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Archive for the ‘STREETS’ Category

BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

New technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of the most-used construction material.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Concrete in the 21st century promises to be a more sustainable material, and given the nine billion metric tons used globally each year, it must be. Portland cement, the binding agent in ordinary concrete, has a very high carbon footprint, resulting in just under one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) released for every ton of cement produced. With 4.2 billion metric tons of the binder used each year worldwide, cement production is responsible for nearly 8 percent of total global carbon emissions. The high lime content of ordinary portland cement contributes about two-thirds of cement’s CO2 impact through the process of limestone calcination. The other one-third of CO2 released is from combustion of fossil fuels.

Technologies to improve the carbon footprint of concrete are currently in the early stages of development, but some, including carbon sequestration in concrete and substantial reductions of cement using energetically modified cement, are now commercially available. Concrete surface products for paving and walls to scrub air pollution, as well as new self-healing concrete products, are also worth investigating. We have heard about some of these innovations for a decade or more in the research community, but many are finally being brought to market—some more quickly than others. Europe is ahead of the United States in the adoption of these technologies, largely because of more rigorous clean air and carbon reduction initiatives.

New technologies in any field can take a long time to move from the laboratory to the marketplace, but (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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The linear art installation SWA designed for Houston’s Highway 59/Interstate 69 bridges came with two important traffic safety stipulations: no words, and no faces (so as not to distract the drivers zipping by).

Natalia Beard, the lead designer, came up with a pixelated vision of bright colors splashing across several 300-foot sections of chain-link fence along the sidewalk of the elevated freeway. The linear imagery (called “Houston Bridges”) tracks the velocity and movement of the freeway. It gives you enough depth to ponder when stuck in traffic. The images came from photos by Houston schoolchildren, digitally turned into jubilant checkerboards of neon color.

This smoke-stained stretch of highway, which connects Houston’s downtown to its primary airport, is (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The most important question related to the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side doesn’t have that much to do with its architecture.

It is instead: What kind of landscape stewardship can a presidential museum and library offer? To be located in Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Jackson Park, the project already has a heap of canonical landscape history to contend with. So can the Obama library make a great park greater?

The answer is… (more…)

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The nearly unquestioned dominance cars have had over our cities for more than half a century, we’re told, is a very expensive problem to fix. Now that we have millions of miles of car-serving infrastructure, is it too late and too expensive to replace it?

No. The Spanish have a better way. Developed by Salvador Rueda of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona (and documented in a video by Vox), the plan for Barcelona “superblocks” (or “superilles” in Catalan) gives urban planners and transit engineers a simple template to gradually reclaim streets from automobiles.

Best applied to nine-block areas as discrete superblock districts, the plan confines regular traffic to the perimeter of the site. Streets internal to the nine-block area become one-way loops, (more…)

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Landscapes of Longevity is a feature-length documentary that spans cultural landscape theory, public health research, and narrative filmmaking to answer a question that affects every person: How does one’s environment affect the length and quality of one’s life?

After summarizing how planning traditions engineered physical activity and social connection out of much of the built environment, creating an “obesogenic cultural landscape,” the film seeks out locations that avoided these urban planning pitfalls, and exist as a sort of reasonably modest fountain of youth. While they were landscape architecture graduate students at the University of Virginia, directors Asa Eslocker and Harriett Jameson chronicled the epic stair-climbing abilities of nonagenarians on the Italian island of Sardinia, visited kimono weavers in Japan well into their 10th decade, and walked the lemon groves of Loma Linda, California, with their 93-year-old caretaker.

The film began as a research project by Eslocker and Jameson, which earned a 2014 ASLA Student Honor Award, and later a 2015 ASLA Student Award of Excellence once the pair started to translate their work into a movie. It pays equal attention to how the design of space, both public and private, can affect physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health. And by comparing the environments in each of their case study locations, they uncover a set of landscape features that seem to enhance longevity and quality of life by simply existing: elevated views that enhance attachment to place, visual landmarks on horizons, and opportunities for immersion in nature. Again and again, the common denominator for a long and healthy life is connection: to people, places, and the world around you. As Landscapes of Longevity makes clear, that’s a value set uniquely suited to landscape architects.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Reinventing Vilonia uses a network of public green spaces to link disaster shelters. Image courtesy of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center.

Plans for the small town of Vilonia, Arkansas, by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) assert the primacy of public green space as the center of traditional urbanism: town squares on formerly abandoned lots, generous boulevard streetscapes on what had been pedestrian no-man’s-land, and new neighborhoods with pocket parks. But in doing so, the director of the UACDC, Stephen Luoni, and his team learned how to use this network of outdoor civic space to meet a far more pressing need.

In 2014 a tornado flattened much of the town of 4,000, destroying or damaging hundreds of structures and killing 16 people in the area. And Luoni’s plan uses these urban green spaces as links in a chain of disaster shelters.

The UACDC’s plan, Reinventing Vilonia, calls for a system of buried shipping containers that act as tornado shelters, (more…)

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BY JANE MARGOLIES

Toronto’s Underpass Park, seemingly there all along.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

Corktown Common is the marquee public space in the evolving West Don Lands area of Toronto. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the lovely 18-acre park contains meandering paths, pocket-size lawns, and a marshy cove, all tucked into a multilevel landform engineered to protect the downtown of Canada’s largest city from the threat of flooding on the Don River, which flows into Lake Ontario.

But just a block from Corktown Common, the much smaller Underpass Park, designed by PFS Studio with the Planning Partnership and situated on the same flood protection landform but beneath a tangle of roadway overpasses, is quietly gaining fans.

OK, maybe not so quietly.

Visitors to the park hear skateboards hit the pavement—clack! Basketballs bounce, and young children shout gleefully in the vicinity of the playground equipment, the sounds reverberating through the echo chamber formed by the cement columns and beams that support the roadways above. The visuals, too, are none too quiet: Colorful murals on the columns take inspiration from (more…)

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