Archive for the ‘PARKS’ Category


Mitchell Silver

Mitchell Silver. Courtesy the American Planning Association.

If public planning and design efforts seem to yield increasingly to private-sector pressure (consider the developer-fueled High Line), Mitchell Silver may promise some relief. Silver’s appointment as the new parks commissioner for New York City was recently announced, and his respected 25-year track record in urban planning suggests that he will bring a collaborative approach to park management that balances social, health, environmental, and economic concerns—in short, a holistic vision for parks reminiscent of the days of Olmsted.

Silver, a former president of the American Planning Association, leaves his post as the chief city planner in Raleigh, North Carolina, to join the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor praised Silver to a crowd gathered for the announcement and described him as an experienced “visionary” who is capable of restoring equity to the city’s parks (de Blasio also noted the link between underfunded parks and larger issues of income inequality, a primary focus of his campaign). Silver emphasized that as a planner, he considers the city’s parks to be part of a single system, of vital civic infrastructure: “Parks do not sit in isolation,” he observed.


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

In this dispatch of the Queue, the LAM staff reads up on the politics of space, urban parks in Mexico, an extraordinary gift of land in California, why architects talk funny, and way too much more.


Alexis Madrigal’s piece on California’s water problem is being heavily circulated, but in case  you haven’t seen it, the Atlantic has it posted in full.

Also all over the interwebs is Elizabeth Kolbert talking about her new book, the Sixth Extinction. “We are effectively undoing the beauty and the variety and the richness of the world which has taken tens of millions of years to reach,” Kolbert tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.  “We’re sort of unraveling that…. We’re doing, it’s often said, a massive experiment on the planet, and we really don’t know what the end point is going to be.”

Do our green urban policies actually undermine social equity? Tom Slater fires a shot across the bow of the advocates for urban sustainability and resiliency, and asks, Who gains? Who loses?


Recognition for the groups, including TCLF, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, and the Minnesota chapter of Docomomo US,  who rallied to save M. Paul Friedberg’s modern landscape, Peavey Plaza.

Lorena Martínez, the mayor of Aguascalientes, Mexico, finds that the new 8 mile long linear park park, La Línea Verde, solves a host of urban problems, from asthma to crime. Cityscope talks to the mayor and the citizens about what it took.

Via Grist, Brentin Mock interviews Clarice Gaylord, who was in charge of the EPA’s first effort to deal with issues of environmental justice–under the Bush administration.

Instead of selling his 300 acres of highly valuable land near Silicon Valley–the number $500 million was thrown out there–Walter Cottle Lester willed his family farm to the state to be preserved as an agricultural park. No playgrounds, no swimming pools, no basketball court, just wide open space.

Via PlaceswireEsri’s ArcGIS opens up its platform to the public and puts reams of government data, including the EPA’s, into the public’s hands.


Photographs by artist/geographer Trevor Paglen of never before-seen-surveillance sites cracks open the hidden landscapes of intelligence gathering.

So very cool new Multiplicity project from Landscape Forms and Fuseproject lets designers play with street furniture.

Translation, please: “Interrogating the hermeneutic potentiality of the urban fabric’s boundary conditions is the key to intervening in the city’s morphology. The phenomenological nature of a building and its neighborhood is enhanced by ludic acts of horizontality.”

How to make pennyfloors, with much chortling in the comments about cost per square foot.

The world without people is a little bit creepy.

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Doyle Hollis Park. Courtesy Trust for Public Land.

Doyle Hollis Park. Courtesy Trust for Public Land.

By Peter Harnik and Ryan Donahue

From the February issue of LAM:

Emeryville, California, squeezed between Oakland, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Bay Bridge, has 10,000 residents and 20,000 daytime workers on only 1.2 square miles of land. For most of the 20th century it was an industrial center, known for meatpacking plants and a Sherwin-Williams paint factory. It has since evolved into a shopping destination and a hub for biotech and software.

Residents of Emeryville think the city needs more parks. The commuters think it needs more parking. In 1999, the city planning department started eyeing a warehouse site at Doyle and Hollis Streets for a six-story, 700-vehicle garage. The location wasn’t a good one: It abutted a low-density neighborhood, faced a middle school without playing fields, and would have thrown shade onto the new Emeryville Greenway. “We first considered putting the garage beneath a park,” says Diana Keena, an associate planner for the city, “but the site is so narrow that just the entryway would have consumed a third of the space.” The city also suggested a park surrounded by diagonal street parking, but that, too, would have swallowed most of the green space.

Neighbors who had coalesced a few years earlier to redesign the Emeryville Greenway as a park rather than as a tree-lined automobile street rose again, and after a long battle they persuaded the city council to rezone the block as open space and name it Doyle Hollis Park.

From then on the park moved steadily forward. The land was bought for $5.1 million in 2005, remediated of some petroleum contamination for $800,000, designed and built for $4.5 million, and opened in 2009. “During lunchtime on a sunny day, the place is packed with workers, kids, and food vendors,” notes Jim Martin, an original leader of Doyle Street Neighbors, which supported the park’s creation.


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From the January issue of LAM:

The Treetop Trail gives small primates a radically different experience of zoo life. Credit: CLR Design/Arbuckle Industries.

The Treetop Trail gives small primates a radically different experience of zoo life. Credit: CLR Design/Arbuckle Industries.

A generation ago zoos were static, passive, and effectively two-dimensional. We were on one side of the window—or fence or moat—and the animals on the other. Depending on how naturalistic or pretty the exhibits happened to be, this formula was more or less dispiriting to both parties. Now a master plan being implemented at the Philadelphia Zoo upends all that; indeed, staffers there call it not a master plan but a “transformation plan.”

It revamps visitor circulation and amenities and addresses stormwater management. But its salient feature is a network of trails throughout the property, including elevated ones that snake through the trees. These let animals travel from the buildings where they live to outdoor exhibit spaces. Different species have access to sections of the trails and the places they lead sequentially, like a time-share. This design strategy, described as animal rotation and flex habitat, has been tried in small iterations at zoos in Atlanta; Louisville, Kentucky; Cleveland; and elsewhere. But Philadelphia’s is the first-ever campus-wide application—“a very big step,” says Jon Coe, FASLA, one of the designers. He explains that the approach rests on understanding that “an animal’s natural territory is not so much an area of land or water, but rather a network of trails connecting key resources.”

Philadelphia’s zoo—the country’s oldest, opened in 1874—has only its original 42 acres. Last spring, its children’s facility was relocated, leaving “a huge part of our usable area open for rethinking,” zoo Chief Operating Officer Andy Baker says. “What if that became a destination for animals that already live at the zoo rather than a new stand-alone exhibit?” An animal traditionally occupies a single location for years, but this “creates a radically different experience by giving them this opportunity to travel and explore.”


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View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

There’s been a new salvo in the Crissy Field development project, which we wrote about back in October (At the Presidio, a Field of Schemes, Oct 22, 2013). The National Park Service released a letter last week expressing strong reservations about the development plans at Crissy Field and encouraging the Trust to take the long view. The letter echoes their concerns voiced in a letter earlier in the fall, but this time stating, “There is wisdom in allowing these new uses to settle in before selecting a major new use and tenant for the Commissary site.” For more coverage see John King’s article in SF Gate and read the full  letter from Frank Dean, General Superintendent on the Presidio Trust site.

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Maybe you’ve noticed things have been a bit more lively here at the  Landscape Architecture Magazine blog of late, and you’d be right. In addition to cranking up our posting to twice a week (!), we’ve been thinking a bit about what we might do to expand our audience and create more of a community of landscape-minded readers.  There are many changes afoot that will be rolled out in 2014, but we’d like your help with some low-hanging fruit, namely our blog roll.

Yes, the blog roll is a venerated tradition in the webs, but often it just becomes a mutual linkfest that highlights the same five well-known news aggregators over and over. We’d like to do something more substantial, and we’d like your help, friendly reader.

Our current blog roll (over on the right—->>) is pretty good, but some of our favorites aren’t posting so much anymore and our sense is that there are a lot more landscape-oriented blogs out there than there were a year ago when we first made the list. That’s where we’d like your help.

So tell us your favorite landscape blogs in the comments below.  We’re interested in original content, rather than aggregators, and we’re curious about anything that shapes landscape, from agriculture to climate to infrastructure to policy to design theory to design tech.  

Here are some we’ve been reading lately–

Rust Wire. Always a fave. News and urban grit from the rust belt.

BakkenBlog. North Dakota oil and gas.

Big Picture Ag. Perspectives on ag policy, food, science.

The Prairie Ecologist. Notes on prairie ecology, restoration, and management.

Small Streets Blog. Life at a plausible scale.

Gizmodo. New life under Geoff Manaugh of bldgblog, but you knew that.

Garden Rant. Various garden-related posts with a strong point of view.

99% Invisible. Blog to accompany the excellent design-oriented podcast.

What are you reading and liking? Suggest blogs in the comments or on Twitter @LandArchMag.

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A few of Byxbee Park's hillocks remain where that had been about two dozen. Photo: Lydia Lee

A few of Byxbee Park’s hillocks remain where that had been about two dozen. Photo: Lydia Lee

By Lydia Lee

Byxbee Park is coming apart. The city of Palo Alto is not even pretending to try to hold it together.

Byxbee Park is one of several San Francisco Bay area parks that began as landfills. Starting in the 1960s, garbage dumps along the waterfront were converted to public recreation areas. In Palo Alto, the city hired the landscape architects Hargreaves Associates and the artists Peter Richards and Michael Oppenheimer in 1990 to create a unique collaboration of art and landscape design (LAM, August 2006). The 10 site-specific installations spoke to the area’s evolution over many eons of human use. The 29-acre park opened in 1991; it won a national ASLA Honor Award in 1993.

Now, as the city prepares to open the remaining landfilled area for public use next year, it is destroying several of the original park’s features.


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