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Archive for the ‘PRACTICE’ Category

BY JESSICA BRIDGER

Venetian bridge with Biennale banner.

Venetian bridge with biennale banner.

Rem Koolhaas, the director of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, calls for the “end of starchitects” and a refocusing on capital-A architecture, which is usually marked by insecurity and ideological cliquishness. While no one, not even the chief starchitect himself, could remove this high school mentality, Koolhaas did succeed in wrangling what is usually a messy biennale of murky disconnection into a unified exhibition of buildings and their contexts. This approach is a switch for Venice and turned the biennale into an introspective, research-driven look at architecture and influence. With any luck, it will resonate into the future and bring more analysis within the building disciplines of what we build, beyond Internet posts of the latest and greatest, as architecture and landscape increasingly draw themselves into the greater task of urbanism.

Koolhaas united the biennale, titled Fundamentals, around the history of modernity over the past century. The most successful national pavilions, all following the modernity theme, gave nation-specific takes on modern life and situated architecture within that context. Connecting architecture to political, cultural, and economic forces is important, but embedding these factors within geographic and environmental contexts is essential, and largely nothing of the sort was done.

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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.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

FIELD STUDIES

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 

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BY ERNEST BECK

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From the June 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

When John Crespo, Student ASLA, was applying to master of landscape architecture programs a few years ago, his target list ranged far and wide, from Texas A&M to Kansas State, University of Illinois, and Cornell University. Admitted to all of them, Crespo opted for the more expensive Cornell, figuring that the school’s excellent academic program and vaunted reputation in landscape architecture might boost his career chances. Next spring, Crespo will graduate with a coveted Cornell degree, but he will also be saddled with an estimated $30,000 in student loans. “It was a calculated decision, because my biggest concern after leaving school was finding a job,” Crespo, 28, recalls about his decision. “I hope the Cornell name will provide me with some leverage and, down the road, the investment will pay off.”

Faced with rising tuition costs and shrinking financial aid opportunities, landscape architecture students are part of the wave of students across the country going deeper into debt to finance their education and professional goals. Some, like Crespo, are banking on that investment to further their careers, despite the debt load, while others are simply trying to obtain degrees that will open doors to their desired fields. Whatever the motive, the total student debt market, which includes private, variable-rate loans and federally backed fixed-rate loans, is surging. In 2013 it topped $1.2 trillion, after passing the $1 trillion mark only two years earlier. More than 70 percent of college seniors who graduated in 2012 from four-year colleges had debt from student loans, compared to 68 percent in 2008. And the average debt load for those graduating with bachelor’s degrees for the class of 2012 climbed to $29,400, up 25 percent from $23,450 in 2008, according to the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success.

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Rich Haag with a clump of Equisetum, one of his favorite plants. Photo: Daniel Jost.

Rich Haag with a clump of Equisetum, one of his favorite plants. Photo: Daniel Jost.

On a recent tour of the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Richard Haag, FASLA, told a group of us, students from the University of Washington, two stories about the demise of the Garden of Planes. The garden was the first stop in the famous sequence of spaces that Haag designed at the reserve, and it was erased a few years after it was completed.

One story involves a fox. “A fox used to have a den there,” Haag explained as we passed by a giant stump that, ironically, Haag preserved for its habitat value. “And every morning, the fox would come out and leave his morning offering right on top of the gravel pyramid,” at the center of the Garden of Planes, he said. “That’s one of the reasons they got rid of it.”

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L to R: John Bela, Blaine Merker, Mayra Madriz, Matthew Lister, Julia D Day. Courtesy Gehl Studio.
L to R: John Bela, Blaine Merker, Mayra Madriz, Matthew Lister, Julia D. Day. Courtesy Gehl Studio.

BY JENNIFER COOPER

When you hear about mergers of design firms, it usually involves a global conglomerate swallowing up a smaller office to obtain local clients and staff. You seldom hear about two firms coming together simply out of mutual interests, but that is how the principals of Rebar, in San Francisco, and Gehl Architects, of Copenhagen, describe their new venture together. The new U.S. entity, Gehl Studio, will keep those offices and have a new one in New York.

In their San Francisco space in the Mission, John Bela, ASLA; Blaine Merker, ASLA, of Rebar; and Helle Søholt of Gehl Architects talked about the impetus for joining offices, which began in March. Søholt cofounded Gehl Architects in Copenhagen with Jan Gehl 14 years ago based on Gehl’s research on people and the ways they use public space. Together they have worked on projects around the world for cities and organizations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Until recent years, the firm focused primarily on large-scale planning but saw the need to prove their concepts to governments and communities in urban projects, as they did so successfully with New York’s public plaza and street improvements.

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The exhibit features a tabletop version of the Wall of Wind at Florida International University, which can simulate a Category 5 hurricane.

The Designing for Disaster exhibit at the National Building Museum features a tabletop version of the Wall of Wind at Florida International University, which can simulate a Category 5 hurricane. Photo: Florida International University

Earth, air, fire, and water—the National Building Museum’s Design for Disaster exhibit, which opened on May 12, separates out the forces of destruction. The toll of earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods is shown in photos and artifacts such as twisted street signs. But the focus is on mitigation. “Design can save lives,” said Chase W. Rynd, Honorary ASLA, the executive director of the museum, during a press preview on May 8. Rynd and Chrysanthe Broikos, the curator of the exhibit, say it’s one of the most important exhibits the museum has done.

It’s as much the story of seismic engineers, researchers, architects, planners, and landscape architects as it is about the disasters themselves, given that the goal is blunting the destructive impacts of disasters (there’s a companion blog and outreach program called Mitigation Nation). The Earth room has cracked walls that recall the aftermath of earthquakes, but just behind them is a buckling restrained brace, or BRB, as an example of what could be done to protect those walls, and around the doorway is a special moment frame, which holds firm against lateral loads during a quake to protect the rest of a structure. (more…)

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"Work" by Alex Kwa from The Noun Project

Work by Alex Kwa from the Noun Project.

From the March issue of LAM:

For most of the past several years, there has not been much to say on the employment front for landscape architects, or for the design and construction industry in general, except that nobody was hiring. And that’s a very short story to tell. But by mid-February, there were definite signs of a steady upward trend in the hiring of landscape architects. Of course, this sort of thing must be said somewhat warily, so as not to jinx or overstate it, but designers themselves offer the proof.

In the first week of February, there were 80 jobs listed on ASLA’s JobLink site; 61 of them were placed in January (most are listings that stay up for 30 days). The last time listings ran this high was 2008; there were about 90 ads placed in both January and February of that year. And we all know what happened over the following several months as the housing market nearly brought down the entire financial system. In January of 2009, there were 14 ads placed; the January number stayed in that range through January 2013, when there were 22 ads.

The jobs listed recently have been diverse. A few public agencies are hiring, and so are design/build firms, landscape contracting companies, small design offices, and global multidisciplinary firms. The destination is no longer just China or bust; there are firms all over the country looking for new people.

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