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Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Image by Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) from Roman Forest, Texas, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Michael D. Talbott wasn’t shy in showing his hand about climate change. For 18 years, Talbott, an engineer, served as the head of the Harris County Flood Control District in Texas until his retirement in 2016. He flatly dismissed any links between climate change and the frequent extreme storms—four of them now since 2015—to hit Harris County, the nation’s third most populated county, and its seat, Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. The month he retired, Talbott told a team of reporters with ProPublica and the Texas Tribune that the flood control district did not plan to look at ways climate may be driving the extreme weather that affected Harris County. “I don’t think it’s the new normal,” he said of these weather extremes. (The person to follow him in the job of executive director, Russell A. Poppe, “shares his views,” according to the report.) People who are saying it’s the new normal, Talbott said, have “an agenda” to fight development.

Just as remarkable as Talbott’s denial of climate breakdown was his acquittal of the role that urban development patterns play in worsening or relieving floods. When Hurricane Harvey sat on the region for days in late August, many indignant arguments arose online that Houston’s development habits either most certainly or in absolutely no way helped create the hazards that flooded Texas Gulf Coast neighborhoods from Katy in the west (31 inches of rain) to Beaumont and Port Arthur in the east (47 inches), with Cedar Bayou (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULIE DERMANSKY

In Southern Louisiana, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture is helping the people of Isle de Jean Charles move away from a disappearing coast.

Every year LAM honors two articles that stand out in the realm of landscape architecture with the Bradford Williams Medal—one that has appeared in LAM, and one from outside the magazine. After a nomination and selection process by the LAM Editorial Advisory Committee, this year’s 2017 Bradford Williams Medal LAM winner is Brian Barth for his article “Let’s Beat It,” below, which appeared in the October 2016 issue.

Wenceslaus Billiot often spies dolphins leaping in the bay behind his house in Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. Just shy of his 90th birthday, he remembers his backyard as a vast, forested wetland when he raised his family here as a young man. In dry weather, the land was firm enough for his kids to walk to the store in the nearby hamlet of Chauvin. This June day the water is calm—a fisherman’s paradise—but hurricane season is another story. Billiot, a World War II veteran, former tugboat captain, and boat builder, says every year the water comes higher.

He lives in a dwindling community of the Biloxi–Chitimacha–Choctaw tribe, and like most of the 27 families who remain, Billiot and his wife, Denecia, are making plans to move inland. “But I don’t want to go,” he says in a Cajun accent.

He has no choice. Isle de Jean Charles, once 22,000 acres, has lost 98 percent of its land area since 1955, and state officials warn that (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Galveston Island State Park in the year 2060. Image courtesy of Studio Outside/Google Earth.

This is Part 3 of our conversation about Hurricane Harvey with the design team at Studio Outside in Dallas, which has won a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning for its work on Galveston Island State Park. Part 1 and Part 2 can be found below. Correction appended below on August 28.

Studio Outside’s resiliency plan for Galveston Island State Park earned a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning, drawing praise from the jury for its comprehensive and forward-looking anticipation of the havoc a hurricane could release. But Studio Outside’s Andrew Duggan and the design team, led by principal in charge Mike Fraze, knew they were pondering ironclad eventualities, not hypothetical disasters.

Over the weekend, the city of Galveston and Galveston Island State Park to its southwest found themselves in the path of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on Friday night, a Category 4 storm that has prompted mass evacuations of the Houston region.

Studio Outside’s project, “Storm + Sand + Sea + Strand: Barrier Island Resiliency Planning for Galveston Island State Park,” tracks the loss of habitat and land as perpetuated by sea-level rise, encroaching development, and hurricane flooding. It prescribes soft and green natural barriers to storm surges, assisted by flexible infrastructure. As a barrier island bordered by Texas’s West Bay to the northwest and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, there are few places to hide from floodwaters or to absorb them, and even less given that this part of the island was partially paved over to accommodate RVs in the 1970s. On Friday and over the weekend, Duggan (based safely in Dallas) and members of the design team (Fraze and Duggan of Studio Outside, and Jennifer Dowdell and Ed Morgereth of Biohabitats) emailed LAM some thoughts on how the storm might play out for Galveston Island State Park.

****Post will be updated as the storm progresses**** (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Improbable Botany. Illustrations by Jonathan Burton. Published/Curated by Wayward.

Wayward is a collective of landscape architects, architects, urban growers, artists, and other assorted creative types who design landscape installations for “exploring new models for how green space can work in cities,” says its founder, Heather Ring. The group’s experimental and often temporary projects emphasize creating “narrative environments that tell stories through the spaces.” The projects have included chromatic explorations of algae growth and weaving slow-growth sculpture from living trees.

It’s an outsider’s perspective on landscape design that might have earned Ring’s London-based band of designers the high school graduation accolade of “landscape architect most likely to commission a science fiction anthology,” because that’s just what Wayward has done.

Having raised nearly $16,000 during a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wayward will publish (more…)

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BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Artist Zaria Forman’s large-scale pastels describe a vanishing Antarctic.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Brooklyn-based artist Zaria Forman draws in fine detail to capture expansive corners of the Earth. Her large-scale, hyperrealistic pastel works feature, most recently, Antarctic landscapes affected by climate change. “I’m trying to offer people a time and a place to connect with these very far-flung places,” Forman says. “If they can fall in love with [these places] in a similar way that I have, then that will lead them to want to protect and preserve them.” Forman has been completing a drawing series and video installation for an upcoming solo exhibition, Antarctica, inspired by her first trip to the polar continent as an artist in residence aboard the National Geographic Explorer in winter 2015.

Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 4 captures the fragility of a remote harbor off the Antarctic Peninsula that is filled with melting icebergs that calved, drifted, and ran aground on the shallow seafloor. Forman says that as the icebergs melt, “it’s like the wind and the water are just hands, just making these most incredible shapes that you can’t even conceive of until you’re there.” Bays that enclose icebergs like these are called iceberg graveyards, a term that “captures the eerie solemnity of the site,” Forman says, “but (more…)

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“In our language, we have a word; it means, ‘They have no ears.’ They don’t listen, and that’s what was happening.”

—Marisa Miakonda Cummings, Omaha tribe member

Brenda Williams, ASLA, has been working on tribal landscapes for 20 years, but it’s what she’s learned not to do that defines her reputation: Talk first. Her work is a lesson in when and how to listen, and what to do, and not do, with what you hear. Timothy A. Schuler follows Williams as she facilitates a new master plan for Blood Run, a sacred site carved by the state lines of South Dakota and Iowa and years of exploitation. The photojournalist Louise Johns documents the land and the people.

If you don’t live in New York City, you can be forgiven for not knowing Randall’s Island. It’s not a destination park like Governors Island or a national monument like Ellis Island. It’s where the city’s residents go to play games—right up against a sewage treatment plant and some of the city’s most monumental infrastructure. After years of neglect, the playing fields and recreational amenities get a jolt of energy from MPFP, Starr Whitehouse, and Mathews Nielsen, among others.

Also in this issue: A new wetland park for Wilmington, Delaware, has layers of challenge. Jeanne Haffner explores Lawrence Halprin’s unbuilt plans for the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.; the artist Zaria Forman gives us a preview of her new series on Antarctic icebergs; and the first biography of the landscape architect James Rose asks as many questions as it answers. The full table of contents for August 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 posting August articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Game On,” Sahar Coston-Hardy; “Ears to the Ground,” Louise Johns; “Wrong Side of the River,” Doug Baker, University of Delaware; “Getting Paid,” Dorothee Brand/Belathée Photography; “Traces of Self-Exile,” Courtesy James Rose Center; “BIM There, Done That,” Patrik Argast and O|CB; overlay by LAM.

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BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

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

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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