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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Gray infrastructure has given way to green to prevent sewer overflows into Washington, D.C.’s waters.

FROM “THE RIVER BENEATH THE RIVER,” IN THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Green infrastructure is now an important part of the Clean Rivers Project. The colossal Anacostia River tunnel remains a fixture in the effort on the east side of the city to hold and carry stormwater to DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. But to the west, the introduction of green infrastructure is allowing the elimination of one smaller tunnel for a combined sewer network above Rock Creek, which drains into the Potomac River, and the scaling back of another large tunnel along the Potomac itself.

The notion of complementing gray infrastructure with green was a priority of George Hawkins when he became general manager of DC Water in 2009. It was not an easy sell. Clean-water advocates were skeptical of green infrastructure’s performance capability and also feared delays in achieving the goals of the Clean Rivers Project—to end 96 percent of the District of Columbia’s combined sewer overflows. Hawkins was able to make a case for the efficacy of green infrastructure and also to show that significant improvements to water quality would occur well before the tunnels’ projected completion.

The Clean Rivers program is deploying a mix of bioretention, porous pavements, rain barrels, and downspout disconnection from combined sewers. In the Rock Creek sewershed, enough green infrastructure is planned to manage (more…)

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

Photo by Thrainn Hauksson.

From “A Greater Crater” in the November 2018 issue by Bradford McKee, about Landslag’s Saxhóll Crater Stair in Iceland (winner of the 2018 Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize), which provides access to a jaw-dropping volcano vista while still protecting a delicate alpine ecosystem.

“Crater climb.”

–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.

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Oh, wouldn’t you know, more than a dozen federal agencies release a major report on dire climate trends and the coming shocks to the United States, and the White House drops it on everyone’s stoop in the dead of Black Friday. Disregard if you can the president’s tweets about the “cold” during Thanksgiving week. And if you missed the incoherent nonsense uttered by Danielle “I’m Not a Scientist” Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute on NBC’s Meet the Press (which went unchallenged by the host, Chuck Todd) and by Rick Santorum on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, consider that a win. But check out the report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, for yourself.

For more breakdown, here is a roundup of news and analysis pieces assembled by the Society of Environmental Journalists.

“Major Trump Administration Climate Report Says Damage Is ‘Intensifying Across the Country’” (The Washington Post)

“Government Climate Report Warns of Worsening US Disasters” (AP)

“Federal Report: Climate Risks, Damage Rising Across U.S.” (ClimateWire)

“Climate Change Puts U.S. Economy and Lives at Risk, and Costs Are Rising, Federal Agencies Warn” (InsideClimate News)

“Clashing with Trump, U.S. Government Report Says Climate Change Will Batter Economy” (Reuters)

“Climate Change Is Already Hurting U.S. Communities, Federal Report Says” (NPR)

“Climate Change Will Shrink US Economy and Kill Thousands, Government Report Warns” (CNN)

“Climate Change ‘Will Inflict Substantial Damage on US Lives'” (The Guardian)

“What’s New in the Latest U.S. Climate Assessment” (The New York Times)

“Climate Change Poses Major Threat to United States, New Government Report Concludes” (Science)

“Trump’s Dire Climate Report Hands Ammunition to Democrats” (Politico)

“Experts to Discuss New Federal Climate Change Assessment Report for the U.S.” (NOAA)

“Federal Report: Hurricane Harvey Was a Climate Change Harbinger” (The Texas Tribune)

“Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II” (U.S. Global Change Research Program)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I speak from the heart, and this month, it’s about something even more important to landscape architecture than politics: drawings—the wonderful drawings designers make to build their projects. You love drawings. We love drawings. They’re the sheet music to sites. When Mildred Schmertz, the famed former editor of Architectural Record, died earlier this year, I recalled a phone conversation she and I had when I was a newbie at Architecture magazine. She said: “Drawings, drawings, drawings. You can never give readers enough drawings.”

When we look at drawings here at the magazine, and we are greedy about hauling them in from offices, we want to have it all ways in service to you, the reader. We want scope. We also want detail. These two imperatives duke it out for the four corners of the magazine spreads. We think we’ve made the right decision. Then comes a thoughtful letter like one I got (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 BRADFORD MCKEE

Landslag, of Reyk­javík, takes home the 2018 Rosa Barba Prize.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The site, the Saxhóll Crater, is part of Snæfellsjökull, a volcano on a far western finger of Iceland that is the starting point for Journey to the Center of the Earth, the 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. This worn-down cone of lava, 125 feet high, is a popular stop for tourists who want to walk up to its summit amid patches of multicolored mosses, lichens, arctic thyme, and bog bilberry to see views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding glacier cap, which is expected to disappear within 50 years. Tourism is up sharply in Iceland, quadrupling since 2010 to two mil­lion visitors in 2017. The wear was evident on the crater’s flank, where the path to the summit was degrading and splitting into multiple tracks, not helped by random, gabion-like treads where the going got especially rough.

The project of preserving the crater’s fragile ecology along with access to people fell to Thrainn Hauksson, of the landscape architecture office Landslag, in Reyk­javík. Hauksson’s office designed the simplest thing possible— (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A recent history of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is as follows:

In April, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report on its investigation into the reassignment under Zinke of 27 career members of the department’s Senior Executive Service, high-level staff whose jobs are to “provide institutional stability and continuity” across administrations. More than 40 percent of the executives reassigned, CNN reported, were nonwhite. Ten of those employees told the inspector general’s office they believe their reassignments were for “political or punitive reasons,” including past work on climate change, energy policy, or conservation. The inspector general was unable to figure out whether the department followed legal requirements and guidelines for internal reassignments because “DOI did not document its plans or reasons” for the reassignments. Several department employees told CNN they had heard Zinke say that diversity was not “important” at the agency, which employs nearly 70,000 people, more than 70 percent of whom are white. Zinke’s office denied his ever having made such comments.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed also in April that it is looking into whether Zinke violated the Hatch Act, which forbids certain kinds of political activity by most employees of the executive branch, by announcing an exemption for Florida from a sweeping plan to begin opening nearly all of the United States’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration. The exemption, the only one given to a whole state, was staged as a victory for Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is running for one of Florida’s Senate seats. (more…)

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