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Archive for the ‘THE BACK’ Category

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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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Landslag, of Reyk­javík, takes home the 2018 Rosa Barba Prize.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The site, the Saxhóll Crater, is part of Snæfellsjökull, a volcano on a far western finger of Iceland that is the starting point for Journey to the Center of the Earth, the 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. This worn-down cone of lava, 125 feet high, is a popular stop for tourists who want to walk up to its summit amid patches of multicolored mosses, lichens, arctic thyme, and bog bilberry to see views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding glacier cap, which is expected to disappear within 50 years. Tourism is up sharply in Iceland, quadrupling since 2010 to two mil­lion visitors in 2017. The wear was evident on the crater’s flank, where the path to the summit was degrading and splitting into multiple tracks, not helped by random, gabion-like treads where the going got especially rough.

The project of preserving the crater’s fragile ecology along with access to people fell to Thrainn Hauksson, of the landscape architecture office Landslag, in Reyk­javík. Hauksson’s office designed the simplest thing possible— (more…)

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REVIEWED BY KELLY COMRAS, FASLA

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Victor D. Gruen (1903–1980) was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, a powerful visionary who combined social criticism, persuasive charm, ambition, and talent. Known as the father of the shopping mall, he envisioned a cure for the banality of postwar American suburbia and neglected city centers that profoundly altered the landscape of postwar city development. He suggested “shopping towns,” new community centers that would contain a rich mix of civic and commercial spaces and activities, and the introduction of pedestrian zones within the core of older city centers. Later in life, he criticized that his ideas had been co-opted by developers, commercialized by economic, political, and cultural forces beyond his control, which thereby emerged on the postwar landscape as an unintended archetype: the enclosed, inward-facing, single-purpose, multilevel, two-anchor-department-store shopping center.

Gruen has left us with an impressive number of writings about his work (including the well-known The Heart of Our Cities), and two pertinent books have tackled appraisals of his work—Alex Wall’s Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City (2005) and M. Jeffrey Hardwick’s Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (2004). But Anette Baldauf’s new translation from German of Gruen’s dictated memoirs, Shopping Town, presents us with (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

A quirky nook at UC Berkeley memorializes Bill Callaway in style.

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Peter Walker, FASLA, has thought quite a lot about memorial design. With Michael Arad, he completed the World Trade Center Memorial in Lower Manhattan, which opened in 2011. But a more recent call about a memorial commission was quite personal. It came from Jennifer Wolch, the dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, near where Walker has his firm, PWP Landscape Architecture. She wanted to create a memorial within the school’s Wurster Hall to William Byrd Callaway, known to his friends as Bill. Callaway, who died in 2014 at the age of 71, joined Walker at SWA in 1967 and eventually became its CEO—and a legend to his colleagues.

Wolch “had quite an interesting space, but it was really ugly,” Walker said. “Everyone just threw stuff in it.” The space is a two-story light well for which no use was specified when the building opened in 1964. Faculty members at that time debated its best use but couldn’t agree on what that would be. “The decision was made to put all plans on the back burner,” Wolch said. “For 52 years.” (more…)

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

Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

From “Soft Power in Moscow” by Stephen Zacks in the April 2018 issue, about how an ambitious riverfront park has radically revised Russian notions of the public sphere.

“Russian rave.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

 

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BY STEPHEN ZACKS

An expansive park at the foot of the Kremlin helped drive a series of revolutionary improvements to the Russian capital.

FROM THE APRIL 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

At Zaryadye Park in central Moscow, a procession of Eurasian birch trees, grasses, and shrubs winds downhill from a glass-encrusted outdoor amphitheater that tops the new Philharmonic Hall, framing photogenic views of the candy-colored cupolas of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The park’s verdant terrain folds onto the rooftops of five scalloped pavilions that shelter a botanical display, an educational center, a food court, and a screening room that plays an immersive 3-D film on Russian history. The park, which covers 32 acres, stretches to the edge of Red Square, and even adds 11 square feet to the square that was uncovered during excavation. The pavilions, with their vegetated roofs, and most of the park’s terrain sit atop a 430-car underground parking garage. To keep the whole landscape in place, a geocell soil-stabilization system rests on top, anchoring granite pavers on pedestrian pathways that stretch onto an arching, boomerang-shaped overlook that cantilevers and hovers over the Moskva River. Here visitors of all ages and groups compulsively photograph themselves against the backdrop of the Kremlin and the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, one of the Stalinist high-rises that define Moscow’s skyline.

Zaryadye Park is an entertaining landscape intended as a spectacular place, a special attraction, and a free public space—a term that Russian architects agree had almost no precedent in the language before a series of convergences brought the park into being. (more…)

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