BY BRIAN BARTH
Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, the president of SWA Group and the managing principal of its Houston office, is not the type of landscape architect to shy away from controversial ideas. In 2013, at the zenith of the vitriolic debate around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, he sent an unsolicited design proposal to the White House, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and a slew of other federal agencies with a stake in the project. In it were a set of overlay maps of the proposed route that illustrated various ecological and cultural dimensions of the pipeline landscape, as well as a set of renderings suggesting that a bike path be built within the pipeline corridor from its starting point in Hardisty, Alberta, down to the terminus in Port Arthur, Texas, near Houston.
“It was roundly hated,” says Baumgardner of the idea, insisting it was not an endorsement of the pipeline but an attempt to puncture the status quo notion of “infrastructure as a one-dimensional thing.” Reactions were neatly divided along ideological lines. “Some people saw it as: ‘You’re trying to make this bad thing better, and that might mean it would get built.’ On the other side, people who were much more conservative were saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this; it’s going to make it difficult to operate and they’ll end up closing it down.’”
The Obama administration recently gave what appears to be the final ax to the (more…)