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Archive for the ‘SOIL’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

A hydrogel-enabled seed bomb. Credit: U.S. provisional patent application No. 62/465,341. Nahin Shah | Martina Decker, Material Dynamics Lab.

The tools for tactical urbanism seem more likely to be developed in community center meeting halls and anonymous Internet forums rather than university laboratories. But at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), an architecture professor is working on ways to give impromptu urban vegetation efforts staying power with hydrogel seed bombs.

Martina Decker, who directs NJIT’s Idea Factory and Material Dynamics Lab, is combining seed bombs—balls of organic matter that protect and help seeds packed within them grow—with hydrogel granulates, polymers that are extremely hydrophilic, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Tillage radish is similar in shape, size, taste, and color to daikon radish. Image courtesy of MVVA.

Oilseed radish, or Raphanus sativus, goes by the name “tillage radish,” “radish ripper,” “fracking radish,” and the comic book-worthy “turbo radish.” It can reach its two-inch-wide taproots down six feet, breaking up compacted soil and rebalancing nutrient levels, and is commonly put to work as a cover crop in agricultural fields. But the designers at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) found another, more high-profile use for them: to remediate the soil during the renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis, one of the largest and most important landscape revamp projects in the nation. This reimagining of Dan Kiley’s mid-20th-century landscape is using an unprecedented application of soil-remediating vegetation into this sort of sensitive and historic National Park Service property, says Adrienne Heflich, an MVVA senior project manager.

It’s one sort of drilling operating that, even though it’s in a national park, is entirely welcome.

MVVA’s plan makes the park more flexibly programmed, (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

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Mapping the historic dunes hidden beneath the surface of Chicago.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

A few years ago, Mary Pat McGuire, ASLA, became fascinated by the South Side of Chicago—or rather, with what was beneath it. She was flying back to the East Coast often, leaving from Midway Airport, and she started to notice “really interesting patterns along the coastline that looked like stripes, ridges along the shore. They were some kind of remnant,” she says, describing the landscape south of the city. “I just started to wonder, ‘What’s really going on here? What was this place?’”

McGuire, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was already familiar with the South Side’s more recent history of white flight, shuttered industry, and disinvestment. Now, she became interested in the area’s geologic history, and how it might be put to work. The landforms she spied from the air prompted McGuire to look at early soil maps made by the U.S. Geological Survey. What she found were (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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All photos by Jose Ahedo.

Over the course of two years, the Spanish architect Jose Ahedo visited livestock farming landscapes in eight countries: Mongolia, China, Paraguay, Germany, India, Bolivia, New Zealand, and the Azores Islands in Portugal. He traveled 90,000 miles by plane, 9,000 miles by car, 23 miles by boat, nine miles by horse and camel, and—most excruciatingly for a vertigo sufferer like Ahedo—56 miles by hot air balloon. Documented through his photography and funded by a $100,000 Harvard Graduate School of Design Wheelwright Prize Fellowship, his travels kept him on the move for 103,000 miles.

Ahedo selected these disparate locations so that he could witness the extreme “asymmetry,” he says, in how cultures in different places with different levels of development produce livestock. “You have people that move on horses, and (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Where has all the sediment gone? Image courtesy of Landscape Metrics and the Dredge Research Collaborative.

Where has all the sediment gone? Image courtesy of Landscape Metrics and the Dredge Research Collaborative.

From the December 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Thanks to a severe shortage of sediment, the tidal marshes of the San Francisco Bay are disappearing, taking with them a vital ecosystem and an important defense against sea-level rise. In response, in June 2016, voters approved a parcel tax that will generate $500 million over the next 20 years for wetland restoration. And yet the sediment hasn’t vanished; it’s a prisoner of the state’s highly altered hydrologic system. “There’s this incredible resource that’s just sitting behind this constellation of dams,” says Landscape Metrics principal Matthew Seibert.

This summer, as a part of DredgeFest California, Seibert worked with the Dredge Research Collaborative and workshop participants to visualize this “hidden sediment reserve.” Based on data published in the journal Water Resources Research in 2009, the team created an interactive map showing where—and when—California’s sediment was diverted, as well as the cost of removing that sediment, which far exceeds the expected $500 million in tax revenue. Seibert is optimistic, however, especially as the economics of climate change become increasingly apparent: “The Baylands have an amazing capacity for flood mitigation that I don’t feel is quantified economically yet, or valued as it should be.”

For an interactive version of this map, visit landscapemetrics.com/dredge.

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BY ANNE RAVER, PHOTOGRAPHY BY FREDERICK CHARLES

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Preserving farmland is not enough if it doesn’t stay in the hands of farmers.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

A gorgeous October morning in the Hudson Valley and people are out leaf peeping, but not Chris Cashen, a farmer.

Every week, on the outskirts of Hudson, 120 miles north of New York City, Cashen and his crew load about 1,300 pounds of organic vegetables—baby bok choy, salad greens, Japanese turnips, sweet potatoes, Tuscan kale—onto a truck headed for a food pantry hub in Long Island City.

The hot, dry summer meant they had to irrigate from the nearby creek, but the vegetables are beautiful and tasty.

A few miles south, Ken Migliorelli zigzags over the potholed roads between his hilly orchard in Tivoli and the flat sandy fields of his cropland in Red Hook. A Valentine’s Day freeze took out all his stone fruit this year—no peaches, nectarines, or cherries—and a hard frost in May reduced his apple crop by 30 percent. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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The Living Filtration System. Illustration by Living Filtration System.

It’s the habitat that most determines the health of any ecosystem, but it’s largely invisible to the naked eye. The soil under your feet, if it’s healthy, is filled with all manner of micro-organisms, bacteria, and fungi that break down organic matter into fresh dirt loaded with nutrients, and nourish the plants growing there. Soil is the building block for all healthy biomes, and a critical concern for all landscape architects. It’s also a finite resource that’s been continually degraded (more…)

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