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PAINT THE TOWN GRAY

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

An asphalt coating could help cool Los Angeles. Will the benefits offset the costs?

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Initially, the product was for the military. Marketed as CoolSeal, the light gray-colored asphalt seal coat was developed to reduce the surface temperature of runways so that they would be less visible to infrared satellites. A few years ago, Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, wondered what would happen if you painted every street in the city with CoolSeal. Could you reduce the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon that has been estimated to cost the city $90 million each year in energy bills?

Now, with $150,000 in public funding, Spotts is testing the coating at locations in each of the city’s 15 council districts. The coating, which is just 15 microns thick, goes on in a brilliant gray, far lighter in color than a typical asphalt street, though Spotts says it soon fades to more of a “battleship color.”

By this fall, all 15 streets should be complete, and according to the city’s asphalt testing lab, even in the afternoon on the hottest days, the surface temperature of the coated pavement is, on average, Continue Reading »

THE FINAL HILL

BY ZACH MORTICE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KYLE JEFFERS

Mixed-income housing alone can’t change public housing residents’ lives. So Gary Strang is putting the landscape to work.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Correction appended.

The first thing you notice is all the cars. The Potrero Hill housing projects occupy a strange landscape divided by Jersey barriers and concrete retaining walls that carve up the site’s topography. Endless rows of cars are parked along its curving streets and in front of 62 three- and four-story barracks-style buildings that step down the steep hill. It’s the first indication that this isolated, often forgotten section of the city is not that well connected to the thriving, upscale urbanism of San Francisco that surrounds it. “The beautiful green landscape, the Corbusian dream, just becomes parking,” says Gary Strang, FASLA, the founder of GLS Landscape | Architecture, the firm that was hired to radically reshape this place.

For Curteesha Cosby, who lives at Potrero, these parked cars are sometimes a refuge of last resort. When she’s walking her kids to school at 7:00 a.m. and hears gunfire, she hits the ground and rolls her children under them till it ends. She says she hears shooting nearly every day. She’s exhausted by Potrero. “I just want people to be happy and everyone to be safe,” she says. Her cousin was gunned down in the housing complex a few days before we spoke. Edward Hatter, the executive director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, a nonprofit serving the area, tells me the community is waiting for the retaliatory violence that often follows shootings.

Potrero Terrace and Annex has long been one of San Francisco’s most dysfunctional large-scale public housing developments. Residents complain of Continue Reading »

REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

To listen to some mainstream urbanists today, you have to wonder what body of theory, if any, they are paying attention to in order to make what often seem hopelessly naive and homogeneous proposals for new urban developments. Admittedly, this group is often the same bunch who don’t have time for impractical theorization because they are out there doing real work, but some idea about “good” city form obviously drives their approach. Unfortunately, many of the theories in circulation stem from a belief that the city is nothing more than a problem to be solved—it’s too dense, or not dense enough; gray and dirty rather than green; impervious and polluting; unjust and inequitable; or not living up to that crowning achievement of being “walkable.” Obviously, most if not all of these criticisms can be leveled at cities in one place or another at one time or another, but what are the implications for the urban imagination of designers if this is the only lens through which the city (arguably the greatest cultural artifact ever produced) can be viewed—a massive problem which must be “restored” to some nostalgic, fictional notion of the healthy city? And, more optimistically, what new propositions, pedagogies, and disciplinary alignments are necessary to overcome these narrow worldviews and begin to engage the phenomenon of urbanization in a more compelling and realistic way?

In his new book Landscape as Infrastructure, Pierre Bélanger, ASLA, an associate professor of landscape architecture and a codirector of the Master in Design Studies Program in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, lays the groundwork for such an approach. Assembling a decade of design and scholarly research, Bélanger provides readers with a much-needed alternative history of urbanization (primarily in mid- to late 20th and early 21st-century North America), as well as a survey of the contemporary forces that drive urbanization patterns today. These aspects of the book are complemented by an account of the accompanying epistemological shifts brought about by new understandings of complexity and ecology as well as a resurgence of Continue Reading »

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY NATE BERG

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Among Southern California landscape architecture firms, Los Angeles-based Studio-MLA (formerly Mia Lehrer + Associates) is arguably highbrow. Known for public spaces like the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park and Vista Hermosa Park in an underserved section of Los Angeles, and transformative master plans for infrastructuralized landscapes like the Los Angeles River and the Silver Lake Reservoir, the firm has a serious approach to the needs of Southern California and the services landscape architecture can provide. It’s complex, civic-minded work built out of decades of engagement in the community.

So it’s somewhat unexpected to see some of Studio-MLA’s recent work Continue Reading »

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

Image courtesy of Stephen Stimson Associates.

From “Remnant to Whole” in the October 2017 issue, about the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s new design school and landscape, by Stephen Stimson Associates.

“Connecticut River Valley landscape visualized.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

SEE YOU IN LOS ANGELES

By Thomas Pintaric [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Our bags are packed and our schedules loaded for the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO. Find us at the following events, sessions, or in the EXPO hall manning the Landscape Architecture Magazine booth at ASLA Central. You can stop by for a chat or to pick up some of our awesome swag.

  • On Friday, October 20, the LAM staff will be in attendance for the annual LAMMYs presentation (aka the LAM Advertising Awards), which celebrates excellence in our magazine’s advertising.
  • Editor in Chief Bradford McKee, Managing Editor Maggie Zackowitz, and Senior Editor Jennifer Reut will be on hand Saturday and Sunday, October 21 and 22, speaking with members and professionals at Meet the Editors. Spots are still open, so if you’re itching to tell us about that amazing new project, be sure to sign up for a 15-minute session.
  • Monday morning, October 23, at 10:00 a.m., Jennifer Reut will be leading a session with Diane Jones Allen, ASLA, and Gary Strang, FASLA, on Deconstructing Gentrification: Understanding and Accommodating Change in Urban Communities (MON-B10).
  • And Monday afternoon Brad McKee will be on hand at the annual awards ceremony to present the winners of the coveted Bradford Williams Medal, honoring the year’s best landscape architecture writing.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter or Instagram @landarchmag throughout the meeting—remember to use the hashtag #ASLA2017! If you see us in a session or event, be sure to say hello—we love to meet our readers and hear what they think about the magazine and the blog.

ALTERED STATE

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Marijuana wafts across the California landscape as legalization of recreational use approaches.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Ed Rosenthal grows weed. He has for decades. The Oakland, California-based horticulturist, author, and activist is the go-to expert on home cultivation. He’s written more than a dozen books on the subject and the policies that surround medical marijuana and legalization. Their titles fall somewhere between what you’d see in your local nursery and your corner head shop: The Big Book of Buds (volumes one through four), Marijuana Garden Saver, and Marijuana Pest & Disease Control.

“Growing is addictive,” Rosenthal says with a laugh, and then quickly clarifies that the drug is not. “Given the right conditions and a sunny backyard, marijuana can be grown almost anywhere in California.” He speaks poetically about marijuana’s diverse morphology: It has male and female plants. Some are tall, some wide, and there are different strains like indica or sativa that range in color—like heirloom tomatoes—from absinthe yellow–green to maroon and deep purple. To cultivate cannabis for its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and psychoactive properties, only the female plants are grown. The male plants look a bit like wild mustard; the female plants are the ones that produce buds for consumption. “With humans and cannabis, the female is considered more beautiful,” he explains. “I have a bunch of marijuana plants growing, and they all look different, like six different varieties of a dahlia. Each plant is Continue Reading »