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Archive for the ‘THE BACK’ Category

TEXT BY MIMI ZEIGER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHAD RESS

As the country confronts economic stalemate, Chad Ress’s photographs prompt comparisons with imperfect efforts to rebuild in the past.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On February 17, 2009, less than a month after his inauguration, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. A stimulus bill meant to jump-start the nation’s flatlined economy, the Recovery Act, as it was popularly known, promised nearly $800 million to state and local governments for the funding of “shovel-ready” projects.

The following year, the Ojai, California–based photographer Chad Ress stood on a dry lake bed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and watched a tractor maneuver boulders into totemic piles in New Hogan Lake in Valley Springs, California. He was there to document a project funded by ARRA. The resulting photograph is almost boring. The frame captures signs of California’s epic drought; what was once covered in water is now dust. The sky is nearly white. Yet that line of rocks was evidence of money at work.

The book America Recovered (Actar Publishers, 2019) pairs Ress’s photographs with snippets of text that he pulled from recovery.gov, the government-sponsored and now-defunct website that listed each of the public works funded by ARRA. Although the site was taken down in 2016, a mothballed version can be found in the Library of Congress archive. The recovery.gov site didn’t show photos or drawings, just obtuse project descriptions of what might get done and a dollar amount. The unheroic list was meant to demonstrate transparency, but it had all the charm of bureaucratic efficiency married to a partisan political climate (the Republican-controlled Senate at the time aimed to minimize many achievements of the Obama administration).

The website struck Ress as an important counterpoint to the archive of images amassed during the Great Depression by Roy Stryker, who launched the documentary photography division of the Farm Security Administration under New Deal legislation. Photographers including Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange were assigned to photograph America under economic hardship. Their cameras captured how people were living, government buildings, factories, and places of worship. Parallel documentation undertaken by the Works Progress Administration celebrated the monumentality of new public works—such as the majestic Hoover Dam photographed by Ansel Adams.

“I wanted to explore those disconnects between what I could read on recovery.gov and what I could see,” Ress says. “I was hoping that the language would align with what I could photograph, but that only happened once: New Hogan Lake, Valley Springs.” (more…)

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BY PATRICK SISSON

A new landscape architecture docuseries goes behind the scenery.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s hard to tell the story of the L.A. River without flying through it,” says Michael Todoran, a landscape designer, lecturer, and podcast host. Along with his students at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in January Todoran began filming “Superfisky: The Allure of the Urban Wild,” the first episode of Larchitect, a docuseries devoted to landscape architecture. This in-progress episode focuses on Kat Superfisky, a landscape designer, ecologist, and educator working to restore the natural beauty and native plant life on the shores of the mostly concrete-lined waterway. When the landscape, specifically the Los Angeles River, is a supporting character in your story, visual exposition becomes critical. The best solution was a helicopter shot that showed the true breadth and boundless energy of this body of water. (more…)

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REVIEWED BY JUSTIN PARSCHER

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

Students should learn to draw by hand, to fly drones, to do interpretive dance, to do light construction. They should collaborate with social scientists, with soil scientists, with local community members, with their counterparts in New Zealand. They need to be able to craft policy, wrangle BIM data, construct dioramas, and plant green roofs. In the best-case scenario, there are only five years to fit this all in. What is crucial? What gets left out? And keep in mind the vast array of wicked problems converging on us while we try to figure that out.

The two new Teaching Landscape books put out by the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools (ECLAS) give the reader an acute sense of the sheer scope of the mission landscape architecture educators take on. As the former ECLAS president Simon Bell explains in his foreword to the Routledge Handbook of Teaching Landscape, “This book originated in a deeply felt need by all ECLAS members for up-to-date materials to help them to teach. It must be said at the outset that we do not want all schools to be alike and to teach exactly the same things in the same ways—we want to maintain diversity.” The results reflect that. The topics of teaching range widely, from the theoretical to the applied, and from technology to writing. The end result is often difficult to treat as an actual handbook. With some exceptions, like Peter M. Butler’s useful primer for creating a service learning studio, the majority of the contributions are case studies of the authors’ own classes, usually without much context given as to the curriculum in which they sit. The overwhelming variety gives you the same sense of disbelief you have watching the finalists at the Westminster Dog Show: How are these things all related? And how would you judge them against each other? (more…)

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TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATHERINE JENKINS

Scholarship in the Open Air.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE  

 

Walking Through the Pandemic

In May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, my graduate student Megan and I met on opposite sides of a meadow and walked together while remaining physically apart. We followed alternate edges of the field, aware of our bodies in space, keeping our distance but maintaining each other in sight. As if in a slow meandering dance in which the partners never meet, our paths crisscrossed a great divide. Maintaining a healthy separation demanded that we monitor each other’s movements with an acuity rarely exercised in an ordinary stroll. We walked with heightened awareness, present to the asynchronous rise and fall of our bodies as we moved along our separate paths.

Not long thereafter, Megan returned to the meadow, which is located on an urban farm on the Ohio State University campus. Alone on this walk, she was confronted by a campus police officer who questioned the purpose of her visit. When she explained that she was a student of landscape architecture conducting research on walking outdoors, he replied, “I find that very hard to believe,” and instructed her to leave the site. The officer justified his dismissal by claiming that he had received reports of people stealing apples from an adjacent orchard. Megan kindly noted that given that it was early May, some months before any apples would be available for picking, the validity of such a report was questionable. Regrettably, the officer was untroubled by this observation—and by the possibility that he was disrupting scholarly research—and evicted Megan nonetheless.

In this political moment, walking outside was regarded as a transgression. Although she was alone and surrounded by acres of open, unpopulated space, Megan’s presence on public land upset expectations to stay isolated by retreating indoors. But her walk also confronted other social norms that favor vehicular use above alternative modes of transportation—norms that evolved with the diffuse growth of the city of Columbus. Considering the many ways in which Columbus has designed walking out of everyday life, perhaps roaming an agricultural site with no clear destination is truly abnormal behavior. (more…)

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

Photo by Ash Hoden, ASLA.

From “Finding Myanmar” in the August 2020 issue by Ash Hoden, ASLA, about the author’s motorbike journey through decimated ecosystems, gatehouses, and conflict zones.

“Deforestation devastation.”

–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 HANIYA RAE

A new guide interprets the spatial implications of virology studies.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

At the outset of the pandemic, it didn’t take long for anyone to realize that it would have a major impact on cities. Given the breadth of scientific studies published since March, Paul Lewis, a principal of LTL Architects, and Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer and partner at Guy Nordenson and Associates, both in Manhattan, sought to translate the peculiarities of COVID-19 contagion into visual concepts. “We were getting a lot of different news articles and we wanted more clarity,” Lewis says. “Cities can’t have collective gathering. What does that mean? We wanted to envision immediate responses that could also lead to longer-term benefits for the city.” (more…)

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BY KATHARINE LOGAN

Resource extraction companies are moving on public lands like never before.

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the creation of the Antiquities Act in 1906, American presidents have had the authority, the honor, and the privilege of designating as national monuments the country’s most culturally and scientifically significant public lands—including, by corollary, some of the most spectacular, biodiverse, heritage-rich, and downright magnificent landscapes in America.

It’s doubtful whether presidents also have the inverse authority—to deconsecrate a national monument once protected—but doubtful is good enough for the current incumbent. In December of 2017, the Trump administration announced the reduction of two national monuments in southern Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, to shards of their former expanses, exposing culturally and ecologically important places to oil and mineral development.

The deconsecration of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears exemplifies a larger trend in this administration’s management of public lands. Since 2017, federally owned lands and waters totaling more than four times the area of California have been put up for lease to the energy sector. Utah, with its oil, gas, and mineral resources underlying the vistas of the Colorado Plateau, is on the front line. About 65 percent of the state is federally owned, and the U.S. Department of the Interior has received some 230 lease nominations covering more than 150,000 acres. Development of these leases threatens iconic Red Rock Canyon lands, forested plateaus, indigenous cultural sites, archaeological troves, and geological marvels. Some of the leases would allow drilling within half a mile of renowned protected sites, such as Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, and within 10 miles of Bears Ears’s radically shrunken limits. (more…)

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