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Archive for the ‘ACCESSIBILITY’ Category

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

In Miami Beach, elevating streets is not without growing pains.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Faced with rising sea levels, the City of Miami Beach is lifting itself out of the water’s way—one street at a time. Beginning with the neighborhoods lowest in elevation, the city has raised dozens of streets in the past few years, some by as much as two feet. The $500 million project, which also includes new stormwater pumps, is a coordinated effort to prevent flooding in the long term. In the short term, however, the rapid elevation of the public right-of-way is presenting the city with novel challenges.

Some of those challenges, such as pumps that can fail during power outages, are mechanical. Others are legal. When one restaurant flooded, its insurance company initially refused to cover damages after classifying the restaurant’s dining area as a “basement” since it was now lower than the surrounding grade. (The city installed generators to solve the first problem and advocated on behalf of the restaurant owner, whose claim was eventually approved, to solve the second.) Other challenges involve the design of the public realm. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

By Wheeler Cowperthwaite [CC BY-SA 2.0, GFDL, or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

FROM THE UPCOMING APRIL 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the landmark legislation had survived broad, hostile opposition from business lobbyists who claimed its cost and liability would run companies into the ground. But with monumental effort and few exceptions, the law has succeeded in opening a once-closed world of transportation, employment, government, communications, and public accommodations to people with disabilities—and everyone else lived. Nearly all commercial businesses that serve the public have had to create full access and remove obstacles to their establishments. Design professionals, not least landscape architects, have been active at the core of this revolution, turning the law’s many dimensional requirements into reality as ramps, doors, railings, driveways, slopes, stairs, and all the rest. For most people, the law is a fact of life, and a welcome one.

“It is a civil rights issue, not a code compliance issue,” said Peg Staeheli, FASLA, a principal of MIG | SvR in Seattle. “Today we find most clients ahead in thinking about inclusive design.”

There are some retrograde types, though, who haven’t learned to live with the ADA. In February, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would significantly weaken the ADA’s public accommodations provisions. The bill, H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, passed by a vote of (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A recent study shows that Portland’s public docks nicely suit swimmers.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Early morning swims across the river. An annual river float and beach party. A full-moon, women-only swim known as “Naked Goddess.” These are just some of the events organized by the Human Access Project to encourage people in Portland, Oregon, to dip their toes (and more) in the Willamette River. After all, says Willie Levenson, the ringleader (his official title) of the nonprofit organization, the river is the city’s largest public space and ought to be seen and used as such. Most recently, Levenson enlisted the help of MIG’s Portland office to explore the feasibility of repurposing downtown boat docks as places for sanctioned swimming.

City planners, working with Mayer/Reed, already had evaluated downtown Portland for potential swimming areas but had focused mostly on beaches. Levenson saw the city’s docks as another, potentially cheaper point of access. Working practically pro bono (Levenson’s budget was $5,000), MIG chose five docks (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KYLE JEFFERS

Mixed-income housing alone can’t change public housing residents’ lives. So Gary Strang is putting the landscape to work.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Correction appended.

The first thing you notice is all the cars. The Potrero Hill housing projects occupy a strange landscape divided by Jersey barriers and concrete retaining walls that carve up the site’s topography. Endless rows of cars are parked along its curving streets and in front of 62 three- and four-story barracks-style buildings that step down the steep hill. It’s the first indication that this isolated, often forgotten section of the city is not that well connected to the thriving, upscale urbanism of San Francisco that surrounds it. “The beautiful green landscape, the Corbusian dream, just becomes parking,” says Gary Strang, FASLA, the founder of GLS Landscape | Architecture, the firm that was hired to radically reshape this place.

For Curteesha Cosby, who lives at Potrero, these parked cars are sometimes a refuge of last resort. When she’s walking her kids to school at 7:00 a.m. and hears gunfire, she hits the ground and rolls her children under them till it ends. She says she hears shooting nearly every day. She’s exhausted by Potrero. “I just want people to be happy and everyone to be safe,” she says. Her cousin was gunned down in the housing complex a few days before we spoke. Edward Hatter, the executive director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, a nonprofit serving the area, tells me the community is waiting for the retaliatory violence that often follows shootings.

Potrero Terrace and Annex has long been one of San Francisco’s most dysfunctional large-scale public housing developments. Residents complain of (more…)

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BY RACHEL DOVEY

For Alaska’s Anan Wildlife Observatory, Suzanne Jackson designs around the attraction: bears.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

Suzanne Jackson spent nearly 30 years as a landscape architect at the Aspen, Colorado, office of Design Workshop, channeling her passion for backcountry hiking into habitat restoration and open space preservation. But it was when Jackson reconnected with her former colleague Barth Hamberg that things began to get, well, wild. Hamberg manages the landscape architecture program for Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, the largest national forest in the nation. In 2014, he offered Jackson a two-year post.

Jackson was charged with creating a master plan for the Anan Wildlife Observatory, which is located on a remote peninsula in Tongass’s Wrangell district and accessible only by boat or floatplane. It’s a steeply sloping temperate rain forest of spruce, hemlock, and huckleberries, and the pools and waterfalls of Anan Creek support one of the region’s largest pink salmon runs. That means a lot of hungry predators gathering to feast: black bears, grizzlies (called brown bears locally), (more…)

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BY ALEX ULAM

India Basin Shoreline Park. Image courtesy of GGN.

Early this month, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land and officials from the city of San Francisco announced that San Francisco is the first city in the country to have a park within a 10-minute walk, or a half mile, of every resident.

“Most city residents won’t walk more than 10 minutes to get to shopping, transit, or parks, so close-to-home access to parks is vital for public health, clean environments, and thriving, equitable communities,” said Adrian Benepe, Honorary ASLA, the Trust for Public Land’s urban parks director, in a news release. “This is an enormous achievement, based on years of dedicated and thoughtful work and planning.”

To build a more equitable park system, San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department formed partnerships with nonprofits such as the Trust for Public Land   (more…)

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BY JANE MARGOLIES

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Fifteen years in the making, a new public space reunites Chicago with the river that runs through it.

FROM THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

“Isn’t it hot?” Gina Ford, ASLA, asked excitedly, waving a well-jacketed arm around her on a cold morning this past fall as she, the architect Carol Ross Barney, and Terry Ryan, FASLA, met up at the Chicago Riverwalk to show me around.

Not exactly the word I would have chosen, given the temperature, but, yes, the new promenade they designed along the Chicago River, in the downtown of Illinois’s largest city, most definitely is.

Extending eight blocks along the river’s southern bank at a level below the streetscape, the Riverwalk is part of a 1.25-mile path from Lake Michigan inland that some are calling the city’s “second shoreline” (the lake, which borders Chicago to the east, being the “first,” of course). Each block-long space is bookended by the historic bridge houses that operate the movable spans that cross the waterway. And each has its own distinct riverside character, ranging from the Marina, a hub of food and drink purveyors, to the Jetty, an ecology-themed section that includes floating gardens and fishing piers. A continuous pathway stitches the segments together, weaving around the bridge houses before continuing on. And all of it adds up to a (more…)

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