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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

The Custer Beacon is the result of a years-long visioning process led by local landscape architects.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s so incredibly simple, you almost wouldn’t recognize it as landscape architecture,” Tanya Olson, ASLA, a cofounder of Tallgrass Landscape Architecture, says of her firm’s latest project, the Custer Beacon. “And that’s why it’s kind of interesting, because we were involved for years before it got built.”

The Beacon, as it’s known, is a concert hall and “canteen” in Custer, South Dakota, a town of approximately 1,900 people situated in the far west part of the state in the scenic Black Hills. Opened in 2019, the venue occupies a pair of converted metal warehouses located a block off Custer’s main street, Mt. Rushmore Road. Custer is also Tallgrass’s home base, which gives the firm a unique understanding of the culture and rhythms of a small town that is dependent on summer tourism. (more…)

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BY KAMILA GRIGO

Copenhagen’s stormwater detention roads are everything but.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As part of its climate change and urban flood mitigation strategy, Copenhagen aims to build 300 stormwater management projects over the next 20 to 30 years. Among the projects are a series of detention roads, entire streets redesigned to convey and detain rainwater locally to relieve the existing storm sewer system. It’s an ambitious target that reflects the city’s understanding that investment in these projects is a way of managing greater long-term risk to city infrastructure while providing citizens with multifunctional spaces in the short term.

The Sankt Kjelds Square and Bryggervangen by SLA is a pilot of the detention road concept. Completed in 2019, it comprises the entirety of the 2,300-foot-long Bryggervangen road and Sankt Kjelds Square, the roundabout in the middle. “It’s quite a simple project,” says Bjørn Ginman, a project director at SLA, who says that the fundamental concept is about seeing water move through the site. Rain gardens lining the pedestrian rights-of-way receive rainwater from sidewalks and the roofs of adjacent residential buildings, while road runoff is directed into larger infiltration ponds at the roundabout and at intersections, though not before an in-ground diverter (one of the municipality’s first applications in a public road context) deals with the most polluted first flush. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A student project reveals the paradoxes often embedded in public policy.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Economic and environmental policies have a direct impact on the formation and maintenance of landscapes, but it can often take years for those impacts to be felt, or for a particular policy’s spatial consequences to be revealed. A recent student design research project attempts to make those implications more clearly and immediately visible.

The project On Riven Land by then-University of Toronto MLA candidate Aaron Hernandez, the winner of this year’s CELA Student Award for Creative Scholarship, analyzed land use within and adjacent to Ontario’s Rouge National Urban Park, a five-year-old park on the outskirts of Toronto. The project visualized the conflicts embedded in some of the park’s stated policy aims, namely the “maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity” as outlined in the Rouge National Urban Park Act. (more…)

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BY KIM O’CONNELL

With playgrounds off limits, Philadelphia’s Studio Ludo gets creative for low-income families.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In downtown Philadelphia, a colorful city development project is under way. The buildings are bright blue and orange, the gabled roofs patterned with triangles and chevrons. The front doors are sunflower yellow, and residents seem happy and content—at least as content as little plastic dinosaurs can be.

The project is Tube Town, a “city” made of toilet paper tubes, construction paper, markers, and glue. Tube Town is one of Studio Ludo’s new Play Packs, a resource created for families during the COVID-19 crisis, and the brainchild of the firm’s executive director, Meghan Talarowski, ASLA. In addition to providing 30 downloadable play and craft projects online—all imaginatively staged and photographed, as with the addition of the little dinos—the firm has worked with local community organizations to distribute play materials to families in need. “We thought, since we’re not doing outside projects right now, how do we bring play to families?” Talarowski says. (more…)

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BY MADELINE BODIN

Work on the nation’s most toxic sites has slowed.

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The nation’s most complex and extensive toxic waste sites are designated Superfund sites and have their cleanup overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For landscape architects, Superfund sites are complex problems, says Julie Bargmann, ASLA, a professor at the University of Virginia and the principal of D.I.R.T. Studio, a landscape architecture firm with several Superfund site projects in its portfolio. The work takes years to complete, and local stakeholders often struggle with strong, conflicting emotions, she says.

If you hear less about Superfund sites these days, it may be because less work is being done. (more…)

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BY CHERMAINE LEE

Months of protests leave a mark on Hong Kong’s streetscapes.

FROM THE JUNE 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Until recently, gray metal railings have been a ubiquitous element of Hong Kong’s streetscape. Installed to delineate spaces for cars and pedestrians and enhance safety, the railings have multiplied over the past decade. In 2010, the government reported 435 miles of these roadside barriers. By 2018, the number had more than doubled to 1,087 miles, according to Hong Kong’s Transport Department.

But in the wake of the recent antigovernment protest that first erupted in response to a bill that would have permitted extradition of criminals to mainland China, the metal railings have been torn apart by thousands of black-shirted protesters to use as roadblocks, and bricks have been dug up from the road for use as weapons. Along with changing political and social dynamics, Hong Kong’s urban fabric has experienced dramatic changes. What has long separated pedestrians from the roadway is suddenly gone, and the definitions of public space have become more flexible. As the government has been slow in replacing the railings, perhaps for fear of the metal bars being again used by protesters, urban designers in the city are wondering if the interim streetscape is an opportunity. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Can waste glass be repurposed as a planting medium for green infrastructure?

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

It is easy to paint landscape architecture as an inherent “greener” of communities, particularly when it comes to green infrastructure and the profession’s more recent emphasis on creating and sustaining urban ecologies. But every project has an environmental footprint, including, in some cases, the destruction of wilderness areas hundreds of miles from the project site through sand mining and soil removal, which provide the raw material for landscape soil blends. “We put ourselves out there as purveyors of sustainability, but meanwhile we’re kind of like these crazy organ harvesters, borrowing healthy soil and transplanting it somewhere else,” says Richard Roark, ASLA, a partner at OLIN in Philadelphia. “I was like, can we stop that?”

That is exactly what OLIN is attempting to do through a multidisciplinary research project known as Soil-less Soil. Led by the firm’s research division, OLIN Labs, the landscape architects and their partners are studying the feasibility of (more…)

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