liked the work JJR had been doing in the Midwest, and we saw it as an opportunity to use JJR’s expertise to help expand our practice. We’d grown up to be about 18 people when we merged, and that was taking a lot of management. We were spending more and more time running the organization and less time creating cool places. If there was some way of lifting some of that administrative burden off our shoulders, that’s something we wanted to do.

Kristina Floor: Also, as Floor Associates, we found ourselves in the running with other firms like EDAW or Sasaki for projects in the Phoenix market, and the concern was maybe we didn’t have the manpower to accommodate certain projects. Part of the reason to merge with JJR was to have that manpower when we needed it.

When did you leave SmithGroupJJR and why?

Brown: We started talking with the guys at the local office around Thanksgiving about the idea of separating, and we decided to make it effective the first of the year. We felt the timing was right. It’s been a pretty successful collaboration. But at the same time, the work we had become known for as Floor Associates was becoming increasingly difficult to do under the structure of SmithGroupJJR.

Part of it is they are a very integrated design firm. Out here in Phoenix, the landscape architecture studio has operated separately for the last four years. But our lease was coming up in 2013 and we knew as a corporate strategy they wanted us to be more integrated with the architects and engineers at their office in the Arizona Center.

A year ago, JJR combined its name with SmithGroup as part of a restructuring. That worked OK for us but some of our longtime clients, especially architects, view SmithGroup as a major competitor. A lot of the architects were a little put off by the name change, and the idea of physically locating to Arizona Center was not something we were interested in. We don’t just want to be an in-house landscape architecture department. That said, our separation with SmithGroup has been very amicable.

Floor: We’re going to continue to team with them. (more…)

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Adapted from an article in the August 2012 issue of LAM:

By William S. Saunders

In the culture of landscape architecture, the work of Reed Hilderbrand of Watertown, Massachusetts, stands out by not calling attention to itself in any brash way. It is at once highly restrained and highly refined, sensitively attuned to its sites and devoted to enhancing given qualities that the designers find worth accentuating. It is the opposite of egocentric. It seeks to create knowledge of a specific place and also a highly benevolent experience in that place. It is extraordinarily attentive and kind.

Reed Hilderbrand LLC, a firm of about 35 people under the leadership of Douglas Reed, FASLA, and Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA, won three ASLA awards last year for projects—the Central Wharf, the Half-Mile Line, and the Beck House—featured in this issue of LAM. Before that, they had been recognized with ASLA awards more than a dozen times. Reed is cochair of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Hilderbrand has taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design since 1990. I’ve known them both for many years. I interviewed them on a lovely spring evening in my garden in Auburndale, Massachusetts.


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