Archive for the ‘CITIES’ Category

BY JONATHAN LERNER

A new central plaza in Fort Worth reveals the advantages of—and anxieties about—privately developed public places.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Start with the bones. Fort Worth has such good ones.

The downtown grid, established in the mid-19th century, has blocks a modest 200 feet square. So pedestrian scale has been in place from the start. The young Texas city prospered as a meatpacking hub from the 1870s when the railroad arrived, and later as a center of the oil industry, through to the Great Depression. The buildings that went up in those boom decades tended to be unrestrained in both architectural expression and stylistic range. Classical, Romanesque, Renaissance, Mission, Moderne—there was patterned brickwork, carved granite, molded terra-cotta, the odd Gothic turret and mansard roof and deco spire. Exuberance and ornament were the norm.

Fort Worth’s downtown flourished into World War II, but suffered the postwar hollowing out typical of American cities. Still, a critical mass of the early buildings remains standing. A great many have been renovated, and infill construction has been fairly complementary to what survived. The periphery of downtown remains scarred by swaths of surface parking. But there is a reactivated, walkable core that feels intact and has the intricate and varied traditional look the public generally finds attractive. Now, at the heart of this district, Fort Worth has finally received one urban amenity it always lacked: a central plaza. (more…)

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BY GWENETH LEIGH, ASLA

The Barangaroo Reserve transforms Sydney Harbour’s old industrial landscape.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When I was a child growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, my understanding of landscape was one of changing purpose. Cornfields were converted into housing subdivisions and office parks. Old winding roads were straightened, thickened with extra lanes, and punctuated by traffic lights. It was the small discoveries—an arrowhead in the garden, a bullet lodged in a tree—that revealed the older stories of these fractured landscapes. The layers of roads, power lines, and strip malls made any trace of a site’s earlier history difficult to imagine.

But what if we were to allow a landscape to break free from the confines of concrete curbs, smooth out its industrial wrinkles, and pluck off architectural blemishes in an effort to recapture a semblance of its younger, more picturesque self? Where injections of earth and rock serve as the Botox for an aging landscape, erasing the creases of human development in favor of a more natural topography. So begins the story of Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia. (more…)

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FEATURE: We Declare

Reformulating a historic agenda after half a century.

FROM THE MAY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia in June of 1966, Ian McHarg, Grady Clay, Campbell Miller, Charles R. Hammond, George E. Patton, and John O. Simonds presented “A Declaration of Concern” on behalf of landscape architecture, reproduced below. It was a statement on the growing crisis in the natural environment and the claim of landscape architects in averting the environment’s total destruction. To the degree the declaration was dramatic and self-regarding, it was also true. It preceded much of the formal regulatory protection—preventive, punitive, and remedial—of resources that we know now. The declaration’s alarm over pollution and ecological ruin speaks for itself, but it managed to be both critical and optimistic. Its hope lay in the ability of landscape architects to figure out across disciplines how to make nature and society work as a whole, healthy system.

In 2016, the Landscape Architecture Foundation marked the half century of “A Declaration of Concern” with “The New Landscape Declaration,” a gathering of landscape architects, scholars, and advocates at the University of Pennsylvania in June of that year. The foundation, which was also turning 50, asked a number of participants to write declarations of their own for the occasion as latter-day responses to the original. Five are linked to below. Landscape architects have by no means retired the threats of 50 years ago, and other threats have proliferated around them, but the moral vision of the profession conceived at the midcentury has enlarged accordingly.

“A Declaration of Concern—June 1966” 

We urge a new, collaborative effort to improve the American environment and to train a new generation of Americans equipped by education, inspiring example, and improved organizations to help create that environment.

A sense of crisis has brought us together. What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow. We are concerned over misuse of the environment and development which has lost all contact with the basic processes of nature. Lake Erie is becoming septic, New York City is short of water, the Delaware River is infused with salt, the Potomac River with sewage and silt. Air is polluted in major cities and their citizens breathe and see with difficulty. Most urban Americans are being separated from visual and physical contact with nature in any form. All too soon life in such polluted environments will be the national human experience. (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: (more…)

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Among this year’s superb ASLA Student Award winners, it seems almost as if several of the designers had an advance copy of the latest report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The panel supports the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, originator of the 2015 Paris Agreement, by providing scientific reports on climate change impacts, and ways to mitigate or adapt to them. Its latest major report, Climate Change and Land, came out in early August, and in many ways runs directly alongside the contemporary concerns of landscape architecture. The report details the interactions between land and climate, the ways human activity on land (which “provides the basis for human livelihoods and well-being”) contributes to global warming and, in turn, how climate change affects the integrity of the land people depend on for food and fiber (and often to our detriment, for fuel).

The realities of agriculture are a near-constant presence in the new report and, I think, the next frontier for landscape architecture to consider, particularly for agriculture’s role in rampant land degradation and the loss of biodiversity. In this year’s Student Awards, (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

After two rare storms inundate Ellicott City, Maryland, the town tries to sort through what can be saved.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, in Howard County, Maryland, drains three-and-a-half square miles of mostly developed land in and around Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1772 on the banks of the Patapsco River. The terrain surrounding the town is steep. On the south side of lower Main Street, a series of mill buildings is packed alongside and astride the Tiber Branch, one of the watershed’s three main tributaries to the Patapsco. On the north side, old stone buildings are backed up to a hill made of granite bedrock. Rainwater flows downhill, east toward the river, and in Ellicott City, there’s nothing farther downhill than lower Main Street, the historic center of the town.

When I visited at the beginning of February, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. Walking downhill into lower Main, where the street is narrower, the air temperature dropped and the shadows darkened. On my right, behind a row of boarded-up storefronts, I could hear the Tiber Branch rushing along parallel to Main Street. It smelled like a basement.

On the night of July 30, 2016, a storm rolled in and sat directly on top of Ellicott City, dropping 6.5 inches of rain in the watershed in just three hours. Water jumped the banks of the Hudson Branch uphill and flowed down Main Street, (more…)

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BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

New technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of the most-used construction material.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Concrete in the 21st century promises to be a more sustainable material, and given the nine billion metric tons used globally each year, it must be. Portland cement, the binding agent in ordinary concrete, has a very high carbon footprint, resulting in just under one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) released for every ton of cement produced. With 4.2 billion metric tons of the binder used each year worldwide, cement production is responsible for nearly 8 percent of total global carbon emissions. The high lime content of ordinary portland cement contributes about two-thirds of cement’s CO2 impact through the process of limestone calcination. The other one-third of CO2 released is from combustion of fossil fuels.

Technologies to improve the carbon footprint of concrete are currently in the early stages of development, but some, including carbon sequestration in concrete and substantial reductions of cement using energetically modified cement, are now commercially available. Concrete surface products for paving and walls to scrub air pollution, as well as new self-healing concrete products, are also worth investigating. We have heard about some of these innovations for a decade or more in the research community, but many are finally being brought to market—some more quickly than others. Europe is ahead of the United States in the adoption of these technologies, largely because of more rigorous clean air and carbon reduction initiatives.

New technologies in any field can take a long time to move from the laboratory to the marketplace, but (more…)

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