Archive for the ‘TECH’ 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 They’re decades out of date,” she writes.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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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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SELECTIONS FROM THE 2018 STUDENT AWARDS

BY ZACH MORTICE

“Stop Making Sense” resists applying easily explicable narratives to the open question of nuclear waste storage. Image courtesy Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA, and Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA.

The winning entries of the 2018 ASLA Student Awards offer solutions for extreme sites and surreal conditions, completely appropriate to the times in which they were crafted. Here is a selection of six award-winning student projects that greet such days with humanity, nuance, and rigor.

Stop Making Sense: Spatializing the Hanford Site’s Nuclear Legacy

General Design: Honor Award

Composed of a pair of inscrutable concrete bunkers that are 1,000 feet long and dug 60 feet into the earth, “Stop Making Sense” by Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA, and Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA, pushes aside dominant narratives about how our nation treats and digests nuclear waste.

“We didn’t want to give people answers, and we didn’t want to force a perspective,” Keeley says. “What we wanted to do was raise questions and incite curiosity.” (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Bay Area landscape studios team with local artisans to evolve CNC-fabricated site elements.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Alcatraz keeps disappearing, but not because of sea-level rise. “Alcatraz Island has been stolen, replaced, and stolen again,” says Nicholas Gotthardt, a senior associate at Surfacedesign in San Francisco. The irresistible Alcatraz is one element of a large topographic model of San Francisco’s Golden Gate headlands that anchors the visitor overlook at Fort Point National Historic Site, where Surfacedesign was part of a team that designed new site amenities completed in 2014.

The model, made of finely detailed precast concrete, is a literal touchstone at the overlook, which offers dramatic views to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, as well as a rest stop for cyclists and hikers. Gotthardt recalls the impetus for creating the model: “We wanted to design an interpretive piece that wasn’t signage and words. We wanted something tactile—something people could touch.” Gotthardt had honed his digital modeling skills in the fabrication lab at the Ohio State University’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. With the Fort Point project, he found an opportunity to apply those skills, including fabrication using computer numerical control, or CNC, at the site scale. “The idea of a pancake topo model as the centerpiece of this small urban space came from the officewide comment that ‘We should build more models!’ There isn’t always the time or resources in practice to get into physical modeling the same way that you get to do in school.”

Today both undergraduate and graduate landscape programs provide training and facilities in CNC fabrication, including five-axis mills for sculpting wood and foam, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. Yet this new generation of graduates, facile with the work flow producing CNC models in the design studio, often finds it difficult to ply these skills once they reach (more…)

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

FOREGROUND

 Urban Scanner (Interview)
Shannon Mattern’s book, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, uncovers the way information has shaped our cities.

The Hole Story (Parks)
Hornsby Quarry in New South Wales was thought too big to fill and too unsafe to leave open.
Now it could be a park.

Palms Out (Plants)
Palm trees may be iconic of Miami or Los Angeles, but they can
thrive in more—and colder—places than you may think.

FEATURES

The Old and the Neutral
In New Orleans, Hargreaves Associates weaves the hopeful future into
the industrial past in Crescent Park.

Two London Squares and a Theory of the Beige Hole
Sleek, tidy, generic: a critique of Fitzroy Place and Rathbone Square, two privately owned
public spaces in London’s West End.

Balancing Act 
In a wetter world, how do we weigh the need to adapt to the future
against the imperative to preserve the past?

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

Credits: “Two London Squares and a Theory of the Beige Hole,” londonsurvival/JOEHOOVER (londonsurvival.wordpress.com); “The Old and the Neutral,” Timothy Hursley; “Balancing Act,” Newport Restoration Foundation/Ashley Braquet; “Palms Out,” Botanics Wholesale; “The Hole Story,” Hornsby Shire Council; “Urban Scanner,” Michael K. Chen and Justin Snider, Michael K. Chen Architecture.

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