Category Archives: Environment

Awards Focus: After Plastics

LAM is highlighting student and professional winners from the 2021 ASLA Awards by asking designers to share an outtake that tells an important part of their project’s narrative.

After Plastics: The Gardens of the Glacial Foreland

Student Research Honor Award

Image courtesy Andreea Vasile-Hoxha, Associate ASLA.

“Plastic particle x is currently sunbathing between the sharp peaks of the Swiss Alps. It is reflecting on the journey that had brought it here, while discovering the essence of its new identity—it is now called a microplastic particle. What that truly means, particle x has yet to understand, but for now, it begins to feel trapped under the snow, slowly freezing… Continue reading Awards Focus: After Plastics

Small Town, Heavy Load

Research with rural populations shows that small towns aren’t always better for health equity.

By Anjulie Rao

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish.

Backdropped by the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift of city dwellers to rural home buyers has been framed as a panacea to the health risks posed by dense urban environments. Continue reading Small Town, Heavy Load

Trees on Their Own Terms

New research into forests at the Arboreal Inquiries Symposium.

By Zach Mortice

Forests are many things to many people—repositories of carbon, factories for our atmosphere, near-sentient biological networks, and totems of climate change salvation, to name a few recent claims. But how can we understand forests separately from the way humans see them? Continue reading Trees on Their Own Terms

Alternate Realities

Technology is intervening in our experience of the world and each other. A project from the Venice Biennale explores this idea as Shaped Touches.

By Sean Lally

The exhibition space shows the materiality of the base design elements. The accompanying video game demonstration shows how various communities and users can add their own layers of design. Photo by Giorgio Lazar.

Shared experiences are important for building community. Bringing people together in the same public place is probably the most common method in landscape architecture for achieving that goal (prior to a global pandemic, of course). Standing in proximity to others as you experience overlapping resources and information (the weather, a market, a movie, or areas for play and sport) creates shared experience within the world. The assumption is that if the challenges to physical access can be eliminated universally, then space can be shared equally. But there are indications that physical access is not the sole issue. Chances are significant that you have a smartphone within reach, but not everyone will have the latest smartphone. And for those of us who have these phones, it’s likely that a spectrum of applications offers weather forecasts, video games, and alert notifications that give you different information from the person standing next to you.

This “spectrum of access” on our phones today might initially sound more analogous to two people reading different newspapers on a park bench, but it is the beginning of something more. The phones we carry reinforce the notion that people are willing and accustomed to carrying technologies that give them additional information about where they are. Applications that once gave directions now tell us intensity of traffic and alternate routes. Earphones that were once tethered to our phone can now increase the quality of our hearing, and cameras that once only took pictures now show us layers of augmented reality designed into a park.

The shapes within our landscapes are a negotiation between the control of our environment and the body’s ability to perceive that information. As our bodies increase their range of sensorial abilities through advancements in health care and access to wearable technologies, climate change is simultaneously redefining our expectations of future environments. Designers (landscape architects, architects, urban designers) are in a position to foreshadow the opportunities and implications these pressures will have on our shared public spaces. Shaped Touches, a simulation game and physical installation displayed at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, offers an option for how designers will define our landscapes’ shape and the relationships of people sharing that space. Continue reading Alternate Realities

Unbuilt to Last

An Oakland, California, waterfront redevelopment plan hit a few bumps before Einwiller Kuehl took it apart.

By Lydia Lee / Photography by Eric Einwiller

Part of the old warehouse has been repurposed into a super-deep porch.

On a bright Saturday afternoon in mid-October, a party was going on at Township Commons, one of the newest parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Actually, four events were going on simultaneously across the Oakland, California, park’s four and a half acres, overlooking the glittering waters of the bay: Behind the large hill at the western end, with a view of San Francisco in the distance, a small family gathered around a folding table; at the other end by the café/market, people dressed in sober attire were attending a private catered event; on the main deck, five couples were taking a salsa class; and next to the hill, a handful of roller skaters in bright outfits were practicing some groovy moves. Continue reading Unbuilt to Last

Sky is the Limit

HMWhite’s roof garden holds its own among the landmarks at Rockefeller Center.

By Margaret Shakespeare

On what was once a dingy rooftop, HMWhite created a plan that focused on procession and private moments. Photo © Tishman Speyer.

In the first half of the 20th century, Rockefeller Center set new urban design standards. Its features have become New York City cultural fixtures: the Rainbow Room, the Channel Gardens, and the grand promenade leading to the massive, gilded Prometheus statue hovering above the sunken ice rink. Continue reading Sky is the Limit