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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.

(more…)

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superstop

The offending superstop. Courtesy Local News Now LLC

You hear a lot of talk about making suburbs into something more like cities, and if reporting like that of the Washington Post last week is any guide, it’s going to be a tricky sell to turn the talk into reality. On March 24, the Post published a story about what it calls a “$1 million bus stop” in Arlington, Virginia. It didn’t cost $1 million, technically, and it isn’t just a bus stop. The Post showed signs of having known as much, but went ahead and made a new transit project sound like a boondoggle anyway and stoked enough outrage to have a major county transit improvement project put on hold.

The stop is what Arlington transportation planners are calling a “superstop.” It is a prototype, the first of two dozen stops meant to handle both bus and, eventually, streetcar traffic down Columbia Pike, a four-lane commercial strip that runs three-and-a-half miles through the county from its outer suburbs to the edge of the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, buses unload at a very busy subway stop that takes people into Washington, D.C. Once the streetcar line is built as planned, the combined transit line is expected to carry about 30,000 passengers on a typical weekday.

The hard costs to build the stop were $574,000. There were other costs, too, about $433,000, as Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director, told me. Those other costs involved design (by HOK), planning, reviews, fees, and so forth. There were also problems of construction delays, about 14 months beyond the four months originally scheduled. Arlington contracted the construction of three superstops to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, which wound up for its own reasons scaling down its construction operations. (Metro can barely keep a single subway station fully functional these days.) “This project really became an orphan” at Metro, so Arlington County ended that relationship with just the one superstop.

Much of the $433,000 can be filed under research and development costs, one-time charges to create the first superstops that will spread over the creation of the other 23 stops. “Our intent was to do one [stop], evaluate it, and then go forward with modifications,” Leach said.

Ah, but the Post reported that “[t]he county has budgeted $20.8 million for the remaining 23 stops, or about $904,000 for each one.” With this burning fact, the Post’s reporter headed out to the superstop in question and baited commuters who were waiting for buses to offer their thoughts about all this million-dollar business. (more…)

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Courtesy Louis Lim

Guerrilla artists beware. A decade after 9/11, New York City is still on high alert, and its police officers are not art connoisseurs. When a passerby noticed the designer Takeshi Miyakawa hanging shopping bags from trees at 2:00 in the morning, the person called the police, reporting a possible bomb threat. The shopping bags, emblazoned with the “I♥NY” logo,  were meant to be light sculptures, illuminated with LED lights. Miyakawa had designed the sculptures as a tribute to the city in honor of New York Design Week. But Miyakawa had not secured the proper permits, and the wires coming from the bags looked suspicious. The bomb squad was called in and the artist was arrested.

Unlike the self-proclaimed artists who planted mysterious packages on the city’s subway in 2006 to show the ineffectiveness of the “if you see something, say something” campaign, Miyakawa’s art was never intended to provoke concerns.  Yet, he was charged with planting “false bombs.” And when he was arraigned the following day, Judge Martin Murphy ruled that Miyakawa be detained for 30 days while he underwent mental evaluation.

Thanks to the efforts of his friends and his lawyer, he was released on bail after six days but is scheduled to appear in court later this month, according to a recent report in the New York Times. You can see more photographs of the light sculptures on the designboom blog and furniture designed by Miyakawa on his web site.

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