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TREE OF LIFE

BY KEVAN WILLIAMS

The planting of jatropha could help build the economy of a haitian town.

The planting of Jatropha could help build the economy of a Haitian town.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

When I meet Robinson Fisher at a coffee shop in downtown Athens, Georgia, on a cold and rainy day, he hands me a bar of soap. Fisher and the soap have just arrived from Haiti: specifically, a village called Terrier Rouge, a community of about 20,000 people in the hot, dry, and very poor northeastern part of the country. I first met Fisher, the father of a childhood friend, years ago, and only later learned he’s a landscape architect. He’s had a long career with his firm, Robinson Fisher Associates, practicing in lush, temperate, and developed northeast Georgia. But for the past decade he’s made a lot of trips to Haiti, spending several months each year learning and working with people there on a variety of agricultural experiments. The soap, wrapped in plain paper and stamped with a simple logo, is the latest product of that work.

Underneath the wrapper is a caramel-colored slab, smaller than your average bar of Dove or Irish Spring, and less refined. There is no logo pressed into the surface, or a specially molded form. It is the product of a simple, locally scaled manufacturing operation in Terrier Rouge, which is evident in its packaging and shape. But it lathers and bubbles just like regular soap. Even more remarkable is what the soap is made of: the oil from the seeds of Jatropha curcas, a scrubby tree that grows abundantly in this arid part of Haiti.

Jatropha is native to Central America and the Caribbean, growing between 20 and 30 feet tall. The semievergreen plant sheds its large leaves during periods of drought, to which it is well adapted. The seemingly worthless and weedy plant is also poisonous. “Nobody eats it: Goats won’t eat it, and bugs won’t eat it much, which allows this plant to survive,” Fisher says.

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Find the LAM staff out and about in May:

May 3–7

Lightfair International, New York City

May 8–9

River Cities: Historical and Contemporary, Washington, D.C.

May 14–16

AIA National Convention, Atlanta

May 16–17

International Landscape Architecture Symposium, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing

You can also find Landscape Architecture Magazine this spring at the following shows:

May 3–7

Lightfair International, New York City

May 13–15

HD EXPO, Las Vegas

May 14–16

AIA National Convention, Atlanta

And as always, at more than 400 Barnes & Noble stores.

The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

West Point Foundry Preserve winter aerial by Elizabeth Felicella.

Extra from “A Past, In Pieces” by Jennifer Reut, in the April 2015 issue, featuring Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects.

 “I love the angle of this aerial, which is enhanced by the long shadows under a low-hanging sun. The effect is a feeling of motion—of swooping low over the bare canopy. The red brick building at the bottom is an anchor that holds the image in place and creates a static ‘yin’ for the motion’s ‘yang.’

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

 

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.

NEW AT HQ: ADVOCATE!

United States Capitol dome under restoration. Photo Architect of the Capitol

United States Capitol dome under restoration. Photo Architect of the Capitol

A monthly bit of headline news from ASLA’s national office.

It’s April, which at ASLA headquarters in Washington means that Advocacy Day is nigh—Thursday, April 23. Every year around this time, hundreds of ASLA members come to town ahead of the midyear meetings of the Society’s Board of Trustees and Chapter Presidents Council to spend a day on Capitol Hill visiting the offices of their senators and representatives to make the case for national issues that are important to landscape architects.

This year, the focus of advocacy efforts is on three issues: the reauthorization and full funding of the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the authorization and funding (at $100 million) of the National Park Service Centennial Challenge. Advocacy Day is about showing strength in numbers. But the individual work of telling Congress what landscape architects do and why it matters never stops—especially because design in the public realm helps create new jobs, stimulate consumer spending, increase property values, and, in turn, generate billions in new federal, state, and local tax revenues. Even design professionals not planning to take part in Advocacy Day activities should stay aware of how these issues are moving, or not, in Washington, and keep in touch with the members and staff of their congressional delegations.

Each day, Roxanne Blackwell, Mark Cason, and Leighton Yates of ASLA’s government affairs staff work with legislators on issues of importance to the profession, and you should follow them on Twitter at @ASLA_Advocacy. But members of Congress really sit up and listen to the concerns of individual constituents and business owners. To help acquaint you with ways to communicate with Congress, the government affairs staff will hold a webinar tomorrow, April 9, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. You can register to join the webinar here. Questions? ASLA’s government affairs staff is happy to help. Contact the director of federal government affairs, Roxanne Blackwell, at rblackwell@asla.org.

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The April issue features new and formative projects by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. Signe Nielsen, FASLA, and Kim Mathews, ASLA, talk about the evolution of the firm, and about Hudson River Park in New York City, West Point Foundry Preserve in Cold Spring, New York, and the transformation of Hunts Point in the South Bronx.

In the departments, Timothy A. Schuler talks to Carey Clouse, the author of Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up, about the coming change in the urban agricultural system in Cuba; and Kevan Williams reports on how Jatropha has the potential to be an environmental and economic driver in Haiti. Chicago’s new linear park, the 606, does double duty as an elevated place to escape and as transportation and bicycle infrastructure. In the Back, we have a portfolio of drawings by Ron Henderson, FASLA, done as part of his studies on the Japanese practices and traditions of the cherry tree. All this plus our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for April can be found 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 April articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “A Past, In Pieces,” “Built to Last,” Elizabeth Felicella; “The Leading Edge,” Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; “Degree of Difficulty,” Elizabeth Felicella; “Food Revolution,” Andy Cook; “Tree of Life,” W. R. Fisher; “The Express Lane,” Courtesy the Trust For Public Land; “Peak Blossom,” Ron Henderson.

Today’s LAMCast features the Aqueduct Futures program at Cal Poly Pomona, which  investigates the prospects for the Los Angeles Aqueduct and its slowly recovering ground source, the Owens Valley. Work from Aqueduct Futures is among the projects featured in After the Aqueduct, a new exhibition up at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. The exhibition looks at the Los Angeles Aqueduct and its impacts on the landscape of California. The participants include Barry Lehrman, ASLA, and Alexander Robinson, as well as Nicole Antebi, Lauren Bon (of Metabolic Studio), Chad Ress, Peter Bo Rappmund, Jon Christensen, Alan Bacock, and Kim Stringfellow, who curated the exhibition and accompanying public programs. After the Aqueduct will be on display at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Hollywood, March 4–April 12, 2015.

DIY, KIDDO

LAMmar15_diykiddocover

A program by the Trust for Public Land lets kids design their own schoolyards.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

“There is poop going into the East River,” the teacher says, sprinkling black specks onto a cutaway model consisting of buildings, streets, and sewer pipes. It is week three of design class at P.S. 15, the Roberto Clemente School, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and a group of third graders is participating in the New York City Playgrounds Program, which, led by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), transforms asphalt inner-city schoolyards into community parks.

The teacher, Maddalena Polletta, who is TPL’s participatory design educator, is describing how storms can overwhelm New York City’s combined stormwater–sewer system and cause it to overflow. Seated around Polletta in a semicircle, the children are wide-eyed. “Your playground is impervious, which means that nothing can get through,” Polletta explains, using the model to demonstrate how the school’s asphalt yard contributes to the stormwater runoff, which is one of New York City’s biggest environmental problems.

After the Sewer in a Suitcase lesson (so called because the model is designed to fit into a suitcase for transportation to different schools), the children discuss a list of potential amenities and design features for the new park they are helping to design. The list includes a basketball court, a butterfly garden, a trampoline, and even a Jacuzzi—an amenity that to date has not been installed in a TPL park. The students talk about replacing part of the asphalt schoolyard with a different hardtop surface. “What if we fall and hit our face?” asks a boy dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt. “What if we fall and scrape our knees?” asks a girl who stands up to address the class. “Okay, so this is a grass class,” Polletta says, summarizing the students’ sentiments.

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