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Archive for the ‘SOIL’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

New tools give landscape designers a better view of what’s thriving and what’s just surviving in the soil.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Republic Square in Austin, Texas, is one of the city’s most historic, sensitive, and heavily trafficked public green spaces. In the heart of downtown, it’s one of the original four public squares dating back to the city’s founding. In 1839, the city’s initial run of surveyed and platted blocks was auctioned off beneath what became known as the Auction Oaks. Recently revitalized by Design Workshop, the square is a broad public green and plaza outlined by native plantings and groves of trees, some of which are nearly 600 years old.

Matt Macioge, the director of operations for the Downtown Austin Alliance, which operates the park, wanted to protect this valuable place. He has a background in design and construction, so he could anticipate the typical array of maintenance issues, but with an added layer of complexity. “The plants within [these landscapes] are dynamic. They’re growing, they’re dying, they’re pollinating, they have seasonal changes and cycles,” he says. “You really need to be able to live and breathe with the plants with your operations manual.” Macioge says he wanted “world-class standards,” a maintenance regimen that would react and adapt to changes in both programming and ecology. (more…)

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INTERVIEW BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Greg Kochanowski documented the loss of his own home in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which destroyed 110 of 217 houses in Seminole Springs, California. Photo by GK.

 

The Los Angeles-based designer Greg Kochanowski researches wildfire mitigation close to home.

 

Earth is a water planet. It is also, as Stephen J. Pyne has written, a fire planet. The Earth “has held fires as long as plants have lived on land,” Pyne recently wrote in Yale Environment 360. To remove fire from landscapes that have coevolved with it “can be as ruinous as putting fire into landscapes that have no history of it. The fires we don’t see—the fires that should be there and aren’t—are an index of ecological loss, like imposing a drought on a normally lush landscape.”

Greg Kochanowski knows well the losses that fires and their absence bring. As the studio director of the multidisciplinary design firm RIOS, Kochanowski had been investigating the effects of urbanization on the fire-adapted landscapes of Southern California for more than three years when the 2018 Woolsey Fire destroyed his home in Seminole Springs, California.

Now, Kochanowski has collected his research, as well as his experience of the Woolsey Fire, in The Wild, published last fall as part of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design’s pamphlet series. The book explores the urban periphery of Los Angeles and the economic, cultural, and political pressures that have resulted in the city’s persistent peri-urban expansion and, consequently, the inevitability of ever larger, ever more deadly wildfires. Landscape Architecture Magazine spoke to Kochanowski shortly after the book’s release. His reVISION ASLA 2020 panel, “Fire Across the Pacific: Australia, California, and the Climate Crisis,” is available online.

LAM: What gave birth to the line of inquiry you’re tracing in the book?

Kochanowski: It was really the Rising Currents book that came out of the MoMA exhibition [Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, 2011]. That was the first time that I had seen the global design community using their expertise to solve much broader problems. I was really inspired by it, but I was living in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has issues with sea-level rise, of course, but there was a lack of theorizing about the West. It was a very East Coast discussion. In the West, I was experiencing fires, and then it would rain and you would have floods, and then landslides, and it happened every single year. It was just this cycle. After a few years, I thought, no one’s talking about this. So, I began to look at the fire cycle, and had a session at the ASLA conference in 2018 on some of that initial research. And then my house burned down. Then I got really interested in fire. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

John Whitaker’s Dark Matter project posits a memorial landscape that is a forum for collective action and protest. Image courtesy John Whitaker, Student ASLA.

An ASLA Student Award-winning project challenges outdated death practices.

 

One of the most startling projects submitted for the 2020 ASLA Student Awards was Dark Matter—a proposal that uses landscape as a transmission medium for the ecological values of the deceased. With arresting images and a somewhat unconventional project type, Dark Matter dazzled the jury, which bestowed the Award of Excellence in General Design on the project last spring. John Whitaker, Student ASLA, an MLA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, designed a proposal that created a memorial landscape that grows over time to unify human remains with nonhuman ecologies, promoting biological and cultural diversity and offering mourners “the continuation of a relationship that would endure over time with both their loved one and the larger site,” Whitaker says. (more…)

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BY PATRICK SISSON

A high-tech greenhouse developer argues that preserving the agricultural landscape
requires a sustainable, scalable start-up.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

One of the first things visitors will notice inside the sprawling AppHarvest complex—a 60-acre, 2.76-million-square-foot, 30-foot-high greenhouse in Morehead, Kentucky—is the blinding, almost antiseptic whiteness. A forest of tomato plants, green tendrils reaching up from nutrient-rich charcoal beds toward the glass roof, will soon be arranged in rows that stretch nearly a mile end to end. Walls, gutters, and flooring, all coated in white to reflect the sunlight, give the appearance of a soundstage.

“It’s just awe-inspiringly massive,” says Kentucky native Jonathan Webb, the company’s founder, about the experience of standing inside a space the size of 30 Tesla Gigafactories. Seedlings have already been planted, and by the end of the year, AppHarvest will be shipping the first of what it hopes will be an annual haul of 45 million pounds of fresh, Kentucky-grown tomatoes to grocers including Kroger, Walmart, and Costco. “We’re trying to use technology to align with nature and put nature first,” Webb says.

As its name suggests, AppHarvest views farming and food through a start-up lens. For Webb, who has a background in the solar industry, the central argument is sustainability. Tomatoes are grown year-round in a climate-controlled, chemical-free greenhouse using hydroponics, robotics, more banks of LED lights than a ballpark, and two species of wasps for natural pest control, resulting in significantly more produce per acre. Strategically placing one of North America’s largest greenhouses within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population means less time between harvest and consumption, ideally resulting in a tastier tomato and less trucking emissions. Nearly $2 billion worth of tomatoes are currently shipped into the United States annually from farms and greenhouses in Mexico.

Webb argues he needs to go big to fight the dystopian farming practices of Big Agriculture, which run ever-larger industrialized operations that emit noxious levels of animal waste and fertilizers. Animals raised on huge CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations), for instance, live in crowded misery, amid complexes that stain the landscape with so much ammonia and nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and methane that children nearby developed elevated levels of asthma. Artificial structures of glass and steel the size of airport terminals can free up the land by concentrating production. It’s a pragmatic strain of tech utopianism that asks if the sacrifice of a small portion of the landscape can serve the greater good. (more…)

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This fall, LAM will be highlighting professional and student winners from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

Peat/Land: Strategies for Restoration, Design, and Planning of North Carolina Peatlands, by Madalyn Baldwin, North Carolina State University, Student Analysis and Planning Honor Award.

“Paludiculture isn’t a well-known concept, but I only wanted to dedicate one graphic to introducing and explaining it, so the aim of creating this graphic was to fit in as much information as possible while trying to keep it legible. My goals were to create a graphic narrative that provided a definition and overview of the concept, explain the existing agricultural conditions and spatial relationship to peatland as well as what is produced here, give specific examples of crops that could be produced by adopting paludiculture practices, and use icons introduced earlier in the project to reference the specific restoration strategies and steps toward implementation. Overall, I was hoping this graphic would read as an infographic for paludiculture, answering the following questions: What is it, how and where can it be implemented or adopted, and what are the benefits?

Madalyn Baldwin, Student ASLA

 

Peat—decomposed plant matter that accumulates in boggy landscapes—sequesters a large proportion of the world’s carbon compared to its relatively small percentage of coverage, yet it is often used for energy production or simply drained to convert peatland to farmland. What if peatland were viewed less as an agricultural impediment than a climate-restorative opportunity? That’s the question addressed in this study of Fair Bluff, North Carolina, which was built on drained peatland, and was subjected to heavy flooding in recent hurricanes. By relocating Fair Bluff’s downtown from its current low-elevation site to higher ground, residents would gain a central peat park that would celebrate the region’s high water table while embracing better climate resilience that aligns with the disaster recovery plan. Here, innovative strategies for monetizing carbon storage would encourage preservation and restoration of peatlands, with increased public access and education programs to build visibility and instill the value of this natural resource. Encouraging paludiculture (wetlands agriculture) would promote peatland regrowth, and the new public park would offer tangible and long-term ecological benefit to residents in the region.

—Haniya Rae

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Photo by Robin Hill.

From “An Emerald Necklace at 70 Feet” in the October 2020 issue by Timothy A. Schuler, about a green roof system at the University of Miami devised by ArqGEO and the Henry Company that can keep everything planted amid hurricane-force winds.

“Hurricane ready.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Curbing Sediment collects sediment washed along curbs and street aprons in shallow troughs. Image courtesy Halina Steiner and Ryan Winston.

Research at the Ohio State University aims to keep stormwater sediment stranded on the road.

 

When Halina Steiner tested new sediment-collecting infrastructure in her lab at the Ohio State University (OSU), she noticed a mysterious magnetism pulling people toward the bits of beveled foamboard she had crafted into sediment collectors. As water mixes with dirt and sand starts flowing across the planks of foam, and sediment settles into intricately carved CNC-milled grooves, “it’s very mesmerizing,” Steiner says. It’s like sending a paper boat down a stream or, more accurately, “down the gutter,” she says, because that’s the exact place Steiner is looking to intercept sediment that pollutes and clogs waterways. (more…)

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