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Posts Tagged ‘Anthropocene’

BY ZACH MORTICE

A mirrored hut, in the shape of Thoreau’s New England cabin, reminds us to slow down our metabolism for appraising and interpreting landscapes. Photo by Justin Knight.

Günther Vogt on the limits of design, and the boundless reach of landscape architecture.

 

Ask Günther Vogt what the problems facing landscape architecture are, and he’ll tell you that there’s a bit too much design happening today.

This provocation suggests that it’s time for landscape designers to spend less time fussing with the proportions of a public square and more time working through urban and region-scaled problems. That was the thrust of Vogt’s Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design earlier this month, which accompanied an exhibition of his work on display now at the GSD’s Druker Design Gallery at Gund Hall. First the Forests exhibits six of Vogt’s projects and is filled with artifacts, models, specimens, and dioramas presented in tactile wood boxes—references to the European tradition of the “Wunderkammer” or “cabinet of curiosities,” eclectic containers filled with wonder and mystery.

There are cylindrical core samples of Boston’s mineral geology, impossibly delicate 19th century Italian gypsum models of mushrooms, excerpts from German plant morphology diagrams, and deconstructed and collaged 19th century landscape paintings, with foreground and background elements cut out and separated between panes of glass, giving the painting a semblance of texture and depth. LAM spoke to Vogt before the lecture about the exhibition. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

An ambitious forest restoration project in Ashland, Oregon, aims to reduce the risk that wildfire poses to residents—and their water supply.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Though the warning signs had been present for months, the bad news officially came in March 2018, when forecasters at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) in Portland, Oregon, released their long-range forecast of the upcoming fire season. Though it varied from state to state, in Oregon, light snowpack and higher-than-average temperatures combined to create a highly combustible landscape. “I’m worried about the 2018 fire season,” John Saltenberger, the fire weather program manager at the NWCC, told a Portland television station.

It was discouraging news for a state that, like California and other western states, has seen a growing number of increasingly intense wildfires in recent years. According to Oregon Department of Forestry statistics, 69 percent of the state’s largest recorded wildfires have occurred in the past 20 years. The largest, 2012’s Long Draw Fire, scorched nearly 560,000 acres of predominantly federal land in the southeastern part of the state. In the geological age known as the Anthropocene, the current epoch might one day be known as the Era of Megafires. A megafire is typically defined as a single wildfire that exceeds 100,000 acres. Such fires are “nearly commonplace now,” says Chris Chambers, who for the past 15 years has served as the forest division chief for the City of Ashland, Oregon. “Whereas 20, 30 years ago, a 100,000-acre fire was unheard of.” (more…)

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BY STEVE AUSTIN, ASLA

Landscape architecture can mitigate carbon emissions, but it is also implicated amoung the causes.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Paris Agreement on climate change, created by the consensus of 197 nations, went into effect in November 2016 and has enormous implications for the practice of landscape architecture. If adhered to by its signatories, the agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era by midcentury, well within the life spans of many landscape architects currently practicing. Though it may seem wonderfully “green,” this energy transition poses profound questions for the practice of landscape architecture at a time when the discipline is needed more than ever. (more…)

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THE GREEN NEW DEAL, LANDSCAPE, AND PUBLIC IMAGINATION

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.

BY NICHOLAS PEVZNER

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the 2018 midterm elections, the Green New Deal has catapulted into the public conversation about tackling climate change and income inequality in America. It has inspired a diverse coalition of groups on the left, including climate activists, mainstream environmental groups, and social justice warriors. The Green New Deal is not yet fully fleshed out in Congress—the most complete iteration so far is a nonbinding resolution put forward in the House by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and a companion measure introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). At their cores, these bills are an urgent call to arms for accelerating the decarbonization of the U.S. economy through a federal jobs program that would create millions of green jobs—a 10-year national mobilization on a number of fronts aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution text itself is a laundry list of possible goals and strategies aimed at immediately addressing climate change and radically cutting U.S. carbon emissions. These proposals are ambitious in scale and breadth: a national target of 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy generation; a national “smart” grid; aggressive building upgrades for energy efficiency; decarbonization of the manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation sectors; increased investment in carbon capture technologies; and the establishment of the United States as a global exporter of green technology. What such an effort will entail on the ground is not yet clear, but if even only some of these stated goals are achieved, the Green New Deal will represent a transformation of both the American economy and landscape on a scale not seen since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his original New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s. (more…)

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ON BRAZIL’S BEHALF

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

Araucárias, Paraná, ca. 1884. Photo by Marc Ferrez/Gilberto Ferrez Collection/Instituto Moreira Salles.

 FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Speaking out against the military dictatorship of Brazil during the late 1960s and early 1970s had definite risks. Politicians, human rights advocates, artists, and intellectuals who publicly opposed the right-wing government’s programs of hyperdevelopment did so under threat of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Many fled into exile. Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect (1909–1994), had been a public figure for decades when, three years after the 1964 coup, he was appointed by the dictatorship’s first president, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, to a 24-member national cultural council. For Burle Marx, the decision to join the council was ethically freighted. He accepted with one clear objective: to save the Brazilian landscape.

In a new book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes Under Dictatorship (University of Texas Press, 2018), Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, brings forth a series of 18 frankly activist speeches, or depositions, that Burle Marx delivered as a member of the council. They target, among other things, the unchecked destruction of Brazil’s forests for raw materials and agriculture. He surveyed the progression of environmental tragedy with a deep knowledge of botany and ecology, an intricate alertness to policy, and always appealing to a Brazilian pride in its national landscape patrimony.

“The way I read his depositions, Burle Marx is positioning an argument that’s against the economic development theory of the regime,” Seavitt Nordenson told me recently. “Sometimes they listen to him and sometimes they don’t. But he’s on the inside and he’s arguing passionately, because he’s been working on the cultural project of the Brazilian landscape for so long.” Seavitt Nordenson notes that in these speeches of 50 years ago, Burle Marx touches on two huge problems of today, anthropogenic impacts affecting climate and the loss of biodiversity. “They’re very clear—they’re jocular speeches, often funny, and have so much spontaneity—and he manages to communicate a serious message to an audience that has significant political power.”

This excerpt of Depositions includes a brief introduction by Seavitt Nordenson to three depositions on forests, followed by her translations of the depositions themselves.

 —Bradford McKee

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BY STEVE AUSTIN, ASLA

Landscape architecture can mitigate carbon emissions, but it is also implicated among the causes.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, created by the consensus of 197 nations, went into effect in November 2016 and has enormous implications for the practice of landscape architecture. If adhered to by its signatories, the agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era by midcentury, well within the life spans of many landscape architects currently practicing. Though it may seem wonderfully “green,” this energy transition poses profound questions for the practice of landscape architecture at a time when the discipline is needed more than ever.

The Paris Agreement foretells a civilization powered nearly exclusively by renewably generated electricity, not fossil-fueled fire, like today. This will impose severe limits on landscape architecture’s materials, construction methods, and professional mobility. The agreement also portends a society with much less energy overall, as fossil fuels currently make up more than 80 percent of total energy consumed and cannot be easily replaced. These stark realities will challenge landscape architects to adapt to the impending zero-carbon future.

Last year set the record for the hottest year in measured history, breaking 2015’s record, which itself (more…)

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In Sic Erat Scriptum, landscape architect and filmmaker Evan Mather argues that the Interstate Highway System that has reshaped the nation through epochal public works is not the project of technocratic 20th century humanist ambition, but something far more ancient and out of our control. Through fictionalized Grand Junction Bible College landscape urbanism instructor Melvin McNally (portrayed by Mather), his short film makes the pop-science case that the interstate is really the result of “biomigratory ecology rooted in ancient habitats and dominions.” That is, these roads follow dinosaur trails.

The video’s grainy film quality gives it an air of archival mystique that contrasts with sharp overlay maps of transit corridors throughout the millennia. Accelerated footage of miles of highway whirring past give way to fictionalized newspaper pages filled with dummy text in Latin telling of “Devil Lizards” unearthed during road construction.

There’s the interstate, which was preceded by the early 20th century highway system, which followed railroad lines. These lined up with pioneer wagon trails, themselves mapped to Native American trails, whose only purpose was to follow large mammal migratory patterns.  And concentrations of fossils found in clusters along these paths indicate these creatures were lured by “ancient dinosaur watering holes,” McNally says. It sounds like the prologue to a dusty paperback science fiction novel from the late 1950s. But broken down step by step, it seems reasonable. Foregrounded in acknowledgment of the Anthropocene age (the period of history where human activity is the strongest force affecting planetary ecosystems and geology), it questions whether we’re really writing our own novel, or instead cribbing notes from a story told long, long ago.

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