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INTERVIEW BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Greg Kochanowski documented the loss of his own home in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which destroyed 110 of 217 houses in Seminole Springs, California. Photo by GK.

 

The Los Angeles-based designer Greg Kochanowski researches wildfire mitigation close to home.

 

Earth is a water planet. It is also, as Stephen J. Pyne has written, a fire planet. The Earth “has held fires as long as plants have lived on land,” Pyne recently wrote in Yale Environment 360. To remove fire from landscapes that have coevolved with it “can be as ruinous as putting fire into landscapes that have no history of it. The fires we don’t see—the fires that should be there and aren’t—are an index of ecological loss, like imposing a drought on a normally lush landscape.”

Greg Kochanowski knows well the losses that fires and their absence bring. As the studio director of the multidisciplinary design firm RIOS, Kochanowski had been investigating the effects of urbanization on the fire-adapted landscapes of Southern California for more than three years when the 2018 Woolsey Fire destroyed his home in Seminole Springs, California.

Now, Kochanowski has collected his research, as well as his experience of the Woolsey Fire, in The Wild, published last fall as part of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design’s pamphlet series. The book explores the urban periphery of Los Angeles and the economic, cultural, and political pressures that have resulted in the city’s persistent peri-urban expansion and, consequently, the inevitability of ever larger, ever more deadly wildfires. Landscape Architecture Magazine spoke to Kochanowski shortly after the book’s release. His reVISION ASLA 2020 panel, “Fire Across the Pacific: Australia, California, and the Climate Crisis,” is available online.

LAM: What gave birth to the line of inquiry you’re tracing in the book?

Kochanowski: It was really the Rising Currents book that came out of the MoMA exhibition [Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, 2011]. That was the first time that I had seen the global design community using their expertise to solve much broader problems. I was really inspired by it, but I was living in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has issues with sea-level rise, of course, but there was a lack of theorizing about the West. It was a very East Coast discussion. In the West, I was experiencing fires, and then it would rain and you would have floods, and then landslides, and it happened every single year. It was just this cycle. After a few years, I thought, no one’s talking about this. So, I began to look at the fire cycle, and had a session at the ASLA conference in 2018 on some of that initial research. And then my house burned down. Then I got really interested in fire. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

On a cramped site, Superjacent conjures a forest and one of L.A.’s first shared streets.

FROM THE JANUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If all goes according to plan, over the next year a forest will spring up in South Central Los Angeles on what today looks more like a desolate traffic island than a buildable city lot. The woodland is a vital part of Isla Intersections, a 54-unit supportive housing development designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects with the landscape architecture firm Superjacent. The dense plantings are intended as a “living lung,” strategically designed to reduce air and noise pollution by 25 and 40 percent, respectively.

“Because we’re dealing with a site that’s super urban and a freeway that is elevated, the design strategy is really to create kind of an umbrella over that site, a dome of green that will catch particulate matter before it goes into homes and people’s lungs,” explains Claire Latané, ASLA, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, who consulted on the project while at Studio-MLA. (more…)

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FOREGROUND       

A Resilient Renewal (Maintenance)
After Hurricane Sandy upended a planned redesign, Joanna Pertz Landscape Architecture committed to the
upkeep of a flood-control landscape at NYU’s Langone Medical Center.

Ahead of the Curve (House Call)
An artful take on an underused suburban yard by Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture
turns around a few key elements.

FEATURES    

Reveal the River
Though 100 protected miles of the Chattahoochee River flow through the Atlanta metro area, a lack of access
and a long history of segregation have kept locals away and distrustful.
SCAPE lays out a path, or three, forward.

Mixed Media
Landscape architects have been slow to adopt social media, but with the pandemic closing off
traditional marketing, social platforms are giving rise to new forms of connection
and collaboration.

The full table of contents for January can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting January articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Reveal the River,” SCAPE; “A Resilient Renewal,” Joanna Pertz; “Ahead of the Curve,” Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

John Whitaker’s Dark Matter project posits a memorial landscape that is a forum for collective action and protest. Image courtesy John Whitaker, Student ASLA.

An ASLA Student Award-winning project challenges outdated death practices.

 

One of the most startling projects submitted for the 2020 ASLA Student Awards was Dark Matter—a proposal that uses landscape as a transmission medium for the ecological values of the deceased. With arresting images and a somewhat unconventional project type, Dark Matter dazzled the jury, which bestowed the Award of Excellence in General Design on the project last spring. John Whitaker, Student ASLA, an MLA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, designed a proposal that created a memorial landscape that grows over time to unify human remains with nonhuman ecologies, promoting biological and cultural diversity and offering mourners “the continuation of a relationship that would endure over time with both their loved one and the larger site,” Whitaker says. (more…)

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This fall, LAM will be highlighting professional and student winners from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

The LivingRoom: A Freeware Learning Garden Focused on Health, Food, and Nutrition Education, by Simon Powney, Tripp Dunn, Huang Zhaoheng, Ben Gunter, Jacob Felkins, Cody Eades, Walter Hogue, Matthew Stanton, Clint Kiser, Logan Sullivan, Nada Aziz, Natalie Bowers, Brandon Burton, Oriey Glenn, and Jane Kent; Mississippi State University, Student Collaboration Honor Award.

“The inspiration for the color and bold graphic style used in the Galloway Elementary School LivingRoom Garden came from an existing mural at the school that speaks to local food production and programmatic discussions with education researchers. The style uses a simple palette of primary colors and geometric shapes to represent local food selections. The arrangement is based on a few ideas about how elementary age children can use the garden. First, there is a series of spaces that can be used to identify destinations. ‘Meet on the big watermelon’ or ‘Let’s go sit in the tomato and talk about this.’ Second, [there’s] the need for structure so multiple groups could use it at the same time. ‘Let’s walk on the “peas” path so we don’t get in the way of the class on the “carrots” path.’ Third, the ‘peas’ end in an ordering grid that allows teachers to instruct children to order things they find in the garden by size, color, texture, shape, etc. and have discussions about the differences.”

—Simon Powney, Student ASLA

 

Teaching children about how food is grown is a worthy endeavor. But school administrators are daunted by the funding requirements and maintenance of a school garden. A team of landscape architecture, architecture, and graphic design students created a prototype for a learning garden that is affordable and practical. Instead of small-scale farming, the student team described the design as focused on “aligning teachers’ needs with food, health, and nutrition education goals.” The resulting semicircular planter, made with off-the-shelf components for less than $1,500, incorporates a trellis, seating, and an irrigation system. Working with an educator, the team also created a garden curriculum that is organized around the themes of time, color, math, biology, and seasons, allowing the lessons to be incorporated easily into the regular school curriculum.

—Lydia Lee

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FOREGROUND

The Scripted Surface (Tech)
For a complex paving pattern that was less of a chore to design, DAVID RUBIN Land Collective embraced
parametric modeling.

Not Just Any Garden (Preservation)
A historic garden is redesigned at the White House, but not without attracting partisans on both sides.

FEATURES

Good Work
The founders of Portland, Oregon’s Knot used pandemic relief funding to sustain the firm during a work slowdown, but staff needed purpose with their paychecks. Pro bono projects with a public service bent were money in the bank.

The Divining Rod
Stephen McCarthy has turned Greenseams, a program that converts disused agricultural lands to stormwater-soaking green infrastructure, into one of Wisconsin’s most successful
open space programs.

The full table of contents for November can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting November articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Good Work,” Knot; “The Divining Rod,” Zach Mortice; “Not Just Any Garden,” Andrea Hanks/White House Photo Office; “The Scripted Surface,” DAVID RUBIN Land Collective. 

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BY PATRICK SISSON

A high-tech greenhouse developer argues that preserving the agricultural landscape
requires a sustainable, scalable start-up.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

One of the first things visitors will notice inside the sprawling AppHarvest complex—a 60-acre, 2.76-million-square-foot, 30-foot-high greenhouse in Morehead, Kentucky—is the blinding, almost antiseptic whiteness. A forest of tomato plants, green tendrils reaching up from nutrient-rich charcoal beds toward the glass roof, will soon be arranged in rows that stretch nearly a mile end to end. Walls, gutters, and flooring, all coated in white to reflect the sunlight, give the appearance of a soundstage.

“It’s just awe-inspiringly massive,” says Kentucky native Jonathan Webb, the company’s founder, about the experience of standing inside a space the size of 30 Tesla Gigafactories. Seedlings have already been planted, and by the end of the year, AppHarvest will be shipping the first of what it hopes will be an annual haul of 45 million pounds of fresh, Kentucky-grown tomatoes to grocers including Kroger, Walmart, and Costco. “We’re trying to use technology to align with nature and put nature first,” Webb says.

As its name suggests, AppHarvest views farming and food through a start-up lens. For Webb, who has a background in the solar industry, the central argument is sustainability. Tomatoes are grown year-round in a climate-controlled, chemical-free greenhouse using hydroponics, robotics, more banks of LED lights than a ballpark, and two species of wasps for natural pest control, resulting in significantly more produce per acre. Strategically placing one of North America’s largest greenhouses within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population means less time between harvest and consumption, ideally resulting in a tastier tomato and less trucking emissions. Nearly $2 billion worth of tomatoes are currently shipped into the United States annually from farms and greenhouses in Mexico.

Webb argues he needs to go big to fight the dystopian farming practices of Big Agriculture, which run ever-larger industrialized operations that emit noxious levels of animal waste and fertilizers. Animals raised on huge CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations), for instance, live in crowded misery, amid complexes that stain the landscape with so much ammonia and nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and methane that children nearby developed elevated levels of asthma. Artificial structures of glass and steel the size of airport terminals can free up the land by concentrating production. It’s a pragmatic strain of tech utopianism that asks if the sacrifice of a small portion of the landscape can serve the greater good. (more…)

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