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L to R: John Bela, Blaine Merker, Mayra Madriz, Matthew Lister, Julia D Day. Courtesy Gehl Studio.
L to R: John Bela, Blaine Merker, Mayra Madriz, Matthew Lister, Julia D. Day. Courtesy Gehl Studio.

BY JENNIFER COOPER

When you hear about mergers of design firms, it usually involves a global conglomerate swallowing up a smaller office to obtain local clients and staff. You seldom hear about two firms coming together simply out of mutual interests, but that is how the principals of Rebar, in San Francisco, and Gehl Architects, of Copenhagen, describe their new venture together. The new U.S. entity, Gehl Studio, will keep those offices and have a new one in New York.

In their San Francisco space in the Mission, John Bela, ASLA; Blaine Merker, ASLA, of Rebar; and Helle Søholt of Gehl Architects talked about the impetus for joining offices, which began in March. Søholt cofounded Gehl Architects in Copenhagen with Jan Gehl 14 years ago based on Gehl’s research on people and the ways they use public space. Together they have worked on projects around the world for cities and organizations such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Until recent years, the firm focused primarily on large-scale planning but saw the need to prove their concepts to governments and communities in urban projects, as they did so successfully with New York’s public plaza and street improvements.

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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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What is a public garden, and what is it for? The June issue of LAM looks at new works at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, prefaced by a conversation on the public garden’s evolving mission with the landscape architects Sheila Brady, FASLA; Darrel Morrison, FASLA; Annette Wilkus, FASLA; Scott Scarfone, ASLA; Gary Smith, FASLA; and the New York Botanical Garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections, Todd Forrest.

The Foreground sections look at new research on luring the bees to underused parts of Houston, student debt loads for landscape architecture graduates, fetching new transit design in Buenos Aires, and an update on Lawrence Halprin’s neglected Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas. The Species column this month offers up wild pigs and birch syrup, Goods has gorgeous outdoor fixtures, and the Books section reviews a pair of new releases on green infrastructure.

You can read the full table of contents for June 2014 or pick up a free digital issue of the June LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. 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 print issue from the 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 as well as o

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating some June pieces as the month rolls out.

Credits: Native Plant Garden: Ivo M. Vermeulen; Heritage Park Plaza: Elizabeth Meyer, Courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation; Native Flora Garden: Elizabeth Felicella; Species: Michelle Pearson; Laguna Gloria: Courtesy Reed Hilderbrand; Stone Mill: Elizabeth Felicella; Buenos Aires Transit: Cecilia Garros Cardo; Ethnobotanical: Francisco Gómez Sosa; Visitor Center: Aaron Booher, ASLA/HMWhite Site Architecture.

A RIVER TO LIVE BY

BY JENNIFER ZELL, ASLA

The Glendale Narrows. Courtesy Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos.

The Glendale Narrows, Courtesy Peter Bennett/Green Stock Photos.

The long campaign to restore the Los Angeles River met a major milestone on May 28 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would support a $1 billion plan to transform 11 miles of the river from a concrete drainage channel back to something like a natural, living waterway. The Corps’ backing of this plan, rather than of a more limited and less visionary one for about half the cost, was crucial to open the way to congressional funding for the project. The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has pushed hard for a plan that river activists have long sought to remake habitat, open space, and recreation areas around the river’s banks. You can read the Los Angeles Times report on the final decision and what may come next here. Below is LAM’s report by Jennifer Zell from the April issue about the history of the project, the intense efforts by river restoration proponents, and their building anticipation of a decision by the Corps, which, as it turns out, runs very much in their favor.

 

In the early 2000s, if you were to ask L.A. residents about the Los Angeles River, chances are they wouldn’t have known the city has a river, or they might recall the concrete-lined drainage canal that can be seen while driving over downtown bridges. If you ask the same question now, chances are good that residents are aware of the river’s presence; some may even view restoration of the river as a symbol of L.A.’s rebirth as a healthier, more connected city. Today, visitors to Los Angeles and Angelenos returning home through the LAX airport are greeted with a newly installed photo of Mayor Eric Garcetti kayaking the Los Angeles River with the caption, “Welcome to Los Angeles, where nature catches you by surprise.” This turnaround isn’t an accident. Popular and political support for restoring the river has been growing for a decade, and decisions will soon be made by Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will determine the future of the river, its ecosystem, and the neighboring communities.

The Los Angeles River runs 51 miles through a complex metropolis with its headwaters in the San Fernando Valley at the confluence of Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek, where two massive arcing concrete boxed channels meet precisely on tangent below the football stadium at Canoga Park High School. Along its course, the river flows past shopping centers, parking lots, residential tracts, and industrial corridors, and along the way it is joined by creeks and washes that all empty into the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach.

To the dismay of many people, an estimated 90 percent of the river is paved in concrete. In the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started on an ambitious plan, the Los Angeles County Drainage Area project, to contain the river in a concrete channel and move the water flowing through the L.A. Basin into the Pacific Ocean as swiftly and efficiently as possible. A recent history of catastrophic floods—in 1914, 1934, and 1938—and the water’s destructive power gave a sense of urgency and singularity of purpose to the plan. The project continues to provide flood protection and has enabled 336 square miles of land that was subject to flooding to be developed. But the zeal for a single elegant solution to flood control has in turn created a complex new set of hydrological and environmental problems for the 14 million people living within the Los Angeles River watershed.

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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.

 

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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Home page of the Soil Science Society of America’s new blog, Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!

For more than 75 years, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) has informed members and professionals on all matters relating to soil, according to the soils.org website. From bioremediation to environmental quality, SSSA has provided a wide range of services and publications to shape our knowledge on this “living entity,” allowing for the development of better soil-related practices. During a recent website redesign, SSSA saw the opportunity to share this wealth of information with nonprofessionals with Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!—an “all things soil” blog.

Soils Matter covers everything from science-based topics such as how plastic affects the microbes in soil to agricultural practices such as how soil influences the flavor of wine. Each post begins with a question, asked by a follower or curious visitor. The answers are clear and detailed, aimed at the intelligent consumer and non-soil specialist. What’s more, each blog post is authored by an established soil professional and expert on the topic. “We have a handful of SSSA members who are willing to work with us on the answers,” says Susan V. Fisk, director of public and science communications for SSSA. “All the people who do the answers are actual soil scientists.”

Soil is a vital component in landscape architecture, from providing the material to create artificial hills to the planting medium that serves as the fundamental nutrition for our plants. “Soils support buildings and infrastructure,” says Fisk, who has heard many horror stories of poorly engineered retaining walls from landscape architects. “On our end we have the same thing, because people are not using the right soils for their retaining wall, and it might not hold water, or [hold] too much or too little. So it needs to be viewed in a kind of holistic way.” And while many landscape professionals are well versed in the composition and properties of soils, their clients and communities aren’t. Changing  climatic conditions can often mean changing soil conditions as well. And when it comes to designing and managing urban soils,  there’s still a lot of new territory.

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A question on the formation of soils is answered by an SSSA member.

With the growing popularity of community gardens and urban farms, people may find that some urban sites are not completely suitable for the immediate planting of fruits and vegetables. By measuring the amounts of pollutants in the soil, people can better understand which plants are best at filtering specific kinds of pollutants, Fisk says. This in turn helps determine what steps are needed to fully remediate these sites for the enjoyment of future generations.

Soils Matter is a platform where these kinds of specific questions can be answered by soil scientists and professionals. So if you’re wondering if this winter’s extreme cold will have an effect on the growing season or how climate change affects the amount of organic material found in soil, Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! might be a good place to start.

More on Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! and other soil-related topics can be found at http://www.soils.org.

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