Archive for March, 2012

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There is a lot of criticism being leveled at Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial. It’s been compared to a Nazi death camp, a missile silo, and Soviet tributes to Marx and Lenin. The biggest point of contention, though, seems to be the depiction of Eisenhower as a young man. “[T]he only representation of Eisenhower himself [is] a statue of him as a barefoot teenage boy in Abilene,” wrote Conrad Black for the National Review Online. “This is nonsense. The monument is not raised up to a farm boy, but to the Supreme Commander of the Allied armies that liberated Western Europe in 1944 and 1945 and to a two-term president of the United States.”

Black, who maintains a lively writing practice from his federal prison cell in Florida, is misinformed. As Witold Rybczynski noted in the New York Times, two giant stone reliefs show Eisenhower the general and Eisenhower the elder statesman. “In this context, the small statue will have the effect of a footnote,” Rybczynski writes. It is significantly smaller than either of the stone reliefs. Also, the statue will not depict Eisenhower barefoot, says the memorial commission that is overseeing the project, which has come out forcefully and unanimously in favor of Gehry. But to show Eisenhower barefoot would be a nice touch. Eisenhower was proud of his rise from simple roots.

I hated Gehry’s design when I first saw images of the physical model. (more…)

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Image: ASLA

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has awarded the 2012 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture to Kathryn Gustafson, ASLA, of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol in Seattle and Gustafson Porter in London. The award is “given to an architect of any nationality who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art.” Hold the hair-splitting about Gustafson’s being a landscape architect. It’s a major prize, and well deserved. Gustafson is the third landscape architect to receive the award since it began in 1955; the other two have been Dan Kiley in 1995 and Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, in 2010.

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The state of the economy is a hot topic at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign this week. While things seem to be improving, there is some concern about what will happen to the many architects and landscape architects who were laid off and still can’t find work.  Ted Landsmark, president of the Boston Architectural College, and Mark Hoverston, dean of the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Idaho, discussed this at the table where LAM is stationed for the gathering. “We’re going to lose a whole generation [of designers], but it’s not the generation we thought,” Landsmark said. Both agreed that recent grads, at least those who had secured the technical skills that firms are seeking, are being hired. It is the mid-career professionals—10 years out of school—that they were most concerned about.


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Courtesy Eight19

In sub-Saharan Africa, 300 million people don’t have electricity. Those who can afford it save up for solar systems, buying them component by component—battery, light, inverter, solar panel—sometimes taking years to buy the cheapest, $50 systems. Those systems are still too expensive for many, who settle for kerosene lamps or do without.

Mother Nature Network reports that a new system makes solar power work much like phone cards—customers put money on “scratch cards” and use them to pay for electricity, which costs about $1 a week, as much as $2 less than kerosene. A company called Eight19 has created IndiGo, a pay-as-you-go solar electricity option. For as little as $10, people can get a 3-watt solar panel, battery, two LED lamps, phone charging unit, and module. People who buy the system can put money on their scratch cards with their mobile phones.

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Courtesy Flux

Spotted at the Architectural Design Home Design Show: a folding chair that really folds. Made of polypropylene, the Flux chair looks like a big envelope until you bend it around and insert Tab A into Slot B. It is the creation of two young Dutch designers, Douwe Jacobs and Tom Schouten, who worked on paper origami prototypes until they folded a winner. A video on their website shows the transformation and how sturdy the chair is once it’s set up.

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I had the opportunity to ogle the fabulous offerings at the Architectural Design Home Design Show in New York City today. It runs through Sunday, and if you’re in NYC it’s worth a trip down to Pier 94 to check it out. Indoor furnishings predominate, but great outdoor products are interspersed throughout, from big names like Royal Botania, Design Lush, and Ligne Roset to smaller companies such as Board by Design and Zachary A. Design. You’ll be seeing some of the best finds in the pages of our Goods column over the next few months.

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Like many landscape architects my age, I grew up cheating at SimCity. I’d type F-U-N-D, over and over, increasing my city’s general funds so I could provide all the parks, waterfalls, and other amenities I wanted for my denizens. I’d even develop interconnected park systems, inspired by Olmsted’s parkways in Buffalo, New York. Then, of course, I’d set fire to it all.

Well, it looks like a whole new generation of 10-year-olds will be able to be inspired by—and set fire to—sim cities. This month, the software company Maxis released a trailer for its first new edition of the game in nearly a decade—to be released in 2013. Word is the game will have a more regional focus and incorporate a variety of new environmental issues. Your city won’t just be subject to a nuclear meltdown but also the emissions from the coal power plant in the neighboring town. “If the old SimCity could nurture a generation of urban planners, perhaps its newest rendition will inspire tomorrow’s natural resource managers and environmental engineers,” writes Nathanael Massey on Scientific American’s ClimateWire. Or maybe they’ll split the difference, and we’ll end up with more landscape architects.

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