Archive for the ‘NOW’ Category

In the November LAM, we report the backstory on  the Rebuild By Design Competition.  HUD has just announced the selection of 10 projects that will move forward to the next phase of the competition.

Ten teams convened for education sessions as part of the Rebuild by Design competition.

By Adam Regn Arvidson, FASLA

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and its partners this past summer announced the 10 finalist teams for Rebuild by Design (RBD), a multistage competition to rethink development in the New York City area after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Landscape architects are well represented among the teams, of course. Most of the big names are there. But there’s another name that is probably more obscure: the Institute for Public Knowledge. This think tank, based at New York University, is essentially running phase two of RBD. It will lead the deep analysis portion of the competition, working with the design teams to help them better understand the landscape. So what exactly is IPK and what is it doing with New York?

First, RBD is not a typical competition. The ultimate goal of the program is to spend around $5 billion from the congressionally approved Sandy Recovery Fund on projects that will make the metro area more resilient to future storms (seen as more likely as a result of climate-change-driven sea-level rise and erratic weather patterns). RBD is broken into four stages. First, candidates applied to the program based on their own skills and experience; no project proposals were requested. In the second stage (that’s where IPK comes in), the 10 teams selected after stage one are developing three to five conceptual design ideas, not necessarily linked to specific places. Another selection process will winnow those to one per team, and then these same 10 teams will develop their selected project more in phase three. Stage four will see additional refinement—though no elimination of teams. Those 10 become the candidates for the recovery fund money.


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From the November 2013 issue of LAM:

Outdoor classrooms take shape at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.  Credit: Bob Elbert.

Outdoor classrooms take shape at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women. Credit: Bob Elbert.

After a long day of building at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, Meredith Ver Steeg, Student ASLA, took inventory of the tools. She had to make sure none of them had slipped into a prisoner’s pocket. “If a single hammer is missing, there will be no movement on this campus until that hammer is found,” explains Julie Stevens, ASLA, Ver Steeg’s landscape architecture professor at Iowa State University.

For much of this past summer, Stevens supervised five landscape architecture students and eight offenders as they constructed a complicated new landscape for the prison. Students learned to build walls, cut stone, and move earth with a skid loader.


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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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OK, really for a week. But look what Ken Smith did at Rockefeller Center for Independence Day.

Flower Flag

IMG_0749 sm

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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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From the April 2012 issue of LAM:

Hara Woltz, Photo by Nancy Karracker

When cars’ and frogs’ paths collide, there’s a clear loser.

By Lisa Speckhardt

During heavy rains between August and November, drivers on Highway 4 in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, might spot a handful of people carrying buckets from the east side of the highway to the west. The buckets aren’t filled with water—they’re full of frogs, and their toters are trying to rescue them from certain death under the tires of the cars and SUVs traveling that stretch of Highway 4 between Ucluelet and Tofino. In that same area, the flattened remains of frogs that had tried to cross on their own make the stakes clear.

“We started talking about counting splats,” says the biologist Barb Beasley, leader of the SPLAT Project, an initiative of the Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds and the ringleader of those people carrying buckets in the rain. About a dozen years ago she began surveying where roadkill was happening, and most of it was near a wetland that was half a kilometer off the highway.

The decline of amphibian populations since the 1980s has alarmed scientists—habitat loss is cited as one factor. And even where habitat is preserved, roads may cut through the animals’ territory, leading to the kind of mass roadkill that caught Beasley’s attention on Highway 4. (more…)

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