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Archive for the ‘TRANSPORTATION’ Category

Underpass Park in Toronto is a skatepark and green space huddled under a highway overpass. It’s a kinetic, vibrant place, filled with sculpture installations, street art, the clatter of skateboards on concrete, and the hum of traffic overhead. PFS Studio’s project received a 2016 ASLA Professional Award for its canny reuse of a previously neglected space. And all this makes it a perfect candidate for ASLA’s first virtual reality video. Narrated by Greg Smallenberg, FASLA, principal of PFS Studio, the immersive, 360-degree video is a succinct explanation of virtual reality’s use for landscape designers, and a fun, quirky introduction to landscape architecture for the general public. The video is viewable via a smartphone YouTube app, the Google Chrome browser, or a Samsung Gear VR headset and compatible Samsung phone.

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In Sic Erat Scriptum, landscape architect and filmmaker Evan Mather argues that the Interstate Highway System that has reshaped the nation through epochal public works is not the project of technocratic 20th century humanist ambition, but something far more ancient and out of our control. Through fictionalized Grand Junction Bible College landscape urbanism instructor Melvin McNally (portrayed by Mather), his short film makes the pop-science case that the interstate is really the result of “biomigratory ecology rooted in ancient habitats and dominions.” That is, these roads follow dinosaur trails.

The video’s grainy film quality gives it an air of archival mystique that contrasts with sharp overlay maps of transit corridors throughout the millennia. Accelerated footage of miles of highway whirring past give way to fictionalized newspaper pages filled with dummy text in Latin telling of “Devil Lizards” unearthed during road construction.

There’s the interstate, which was preceded by the early 20th century highway system, which followed railroad lines. These lined up with pioneer wagon trails, themselves mapped to Native American trails, whose only purpose was to follow large mammal migratory patterns.  And concentrations of fossils found in clusters along these paths indicate these creatures were lured by “ancient dinosaur watering holes,” McNally says. It sounds like the prologue to a dusty paperback science fiction novel from the late 1950s. But broken down step by step, it seems reasonable. Foregrounded in acknowledgment of the Anthropocene age (the period of history where human activity is the strongest force affecting planetary ecosystems and geology), it questions whether we’re really writing our own novel, or instead cribbing notes from a story told long, long ago.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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High-curbed planters break up the flow of traffic on Argyle Street. Photo by Zach Mortice.

Argyle Street, on Chicago’s Far North Side, is a sort of small-town main street in the big city. It’s the hub of Chicago’s Southeast Asian community, which has built one of the city’s most welcoming and intimate ethnic enclaves. Vietnamese grocery stores, exuberant murals, gift shops, and community nonprofits abound; pho soup restaurants make the entire street smell like lemongrass. It’s also the first (more…)

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As part of Philadelphia’s celebrated Mural Arts program, the German artist Katharina Grosse was invited to paint an episodic series of painted landscapes and buildings along the busy Northeast Corridor rail lines. The resulting composition, called psychylustro, splashes warm clouds of neon graffiti on decaying buildings and hardscrabble landscapes, implicitly calling attention to the conditions and context for this kind of postindustrial decay, even as viewers zoom by in an Amtrak train. “It’s about an astonishing encounter with painting,” Grosse says.

 

Editor’s note: This post originally referred to the site as a “disused” rail corridor. It has been updated to reflect that it is located along the very active Northeast Corridor.

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By Zach Mortice

The 2008 flooding in eastern Iowa saw the Cedar River crest at 31 feet, inundating much of downtown Cedar Rapids. Image courtesy of Sasaki.

On the morning of Jun 12, 2008, the landscape architects Gina Ford, ASLA, and Jason Hellendrung, ASLA, of Sasaki woke up in their hotel rooms by the riverside in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to stifling heat and eerie silence. They were in town to pitch their riverfront master plan to the city council. They knew the Cedar River was expected to flood (and had stocked up on water, granola bars, and bananas just in case) but neither expected any sort of ordeal stemming from the river, which they had come hoping to reimagine as a lively and gregarious urban greenway. The power, air-conditioning, and phones were out. The hallways were empty and pitch black, and a ferocious rainstorm had darkened the skies and pushed the encroaching floodwaters. Reaching each other via cell phone, they discussed their options. In the distance, the Quaker Oats cereal mill plant’s red neon sign was still lit. “It can’t be that bad,” said Hellendrung. “They still have electricity.”

“As I said that, there was a bolt of thunder and lightning, and the sign went out. Then I was like, ‘Maybe the police will get here soon?’”

Police did dispatch rescuers, who led Ford and Hellendrung out of the hotel. A second-floor connection to the convention center (more…)

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BY G. RYAN SMITH, ASLA

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Separated bicycle lanes are steadily increasing in number, though every design detail counts.

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In cities across the country where newly striped bike lanes are seemingly rolling out by the week, separated bike lanes would seem to be the holy grail. By giving cyclists their very own part of the public realm, they practically embody the exceptionalist case for bicycle infrastructure—a demonstrable victory of cyclists over the potentially deadly hazards of motorists who will never learn to be more careful behind the wheel. But separated bicycle lanes, also called cycle tracks or green lanes, are a considerable investment. The price per linear foot of recent projects has run between $120 for simpler installations with flexible posts to $2,000 for elaborately integrated systems. If properly done, they can greatly enhance the active transportation metabolism of a city. If not done right, they can seem pointless.

Landscape architects are only getting started in the design of separated bicycle lanes, also known as cycle tracks or green lanes, but so is everyone else. There are 270 cycle tracks in the United States as of this year, up from 78 in 2011, according to the advocacy group People for Bikes. Cycle tracks are more common in Europe than in this country.

Cycle tracks have their fans and their skeptics, given their significant variations on (more…)

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This month, we have a few big stories that take you back a ways before bringing you back to the present. After decades of re-do schemes in Pershing Square in Los Angeles, and a tense year of competition that just ended with yet another redesign by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects announced as the long-awaited winners, we will see what becomes of the new design, and all the things a design needs to back it up, like services and programming. In New York’s barren Battery Park City in the 1980s, a  small, subtle, and safe harbor came to life as a work of art, rather than a park, by Susan Child, FASLA; Stanton Eckstut; and Mary Miss, and it continues to mature and season handsomely. In the Netherlands, Room for the River, a nationwide project has been reworking the country’s four major rivers in anticipation of greater floods in the future for more than 20 years. Finally, in the small town of Bruton, near London, is the artist’s heaven of Hauser & Wirth Somerset, with maximal garden designs by Piet Oudolf.

In the departments: the building momentum of separated bike lanes means safer routes for cyclists, in Streets; and three landscape architecture student journals create a window into the design culture of their universities, in Education. And, as ever, don’t miss our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for June 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 ungating June articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Better Luck This Time,” Agence Ter with SALT Landscape Architects; “Still Here,” Lexi Van Valkenburgh; “There’s Room,” Your Captain Luchtfotografie/www.luchtfotografie.com; “So Happy Together,” Heather Edwards, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth; “Cycle Away,” Jennifer Toole/Toole Design Group; “Class Consciousness,” Michelle Hook.

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