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Archive for the ‘WATER’ Category


Beneath many older cities across the globe are mysterious worlds hidden from sight since the Industrial Revolution. Rivers, once lifelines to wealth, were exiled underground as they became breeding grounds for disease. Burying rivers solved the sanitation issues of the times, but the aging infrastructure today falls short of modern needs and cuts off humans from nature. Caroline Bâcle, the writer and director of the new film Lost Rivers, which follows the stories of these forgotten waterways, spins an intriguing narrative of the rivers themselves but also of how people might connect with them. I spoke with Bâcle, who is based in London, about her experiences during the project and what Lost Rivers could mean to cities today.

How did you get the idea to make a film about these “lost rivers”?
My producer Katarina [Soukup, founder of Catbird Productions] and I—I think she stumbled upon it first, on the website of Andrew Emond. The film kind of opens with him. He’s a photographer who was living in Montreal but is in Toronto now, and he basically went into the underground of Montreal and took photos of its lost waterways. We were just fascinated by his website and thought, “Oh, my gosh, there are rivers under Montreal, my hometown. How incredible.” We thought it was a unique thing to Montreal, that it was only our city, and we had this amazing, incredible, mysterious history. And so originally we thought, “Oh, we have to make a film, or do something important about Andrew and his work or about the history of Montreal,” and we just developed the idea, and the minute we started doing any kind of remote research on “lost rivers,” we found that it was a part of urban history around the world. So the subject kind of opened up to something much bigger.

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Flooded agricultural land in payment for ecological services approach in interior Southern Florida.

From the July 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Low dikes separate pastures on the Florida cattle ranch Jimmy Wohl’s father bought in 1962, when Jimmy was 12. Jimmy runs the 5,200-acre spread now, driving his pickup along the dikes with a rifle ready on the dashboard. “I’m not a killer of everything, but if we see wild hogs I’m going to shoot them,” he says, pointing to a berm the feral animals have torn up while rooting for grubs. “That’s where all the exotic weeds will start growing,” he explains. “This really galls me. I’ve worked hard to keep these slopes grassy so when it rains it doesn’t cause all kinds of ruts.”

Rain and dikes—and invasive species, too—are often on Wohl’s mind. His ranch is about 100 miles south of Orlando in the peninsula’s sparsely populated middle. It’s an area nowadays referred to as the North Everglades, though in its primeval state the terrain was not a “river of grass” like the true Everglades, but pine flatwoods and palmetto scrub skeined with marshy creeks. It absorbed the seasonally heavy tropical rains and then trickled the water south into vast Lake Okeechobee and beyond into the Everglades proper. But over the past century, to dry out acreage for ranches, citrus groves, sugarcane fields, and other industrial-scale farming, landowners and government entities patched together a labyrinth of ditches and dikes, pumps and canals that thoroughly disrupted the region’s natural hydrology. In a climate this wet, “it is the agriculturalists’ mantra to get rid of water,” Wohl says. “We were taking what was considered wasteland and making it an economic driver, the salad bowl of the United States throughout the winter. Everybody kept throwing dollars down here, saying, ‘Drain more land, cut more canals.’”

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BY MICHAEL DUMIAK

cylindre.sonore2

Cylindre Sonore. Photo by Sophie Chivet, copyright Atelier Bernhard Leitner, Vienna.

Probably not for the first time in his 40-year career, the Austrian architect Bernhard Leitner is explaining that he’s not a musician. “My background is in architecture. I’m an architect,” he says. “But I was always very interested in the musical experiments of people like Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono.”

Radical and moving experiments with acoustic engineering and composition, along with the sonic ferment of the late 1960s, absorbed Leitner so much that he decided to work with sound itself as a building and sculptural material, marking and filling and emptying spaces. When he was finally able to realize his works in outdoor environments, the landscape elements of chance and organic forms—blowing bamboo plants, say, or passing birds—added new dimensions to the designs.

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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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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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Interboro Partners

Interboro Team. Courtesy Rebuild by Design.

In the Hurricane Sandy destruction zone today, there were long-awaited exhales to accompany the end of the yearlong competition phase of Rebuild by Design, the federal post-Sandy recovery project. Scores of designers learned which of 10 multidisciplinary teams, and which of the teams’ ideas, will receive federal funding to help make the New York and New Jersey metropolitan region better adapted to fend off huge storms and rising seas in the future.

The announcements of winners were made in two rounds by Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who also has served as chair of the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. Donovan, who is set to leave HUD imminently to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget upon his confirmation by the Senate, announced the winning projects for New York this morning at a public event on the Lower East Side. This afternoon, Donovan announced the winning New Jersey projects in the borough of Little Ferry.

For projects in New York, the winning teams, their project sites, and funding amounts are:

  1. The BIG Team, for its project, the Big U, a flood-protection system designed to run 10 miles around the lower half of Manhattan. Funding: $335 million.
  2. The Interboro Team, for its project, Living with the Bay: A Comprehensive Regional Resiliency Plan for Nassau County’s South Shore. Funding: $125 million.
  3. The team led by SCAPE/Landscape Architecture, for its project, Living Breakwaters, a series of constructed reef habitats along the south shore of Staten Island at Tottenville to slow storm surges and regenerate coastal ecology. Funding: $60 million.
  4. The PennDesign/OLIN team, for its project, Hunts Point Lifelines, a series of flood-protection and infrastructure strategies to protect the one-square-mile Hunts Point peninsula of the Bronx, the hub of a $5 billion annual food industry serving New York City. Funding: $20 million.
MIT

MIT CAU + ZUS + URBANISTEN. Courtesy Rebuild by Design.

For projects in New Jersey, the winning teams, their project sites, and funding amounts are:

  1. The team led by OMA, for Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge: A Comprehensive Strategy for Hoboken, which looks at a variety of ways to handle flash flooding and storm surges in Hoboken as well as in Weehawken and Jersey City. Funding: $230 million.
  2. The team MIT CAU + ZUS + URBANISTEN for New Meadowlands: Productive City + Regional Park. Funding: $150 million.

 

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At the Cities for Tomorrow conference hosted by the New York Times on April 22, I sat down with U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to get his perspective on the Rebuild by Design competition. The competition launched by President Obama’s interagency Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which Donovan chairs, could potentially transform vast stretches of metropolitan New York’s coastlines. The winners from the 10 finalist teams will receive funding from the approximately $3.6 billion in remaining Hurricane Sandy disaster money that HUD has slated for rebuilding and reinforcing flood-prone areas.

Donovan, who trained as an architect, describes the competition as part of a larger effort to change the ways government agencies and the design professions approach issues such as resilience and sustainability. “There are many competitions that have spurred innovation and excellence,” he told me. “What we were looking for here was to go beyond that in a couple of ways. One was to make an investment in some of the projects so at the end, they would get built. Second, to get innovation in community engagement, and third, to think about how this could actually bring about innovation in the way that government works.”

Donovan says outdated rules and regulations hampered the development of sustainable design solutions in the past. “There are many federal rules, fewer now than before, but there are still some which don’t encourage this type of thinking,” he said. “Even the cost-benefit analysis that is done by FEMA and other agencies often does not have a way of taking into account the benefits of green infrastructure.”

Beyond the competition, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force is working to make coastal areas more resilient by gathering more information about climate change and making it publicly available to citizens, “but also to professionals like landscape architects,” Donovan said. “You are building on the waterfront—what are the risks of sea-level rise over the next 50 to 100 years, and how do you then think about building as a result of that?”

One of the more transformative aspects of Rebuild by Design is that instead of privileging hard engineering solutions, as has been the case with traditional approaches to building resiliency to storms, it is elevating softer strategies such as restoring wetlands and other ecosystems alongside them. Donovan says that one example of this multipronged approach is a system of oyster reef breakwaters designed by the landscape architecture firm SCAPE, which leads one of the finalist teams. “What they [breakwaters] do is significantly reduce wave power. And what that does is naturally start to build back the beach behind it, which itself creates dunes and protects homes—so it is a much more sophisticated approach that involves hard and soft [strategies].”

Donovan has a distinctive perspective on designing storm resilient infrastructure. In addition to his architecture degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he is married to a landscape architect, Liza Gilbert, who worked for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates on Brooklyn Bridge Park, a waterfront park that, although hit hard by Sandy, emerged relatively unscathed.

Nearly all the projects by the 10 finalist teams have a strong landscape architecture component, and Donovan believes that the profession is especially well-positioned to drive design decisions in Sandy-ravaged areas, where much of the work involves rebuilding beaches, promenades, and boardwalks. “Landscape architects have a unique set of skills,” he said. “In some ways they most easily get beyond this opposition of hard versus soft—they understand that the natural world can be part of the man-made world.”

Alex Ulam is a frequent contributor to LAM.

 

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