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Archive for the ‘ECOLOGY’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Richard Crossley [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, left; Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, right.

From the upcoming September 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Susan Combs will be back for the golden-cheeked warbler. Combs is a former Texas state comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and state representative who has been nominated by President Trump to run the policy and budget section of the U.S. Department of Interior. The job will put her in charge of all things related to the Endangered Species Act, under which the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) is listed as being at risk of extinction. She “has an aesthetic interest in the golden-cheeked warbler and seeks to conserve the warbler and its habitat within Texas,” according to a petition she signed in June 2015 to have the bird taken off the federal Endangered Species list. But “Combs believes that local and state conservation efforts would be of greater benefit to the warbler and that continued unwarranted regulation under the Endangered Species Act can impede voluntary and local conservation efforts.”

Combs seems fond of these voluntary and local conservation efforts, as opposed to statutory mandates, to protect species, perhaps because they have little if any force. In 2011, she masterminded an effort called the Texas Conservation Plan for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). The plan was less about conserving the lizard than keeping it off the Endangered Species list and out of the way of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Farm Bureau, among other cosigners of the plan, with “a locally controlled and innovative approach.” Another cosigner was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region office. The problem, according to Gary G. Mowad, a former enforcement official and Texas administrator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was that (more…)

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BY ADAM MANDELMAN

Riding along the layered landscapes of Hawai‘i’s Kohala Coast.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

For a first-time visitor flying into Kona International Airport on Hawai‘i’s Big Island, a view out the airplane window can trigger deep regret. Nowhere to be seen are the state’s trademark emerald ridges and lush valleys. A barren desert of lava spreads to the horizons. Although this landscape, like most deserts, has its own otherworldly beauty, it’s not what most people expect from their Hawaiian vacation. Driving north from the airport to the island’s Kohala Coast resort region doesn’t improve the view, as sunburnt moonscape unfolds for mile after mile.

That a tourist yearning for tropical paradise would find herself in the middle of a vast and arid volcanic plain seems like a cruel joke. But a turn off the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway to any of the region’s resorts soon dispels those anxieties. The seemingly endless basalt yields to coconut palms and bougainvillea that, although sparse at first, anticipate the verdant golf courses and parklands ahead. The parched shrubs and wild goats that adorned the highway have been replaced with ropey banyan trees and groves of ginger, heliconia, and philodendron that shade sprawling water features alive with fish, turtles, and—at one resort hotel—even dolphins.

The extravagant oases that erupt from the lava promise tens of thousands of visitors each year a genuine Hawaiian vacation amid inhospitable desert. As striking a contrast as this phenomenon presents, even more arresting are the well-preserved traces of ancient Hawai‘i that persist throughout this landscape. Over more than 50 years, resort development along leeward Hawai‘i Island (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The world’s protected areas. Currently around 15 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is protected. The United Nations target is to reach 17 percent by 2020. © 2017 Richard J. Weller, Claire Hoch, and Chieh Huang, Atlas for the End of the World.

Within the hundreds of maps Richard Weller, ASLA, assembled for his Atlas for the End of the World, there’s an implicit argument for something like a new mandate for landscape architecture: Instead of mostly planning the development of public outdoor spaces in developed and affluent cities, it’s time for landscape designers to mediate the battles between rapidly expanding developing-world cities and the irreplaceable biodiversity they’re consuming. It’s a task that increases landscape architects’ zones of influence from the scale of city blocks to hundreds of square miles.

 The online atlas, which launched on Earth Day 2017 and just passed its 50,000th click, has a bracingly apocalyptic name. But within the discipline of landscape architecture, it points to a new beginning.

“There’s a whole question for us about how we approach urban design and planning so that cities (more…)

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BY JAMES TRULOVE

Back from a dozen years in London, the designer is focusing on climate and the world she has made her home.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM “MARTHA SCHWARTZ, RECONNECTING” IN THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. FOR THE FULL ARTICLE, PLEASE SEE THE MAGAZINE.

Martha Schwartz, FASLA, and her business partner and husband, Markus Jatsch, last year relocated from London to Brooklyn, though the London office remains the headquarters of their firm, Martha Schwartz Partners. Schwartz continues to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design—though her projects have taken her firm just about everywhere but the United States. James Trulove, a former editor of LAM, who has known Schwartz for years, joined her and Jatsch, who is trained as an architect, for a conversation to find out what prompted the move and where Schwartz is directing her design and teaching now.

James Trulove: You now have offices in New York, London, and Shanghai. I guess there are many opportunities for a landscape architect in China given the enormous amount of construction that is taking place. What is it like to work there?

Schwartz: Unfortunately the quality of much of the built work is poor, (more…)

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The artist and landscape designer Patricia Johanson sees her ecologically driven, site-specific artworks as a way to weave together two disciplines that seemed to have parted ways a long time ago: science and art. She imagines them to be “parallel explorations” that share the same goal (exploring and interpreting the world), gone about in different ways. “In a way, we’re like inchworms,” she says in an interview from 2010. “We’re out on a twig, feeling around, testing the air. Where do we go from here? What can we learn? And you begin to look at these things, and you begin to discover the world. I think that’s what scientists do, and I think that’s what artists do.”

Johanson grants herself the opportunity to try it both ways. Her Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California, clocks in to perform all the progressive landscape-as-infrastructure functions asked of it. It’s a sewage treatment plant, and a park with three miles of trails whose wetlands help filter and clean Petaluma’s water. It’s also a wetland wildlife habitat where visitors set up easels and sketch the landscape, part of which playfully resembles a mouse (with two beady little eyes that are islands in a pond) from above.

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BY STEVE AUSTIN, ASLA

Landscape architecture can mitigate carbon emissions, but it is also implicated among the causes.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, created by the consensus of 197 nations, went into effect in November 2016 and has enormous implications for the practice of landscape architecture. If adhered to by its signatories, the agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era by midcentury, well within the life spans of many landscape architects currently practicing. Though it may seem wonderfully “green,” this energy transition poses profound questions for the practice of landscape architecture at a time when the discipline is needed more than ever.

The Paris Agreement foretells a civilization powered nearly exclusively by renewably generated electricity, not fossil-fueled fire, like today. This will impose severe limits on landscape architecture’s materials, construction methods, and professional mobility. The agreement also portends a society with much less energy overall, as fossil fuels currently make up more than 80 percent of total energy consumed and cannot be easily replaced. These stark realities will challenge landscape architects to adapt to the impending zero-carbon future.

Last year set the record for the hottest year in measured history, breaking 2015’s record, which itself (more…)

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