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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.

THE QUEUE, AUGUST 2014

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

In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff reads up on the grand opening of Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia by OLIN, wonders at the possibilities of a man-made leaf, and gets down with Greenpeace and Reggie Watts on climate change.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Dilworth Plaza’s makeover by OLIN (“Follow the Lines,” LAM, January 2014) opens on September 4 in Philadelphia with new transit access, a fountain (and in winter, an ice rink), art, and Cuban food in what had been a desolate sunken plaza.
    • Harsh contentions arise in a current forensic audit on Great Park, designed by Ken Smith in Irvine, California (General Design Honor Award, LAM, August 2009). According to the L.A. Times, the audit finds that more than $200 million has been spent on the project, yet the park has little to show for it.

FIELD STUDIES

    • Dezeen reports on Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the UK, who thinks he’s got long-distance space travel figured out with his new invention—the world’s supposedly first photosynthetic material that absorbs water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen.
    • Looking at climate change and rising sea levels, the township of Choiseul Bay, 6.6 feet above sea level in the Solomon Islands, is moving to where it will be a little less wet in the future.
    • Think pedestrian crosswalk time limits are too short? Planners in Singapore thought so, too, which is why they recently expanded their Green Man Plus program, a system that allows the elderly and disabled to activate extra time for street crossing with the use of a special card.

OUT AND ABOUT

    • Lines and Nodes, a symposium and film festival that will take on media, infrastructure, and aesthetics, will take place September 19–21 in New York.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

    • If you can’t find this bus stop in Baltimore, then you’re not looking hard enough.
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Many historic sites in Scotland, like Skara Brae, are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Courtesy Sylvia Duckworth via Wikimedia Commons.

The sudden loss of historic sites along coastal areas, and their just as sudden reemergence, are often among the unexpected consequences of sea-level rise. We recently came across this piece by Henry Gass at E&E Publishing on the vulnerabilities of Scottish historic properties to coastline erosion, and the inability of the existing regulatory structures to adapt to both the threats and opportunities it presents. This piece, originally published behind the publisher’s paywall, highlights some of these issues. E&E, which does excellent daily reporting on climate change and energy issues, has kindly allowed us to repost the article in full.

 

SCOTLAND FIGHTS TO KEEP ITS ANCIENT HISTORY

FROM VANISHING UNDER A RISING SEA

HENRY GASS, E&E PUBLISHING, LLC, AUGUST 1, 2014

A storm buried Skara Brae for centuries, and it would take a storm to unearth it again.

Roughly 5,000 years ago, a small community of farmers settled in the village on a small island off Scotland’s northeast coast. The villagers lived in geometrically identical stone houses, grew barley, raised cattle and sheep, and carved tools using volcanic rock from Iceland that washed ashore. Over 700 years, they built an ordered society until, archaeologists believe, the climate changed and powerful storms buried the village in water and sand.

Almost three centuries later, in 1850, another powerful storm tore into the island’s coastal dunes, revealing Skara Brae once more. Archaeologists have been excavating the site ever since, gaining detailed insights into the uniquely organized and comfortable Neolithic settlement. But now the climate is changing again, and it may not be long before Skara Brae is reclaimed by the ocean.

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The proposed site for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would replace two parking lots south of Soldier Field.

The proposed site for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would replace two parking lots south of Soldier Field.

George Lucas, the filmmaker famous for the Star Wars franchise, can’t seem to catch a break. First, his bid to build a museum to house his vast populist art collection, along with memorabilia from his films, on Crissy Field in San Francisco’s Presidio fell through when the Presidio Trust “decided not to pursue any of the proposals to build a cultural institution.” The $700 million Beaux-Arts-inspired proposal, designed by the Urban Design Group of Dallas and the Office of Cheryl Barton of San Francisco, had received plenty of negative and positive criticism, and Lucas had vowed to take the museum to another city, such as Chicago, if rejected.

In June, it was announced that Lucas had indeed made good on that threat, and Chicago had successfully lured Lucas to its shores. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, offered the current site, two parking lots covering roughly 17 acres, along the lakefront of Chicago for a yearly lease of one dollar, an offer too good to resist. Like the Presidio, the site could give visitors great access to waterfront cultural sites, along with stretches of green space, but it also offers the reflected glamour of being nestled among such world-class museums as the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium—an area known as the Museum Campus.

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BY ADAM REGN ARVIDSON, FASLA

LeBleu's work in Mobile is seeking to balance industrial uses with natural and recreational uses at the ocean's edge.

LeBleu’s work in Mobile is seeking to balance industrial uses with natural and recreational uses at the ocean’s edge.

From the August 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Charlene LeBleu, FASLA, is an associate professor in the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction at Auburn University. For several years, she has been following the emerging discipline of marine spatial planning, which applies planning principles and community engagement to the world’s oceans. Along with her students, LeBleu has been working on a marine spatial plan for Dauphin Island Peninsula in Mobile, Alabama, where much of the confluence of historic, ecological, and industrial land uses takes place at and beyond the shoreline.

How would you describe marine spatial planning and how it differs from land-use planning?
Typical land-based planning focuses on how different types of users can exist next to each other and what’s the boundary and edge between them. The neat thing about marine spatial planning is the seasonal fluctuation of use. It links multiuse zones and limited-use zones so that a tourist can engage the edge, but then we may cut them off at certain times of the year when certain fish and other sea creatures are spawning. Marine spatial planning has this dynamic-ness built into it, so that it can reach out at a certain time, protect something, and then pull back and let other uses in.

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CAP TBD  Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

A Mardi Gras parade passes by one of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s pilot rain garden lots in Algiers, designed by Spackman Mossop and Michaels. Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

This week, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, a new, open, and international competition to develop ideas and policies for dealing with New Orleans’s nearly 30,000 vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Nearly 10 years post-Katrina, New Orleans has thousands of idle urban spaces that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which owns more than 2,000 of them and is a cosponsor of the competition, wants to see turned into community resources.

The Future Ground RFQ stresses the need to develop workable policies for these vacant spaces as well as design solutions. It states that competitors should be multidisciplinary teams of “individuals and firms with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, graphic design, policy, engineering, finance, real estate, community development, and other fields.” Competing teams need to include local partners. Winning teams, the brief says, will receive $15,000 to work on small projects that can have broader applications and also generate policies that can sustain the program for the next several decades.

This is not Van Alen’s first foray into vacant land—it sponsored the Urban Voids competition back in 2005 for Philadelphia, and this competition is part of the multiyear, multiproject Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape initiative.

The timeline is short: The deadline for applications is September 29, 2014, and teams will kick off in New Orleans in October 2014 and wrap up by the spring of 2015. You can find the RFQ and more information, including a list  of advisers, local sponsors, and jury members, on the Van Alen Institute site.

Tell us in the comments if you decide to submit, and what intrigues you about this opportunity.

ROOF TO TABLE

BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASSOCIATE ASLA

Ryerson University's green roof transformation.

Ryerson University’s green roof transformation.

From the August 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In downtown Chicago, the city’s convention center, McCormick Place, dominates the landscape with 27 acres of rooftop. The facility’s West Building has more than three acres of thin, or extensive, green roof, which was installed in 2007 to meet city requirements. In recent years, a lack of maintenance has caused the roof’s Sedum species to decline, which gave employees of SAVOR, the in-house food service provider at McCormick Place, an idea that these highly visible vegetated planes could be used for a more productive purpose. The result is the McCormick Place Rooftop Farm.

Green roof infrastructure has matured to the point that the intended use for some older roofs may no longer be relevant. In Chicago, New York, and Toronto, there are projects to turn some of these roofs into fields of food. In the past decade, cities with progressive stormwater management policies have incentivized or even required green roofs on new construction, creating a veneer of vegetation across many urban skylines. But as with any landscape, the project matures and the needs of the users change.

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