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BY RACHEL DOVEY

The team led by SCAPE proposes breaching levees to allow trapped sediment out, creating a stronger network of marshes and mudflats that can cushion developed areas. Image courtesy SCAPE/Public Sediment team.

They’re no stranger to wildfires and drought, but the cities around the San Francisco Bay haven’t been hit with a climate change-fueled disaster on par with Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey—yet. Still, sea-level rise won’t spare the metros. Even if they escape the drowning predicted by certain apocalyptic maps, Bay Area residents rely on freeways and rail lines built on soft, low-lying bay fill—areas particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion. And the region’s tidal marshes and mudflats, which should act as natural barriers, are slowly losing sediment owing to poorly engineered dams.

“Unlike New York City, the Bay Area has all these slower and more invisible problems related to climate change,” says Gena Wirth, ASLA, the design principal at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is bringing some of those unseen issues to light. Last year, judges selected 10 winning teams (SCAPE is the leader of one) made up of ecologists, designers, and landscape architects to imagine infrastructure that works with the region’s shifting landscape rather than against it. The challenge, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, is modeled on New York’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design contest, with one key difference: This one is proactive, not reactive. Instead of waiting for federal funds to come in after a disaster, Continue Reading »

EXIT STRATEGY

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

A retired cranberry bog inspires an innovative approach to wetland restoration.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In 2005, Glorianna Davenport began to think about retiring the cranberry farm she owned in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the late 1980s, the 600-acre farm was producing 1 percent of Ocean Spray’s cranberry harvest, but Davenport had become concerned about the amount of pesticides being used—and the way those pesticides were applied. “Because cranberries are grown on former wetlands, we had to farm with helicopters,” Davenport says. “And spraying chemicals from helicopters is not really great in a densely populated area.” Davenport, a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Laboratory, whose husband bought the cranberry farm in the early 1980s, could also see the handwriting on the wall for older cranberry farms, with new cultivars producing five times as many berries, farmed in places easier to access than wetlands and river bottoms. “The industry was changing pretty radically,” Davenport says. “The way we had been farming was really the legacy of another era.”

Davenport learned that a nearby cranberry farm had been restored back to wetlands—said to be the first project of its kind in the United States—and that she was eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take land out of production to preserve, restore, and enhance wetlands on their properties. The program was established by the 1990 Farm Bill. In 2008, Davenport decided to retire from MIT to undertake the restoration of Tidmarsh Farms. With federal and state funding in hand, she began working with the state’s Department of Fish and Game to pull together an interdisciplinary team of state and federal scientists and river, wetland, and other experts to help restore the bog at Tidmarsh Farms, an effort that took several years.

Ten thousand years ago, glaciers moved down across the northeastern United States, then retreated. As they did, big chunks of ice were left, forming Continue Reading »

TROUBLE ON THE EDGE

BY ANDREW LAVALLEE, FASLA

Pavement and planting beds can play nicely—but it takes thought.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

It is a classic landscape architecture problem: placing pavements next to lawn or planting bed areas. The commonplace nature of this situation belies its complexity, an adjacency that represents an interface between two systems with antithetical requirements. In this case, the edge between pavement and planting bed is an area where an engineered structural system abuts a living horticultural system. Successful design solutions frequently require landscape architects to reconcile competing interests, but it is not always easy, given the demands of a project. In SiteWorks’s practice, we see the pavement–planting edge as a challenge for both designers and contractors alike. The edge merits special attention with regard to how we design and document the condition, how it’s built, and how its thoughtful assembly can benefit long-term performance.

The Basics
Let’s start with what a successful pavement system needs. The structural support of a pavement relies on Continue Reading »

BY ZACH MORTICE

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, compiled in 1979 and printed in 1982. Image courtesy of John Davies and Alexander Kent, The Red Atlas.

A map of Vilnius, Lithuania, produced in Russia at the tail end of the Soviet era, details the speed of the Neris River’s flow (1.8 miles per hour), its depth and width, and that it had a sandy riverbed. In addition, it reveals the dimensions of a nearby bridge, what it’s made of (concrete), and how much it can carry (55 tons). Across the Cold War divide, on Western shores, Soviet cartographers still had a grasp of some of the minutiae that made up its sworn rival’s infrastructure. A 1980 map of San Francisco points out that the Oakland Bay Bridge is constructed of metal and rises between 171 and 213 feet above the water. One of perhaps a million maps made by the Soviets to secretly and conclusively chart the surface of the earth, it’s a relic from what might be the largest and most ambitious cartography effort in history.

Though much of this story’s origins and methods are shrouded in secrecy, British authors and map enthusiasts John Davies and Alexander Kent have found a way to break open these mysteries with a beautiful and brief cartographic volume. Their book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, 2017), focuses on how these maps Continue Reading »

LAMCAST: DE-CODING COLOR

In the latest LAM Lecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design landscape architecture professor Gareth Doherty examines the use of color in design through two climatic and ecological opposites: the landscapes of Bahrain and Brazil. The lecture, titled “Landscapes as Chromatic Relationships,” recounts Doherty’s travels through and fascination with the small desert island nation off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Roberto Burle Marx’s observations of the riotous shades of flora in his native Brazil, both the focus of recent books Doherty has penned.

In Bahrain, as explained in his book Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State (University of California Press, 2017), the color green, especially when it’s observed as flora, is a prized jewel in the beige desert. Its cannibalization at the hands of encroaching development prompts ever-greater displays of resource-intensive landscaping, which leads to an uncomfortable paradox: The presence of green is often not so “green.” It requires tremendous amounts of energy and irrigation to make the desert bloom. For his book, Doherty took an ethnographic approach, exploring Bahrain’s cities and countryside on foot, all the better to look around and chat with natives. In his lecture he recounts melancholy strolls through neglected date palm fields, and farewell ceremonies for beloved courtyard trees about to be torn from the earth at the behest of residential development.

For Brazil, Doherty recounts Marx’s forays into the Brazilian countryside to collect new horticultural specimens, and his newest book (available this spring), Roberto Burle Marx Lectures: Landscape as Art and Urbanism (Lars Müller Publishers), collects the South American designer’s assorted lectures. It includes this sensual appreciation from Marx for nature’s ad hoc genius for composing in color: “All of this polychrome is seated on a backdrop where form, rhythm, and color are in harmony. Nothing was isolated. It was an orchestra of color. The yellows linked to the blues, the blues to the violets, the violets to the pinks. One could speak, even, of a battle of color in which one color would dominate at a particular season, supported by a background whose forms, rhythms, and colors enhanced those of the plants in a very particular way. This instability is precisely one of the great secrets of nature, which never tires us, and is constantly renewed by the effect of light, wind, rain, and shadows, which shape new forms.”

Outside of graphic design and fashion, color is generally stigmatized as a field of inquiry across most design fields. But as Doherty’s lecture and books argue, its mutability of meaning across various cultural contexts makes color a vital artifact in unlocking what a society or community values.

CURB CLOTS

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Seattle works to reconcile the inherent clash between goods delivery and Complete Streets.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The sight of a bike lane blocked by a delivery truck is so common that it has birthed Tumblrs and Twitter hashtags, often as a way to either shame drivers or encourage city officials to better enforce traffic laws. What those Twitter users may not have considered is that every box from Amazon or Blue Apron requires a trip from a warehouse to their door. And as online sales continue to grow (by roughly 15 percent per year), the increasing volume and frequency of home deliveries has cities like Seattle searching for solutions. “For us, it means curb use is changing, and it’s changing fast,” says Christopher Eaves, a civil engineer with Seattle’s Department of Transportation.

The increase in deliveries has major implications for Complete Streets programs, which seek to accommodate the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and vehicular traffic within existing corridors. Like many cities, Seattle has a Complete Streets ordinance, adopted in 2007. At the same time, the city is working to expand its urban canopy and curbside green stormwater infrastructure. “So there’s a whole lot of things competing,” says Peg Staeheli, FASLA, a principal at MIG | SVR in Seattle who thought a lot about freight during her time on Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission.

Recently, the City of Seattle partnered with the University of Washington (UW) and several major retailers to launch the Urban Freight Lab, a three-year research effort to better understand Continue Reading »

IN THE MIX

BY WENDY GILMARTIN

Working in a multidisciplinary firm means every day is different.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You certainly never get bored in a multidisciplinary office. A landscape architect might find herself reviewing federal endangered species listings, hydrology maps, or legal frameworks for land use planning in the daily shuffle, and these are just some of the diverse types of work likely to be present. Industrial mining methods, vernal pool construction, and high-rise plumbing systems could also come into play. The number of landscape architects working in these professional environments is growing as businesses find a competitive edge providing full, in-house services for site development projects that require expertise from designers but also from scientists, legal teams, and engineers. Four landscape architects at the center of these integrated office types share insights about collaboration, isolation, and the willingness to learn something new each day.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Weston & Sampson, Boston

Gene Bolinger, ASLA, Vice President

What are lessons learned from working in a multidisciplinary office for more than 25 years?

Staff at Weston & Sampson (clockwise from left): Elise Bluell, Associate ASLA; Cassidy Chroust, ASLA; Desmond Fang; Brandon Kunkel; and Farah Dakkak, Associate ASLA. Image courtesy of Weston & Sampson.

I came to Weston & Sampson through an acquisition, and I’ve been here since the fall of 1991. Weston & Sampson is an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, and it’s one of those old, legacy northeastern firms. It’s been around since 1899. One of our larger clients is the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and at any given time, we have  eight to 10 projects under way with the City of Boston. We’re pushing up against 500 people in our organization and, again, we’re mostly in the Northeast, with the largest projects in Massachusetts, for sure. Just recently the firm went to a discipline-based structure—we’re actually six disciplines. One of the disciplines is the design discipline, and I manage the design discipline. I’ve become accustomed to working within a multidisciplinary realm, and I celebrate what’s great about it and try to take advantage of what’s great about it.

If you’re sitting back on your hands and you’re assuming that people are going to be delivering exactly what you want at the exact moment you want it, you’re so mistaken. So, that’s why you can’t let things Continue Reading »