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INTERVIEW BY BRADFORD MCKEE

In his new book, Doug Tallamy looks at oaks as a life force.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In two influential books, the entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy has spread a message of people-powered biodiversity, to say that if humans have crowded out nature across the world, they can also invite it back in at close range. Tallamy, who is 70 and lives in southeastern Pennsylvania, is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he joined the faculty in 1981 and has led or coauthored 104 published research studies on the behavior and chemistry of insects. In 2007, his book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants hatched a mission to persuade home gardeners to think big about the buffets they can create for animals just outside any door as bulwarks against ecological decline. He expanded that project in 2020 with Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, which became a New York Times best seller.

Tallamy’s latest book, The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees (published, like the others, by Timber Press), puts his message through a different prism, that of the genus Quercus, which includes 435 species of oaks around the world, 91 of them in North America, where they are superlative among trees as sources of food and shelter in their environments. He details the oak’s life cycle through the 12 months of the year. “Unfortunately, the diverse web of life that is associated with oaks goes unnoticed and thus unappreciated by most homeowners,” Tallamy writes. Many homeowners, indeed, are ready to cut down oaks to avoid raking leaves, though he explains that raking is not only unnecessary but to be strongly discouraged, given the high value of oak leaf litter as microhabitat. Once again his gift to readers, in plainspoken prose, is to help them see the familiar in nature and find the unseen.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Bradford McKee: In The Nature of Oaks, as in your earlier books, you’re bringing science and natural history to the household conversation—

Doug Tallamy: That’s the goal!

BM: —though scientists who do academic research and also do public advocacy so regularly are exceptions in most fields. What’s driving your mission? (more…)

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Among this year’s superb ASLA Student Award winners, it seems almost as if several of the designers had an advance copy of the latest report on land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The panel supports the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, originator of the 2015 Paris Agreement, by providing scientific reports on climate change impacts, and ways to mitigate or adapt to them. Its latest major report, Climate Change and Land, came out in early August, and in many ways runs directly alongside the contemporary concerns of landscape architecture. The report details the interactions between land and climate, the ways human activity on land (which “provides the basis for human livelihoods and well-being”) contributes to global warming and, in turn, how climate change affects the integrity of the land people depend on for food and fiber (and often to our detriment, for fuel).

The realities of agriculture are a near-constant presence in the new report and, I think, the next frontier for landscape architecture to consider, particularly for agriculture’s role in rampant land degradation and the loss of biodiversity. In this year’s Student Awards, (more…)

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FOREGROUND

Where Are We Sitting? (Interview)
Thaïsa Way, FASLA, the new director of Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, wants to push the profession’s history in new directions.

A Merger Makes a New Market (Office)
Calvin Abe, FASLA, made moves toward an ownership transition for his Los Angeles firm, AHBE Landscape Architects, then pulled back, and then went for it with MIG.

FEATURES

No Us and Them
Forty years after its founding, the office of Andropogon, which received the 2018 ASLA
Firm Award, keeps expanding the research base on which it was built and advancing the notion that people and nature are one.

Downtown, Deliberately
Over 35 years, a featureless corner in Boise, Idaho, was galvanized to life by ZGF Architects with help from some local talent.

Toronto in Deep
Below its towers, Toronto’s ravines carve dramatic veins of forest through the city. But their biodiversity is at risk of collapse under intense environmental pressures, and their guardians think they have not much time to reverse the problem.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for September can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting September articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “No Us and Them,” Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA; “Toronto in Deep,” Robert Burley, Courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery; “Downtown, Deliberately,” ZGF Architects; “Where Are We Sitting?” © Courtney M. Randolph; “A Merger Makes a New Market,” Sibylle Allgaier.

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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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BY NATE BERG

A landscape architect and a biologist team up to counter urban biodiversity loss.

FROM THE JUNE 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A hawk glides overhead. An egret perches alongside a pedestrian walkway. Butterflies flutter in the foreground. From across the spectrum of the animal kingdom they appear in the drawings and renderings of modern architecture and landscape projects, hinting at a harmony between the designed space and the natural world. The projects, these animal cameos suggest, are not just urban developments, but healthy and diverse habitats.

“I won’t say it’s a lie, but these are big promises,” says Thomas Hauck, a Berlin-based landscape architect and a professor at the University of Kassel, in Germany. Hauck understands these images are meant to be aspirational, to show an idealized version of the designs they represent. But, he argues, sometimes too many illustrative liberties are taken “without evidence,” especially when urban development is more likely to destroy animal habitat than create it.

Hauck isn’t saying the animals should be taken out of the renderings. Rather, he wants to ensure animals actually show up once the project is built. To make that happen, Hauck has teamed up with a biologist from the Technical University of Munich named Wolfgang Weisser. Together, they’ve developed a theoretical design approach called Animal-Aided Design that seeks to counteract the ways development harms urban biodiversity by deliberately designing projects to accommodate animal species from the start. Through the careful targeting of species most likely to inhabit a given area, their approach provides the habitat requirements those species need to thrive throughout their life cycle.

“People hang up nest boxes and wonder why they’re empty,” Weisser says. “It’s because everything else is missing.” (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Beavers become partners in restoration.

FROM THE JANUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As public support for trapping has waned, beavers are making a comeback in urban waterways around the country. In Seattle, they are now said to be found in every suitable stream and water body, and some project designers now see them as partners in wetland restoration rather than nuisances. They say the benefits beavers bring to an ecosystem outweigh the challenges, and point out that working with them is far less expensive—and more humane—than trapping.

“Beavers construct wetlands that hold back and store water, allowing for groundwater recharge and pollution sequestration, and increasing biodiversity,” says Ben Dittbrenner, the aquatic ecologist and executive director of Beavers Northwest. “We do the same thing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they do it for free.” This past October, (more…)

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THE RIVER BENEATH THE RIVER

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 JENNIFER REUT

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

For a long time, the Anacostia River didn’t even have a name. It was just the Eastern Branch, the other, less promising section of Washington, D.C.’s better known and more distinguished river, the Potomac. But it was always known as a fortunate course to the Nacotchtank, the Native Americans who used it as a trading post, and later to the European colonists who relied on the river’s deep port at Bladensburg, Maryland, to carry tobacco, and to the generations of farmers, tradesmen, and laborers who never seemed to run out of fish, fowl, and game to hunt. For nearly nine miles, the Anacostia eased in and out with the tide, with no particular urgency, toward its confluence with the Potomac, tracing an unhurried flow through thousands of acres of tidal wetlands.

Of course, that was before the port and the shipping channels silted up in the 19th century from agricultural misuse; before the river was (more…)

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