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University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (more…)

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BY ANNE RAVER

Two closely related Asian beetles are boring their way through Southern California’s trees.

FROM THE MARCH 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Smaller than sesame seeds, two beetle species are spreading through Southern California, killing hundreds of thousands of trees and infecting many thousands more with a pathogenic fungus.

At first, scientists thought the pests were the same species because they look exactly alike, but they carry different pathogenic fungi, and DNA analysis revealed genetic differences. But their damage to trees is so spectacularly similar that the two beetles—the polyphagous shot hole borer and the Kuroshio shot hole borer—are now referred to collectively as the invasive shot hole borer (ISHB).

A 2017 U.S. Forest Service survey estimated that 23 million trees are vulnerable to the ISHB that is working its way through Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties—or 33 percent of Southern California’s urban canopy. It’s impossible to know how many trees will die, but the projected losses are catastrophic. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY KATHLEEN GMYREK

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Iwanuma is a quaint and quintessentially Japanese beach town on the Sendai Coast, a two-hour train ride north of Tokyo, in Miyagi Prefecture. Rolling sand dunes line the coast, and a thin forest of black pines spreads inland to a wide band of rice paddies and modest farmhouses. Like dozens of small communities along this stretch of coast, it’s been farmed for hundreds of years, left mostly to itself as Japan developed and urbanized.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake pushed a tsunami against the coastline on March 11, 2011, Iwanuma was washed over by waves that rushed inland for miles and destroyed almost everything in their path. The parts of Iwanuma inundated by the tsunami were mostly agricultural lands, but the death toll still reached an estimated 180 people. In all, more than 15,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. Most drowned.

It was a devastating catastrophe for a country all too familiar with disasters, natural and human-made. But it was also something of an alarm to many people in seismically hyperactive Japan who have become newly energized by efforts to prevent similar destruction from the inevitable tsunamis of the future. One approach has gained considerable attention: the accelerated planting of “forest walls” as wave barriers. Hundreds of thousands of saplings have been planted (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Lake Michigan coast, on the South Side of Chicago. Photo by Zach Mortice.

In 2014 alone, 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater made its way into the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Commission. On its way there, this stormwater degraded the rivers and streams it flowed through and caused flooding in areas where hard surfaces terminally halt its infiltration.

To deal with this regional calamity, the Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University have launched a new initiative to disseminate technology and techniques that can mitigate untreated stormwater pollution, the Great Lakes Stormwater Technology Transfer Collaborative.

This partnership between the Great Lakes Commission, a Michigan-based nonprofit that works to protect the ecology and economic health of the region in the United States and Canada, and Lawrence Tech’s Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute will leverage the commission’s widespread industry contacts with the school’s technical expertise.  (more…)

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BY RACHEL DOVEY

The team led by SCAPE proposes breaching levees to allow trapped sediment out, creating a stronger network of marshes and mudflats that can cushion developed areas. Image courtesy SCAPE/Public Sediment team.

They’re no stranger to wildfires and drought, but the cities around the San Francisco Bay haven’t been hit with a climate change-fueled disaster on par with Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey—yet. Still, sea-level rise won’t spare the metros. Even if they escape the drowning predicted by certain apocalyptic maps, Bay Area residents rely on freeways and rail lines built on soft, low-lying bay fill—areas particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion. And the region’s tidal marshes and mudflats, which should act as natural barriers, are slowly losing sediment owing to poorly engineered dams.

“Unlike New York City, the Bay Area has all these slower and more invisible problems related to climate change,” says Gena Wirth, ASLA, the design principal at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is bringing some of those unseen issues to light. Last year, judges selected 10 winning teams (SCAPE is the leader of one) made up of ecologists, designers, and landscape architects to imagine infrastructure that works with the region’s shifting landscape rather than against it. The challenge, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, is modeled on New York’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design contest, with one key difference: This one is proactive, not reactive. Instead of waiting for federal funds to come in after a disaster, (more…)

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THE RISING TIDEWATER

BY BRETT ANDERSON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY

Disparate but urgent efforts to address sea-level rise in the Virginia Tidewater, one of the country’s most important strategic centers, are striving to keep up with visible realities.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The first question that sprang to Ann C. Phillips’s mind soon after she moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2006 was, “Why, when it rains, does the whole place submerge?”

She wasn’t referring only to dramatic weather events, although Phillips, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, landed in Norfolk during a bumper crop of those: Norfolk saw more major coastal storms and hurricanes in the 2000s than in the four previous decades combined, according to the city government.

Harder to fathom were the floods caused by light rains and “blue sky floods” triggered by lunar tides. Tidal flooding affects low-lying areas of Norfolk nine times per year on average.

These more regular floods were unlike anything Phillips experienced growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. They’re an alarmingly routine part of life in Norfolk and the surrounding Hampton Roads area (more…)

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