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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

DurkTalsma/iStock by Getty Images.

Development as usual is not cutting it in the era of climate change. A new interdisciplinary report released this morning by the American Society of Landscape Architects calls on public officials and private interests both to transform the ways they plan, design, and build at all scales to counter climate change, and it asserts that the most fundamental and potent mitigation policies and strategies are based in landscape solutions.

ASLA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience comprised 10 professionals—five of them landscape architects—who produced a slate of recommended policies and planning solutions to guide national and local leaders, as well as private-sector decision makers as they work to address climate change in several specific development arenas. That includes the protection of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Minbo Zhao’s “Better Trail, Better Life.” Image courtesy the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

For her study of the landscape dimensions of the opioid crisis, Aneesha Dharwadker, a designer in residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, taught an undergraduate and graduate studio grounded in the endlessly complex set of cultural, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Called “Landscapes of Dependence,” the landscape architecture studio synthesized research into a diagram called “The Labyrinth of Addiction.”

The diagram portrays addiction not as a cycle or individual pathology, but as an intricate maze, an array of orbits connecting the pharmaceutical industry, poppy cultivation, the environmental conditions of users, health care resources, and local institutions—punitive and otherwise. As explained by the accompanying website and manifesto “The Declaration of Dependence,” there’s no single entry point to the labyrinth, no clear linear progression, and only one dead end: fatality after an overdose. Everything else is an endless feedback loop. Invited by Dharwadker onto campus for reviews in April, I was confronted by the intimidating vortex her students were tasked to defy. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

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Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Upstate Archipelago proposal. Image courtesy Cornell Design, H+N+S, and SOAR (Strengthening Our Area Residents) of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

New York’s Erie Canal once projected a young nation’s power and commercial ambitions across half a continent. Connecting New York City and the Hudson River north of Albany all the way to the Great Lakes, at 363 miles long, it was the second largest canal in the world when it opened in 1825, and one of the most transformative infrastructure projects of America’s early history. It reduced bulk commodity costs by 90 percent, according to some estimates, and it’s been immortalized in stories and songs ever since.

But in the 201 years since it began construction, the canal has been leapfrogged by nearly every manner of freight and commodity transit: rail, road, pipelines, and even the now-navigable St. Lawrence River. Vessel traffic on the canal peaked in the early 1950s, and recreational boating peaked in 1989.

To reverse this slide, the New York State Canal Corporation is hosting the Reimagine the Canals Competition to re-envision how this feat of 19th-century land engineering can be better integrated into the 21st century. (more…)

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It’s the first, which means May’s issue of LAM is here! You’ll find these stories inside:

FOREGROUND

Where Least Matters Most (Interview)
Coco Alarcón is using landscape architecture to help disadvantaged communities in his native Peru.

Between the Bents (Parks)
Something fun is happening under Toronto’s elevated expressway.

FEATURES

Vertical Oasis
Optima Camelview’s lush, green exterior is unexpected in arid Scottsdale, Arizona.
Bridge to Everywhere
The Harahan Bridge offers pedestrians and bikers a thrilling new way to cross the Mississippi River.
Let My Rivers Go
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is still working to keep its head above water. Freeing its rivers could be the key.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for May 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 May articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Bridge to Everywhere,” Big River Crossing Initiative; “Let My Rivers Go,” Zach Mortice; “Vertical Oasis,” Bill Timmerman; “Between the Bents,” Andrew Williamson; “Where Least Matters Most,” Courtesy Traction team members.

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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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