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Archive for the ‘STREETS’ Category

BY SONJA DÜMPELMANN

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

From the December 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In the 1973 children’s story What Are We Going to Do, Michael? 10-year-old Michael, together with his neighbor Mrs. Jacobson, helps to save an 80-year-old southern magnolia tree that is threatened with being cut down to make way for an urban renewal project in their neighborhood. Nellie Burchardt’s story is based upon true facts and events that occurred in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yet, the way in which Burchardt portrays Michael and Mrs. Jacobson belies parts of the true story. In the children’s book, the two protagonists appear as white residents of a run-down, racially diverse neighborhood. In reality, Mrs. Jacobson was Hattie Carthan, an African American woman in her 70s living on a deteriorating neighborhood block in Bedford-Stuyvesant. By 1970, Bedford-Stuyvesant had become one of the largest African American communities in the United States, and, as Harold X. Connolly wrote in 1977, “a code word…for America’s unresolved urban and race problems.” It is unclear whether Burchardt’s choice to change the race of her protagonists had anything to do with the sales or readership aspirations for the book, or with the more idealist educational and egalitarian aspirations to cultivate white children’s empathy and awareness of nature in the city and of its ethnically and racially diverse citizenry, or, in turn, even with an unabashed racism. In any case the choice of the story itself as well as the changes made to its principal characters reflect the social concerns and anxieties of the time.

But changing the race of the principal characters—while perhaps making the story more accessible to the anticipated majority of readers—also covered up one of the most important facts about it: (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

As drinking fountains fade from view, a call to make them iconic again.

As drinking fountains fade from view, a call to make them iconic again.

From the November 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of drinking fountains in the United States, but according to the Washington Post, over the years a number of researchers have been documenting their disappearance. This year, the International Plumbing Code reduced its per-building fountain requirement by half.

Studies show that in the absence of drinking fountains, Americans often turn to bottled water, the negative environmental effects of which have been well documented. But equally worrisome is the impact a lack of drinking fountains could have on (more…)

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Suburban Street Stormwater Retrofitting: An Introduction to Improving Residential Rights-of-Way is the most recent addition to LATIS.

Suburban Street Stormwater Retrofitting: An Introduction to Improving Residential Rights-of-Way is the most recent addition to LATIS.

LATIS (Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series) is a great way to learn the technical intricacies of new research in the field, all while earning those much-needed professional development hours (PDHs). Each paper is peer reviewed to provide a learning experience that enriches the profession, with a test at the end that could earn up to 3.5 PDHs, depending on the paper.

New to the LATIS lineup is Suburban Street Stormwater Retrofitting: An Introduction to Improving Residential Rights-of-Way, by Andrew Fox, ASLA, and Jim Cooper, ASLA. At first glance it seems an odd choice in research, as most design professions have become so city focused. But Shawn Balon, ASLA, the professional practice manager at ASLA, says it’s an important topic to cover for landscape architects. “We often discuss green street design and low impact development within the urban context, but it is also important to begin thinking of how suburban interventions can create more aesthetic and healthier places for residents,” says Balon. To work toward a greener future, we must start to retrofit the present.

The paper takes a critical look at present suburban developments and their effects on hydrology, water quality, and community health, and explores existing retrofits, stormwater calculation estimations, design and construction details, cost estimation, and planting/maintenance options for suburban communities, Balon says.

LATIS papers are available to read free of charge for members, while nonmembers will pay $50. Exams for PDH credit are $40 for members and $60 for nonmembers. Click here for more information.

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

The coming conflict between two Separate environmental issues.

The coming conflict between two separate environmental issues.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

People often equate energy efficiency with environmental sensitivity, but a recent trend in LED lighting, namely, the uptick in what’s known as blue-rich white light, has the potential to divorce these goals and put the lighting industry on a collision course with those aiming to design healthful public spaces.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of LED manufacturers are turning to blue-emitting diodes, which are coated with phosphor to produce a clean, white light. Blue LEDs can handle higher-than-average power densities, which greatly increase efficiency. The technology is so revolutionary that the physicists who developed it received the Nobel Prize. But blue LEDs also pose a threat to the welfare of wildlife and human beings.

Light in the blue spectrum (between 460 and 480 nanometers) isn’t bad during the day; in fact, it helps our bodies produce the hormone serotonin. At night, however, it prevents our bodies from producing another hormone, melatonin, which regulates sleep. According to the National Cancer Institute, a lack of melatonin may contribute to breast cancer in women. Blue light also has been shown to disrupt animals’ circadian rhythms, which mimic our own, and cause adverse effects in animal behavior. (more…)

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Under the Elevated launch event at Pier i.

Under the Elevated launch event at the Pier i Café.

Aside from the surviving section of the hulking Miller Highway viaduct looming overhead, Thomas Balsley’s masterfully designed Riverside Park South is a serene place with tall, wavy grasses and meandering pathways. The viaduct, however, bisects the park, casting shadows and blocking views. The din from the traffic overhead can make it difficult to hear people talking on parts on the park’s distinctive curved pier that juts out into the Hudson River.

Such was the case last week, when officials from the nonprofit Design Trust for Public Space and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) had to shout to make themselves heard as they announced the publication of a new 128-page book called Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities. The product of a two-year study, the book looks at ways to transform the often dark and dirty spaces beneath the 700 miles of bridges, elevated subway lines, and highways that run throughout the five boroughs of the city. According to the book’s introduction, the amount of space available for redesigning is nearly four times the size of Central Park.

With the publication of Under the Elevated, the Design Trust is seeking to inspire civic efforts throughout the city similar to the one it helped catalyze with its pivotal 2001 study for the High Line. “Not every neighborhood needs a High Line,” Design Trust Executive Director Susan Chin said. “However, the need to alleviate the negative impact from the presence of elevated lines is even greater in the outer boroughs.” (more…)

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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 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 their 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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BY MELISSA RAGAIN

Gallery display of Lane Barden's Linear City.

Linear City by Lane Barden, on view at the WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles. Courtesy of Luke Gibson Photography.

Los Angeles is fascinated with the improbability of its own existence in an otherwise depleted landscape. As a behemoth system, it has had an almost Faustian capacity to sustain itself by diverting resources away from smaller, less powerful systems. This summer, the Los Angeles Forum produced a show, now on view at the WUHO gallery, with the work of Lane Barden, whose 50-foot-long series of aerial images follows the flow of cars, water, and shipping containers through the city. It’s paired with Joseph K. Lee and Benedikt Groß’s The Big Atlas of L.A. Pools, which delivers exactly what it promises: a catalog of all 43,123 swimming pools in the city of Los Angeles. These projects together address the more subtle flows and stoppages of L.A.’s common-pool resources, using water as a metaphor for global movement and the uneven distribution of capital.

Barden’s piece, Linear City, focuses on the city’s arterial flows. Barden, a professional architectural photographer, has produced an aerial homage to the deadpan aesthetics of Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations from 1963, but without the humor. It’s a cumulative panorama of the Alameda Corridor railroad, Wilshire Boulevard, and the glorified ditch that is the current Los Angeles River.

(more…)

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