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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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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.

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BY JIMENA MARTIGNONI

TRANSIT: Buenos Aires

Peru Street, in Buenos Aires, was transformed into a pedestrian space. Courtesy Cecilia Garros Cardo.

From the June 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Walking around parts of Buenos Aires can be dizzying, with cars speeding down the large boulevards as people walking find themselves having to race from corner to corner to stay out of their way. But a central part of the city that was once quite chaotic is being tamed by two programs that give pedestrians and public transportation priority over cars. The programs—Metrobus, a new bus rapid-transit (BRT) network that is being implemented by the undersecretary of transportation, and Prioridad Peatón, or the Priority for Pedestrians Plan, implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development, both under the auspices of the city government—are recent parts of a long-term Sustainable Mobility Plan that’s making deteriorated parts of the city more navigable, more hospitable, and more appealing to those who want to walk rather than drive.

The Metrobus network has three different corridors in the city: Metrobus Juan B. Justo, which covers 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) and has 21 stops, was completed in 2011; Metrobus 9 de Julio runs along 3.5 kilometers (about two miles) and has 17 stops in the central area of the city; and Metrobus Sur, which has two different lines and a total length of 23 kilometers (14 miles) and 37 stops, and is still in construction in the southern area of the city.

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

In this dispatch of the Queue, we tiptoe through the tweets of May, contemplate a trip to the high desert, and willingly give ourselves over to the United States Geological Service.

 

CATCHING UP WITH…

 

FIELD STUDIES

 

OUT AND ABOUT

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT., TWITTER EDITION

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All images courtesy STOSS landscape urbanism

All images courtesy STOSS landscape urbanism

A playful proposal by STOSS landscape urbanism with Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Nitsch Engineering, and Angie Cradock ScD, MPE has won the Movement on Main competition to reimagine Wyoming Street in Syracuse, New York. The competition, funded by the Educational Foundation of America, challenged participants to reimagine the five-block-long street in a way that will promote human and environmental health and spark new development within the neighborhood, while being sensitive to residents and businesses already there. STOSS’s scheme was chosen by a group that included people in the community, architecture faculty from Syracuse University, public health experts, and Richard Weller, the new chair of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. I caught up with Chris Reed, the founding principal of STOSS, this morning to find out more about the competition and his firm’s winning scheme. The interview has been condensed and edited. (more…)

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Riverside Park South, photo courtesy of Thomas Balsley

So, all that speculation around the “Rising Currents” show at the Museum of Modern Art about the inundation of New York—not so speculative, right? And all those new waterfront parks designed to submerge against hopes they never would? Well, they did submerge, some more than others. The designers are starting to see the results. Whether most of the civilian world was thinking much of New York’s capacity for major flooding, there have been landscape architects, architects, planners, and public officials thinking about it for several years now. This week, with Hurricane Sandy, the thinking has been put to a harsh test across the city and a huge section of the mid-Atlantic region.

“Yes, this really can happen,” says Catherine Seavitt, ASLA, one of the people who helped get all this thinking started among designers. In 2009, Seavitt published an ambitious proposal with the engineer Guy Nordenson and the architect Adam Yarinsky for “soft infrastructure” around the Upper Bay of New York and New Jersey to show ways to counter the effects of sea-level rise in a big coastal city. The proposal, called On the Water/Palisade Bay, anticipated a catastrophe much like the one that occurred this week. The project, funded by a Latrobe Prize given by the American Institute of Architects, began in 2007, when “hurricanes weren’t on anyone’s radar” in New York, Seavitt says. But On the Water went on to inspire the 2010 MoMA show, “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront,” which posed structural ideas for coping with climate change in cities. People have been talking about it ever since.

Susannah Drake, ASLA, the principal of dlandstudio and one of several landscape architects who led a design team for the MoMA exhibition (with Yarinsky and his partner, Stephen Cassell, of Architecture Research Office), has been getting calls from the New York Times and Bloomberg this week, among other media. “It was a sort of an, Oh my god, we were so right moment when all the electrical transformers started to blow up,” Drake says. “They need my waterproof vaults to put the infrastructure under the sidewalks.”

Sunken Forest, Sponge Street Network, by dlandstudio/Architecture Research Office for “Rising Currents” at the Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Image courtesy of dlandstudio

For the MoMA show, Drake’s team rearranged much of lower Manhattan’s infrastructure in anticipation of a heavy saltwater soaking, with three kinds of streets designed to take huge amounts of water, and, of course, her system of protected electrical vaults. “It’d be everywhere—make it all waterproof,” she says. “The city was looking at all these fuzzy green edges and green swales, all of which is great low-hanging fruit, but this is a combination of engineering and landscape design. It’s expensive and complicated.” As is having one-third of the city without power for at least two days.

Designers of New York’s new waterfront parks, which have been a huge part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to transform the city, are taking stock of what they’ve kept and what they’ve lost. Signe Nielsen, FASLA, of the landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen, has checked out her section of Hudson River Park in Tribeca, and sounded pretty sanguine about it. “The pier for the most part fared well. It was completely inundated,” she says. “The biggest crisis was in this one area where the Styrofoam under the pavement had water underneath and pushed the Styrofoam up and completely destroyed all the paving.” One shallow-rooted tree came down. Nielsen said that in looking around the city, she noted that the trees already bare were fine; those blown over had leaves. “A lesson we learned some time ago is to use very small-leaved trees, and salt-resistant too—zelkova, honey locust, hackberry.” Callery pears were down all over the city, Nielsen says, unsurprised.

Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, had been to the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park on Tuesday, the day after the storm, and things seemed not to have broken or eroded much. Many of the plantings are elevated, but some were close to the edge, planted to meet a tide. He wondered how they will come out. “It depends on how long the salt water was there. It wasn’t five minutes, and it wasn’t six hours,” he says. (A surreal image of Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, surrounded by water inside its pavilion designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, made its way around Twitter this week.)

But when we spoke, Van Valkenburgh still hadn’t been to Teardrop Park in Battery Park City, Pier C Park in Hoboken (which is basically a small island in the Hudson River), or his Segment 5 of Hudson River Park. “You know when your dog runs out in the road and gets hit by a car? This is that kind of feeling,” he says.

Governors Island is, of course, surrounded by water just south of the Battery, where the surge rose to nearly 14 feet, higher than that seen during Hurricane Donna in 1960. West 8 is building out the first phase of its master plan for a new park on the island, which won a 2012 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning and is scheduled to open next year. Leslie Koch, the president of the Trust for Governors Island, says a small number of trees are lost and there is “a lot of debris” on the island, including shipping containers, but that the original historic areas of the island were above the surge. “It’s all intact,” Koch says. “The point of the proposal was to raise the lower south island. We’re building 30 acres above that. The island’s already higher than it would have been.”

Ken Smith, FASLA, says in an email that he had not been to his East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers, designed with SHoP Architects, but that a member of his staff, John Ridenour, had gone to see it and reported that the fixtures and plantings were “in pretty good shape.” Ridenour added that there had been an oil spill somewhere on the water, and the whole area reeked of petroleum. “The East River Waterfront is mostly pretty durable design,” Smith writes, “and the plantings are relatively salt-tolerant since they regularly get some degree of salt spray.”

Uptown, along the Hudson at Riverside Park South, Thomas Balsley, FASLA, said his design lost some riprap, but “all is well,” though he sent a picture (top of post) that shows a bit of cleanup will be needed. His other waterfront projects around the city, including Hunters Point South Park 9, designed with the architects Weiss Manfredi and still under construction, were fine, as is Balsley’s West Shore Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

All of these waterfront spaces have had a good amount of surge resistance baked into them. Catherine Seavitt says that the close call with Hurricane Irene in 2011 reminded people generally that sea level rise is something to take seriously in a densely populated port city. In the wake of Sandy, Seavitt says, she has seen very little she didn’t expect, having pored a lot over 100- and 500-year flood maps—though she was curious about flooding around East 96th Street between First and Second avenues. The Viele map of 1865 shows a marshy area with a small stream that flows from what is now the Harlem Meer in Central Park. “There are all these old watercourses where water wants to go,” Seavitt said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

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Photo: Dino Perrucci

The various passions of the musician, designer (and onetime Rhode Island School of Design student), cyclist, and public intellectual David Byrne have all come together yet again in a new series of bicycle racks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Byrne has designed bike racks before; for this latest round, based on letterforms, John Dugan of Design Bureau has the story.

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