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Archive for the ‘LAND MATTERS’ Category

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Not much good is coming from this parlous time, as the novel coronavirus floored just about everything people normally rely on, and with shocking speed. Some strands of hope, should they hold up with time, have appeared amid the desperate confusion. There is an odd but significant reassurance in how quickly so much of daily life buttoned up early on. That progress has been uneven, depending not least on brands of leadership. But once the severity of the situation everywhere became clear, enough people took heed of the stay-home advice that the numbers of holdouts thinned quickly if, alas, not to zero. Everything can change fast. The public compliance, the mass cooperation, happened without much pronounced role for the police, whose jobs have grown steep with new danger, like the work of all public safety professionals. Having everyone stay apart is the only way to contain the crisis. Each infection avoided supports the health care and public health community, who offer societies the only chances of stopping loss and getting through it all.

For landscape architecture, there’s a deep paradox. The bad part is that there is pain, and will be more pain as this business contracts along with everything else. The profession is looking into a future far more unknowable than during the Great Recession a decade ago, when it lost a generation of new landscape architects, and some not so new. Total employment in the profession, federal data shows, fell from 22,000 in 2006 to 15,750 in 2012. Membership in ASLA fell to 15,000, from 18,000 before the economy collapsed; it never bounced back. For emerging designers during the recession, there was no path forward, no new jobs, and many jobs lost. Interns had no place to get the office time they need to qualify for licensure. They went elsewhere. We are still feeling it.

The good part during this crisis is that landscapes for people have seldom seemed as vital and as visible. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE, EDITOR

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The National Association of Home Builders, among others, is giddy about a new Trump administration rule that allows widespread water pollution and wetland destruction. In late January, the federal government put out its final fixes to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, known also as the Waters of the United States rule, under the Clean Water Act. The changes remove safeguards for most wetlands and more than 18 percent of streams. You are now free to fill these wetlands and foul these waters unburdened by law or by the unforgiving science that tells us which things turn water toxic and that water still runs downhill. The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, even showed up at the home builders’ annual gathering in Las Vegas to announce the changes the group has wanted so badly. Their website headlined the announcement as “a big splash.” (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE APRIL 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE 

 

I signed the Women’s Landscape Equality (re)Solution, which appears in full on page 143, as soon as it came out last fall. In some way, it was a redress of the times much earlier in my career when I’d failed to observe the very first commitment the (re)Solution asks everyone to make: “We condemn inequality wherever we see it.” I saw inequality right in front of me at a job I used to have, more than once, and did nothing.

The boss in this case went through staff the way some of us go through facial tissues, so we were frequently interviewing new candidates for jobs. After an interview, in private, the conversation would become discomfiting when the candidate, however qualified, had been a woman of childbearing age. “Did you see that ring on her finger?” the boss once asked me after an interview. “You know what comes next.” (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I speak from the heart, and this month, it’s about something even more important to landscape architecture than politics: drawings—the wonderful drawings designers make to build their projects. You love drawings. We love drawings. They’re the sheet music to sites. When Mildred Schmertz, the famed former editor of Architectural Record, died earlier this year, I recalled a phone conversation she and I had when I was a newbie at Architecture magazine. She said: “Drawings, drawings, drawings. You can never give readers enough drawings.”

When we look at drawings here at the magazine, and we are greedy about hauling them in from offices, we want to have it all ways in service to you, the reader. We want scope. We also want detail. These two imperatives duke it out for the four corners of the magazine spreads. We think we’ve made the right decision. Then comes a thoughtful letter like one I got (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A recent history of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is as follows:

In April, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report on its investigation into the reassignment under Zinke of 27 career members of the department’s Senior Executive Service, high-level staff whose jobs are to “provide institutional stability and continuity” across administrations. More than 40 percent of the executives reassigned, CNN reported, were nonwhite. Ten of those employees told the inspector general’s office they believe their reassignments were for “political or punitive reasons,” including past work on climate change, energy policy, or conservation. The inspector general was unable to figure out whether the department followed legal requirements and guidelines for internal reassignments because “DOI did not document its plans or reasons” for the reassignments. Several department employees told CNN they had heard Zinke say that diversity was not “important” at the agency, which employs nearly 70,000 people, more than 70 percent of whom are white. Zinke’s office denied his ever having made such comments.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed also in April that it is looking into whether Zinke violated the Hatch Act, which forbids certain kinds of political activity by most employees of the executive branch, by announcing an exemption for Florida from a sweeping plan to begin opening nearly all of the United States’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration. The exemption, the only one given to a whole state, was staged as a victory for Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is running for one of Florida’s Senate seats. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I’m not sure how many magazines with advisory boards actually put them to work, but at LAM, we meet with ours monthly by phone and find their advice invaluable. The LAM Editorial Advisory Committee (you can see its members on our masthead, page 6) is drawn from a cross section of ASLA’s membership. Each month, a different member leads the call, along with a backup, and those two people together set the agenda and lead the conversation. The topic is entirely of their choosing. Those of us on the magazine staff occasionally chime in, but mainly we listen.

A recent call was led by two early-career professionals who focused the conversation on the ways landscape history is taught in landscape architecture schools. In particular, they wanted to address the overwhelming bend in the history curriculum toward European design traditions and values. “We don’t see a lot of landscape architecture not designed by white men,” one said. “What do we accept as ‘high design,’ and how can we challenge how these [notions] are rooted in Eurocentric design principles?”

The question expands easily beyond high design to human spatial behavior, preference, and need. In any case, it’s an especially pertinent subject given the broad recognition within landscape architecture that the profession is overdue for diversification if it is to address the issues confronting the modern world. “In the past, landscape architecture history was taught along European garden types and sprinkled in other influences such as Chinese and Japanese gardens,” noted one of several committee members who is a university educator. “Now that it’s a global profession, people are talking about other influences. A lot of people elsewhere are trying to make sense of (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

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Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (more…)

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