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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

In Miami Beach, elevating streets is not without growing pains.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Faced with rising sea levels, the City of Miami Beach is lifting itself out of the water’s way—one street at a time. Beginning with the neighborhoods lowest in elevation, the city has raised dozens of streets in the past few years, some by as much as two feet. The $500 million project, which also includes new stormwater pumps, is a coordinated effort to prevent flooding in the long term. In the short term, however, the rapid elevation of the public right-of-way is presenting the city with novel challenges.

Some of those challenges, such as pumps that can fail during power outages, are mechanical. Others are legal. When one restaurant flooded, its insurance company initially refused to cover damages after classifying the restaurant’s dining area as a “basement” since it was now lower than the surrounding grade. (The city installed generators to solve the first problem and advocated on behalf of the restaurant owner, whose claim was eventually approved, to solve the second.) Other challenges involve the design of the public realm. (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

In Great Lakes cities, derelict parcels sponge up stormwater.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Eight years ago, Sandra Albro, a research associate in applied urban ecology at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (now Holden Forests & Gardens) began to think about opportunities lurking in the city’s vacant lots—in particular how to help cities with their water quality problems. During heavy rains, raw sewage from old, leaky, combined sewer-stormwater systems is often flushed into the Great Lakes, resulting in beach closures not fun for tourists. At the same time, in Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Gary, Indiana—where populations have declined by as much as 40 to 50 percent since the 1950s—derelict houses and vacant lots have increased: 30,000 in Cleveland, 7,000 in Gary, and more than 6,000 in Buffalo.

Cleveland, Buffalo, and Gary are among 158 communities with permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge treated wastewater into the Great Lakes. The agency has also charged them with implementing Long Term Control Plans under the Clean Water Act to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from their combined system overflows. “It’s a funny thing,” says David Rankin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a private nonprofit corporation that funds projects to build the health of the lakes. “Most of the time these systems do a great job of managing stormwater—they actually treat it. It was state-of-the-art Victorian engineering that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. But in heavy rains, some waste gets flushed out, too—and when you’re looking at more than 100 dischargers, it starts to add up.” According to the EPA, in 2014 the toll was an estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater discharged into the lakes.

Rankin says Great Lakes cities need to think differently about the problem—many are trying to find funding to build massive pipes. But with their populations declining, he suggests these cities should think about solutions that don’t involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. So when Albro came to him with her idea for using vacant lots to capture stormwater, the fund awarded her a small grant to develop a plan. She contacted 11 Great Lakes cities, (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text, with English text available below.

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

On a chilly Sunday afternoon in the spring of 2016, a group of designers and preservation professionals wandered through one of Newport, Rhode Island’s oldest neighborhoods, visualizing what it would look like underwater. It wasn’t hard to imagine water flowing down the narrow streets and into the basements of the quaint, colonial-era homes located just blocks from Newport Harbor and a mere four feet above sea level. Some had already seen it.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy sent floodwaters into many of the Point neighborhood’s historic homes, including 74 Bridge Street, a red-painted, two-story house originally built in the late 1720s. The basement flooded up to the first-floor framing and the kitchen took on at least seven inches of water.

Two years later, the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF), a nonprofit preservation group founded by Doris Duke in the 1960s, purchased the house at 74 Bridge Street. As the house of one of Newport’s most notable cabinetmakers, a Quaker named Christopher Townsend, it had sat for years at the top of the NRF’s list of most desirable historic Newport properties. It was an important acquisition for the NRF, which currently owns 78 properties throughout the city and helps fund their upkeep. But the organization also knew that 74 Bridge Street would flood again.

“It’s in the lowest point in the Point neighborhood—literally, the lowest topographical point,” says Shantia Anderheggen, NRF’s former director of preservation. With sea levels on the rise—and in Newport they already had risen 11 inches over the past century—it was a statistical certainty that what happened in 2012 would happen again. And it wasn’t just the Townsend residence. The entire Point neighborhood, which has one of the highest concentrations of colonial-era structures on the continent, was under siege from the sea. (more…)

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BY CAROL E. BECKER

An Australian town decides what to do with a spent quarry.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Hornsby Quarry is like many quarries that roared with life in the 19th and 20th centuries and then suddenly fell silent because their resources were tapped out or became too expensive to extract. It is deserted today. The quarry, in Hornsby, New South Wales, Australia, has for a generation remained “the big hole in the ground”—300 meters roughly square, 100 meters to the bottom—and a major safety hazard that Hornsby Shire was forced to buy at the market rate of AU$25 million (about $16 million U.S.) after CSR Limited, a private company, ceased extracting hard rock basalt for road base material and gravel in 2001.

The Hornsby Shire Council acquired the quarry in 2002. Because it was built before reclamation laws and it was zoned as Local Public Recreation Land (technically called Open Space A) by the New South Wales Environmental Planning Act in 1994, CSR had no obligation to mitigate the site before ceasing operations, and the Shire was required by state legislation to buy it back. The huge cost of the land, set by the solicitor general, was ultimately reduced in court by AU$9 million, but the final price still cost each rate-holder (taxpayer) approximately $50 per year, for a total of 10 years, says Kurt Henkel, a landscape coordinator at Hornsby Shire.

The quarry will not remain dormant, however. Its stories—physical, historical, geographical—parallel the long development of Australia and are about to get a bold retelling. The vision for Hornsby Quarry (more…)

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BY RANDY GRAGG

Plans to string gondolas over American cities abound.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In the early 2000s, one of Portland, Oregon’s leading employers and research institutions, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), faced a steep, downhill battle. Sited on a hilltop, surrounded by unbuildable canyons and neighborhoods unwilling to yield another inch to expansion, OHSU’s nearest sizable hunk of developable land lay on the Willamette River less than a mile away—for a blue heron. Cars and buses contended with winding, traffic-snarled commutes of anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

A campus planner’s brain brightly blinked: Why not an aerial tram? Protests erupted, politicians tangled, and costs lurched $47 million over the earliest budget fantasy of $9.5 million. But in 2007, two sleek, bubble-shaped cars (their shiny artisanal shells carefully machine-hammered by craftsmen from Gangloff Cabins of Switzerland) began flying to and fro across the campus. Today, they ferry more than 50,000 riders per week to a 2.35-million-square-foot cluster of new OHSU buildings.

At the time, the tram was only the third urban transit ropeway system in America, after Telluride’s in Colorado and Roosevelt Island’s in New York. Now, however, proposals for urban tramways are becoming more prevalent. A consortium in Washington, D.C., is poised to launch a $1 million environmental impact study for an aerial connection between Rosslyn, Virginia, and Georgetown across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., to bypass the clogged Key Bridge. New York is angling for two flights: a midtown connection to Roosevelt Island and (more…)

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BY JANE BERGER

There’s a palm for just about any place you’re planting.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You can’t always get what you want—unless, that is, you’re into palms. Lisa Gimmy, ASLA, of Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture in Los Angeles, finds palms uniquely suited to small gardens, given small root balls that leave “a very tiny footprint on the ground.” One that Gimmy likes to use is the blue hesper or Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata), native to Baja California, Mexico, with stunning, silvery-blue, fan-shaped fronds and creamy white flower clusters that cascade down from the leaves. Gimmy selects palms for spatial characteristics first, then for texture, leaf color, and the character of the trunk. “They are like poems,” she says. “With the head up in the air, there’s really nothing else like it.” Gimmy also likes palms because they provide “instant gratification, and that’s very important in Southern California.”

Ray Hernandez, the president of the International Palm Society, told me a story about a friend who drives from Long Island, New York, to Florida every year to pick up specimens that will last for just the summer season. “The folks that live out in the Hamptons and have 10 zeros behind their bank account can afford to haul up a coconut palm or something hardier and plant it in their landscape, and (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY JONATHAN LERNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY ADAM WISEMAN

From the June 2018 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

One bright December day, Mario Schjetnan, FASLA, was ushering a visitor around Mexico City’s historic Chapultepec Park, where his firm, Grupo de Diseño Urbano (GDU), has been enacting subtle renovations for nearly a decade and a half. He detoured, though, to show something that has not required the firm’s intervention. It was a concrete sump, perhaps five meters square, three meters deep, and open on top. It is the terminus of an aqueduct, completed in 1951, that brings water from 60 kilometers away through a tunnel under a mountain range. At the time, the city’s population had more than doubled in two decades, to three million thirsty souls. This new aqueduct must have seemed like deliverance. (Today, the population of the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico, comprising the city proper plus 41 contiguous municipalities, numbers more than 21 million.)

The sump, whose function was really just to hold water before it was piped into four enormous tanks buried nearby, was treated reverentially. Sheltered within a temple-form building, the depression’s walls and floor were painted by Diego Rivera in a fantastical narrative called Water, Origin of Life. The inlet seems to pour through the hands of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of floods and droughts. Swirling around the floor and up the walls are life forms of increasing complexity. There are an ur-man and ur-woman, and depictions of everyday people using water (swimming, sipping, irrigating gardens), of workers jackhammering rock, and of giant pipes and valves. When the sump was actually used, the view through water surely added a vitalizing shimmer, but water was destroying the mural. Eventually the flow was rerouted and the painting restored.

Now Schjetnan pointed to where Rivera had portrayed a gathering of two dozen men in modern dress, some in hard hats, some in suits; on a table before them is a sheaf of blueprints. “The engineers who built the aqueduct,” he said respectfully, (more…)

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