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BY TIM WATERMAN

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has switched off the public life support to London’s embattled Garden Bridge, a tempestuous, contested, and deeply symbolic idea that will die tightly clutching a sheaf of contemporary perversions of the civic good, a cautionary portfolio of design’s worst addictions.

Its life charts a course through the sordid world of politics and displays how the ambitions of the nation–state and the re-emerging city–state have uncoupled from democracy and attached to unplaceable global flows of power and money. The people are left helpless in a muddle of endless doubt, misinformation, threat, and the magical thrall of consumer glamour and celebrity pull. All this Continue Reading »

THRIVE OR SURVIVE

BY ZACH MORTICE

São Paolo is a small aquaponics farming settlement where residents and visitors gather medicinal compounds from the surrounding jungle. 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, by Vanessa Keith/StudioTEKA (New York: Urban Research, 2017). Courtesy of Terreform.

In the not-so-distant future, what remains of São Paulo is something like an ecoresort medical crop farm for ewoks. People from all over the world travel to its lush, frequently flooded rain forest and set up shop in ovular pods in the treetops connected by open-air skywalks. They farm fish, grow sugarcane, and harvest rare, medicinal compounds from the surrounding jungle. Crews deconstruct the old city, leaving more room for this life-saving flora to reassert itself.

A continent away, the city of Phoenix, Arizona, is also in the process of unbecoming. Residents of its single-family houses are cannibalizing their neighborhoods at the stern urging of statist security forces. (Let’s say something like United Nations troops, perhaps wearing black helmets instead of blue ones.) The nation’s sixth-largest city will be shrunk to a tiny fraction of its former size to make way for more massive solar energy farms that dominate the desert landscape. Former Arizonans are invited to move themselves along with the bricks and mortar of their communities to a burgeoning megacity in Vancouver. Some people don’t want to go, and are meeting in secret to talk about what to do if they’re forced.

Those companion (but tonally opposed) visions of the future begin with the same book, Vanessa Keith’s 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, published by Terreform’s Urban Research, Michael Sorkin’s publishing imprint. It envisions a world where Continue Reading »

The battle to document and save old trees that may have once marked Native American trails.

Congratulations to Timothy A. Schuler, editor of LAM’s NOW section and a frequent contributor to the magazine. He is the 2017 recipient of the Forest History Society’s John M. Collier Award for Forest History Journalism, which recognizes excellence in reporting on forest or conservation history. Tim’s winning article, “Searching for a Sign”—about the strangely bent trees once used as trail markers by Native Americans—originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of LAM.

The nearly unquestioned dominance cars have had over our cities for more than half a century, we’re told, is a very expensive problem to fix. Now that we have millions of miles of car-serving infrastructure, is it too late and too expensive to replace it?

No. The Spanish have a better way. Developed by Salvador Rueda of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona (and documented in a video by Vox), the plan for Barcelona “superblocks” (or “superilles” in Catalan) gives urban planners and transit engineers a simple template to gradually reclaim streets from automobiles.

Best applied to nine-block areas as discrete superblock districts, the plan confines regular traffic to the perimeter of the site. Streets internal to the nine-block area become one-way loops, Continue Reading »

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, Continue Reading »

BY ZACH MORTICE

City sewer maintenance trucks get a new graphic rebranding. Image courtesy of group projects.

City officials in San Jose, California, have an environmental graphics and public art project they hope will reduce sewer clogs from fats, oils, and grease that residents put down their kitchen sinks—and it only costs $60,000, a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars it would take to update existing infrastructure to handle more cooking waste. The project, called FOG Waste (FOG stands for fats, oils, and grease) was designed by Brett Snyder, an associate professor of design at the University of California, Davis, and Claire Napawan, an associate professor of landscape architecture at UC Davis, who practice together under the name group projects.

When fatty waste is disposed of in a sink or drain, it can solidify and block sewer lines, causing raw sewage to back up into homes, yards, and streets and potentially affect local watersheds. (You might remember the viral footage of the bus-sized ball of fat discovered in a London sewer, dubbed the “fatberg.”) In San Jose, that means raw sewage in San Francisco Bay, causing havoc in local aquatic ecosystems and posing health risks for residents.

The main design challenge for Napawan and Snyder was developing a graphic identity that could educate people on Continue Reading »

DEREGULARITIES

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

By Rolf van Melis [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Anybody who values holding a license as a landscape architect is not going to like what happens next. The current political environment and a general disdain for moderation are encouraging an assault against many forms of occupational licensing, including licensing for landscape architecture. So far this year, there have been many bills introduced to end landscape architecture licensing and revamp occupational licensing structures in the legislatures of Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington. There are no doubt more to come.

These attempts take various forms. Some would outright deregulate landscape architecture by simply removing it from the group of professions that require licensing. Others are more insidious and would reform landscape architecture as well as most all other licensing systems in the guise of “right to earn a living” or “economic liberty” measures, the premise of which is that licensure poses an unnecessary barrier to entering the occupation of one’s choice. Some would allow citizens to challenge licensure requirements in court and would shift the burden to the state to prove that licensure is necessary over other, less restrictive, forms of regulation. Others would place licensure regulations Continue Reading »