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BY JULIAN RAXWORTHY

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From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In my seminar on contemporary theories of landscape architecture at the University of Cape Town, I recently asked students, during the week allocated to discussing landscape urbanism, to choose a project from Africa that could be called “landscape urbanist.” One student chose the renovation of the Luanda waterfront in Angola. This project is an upgrade that could just as easily be described as conventional landscape architecture or urban design practice. That landscape urbanism seemed to just be landscape architecture to my students suggests how generic the term has become when considered in relation to implementation: It could be just about anything. Landscape urbanism is a vibe.

Landscape urbanism is an evocative term that has exercised great influence over academic design discourse in landscape architecture but has remained ambiguous in practical terms. One of its key propagandists, Charles Waldheim, Honorary ASLA, a professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, has attempted to provide a “general theory” for it in his new book Landscape as Urbanism, which, while engagingly going some of the way toward doing so, leaves the persistent question of “OK, but so what?” remaining.

Talking about landscape urbanism is more like (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy.

Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy.

From “The Big Sprig” by Mark Hough, FASLA, in the July 2016 issue, featuring the controversial Rose Kennedy Greenway, built over a sunken highway in Boston.

“Crystal clear Boston.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

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BY MARK HOUGH, FASLA

Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway has finally gotten what it always needed—time.

Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway has finally gotten what it always needed—time.

From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Call it the Emptyway. That was the headline of a 2009 Boston Globe article lamenting the perceived failure of Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which had opened a year earlier atop the city’s infamous “Big Dig.” For years, the Globe had expressed concern over the greenway—over its design and the process that created it. The paper was not alone. Others in Boston, including many in the media and the design community, shared a sense that what was built fell short of what had been possible. After decades of dealing with the project, which buried what had been an elevated freeway into a tunnel running beneath downtown, everyone had expected something special. What they got, however, to many people was at best mediocre. The New Republic, in an otherwise glowing 2010 treatise on contemporary urban parks, declared that the greenway “is not merely bad, it is dreadful.”

Hyperbole aside, there was some merit to the early criticism of the greenway. Attendance in the park was slow during its first few years, and there were times when it did appear fairly empty. A common complaint was that the designers had not provided enough for people to do. There were things to look at and paths to walk along, but not much more. People expected immediate gratification after years of headaches caused by the project, which was plausible but unrealistic.

What many critics of the greenway didn’t recognize is that (more…)

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BY G. RYAN SMITH, ASLA

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Separated bicycle lanes are steadily increasing in number, though every design detail counts.

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In cities across the country where newly striped bike lanes are seemingly rolling out by the week, separated bike lanes would seem to be the holy grail. By giving cyclists their very own part of the public realm, they practically embody the exceptionalist case for bicycle infrastructure—a demonstrable victory of cyclists over the potentially deadly hazards of motorists who will never learn to be more careful behind the wheel. But separated bicycle lanes, also called cycle tracks or green lanes, are a considerable investment. The price per linear foot of recent projects has run between $120 for simpler installations with flexible posts to $2,000 for elaborately integrated systems. If properly done, they can greatly enhance the active transportation metabolism of a city. If not done right, they can seem pointless.

Landscape architects are only getting started in the design of separated bicycle lanes, also known as cycle tracks or green lanes, but so is everyone else. There are 270 cycle tracks in the United States as of this year, up from 78 in 2011, according to the advocacy group People for Bikes. Cycle tracks are more common in Europe than in this country.

Cycle tracks have their fans and their skeptics, given their significant variations on (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

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Credit: Lexi Van Valkenburgh.

From “Still Here” by Jane Margolies, in the June 2016 issue, featuring South Cove in Battery Park City, by Susan Child, FASLA; Stanton Eckstut; and Mary Miss, 30 years after it set the standard for waterfront parks.

“Urban intimate.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

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.

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BY NATE BERG

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Agence Ter has won a bake-off to redesign Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles for the fifth or sixth time. Or is it the seventh?

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

On a warm May weekday morning, Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles was, as usual, a bit of a hybrid wasteland. Office workers crossed through as homeless people sprawled across concrete benches. Half the park was closed off for a row of plywood vendor booths related to an upcoming event. A father and son played alone in one of the park’s newly built playgrounds. People walking dogs veered toward the small patches of dirt that break up the park’s vast expanse of sun-baked concrete.

In the middle of the park, under a sheet of black fabric, stood the park’s potential future, a product of an eight-month international design competition. The winning design, unveiled for a crowd of about 75 people, reimagines the park as a wide-open public plaza, with large grassy areas, plentiful shade trees, and a large constructed canopy stretching the entire length of the space. It would be “a timeless design able to grow with a changing community and city,” Henri Bava, a founder of the Paris-based lead of the winning team, Agence Ter, told the crowd. “We will make sure that Pershing Square will become, once again, the dynamic heart of Los Angeles.”

History alone would seem to dictate that Pershing Square is due for a demolition. It’s a predictable cycle for the once and perhaps future (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Data can be deceiving, or at the very least hard to parse. But for the residents of East Harlem, the numbers spoke loudly. On average, the community was losing nearly 300 affordable housing units per year, based on eight years of data collected by WXY Architecture + Urban Design. If real estate development continued at the current rate, more than 4,000 affordable housing units would be lost over the next 15 years. “People began to realize that a ‘do-nothing’ option was not going to result in the same old thing,” says Adam Lubinsky, a planner and managing principal at WXY. “A ‘do-nothing’ option would mean 300 homes lost per year to development.”

East Harlem, a largely Latino community where one in three residents lives below the poverty line, was also named as one of eight neighborhoods out of 15 that have been identified for rezoning by the city. Rather than wait to respond to a zoning proposal by the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP), local organizations began working vigorously with elected officials to develop recommendations for how to use zoning to preserve affordable housing stock, open space, and the community’s cultural heritage. The result was the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, and according to people involved, it marked the first time a community in New York has developed such a plan ahead of a DCP proposal.

“I’ve rarely seen such a broad-based and grassroots approach to plan and comment on zoning,” says Deborah Marton, the executive director of the New York Restoration Project, an open-space conservancy that participated in the process and also manages nine community gardens in East Harlem. “It was a sincere and messy effort that eventually resulted in (more…)

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