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BY LYDIA LEE

San Francisco’s Exploratorium discovers its outdoor spaces.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

One of the most popular exhibits at San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an immersive experience of the city’s iconic fog. When you walk along the 150-foot-long Fog Bridge by the artist Fujiko Nakaya, you disappear into a white mist generated by 800 tiny nozzles. “When everything is fogged up around you, it’s a wonderful ‘noticing’ tool,” says Tom Rockwell, the Exploratorium’s director of exhibits and media studio. “You notice the change in temperature, the air currents, the light.”

It’s fitting that the Exploratorium, one of the original hands-on museums, encourages visitors to engage directly with the wild. The foundation for its outdoor exhibits is a series of broad decks around the waterfront museum—more than an acre of hardscape—designed by the San Francisco firm GLS Landscape | Architecture. Notably, most of the outdoor areas are accessible by the public and don’t require a ticket for admission. They fulfill a state mandate for public waterfront access, but they are also an important part of the museum’s mission to connect with a much wider community beyond its paying attendees. The spaces are testing grounds for outdoor installations (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A hydrogel-enabled seed bomb. Credit: U.S. provisional patent application No. 62/465,341. Nahin Shah | Martina Decker, Material Dynamics Lab.

The tools for tactical urbanism seem more likely to be developed in community center meeting halls and anonymous Internet forums rather than university laboratories. But at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), an architecture professor is working on ways to give impromptu urban vegetation efforts staying power with hydrogel seed bombs.

Martina Decker, who directs NJIT’s Idea Factory and Material Dynamics Lab, is combining seed bombs—balls of organic matter that protect and help seeds packed within them grow—with hydrogel granulates, polymers that are extremely hydrophilic, (more…)

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BY ALEX ULAM

Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

A federal judge has halted Pier 55 in New York City’s Hudson River Park, a constructed island of 2.75 acres expected to cost $200 million.

Plans for Pier 55, by the British design sensation Thomas Heatherwick and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, call for a sloping, verdant extravaganza atop hundreds of mushroom-shaped concrete pilings driven into the riverbed. The new parkland was designed to do double duty as performance space and would be largely paid for by the billionaire Barry Diller and his wife, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who had established a nonprofit to maintain the place and establish programming for the venues.

But now, owing to a lawsuit by the City Club of New York and other opponents, the permit for Pier 55 has been revoked (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Jack Dangermond built a tech colossus, and a fortune, from GIS. Now he’s sharing it all to save the world.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Jack Dangermond wears oversized tortoise-shell glasses. At 72, his hairline has receded halfway back on his head. For work, he dresses casually—open collar, v-neck sweater. His manner is gracious and energetic, but calm and notably confident. He tends to speak as if in final draft, which he credits to years of dictating correspondence. He is tall and rangy, but it’s quite possible that when he arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1967 to earn an MLA he would have been taken for a geek. His ulterior motive in going there, after all, was “to start playing with computer mapping”—when computer mapping barely existed.

The school’s pioneering Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis had been founded two years earlier by the architecture professor Howard Fisher.

Dangermond says that on meeting Fisher, “He immediately hired me. Within an hour. Which was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my life.” Harvard was one hot spot of the era’s radical activism. “The Vietnam War was going on,” he says, “revolution in the air, protestors shutting down the university, creating all kinds of controversy. This big aha! moment came for my wife Laura and myself, who were both working there in the basement of Memorial Hall. We had a job making computer maps, doing air pollution studies and land-use suitability studies. The realization was, ‘We don’t want to go right or left; we just want to go forward with this idea of (more…)

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April is, of course, World Landscape Architecture Month. This year, to mark the occasion, LAM is issuing a special supplement for young readers, called YOUR LAND. It offers a basic introduction to landscape and landscape architecture, a look at the methods and goals of the profession, a breakout of several intriguing types of projects, a career primer, and, not least, a glossary of landscape architecture terms! Our goal is plain: to encourage the making of more future landscape architects. For many people, landscape architecture is a second career choice after they have made their first, and one they like better—it’s mainly a matter of exposure to the wide range of things landscape architects do in their work. We figure sooner is better, so this supplement is free and available digitally for downloading. For limited quantities of bulk print copies for classrooms or other groups, e-mail discover@asla.org (shipping charges apply).

Our regular April issue is every bit as exciting, covering a range of bold work that is reshaping landscape architecture today. In the cover feature, Michael Dumiak reports on an audacious plan by H+N+S Landscape Architects in the Netherlands, led by Dirk Sijmons, to power the countries around the North Sea with wind energy by the year 2050. It’s a multinational endeavor that transcends bureaucracies as well as boundaries in hopes of making these countries fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which took effect last year, of holding the average global temperature to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels by reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

Back in North America, Jack Dangermond and his company, Esri, have done as much or more than anyone since the onset of the digital age to help decode the Earth’s landscape with the computational tools known as geographic information systems, or GIS. At this stage of his career, as Jonathan Lerner profiles, Dangermond is putting that might behind his Green Infrastructure Initiative, the goal of which is “to identify and secure the critical remaining large cores of relatively unspoiled landscape” on a national scale. It is a galactic attempt to counter (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Tillage radish is similar in shape, size, taste, and color to daikon radish. Image courtesy of MVVA.

Oilseed radish, or Raphanus sativus, goes by the name “tillage radish,” “radish ripper,” “fracking radish,” and the comic book-worthy “turbo radish.” It can reach its two-inch-wide taproots down six feet, breaking up compacted soil and rebalancing nutrient levels, and is commonly put to work as a cover crop in agricultural fields. But the designers at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) found another, more high-profile use for them: to remediate the soil during the renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis, one of the largest and most important landscape revamp projects in the nation. This reimagining of Dan Kiley’s mid-20th-century landscape is using an unprecedented application of soil-remediating vegetation into this sort of sensitive and historic National Park Service property, says Adrienne Heflich, an MVVA senior project manager.

It’s one sort of drilling operating that, even though it’s in a national park, is entirely welcome.

MVVA’s plan makes the park more flexibly programmed, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Reinventing Vilonia uses a network of public green spaces to link disaster shelters. Image courtesy of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center.

Plans for the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas, by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) assert the primacy of public green space as the center of traditional urbanism: town squares on formerly abandoned lots, generous boulevard streetscapes on what had been pedestrian no-man’s-land, and new neighborhoods with pocket parks. But in doing so, the director of the UACDC, Stephen Luoni, and his team learned how to use this network of outdoor civic space to meet a far more pressing need.

In 2014 a tornado flattened much of the town of 4,000, destroying or damaging hundreds of structures and killing 16 people in the area. And Luoni’s plan uses these urban green spaces as links in a chain of disaster shelters.

The UACDC’s plan, Reinventing Vilonia, calls for a system of buried shipping containers that act as tornado shelters, (more…)

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