Archive for the ‘MAINTENANCE’ Category

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

This month’s issue of the Queue delights in OLIN Studio’s new digital magazine, absorbs the inevitable wave of backflow on Rebuild by Design, and ponders the goat invasion of Long Island.









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Photo courtesy National Park Service

From the August 2013 issue of LAM:

By Linda McIntyre

In December 2006, as the National Park Service was starting up the process of developing its National Mall Plan, Susan Spain, ASLA, and Alice McLarty, who are landscape architects with the park service, took me on a tour. As we walked along the rock-hard compacted soil underneath the iconic, yet worn and weedy, lawn panels of the Mall (the tree-lined central axis of the wider National Mall in Washington, D.C.), Spain and McLarty told me how the park service hoped to overhaul the site’s decrepit infrastructure, including, incredibly, the turf (see “Pall Over the Mall,” LAM, April 2007).

I was skeptical. How could any planted site survive more than 25 million visitors and hundreds of permitted events every year? Paving might be redone and new trees planted. But surely the public’s First Amendment right to assemble in the center of the nation’s capital—for demonstrations, festivals, tourism, and softball, to name a few of the everyday activities there—would be the death of any lawn soon after it was installed, no matter how good the intentions or design.


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The offending superstop. Courtesy Local News Now LLC

You hear a lot of talk about making suburbs into something more like cities, and if reporting like that of the Washington Post last week is any guide, it’s going to be a tricky sell to turn the talk into reality. On March 24, the Post published a story about what it calls a “$1 million bus stop” in Arlington, Virginia. It didn’t cost $1 million, technically, and it isn’t just a bus stop. The Post showed signs of having known as much, but went ahead and made a new transit project sound like a boondoggle anyway and stoked enough outrage to have a major county transit improvement project put on hold.

The stop is what Arlington transportation planners are calling a “superstop.” It is a prototype, the first of two dozen stops meant to handle both bus and, eventually, streetcar traffic down Columbia Pike, a four-lane commercial strip that runs three-and-a-half miles through the county from its outer suburbs to the edge of the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, buses unload at a very busy subway stop that takes people into Washington, D.C. Once the streetcar line is built as planned, the combined transit line is expected to carry about 30,000 passengers on a typical weekday.

The hard costs to build the stop were $574,000. There were other costs, too, about $433,000, as Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director, told me. Those other costs involved design (by HOK), planning, reviews, fees, and so forth. There were also problems of construction delays, about 14 months beyond the four months originally scheduled. Arlington contracted the construction of three superstops to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, which wound up for its own reasons scaling down its construction operations. (Metro can barely keep a single subway station fully functional these days.) “This project really became an orphan” at Metro, so Arlington County ended that relationship with just the one superstop.

Much of the $433,000 can be filed under research and development costs, one-time charges to create the first superstops that will spread over the creation of the other 23 stops. “Our intent was to do one [stop], evaluate it, and then go forward with modifications,” Leach said.

Ah, but the Post reported that “[t]he county has budgeted $20.8 million for the remaining 23 stops, or about $904,000 for each one.” With this burning fact, the Post’s reporter headed out to the superstop in question and baited commuters who were waiting for buses to offer their thoughts about all this million-dollar business. (more…)

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Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc.

Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc.

From the March 2013 issue of LAM:

By Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, with William S. Saunders

Unlike architecture, landscape architecture evolves (and almost always improves) through time. Its parks and gardens are never complete. Or rather the finished landscape of today is not the finished landscape of many years from now. Landscape architects must more deliberately include in their work predictions of how it will change. Yet few landscape professionals continue being involved in their built works beyond a year or two after opening day. What happens? The site is taken over by natural processes and unplanned human impacts or by its caretakers, who, at least partially, become its new designers, typically with little direction from the original designer. Yet if the landscape architect’s design matters on day one, it matters equally in year five and beyond.


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A salt marsh on Pier 1 that was innundated  during Superstorm Sandy. Courtesy Brooklyn Bridge Park / Etienne Frossard

This salt marsh on Pier 1 was inundated during Superstorm Sandy. Courtesy Brooklyn Bridge Park / Etienne Frossard

Large parts of Brooklyn Bridge Park were submerged for up to four hours during Superstorm Sandy. On the Ecological Landscape Association’s web site, Rebecca McMackin, the park’s horticulturist, describes how the park is recovering from the storm. She credits the landscape architects at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for their “forward-thinking park design”—their use of salt-tolerant native plants and sandy soils that drain quickly. She also explains how the site has been managed since the storm to flush salt out of the soils.  The park’s managers used soil additives in various areas to reduce plant stress and will be monitoring the additives’ long-term effects. Read the whole story here.

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Copyright Daniel Jost

Copyright Daniel Jost

Last fall, the Associated Press reported that the cost of maintaining the huge fountains at the National September 11 Memorial in New York could be as much as $5 million per year.  That got me thinking: It’s hard to find information on the cost of maintaining large custom-designed fountains.

I contacted the parks department in Portland, Oregon, to find out how much it costs to maintain Lawrence Halprin and Associates’ iconic Ira Keller Fountain—you know, the one the late Ada Louise Huxtable said “may be one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.” The cubist fountain was completed in 1970. Its main waterfalls cross most of a 200-foot-long city block and are around 18 feet high.

A representative from the parks department says the Portland Water Bureau spent approximately $73,600 to maintain the fountain in 2010 and $73,500 in 2011. The largest part of those bills (about $34,000 each year) was for electricity. A little over $26,000 went toward labor, and the rest paid for such things as maintenance vehicles and parts. It is worth noting that the Ira Keller Fountain operates about half of the year, so it does not require a heating system. The fountain is run by the water bureau, and their estimate seems not to factor in the cost of the water itself. You can see a slightly more detailed breakdown of the costs here and here.

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