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Archive for the ‘VIEWS’ Category

BY KARL KULLMANN

Drone mapping fills a missing link in site representation.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

In many ways, the satellite has been instrumental for landscape architecture. As the apex of two centuries of progressively higher aerial reconnaissance, the satellite’s view reveals landscape associations and patterns that remain concealed at lower altitudes. Through these revelations, satellite imagery played a key role in the reinterpretation of cities as complex ecological systems instead of mere assemblages of buildings. Ultimately, online satellite mapping applications confirmed that the entire planet is composed of landscape. Through the convenience of GPS-equipped mobile devices, we now seamlessly integrate the satellite’s landscape into our everyday lives.

A world tuned in to the synthesizing role of landscape is undoubtedly empowering for landscape architecture. But as enlightening and convenient as the satellite’s all-encompassing gaze may be, the tyranny of distance coupled with a downward viewing angle also undermines its potency. As landscape architects are abundantly aware, the nuances and details that enrich the landscape are often camouflaged from 450 miles above Earth within shadowed, interstitial, and underneath spaces. Even with familiarization and steadily improving image resolutions, abstract planimetric forms routinely fail to resonate with an individual’s perception of his or her place in the world. The recurring popularity of more immersive angles such as the archaic bird’s-eye view is probably a reaction to this lingering apprehension.

These shortcomings are revealed at the site scale, at which a significant portion of landscape practice occurs. At this scale, the substitution of feature surveys or commissioned aerial imaging with freely available satellite-derived GIS data often lowers the quality of spatial information. GIS mapping data interpolated from much larger data sets trades site specificity for expansive coverage, and its accuracy typically has not been verified on the ground. Given that landscape architecture relies on maps in one form or another to interpret, abstract, conceptualize, and ultimately reconfigure the ground, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The most important question related to the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side doesn’t have that much to do with its architecture.

It is instead: What kind of landscape stewardship can a presidential museum and library offer? To be located in Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Jackson Park, the project already has a heap of canonical landscape history to contend with. So can the Obama library make a great park greater?

The answer is… (more…)

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BY JAMES TRULOVE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUNGKIT CHAROENWAT

Landscape Architects of Bangkok has reforested a speck of the Thai capital. The cobras seem to approve.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

It would not be a stretch to think of this reforestation project as a “vest-pocket” park, much in the tradition of the work of the noted landscape architect Robert Zion in New York City. After all, the name of the project, “Metro-Forest,” might suggest as much. Though it is not bounded on all sides by encroaching office towers, this five-acre landscape rests squarely in the midst of equally inhospitable and unchecked suburban sprawl dotted by illegal dump sites (of which this was once one), a tangle of expressways and surface roads, and the din of more than 800 planes landing and departing nearby every day at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which serves Bangkok. Certainly many of the design elements of a vest-pocket park are present: a water feature to mask the clamor of planes and cars, native plants that recall a bygone era, seating to contemplate the surrounding nature, hardscape to create boundaries, and a carefully designed network of berms that increase the overall planting area of this small space while blocking views of the surroundings.

The project, which won a 2016 ASLA Professional Honor Award for General Design, is an oasis, (more…)

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Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, will be at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture on March 9, 2017.

We are delighted to announce the first event in the Landscape Architecture Magazine Lecture Series, a program we’ve been cooking for a while now. The LAM Lecture Series will bring together design professionals, educators, and thinkers in conversation around provocative issues in the field of landscape architecture. From the beginning, we’d hoped to land Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, as our inaugural speaker, and we are very pleased she’ll be joining us on March 9 at 7:00 p.m. in conversation with our own LAM Editor Brad McKee. Meyer will be speaking at the new ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C., about her ongoing engagement with the idea of beauty in landscape architecture, in a talk titled, Beyond Sustaining Beauty: Aesthetic Entanglements with Climate Change Science.”

Meyer’s talk will build on several years of thinking and writing on landscape and aesthetics, and we thought we’d post the two foundation essays she wrote on the topic as a kind of primer for Thursday’s talk. The first, “Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance,” appeared in the magazine in October 2008 (originally published in the Spring 2008 Journal of Landscape Architecture), and remains one of our most requested reprints. More recently, Meyer published “Beyond Sustaining Beauty: Musings on a Manifesto,” in Values in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design: Finding Center in Theory and Practice, edited by M. Elen Deming. We think both essays, and the talk she’ll give at the Center, will be topics of conversation for a long time to come.

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BY BRAULIO AGNESE

Art by Katarina Katsma, ASLA. Photo courtesy By Shenandoah National Park from Virginia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo illustration by Katarina Katsma, ASLA. Photo courtesy Shenandoah National Park from Virginia [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

On Dec. 28, 2016, then-National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis signed “Director’s Order #21: Donations and Philanthropic Partnerships,” the latest update to the agency’s guidance on engagement in public–private partnerships and the appropriate acceptance of support from the private sector. Originally issued in 1998 and then revised in 2006 and 2008, the directive’s newest version received backlash from several quarters after the NPS released a draft version for a 45-day public comment period in late March 2016. (Jarvis retired from the NPS on Jan. 3, 2017. Michael Reynolds, former deputy director of operations, is serving as acting director until a permanent appointee is named.)

The draft generated a strong negative response from preservation groups, government-focused nonprofits, and corporate watchdogs, which pointed out the greatly expanded possibilities for corporate visuals (such as wraps on NPS vehicles), warned of logos on national treasures, and expressed the worry that park managers would become active solicitors for commercial sponsorships. Scenic America, devoted to preserving the “visual character of America,” partnered with Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert, a nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative for keeping “commercial culture within its proper sphere,” to spread the word about the draft. The NPS received 350 comments on the directive, 80 percent of which were negative, Commercial Alert estimated in a September letter.

In its press release announcing the finalization of the order, the NPS notes that the revised order arose from a desire to “better align the bureau with (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

Postcommodity, Repellent Fence, 2015. Image courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

From the upcoming February 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Instead of a sensible and humane overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws to deal with current realities, we are apparently going to get a wall between the United States and Mexico. It was among the most outlandish promises of the Trump campaign, if only one of its rank xenophobic turns: a gigantic blockade stretching from the Pacific Ocean, through the Sonoran Desert, and down the Rio Grande River to the Gulf of Mexico, with fear as its mortar. During the first week of the new Republican-led Congress, the House Republican Policy Committee chair, Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, told the Washington Post that legislators are looking for ways to begin work on such a wall under existing law and with American (not Mexican) money. The existing law Messer means is the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush, which called for 700 miles of actual fencing and a “virtual fence” of beefed-up surveillance along the Mexico border. That work remains incomplete. Barriers block less than half of the 1,954 miles of international boundary. Theoretically, a resumption of building could begin to lock it all up later this spring.

The human effects of this simplistic idea will be mixed. A big wall will stop some population flow, but hardly all of it, and it will kill informal cross border commerce. Ecologically, though, it is likely to be a catastrophe. It will fragment habitat on a huge scale in one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America—the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas alone is said to have (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software.

Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software.

From the February 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Building information modeling, or BIM, has become the default digital format for designing buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure the world over, though in theory it is just as applicable to landscape design. You are not likely to find an architecture or engineering firm that does not employ BIM software, but there are surprisingly few landscape architecture firms that do. It’s not that landscape architects don’t appreciate the information-rich approach of BIM—quite the contrary—but many loathe its building-centric nature.

“Landscape architecture as a profession is kind of down on BIM,” says James Sipes, a landscape architect based in Atlanta who was an early proponent of adapting the technology for landscape architecture purposes. “It seemed to be exactly what we were looking for—that combination of CAD and 3-D modeling and smart software that linked things together in the way we as landscape architects design.” But, Sipes says, companies like Autodesk, which publishes Revit, a BIM software used widely by architects, “put a lot of time and energy into building BIM data for buildings and building components, but none of that had anything to do with landscape architecture.”

All of which would be fine if landscape architects weren’t being pulled into (more…)

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