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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.

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE MARCH 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On August 29, 2005, the world saw what happened when a levee failed. A Category 3 hurricane slammed the Gulf Coast, 169 linear miles of federally constructed levees collapsed, and nearly 80 percent of New Orleans flooded, killing almost 1,000 people, the majority of them African American and over the age of 65. It was a wake-up call not just for New Orleanians but for lawmakers 2,000 miles away in California, who worried about their own state’s intricate system of ancient levees, which hold back the waters of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta.

Covering an area the size of Rhode Island, the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is an inland delta formed by the confluence of five major waterways, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. It stretches from just east of the San Francisco Bay north to Sacramento and south to Stockton and drains more than 50 percent of the state of California. It is also a highly engineered landscape, made up of winding canals, earthen levees, and terraced agricultural fields. Roads follow the sinuous levees, forming what, from the air, appears as a convoluted puzzle pieced together over eons by a deranged dissectologist.

The delta’s present-day morphology is the product of one of the largest land reclamation projects in U.S. history. In the late 19th century, farmers and land speculators drained more than 500,000 acres of wetlands in the delta, using the dredge material—much of it the spoils of industrial gold mining—to build human-made islands. In the 20th century, water conveyance projects such as the California State Water Project further severed the relationship between delta wildlife and its unique hydrology. “There is nothing about the delta that is like what it used to be,” explains Brett Milligan, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of California, Davis, and a cofounder of the Dredge Research Collaborative. “The way water flows through it is entirely different. The channels have been widened; all the dendritic channels have been cut off. There’s no floodplain at all.” (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.

BY JANE MARGOLIES

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave away more than $4.1 billion at the end of 2020, she didn’t bestow funds upon Ivy League schools and other elite universities that are often the recipients of large gifts. Instead, Scott, whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon stock she received after her divorce, handed out money to a handful of community colleges, among many other deserving institutions, based on the “vital services” such groups provide, as she wrote in a Medium post.

Community colleges also came up recently in connection with Dr. Jill Biden, the new First Lady, after a Wall Street Journal opinion piece criticized her for using the honorific before her name because she is not a medical doctor. Biden, whose doctoral dissertation was on maximizing student retention in community colleges, has long taught at such colleges and plans to continue to do so now that she and her husband, President Joseph Biden, have moved into the White House.

Community colleges may be making news of late, but these institutions, open to all and costing a fraction of the tuition of four-year colleges, have long played a crucial role. They are the places where many Black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation students embark on higher education. And they are often stepping-stones for high school graduates who haven’t yet decided what they want to do with their lives. Smaller classes allow students to get individual attention from professors who focus on teaching, not their own research. Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees or certificate-based programs, and from there students can transfer to four-year schools to continue their education. Several community colleges have programs in landscape design or related fields, but they are not always perceived as channels into the profession of landscape architecture.

The profession, long dominated by white males from comfortable backgrounds, now seeks to be more inclusive and diverse. Students who come from community colleges to four-year schools can bring fresh perspectives that can broaden and enrich the practice of landscape architecture. Some argue that it is precisely students like these that the profession needs. But how does that transition play out in practice? Let’s look at New Jersey for clues. (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Photo by Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA.

From “From the Outside In” in the February 2021 issue by Brian Barth, about how one of the nation’s most progressive affordable housing policies in San Francisco is creating landscapes that embrace low-income neighbors.

“Courtyard play.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Design firms are (finally) using social media for marketing, but in the era of physical isolation, it has also become a kind of social infrastructure.

FROM THE JANUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Gina Ford, FASLA, wants me to know that she was asked to get on Twitter. It was early 2011, and the marketing team at Sasaki, where Ford was a principal at the time, felt that the firm needed to be more active on social media and also needed a fresh voice. “I was one of the only principals that was on Facebook actively. I think that’s why they thought I was fertile ground,” she says.

What Ford didn’t anticipate was how comfortable she would feel online compared to some of the other environments in which she found herself. “As a woman who doesn’t like traditional networking, social media was a place that I could channel my energy and be myself,” she says. This was especially true “when I started in the early 2000s,” she says, “being the only woman in these big rooms with businessmen in suits.” By the time Ford left Sasaki to start her own firm, Agency Landscape + Planning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was highly involved in helping craft the firm’s external messaging, including on social media.

With Agency, which Ford founded with Brie Hensold, Honorary ASLA, in 2017, she wanted to try something different. The firm has an express focus on social and environmental justice, and Ford wanted that to be reflected across the firm’s social media channels. “We wanted social media to be an expression of our culture,” she says. Prior to that, Ford says she had been “a little understated” in the role feminism played in how she approached practice. “I don’t shield the world from that anymore. I’m very proud that feminism is part of what we do.”

Agency’s social media feeds are full of stylish illustrations, snapshots from site visits, and photos of community events, but also articles about race and gender, critiques of design culture, and celebrations of design heroes—an ode to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or an interactive star chart of Ford’s most influential mentors and teachers designed for Women in Design Boston.

The looser, more personal—and more political—approach has earned Agency a sizable online audience. The firm has nearly 3,000 followers on Instagram, about the same number that follow Ford’s personal Twitter account, which makes her one of the more visible and vocal landscape practitioners on the platform. (Ford is infamous for calling out publications that refer to landscape architects as architects.) That visibility has paid off in speaking gigs and interview requests in mainstream outlets. On the day she and I spoke, Ford was quoted in a New York Times article about the omission of female landscape architects from the larger landscape discourse, inspired by the theme of the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Does Agency hire a PR firm? Because you guys are always in the news,’” Ford says. “And I’m like, that is 10 years of hand-over-fist slogging through a very consistent point of view on social media.” That word choice—slog—is not incidental. Social media can feel demoralizing, she says. “The first few years I was doing [it], it did feel like I was screaming into a black hole. And I think that’s where a lot of firms go wrong. You can’t post something and expect an immediate return. That’s not the way social media works. You post, you post, you post, you post, you post; someone’s like, ‘Oh, she’s into that thing’; and then five years down the road, they’re writing a piece about that thing and they’re like, ‘Oh, we should talk to that girl who’s always posting about that thing.’ It’s a long game that a lot of people don’t want to play—or don’t even know to play.” (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. 

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you lived in Paris in the 17th century, you paid the taxe des boues et lanternes, the tax on mud and lanterns. The levy paid for the maintenance of the city’s streets and its system of lanterns, a network of some 5,000 tallow candles suspended in glass cases 20 feet above Paris’s streets, and one of the earliest examples of public street lighting in the world.

The inventor of this early illumination system was not a city planner or a scientist but Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, considered to be the city’s first police chief. Since its earliest days, “public lighting was closely connected with the police,” writes the cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch. The high-strung lanterns in Paris were “beacons in the city, representing law and order,” while the paid torch bearers who wandered Paris’s streets providing supplemental illumination also doubled as police informants.

Today, street lighting and surveillance are as tightly enmeshed as ever, as manufacturers proffer networked luminaires with embedded sensors that are capable of feeding enormous amounts of data into proprietary operating systems, turning the city into what the writer Geoff Manaugh, author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, describes as a “forensic tool for recording its residents.”

“It’s very Fahrenheit 451,” says Linnaea Tillett, Affiliate ASLA, the founder and principal of Tillett Lighting Design Associates, which specializes in lighting for outdoor spaces. “You have a light pole that can listen to you, watch you, and it’s all hidden.” (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 UJIJJI DAVIS, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“Ideas don’t land—they emerge,” Julie Bargmann, ASLA, began.

On the corner of Grand River and Warren Avenues in Detroit’s Core City stands a cluster of renovated postindustrial buildings, rising starkly amid the remnants of a long-quieted commercial corridor. Within the cluster are the new Ochre Bakery, Magnet restaurant, and a web of small new offices and enterprises. Anchoring the cluster at the center is Core City Park.

In design and execution, Core City Park is an urban woodland. It formalizes Detroit’s naturalized typologies with a true sense of care and intentionality. The park expertly blurs the sense of boundaries through a grove of deciduous trees and an intermittent carpet of ferns and native violets. The site is furnished with found relics and leftover construction materials, all of which establish clearings and seating areas within the groves. An industrial rail line rumbles occasionally across the street.

In the traditional sense of landscape architecture, where there are outdoor rooms with specific programs, this space allows you to break away without leaving the park. Core City Park distributes lush green clusters that frame and link together a network of groves and clearings to characterize a wilderized landscape within a fixed urban typology. Grand River Avenue and the surrounding buildings create a permeable edge that helps Core City Park blur the binaries of public and private, open and intimate, wild and formal. The urban yet natural duality of this park speaks to an effective landscape marriage that fully invites the Detroit context (and discontext) to liven and expand a central green space. (more…)

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BY LYDIA LEE

When designers need to calculate the environmental cost of projects, a new tech tool crunches the numbers.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

For the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge project in Washington, D.C., landscape architects at AECOM made sure that the bridge’s adjacent 80-acre waterfront park would provide many environmental benefits: bioswales and rain gardens for treating stormwater, pollinator meadows, and extensive tree cover to reduce the urban heat island effect. But when they did a rough estimate of how long it would take for the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plantings to cancel out the carbon dioxide emitted from producing asphalt and concrete paving and from maintenance, they got a surprisingly high number: 39 years. Two other completed projects they investigated took even longer to become carbon neutral: 346 and 154 years. “It was pretty interesting—we had no idea we were that far off,” says Ignacio Bunster-Ossa, FASLA, the vice president of landscape architecture and urbanism for the Americas at AECOM.

These calculations can be done painstakingly by hand, but Bunster-Ossa’s group was able to get these results by using Pathfinder, a new carbon calculator and design tool designed specifically for landscape architects. The app’s developer, Pamela Conrad, ASLA, a principal at San Francisco-based CMG Landscape Architecture, has spent the past four years thinking about the carbon footprint of landscape projects. “A landscape looks green, so we assume that it’s good and that we do good things,” says Conrad. “But it has a unique carbon impact that is hidden to the eye—it’s only when we measure that we can fully understand this complex formula.” (more…)

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