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BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze Continue Reading »

BIM THERE, DONE THAT

BY BRIAN BARTH

One practitioner defies the handicaps of building Information modeling for landscape, determined not to remain an exception.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Meghen Quinn, ASLA, has a secret. BIM—an acronym that puts moonbeams in the eyes of architects, but makes some landscape architects cringe—is her software of choice. BIM, shorthand for building information modeling, is the 3-D, data-rich software platform embodied by Revit, a product launched in 2000 by Charles River Software and acquired by Autodesk two years later. By 2012, 70 percent of architecture firms in North America reported using BIM, and in 2016 the American Institute of Architects reported that BIM was used for nearly 100 percent of projects at large firms.

It seems that so few landscape architects use BIM, however, that no one has ever bothered to collect the data. Its reputation in the field is as a clunky, building-centric, overly complex tool that has put up yet another barrier between landscape designers and architects.

Yet Quinn, who merged her San Francisco practice with the Office of Cheryl Barton in January, is all moonbeams. Well, mostly. “I never want to use CAD again,” she says. “Moving to BIM is like Continue Reading »

When the landscape architects at Mahan Rykiel Associates found themselves with uprooted trees they couldn’t fit back onto a newly designed and built mixed-use building site, they offered them to a local Baltimore middle school in the Locust Point neighborhood. But after talking with the principal of Francis Scott Key Middle School, they quickly realized that there was an opportunity for a much deeper collaboration than simply donating some foliage.  So the landscape architects began designing a school yard with four different types of learning environments, to aid what they call “STEM-based environmental education.” Project Birdland will be the first phase of a partnership between Mahan Rykiel Associates and Francis Scott Key Middle School. Students will work with a biologist and the fabricators at Gutierrez Studios to design and build birdhouses for endangered and threatened bird species. From the outset, the project gives students an introduction to the humancentric world of design and craft and also to the creation of habitats for their neighboring fauna.

BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of Land8: Landscape Architects Network.

The landscape architecture websites Land8 and Landscape Architects Network (LAN) have merged. The resulting media platform aims to add focus to original content creation while serving an international audience. “We want to be the most visited website in landscape architecture,” says Matt Alcide, Land8’s majority owner.

LAN will largely dissolve into Land8 with the merger, as the Arlington, Virginia-based Land8 will Continue Reading »

THE EBB OF FLOES

BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Artist Zaria Forman’s large-scale pastels describe a vanishing Antarctic.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Brooklyn-based artist Zaria Forman draws in fine detail to capture expansive corners of the Earth. Her large-scale, hyperrealistic pastel works feature, most recently, Antarctic landscapes affected by climate change. “I’m trying to offer people a time and a place to connect with these very far-flung places,” Forman says. “If they can fall in love with [these places] in a similar way that I have, then that will lead them to want to protect and preserve them.” Forman has been completing a drawing series and video installation for an upcoming solo exhibition, Antarctica, inspired by her first trip to the polar continent as an artist in residence aboard the National Geographic Explorer in winter 2015.

Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 4 captures the fragility of a remote harbor off the Antarctic Peninsula that is filled with melting icebergs that calved, drifted, and ran aground on the shallow seafloor. Forman says that as the icebergs melt, “it’s like the wind and the water are just hands, just making these most incredible shapes that you can’t even conceive of until you’re there.” Bays that enclose icebergs like these are called iceberg graveyards, a term that “captures the eerie solemnity of the site,” Forman says, “but Continue Reading »

WHO IS SUSAN COMBS?

BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Richard Crossley [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, left; Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, right.

From the upcoming September 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Susan Combs will be back for the golden-cheeked warbler. Combs is a former Texas state comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and state representative who has been nominated by President Trump to run the policy and budget section of the U.S. Department of Interior. The job will put her in charge of all things related to the Endangered Species Act, under which the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) is listed as being at risk of extinction. She “has an aesthetic interest in the golden-cheeked warbler and seeks to conserve the warbler and its habitat within Texas,” according to a petition she signed in June 2015 to have the bird taken off the federal Endangered Species list. But “Combs believes that local and state conservation efforts would be of greater benefit to the warbler and that continued unwarranted regulation under the Endangered Species Act can impede voluntary and local conservation efforts.”

Combs seems fond of these voluntary and local conservation efforts, as opposed to statutory mandates, to protect species, perhaps because they have little if any force. In 2011, she masterminded an effort called the Texas Conservation Plan for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). The plan was less about conserving the lizard than keeping it off the Endangered Species list and out of the way of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Farm Bureau, among other cosigners of the plan, with “a locally controlled and innovative approach.” Another cosigner was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region office. The problem, according to Gary G. Mowad, a former enforcement official and Texas administrator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was that Continue Reading »

The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM. 

Photo by Louise Johns.

From “Ears to the Ground” by Timothy A. Schuler in our August 2017 issue, about the quest by Brenda Williams, ASLA, to turn the mythic Native American landscape of Blood Run into a park that stretches over two states.

“Midwest mist.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 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.