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BY BRIAN BARTH

A flood-friendly park re-creates a resilient landscape in Calgary’s Bow River.

FROM THE JANUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the summer of 2013, catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta killed five people and forced 100,000 to evacuate. With $6 billion in property damage, it was one of the costliest natural disasters in Canadian history. The swollen Bow River, which flows from glacial headwaters in the Rockies to Calgary, left much of the city’s urban core underwater. The inundated area included St. Patrick’s Island, one of several islands in the downtown stretch of the river, where Barbara Wilks, FASLA, and Mark Johnson, FASLA, had just kicked off construction on a new 31-acre park. A new pedestrian bridge to the island, which was partially built at the time, suffered significant damage. But for the park itself, Wilks and Johnson—the founders of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Civitas, respectively—say the floodwaters provided positive reinforcement of their design.

This was not the initial reaction, however, of the folks at the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), their client.

“Our client called and said, ‘Oh, God, you have to get up here; we’re going to have to change the design,’” said Johnson as he, Wilks, and I strolled across the bridge to the completed park on a clear spring day.

“The whole island flooded!’” Wilks recalled members of the CMLC team saying in an urgent and distressed call. “We said, ‘It’s going to be fine; there’s nothing to change. We designed it to flood—this is what’s supposed to happen.’” (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JIMENA MARTIGNONI / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEONARDO FINOTTI

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Porto Alegre is the capital and largest city of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil. With a population of 1.5 million in the city and about 4.3 million in the metropolitan area, it is one of many Brazilian port cities. Although it is not directly on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, its location at the confluence of five rivers and at the northern end of Lagoa dos Patos—the largest barrier lagoon in South America—makes it a city that has an essential relationship with water. The Guaraní, the original inhabitants of the region, called the confluence of the five rivers Guaíba, which means the “meeting of the waters.” Today, the locals refer to this space as the Guaíba River or Guaíba Lake, indistinctly.

Given these watery proximities, the city historically has been affected by floods. In the early 1940s, after a devastating flood, a wall went up to cover most of the city’s edge on the river, eliminating its natural relationship with the water and the green spaces on the banks. The city’s residents, however, maintained their longtime habits around these natural areas, visiting and using them spontaneously. Walking, resting, drinking maté, and especially watching the sunset always continued for the locals, despite the site’s increasing state of official abandonment.

In 2011, during the term of Mayor José Fortunati (2010–2017), the Porto Alegre government finally decided to start a plan of restructuring and recovery of the areas above the water’s edge, with special emphasis on the areas near the historic center of the city. Construction began in 2015—major funding came from the Development Bank of Latin America—which put the administration of Fortunati’s successor, Nelson Marchezan Júnior (2017–present), in charge of completing the project. It is unusual in Latin America for two consecutive administrations to be responsible for a project’s implementation. Called Orla do Guaíba in Portuguese (coast of Guaíba), the plan includes the renovation and consolidation of the coastal areas and green spaces along the riverbank and the creation of a linear park at various levels on the edge between the city and the water—levels determined by shoreline modeling performed over the years. (more…)

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BY KOFI BOONE, ASLA

A civic hydrology park emerges on Duke University’s campus.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Having lived in Durham, North Carolina, for more than a decade, I’ve come to realize that it’s almost impossible to discuss Durham without referencing Duke University, and vice versa. Duke is a private university, and its West Campus, although in the city, stands apart and within Duke Forest, a vast patch of woods created through a component of a century-old Olmsted Brothers master plan. The campus landscapes cultivated by Duke offer a stark experiential contrast to the eclectic environmental qualities of a rapidly suburbanizing region. Duke’s campus is a big draw for wedding receptions, picnics, walking and biking, and the occasional respite from nearby urban life. Durhamites regularly use the campus as an extended city park system. I’ve visited Duke’s landscapes many times with family and students in search of memorable settings in an educational environment.

Duke Pond, one of the newest campus landscapes, has been an increasingly popular attraction. On a recent visit to Duke Pond with my daughter, she waded into shallow water to scoop up a tadpole and said, “This place is kinda scruffy, but I like it!” When I relayed this story to Warren T. Byrd Jr., FASLA, the renowned landscape architect who concluded his career at Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects with this project, he laughed. He was thrilled that younger generations felt comfortable engaging the landscape directly. Enabling the informal discovery of ecology was what he had in mind. On a campus populated with works by many leading landscape architects, most of them manicured and tightly controlled, the pond offers an example of a different aesthetic as well as the roles landscape can play in exciting the next generation about environmental stewardship. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY DIANA FERNANDEZ, ASLA

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Vicki Estrada, FASLA, opened Estrada Land Planning in 1985, and over the course of nearly 35 years, the firm has worked on planning and landscape architecture projects that have helped define the city of San Diego. Her work as a community planner and advocate over the past three decades was community engagement before there was “community engagement,” and her imprint can be seen everywhere in the city’s parks, streets, communities, and transit. We asked Diana Fernandez, ASLA, an associate at Sasaki, to interview Estrada about her career and her life, and what followed was a very candid and wide-ranging conversation about gender, representation, identity, and making landscapes that don’t pretend. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Diana Fernandez: I’m so curious to find out what brought you to landscape architecture. I often feel like all of us landscape architects have stumbled into the field somehow.

Vicki Estrada: It’s a funny, interesting story actually. There were two processes. First of all, when I was in elementary school, I would draw. They were little downtowns. I was supposed to be listening to the teacher, but I would draw little downtowns in isometric view and with a ballpoint pen and my dad’s old office papers. You can still see his office logo on them.

The principal came by one day and said, “Hey, Steve,” my name at the time, “you’re going to be an architect.” I am? So from fourth grade on, it was kind of ingrained in me. You’re going to be an architect. You’re going to be an architect.

I got accepted at Cal Poly for architecture, and I went off. I had one year to go. I met some architecture friends, and I went down to Cal Poly Pomona on one Saturday to visit them. I remember walking down to the campus on a Saturday afternoon. It’s all deserted. It’s all quiet. We looked at this great big new lecture hall. So I walked in—have you seen the movie, The Blues Brothers?

Fernandez: No, I haven’t.

Estrada: Well, there’s a scene in The Blues Brothers where they walk into a church, and James Brown is the preacher, and the door opens up and you see the sunlight come down. I opened up the door, and there’s this room full of students, and onstage was this old guy with long, gray hair, with a cane. He pounds on the stage and he points—I swear it looked like he was pointing at me. “Imagine the Earth as a canvas,” he says. “Architects put dots on the canvas. Engineers connect the dots. You are the only ones who can paint the entire canvas.” Being an architect, I go, “What the fuck? What is he talking about?” (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Named for the walnut trees that used to line its banks, the Arroyo de los Nogales, a tributary of the Santa Cruz River, flows from south to north, descending from the high Sonoran desert in Mexico into Arizona. The main arroyo and its many smaller tributaries form a watershed, shaped roughly like a human heart, that is broken in two by the U.S.–Mexico border wall. Facing each other across the wall, in the river’s floodplain, are two cities, each named Nogales, that share social and environmental problems—including repeated flooding caused by rapid urbanization, ineffective flood control efforts, and the border wall itself.

Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, and Francisco Lara-Valencia, an associate professor at the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, have a greener vision for these border cities (together called Ambos Nogales), whose streets and arroyos often run brown with sediment and sewage in heavy storms. Díaz Montemayor and Lara-Valencia want to increase permeability throughout the watershed, slow peak flows in heavy storms, and develop more ecological connectivity between the two cities, despite the dividing presence of the wall.

They hope their ideas for an extensive network of green infrastructure can transform the way the cities develop, not only to improve water quality and flood management but also to provide more green space for residents. As the cities have grown, impervious surfaces have too, destroying natural areas. Both cities lack green space: There is just 1.1 square meter per person in Nogales, Mexico, and only 2.2 square meters per person on the U.S. side, Lara-Valencia says.

“We are not saying development shouldn’t happen,” Díaz Montemayor says. “We’re saying, ‘Let’s provide a structure for that development to happen [that] is based on natural systems.’” (more…)

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FOREGROUND

Get with the Program (Tech)
As workflow patterns change, designers are diversifying in the types of software they rely on,
a recent survey of landscape architects shows.

Lunch Break Brutalism (Preservation)
The water is flowing again at M. Paul Friedberg’s much-disputed Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis,
after a renovation by Coen+Partners adjusts the space to latter-day concerns.

FEATURES

Look to the Sky
In Santa Fe, Surroundings Studio relies on scarce rainfall for all the water one
house’s garden could need.

Floods That Know No Bounds
Nogales, Mexico, and Nogales, Arizona, have a border wall between them, but an unruly, overstressed watershed needs a binational solution to stop flooding. Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, and a colleague, Francisco Lara-Valencia, have some ideas.

Get Real
Vicki Estrada, FASLA, talks about the change in her practice at Estrada Land Planning in San Diego
since her transition 13 years ago. For one thing, it has meant no more going along to get along

In Kīlauea’s Wake
After a series of violent eruptions of Kīlauea in 2018, the staff of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is figuring out ways to proceed with a natural and cultural treasure that is constantly changing.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for November can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 November articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Floods That Know No Bounds,” Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA; “Look to the Sky,” Stephen Dunn; “Get Real,” Brian Kuhlmann; “In Kīlauea’s Wake,” USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory; “Get with the Program,” Drew Hill, Student ASLA/Utah State University; “Lunch Break Brutalism,” Peter Bastianelli-Kerze.

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY RANDY GRAGG

FROM THE MARCH 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A city of hilltops and lakes bracketed by two mountain ranges, Seattle owns a surplus of views. But none quite matches the grandness of the Rainier Vista. John Charles Olmsted captured it in his plan for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, guiding the era’s standard, plaster-and-wood City Beautiful architecture to frame Mount Rainier in a compressed perspective sliced through the thick forest. As the University of Washington, the site’s owner, grew, it kept the vista as a front yard, building its early collegiate gothic edifices to bracket the burly 14,400-foot volcano. Take that, Ivy League.

But then came the era of the auto and midcentury campus planning.

Olmsted shaped the grand axis as the exposition’s entrance from railroad and ferry stops at its foot. But he sketched nothing beyond the great fair’s grounds. Thus the view’s foreground became a visual ellipsis petering out in the forest and marshes beyond. That lower terminus (known as the Montlake Triangle) and its surroundings sprouted a clutter of buildings and infrastructure: widening roads, giant underground pipes for steam and sewage, and a barely buried parking garage. As UW’s medical research arm grew into one of the country’s most muscular, a second campus of beige, Lego-set buildings rose at the vista’s end. And as the UW Huskies became a Pac-12 football powerhouse, their stadium surged to the east with 70,000 seats and home-game Saturdays that clog the surrounding roads for miles. Meantime, the onetime Burlington Northern Railroad at the vista’s foot in 1978 became one of the country’s first and busiest rail-to-trail paths, the Burke-Gilman Trail. But the university plowed a service road down the vista’s midsection.

“The surroundings became the boring-edge, white-space infrastructure area, a surplus space,” says Shannon Nichol, FASLA, a cofounder of GGN, the firm given the job to resuscitate Rainier Vista. “The view ended like a foggy distance in a painting rather than being really designed as valuable space. There was nothing interesting coming out of the land.” (more…)

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