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Archive for the ‘VIEWS’ Category

INTERVIEW BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Greg Kochanowski documented the loss of his own home in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which destroyed 110 of 217 houses in Seminole Springs, California. Photo by GK.

 

The Los Angeles-based designer Greg Kochanowski researches wildfire mitigation close to home.

 

Earth is a water planet. It is also, as Stephen J. Pyne has written, a fire planet. The Earth “has held fires as long as plants have lived on land,” Pyne recently wrote in Yale Environment 360. To remove fire from landscapes that have coevolved with it “can be as ruinous as putting fire into landscapes that have no history of it. The fires we don’t see—the fires that should be there and aren’t—are an index of ecological loss, like imposing a drought on a normally lush landscape.”

Greg Kochanowski knows well the losses that fires and their absence bring. As the studio director of the multidisciplinary design firm RIOS, Kochanowski had been investigating the effects of urbanization on the fire-adapted landscapes of Southern California for more than three years when the 2018 Woolsey Fire destroyed his home in Seminole Springs, California.

Now, Kochanowski has collected his research, as well as his experience of the Woolsey Fire, in The Wild, published last fall as part of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design’s pamphlet series. The book explores the urban periphery of Los Angeles and the economic, cultural, and political pressures that have resulted in the city’s persistent peri-urban expansion and, consequently, the inevitability of ever larger, ever more deadly wildfires. Landscape Architecture Magazine spoke to Kochanowski shortly after the book’s release. His reVISION ASLA 2020 panel, “Fire Across the Pacific: Australia, California, and the Climate Crisis,” is available online.

LAM: What gave birth to the line of inquiry you’re tracing in the book?

Kochanowski: It was really the Rising Currents book that came out of the MoMA exhibition [Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, 2011]. That was the first time that I had seen the global design community using their expertise to solve much broader problems. I was really inspired by it, but I was living in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has issues with sea-level rise, of course, but there was a lack of theorizing about the West. It was a very East Coast discussion. In the West, I was experiencing fires, and then it would rain and you would have floods, and then landslides, and it happened every single year. It was just this cycle. After a few years, I thought, no one’s talking about this. So, I began to look at the fire cycle, and had a session at the ASLA conference in 2018 on some of that initial research. And then my house burned down. Then I got really interested in fire. (more…)

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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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BY F. PHILIP BARASH

Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Photo by F. Philip Barash.

NOTES FROM BEACON STREET.

 

My living room in Brookline, Massachusetts, recently became a home office, and the windows face Beacon Street. Beacon is roomy, with a 160-foot section designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to have sidewalks, carriageways, a bridle path, and one of the earliest electric streetcar tracks in the United States. Over the past weeks, I’ve spent more time staring at this landscape than I had ever imagined possible, amid an eternity of e-mails and Zoom conferences; a lifetime of listlessness and egg sandwiches. Olmsted designed Beacon Street at the invitation of Henry Whitney, a shipping heir who had amassed parcels along a two-and-a-half-mile corridor from central Boston to the edge of Newton. Beacon Street, Whitney said, was to be a democratic rejoinder to Commonwealth Avenue, just east, where only the Boston Brahmins tread. Commonwealth may have stature and statuary, Whitney said, but Beacon would have public transit for common people: “The laboring man, the mechanic, the clerk, and […] the poor woman.” Whitney didn’t account specifically for humble writers like me, but looking upon the trickle of people outside my window, I know what he meant.

A couple in matching pom-pom hats. A jogger, wearing a neon vest, veering into traffic lanes to keep a safe distance from a jogger wearing neon sneakers. A delivery van. Another, pausing on my block. A dog encased in a vest. Two old women, the first leaning on a walker, the second leaning on the first: a breach of distancing, but a stabilizing posture. A plumber. Teenage boys choking with laughter. A baby carriage steered by a woman with her face hidden by a surgical mask. Another masked face. Another.

In CityLab, Richard Florida speculates about a coming spatial order. Sidewalks will have to get wider and procedures at the airport retooled “like we did in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures.” In the wake of 9/11, as I remember it, anyone who dared enter an airport with a covered face was a target of hostility. Women in hijabs were subjected to automatic searches; Sikhs were harassed. As people in masks and hoodies walk up Beacon Street, I wonder how we will retool our judgments. (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Parks along New York City’s vulnerable waterfront, like the one recently completed at Hunter’s
Point South, are both amenity and armor.

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Even as the tides lapping at its edges rise, New York City is turning eagerly toward the water to relieve both a congested transit system and a shortfall in housing stock. For example, you can now travel among all five boroughs by ferry. Ferries have several advantages over streets and subways. For the passenger, those include wind in your hair and magnificent, alternately thrilling and calming views of the harbor; for the city, minimal fixed infrastructure and the ability to easily alter routes if circumstances—such as the shorelines themselves—should change. And from the new ferries that ply the East River, you can see the city’s most visible effort to address the housing crunch: clusters of enormous apartment towers recently built and under construction along once-industrial waterfronts.

The city mandates that, with redevelopment, the water’s edge be public space. Some of that is the “waterfront public access area” each newly developed riverside property is required to provide. Those areas must at least have landscape and seating; as built, they vary from quite thoughtful to afterthought. There are also a number of city and state parks along the river. So there is beginning to be a continuous public edge. It will probably always have gaps, but they are filling in as the new housing developments rise. Viewed from out on the water, the chain of public spaces resolves into a thin green line, as much of it consists of esplanades and piers or is otherwise flat. Still, discontinuous and varying in design quality as its component pieces are, they are hugely popular—just because they exist, and also because some of them are truly inspired. That would describe one of the newest of the city-developed pieces. In its case, you do begin to glimpse its features from the river, because it has hills and an architectural overlook jutting up and out toward you. This is, in fact, just where the ferry stops in Long Island City, Queens: Hunter’s Point South Park, designed by Thomas Balsley, FASLA, (whose eponymous firm joined SWA in 2016) in collaboration with Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism. (more…)

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

Courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi.

From “The Thin Green Line” in the March 2020 issue by Jonathan Lerner, about a new waterfront park in New York City by SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi that keeps floodwaters at bay and people flocking to the shoreline.

“Working out the waterfront.”

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

Image courtesy Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture.

From “Editorial Discretion” in the February 2020 issue by Jonathan Lerner, about a Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture residential landscape in Vermont that’s an exercise in judicial subtraction.

“Very Vermont.”

–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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