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BY LYDIA LEE

San Francisco’s Exploratorium discovers its outdoor spaces.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

One of the most popular exhibits at San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an immersive experience of the city’s iconic fog. When you walk along the 150-foot-long Fog Bridge by the artist Fujiko Nakaya, you disappear into a white mist generated by 800 tiny nozzles. “When everything is fogged up around you, it’s a wonderful ‘noticing’ tool,” says Tom Rockwell, the Exploratorium’s director of exhibits and media studio. “You notice the change in temperature, the air currents, the light.”

It’s fitting that the Exploratorium, one of the original hands-on museums, encourages visitors to engage directly with the wild. The foundation for its outdoor exhibits is a series of broad decks around the waterfront museum—more than an acre of hardscape—designed by the San Francisco firm GLS Landscape | Architecture. Notably, most of the outdoor areas are accessible by the public and don’t require a ticket for admission. They fulfill a state mandate for public waterfront access, but they are also an important part of the museum’s mission to connect with a much wider community beyond its paying attendees. The spaces are testing grounds for outdoor installations (more…)

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BY JANE ROY BROWN

How designers of Boston’s outdoor classrooms arrived at a “Kit of Parts” that really works.

How designers of Boston’s outdoor classrooms arrived at a “kit of parts” that really works.

From the May 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 “Ms. Thompson, what’s a log?” The question came from a kindergartener in a Boston elementary school in 2006, after his teacher (not her real name) read a story to the class about a possum hiding in a hollow log.

As shocking as the question may sound, teachers all over the country have fielded similar ones for years. By 2005, when Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods launched the term “nature-deficit disorder” into everyday use, generations of kids in some city neighborhoods had had no experience of woods, never mind logs.

Last Child in the Woods has sent all kinds of communities scrambling to offer some experience of nature to their children, and many of them have focused, logically enough, on schoolyards. As more landscape architects join the push to transform crumbling asphalt schoolyards into landscapes for play and learning, they might do worse than to take a page from the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI).

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A program by the Trust for Public Land lets kids design their own schoolyards.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

“There is poop going into the East River,” the teacher says, sprinkling black specks onto a cutaway model consisting of buildings, streets, and sewer pipes. It is week three of design class at P.S. 15, the Roberto Clemente School, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and a group of third graders is participating in the New York City Playgrounds Program, which, led by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), transforms asphalt inner-city schoolyards into community parks.

The teacher, Maddalena Polletta, who is TPL’s participatory design educator, is describing how storms can overwhelm New York City’s combined stormwater–sewer system and cause it to overflow. Seated around Polletta in a semicircle, the children are wide-eyed. “Your playground is impervious, which means that nothing can get through,” Polletta explains, using the model to demonstrate how the school’s asphalt yard contributes to the stormwater runoff, which is one of New York City’s biggest environmental problems.

After the Sewer in a Suitcase lesson (so called because the model is designed to fit into a suitcase for transportation to different schools), the children discuss a list of potential amenities and design features for the new park they are helping to design. The list includes a basketball court, a butterfly garden, a trampoline, and even a Jacuzzi—an amenity that to date has not been installed in a TPL park. The students talk about replacing part of the asphalt schoolyard with a different hardtop surface. “What if we fall and hit our face?” asks a boy dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt. “What if we fall and scrape our knees?” asks a girl who stands up to address the class. “Okay, so this is a grass class,” Polletta says, summarizing the students’ sentiments.

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After barely a decade, Chatham University’s landscape architecture program gets the ax.

After barely a decade, Chatham University’s landscape architecture program gets the ax.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The decision, announced in a posting on the web page for Chatham University’s Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program, was rather sudden: “As of June 2014, Landscape Architecture degree programs at Chatham have been closed.” David Wilson, Associate ASLA, a 2014 graduate of the MLA program and a past ASLA student president, says there had been rumors the closure would happen, so it wasn’t a total surprise, though the speed with which a decision was made “did come as a bit of a shock.”

The MLA program at Chatham, located in the heart of Pittsburgh, is relatively new, having first been accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) in 2007. Many people considered it fitting, even inevitable, to have a landscape architecture program at a school that headlines its environmental ethos and that, when it was the Pennsylvania College for Women, had counted Rachel Carson, the environmentalist and author of Silent Spring, among its graduates.

Chatham had long offered a master’s degree in landscape studies, and in 2000, members of ASLA’s Pennsylvania–Delaware Chapter began talking to administrators of Chatham College (the school achieved university status in 2007) to see whether they would be interested in hosting a landscape architecture program, recalls Lisa Kunst Vavro, ASLA, the current trustee for the chapter. The program won approval in 2003; Michael Leigh, who was faculty at the landscape studies program at the time, worked with the college to develop the program. Shortly afterward, in January 2004, Kunst Vavro became the acting director and won accreditation in 2007 after three years of what she describes as “blood, sweat, and tears.”

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The 272-page November issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine is the biggest of the year, if not the past five. Why the extra muscle? Perhaps abundance is in the air: This year’s ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver is looking to be one of our biggest ever.

This year, the ASLA Award of Excellence in General Design went to Gustafson Guthrie Nichol for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. Despite the difficulties the central Seattle site provides, the site’s landscape design echoes its past as a bog, and its present as a centrifuge of global and local ethics. In “Fire, Rain, Beetles, and Us,” Carol Becker looks at the interconnected catastrophes recently visited on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. “Fluid Boundaries” finds the Colorado River reflow (“A Spring Flush on the Colorado,” April 24, 2014) is just one of several transnational projects to kick-start the riparian wetland along the Colorado River. Jayson DeGeeter, ASLA, talks to Guy Sternberg, the oak guru, about the species and his calling at Starhill Forest Arboreteum. “Detroit from the Ground Up” finds that landscape architecture is playing a major role in Detroit’s revitalization. And the photographer Alex MacLean and the journalist Daniel Grossman investigate the beginning and the end of the transborder tar sands oil trade.

Departments deliver this month as well: NOW has Editor Brad McKee’s perspective on the Rosa Barba Prize, updates on Changing Course, and elementary ag in NYC; Interview talks to Reid Fellenbaum, winner of the ASLA 2014 Student Award of Excellence in Analysis and Planning about his spooky-brilliant project, “Meridian of Fertility”; House Call features residential design in Arcadia National Park by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Architecture; and the Back has a portfolio of The Cultural Landscape Foundation‘s annual Landslide campaign, this year directed at saving site-specific artworks. All this and the usual rich offerings in Species, Goods, and Books. The full table of contents for November can be read here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 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 ungating November articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: Gates Foundation, Tim Hursley; Pine Beetle, Paul Milner; Hunters Hole, Fred Phillips, ASLA; Guy Sternberg, Noppadol Paothong; Detroit, Detroit Future City; Alberta Refinery, Alex MacLean; Arturo Toscanini School, WORKac; Microtopographic Section Model, Reid Fellenbaum, Student Affiliate ASLA; Opus 40, © Thomas Hahn, 2014, Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

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Recess is making a comeback, according to a recent article in Slate. For the first time in decades, all elementary school students attending Chicago Public Schools will have a 25-minute recess period planned into their day.  The article cites scientific research showing that children who get a 15-minute recess are more likely to pay attention in class the rest of the day.

After years without recess, many schools are not equipped to just open up the doors to the school yard and let the kids have at it. According to the Chicago Tribune, 98 elementary and middle schools in Chicago don’t have outdoor playgrounds.

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And a lot of class, at that. The Landscape Architecture Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2012 National Olmsted Scholar awards. The top honor, with $25,000 attached, goes to Jack Ohly, Student ASLA, of the University of Pennsylvania. Four finalists receive $1,000 each. Find out who they are and also learn about the full class of scholars, each nominated by his or her program faculty, here. (Disclosure: I was a member of the jury this year.) (Further disclosure: It was very uplifting to read the submissions. Frederick Law Olmsted would be pleased.)

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