PETER WALKER’S POINT

BY GWENETH LEIGH, ASLA

The Barangaroo Reserve transforms Sydney Harbour’s old industrial landscape.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When I was a child growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, my understanding of landscape was one of changing purpose. Cornfields were converted into housing subdivisions and office parks. Old winding roads were straightened, thickened with extra lanes, and punctuated by traffic lights. It was the small discoveries—an arrowhead in the garden, a bullet lodged in a tree—that revealed the older stories of these fractured landscapes. The layers of roads, power lines, and strip malls made any trace of a site’s earlier history difficult to imagine.

But what if we were to allow a landscape to break free from the confines of concrete curbs, smooth out its industrial wrinkles, and pluck off architectural blemishes in an effort to recapture a semblance of its younger, more picturesque self? Where injections of earth and rock serve as the Botox for an aging landscape, erasing the creases of human development in favor of a more natural topography. So begins the story of Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. Continue Reading »

WE DECLARE

FEATURE: We Declare

Reformulating a historic agenda after half a century.

FROM THE MAY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia in June of 1966, Ian McHarg, Grady Clay, Campbell Miller, Charles R. Hammond, George E. Patton, and John O. Simonds presented “A Declaration of Concern” on behalf of landscape architecture, reproduced below. It was a statement on the growing crisis in the natural environment and the claim of landscape architects in averting the environment’s total destruction. To the degree the declaration was dramatic and self-regarding, it was also true. It preceded much of the formal regulatory protection—preventive, punitive, and remedial—of resources that we know now. The declaration’s alarm over pollution and ecological ruin speaks for itself, but it managed to be both critical and optimistic. Its hope lay in the ability of landscape architects to figure out across disciplines how to make nature and society work as a whole, healthy system.

In 2016, the Landscape Architecture Foundation marked the half century of “A Declaration of Concern” with “The New Landscape Declaration,” a gathering of landscape architects, scholars, and advocates at the University of Pennsylvania in June of that year. The foundation, which was also turning 50, asked a number of participants to write declarations of their own for the occasion as latter-day responses to the original. Five are linked to below. Landscape architects have by no means retired the threats of 50 years ago, and other threats have proliferated around them, but the moral vision of the profession conceived at the midcentury has enlarged accordingly.

“A Declaration of Concern—June 1966” 

We urge a new, collaborative effort to improve the American environment and to train a new generation of Americans equipped by education, inspiring example, and improved organizations to help create that environment.

A sense of crisis has brought us together. What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow. We are concerned over misuse of the environment and development which has lost all contact with the basic processes of nature. Lake Erie is becoming septic, New York City is short of water, the Delaware River is infused with salt, the Potomac River with sewage and silt. Air is polluted in major cities and their citizens breathe and see with difficulty. Most urban Americans are being separated from visual and physical contact with nature in any form. All too soon life in such polluted environments will be the national human experience. Continue Reading »

CRISIS ACTORS

BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: Continue Reading »

MADE TO DISAPPEAR

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN SCOTT

In dry western Washington, a fruit company compound by Berger Partnership all but vanishes in a shroud of native plantings.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The shift takes place just past Cle Elum. Driving the 140 miles from Seattle to Yakima, Washington, crossing the Cascade Range at Snoqualmie Pass, the landscape seems to dissolve in the span of a few minutes. The ponderosa pine forest gives way to high desert so quickly it’s as if the towering trees had been shrunk by a laser, transfigured into gnarly sagebrush. Dotting eastern Washington’s arid, gray-brown shrub steppe are green pastures, fields, orchards, and farms. The Yakima Valley is one of the most productive regions in Washington, thanks to a massive irrigation project undertaken around the turn of the 20th century. Farmers here grow apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and plums, as well as grapes for wine and hops for beer. The Yakima Valley produces more hops than anywhere else in the United States and more than two-thirds of Washington’s wine grapes, an industry worth nearly $5 billion.

And yet the sparsely vegetated ridges reveal the climatological truth of this place: that under normal conditions, the Cascades are a good enough goalie to prevent all but a fraction of western Washington’s wetness from slipping past them, and the presence of even the smallest amount of water is broadcast in bright pops of color. The draws and gullies appear as gashes of green, yellow, pink, and white, as if someone took a landscape painting, folded it in two, and stuffed the canvas into a crevice.

I take in the view from the cab of a 2016 Toyota Tacoma hurtling eastward on Interstate 90. Jason Henry, ASLA, a principal at the Seattle-based Berger Partnership, is driving. We’re on our way to Yakima, a sprawled-out town of roughly 100,000 people, where Berger Partnership recently completed the landscape for the headquarters of the Washington Fruit & Produce Company, a family-owned grower founded in 1916. Although Henry has lived in Seattle since 1996, the landscape architect has a deep connection to the Yakima Valley. His mother was born in Selah, just north of Yakima, and as a child, he spent summers at his aunt and uncle’s ranch outside the city, exploring and fishing and occasionally helping out in the family orchards. He still has cousins in the fruit industry. Continue Reading »

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, FASLA. Photo courtesy Sam Brown Photography.

FROM THE UPCOMING NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In August, the Cultural Landscape Foundation announced that it was launching a major new international prize in landscape architecture. On Tuesday, the foundation made it official that the prize will be named for the landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, FASLA, for her “leading role in addressing environmental, ecological, and social issues and the impact of climate change.”

The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize will be awarded every two years beginning in 2021, and will be the only prize in the profession with a $100,000 award attached. Recipients will also be the subject of events sponsored by the foundation that focus on their practice to show the development and achievements of landscape architecture. Continue Reading »

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Among this year’s superb ASLA Student Award winners, it seems almost as if several of the designers had an advance copy of the latest report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The panel supports the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, originator of the 2015 Paris Agreement, by providing scientific reports on climate change impacts, and ways to mitigate or adapt to them. Its latest major report, Climate Change and Land, came out in early August, and in many ways runs directly alongside the contemporary concerns of landscape architecture. The report details the interactions between land and climate, the ways human activity on land (which “provides the basis for human livelihoods and well-being”) contributes to global warming and, in turn, how climate change affects the integrity of the land people depend on for food and fiber (and often to our detriment, for fuel).

The realities of agriculture are a near-constant presence in the new report and, I think, the next frontier for landscape architecture to consider, particularly for agriculture’s role in rampant land degradation and the loss of biodiversity. In this year’s Student Awards, Continue Reading »

NO US AND THEM

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JARED BREY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Darren Damone, ASLA, and Katharine Griffiths were standing on a boardwalk at Avalon Park & Preserve, in Stony Brook, New York, looking across the pond at a gang of cormorants loitering in the branches of a beech tree.

“They used to nest over here, and it was a disaster zone,” said Griffiths, the director of the preserve. “It used to smell like a bluefish factory. It was nasty. They did a lot of damage to the trees in this area.… That’s what happens. They strip the leaves to put in their nest, and then their guano is so acidic that it just burns everything. They’re kind of sloppy birds.”

It was a May morning, and the squealing songs of cardinals spilled out of the woods behind us. We took a curving path up a hill to a smaller pond, fed by what looked like an underground stream, and I asked, credulously, where the headwaters were.

“This is just recirculating,” Damone said, looking amused. “This is completely created.”

In 1996, before the preserve existed, Paul Simons, a local nature lover who liked to ride his bike on a path through the property, was struck by a car on Long Island and killed. In his honor, the Simons family created the Paul Simons Foundation, and bought the eight-acre property that would later become Avalon Park & Preserve. Griffiths was a friend of the Simons family and had just finished college in Ontario, studying political science and horticulture, and she moved to Stony Brook to lead the preserve. Creating the preserve was a way for the Simons family to grieve, she said, and it was meant to be a place that Paul would have wanted to be. Beyond that, she told me later, “We didn’t have a vision, really.”

So it turned to Andropogon, the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, to create Continue Reading »

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