Archive for the ‘LAM MAGAZINE’ Category

Most feel the L.A. River needs to change, though they can't agree on what.

Most believe the L.A. River needs to change, though exactly how it should be done is still up in the air.

From the October 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The push to fix the 51-mile Los Angeles River over the past few decades has been a triumph of citizen-fueled advocacy. It has harnessed landscape architecture as well as politics, planning, economics, engineering, hydrology, and ecology toward a dream of a living river, with plants and animals and people (and real estate) close to the water. Persistence and skill, notably on the part of the group Friends of the Los Angeles River, led to the stunning endorsement last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a $1 billion federal plan to restore natural habitat along 11 miles of the upper river. It was a bigger bet on the river than anyone expected. Since then, the big questions have been whether Congress will fund the plan and, if so, how much the federal government will pay and how much the city will pay. The city must buy land, clean up contamination, and build a public realm; a lot of how to do all that had been laid out in a master plan in 2007 for 32 miles of the river, from its headwaters in Canoga Park to downtown Los Angeles. As part of the large master plan team, led by Tetra Tech, the offices of Civitas, Wenk Associates, and Mia Lehrer + Associates developed transformative, landscape driven solutions for sites along the river.

It’s all been incredibly exciting. But now, rather than wait until Congress considers funding the corps’ plan, the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, an ardent river advocate, has been encouraging a whole other river plan but not telling anyone much about it. For this newer plan, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit the city chartered to direct its river strategy, asked Frank Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners, to begin studying the whole length of the river. OLIN is on board as a consulting landscape architect. Garcetti called Gehry’s work “a master plan, in the truest sense of the word,” and added, “To have the Olmsted of our time focusing on this, I think, is extraordinary.”

The Olmsted remark did not go over well among landscape architects. None of the revelations about the Gehry project went particularly well, not least because they were unexpected. Over the past year, some longtime river strategists have been shown the outlines of the Gehry team’s effort, but for the most part it unfolded in private until the Los Angeles Times reported on its existence in early August. Then came the disciplinary resentments in the landscape realm and, more important, the pains of people—professionals and laypersons—who worked hard to get the corps’ blessing on a major plan. Those people rightly worry that they may now have to spend more effort to defend what they have already achieved for the river. They worry because so little about the new planning process has been shared with them or with the public. The city’s emerging bid to host the Olympics in 2024 adds another layer of uncertainty to some of the river sites.

The revitalization corporation insists it is considering all the previous work for the master plan and the corps’ proposal in its new project, but one of its tendencies has been to speak as if Gehry’s team is starting a process of remaking the river rather than walking into the middle of one. Mayor Garcetti, who has made the river a serious project for his administration, could clear up a lot of confusion. He needs to ensure that the intelligence gathered so far around the river’s revival remains in play and will feed into any future plans. It would help to involve the river’s early advocates and designers much more closely than seems to have been the case lately, and to pay more attention to their considerable accomplishment. Visions for a better river could combine many ideas and forms. Coherence in the approach will be crucial in selling them.

Credit: By A Syn [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

October’s LAM is our awards issue, and that means almost 70 pages of Student and Professional Award winners, including the 2015 Landmark Award given to Dan Kiley’s South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago. Finished in 1962, the South Garden celebrates almost 50 years of continued excellence as both a landscape architecture project and a cherished space in the public realm.

Out of 327 submitted projects to the Student Awards, 23 winners were chosen, with many of the projects highlighting the diversifying nature of landscape architecture. In the Professional Awards, 33 winners were selected from 463 submissions, many of which set the tone for the future of the profession. All this plus our regular Land Matters and Now columns.

You can read the full table of contents for October 2015 or pick up a free digital issue of the October LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. 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 October articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: Landmark Award, © Tom Harris/Courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation; Professional Communications Award of Excellence, Landscape Architecture Foundation; Professional Analysis and Planning Award of Excellence, Hargreaves Associates and Red Square; Professional Residential Design Award of Excellence, Hocker Design Group, Robert Yu, Justin Clemons; Professional General Design Award of Excellence, Courtesy Reed Hilderbrand.

Read Full Post »


Ireland's National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

Ireland’s National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In May, Ireland unveiled a National Landscape Strategy (NLS), in an attempt to establish guidelines for the governance of the country’s historic geography while recognizing its inherent dynamism. Getting to grips with a nation’s landscape in such an ecumenical, broad-brushstrokes way is a tall order, even for a small island nation the size of Maine. Human settlement has left its mark on the Irish landscape for nearly 10,000 years. It’s an old place etched with memories, from the craggy coasts of Western Ireland to the karst of County Clare to the genteel Georgian terraces of Dublin.

These all now come under the protective purview of Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht (the latter word referring to the Gaelic language). The agency has committed itself to a 10-year program to implement the NLS, with the completion of a comprehensive national Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) within five years. “It encompasses all landscapes—rural and urban, beautiful and degraded, ordinary and unique,” says Martin Colreavy, Ireland’s principal adviser on built heritage and architectural policy.

Ireland, of course, is a divided island, and the department’s remit extends to the boundaries of the Irish Republic—that is, the three historic southern provinces. The fourth province to the north—what we call Northern Ireland—remains part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has drawn up its own “Landscape Charter,” which will complement this one, reminding us that politics is often a land-based proposition.

If boundaries define landscapes, then landscapes define identity. As the NLS indicates, this is Ireland living up to its European obligations as (more…)

Read Full Post »


Little-loved plants win the affection of Future Green Studio.

Little-loved plants win the affection of Future Green Studio.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The huge backyard along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was the perfect site for the summertime Sunday afternoon parties that the DJs Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin liked to throw. It had plenty of space, room for a bar, and the overgrowth that comes alongside New York’s lovable Superfund waterway. But they had only temporary leases and permits to throw parties. Their time in the huge backyard wouldn’t last forever.

Carter and Harkin went looking for a permanent home and found something similar: a garbage-strewn industrial lot covered in weeds next to the L tracks in Ridgewood, Queens, a few miles away. “When we found it, it was, like, kind of just a junk heap,” Carter says.

Carter called David Seiter, ASLA, the principal and the design director at Future Green Studio, a landscape design and urban ecology firm of about 20 people then based close to the party space along the Gowanus. Seiter and his studio had also warmed to the area’s unkempt feeling and wanted to keep (more…)

Read Full Post »

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

September’s LAM focuses on three issues in the world of education, including the questions surrounding the development of online landscape architecture degrees, the inclusion of concerns about social equity for the future of the profession, and the debate over the conversion of five-year BLA programs to four. And a rather grand renovation of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, campus by PFS Studio shows how the designers inject a modern attitude into a basic Beaux-Arts plan.

In this month’s departments, the city of Austin undertakes some creative master planning of four municipal cemeteries to combine history with a revenue source for future maintenance; Future Green Studio in Brooklyn is  designing with weeds; and two water-focused landscape designs involving Atelier Dreiseitl stress the need for an understanding of local ecology. And don’t miss our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for September can be found 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 September articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Learning Curves,” Hover Collective; “Graveyard Shift,” McDoux Preservation; “In the Weeds,” Tod Seelie; “Keep it Up,” Atelier Dreiseitl.

Read Full Post »

Mia Scharphie delivers a dose of start-up energy to people and projects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The merging of soul and role is a laudable idea—it refers, very broadly, to the ability to bring a set of personal, mission-driven values to your professional life—but it’s hard to integrate into full-time practice. For most designers, it means working on public projects with a community engagement component, or collaborating on one-off social impact design projects, or cordoning off pro bono work into a separate part of their business. Mia Scharphie wants to shake that up a bit.

Scharphie runs two consulting businesses—Proactive Practices, a research collaborative with Gilad Meron and Nick McClintock, and Build Yourself+, a workshop series. At first glance, they seem unrelated, but when you talk to her, you begin to see the kind of connections that are at the core of Scharphie’s work. Drawing on her training in landscape architecture (she began her career at the firm Public Architecture in San Francisco), which Scharphie says is “supercore” to spatializing community projects, she also brings in current thinking from the world of entrepreneurship, citing Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, and Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup as touchstones and agents for social change that shape both Proactive Practices and Build Yourself+.

Build Yourself+ is a six-week course aimed specifically at women working in the design fields, investing women designers with the skills to articulate issues and obstacles to their own success and then get past them. Scharphie says designers, and women designers in particular, can be hobbled by the total work ethic of design. “The strange irony of design is that we do these renderings of super-happy people in our parks walking with infinite numbers of dogs and strollers,” yet the design culture of work-all-hours doesn’t permit any of this. “There’s a disconnect between what we try to imagine for people and what our social lives are like.” It’s a workshop approach that frankly acknowledges that the personal is deeply embedded in the professional, and it builds on the current cultural conversations about gender equity and cross-cultural communications in the workplace.


Read Full Post »


The compensatory mitigation mandate opens a dynamic arena for landscape architects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.





The song of the red-winged blackbird, although instantly recognizable, is hard to put to words, as even Roger Tory Peterson, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, found. These syllables are his best efforts. The trilling, almost metallic-sounding warble evokes summertime, cattails, and the watery landscapes where Agelaius phoeniceus goes to breed.

But at this moment I’m not seeing cattails. I’m at the edge of a parking lot behind a pizza restaurant in a suburb north of Boston, looking at a large pit, about 10 feet deep, filled with Phragmites australis, the infamous invasive species that, along with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), is the scourge of wetlands in the Northeast, choking out cattails and other native species that provide food to the bird population. A few spindly red maples have colonized the embankment, along with some riverbank grape (Vitis riparia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and Rosa multiflora, a pretty though sprawling shrub introduced to America in 1866 to provide rootstock for hybrid roses and now classed as a pest in many states. Despite the red-winged blackbird’s bright song, this is a dismal place, especially in the fading afternoon sunlight, a bit of wasteland left behind by development, one of millions of similar places across the country.

This blighted spot, however, is a mandated compensatory wetland mitigation under (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,589 other followers