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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.

GOODBYE HIGHWAYS

BY NATE BERG

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The carving up of cities by expressways is still a civil rights problem, but it’s being solved as an economic one.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Since freeways began slicing through cities in the United States more than 75 years ago, they have carved deep and lasting lines of separation through countless communities. Many of these communities—located in so-called blighted areas—were made up of people of color who were simply pushed aside by the transportation officials building out the nation’s vast network of interstates and urban freeways. In a somewhat surprising speech in March 2016, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the nation’s top transportation official, acknowledged this dark history and the mistakes of his predecessors.

“We now know—overwhelmingly—that our urban freeways were routed through low-income neighborhoods. Instead of connecting us to each other, highway decision makers separated us,” Foxx said. Reflecting on his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, he noted how the “connective tissue” of the African American neighborhood where he lived rrns destroyed by two highways—infrastructure that was planned and built before federal civil rights legislation could intervene. “Neighbors were separated from neighbors. The corner store was gone because the corner was gone,” he said. “A new more convenient, high-speed thoroughfare had been created. But the way of life of another community had been destroyed.”

The huge gashes that freeways cut through cities will live on for the foreseeable future, as will their divisive legacy. But Foxx has vowed to try to undo some of that long-lasting damage. Though they may seem intractable, these divisions Continue Reading »

BY ZACH MORTICE

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31st Street Harbor in Chicago, by Site Design Group and AECOM. Image courtesy of Rose Yuen Photography.

The Obama Foundation on January 30 announced the selection of three landscape architecture firms to work on the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side of Chicago—a nationally renowned firm, a regional Chicago powerhouse headed by a native South Sider, and a lesser-known firm that has worked on previous presidential library landscapes.

The New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the 2016 ASLA Landscape Architecture Firm Award recipient and designer of the landscape of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, will lead the group. Chicago’s Site Design Group joins the team, offering extensive experience with the Chicago Park District, which, controversially, turned over the presidential library’s site to the city so that it could be transferred to the Obama Foundation. Finally, Living Habitats, also based in Chicago, rounds out the team, having designed the green roof landscape of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Arkansas. These three firms will work with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Interactive Design Architects on a narrow slice of land at the western edge of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Jackson Park, the site of the 1893 World’s Fair, next to Lake Michigan. Site Design Group is a Continue Reading »

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We’re crawling over hot highways and beneath dark underpasses in this month’s LAM, looking at a push from many quarters to recolonize the spaces wasted by modern highways and railroads. We have projects in Toronto, Houston, New York, and Washington, D.C., where wasted space is coming alive again. Nate Berg kicks us off with an essay about the moves to put parks and public spaces over and under freeways. It had been a huge priority of President Obama’s Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, who revived the sleeping debate about the scars left behind in urban neighborhoods about the freeway system.

In New York, Alex Ulam surveys the massive construction of a new mini-city, Hudson Yards, atop the West Side rail yards, where a complex landscape is under the charge of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. Jane Margolies travels to Toronto, where PFS Studio has created the exuberant Underpass Park in the bowel of a highway viaduct. Washington, D.C., is deleting a huge highway trench with several new blocks of city above it, as Braulio Agnese reports. Margie Ruddick, ASLA, and a team of designers and artists pushed the renovation of Queens Plaza in New York to its bureaucratic limits, and Julie Lasky finds it makes the soaring, clattering infrastructure around it much easier to take. And Jonathan Lerner visits the much-loved Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, where OJB Landscape Architecture has given the whole deck-park movement its favorite touchstone.

In the Foreground section, Zach Mortice interviews Susan Chin, Honorary ASLA, the head of the Design Trust for Public Space, which has pressed New York City officials to improve leftover spaces across the boroughs with its Under the Elevated campaign. Chin describes the results so far. The full table of contents for February 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 February articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Low Overhead,” Tom Arban Photography; “City, Heal Thyself,” Property Group Partners; “The Lid Comes On,” Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA; “The Seven-Foot Sandwich,” KPF and Nelson Byrd Woltz, “Layers of Players,” Sam Oberter; “Estuarine Serene,” David Burroughs; “Underneath, Overlooked,” William Michael Fredericks/Courtesy the Design Trust for Public Space.

BY ZACH MORTICE

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Avenida Houston is a 60-foot-wide promenade in front of Houston’s convention center. Image courtesy of Jonnu Singleton/SWA.

Avenida Houston was designed to celebrate the flyway paths of migratory birds and the vibrant energy economy that has made Houston attractive to domestic and international migrants alike. But in early February a new set of visitors will be attracted to this linear plaza: Football fans drawn by the suite of Super Bowl programming unfurled at the nearby (and newly renovated) George R. Brown Convention Center, and Super Bowl LI, to be played a few miles away at NRG Stadium.

Avenida Houston, designed by SWA Group, is a four-acre, 60-foot-wide strip of space that turned a desolate and unforgiving stretch of multilane traffic in front of the city’s convention center into an informal promenade. Two central themes, seemingly opposed, animate this new public event space: Houston’s industry and nature. “The conversation really started as, Continue Reading »

DESERT BLOOM

BY MARK HOUGH, FASLA

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Ten Eyck Landscape Architects reimagines the campus at the University of Texas at El Paso.

FROM THE JANUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, recalls driving across Arizona in the summer of 2012, talking on the phone with one of her clients at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). It was about a dream project: the opportunity to redesign the landscape of a historic university and create a major open space as its ceremonial heart. On the call, she was making the case to Greg McNicol, the school’s associate vice president for facilities management, that her firm, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, based in Austin, Texas, should lead the project rather than be subconsultant to an architecture firm as had been the plan. Her argument was simple: The scope of the work was almost entirely landscape architecture.

Ten Eyck successfully persuaded administrators to give her firm the job, even though they were skeptical at first that a landscape architect could lead such a complex project. Notable among the people she won over was Diana Natalicio, who had been hired as UTEP’s first female president in 1988. During her tenure, Continue Reading »

YOUR SIGN HERE

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 Continue Reading »