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SUPERNATURAL

BY PATRICK SISSON

A new landscape architecture docuseries goes behind the scenery.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s hard to tell the story of the L.A. River without flying through it,” says Michael Todoran, a landscape designer, lecturer, and podcast host. Along with his students at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in January Todoran began filming “Superfisky: The Allure of the Urban Wild,” the first episode of Larchitect, a docuseries devoted to landscape architecture. This in-progress episode focuses on Kat Superfisky, a landscape designer, ecologist, and educator working to restore the natural beauty and native plant life on the shores of the mostly concrete-lined waterway. When the landscape, specifically the Los Angeles River, is a supporting character in your story, visual exposition becomes critical. The best solution was a helicopter shot that showed the true breadth and boundless energy of this body of water. Continue Reading »

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FOREGROUND

Pained Plaza (Planning)
Three public spaces from midcentury Philadelphia have been earmarked for reinvention. Two have succeeded, but one, a space for public expression, remains in limbo.

FEATURES

Black Landscapes Matter
In the introduction to his new book (edited with Grace Mitchell Tada), the 2019 MacArthur Fellow and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, argues for the power and visibility of landscapes designed and shaped by Black people.

The Dark Side of Light
Sensitive lighting design is one of the hidden assets of thriving public places, but designers worry that their work is increasingly being used to watch rather than illuminate.

The full table of contents for December can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting December articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Pained Plaza,” Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA; “Black Landscapes Matter,” Hood Design Studio; “The Dark Side of Light,” Elizabeth Felicella.

THE EMERGENT EPITAPH

BY ZACH MORTICE

John Whitaker’s Dark Matter project posits a memorial landscape that is a forum for collective action and protest. Image courtesy John Whitaker, Student ASLA.

An ASLA Student Award-winning project challenges outdated death practices.

 

One of the most startling projects submitted for the 2020 ASLA Student Awards was Dark Matter—a proposal that uses landscape as a transmission medium for the ecological values of the deceased. With arresting images and a somewhat unconventional project type, Dark Matter dazzled the jury, which bestowed the Award of Excellence in General Design on the project last spring. John Whitaker, Student ASLA, an MLA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, designed a proposal that created a memorial landscape that grows over time to unify human remains with nonhuman ecologies, promoting biological and cultural diversity and offering mourners “the continuation of a relationship that would endure over time with both their loved one and the larger site,” Whitaker says. Continue Reading »

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 TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Jaz Bonnin, Heidi Brandow, Elsa Hoover, and Zoë Toledo walked through the doors of Harvard University’s Gund Hall, they weren’t aware they were making history. The women arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging interests, from affordable housing to the spatialization of resource extraction. Still, the women had one thing in common: heritage that stretches back to well before Western contact. Brandow is Diné and Kanaka Maoli (known more commonly as Navajo and Native Hawaiian); Toledo is Diné; Hoover, of mixed Anishinabe and Finnish heritage; and Bonnin, of mixed heritage that includes Yankton Sioux and Blackfoot.

The students’ arrival at the GSD in fall 2019 marked the first time in the school’s nearly 100-year history that four students of Native ancestry have been enrolled at the same time. It’s an illustration of the near-total absence of Indigenous voices within the design and planning professions. For Brandow, a painter who is pursuing a master’s degree in art, design, and the public domain, such experiences are all too common. “As a Native person, being at Harvard, or anything you do, you accept that you’re probably going to be the first, or one of a handful of people,” she says. “You accept that Harvard is 500 years behind on this. But you also recognize that’s an opportunity to get the work done. To create these spaces, to increase visibility, to make this declaration of our presence and the necessity of more recruitment of Indigenous people.” Continue Reading »

This fall, LAM will be highlighting professional and student winners from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

The LivingRoom: A Freeware Learning Garden Focused on Health, Food, and Nutrition Education, by Simon Powney, Tripp Dunn, Huang Zhaoheng, Ben Gunter, Jacob Felkins, Cody Eades, Walter Hogue, Matthew Stanton, Clint Kiser, Logan Sullivan, Nada Aziz, Natalie Bowers, Brandon Burton, Oriey Glenn, and Jane Kent; Mississippi State University, Student Collaboration Honor Award.

“The inspiration for the color and bold graphic style used in the Galloway Elementary School LivingRoom Garden came from an existing mural at the school that speaks to local food production and programmatic discussions with education researchers. The style uses a simple palette of primary colors and geometric shapes to represent local food selections. The arrangement is based on a few ideas about how elementary age children can use the garden. First, there is a series of spaces that can be used to identify destinations. ‘Meet on the big watermelon’ or ‘Let’s go sit in the tomato and talk about this.’ Second, [there’s] the need for structure so multiple groups could use it at the same time. ‘Let’s walk on the “peas” path so we don’t get in the way of the class on the “carrots” path.’ Third, the ‘peas’ end in an ordering grid that allows teachers to instruct children to order things they find in the garden by size, color, texture, shape, etc. and have discussions about the differences.”

—Simon Powney, Student ASLA

 

Teaching children about how food is grown is a worthy endeavor. But school administrators are daunted by the funding requirements and maintenance of a school garden. A team of landscape architecture, architecture, and graphic design students created a prototype for a learning garden that is affordable and practical. Instead of small-scale farming, the student team described the design as focused on “aligning teachers’ needs with food, health, and nutrition education goals.” The resulting semicircular planter, made with off-the-shelf components for less than $1,500, incorporates a trellis, seating, and an irrigation system. Working with an educator, the team also created a garden curriculum that is organized around the themes of time, color, math, biology, and seasons, allowing the lessons to be incorporated easily into the regular school curriculum.

—Lydia Lee

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

REVIEWED BY JUSTIN PARSCHER

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

Students should learn to draw by hand, to fly drones, to do interpretive dance, to do light construction. They should collaborate with social scientists, with soil scientists, with local community members, with their counterparts in New Zealand. They need to be able to craft policy, wrangle BIM data, construct dioramas, and plant green roofs. In the best-case scenario, there are only five years to fit this all in. What is crucial? What gets left out? And keep in mind the vast array of wicked problems converging on us while we try to figure that out.

The two new Teaching Landscape books put out by the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) give the reader an acute sense of the sheer scope of the mission landscape architecture educators take on. As the former ECLAS president Simon Bell explains in his foreword to the Routledge Handbook of Teaching Landscape, “This book originated in a deeply felt need by all ECLAS members for up-to-date materials to help them to teach. It must be said at the outset that we do not want all schools to be alike and to teach exactly the same things in the same ways—we want to maintain diversity.” The results reflect that. The topics of teaching range widely, from the theoretical to the applied, and from technology to writing. The end result is often difficult to treat as an actual handbook. With some exceptions, like Peter M. Butler’s useful primer for creating a service learning studio, the majority of the contributions are case studies of the authors’ own classes, usually without much context given as to the curriculum in which they sit. The overwhelming variety gives you the same sense of disbelief you have watching the finalists at the Westminster Dog Show: How are these things all related? And how would you judge them against each other? Continue Reading »

THE SCRIPTED SURFACE

BY JESSICA CANFIELD, ASLA

Parametric modeling aids the design for a complex paving pattern at a corporate campus.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When stepping off the city sidewalk and into the site of the Cummins headquarters building in Indianapolis, there’s an immediate sense of arrival into a distinct landscape. David A. Rubin, FASLA, the principal and lead designer at DAVID RUBIN Land Collective, says that the site is an expression of choice, with amenities for collaboration and contemplation, “allowing people the capacity to choose where to be most creative.” This could be in a cluster in the amphitheater, in movable seating, at an isolated bench, or around the long, Wi-Fi-enabled community table, dubbed the “High-Tech Harvest Table” by the design team.

Located in downtown Indianapolis, the Cummins DBU (shorthand for Cummins Inc.’s Distribution Business Unit headquarters) site spans a full city block. Along the site’s western edge is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a citywide bike and pedestrian path. Sweeps of vegetation planted atop elongated berms extend inward from here to guide circulation and, as Rubin describes it, to create a sense that the landscape was intentionally carved back to reveal the underlying hardscape. The main path, which zigzags east–west to connect the building entry and parking garage, widens at the heart of the site to become the central plaza. This multifunctional gathering space is framed by amphitheater seating and can accommodate performances and special events. Just adjacent is a communal work space, the Social Hub, where employees can bring their laptops and connect to power and Wi-Fi. A more secluded area, the Dell, offers benches for quieter work. These distinct subspaces are threaded together by a continuous two-toned paving pattern, creating a unified surface and visual identity for the site.

The eye-catching paving pattern, comprising alternating bands of light and dark concrete pavers, echoes the calibrated facade of the new Deborah Berke Partners building and is emblematic of a checkered flag, in reference to the Cummins diesel engine enterprise. The design team first explored concepts for the paving pattern through sketches and a 3-D model. According to Land Collective’s project manager, Henry Moll III, Affiliate ASLA, “Early studies included larger concepts of fading patterns and pixilation,” but ultimately they went with the more geometric and focused pattern. After selecting the two-toned scheme, the team turned to Grasshopper to further explore and refine the pattern’s scale and color distribution.

Grasshopper, which is now included in Rhino 6, is a visual scripting tool used for parametric modeling. In parametric modeling, design outcomes are created through the application of scripts, which establish and define relationships between components within given constraints. In a design workflow, a script can be used for ideation or for accomplishing a specific task. Moll describes Grasshopper as ideal for working with repetitive elements, because you can automate complex goals, which lends itself well to developing patterns. Continue Reading »