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Archive for the ‘PRACTICE’ Category

BY ANDREW LAVALLEE, FASLA

Pavement and planting beds can play nicely—but it takes thought.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

It is a classic landscape architecture problem: placing pavements next to lawn or planting bed areas. The commonplace nature of this situation belies its complexity, an adjacency that represents an interface between two systems with antithetical requirements. In this case, the edge between pavement and planting bed is an area where an engineered structural system abuts a living horticultural system. Successful design solutions frequently require landscape architects to reconcile competing interests, but it is not always easy, given the demands of a project. In SiteWorks’s practice, we see the pavement–planting edge as a challenge for both designers and contractors alike. The edge merits special attention with regard to how we design and document the condition, how it’s built, and how its thoughtful assembly can benefit long-term performance.

The Basics
Let’s start with what a successful pavement system needs. The structural support of a pavement relies on (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

Working in a multidisciplinary firm means every day is different.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You certainly never get bored in a multidisciplinary office. A landscape architect might find herself reviewing federal endangered species listings, hydrology maps, or legal frameworks for land use planning in the daily shuffle, and these are just some of the diverse types of work likely to be present. Industrial mining methods, vernal pool construction, and high-rise plumbing systems could also come into play. The number of landscape architects working in these professional environments is growing as businesses find a competitive edge providing full, in-house services for site development projects that require expertise from designers but also from scientists, legal teams, and engineers. Four landscape architects at the center of these integrated office types share insights about collaboration, isolation, and the willingness to learn something new each day.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Weston & Sampson, Boston

Gene Bolinger, ASLA, Vice President

What are lessons learned from working in a multidisciplinary office for more than 25 years?

Staff at Weston & Sampson (clockwise from left): Elise Bluell, Associate ASLA; Cassidy Chroust, ASLA; Desmond Fang; Brandon Kunkel; and Farah Dakkak, Associate ASLA. Image courtesy of Weston & Sampson.

I came to Weston & Sampson through an acquisition, and I’ve been here since the fall of 1991. Weston & Sampson is an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, and it’s one of those old, legacy northeastern firms. It’s been around since 1899. One of our larger clients is the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and at any given time, we have  eight to 10 projects under way with the City of Boston. We’re pushing up against 500 people in our organization and, again, we’re mostly in the Northeast, with the largest projects in Massachusetts, for sure. Just recently the firm went to a discipline-based structure—we’re actually six disciplines. One of the disciplines is the design discipline, and I manage the design discipline. I’ve become accustomed to working within a multidisciplinary realm, and I celebrate what’s great about it and try to take advantage of what’s great about it.

If you’re sitting back on your hands and you’re assuming that people are going to be delivering exactly what you want at the exact moment you want it, you’re so mistaken. So, that’s why you can’t let things (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Damon Rich talks about the planning approaches that recently earned him a MacArthur Fellowship.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Damon Rich describes himself as a designer who uses the tool set of a community organizer. Rich says his goal at his design firm, Hector, with partner Jae Shin, and at his previous post as a founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, is to “[assemble] constituencies, trying to connect people so they can better exert political influence.” As a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient, Rich will get a chance to see how an infusion of money ($625,000), translated through broad-based grassroots urban planning, can pull policy levers to make urbanism more equitable, healthy, and vital.

With Hector, his goal is to go into a neighborhood and uncover design elements that can offer multilayered meanings and associations to meet a wide range of needs. “I’m really excited to keep on finding ways to design things that really become social objects and social symbols,” Rich says. At the Newark Riverfront Park project, designed by Lee Weintraub, FASLA, during Rich’s tenure as the planning department director for the city of Newark, New Jersey, the color orange is used prominently in a boardwalk. The color references local schools’ heraldry and Newark’s municipal neighbors, East Orange and West Orange. It also works because it’s a neutral hue across local gang turfs. After it was built, a yoga instructor who teaches classes there complimented Rich for selecting this color because (unbeknownst to him) orange represents the water chakra.

Rich practices largely in the urban planning tradition, but he’s not careful about disciplinary lines. At the Center for Urban Pedagogy, he created users’ manuals for the city, working with marginalized communities that most need civic jargon translated into plain language. “I Got Arrested! Now What?” explains in graphic novel format how the justice system works, while “Vendor Power!” uses nearly wordless IKEA-like diagrams to show street vendors (who may be recent immigrants who don’t read English) how to comply with vending rules. Clear explanations of the city’s form, use, and regulations are part of his responsibility to (more…)

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This December LAM is under (and around and in) water. The feature well is saturated with new ideas about designing with and through water. The Port of Baltimore is open to designing with its dredge materials and has green-lit a pilot project for Mahan Rykiel’s sustainable and social enhancement of the Chesapeake’s Hart-Miller Island. Along the lakeshore, Chicago’s Navy Pier is putting aside its tourist-magnet past, with a redesign by James Corner Field Operations that now attracts native Chicagoans and visitors alike. And a handful of local efforts aim to combat the persistent encroachment of sea-level rise in the vulnerable communities surrounding Hampton Roads, Virginia, one of the most important strategic sites in the United States.

In Water, the EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge draws out creative solutions from landscape architecture students for treating and managing stormwater. Four landscape architects discuss the benefits and challenges of working in multidisciplinary firms in Office. In Materials, a quirky relic of an industrial past gets a glittery makeover for a Seattle park. And this year’s Landslide campaign from the Cultural Landscape Foundation calls attention to public landscapes and national monuments in immediate danger of erasure. All this plus our regular Books, Now, and Goods columns. The full table of contents for December can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 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 December articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Pier Review,” Sahar Coston-Hardy; “Dredging Up the Future,” Mahan Rykiel Associates; “The Rising Tidewater,” Sahar Coston-Hardy; “The Biggest Smallest Move,” Mutuus Studio; “It Always Rains on Campus,” Cory Gallo, ASLA; “In the Mix,” Joe Ben; “Not Gone. Yet,” Jeff Katz

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Mulan Primary School in Huaiji County, Guangdong, China, by Rural Urban Framework and the Power of Love. Photo Courtesy of Rural Urban Framework.

John Cary’s book Design for Good (Island Press, 2017) details a now familiar formulation for do-good design in the developing world: a western architect working closely with local partners, using local materials assembled to respect vernacular traditions and modern aesthetics, employing local labor trained as an act of grassroots economic development.

From the remotest outposts of developing-world privation to the forgotten places much closer to home that exist in the shadow of great wealth, Cary (the former executive director of Public Architecture, the public-impact design nonprofit) advocates on behalf of design for dignity. “Dignity,” he writes, “is about knowing your intrinsic worth and seeing that worth reflected in the places you inhabit.” It’s not an aesthetic goal, or a measure of the designer’s saintly ambitions. It’s a quality of the users’ experience.

The building types he examines are familiar (Rural Urban Framework’s Mulan Primary School, supportive housing by Michael Maltzan for the recently homeless in Los Angeles’s Skid Row) and totally singular to their contexts. There’s MASS Design Group’s cholera treatment center in Haiti made necessary by the region’s devastation from a 2010 earthquake that piled onto what was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Also by MASS (Cary’s prototypical standard-bearer for his generation’s inequity-attuned designers) are “maternal waiting homes” in Malawi. These combat sky-high maternal mortality rates by creating lodging near health clinics for women in the last weeks of pregnancy, assuring quality medical attention when they give birth. Atlanta’s BeltLine, the most landscape-oriented project profiled, forges a new landscape type out of a disused rail corridor: a network of greenway trails that loop an entire city.

Quoting the social activist Dorothy Day, Cary calls for places like these that create a (more…)

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If the design of our environments is a text that can be used to decode hidden meanings and obscured institutional values and biases, then design is a tool that’s equally up to the task of picking apart these inequities. That’s the intent of the second edition of the Black in Design Conference at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, subtitled “Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions,” and previewed by LAM earlier this month. Hosted by the Harvard GSD African American Student Union, the conference, held October 6-8, documents the effects of the African diaspora across the globe and the design fields, and questions the barriers and inhibitions to agency this community still faces. Its goal? More “radical and equitable futures.”

Across 10 hours of the conference, filmed and posted here, the organizers hear from a wide swath of design professionals, including planners, architects, artists, and landscape designers, such as Walter Hood, ASLA, and Diane Jones Allen, ASLA.

 

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REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

To listen to some mainstream urbanists today, you have to wonder what body of theory, if any, they are paying attention to in order to make what often seem hopelessly naive and homogeneous proposals for new urban developments. Admittedly, this group is often the same bunch who don’t have time for impractical theorization because they are out there doing real work, but some idea about “good” city form obviously drives their approach. Unfortunately, many of the theories in circulation stem from a belief that the city is nothing more than a problem to be solved—it’s too dense, or not dense enough; gray and dirty rather than green; impervious and polluting; unjust and inequitable; or not living up to that crowning achievement of being “walkable.” Obviously, most if not all of these criticisms can be leveled at cities in one place or another at one time or another, but what are the implications for the urban imagination of designers if this is the only lens through which the city (arguably the greatest cultural artifact ever produced) can be viewed—a massive problem which must be “restored” to some nostalgic, fictional notion of the healthy city? And, more optimistically, what new propositions, pedagogies, and disciplinary alignments are necessary to overcome these narrow worldviews and begin to engage the phenomenon of urbanization in a more compelling and realistic way?

In his new book Landscape as Infrastructure, Pierre Bélanger, ASLA, an associate professor of landscape architecture and a codirector of the Master in Design Studies Program in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, lays the groundwork for such an approach. Assembling a decade of design and scholarly research, Bélanger provides readers with a much-needed alternative history of urbanization (primarily in mid- to late 20th and early 21st-century North America), as well as a survey of the contemporary forces that drive urbanization patterns today. These aspects of the book are complemented by an account of the accompanying epistemological shifts brought about by new understandings of complexity and ecology as well as a resurgence of (more…)

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