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BY RACHEL DOVEY

The team led by SCAPE proposes breaching levees to allow trapped sediment out, creating a stronger network of marshes and mudflats that can cushion developed areas. Image courtesy SCAPE/Public Sediment team.

They’re no stranger to wildfires and drought, but the cities around the San Francisco Bay haven’t been hit with a climate change-fueled disaster on par with Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey—yet. Still, sea-level rise won’t spare the metros. Even if they escape the drowning predicted by certain apocalyptic maps, Bay Area residents rely on freeways and rail lines built on soft, low-lying bay fill—areas particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion. And the region’s tidal marshes and mudflats, which should act as natural barriers, are slowly losing sediment owing to poorly engineered dams.

“Unlike New York City, the Bay Area has all these slower and more invisible problems related to climate change,” says Gena Wirth, ASLA, the design principal at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is bringing some of those unseen issues to light. Last year, judges selected 10 winning teams (SCAPE is the leader of one) made up of ecologists, designers, and landscape architects to imagine infrastructure that works with the region’s shifting landscape rather than against it. The challenge, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, is modeled on New York’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design contest, with one key difference: This one is proactive, not reactive. Instead of waiting for federal funds to come in after a disaster, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, compiled in 1979 and printed in 1982. Image courtesy of John Davies and Alexander Kent, The Red Atlas.

A map of Vilnius, Lithuania, produced in Russia at the tail end of the Soviet era, details the speed of the Neris River’s flow (1.8 miles per hour), its depth and width, and that it had a sandy riverbed. In addition, it reveals the dimensions of a nearby bridge, what it’s made of (concrete), and how much it can carry (55 tons). Across the Cold War divide, on Western shores, Soviet cartographers still had a grasp of some of the minutiae that made up its sworn rival’s infrastructure. A 1980 map of San Francisco points out that the Oakland Bay Bridge is constructed of metal and rises between 171 and 213 feet above the water. One of perhaps a million maps made by the Soviets to secretly and conclusively chart the surface of the earth, it’s a relic from what might be the largest and most ambitious cartography effort in history.

Though much of this story’s origins and methods are shrouded in secrecy, British authors and map enthusiasts John Davies and Alexander Kent have found a way to break open these mysteries with a beautiful and brief cartographic volume. Their book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, 2017), focuses on how these maps (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Seattle works to reconcile the inherent clash between goods delivery and Complete Streets.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The sight of a bike lane blocked by a delivery truck is so common that it has birthed Tumblrs and Twitter hashtags, often as a way to either shame drivers or encourage city officials to better enforce traffic laws. What those Twitter users may not have considered is that every box from Amazon or Blue Apron requires a trip from a warehouse to their door. And as online sales continue to grow (by roughly 15 percent per year), the increasing volume and frequency of home deliveries has cities like Seattle searching for solutions. “For us, it means curb use is changing, and it’s changing fast,” says Christopher Eaves, a civil engineer with Seattle’s Department of Transportation.

The increase in deliveries has major implications for Complete Streets programs, which seek to accommodate the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and vehicular traffic within existing corridors. Like many cities, Seattle has a Complete Streets ordinance, adopted in 2007. At the same time, the city is working to expand its urban canopy and curbside green stormwater infrastructure. “So there’s a whole lot of things competing,” says Peg Staeheli, FASLA, a principal at MIG | SVR in Seattle who thought a lot about freight during her time on Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission.

Recently, the City of Seattle partnered with the University of Washington (UW) and several major retailers to launch the Urban Freight Lab, a three-year research effort to better understand (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Damon Rich talks about the planning approaches that recently earned him a MacArthur Fellowship.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Damon Rich describes himself as a designer who uses the tool set of a community organizer. Rich says his goal at his design firm, Hector, with partner Jae Shin, and at his previous post as a founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, is to “[assemble] constituencies, trying to connect people so they can better exert political influence.” As a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient, Rich will get a chance to see how an infusion of money ($625,000), translated through broad-based grassroots urban planning, can pull policy levers to make urbanism more equitable, healthy, and vital.

With Hector, his goal is to go into a neighborhood and uncover design elements that can offer multilayered meanings and associations to meet a wide range of needs. “I’m really excited to keep on finding ways to design things that really become social objects and social symbols,” Rich says. At the Newark Riverfront Park project, designed by Lee Weintraub, FASLA, during Rich’s tenure as the planning department director for the city of Newark, New Jersey, the color orange is used prominently in a boardwalk. The color references local schools’ heraldry and Newark’s municipal neighbors, East Orange and West Orange. It also works because it’s a neutral hue across local gang turfs. After it was built, a yoga instructor who teaches classes there complimented Rich for selecting this color because (unbeknownst to him) orange represents the water chakra.

Rich practices largely in the urban planning tradition, but he’s not careful about disciplinary lines. At the Center for Urban Pedagogy, he created users’ manuals for the city, working with marginalized communities that most need civic jargon translated into plain language. “I Got Arrested! Now What?” explains in graphic novel format how the justice system works, while “Vendor Power!” uses nearly wordless IKEA-like diagrams to show street vendors (who may be recent immigrants who don’t read English) how to comply with vending rules. Clear explanations of the city’s form, use, and regulations are part of his responsibility to (more…)

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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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY ZACH MORTICE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

New Yorkers avoid Times Square, and Chicagoans stay away from Navy Pier. It’s an ironclad rule. The public spaces that are most popular are there to attract tourists. Locals don’t go there.

In Chicago, going to Navy Pier had been something like a grudging civic responsibility you accept when you have out-of-town guests. It’s always been the most meta of Chicago’s architectural landmarks—essentially a large viewing platform, at more than half a mile long, for the city’s epic skyline, the finest way to see it all without a boat. But best to keep your eyes on the horizon, and not look at the motley collection of cotton candy vendors and garish signs that crowded the waterfront.

But today Navy Pier is looking and acting more like an authentic part of the city, for locals and tourists alike. A renovation by James Corner Field Operations has turned it from a tourist mall to a (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A 360-degree photo of Santa Marta. Photo by José Duarte.

Renowned for their ad hoc flexibility, material economy, and compositional resourcefulness, Rio de Janeiro’s favelas can be treasure troves for urbanists. Unplanned, unsanctioned, and often unmapped, they mutate (adding a story, turning a ground floor into a shop, switching from sheet metal to concrete as soon as owners come into a few more Brazilian reals) at a pace unseen in the affluent global north. But these communities are located far away from most of the world’s stock of urban design expertise.

Last spring, to bridge this divide, Penn State landscape architecture professor Timothy Baird and architecture professor José Duarte taught a new studio that engaged students in the study of one Brazilian favela via virtual reality (VR) technology. The studio, which paired architecture students with landscape architecture students, posited VR as a proxy for expensive site visits. “Developing countries can’t always afford consultants because of the distance and difficulty to travel,” says Baird, who recently became chair of the landscape architecture department at Cornell University.

The virtual reality environment in which these students designed was constructed after Duarte and a crew of Brazilian students traveled to Rio de Janeiro’s Santa Marta favela before the semester began. They took thousands of still images, 360-degree videos and photos, and collected (more…)

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THE RISING TIDEWATER

BY BRETT ANDERSON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY

Disparate but urgent efforts to address sea-level rise in the Virginia Tidewater, one of the country’s most important strategic centers, are striving to keep up with visible realities.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The first question that sprang to Ann C. Phillips’s mind soon after she moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2006 was, “Why, when it rains, does the whole place submerge?”

She wasn’t referring only to dramatic weather events, although Phillips, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, landed in Norfolk during a bumper crop of those: Norfolk saw more major coastal storms and hurricanes in the 2000s than in the four previous decades combined, according to the city government.

Harder to fathom were the floods caused by light rains and “blue sky floods” triggered by lunar tides. Tidal flooding affects low-lying areas of Norfolk nine times per year on average.

These more regular floods were unlike anything Phillips experienced growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. They’re an alarmingly routine part of life in Norfolk and the surrounding Hampton Roads area (more…)

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