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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Milwaukee pilots a new stormwater management tool.

Milwaukee pilots a new stormwater management tool.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

By August, the faded yellow house at 3930 North 35th Street in Milwaukee will be gone. In its place, invisible to all but the team that designed it, will be a new tool for stormwater management: the “BaseTern.” Conceived by Erick Shambarger, the deputy director of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, a BaseTern is a basement that’s been converted into a rainwater or stormwater cistern. Milwaukee is completing what is said to be the world’s first such system this month.

The BaseTern concept, which Shambarger trademarked, is simple. Stormwater will be directed to an abandoned or foreclosed property’s basement, which, after the aboveground structure is demolished, is waterproofed and filled with gravel and stormwater-harvesting cells. According to a feasibility study by engineers at HNTB, the system can hold anywhere from 13,000 to 40,000 gallons of water during storms, reducing flooding in adjacent homes.

It’s a clever riff on adaptive reuse, taking advantage of one urban issue—a surplus of city-owned foreclosures—to solve another: the flooding that is increasingly common in dense, impervious neighborhoods like Milwaukee’s Sherman Park, where the pilot project is located.

(more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

The coming conflict between two Separate environmental issues.

The coming conflict between two separate environmental issues.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

People often equate energy efficiency with environmental sensitivity, but a recent trend in LED lighting, namely, the uptick in what’s known as blue-rich white light, has the potential to divorce these goals and put the lighting industry on a collision course with those aiming to design healthful public spaces.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of LED manufacturers are turning to blue-emitting diodes, which are coated with phosphor to produce a clean, white light. Blue LEDs can handle higher-than-average power densities, which greatly increase efficiency. The technology is so revolutionary that the physicists who developed it received the Nobel Prize. But blue LEDs also pose a threat to the welfare of wildlife and human beings.

Light in the blue spectrum (between 460 and 480 nanometers) isn’t bad during the day; in fact, it helps our bodies produce the hormone serotonin. At night, however, it prevents our bodies from producing another hormone, melatonin, which regulates sleep. According to the National Cancer Institute, a lack of melatonin may contribute to breast cancer in women. Blue light also has been shown to disrupt animals’ circadian rhythms, which mimic our own, and cause adverse effects in animal behavior. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Our cities' aging populations require new approaches to urban planning.

Our cities’ aging populations require new approaches to urban planning.

From the June 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In December 2013, a massive ice storm crippled Toronto, killing 27 people and knocking out power for 600,000 Ontario residents. Without electricity, elevators in Toronto’s residential high-rises stopped working, and many elderly people were trapped. “I know that there were elderly women up on the 18th floor in a tower near our office who were trying to make tea on a little gas burner,” recalls Patricia McCarney, the director of the Global Cities Institute (GCI) at the University of Toronto. “The elderly were going between two floors to help each other for four days while they didn’t have power. They were actually having small tea parties up on these high floors! So there is a social capital out there, but if that went on any longer, who’s going to take groceries up to them? Who knows they even live there?”

McCarney’s story illustrates both the vulnerability and resiliency of our cities’ older people, a population that planners and designers of all types must increasingly account for. As the world becomes more urbanized, those urban centers are rapidly aging. In the next 25 years, the number of New Yorkers older than 65—currently 12 percent of the population—is expected to increase by 50 percent. According to a recent GCI report, the number of people in the world over 65 years of age will increase 183 percent by 2050, and according to the AARP, most of those elderly want to age in place rather than move to a traditional retirement community.

But building more “age-friendly” cities will be difficult without reliable city-level data about health care, housing, infrastructure, and other quality-of-life indicators. “City data is often either nonexistent or it’s very weakly constructed,” says McCarney, explaining that global statistics for things like mortality rates are often presented at the country, not city, level. McCarney and her team worked with 20 different cities, including London, Shanghai, Helsinki, Dubai, Boston, and Johannesburg to develop a standardized set of 100 indicators organized around themes like safety, recreation, governance, and urban planning. The result, published in May 2014, was ISO 37120, Sustainable Development of Communities—Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life, the first international standard for city-level data. (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Extra from

Students create a mural of the Boston skyline. Credit: Boston Latin School.

From “Farm Factory” by Brian Barth, Affiliate ASLA, in the May 2015 issue, featuring a Freight Farm, a hydroponics system at the Boston Latin School.

 “I’m taken by that green color and the kids in the foreground applying the pattern to the skyline. Unfortunately this was an instance where there just wasn’t enough space to include the image.

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

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The new Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County by Mia Lehrer + Associates provides habitat for the city’s surprisingly diverse wildlife and brings the museum’s research outside; Gweneth Leigh, ASLA, compares the dull and outdated playgrounds of the past to two challenging, yet exciting, Australian playgrounds by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and James Mather Delaney Design; and Lauren Mandel, Associate ASLA, looks at how research at the Chicago Botanic Garden roof gardens by  Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architecture are designed to provide hard data on suitable plants and soil depths.

In our departments, Now highlights Louisiana’s wildlife management areas, Dirk Sijmons’s studies of energy and landscape, and a new program that puts chief resilience officers in cities; Water takes a look at the Miami Conservancy District in Ohio; Practice features an unusual partnership between a salt merchant and the firm Landing Studio; and in The Back Jonathan Lerner wonders if MOMA’s exhibit, Urban Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, is as tactically urban as it aims to be. All this plus our regular Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for January 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  January articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “So Cal,” Luke Gibson Photography, Courtesy Mia Lehrer + Associates; “No, No, You Go First,” Brett Boardman; “This Is a Test,” Robin Carlson/Courtesy Oehme, Van Sweden; “A Plan to Plan?” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/The Conservation Fund; “Dry on a Good Day,” Courtesy Miami Conservancy District; “Strange Companions,” Courtesy Landing Studio; “Growing Pains,” Courtesy NLÉ and Zoohaus/Inteligencias Colectivas.

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BY JOHN KING

Tom Fox/SWA Group

Credit: Tom Fox, SWA Group

William Byrd Callaway, an ASLA Fellow and 2007 recipient of the ASLA Medal, died on November 24, 2014, in San Francisco after a brief fight with cancer. He was 71.

During his career, the burly but genial man known as Bill to colleagues and clients excelled both as a designer and as an executive. In the former role he crafted everything from corporate campuses and community parks to private estates. In the latter, he spent his entire career at what now is SWA Group in a procession of positions that included president, chief executive officer, and chairman.

Raised on his family’s ranch near the state capital of Sacramento in California’s Central Valley, Bill graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture in 1966. Then, after a six-month stint in the U.S. Marine Corps reserve, he joined what at the time was Sasaki, Walker, and Associates. He left to earn a master’s degree at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, but returned to SWA in 1971 and didn’t budge after that.

During his career, Bill took a lead role in such projects as the expressive plazas outside the Philip Johnson-designed towers at PPG Place in Pittsburgh and 101 California Street in San Francisco, the low-key Shoreline Regional Park in Palo Alto, and the master plan for the vast Beijing Finance Center. On the business side, he helped steer SWA’s expansion to what is now a firm with 230 employees and offices in China and the United Arab Emirates, as well as six cities in the United States. The firm received ASLA’s Landscape Architecture Firm Award in 2005, while Bill was CEO.

Two years later, Bill was awarded the ASLA Medal for, among other things, inspiring fellow designers “to retain an idealistic view of the profession and the world.” He remained a principal and board member at the time of his death.

What coworkers remember is a leader who was also a colleague—comfortable with, and respectful of, everyone from major clients to entry-level employees.

“Bill was a unique individual for a group practice. He set a tone that allowed young designers to come into their own,” said John Wong, FASLA, who worked alongside Bill for decades at the firm’s home office in Sausalito and who is now SWA’s chairman. “He had a way of providing leadership without being heavy-handed, and people respected that.”

John King, Honorary ASLA, is the urban design critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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From the December 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The modest announcement about the appointment of Liza Gilbert, ASLA, to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) in October registered lightly in the media, despite its being a milestone for landscape architecture that hasn’t been in reach since the commission was established by an act of Congress in 1910.

With the appointment of Gilbert, the commission now includes Mia Lehrer, FASLA, who was appointed in June, and Elizabeth K. Meyer, FASLA, who was appointed in 2012. For the first time, three of the seven commission members are landscape designers.

Although there has been a landscape designer on the commission for most of its 100-plus-year history (Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was a member for the first eight years), according to CFA Secretary Thomas Luebke’s book, Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, having two landscape designers serve simultaneously is rare—three is unprecedented. But what does it mean?

For those unfamiliar with its workings, the CFA is a presidentially appointed body whose charge is to review all federal and District of Columbia government projects as well as those in the Georgetown Historic District and, significantly, those falling within the Shipstead-Luce Act’s area. The Shipstead-Luce project area contains many important national landscapes including the National Mall, the grounds of the White House, Rock Creek Park, and the National Zoo, among others. The CFA review is just one of many hurdles that projects in D.C. must surmount before approval, but it provides a critical platform for high-level design review for projects with both national and local impact. This review authority extends beyond buildings and landscape and includes medals and coins produced by the U.S. Mint, images that act as national symbols.

With the establishment of sustainability goals for federal properties in 2009, the necessity for landscape expertise on the CFA became only more exigent. The appointment of three landscape professionals confirms that landscape architecture’s contributions are fully recognized at the highest levels of government.

The CFA convenes once a month at public meetings to review medal and coin designs, memorials, buildings, and alterations to the built landscapes large and small. Meyer welcomes the addition of Gilbert and Lehrer to the commission and the impact it will have on how projects are conceived from the beginning. “More voices calling for conceptual landscape ideas at first review,” and exemplary work at final review, she says, will help strengthen the overall design. “Those ideas have to be clear at the beginning. They don’t follow from the architecture.”

As one of the only commission members living full-time in Washington, Gilbert can bring the local understanding of how the projects fit together within the city’s unique urban plan. Though still new to the CFA, Gilbert is enthusiastic about the dynamic at her first meeting, a mix of architecture, urban planning, and landscape. “The level of discussion is going to be fascinating. There are a lot of different brains in the room,” she says.

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