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A HAND UP, A HAND DOWN

BY FRED A. BERNSTEIN

Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox.  some can move you ahead. others are just a headache.

Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox. Some can move you ahead. Others are just a headache. Credit: Greeen/shutterstock.com

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Andrea Cochran, FASLA, the San Francisco-based landscape architect, has received the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award, the ASLA Design Medal, and many other honors. But despite her prominence, she says, she still sees sexism affecting the profession. “It’s not overt, but it’s there,” says Cochran, explaining that it is precisely her success that makes her aware of the problem. “If you asked me when I was in my 20s if I had ever experienced sexism, I would have laughed at you,” she says. “But then you get to a certain point in your career and you realize there is a glass ceiling.” In her experience, “It’s still hard to get certain types of jobs, some of the bigger jobs, if you’re a woman.”

So Cochran supports programs that require prime contractors on public projects to award a percentage of the work to “women business enterprises,” or WBEs. “If being a WBE helps me get a job, that’s fine,” says Cochran, her voice rising, “because there are lots of other jobs I would have gotten if I were a guy.”

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EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY PIERRE BÉLANGER, ASLA

Recovering and Reprojecting James Corner's Lost Map.

Recovering and Reprojecting James Corner’s Lost Map.

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

(Correction appended)

Hanging vertically on the basement wall of Room L30C in Gund Hall at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is a seemingly anonymous light box. It’s rarely looked at or recognized and has been that way for more than 10 years. It’s considered a work of art—a sculpture, according to the Harvard University Cultural Properties Database—and it’s the primary source of light for the small underground office of Trevor O’Brien, the assistant manager of building services at the school. “No one has really bothered to ask about it over the years,” O’Brien says. It’s nearly invisible, but behind its anonymity, not to mention its remarkable beauty, lies an interesting backstory.

The rectangular light box was made by James Corner, ASLA, for the 2001 conference, “Territories: Contemporary European Landscape Design,” organized by George Hargreaves, FASLA, and Dorothée Imbert, ASLA, here at the school. The light box is a design project ahead of its time. The aluminum box, 36 inches by 48 inches and 4 inches deep, is part of a proposal for the growth and expansion of Stockholm into the neighboring suburb of Älvsjö. Layered among the collage of transparencies and films of information is a caption that reads somewhat like a micromanifesto:

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WELCOME TO FEBRUARY

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February’s issue of LAM minces no words, starting with Fred A. Bernstein, who talks with female landscape architects whose firms listed as women business enterprises, or WBE’s, can sometimes attract jobs that make them feel as if they’re on board only to fill a quota; Jerry van Eyck, ASLA, a Dutch landscape architect who transplanted himself to New York, is making his mark in North America with !melk, his firm of four years that has public space and park business projects as lively as his character; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s grand new building by Herzog & de Meuron and ethereal hanging gardens by Patrick Blanc become backdrops to the small yet thoughtful designs of ArquitectonicaGEO, which repurpose the neglected Miami waterfront with native plantings and innovative flood control.

In Now, Camden, New Jersey, proves that park renovations don’t always have to be expensive. In Water, Anne Raver follows up our earlier coverage of Owens Lake in California, where an official decision has now been reached on how to tamp down the toxic dust blowing off the dried lake bed. Planning takes a look at the wave of the future in ecodistricts; House Call visits a picturesque vineyard by Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture, which won a 2014 ASLA Honor Award in Residential Design; and in The Back, the long forgotten Älvsjö Flatbed, produced by James Corner a generation ago, reveals a design language ahead of its time. All this plus our regular Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for February 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 February articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “A Hand Up, A Hand Down,” Greeen/Shutterstock.com; “!melk Man, Jerry van Eyck,” Patrick Pantano; “Soft Landing,” Robin Hill/Courtesy ArquitectonicaGEO; “For A Song,” Sikora Wells Appel and Group Melvin Design; “The Dust Settlement,” Nuvis Landscape Architecture and Planning; “What Ecodistricts Need,” GBD Architects; “Among the Vines,” Matthew Millman Photography; “Everything on the Table,” Pierre Bélanger, ASLA.

THE QUEUE, JANUARY 2015

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

The LAM staff dives into this month’s news and views in the first Queue of the year, including a vacant lot project in Detroit that could unite barbers and landscape contractors, Brazil’s hopeful rails-to-trails project, and a collection of short films about the environment.

 

Timo Hämäläinen, an urban geographer based in Helsinki, blogs about Finnish urbanism at http://urbanfinland.com/

CATCHING UP WITH…

 Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute (“Drylands Design for L.A.,” January 17, 2014) gets some NPR airtime talking about a drought-resistant future for L.A.

 The San Francisco Chronicle visits the Gallery + Ideas Forum at the Presidio Trust Headquarters, where the winning design for the Presidio parkland (“The Lucas Museum’s Rough Chicago Landing,” August 19, 2014;  more), along with the four runners-up, are on display for public comment and review.

 Four finalists for the National Parks Now, a National Park Service and Van Alen Institute (“Take Aim At New Orleans’s Vacant Land,” August 12, 2014) competition, were announced. Each finalist will receive a $15,000 stipend for implementing strategies that connect four parks to more diverse audiences.

 Erin Kelly of Detroit Future City (“Detroit from the Ground Up,” LAM, November 2014) was among the 126 finalists for the Knight Cities Challenge, a competition created to generate beneficial design for 26 target communities in which the Knight family has newspapers.  Out of a whopping 7,000 entries, her proposal for a barber and landscape team up for vacant lots in Detroit moved to the next stage.

 

FIELD STUDIES

• African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. labor force but only 5.9 percent of the labor force in solar industries. Brentin Mock at Grist asks whether “African Americans are obtaining equitable opportunities in the emerging green markets.”  

 Finnish Urbanism—it’s a thing. Timo Hämäläinen, an urban geographer based in Helsinki, helps us catch up with “Six Major Developments Shaping Finnish Cities in 2014″ on his blog, From Rurban to Urban.

 A group of residents in São Paulo hopes to see the Minhocão, a highway by day and cultural hub by night, repurposed into a rails-to-trails project for the local citizens.

 

OUR WOBBLY WORLD

 Six companies in the Jiangsu province of China were recently fined 160 million yuan ($26 million) for dumping chemical waste into two Taizhou rivers.

 Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, Oregon, was recently appointed as the new director of the U.S. Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute. Adams was one of the key figures responsible for shaping Portland into one of the most sustainable cities in the United States. 

 A year after a drinking water disaster in Charleston, West Virginia, and after a lot of promises for regulatory reform, threats to drinking water supplies are not much diminished. 

 

OUT AND ABOUT

 From February 28 to May 23, 2015, Lotusland in Montecito, California, will play host to FLOCK, a temporary installation that calls attention to the disappearing wild bird population, seen by many as an indicator for the loss in biodiversity.

 The Rethinking the Urban Landscape exhibit looks at the benefits of landscape-focused urbanism through films, talks, and models.  At the Building Centre in London through February 26, 2015.

 Olafur Eliasson: Contact, a series of installations displaying Eliasson’s  multidisciplinary “investigations into the mechanisms of perception and the construction of space,” is on view  at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris through February 23, 2015.

 

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

  Eight short films that play with the idea of perspective.

• Think it’s expensive where you live? Try living in Greenland.

 What’s inside an iceberg?

BY CONSTANCE CASEY

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The opposum is the only marsupial native to North America.

From the January 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Opossums, animals that can eat almost anything, are increasingly joining their fellow omnivores at the suburban garbage can buffet. Opossums are shy, shambling creatures—the opposite of aggressive—but an opossum on its nocturnal foraging rounds often elicits a scream of disgust or fear. People tend to see them as ugly and vicious because their tails are bare and their narrow snouts are full of sharp teeth.

An opossum’s tail is ratlike, bald, and scaly. But to think of them as large rats or naked-tailed squirrels is wrong. Opossums, commonly known as possums, are not rodents; they are marsupials. The fact is that they’re North America’s only pouch-bearing animals. (Marsupium is “pouch” in Latin.) The world’s most famous marsupials, kangaroos and koalas, are Australian and cute. (Possums Down Under are in a different family, the Phalangeridae, and have appealing, furry tails.)

The western hemisphere has about 100 opossum species, all in the family Didelphidae. Of these, only one, the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), lives in North America. When the land bridge linking South and North America formed three million years ago, some opossums trudged north. By the 1600s the creature that would be the Virginia opossum had traveled up to the Virginia colony. There, Captain John Smith of Jamestown observed, “an opassum hath an head like a Swine and a taile like a Rat….” (He derived the name “opassum” from an Algonquin word.) Smith correctly observed that the animal carried its young in a pouch.

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ONE MAN IS AN ISLAND

Credit: Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

Some argue the funding for the Hudson River Park could be put to better use elsewhere in the city.

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Barry Diller is a billionaire who has committed to underwriting the lion’s share of a $130 million plan for the construction of Pier 55, a 2.7-acre island of undulating parkland and performance venues that would rest atop mushroom-shaped pilings in New York City’s Hudson River Park.

The city’s power brokers have enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, which also includes a 20-year lease under which Pier55, Inc., a nonprofit Diller founded with his wife, the designer Diane von Furstenberg, would pay for the pier’s upkeep and oversee its programming. And quite possibly, the Pier 55 project would help bail out the chronically cash-strapped Hudson River Park Trust, the quasi-public entity charged with running Hudson River Park and raising funds for its maintenance.

However, at a community meeting last week in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, which abuts Hudson River Park, many residents had a host of concerns about the Pier 55 project. They questioned its futuristic aesthetic, its environmental impacts, and its contribution to the larger public realm. They also questioned whether their input would be considered during the design process and what trade-offs the Hudson River Park Trust was making in exchange for accepting what reportedly is the single largest private donation to a public park in the city’s history.

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GROWING PAINS

BY JONATHAN LERNER

The Museum of Modern Art wonders whether unsanctioned, light-footprint design gestures can humanize the world’s megacities.

From the January 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In exploding cities around the world, ever-increasing populations of the poor find themselves occupying dense makeshift settlements, or dangerously subdivided apartments, or massive, isolating housing estates. Official planning and development mechanisms seem unable to cope as cities expand in ways that are disorderly, unpredictable, and resistant to the provision of infrastructure and services. Can design solutions redress the imbalance of wealth and poverty that underlies this? Can city dwellers themselves transform dysfunctional places into communities with livable futures? Can an art museum help solve this global problem? These are questions posed by Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Uneven Growth is the third effort in MOMA’s Issues in Contemporary Architecture series. The first was Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, in 2010. It elicited concepts for responding to sea-level rise and climate change two years before Hurricane Sandy’s piercing alarm, and some of those ideas have been incorporated into projects now moving toward construction in metropolitan New York. In 2012, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream imagined restorative strategies for six representative American suburbs following the mortgage debacle. These concepts turned out to be more and less radical, but all were more or less doable. In the current exhibition’s catalog, Barry Bergdoll, a former head of MOMA’s Department of Architecture and Design (and still a part-time curator there), describes the series as “laboratorial,” intended to formulate and show “experimental results that do not yet exist.” In that spirit, Uneven Growth paired design firms with local knowledge together with others that have international experience on teams asked to work up speculative proposals for six cities: Lagos, Nigeria; Rio de Janeiro; Istanbul; Hong Kong; Mumbai, India; and New York. They were asked to address their city’s situations via tactical urbanism: to consider what could be effected by citizens themselves; to incorporate the cultures of improvisation that overcrowded cities naturally elicit; and to devise interventions that could be made lightly and with limited resources.

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