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Close-up view of a moveable climate station.

Close-up view of a movable climate station.

From the November 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Reid Fellenbaum

Reid Fellenbaum, Student Affiliate ASLA

It’s 2080, a world deep in the throes of a changing climate where a landscape’s fertility is analyzed by mammoth structures that roam the Great Plains. It may seem like a scene from a sci-fi novel, but it is actually the basis for Reid Fellenbaum’s “Meridian of Fertility,” winner of the 2014 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in Analysis and Planning, which examines historical practices, climate models, projected precipitation, temperature, and current soil quality of the Great Plains region and suggests that the “Meridian of Fertility,” a geographical dividing line between prairie lands to the west and areas suitable for agricultural practices to the east, is steadily moving eastward. The project proposes a series of shelterbelts to slow this migration, as well as a return to dry-farming practices (a no-irrigation method that relies on the conservation of soil moisture) informed by structures called climate stations that use “hyperlocal climate predictions” to determine the best site for farmers to plant their crops. We talked with Fellenbaum about his project, and how he sees it as a focus on resiliency in a changing world.

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The 272-page November issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine is the biggest of the year, if not the past five. Why the extra muscle? Perhaps abundance is in the air: This year’s ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver is looking to be one of our biggest ever.

This year, the ASLA Award of Excellence in General Design went to Gustafson Guthrie Nichol for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. Despite the difficulties the central Seattle site provides, the site’s landscape design echoes its past as a bog, and its present as a centrifuge of global and local ethics. In “Fire, Rain, Beetles, and Us,” Carol Becker looks at the interconnected catastrophes recently visited on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. “Fluid Boundaries” finds the Colorado River reflow (“A Spring Flush on the Colorado,” April 24, 2014) is just one of several transnational projects to kick-start the riparian wetland along the Colorado River. Jayson DeGeeter, ASLA, talks to Guy Sternberg, the oak guru, about the species and his calling at Starhill Forest Arboreteum. “Detroit from the Ground Up” finds that landscape architecture is playing a major role in Detroit’s revitalization. And the photographer Alex MacLean and the journalist Daniel Grossman investigate the beginning and the end of the transborder tar sands oil trade.

Departments deliver this month as well: NOW has Editor Brad McKee’s perspective on the Rosa Barba Prize, updates on Changing Course, and elementary ag in NYC; Interview talks to Reid Fellenbaum, winner of the ASLA 2014 Student Award of Excellence in Analysis and Planning about his spooky-brilliant project, “Meridian of Fertility”; House Call features residential design in Arcadia National Park by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Architecture; and the Back has a portfolio of The Cultural Landscape Foundation‘s annual Landslide campaign, this year directed at saving site-specific artworks. All this and the usual rich offerings in Species, Goods, and Books. The full table of contents for November can be read here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating November articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: Gates Foundation, Tim Hursley; Pine Beetle, Paul Milner; Hunters Hole, Fred Phillips, ASLA; Guy Sternberg, Noppadol Paothong; Detroit, Detroit Future City; Alberta Refinery, Alex MacLean; Arturo Toscanini School, WORKac; Microtopographic Section Model, Reid Fellenbaum, Student Affiliate ASLA; Opus 40, © Thomas Hahn, 2014, Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

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Drought is said to be too many nice days in a row. Well, in California, three years of nice days has curdled into sheer dread. In the Features section of our September issue, Bill Marken, a frequent LAM contributor and a former editor of Sunset, takes a road trip through California to witness the effects of the drought, which is crippling in certain places and seemingly not such a big deal in others, and to comment on the efforts, or lack thereof, to help soften the drought’s blows. In Mexico, a memorial to victims of the drug war struggles to honor the local impact of this complex, global tragedy. When the ever-encroaching tides threatened an iconic Norman Jaffe house in the Hamptons, LaGuardia Design Landscape Architects pulled it back from the brink and garnered an ASLA Award of Excellence in Residential Design. The landscape historian Thaisa Way takes Michael Van Valkenburgh’s words to heart when she looks at Chicago’s Lurie Garden, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Piet Oudolf, 10 years after it opened beside Lake Michigan.

Also in this issue: The new landscape design for the Weeksville Heritage Center unearths the site’s past as a freedmen’s settlement; the ongoing efforts to contain sudden oak death’s spread (efforts which, it turns out, may be helped by the California drought); ecologists on the cutting edge of assisted migration who argue that it’s the only way to save the trees; and a brief history of pushback on Rails to Trails conversions. All this plus the regular goodies in Species, Goods, Books, and Now. The full table of contents for September can be read here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some September pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: The Lurie Garden, The Lurie Garden; Assisted Migration, Torreya Guardians; Weeksville Heritage Center, Nic Lehoux Architectural Photography for Caples Jefferson Architects; Sudden Oak Death, Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension; Memorial to the Victims of Violence in Mexico, Sandra Pereznieto; LaGuardia Associates Perlbinder House, Erika Shank; San Luis Reservoir, Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos. 

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Beneath many older cities across the globe are mysterious worlds hidden from sight since the Industrial Revolution. Rivers, once lifelines to wealth, were exiled underground as they became breeding grounds for disease. Burying rivers solved the sanitation issues of the times, but the aging infrastructure today falls short of modern needs and cuts off humans from nature. Caroline Bâcle, the writer and director of the new film Lost Rivers, which follows the stories of these forgotten waterways, spins an intriguing narrative of the rivers themselves but also of how people might connect with them. I spoke with Bâcle, who is based in London, about her experiences during the project and what Lost Rivers could mean to cities today.

How did you get the idea to make a film about these “lost rivers”?
My producer Katarina [Soukup, founder of Catbird Productions] and I—I think she stumbled upon it first, on the website of Andrew Emond. The film kind of opens with him. He’s a photographer who was living in Montreal but is in Toronto now, and he basically went into the underground of Montreal and took photos of its lost waterways. We were just fascinated by his website and thought, “Oh, my gosh, there are rivers under Montreal, my hometown. How incredible.” We thought it was a unique thing to Montreal, that it was only our city, and we had this amazing, incredible, mysterious history. And so originally we thought, “Oh, we have to make a film, or do something important about Andrew and his work or about the history of Montreal,” and we just developed the idea, and the minute we started doing any kind of remote research on “lost rivers,” we found that it was a part of urban history around the world. So the subject kind of opened up to something much bigger.

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At the Cities for Tomorrow conference hosted by the New York Times on April 22, I sat down with U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to get his perspective on the Rebuild by Design competition. The competition launched by President Obama’s interagency Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which Donovan chairs, could potentially transform vast stretches of metropolitan New York’s coastlines. The winners from the 10 finalist teams will receive funding from the approximately $3.6 billion in remaining Hurricane Sandy disaster money that HUD has slated for rebuilding and reinforcing flood-prone areas.

Donovan, who trained as an architect, describes the competition as part of a larger effort to change the ways government agencies and the design professions approach issues such as resilience and sustainability. “There are many competitions that have spurred innovation and excellence,” he told me. “What we were looking for here was to go beyond that in a couple of ways. One was to make an investment in some of the projects so at the end, they would get built. Second, to get innovation in community engagement, and third, to think about how this could actually bring about innovation in the way that government works.”

Donovan says outdated rules and regulations hampered the development of sustainable design solutions in the past. “There are many federal rules, fewer now than before, but there are still some which don’t encourage this type of thinking,” he said. “Even the cost-benefit analysis that is done by FEMA and other agencies often does not have a way of taking into account the benefits of green infrastructure.”

Beyond the competition, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force is working to make coastal areas more resilient by gathering more information about climate change and making it publicly available to citizens, “but also to professionals like landscape architects,” Donovan said. “You are building on the waterfront—what are the risks of sea-level rise over the next 50 to 100 years, and how do you then think about building as a result of that?”

One of the more transformative aspects of Rebuild by Design is that instead of privileging hard engineering solutions, as has been the case with traditional approaches to building resiliency to storms, it is elevating softer strategies such as restoring wetlands and other ecosystems alongside them. Donovan says that one example of this multipronged approach is a system of oyster reef breakwaters designed by the landscape architecture firm SCAPE, which leads one of the finalist teams. “What they [breakwaters] do is significantly reduce wave power. And what that does is naturally start to build back the beach behind it, which itself creates dunes and protects homes—so it is a much more sophisticated approach that involves hard and soft [strategies].”

Donovan has a distinctive perspective on designing storm resilient infrastructure. In addition to his architecture degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he is married to a landscape architect, Liza Gilbert, who worked for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates on Brooklyn Bridge Park, a waterfront park that, although hit hard by Sandy, emerged relatively unscathed.

Nearly all the projects by the 10 finalist teams have a strong landscape architecture component, and Donovan believes that the profession is especially well-positioned to drive design decisions in Sandy-ravaged areas, where much of the work involves rebuilding beaches, promenades, and boardwalks. “Landscape architects have a unique set of skills,” he said. “In some ways they most easily get beyond this opposition of hard versus soft—they understand that the natural world can be part of the man-made world.”

Alex Ulam is a frequent contributor to LAM.

 

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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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