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Archive for the ‘LAND MATTERS’ Category

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

mountaintop_removal_mine_in_pike_county_kentucky_resize

Image courtesy of iLoveMountains.org [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

FROM THE UPCOMING MARCH 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

Among the very early priorities of the new Republican-controlled Congress was to give the greenest of lights to any corporation—corporations being people—that wants to blow off the top of a gorgeous Appalachian mountain for coal, throw the spoils into the nearest headwaters, ruin the stream, ruin much downstream, and destroy a spectrum of wildlife, not to mention human life, in the process.

The instrument was a joint resolution of the House and Senate that pulled back the Stream Protection Rule, a long-sought goal of the Obama administration to prevent mountaintop removal for mining, which took effect on January 19, Obama’s last day as president. Its reversal by Congress was presented to President Trump on February 6. The resolution kills the Obama rule, which (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

Postcommodity, Repellent Fence, 2015. Image courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

From the upcoming February 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Instead of a sensible and humane overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws to deal with current realities, we are apparently going to get a wall between the United States and Mexico. It was among the most outlandish promises of the Trump campaign, if only one of its rank xenophobic turns: a gigantic blockade stretching from the Pacific Ocean, through the Sonoran Desert, and down the Rio Grande River to the Gulf of Mexico, with fear as its mortar. During the first week of the new Republican-led Congress, the House Republican Policy Committee chair, Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, told the Washington Post that legislators are looking for ways to begin work on such a wall under existing law and with American (not Mexican) money. The existing law Messer means is the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush, which called for 700 miles of actual fencing and a “virtual fence” of beefed-up surveillance along the Mexico border. That work remains incomplete. Barriers block less than half of the 1,954 miles of international boundary. Theoretically, a resumption of building could begin to lock it all up later this spring.

The human effects of this simplistic idea will be mixed. A big wall will stop some population flow, but hardly all of it, and it will kill informal cross border commerce. Ecologically, though, it is likely to be a catastrophe. It will fragment habitat on a huge scale in one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America—the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas alone is said to have (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

From the upcoming January 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

You may safely expect that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ halt on the Dakota Access pipeline will end after the close of the Obama administration. It shouldn’t. The halt should instead force a rethinking of the pipeline’s route through unceded Sioux lands near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and under the Missouri River, “to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” as Jo-Ellen Darcy, the army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in announcing the cease order in early December after months of protests.

The stop on the project should also compel a total reconsideration of certain perversities that pass as common practice by government and industry in the construction of oil and gas pipelines, which have been helpfully highlighted by the rising tension over Dakota Access in the past year. If the pipeline were halted and rerouted, it would mark a rare (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Courtesy By Peretz Partensky from San Francisco, USA (I could see Russia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy Peretz Partensky [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.

From the December 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

There can scarcely be any overstating the threat the Trump presidency poses to the interests of the landscape architecture community, which center ardently on the welfare of human society and ecology and the planet. If design is the sum of all constraints, as Charles and Ray Eames said, this presidency will be the greatest constraint many of us will work under in our lifetimes, on the order of anathema to everything landscape architecture has ever stood for. We have to get right to work and be very canny about it, or the Trump administration, along with a Congress controlled by some of the most venal people ever to lodge themselves into American politics, will be a disaster well beyond the many ways we can name even now.

During the campaign, Trump’s positions on public policy, such as they were—and fairly obscured by endless evidence of his career as a liar, a swindler, a bully, a bigot, and a sexual predator—did not, to me, warrant detailed study. They weren’t policies in any developed sense. (OK, there was the child-care one, but what was that?) They consisted largely of frequent impulsive eruptions calculated only to produce outrage among his disaffected rabble and people of greater composure, though different strains of outrage, for sure. However masterful he is at plucking a populace, in terms of governance I kept thinking of the line about the French revanchist and anti-Semite Paul Déroulède, who was said to have “the political vision of a child.” If you heard what I heard during Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention this summer, you got a gothic harangue of wild paranoia and vengeance. It was pure Tarantino. I found myself fantasizing that Ronald Reagan would appear in the form of a fireball to relay a few words from God.

No, what got my attention most then and since is the Republican Party platform. The section on natural resources begins on page 17. On oil drilling: “[W]e support the (more…)

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Credit: Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Arizona state legislators want to deregulate a number of professions, among them landscape architecture. Credit: Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

From the April 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Doug Ducey is a former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, the ice cream franchise, and as such, can’t be expected to know a lot about landscape architecture. Which would be of no consequence were he not now the governor of Arizona and hot to deregulate a number of professions, including, at least initially, landscape architecture. His surrogate in the Arizona House of Representatives, Rep. Warren Petersen, like Ducey, a Republican, introduced a bill this winter that would end the state’s professional licensing requirements for landscape architects as well as for geologists, assayers, yoga instructors, cremationists, citrus fruit packers, and driving instructors. Ducey seems to see these licenses as barriers to work, a “maze of bureaucracy for small-business people looking to earn an honest living,” as he said in his State of the State address this year.

Landscape architects in Arizona, as you might expect, were struck by something close to panic and rose in opposition to the proposal, which passed in the state’s House Commerce Committee on a party-line split in mid-February. Legislators received 1,500 letters from landscape architects arguing against the bill, and 150 landscape architects showed up at the committee hearing. The pushback worked; landscape architects were removed from the bill in early March. They made the case, of course, that landscape architects are licensed in order to prove they have the competency to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, one legislator, Rep. Jay Lawrence, a Republican, suggested those concerns be left to (more…)

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April is, of course, World Landscape Architecture Month (!), and you should tell your friends and family as much at every opportunity. You will also want to share this month’s LAM far and wide, which is made easier because the online version is free. Yes, free.

It’s an issue packed with great stuff at every scale. There is the 700-square-foot garden in Brooklyn by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, where a tiny space is made to seem bigger by packing it with plants around a wonderful fragmented footpath that is not as scattershot as it may appear. There’s the Phipps Conservatory’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh by Andropogon Associates, a crucible of super high performance on several levels, not least the level important to butterflies. In Honolulu, Surfacedesign took an intelligent license with the design of a midcentury modern office building by the architect Vladimir Ossipoff to make a finely machined response on its surrounding plaza, complemented by native species all around. And up at the scale of the city, we look at the long-industrial Menomonee River Valley in Milwaukee, where landscape architecture is vital in making a large district habitable to people, animals, and plants with hopes of retaining it as a base of manufacturing jobs.

There’s much more to discover about a spectrum of topics—dog parks, how design firms grow, drawings by Lawrence Halprin, a book on John Nolen, and a look back to a century ago when ASLA was pivotal in helping to establish the National Park Service. And stories you won’t want to miss in the Now and Species sections, and an absorbing photo portfolio by Lynn Saville in the Back.

You can read the full table of contents for April 2016 or pick up a free digital issue of the April LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 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 ungating April articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “An Island Unto Itself,” Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA; “Step By Step By Step,” Lexi Van Valkenburgh; “Most Industrial,” Nairn Okler; “Four For Four,” Paul G. Wiegman; “Dogs Are the New Kids,” Altamanu/Russell Ingram Photography; “Right Sized,” PWP Landscape Architecture; “Balancing Act,” Landscape Architecture 6, April 1916.

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Most feel the L.A. River needs to change, though they can't agree on what.

Most believe the L.A. River needs to change, though exactly how it should be done is still up in the air.

From the October 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The push to fix the 51-mile Los Angeles River over the past few decades has been a triumph of citizen-fueled advocacy. It has harnessed landscape architecture as well as politics, planning, economics, engineering, hydrology, and ecology toward a dream of a living river, with plants and animals and people (and real estate) close to the water. Persistence and skill, notably on the part of the group Friends of the Los Angeles River, led to the stunning endorsement last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a $1 billion federal plan to restore natural habitat along 11 miles of the upper river. It was a bigger bet on the river than anyone expected. Since then, the big questions have been whether Congress will fund the plan and, if so, how much the federal government will pay and how much the city will pay. The city must buy land, clean up contamination, and build a public realm; a lot of how to do all that had been laid out in a master plan in 2007 for 32 miles of the river, from its headwaters in Canoga Park to downtown Los Angeles. As part of the large master plan team, led by Tetra Tech, the offices of Civitas, Wenk Associates, and Mia Lehrer + Associates developed transformative, landscape driven solutions for sites along the river.

It’s all been incredibly exciting. But now, rather than wait until Congress considers funding the corps’ plan, the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, an ardent river advocate, has been encouraging a whole other river plan but not telling anyone much about it. For this newer plan, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit the city chartered to direct its river strategy, asked Frank Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners, to begin studying the whole length of the river. OLIN is on board as a consulting landscape architect. Garcetti called Gehry’s work “a master plan, in the truest sense of the word,” and added, “To have the Olmsted of our time focusing on this, I think, is extraordinary.”

The Olmsted remark did not go over well among landscape architects. None of the revelations about the Gehry project went particularly well, not least because they were unexpected. Over the past year, some longtime river strategists have been shown the outlines of the Gehry team’s effort, but for the most part it unfolded in private until the Los Angeles Times reported on its existence in early August. Then came the disciplinary resentments in the landscape realm and, more important, the pains of people—professionals and laypersons—who worked hard to get the corps’ blessing on a major plan. Those people rightly worry that they may now have to spend more effort to defend what they have already achieved for the river. They worry because so little about the new planning process has been shared with them or with the public. The city’s emerging bid to host the Olympics in 2024 adds another layer of uncertainty to some of the river sites.

The revitalization corporation insists it is considering all the previous work for the master plan and the corps’ proposal in its new project, but one of its tendencies has been to speak as if Gehry’s team is starting a process of remaking the river rather than walking into the middle of one. Mayor Garcetti, who has made the river a serious project for his administration, could clear up a lot of confusion. He needs to ensure that the intelligence gathered so far around the river’s revival remains in play and will feed into any future plans. It would help to involve the river’s early advocates and designers much more closely than seems to have been the case lately, and to pay more attention to their considerable accomplishment. Visions for a better river could combine many ideas and forms. Coherence in the approach will be crucial in selling them.

Credit: By A Syn [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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