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Archive for the ‘PLANNING’ Category

BY JONATHAN LERNER

Jack Dangermond built a tech colossus, and a fortune, from GIS. Now he’s sharing it all to save the world.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Jack Dangermond wears oversized tortoise-shell glasses. At 72, his hairline has receded halfway back on his head. For work, he dresses casually—open collar, v-neck sweater. His manner is gracious and energetic, but calm and notably confident. He tends to speak as if in final draft, which he credits to years of dictating correspondence. He is tall and rangy, but it’s quite possible that when he arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1967 to earn an MLA he would have been taken for a geek. His ulterior motive in going there, after all, was “to start playing with computer mapping”—when computer mapping barely existed.

The school’s pioneering Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis had been founded two years earlier by the architecture professor Howard Fisher.

Dangermond says that on meeting Fisher, “He immediately hired me. Within an hour. Which was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my life.” Harvard was one hot spot of the era’s radical activism. “The Vietnam War was going on,” he says, “revolution in the air, protestors shutting down the university, creating all kinds of controversy. This big aha! moment came for my wife Laura and myself, who were both working there in the basement of Memorial Hall. We had a job making computer maps, doing air pollution studies and land-use suitability studies. The realization was, ‘We don’t want to go right or left; we just want to go forward with this idea of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Reinventing Vilonia uses a network of public green spaces to link disaster shelters. Image courtesy of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center.

Plans for the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas, by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) assert the primacy of public green space as the center of traditional urbanism: town squares on formerly abandoned lots, generous boulevard streetscapes on what had been pedestrian no-man’s-land, and new neighborhoods with pocket parks. But in doing so, the director of the UACDC, Stephen Luoni, and his team learned how to use this network of outdoor civic space to meet a far more pressing need.

In 2014 a tornado flattened much of the town of 4,000, destroying or damaging hundreds of structures and killing 16 people in the area. And Luoni’s plan uses these urban green spaces as links in a chain of disaster shelters.

The UACDC’s plan, Reinventing Vilonia, calls for a system of buried shipping containers that act as tornado shelters, (more…)

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BY BRAULIO AGNESE

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After four decades, a prominent reminder of the effects of urban renewal in the nation’s capital is set to vanish.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

All cities bear scars, evidence of past planning decisions, made with the best of intentions, that affect urban space in negative ways over the following decades. For more than 40 years, Washington, D.C.’s northwest quadrant has suffered a particularly prominent one where the District’s downtown meets the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the east: A three-block-long, 200-foot-wide opening above the depressed Center Leg Freeway (I-395), which runs beneath the nation’s capital from New York Avenue down to the Southeast Freeway (I-695).

The opening—bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the north, E Street to the south, 2nd Street on the east, and a handful of buildings along 3rd Street—is a remnant of the nationwide mid-20th-century effort to revitalize cities by bringing high-speed, multilane highways around and through urban cores. Extensive plans for the District included an interstate loop within the city that would stretch from the west end of the National Mall to the Anacostia River on the east. The eight-lane Center Leg Freeway, which skirts along the U.S. Capitol’s west side, was the second segment built.

North of Constitution Avenue, the section of D.C. the freeway would pass through was a largely black and mixed-European working-class neighborhood that had been in long decline as the city suffered from white flight and economic woes. (Partly in response to the District’s difficulties, a complete reorganization of local government in 1967 gave D.C. semiautonomous rule with its first mayor and City Council.) The area was considered blighted, and there was little effort to resist the project. But seven years after construction on the Center Leg Freeway began, (more…)

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BY MARK HOUGH, FASLA

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Ten Eyck Landscape Architects reimagines the campus at the University of Texas at El Paso.

FROM THE JANUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, recalls driving across Arizona in the summer of 2012, talking on the phone with one of her clients at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). It was about a dream project: the opportunity to redesign the landscape of a historic university and create a major open space as its ceremonial heart. On the call, she was making the case to Greg McNicol, the school’s associate vice president for facilities management, that her firm, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, based in Austin, Texas, should lead the project rather than be subconsultant to an architecture firm as had been the plan. Her argument was simple: The scope of the work was almost entirely landscape architecture.

Ten Eyck successfully persuaded administrators to give her firm the job, even though they were skeptical at first that a landscape architect could lead such a complex project. Notable among the people she won over was Diana Natalicio, who had been hired as UTEP’s first female president in 1988. During her tenure, (more…)

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In Sic Erat Scriptum, landscape architect and filmmaker Evan Mather argues that the Interstate Highway System that has reshaped the nation through epochal public works is not the project of technocratic 20th century humanist ambition, but something far more ancient and out of our control. Through fictionalized Grand Junction Bible College landscape urbanism instructor Melvin McNally (portrayed by Mather), his short film makes the pop-science case that the interstate is really the result of “biomigratory ecology rooted in ancient habitats and dominions.” That is, these roads follow dinosaur trails.

The video’s grainy film quality gives it an air of archival mystique that contrasts with sharp overlay maps of transit corridors throughout the millennia. Accelerated footage of miles of highway whirring past give way to fictionalized newspaper pages filled with dummy text in Latin telling of “Devil Lizards” unearthed during road construction.

There’s the interstate, which was preceded by the early 20th century highway system, which followed railroad lines. These lined up with pioneer wagon trails, themselves mapped to Native American trails, whose only purpose was to follow large mammal migratory patterns.  And concentrations of fossils found in clusters along these paths indicate these creatures were lured by “ancient dinosaur watering holes,” McNally says. It sounds like the prologue to a dusty paperback science fiction novel from the late 1950s. But broken down step by step, it seems reasonable. Foregrounded in acknowledgment of the Anthropocene age (the period of history where human activity is the strongest force affecting planetary ecosystems and geology), it questions whether we’re really writing our own novel, or instead cribbing notes from a story told long, long ago.

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The artist Josh Begley’s Best of Luck with the Wall video turns the 1,954-mile continent-spanning journey across the United States–Mexico border into a seven-minute tone poem. The border mostly exists in our lives as a contested political abstraction. But it’s an actual place, and even as the video races across the landscape (stitched together from 200,000 satellite images), viewers can see towns nestled up against the demarcation, agricultural fields in neat rows and wide circles, and hundreds of miles of the Rio Grande River, all set to a spare, jangling score. The politics of the day has brought the border into everyone’s living room, but a concise portrait of what the border actually is will still remain a cursory and ephemeral thing.

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REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-Conceptualising Design and Making

From the October 2016 Issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

 

Warning: possible confirmation bias ahead.

One of the most perplexing aspects of landscape architecture education and practice that I’ve encountered is what I’ll grossly refer to here as representation. In the nearly two decades that I’ve been a student, professional, or involved in some capacity with teaching at the university level, I can think of no other domain as consistently polarizing than the critically important area of how landscape architects generate and communicate their ideas. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of this issue is the ongoing divide between digital and analog processes—using the computer versus hand drawing. At first glance, one may likely assume this issue to simply be generational—older generations of designers were not educated in the use of the computer and so are less accepting of it than of those techniques and media with which they were trained. But, surprisingly, there seems to be a continued skepticism or distancing from advanced computational processes even by those of the postdigital generations, which is much more troubling given that these will be the future leaders of the discipline, and, as the authors of this book so effectively demonstrate, not embracing the digital in a robust way at this point significantly reduces the potential of the discipline to have the type of impact it aspires to have.

Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-Conceptualising Design and Making, by Jillian Walliss and Heike Rahmann, both academics based in Australia, is a well-reasoned, well-written, and at times polemical book. It critiques landscape architecture’s failure to more fully embrace the potentials of digital media. It educates readers about the ways designers are using sophisticated digital processes right now in very real professional and academic projects and research. And it aspires for landscape architecture to leverage digital technology (more…)

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