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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Solitary moments with nature as a response to urban loneliness.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As one might expect, the winners of Bubble Design Competitions’ Eliminate Loneliness challenge mostly offered ways to bring people together. Second prize went to a concept for umbrellas that hook together. A high-angle view shows a cluster of about 20; under this bumpy canopy only people’s bodies are visible, not their heads, but perhaps murmured conversations are starting (or even flirtations). The third prize winner proposed a building game. Giant shapes of recycled plastic would be piled in public places for passersby to assemble into structures, necessarily interacting as they do. (“What happens later inside made objects is up to the people,” its designers note, possibly winking.)

First prize went somewhere else altogether. The brainchild of Gandong Cai, Associate ASLA, and Mingjie Cai, Student ASLA, landscape designers at Sasaki and Stimson respectively, it imagines “spiritual infrastructure” for crowded central Tokyo. It’s not about togetherness, and it won’t get anybody a date. Recognizing the distinction between being lonely and being alone, (more…)

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BY JENNIFER REUT

A botanical exhibition brings visitors into Roberto Burle Marx’s oeuvre.

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

So often seen only in plan or aerial photography, Roberto Burle Marx’s work can be hard to understand as spaces to occupy. With the possible exception of Biscayne Boulevard, executed after his death, the experience of being in a Burle Marx design remains out of reach for most U.S. admirers. And the images we do have, though captivating, are empty of the sensorial qualities essential to his work. Raymond Jungles, FASLA, a Florida-based landscape architect who often visited Burle Marx in his native Brazil when he was alive, observes, “It’s one thing to see photos; it’s another thing to move through the space.” (more…)

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BY JENNIFER REUT / PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE PLANTHUNTER BY DANIEL SHIPP

The Planthunter finds an audience searching for connections between people and plants.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

The Planthunter, despite its adventuresome name, is not about seeking bromeliads in the wilds, except that it kind of is. A web publication and now a book just out from Timber Press, The Planthunter is a platform for a community of designers and artists who have congregated around the landscape designer and writer Georgina Reid, and her aspiration to create a space where the many shades of our relationship with gardening could be unpacked. The Planthunter is for those who seek not specimen plants but a place to question the culture of people and plants.

Reid is based in New South Wales, Australia. She began looking for ways to upend her thinking after she had been designing gardens for about a decade and found herself frustrated with the publications she was reading. “I just got to a point where I was asking a lot of questions about gardens and design,” Reid says. “If you had a gardening magazine, you were being very practical and very horticultural, and there didn’t seem to be room to explore the wider context of plants and gardens in relation to culture and in relation to art design.”

“But there were no real conversations happening around why we garden.” (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text, with English text available below.

BY MAGGIE ZACKOWITZ

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Sam Droege’s lab at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center does not have a street address. To get there, you count the miles down a winding Maryland road, looking for the seventh in a series of gates (#6 is unnumbered) set into the tall wire fence alongside. Punch the code into a keypad for the gate once you find it, drive up the hill, and hang a sharp left. There sits a low building in a yard of waving grass and wildflowers, encircled by another high fence—this one electrified. It’s a remnant of security for the yard’s former occupants: whooping cranes once raised here to repopulate the species.

“The fencing wasn’t to keep the cranes in so much as keep the predators out,” explains Droege, a wildlife biologist. These days the compound’s objects of study aren’t luring the local carnivores. What’s inside, in fact, are stacks and stacks of pizza boxes. They are filled with bees.

First, the bees are drowned. Cup traps filled with soapy water are placed in sunny areas near blooming plants; the bees cooperate by falling in. Their bodies are then gently washed clean of pollen and dust, dried, assigned bar codes, labeled with date and place of collection, and pinned by the dozens to the floor of the protective pizza boxes to await identification. Bees are sent here by bee collectors from all over the world. “We’re up to over half a million specimens,” says Droege, who has run the United States Geological Survey’s Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab (NBIML) for some 20 years. (more…)

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REVIEWED BY MELISSA S. RAGAIN

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2000, the German artist Reinhard Reitzenstein suspended a tree from a pair of abandoned hydroelectric towers in La Gabelle Park in Quebec. Hung upside down, the 55-foot spruce tree contrasts tragicomically with the immense structures beside it, as though they had seized the tree and subjected it to this humiliating inversion. This arresting image flips (quite literally) our expectations of the landscape, even a human-altered landscape like the escarpment of a hydroelectric dam, and dramatizes the clear-cutting that makes such sublime industrial monuments possible. Reitzenstein relies on those expectations in order to subvert them. The cultural baggage of landscape, both pictures of the landscape and the land’s design as an aesthetic object, is the ground against which a work like Transformer appears. The urgency of climate change and mass extinction has made it necessary for anyone who works with natural materials or images to rethink the historical conventions that govern our perceptions of the natural world.

I was choosing a new survey text for my course Contemporary Art and Ecology when I was commissioned to review Mark Cheetham’s new book, Landscape into Eco Art. To judge by the title and the array of evocative illustrations, it looked like a viable candidate to replace my go-to anthology, Jeffrey Kastner’s Nature (The MIT Press, 2012). Though Kastner’s book offers an excellent selection of short primary documents perfect for an undergraduate seminar, it lacks what many art history textbooks offer: the lure of chronology, the analysis of individual artworks, and an authoritative narrative to help navigate the last 50 years of ecological art making. And yet, as I thumbed through Cheetham’s Landscape into Eco Art, I began to realize that it was not a survey text. Neither was it the kind of fine-grained history of a single object or movement we have come to expect in contemporary art history. Other texts in the genre take the standard contemporary art historical model of diving deep into a subject only to pop back out of it again with a new perspective on the long history of contemporary practices. For instance, James Nisbet’s Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s (The MIT Press, 2014) tells a history of land art and systems thinking by tethering it to a lengthy analysis of Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977). Similarly, Suzaan Boettger’s Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties (University of California Press, 2003) takes a wide-angle lens to land art in a chronological survey of the era’s greatest moments to shed light on the complex network of artists, gallerists, and collectors who motivated land art’s monumental minimalism.

Instead, Landscape into Eco Art might be more readily compared to work in environmental aesthetics, a subfield of (more…)

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REVIEWED BY JUSTIN PARSCHER 

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In their continual search for respect, recognition, and equal pay, landscape architects find themselves in a quandary. On one hand, they understand that credit attaches itself to authors, masters with distinct visions and styles, and are forever writing letters to the editor to assert that the city didn’t do it—the landscape architect did. They celebrate acting as project leads, not only because it validates their way of working, but because the project lead can safely be given final credit. However, having toiled so long in subsidiary roles, landscape architects are also mindful of the networks of expertise that actually form ambitious designs, particularly in the public realm. A chain of public officials, architects, structural and civil engineers, ecologists, lighting designers, and community members all contribute to the shape of the place, which is naturally also conditioned by social and environmental realities on the ground.

The urban historian Alison Isenberg’s Designing San Francisco is, among its many other virtues, a vital text for helping landscape architects think through this dilemma. Isenberg’s book focuses on (more…)

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ON BRAZIL’S BEHALF

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

Araucárias, Paraná, ca. 1884. Photo by Marc Ferrez/Gilberto Ferrez Collection/Instituto Moreira Salles.

 FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Speaking out against the military dictatorship of Brazil during the late 1960s and early 1970s had definite risks. Politicians, human rights advocates, artists, and intellectuals who publicly opposed the right-wing government’s programs of hyperdevelopment did so under threat of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Many fled into exile. Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect (1909–1994), had been a public figure for decades when, three years after the 1964 coup, he was appointed by the dictatorship’s first president, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, to a 24-member national cultural council. For Burle Marx, the decision to join the council was ethically freighted. He accepted with one clear objective: to save the Brazilian landscape.

In a new book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes Under Dictatorship (University of Texas Press, 2018), Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, brings forth a series of 18 frankly activist speeches, or depositions, that Burle Marx delivered as a member of the council. They target, among other things, the unchecked destruction of Brazil’s forests for raw materials and agriculture. He surveyed the progression of environmental tragedy with a deep knowledge of botany and ecology, an intricate alertness to policy, and always appealing to a Brazilian pride in its national landscape patrimony.

“The way I read his depositions, Burle Marx is positioning an argument that’s against the economic development theory of the regime,” Seavitt Nordenson told me recently. “Sometimes they listen to him and sometimes they don’t. But he’s on the inside and he’s arguing passionately, because he’s been working on the cultural project of the Brazilian landscape for so long.” Seavitt Nordenson notes that in these speeches of 50 years ago, Burle Marx touches on two huge problems of today, anthropogenic impacts affecting climate and the loss of biodiversity. “They’re very clear—they’re jocular speeches, often funny, and have so much spontaneity—and he manages to communicate a serious message to an audience that has significant political power.”

This excerpt of Depositions includes a brief introduction by Seavitt Nordenson to three depositions on forests, followed by her translations of the depositions themselves.

 —Bradford McKee

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