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Archive for the ‘WILDFIRE’ 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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This fall, LAM will be highlighting winning projects from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

Effecting Change to Avoid Disaster: Communicating Effective Wildfire Planning Strategies, by Design Workshop, Professional Communications Honor Award.

Prepared by Design Workshop, Inc., for CPAW.

“We were in need of a suite of graphics to effectively communicate to decision makers how the choices they make can help their communities mitigate the risks of wildfire. We wanted our audience to learn about different mitigation techniques to reduce wildfire risk to the structure and surrounding landscape.”

“The graphic showing the overlapping home ignition zones further makes the point that mitigation takes a collective response—particularly in areas of more dense development. Research shows that while a holistic, comprehensive approach is important for other aspects of wildfire safety, such as evacuations and response, the home ignition zone is a critical component for reducing structure losses and other property damage. These two scales of mitigation are not at odds; rather [they] work together when coordinated.”

—Carly Klein, Design Workshop, Inc., and Molly Mowery, Wildfire Planning International

 

Since 1970, wildfires have increased 400 percent in the United States, especially across the western states. At the same time, about 60 percent of new residential development is built along what is known as the wildland urban interface—a region particularly susceptible to highly damaging wildfires. Landscape architects increasingly need communication tools to help clients, public officials, and communities understand different wildfire mitigation strategies and include them in the planning and design process. In response to this need, Design Workshop created a series of graphics that underscore the importance of collective land use and wildfire mitigation decisions at the community scale, as well as the house, city, and regional scales. For example, a graphic on home ignition zones illustrates decisions that can be made in concentric circles moving from the house out to the surrounding area, including eliminating combustible material near the house, creating “fuel breaks” such as driveways and walkways, and maintaining a mix of appropriately spaced and pruned trees in the outermost zone around the home. “Armed with this visual toolbox of strategic risk-reduction methods,” the jurors concluded, “landscape architects are empowered to initiate conversations that would trade vulnerability for resilience.”

—Kim O’Connell

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