Archive for the ‘RESEARCH’ Category

LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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

FOREGROUND

Changes Ferguson Can See (Planning)
In Ferguson, Missouri, the Great Streets plan for West Florissant Avenue is revived,
this time with more community participation.

Life Insurance for Plants (Materials)
Who’s responsible when a plant fails?

FEATURES

ICEd Out
The U.S. government does not classify landscape architecture as a STEM topic. That is bad news for foreign students seeking visas to study here—and for the profession.

Live and Learn
Artificial intelligence may well revolutionize landscape architecture. At least
that’s what the robots tell us.

The Huntress
Hunting her meat, growing her vegetables, and designing for meaning: Christie Green, ASLA, has chosen the wild life.

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

Credits: “The Huntress,” Gabriella Marks; “Live and Learn,” XL Lab/SWA Group; “Changes Ferguson Can See,” SWT Design; “Life Insurance for Plants,” Cristina Cordero, ASLA, SiteWorks.

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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 MAGGIE ZACKOWITZ

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Sam Droege’s lab at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center does not have a street address. To get there, you count the miles down a winding Maryland road, looking for the seventh in a series of gates (#6 is unnumbered) set into the tall wire fence alongside. Punch the code into a keypad for the gate once you find it, drive up the hill, and hang a sharp left. There sits a low building in a yard of waving grass and wildflowers, encircled by another high fence—this one electrified. It’s a remnant of security for the yard’s former occupants: whooping cranes once raised here to repopulate the species.

“The fencing wasn’t to keep the cranes in so much as keep the predators out,” explains Droege, a wildlife biologist. These days the compound’s objects of study aren’t luring the local carnivores. What’s inside, in fact, are stacks and stacks of pizza boxes. They are filled with bees.

First, the bees are drowned. Cup traps filled with soapy water are placed in sunny areas near blooming plants; the bees cooperate by falling in. Their bodies are then gently washed clean of pollen and dust, dried, assigned bar codes, labeled with date and place of collection, and pinned by the dozens to the floor of the protective pizza boxes to await identification. Bees are sent here by bee collectors from all over the world. “We’re up to over half a million specimens,” says Droege, who has run the United States Geological Survey’s Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab (NBIML) for some 20 years. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The lago at Roberto Burle Marx’s Sítio, which he composed by eye from truckloads of species collected during his botanical expeditions. Image courtesy Julian Raxworthy.

It’s time for landscape architects to re-embrace what makes them fundamentally different.

 

Since its inception, it’s been hard to find much agreement in landscape architecture over the profession’s purpose and how it should work. For some contemporary designers, landscape architecture, in theory if a bit less in practice, is most visible when ecological systems are designed and deployed to remediate the earth, water, air, and biomes, often at an infrastructural scale. And yet, a profession wholly obsessed with infrastructure would seem to miss the trees for the forest.

The Australian landscape architect Julian Raxworthy posits a way forward in his new book, Overgrown: Practices Between Landscape Architecture and Gardening, published by The MIT Press. Landscape architects, he notes, have retreated from the defining element of their corner of the spatial world: the development and management of planting design. Plants, he argues, are defined by their growth over time and the maintenance used to train them. Gardeners (whose ranks Raxworthy once populated) haven’t lost track of this fact. Growth is landscape architecture’s fundamental currency. From there, he launches into a populist call to tear down the blue collar/white collar divide between gardeners and landscape architects. Raxworthy (who is headed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after living in Cape Town, South Africa, for five years, teaching at the University of Cape Town) seems to admire messiness and rebellion against the bespoke and delicate. That preference is not surprising if you chat him up about his days as a music writer in the 1980s in Sydney, attending shows by Public Enemy and Dead Kennedys. Of one of his case study projects (created by a designer who never studied landscape architecture), he writes: “As a gardener rather than a landscape architect, the only plans Korte produced for the project were to satisfy the authorities. All other decisions arose organically through spending four years on site with a gang of four young German laborers who had returned from Brazil and smoked marijuana constantly. He looked back on this way of working with some nostalgia, saying that this time on site was the height of his career.” (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: (more…)

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BY HANIYA RAE

Technology helps shape what hardscapes can be.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Courtney Goode was working on a project in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. Buffalo Bayou, one of the slow-moving rivers that Houston relies upon to hold stormwater, flooded, and the waters would end up spilling out over the city’s aging infrastructure and impermeable surfaces, exacerbating the problem.

“My heart was in my throat,” Goode says. “We had been working on these super-detailed axonometric drawings of all angles of the city—we knew the city like the back of our eyelids. It was a total shock to see the bayous obliterated and murky, debris-filled water covering the walkways, roads, and even ground floors of the buildings near the bayou. The flood just engulfed everything we had been designing.”

For Goode, a landscape designer in Sasaki’s Urban Studio and a Fabrication Studio coordinator, the disaster afforded her a very real account of how the city managed stormwater and led her to think more about how low-impact development can divert stormwater from streets during flooding. She describes a scenario in which a city like Houston could divert some of the excess water by excavating 40-foot-deep gravel dry wells (the size of a typical four-story parking garage) topped off with permeable pavers that could hold excess rainwater until it’s able to seep back into the ground. (more…)

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

FOREGROUND

 Crisis Actors (Outreach)
In San Francisco, teams in the Resilient by Design challenge found that agitprop—an old Soviet-style publicity technique—still works in the Instagram age.

Pairings with Wine (Plants)
The horticulturist Sean Hogan brings a palette of low-water, high-interest plants to Argyle Winery.

Practice Makes Permeable (Tech)
A research project takes advantage of rapid prototyping with 3-D printers.

FEATURES

Here Comes Everybody
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ transformation of a postindustrial New York waterfront to the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge Park took two decades to realize. It was worth the wait.

Always Working
A constructed salt marsh at Pier 1 makes a beautiful defense.

How to Overstuff a Sterile Site
The plantings at Brooklyn Bridge Park follow a strategy of “exaggerated ecology.”

Softening the Sound
Noise reduction in the park takes the form of a mountain.

All this plus the regular 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: “Here Comes Everybody,” Alex MacLean; “Always Working,” Lexi Van Valkenburgh; “Softening the Sound,” MVVA; “How to Overstuff a Sterile Site,” MVVA; “Pairings with Wine,” Doreenwynja.com Horticultural Photography; “Crisis Actors,” HASSELL+; “Practice Makes Permeable,” Matthew Arielly.

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