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Drought is said to be too many nice days in a row. Well, in California, three years of nice days has curdled into sheer dread. In the Features section of our September issue, Bill Marken, a frequent LAM contributor and a former editor of Sunset, takes a road trip through California to witness the effects of the drought, which is crippling in certain places and seemingly not such a big deal in others, and to comment on the efforts, or lack thereof, to help soften the drought’s blows. In Mexico, a memorial to victims of the drug war struggles to honor the local impact of this complex, global tragedy. When the ever-encroaching tides threatened an iconic Norman Jaffe house in the Hamptons, LaGuardia Design Landscape Architects pulled it back from the brink and garnered an ASLA Award of Excellence in Residential Design. The landscape historian Thaisa Way takes Michael Van Valkenburgh’s words to heart when she looks at Chicago’s Lurie Garden, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Piet Oudolf, 10 years after it opened beside Lake Michigan.

Also in this issue: The new landscape design for the Weeksville Heritage Center unearths the site’s past as a freedmen’s settlement; the ongoing efforts to contain sudden oak death’s spread (efforts which, it turns out, may be helped by the California drought); ecologists on the cutting edge of assisted migration who argue that it’s the only way to save the trees; and a brief history of pushback on Rails to Trails conversions. All this plus the regular goodies in Species, Goods, Books, and Now. The full table of contents for September can be read 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 some September pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: The Lurie Garden, The Lurie Garden; Assisted Migration, Torreya Guardians; Weeksville Heritage Center, Nic Lehoux Architectural Photography for Caples Jefferson Architects; Sudden Oak Death, Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension; Memorial to the Victims of Violence in Mexico, Sandra Pereznieto; LaGuardia Associates Perlbinder House, Erika Shank; San Luis Reservoir, Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos. 

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Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed nationwide, 47% said they preferred a cities waterfront space. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

Of the 1,000 urbanites surveyed, 47 percent said they preferred their city waterfront to other open spaces. Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

America’s move toward urban living can also be seen as a step toward a more sustainable future, but it also unearths a host of questions for the people who must design these spaces. What are the things people living and working in these urban environments gravitate toward? How might that change based on what kind of city they live in? These questions stick with the designer on the endless drive to envision the ideal balance of humans, urban environment, and nature. Sasaki Associates recently published research on these questions in a report called The State of the City Experience, and it turns out some of the answers depend on who you’re asking.

Sasaki surveyed 1,000 urbanites, ranging in age and income, from six cities across the United States (Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). They were asked about four aspects of the urban environment—architecture, activities, parks and open spaces, and transportation—what they currently thought of their urban environment and what they would like to see in the future. “What is written about on cities is from the perspective of the designer, and we were interested in what people experience in the city, what the public might say about how we design city spaces…and how their experience might inform how we think about the design of cities,” said Gina Ford, chair of Sasaki Associates’s Urban Studio.

There are many interesting finds in the report: For example, of the 1,000 respondents, 47 percent said the waterfront was their favorite open space in the city, including landlocked Austin. But a surprising find, according to Ford, was that a whopping 65 percent said their favorite city experiences happened in either an open space or on the street. “[It] is incredibly edifying as a landscape architect, because so much emphasis recently has been put on public realm, [and] investments, as a way of increasing attraction and retention of workforce and identity of cities,” said Ford. “It kind of positions architecture as a supporting player, maybe something that reinforces community but doesn’t necessarily create it. A lot of times people think it’s a building project that’s going to enhance the identity of a city; now we have data that it’s landscape.”

For more information on the report, The State of the City Experience, contact Sasaki Associates at info@sasaki.com.

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

This month’s issue of the Queue lauds the re-emergence of smart print magazines for landscape architecture,  admires a new restorative space behind bars, questions how friendly “bee-friendly” plants really are, and considers a trip to Reno…again.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

FIELD STUDIES

    • Magazines are the new black! First there was Reframe, and now there’s LA+, a new print publication from PennDesign that wants to bridge the gap between trade magazines and academic journals. The aim of the publication is to provide content that is more than just “designers talking to other designers.”
    • Navigating the (policy) waters: Two recent reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council offer road maps for cities to “integrate comprehensive urban water efficiency strategies into state revolving funds and Clean Water Act compliance.”

 

OUT AND ABOUT

 

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

 

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This winter, we wrote about the inaugural outing of the North Coast Design Competition (NCDC), Designing Dredge: Re-Envisioning the Toledo Waterfront, and now the winners have been announced. The entrants were asked to envision a useful waterfront space that combined existing and future outdoor developments with dredged materials, and also to provide the placement and design of a research site for the testing and experimentation of dredge material among other possible uses. Garrett Rock’s winning proposal, Re-Frame Toledo, would use Toledo’s dredge material to create sites for the public while also suggesting a phytoremediation step in the dredging cycle to process the sediment for future land use and better water quality. Sean Burkholder, an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the founder of NCDC, said that each of the 21 entries showed a thorough understanding of the subject. Some dealt with the excess sediment associated with dredging by creating riverside parks and recreation; others sought to create new ways of dealing with this material.

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Courtesy USGS.

Courtesy USGS.

Occasionally something really eye-opening falls into your lap on a quiet afternoon that gets all your circuits humming. That was the case late Wednesday at LAM when the U.S. Geological Survey released an array of soil maps based on data it has been collecting since 2007. Simply put, the maps offer the most complete  profile of the chemical and mineral makeup of U.S. soil ever produced. It is truly significant data, and the maps produced from it should be an important tool for anyone who designs, manages, or, well, just lives on the land.

Location map of the more than 4,800 sites of the sample. Courtesy USGS.

Location map of the more than 4,800 sites of the sample. Courtesy USGS.

The USGS describes these maps and what they measure as follows:

Geochemical and Mineralogical Maps for Soils in the Conterminous United States (Open-File Report 2014-1082). The maps provide a visual representation of the national-scale geochemical and mineralogical variation in soils. In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey initiated a low-density (1 site per 1,600 square kilometers, 4,857 total sites) survey of soils of the conterminous United States. Three samples were collected at each site from the surface down to approximately 1 meter. In total, more than 14,400 soil samples were analyzed for 45 elements and 9,575 samples were analyzed for major minerals. The maps released today were created using data sets from the survey.

The data sets, which were released in October 2013 by the USGS, provide a baseline for the abundance and spatial distribution of chemical elements and minerals against which future changes may be recognized and quantified.

The maps speak for themselves, and as you pore over the report you’ll want to dig into the data right away. But (nearly) every big data set has a person behind it, and the USGS also published a nice piece on its blog that talks about the process of collecting the data from the 4,800+ sites and some of the people who did that work. Kevin Bamber, then an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, worked on the sampling and picked up a little local knowledge along the way. “A guy in Louisiana said we could dig on his property because it was a full moon and that anytime you dig a hole when there’s a full moon, you always have more than enough dirt to fill the hole. We really picked the right day.”

Courtesy USGS.

Courtesy USGS.

All images from Smith, D. B., Cannon, W. F., Woodruff, L. G., Solano, Federico, and Ellefsen, K. J., 2014, Geochemical and mineralogical maps for soils of the conterminous United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1082, 386 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141082. Courtesy the USGS.

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The Fluid and the Solid TRAILER from Alex + Ben on Vimeo.

If you haven’t used the term “Anthropocene” much, you can be forgiven. The term is of fairly recent origin, and it’s used to describe what some believe is a new geologic age: one in which human activity has changed the earth and its atmosphere. It’s a big idea, one that catches a lot of other ideas in its net—climate change being the most powerful. The idea of the Anthropocene lends more weight to what we already understand are the consequences of human activity. Our impact is not just local, national, or global, but temporal. We’ve literally changed the scale of geologic time.

The awesome consequences of human agency on the land are tough to convey without sounding ponderous, but for the filmmakers Alex Chohlas-Wood and Ben Mendelsohn, who are interested in things like infrastructure, technology, and the human/nature interface, much of the story can be told by the landscapes where these earth-changing processes take place. Which is how they came to make a documentary nominally about dredging, dredge landscapes, and sediment flow: The Fluid and the Solid.

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Courtesy the North Coast Design Competition.

Courtesy the North Coast Design Competition.

Sean Burkholder has been thinking about the industrial landscapes of the Great Lakes for more than 10 years. He is currently an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at SUNY/University of Buffalo, and his teaching and research include topics that are salient to the region, including the reuse of urban infrastructure, urban vacancy, and the management of dredge materials. Next month, Burkholder will be launching the North Coast Design Competition with project sites along the riverfront in Toledo, Ohio. We talked with Burkholder about the region’s particular character, how the competition will harness local expertise, and why Toledo needs a dredge research site.

Tell us a little about the industrial landscape of the Great Lakes. What makes it different from other working ports, and how does that inform the competition’s program?
The interesting thing about the Great Lakes is that it’s a tremendous resource of fresh water. It’s 200,000 square miles of a drainage basin, and though that’s not big compared to the Mississippi River basin, it’s still 30 million people right on fresh water. With that access to fresh water comes the fresh water ecologies and habitat that are tied to it, so it’s a completely different system than on the coasts.

The Great Lakes was the industrial core of the country. Material made it to the Great Lakes and was then shipped out through the canals or the Saint Lawrence seaway. With changing populations, migration, suburbanization, and de-urbanization, the region has suffered in the postindustrial period. So, it’s a region that’s trying to reinvent itself in a lot of ways. I’ve worked in a lot of the cities around the Great Lakes region, and that work has primarily dealt with vacancy and postindustrial urban sites.

The competition is designed to look topically at issues that are in some ways endemic to the entire basin. The idea is to look at the issues at a graspable scale so that a designer can work on a problem with special contextual conditions in a specific place, but also allow for wide-ranging application.

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