Archive for the ‘CITIES’ Category

By Zach Mortice

The 2008 flooding in eastern Iowa saw the Cedar River crest at 31 feet, inundating much of downtown Cedar Rapids. Image courtesy of Sasaki.

On the morning of Jun 12, 2008, the landscape architects Gina Ford, ASLA, and Jason Hellendrung, ASLA, of Sasaki woke up in their hotel rooms by the riverside in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to stifling heat and eerie silence. They were in town to pitch their riverfront master plan to the city council. They knew the Cedar River was expected to flood (and had stocked up on water, granola bars, and bananas just in case) but neither expected any sort of ordeal stemming from the river, which they had come hoping to reimagine as a lively and gregarious urban greenway. The power, air-conditioning, and phones were out. The hallways were empty and pitch black, and a ferocious rainstorm had darkened the skies and pushed the encroaching floodwaters. Reaching each other via cell phone, they discussed their options. In the distance, the Quaker Oats cereal mill plant’s red neon sign was still lit. “It can’t be that bad,” said Hellendrung. “They still have electricity.”

“As I said that, there was a bolt of thunder and lightning, and the sign went out. Then I was like, ‘Maybe the police will get here soon?’”

Police did dispatch rescuers, who led Ford and Hellendrung out of the hotel. A second-floor connection to the convention center (more…)

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For the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row, public space is a priority.

For the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row, public space is a priority.

From the October 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

Speed bumps and curbs that narrow the street to slow traffic. Safety zones for women and LGBTQ residents. Vegetable gardens with citrus trees. Drinking fountains, storage units, and cell phone charging stations. This isn’t a laundry list of community benefits in your local affluent suburb; it’s a wish list for the nation’s most concentrated homeless community in downtown Los Angeles: Skid Row.

Where just five years ago tents, shopping carts, and makeshift campsites lined the streets in this eastern portion of downtown, gleaming luxury condominiums now stand with a Whole Foods market and designer clothing boutiques at street level. Even more high-end stores are under construction in an area that already lacks open spaces and parks.

Skid Row, with 11,000 residents living in an area of roughly 50 city blocks, (more…)

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The Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail. Photo courtesy of John Becker.

When the urban planner Ryan Gravel resigned from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership board on September 26, the organization lost one of its most vocal and influential proponents, and in a way, its own creator. The BeltLine, a 22-mile network of parks and trails that weaves through 45 Atlanta neighborhoods, grew out of Gravel’s 1999 Georgia Tech master’s thesis. His consistent message regarding his departure has been that he had to distance himself from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) board because the organization wasn’t doing enough to provide affordable housing and maintain an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion for residents living near the trail.

Gravel’s calls to action are a broad redirection away from property acquisition and development that guided the trail’s early days. He now wants to ensure that the existing trail meets the socioeconomic needs of the Atlantans who advocated to make it a reality. And he’s willing to sacrifice some (more…)

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A recent design competition promised novel ideas for vacant land in New Orleans. It ended with some very unhappy participants.


From the October 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

On Friday, March 6, 2015, the city of New Orleans posted more than 1,700 properties online and began auctioning them off. Most were vacant lots. The city was hoping to attract investors who could put these properties back into circulation, so to speak, in part to raise tax revenue and also to continue chipping away at the scourge of blight that had afflicted New Orleans since well before Hurricane Katrina.

Today, somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 lots sit vacant in New Orleans, about the same number as before the levees collapsed but significantly fewer than the 43,000 tallied in 2010. The city has employed a number of strategies to bring that number down, (more…)

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On Monday, the Aga Khan Foundation announced its 2016 awards for architecture, honoring six projects from a short list of 19 named as semifinalists in May. The award honors architecture of the Islamic world every three years. Among the projects is the Superkilen (“Super Wedge”) park in Copenhagen, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, Topotek 1, and Superflex. In its award announcement, the jury (which included Suad Amiry,  Emre Arolat, Akeel Bilgrami, Luis Fernàndez-Galiano, Hameed Haroon, Lesley Lokko, Mohsen Mostafavi, Dominique Perrault, and Hossein Rezai), cited Superkilen’s ability to integrate disparate ethnicities, religions, and cultures in a vibrant public space. LAM featured the project on its cover in July 2013. Following is our story on the park.


In Copenhagen, Superkilen rolls out a half-mile mash-up of global culture.

In Copenhagen, Superkilen rolls out a half-mile mash-up of global culture.

From the July 2013 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

A neighborhood at the margins of the mainstream and beset by the problems of poverty: Arriving at Nørrebro Station is a bit of a shock for anyone who’s been in central Copenhagen’s pristine fairy tale. From Tivoli, the city’s famed historical amusement park, to the perfectly maintained metro stations that still look brand new years after construction, a perfect urbanism seems to be the project here. Yet Nørrebro Station is completely covered in graffiti. The layers of paint obscure the windows, something more out of New York City in the 1970s or present-day Detroit. The streetscape in Nørrebro is less shocking and perhaps looks more like central Copenhagen, just a little more down at the heel. After all, this Scandinavian country has a robust social support network and provides housing, health care, and basic subsistence to all its residents.

Yet graffiti in a train station is a maintenance issue, and, stewardship notwithstanding, efforts are made citywide to improve the city fabric, the quality of life in urban public space. That perhaps Nørrebro has more room for improvement is unsurprising, and in recognition of this the city has (more…)

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At LAM this month, we’re deep into Louisiana—with a jog over to the Mississippi Delta—as we get ready to head to New Orleans, where several thousand landscape architects and our friends will be gathered for ASLA’s Annual Meeting & EXPO from October 21 to 24. We’re looking at the state from many angles. So much progress has been made in New Orleans since 2005’s life-altering blow from Hurricane Katrina, it can be hard to get a clear picture as the city reconstitutes itself.

To lead things off, Elizabeth Mossop, ASLA, a practitioner and professor long based in New Orleans, captures the strategy for new water infrastructure, among other systems, in the city. The transformation in large-scale thinking alone is bracing, centered on recognizing water as the city’s greatest asset rather than its greatest threat. Another effort at structural change in New Orleans, the Future Ground competition, sought ways to deal with the expanses of vacant urban land, post-Katrina. Timothy Schuler, a LAM contributing editor, reports on the difficulty of reprogramming such a vastly changed environment and the disillusion of several design teams named finalists by the sponsors, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the Van Alen Institute. Farther south in Louisiana’s coastal zone, the residents of Isle de Jean Charles—considered to be among the first climate change refugees in the United States—are facing the simultaneous threats of sea-level rise and land loss. Brian Barth visited the community to learn how the New Orleans landscape architecture firm Evans + Lighter is helping residents manage a relocation effort inland, for which the federal government has awarded $48 million. Our cover story this month, by Brett Anderson of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, is about the work of Forbes Lipschitz, ASLA, on the landscapes of catfish farms in the Mississippi Delta region. The region’s aquaculture holds benefits beyond providing fish to dinner tables. It’s economically important to a region where poverty rates are high, and it also serves as feeding grounds for migratory birds. Among landscape architects in Louisiana, perhaps none are so recognized for knowledge of its atmosphere as Jeffrey Carbo, FASLA. LAM staff writer Katarina Katsma, ASLA, visits three sites Carbo and his firm have designed to learn what he sees between the lines of his state.

There is much more in the Now section and other departments. And in the Back, don’t miss the critique Thaïsa Way, ASLA, delivers of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale or the review Gale Fulton, ASLA, writes of Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies, by Jillian Walliss and Heike Rahmann. See you in New Orleans! The full table of contents for October can be found here.

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.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating October articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “New Orleans Owns Its Water,” H+N+S Landscape Architects; “Grounded,” New Orleans Redevelopment Authority; “Let’s Beat It,” Julie Dermansky; “Catch of the Day,” Forbes Lipschitz, ASLA, and Justine Holzman, Associate ASLA; “Homing Instincts,” Chipper Hatter; “Life and Limb,” LandDesign/Denise Retallack; “Open Invitation,” Dredge Research Collaborative and Public Lab; “Water All Over Again,” Courtesy CPEX.

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Credit: ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl / Lim Shiang Han.

Credit: ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl / Lim Shiang Han.


Resilience is a word that has become fixed in the lexicon of landscape architecture, and for good reason. Resilience means, among other things, protecting the 80 percent of the world’s population living near a coast from the onslaught of natural disasters and climate change—and there are rising hazards inland, too. It also brings increasing equity to the valuable roles of landscape architects. There’s a ton of information out there on how communities can become more resilient. To help navigate it, ASLA recently released Resilient Design, a web guide that documents the importance of focusing on resilience (for the human and nonhuman worlds) and offers case studies organized into six general areas to show adaptations that try to anticipate the worst of circumstances. The guide, which was reviewed by several professionals deeply involved in resilience issues, emphasizes layered defenses rather than “heavy-handed infrastructure projects.”

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