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BY BRIAN BARTH

The beer flows freely alongside Asheville’s renewed French Broad River.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On a cool Friday morning back in the spring, I stood on a small pedestrian bridge overlooking a tiny stream that feeds into the French Broad River in Asheville, North Carolina. Native species including cardinal flower, joe-pye weed, trumpet creeper, rhododendron, witch hazel, serviceberry, and river birch cloaked the crystal-clear streamlet, which meandered down a series of stone-lined pools in the ravine below. Less than a decade ago, the water meandered around rusted car bodies, tires, and slabs of concrete that had been tossed there over the years, part of an old, unpermitted landfill that oozed with heavy metals and hydrocarbon pollution. At my side were Paul Mills, ASLA, and David Tuch, who designed the landscape that has brought the place back to life.

As if on cue, a groundhog appeared from a burrow under a boulder they specified. “Snake!” Mills exclaimed a few minutes later, pointing to a serpentine line squiggling through one of the pools. As he and Tuch debated the species, a second, smaller serpent squiggled by after what I presumed was its mother. “It’s a family!” I shouted.

On the flat ground above this BBC wildlife special are intoxicating gardens of native plants surrounding a boozy business: the East Coast headquarters of the New Belgium Brewing Company. Mills’s firm, Russell + Mills Studios, is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the brewery-laden city where New Belgium was established in 1991. Looking to expand a couple of decades later, the company decided on the Appalachian city of Asheville, which has the second-highest number of breweries per capita in the United States and has been deemed the nation’s “best beer city” by seriouseats.com. (Fort Collins has merely the 11th most breweries per capita.) Russell + Mills, the rare landscape architecture firm with a reputation for designing brewery grounds—they’ve worked on a dozen to date—was hired as the lead designer for the brownfield site. Tuch’s Asheville-based firm, Equinox Environmental, collaborated on plant selection and the design of stormwater management features.

The ravine bisects the 18-acre property—a 400,000-barrel-per-year brewery lies on one side; New Belgium’s Liquid Center, a tasting room and event space, on the other—which opened to the public in 2016. It lies less than a mile from downtown Asheville in the city’s River Arts District, a place of artisans’ studios and riverside parks that have replaced the industrial landscape that once enveloped the French Broad, a long-polluted water body that borders the brewery on one side. New Belgium’s $175 million investment represents a major step toward a riverfront reclamation that has been decades in the making. (more…)

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

Image courtesy Russell + Mills Studios.

From “Home Brewed” by Brian Barth in the November 2021 issue, about New Belgium Brewing Company’s riverside East Coast headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina.

“Working the ravine.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

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

Photo by Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA.

From “From the Outside In” in the February 2021 issue by Brian Barth, about how one of the nation’s most progressive affordable housing policies in San Francisco is creating landscapes that embrace low-income neighbors.

“Courtyard play.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

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BY BRIAN BARTH

Claude Cormier cracks a smile.

 

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Claude Cormier, ASLA, and I pull up to Dorchester Square in Montreal, a man is leaning against the grand fountain, with its three Victorian bowls, all painted a very Victorian shade of green, smoking a cigarette. When we get out of the car, I realize it’s not a cigarette, but a joint. “If you want to buy pot in Montreal, this is where you do it,” says Cormier, in heavily accented English—and he begins to tell me the story of how his firm transformed this historic park into a place that winks at the past, while winking in a few other directions as well.

First developed in the 1860s, Dorchester Square is an oasis of ornate statuary (Queen Victoria; a military horse; and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first Francophone prime minister, are all commemorated) and manicured flower beds set amid regal edifices that testify to the city’s railroad-era wealth. Claude Cormier + Associés has been working on improvements to the park (as well as an adjacent green space, Place du Canada) since 2000. In 2015, the firm was selected to restore the northern end of Dorchester Square, a section of which had been lopped off long ago and repurposed for parking. There had not been a fountain in the park previously, but Cormier thought it would make a fitting focal point. Dorchester Square sits on top of an underground garage, and there was a load-bearing column positioned in just the right place to support a 30-foot-high steel fountain at the end of the park’s long axis. There was only one problem: The city said it needed a few extra feet to accommodate the tourist buses that embark from the adjacent block. Those few feet nixed the alignment with the supporting column.

“The city said, get rid of your fountain and design something else,” Cormier tells me, patting the fountain. “And I thought, no, I’m not taking out the fountain.” (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

A flood-friendly park re-creates a resilient landscape in Calgary’s Bow River.

FROM THE JANUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the summer of 2013, catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta killed five people and forced 100,000 to evacuate. With $6 billion in property damage, it was one of the costliest natural disasters in Canadian history. The swollen Bow River, which flows from glacial headwaters in the Rockies to Calgary, left much of the city’s urban core underwater. The inundated area included St. Patrick’s Island, one of several islands in the downtown stretch of the river, where Barbara Wilks, FASLA, and Mark Johnson, FASLA, had just kicked off construction on a new 31-acre park. A new pedestrian bridge to the island, which was partially built at the time, suffered significant damage. But for the park itself, Wilks and Johnson—the founders of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Civitas, respectively—say the floodwaters provided positive reinforcement of their design.

This was not the initial reaction, however, of the folks at the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), their client.

“Our client called and said, ‘Oh, God, you have to get up here; we’re going to have to change the design,’” said Johnson as he, Wilks, and I strolled across the bridge to the completed park on a clear spring day.

“The whole island flooded!’” Wilks recalled members of the CMLC team saying in an urgent and distressed call. “We said, ‘It’s going to be fine; there’s nothing to change. We designed it to flood—this is what’s supposed to happen.’” (more…)

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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 BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

In many respects, we’ve entered a golden era of landscape architecture. The profession’s profile appears to be on the rise, as environmental crises become more urgent and unavoidable and landscape architects increasingly take on lead roles in major projects. Interest in stormwater management, habitat restoration, and the public realm has expanded dramatically in recent decades, driving demand for landscape architecture services. The industry took a hit during the Great Recession, but since 2012, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ quarterly survey of firms (which tracks billable hours, inquiries for new work, and hiring trends) has found consistently robust growth.

One would expect new recruits to flock to the profession as a result. But this is not the case.

The number of people working in the field of landscape architecture peaked at around 45,000 in 2006, then nose-dived to about 30,000 in 2013. The postrecession boost in demand for services, though welcome, did not translate into warm bodies at the office. By 2016, the most recent year for which Bureau of Labor Statistics data is available, landscape architecture employment had dropped below 25,000.

Student enrollment in landscape architecture programs has followed a similar trend, (more…)

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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 BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is all the rage in academia these days. STEM degrees confer significant prestige in a high-tech world, and STEM education is funded to the tune of billions of dollars by the federal government. Privileges afforded to STEM students include eligibility for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which excludes non-STEM students. Minority students are incented to pursue STEM degrees by grants available to those who attend historically black colleges and universities and Latinx-serving institutions.

STEM is also deeply enmeshed in immigration policy. Out of concern that the flow of native-born STEM graduates falls short of labor market demand, the United States offers foreign graduate students in STEM fields an extension on their F-1 student visas to encourage them to remain in the country as high-skilled workers—a boon to the students, but also to firms that are seeking to retain top global talent in a country increasingly bent on tightening its borders. F-1 visa students in any field of study are eligible for 12 months of “optional practical training” (OPT), a form of temporary work authorization that may be used for jobs or internships related to their field. But in 2008, an additional 17 months was offered solely to students in STEM fields; in 2016, the OPT visa extension grew to 24 months, for a total of three years of work authorization.

The three-year OPT visa extension is no small trinket for foreign students who are eyeing U.S. degree programs. The ability to stay in the country after graduation greatly enhances their job prospects, which in turn enhances their long-term immigration prospects: The H-1B visa that typically comes with a job in an American firm is a well-worn path to a green card and, eventually, citizenship. Because STEM figures so heavily in career choices and funding streams, professions of every stripe clamor to get in its tent. But the door is heavily guarded.

The list of federally designated STEM fields is maintained not by the Department of Education but by the Department of Homeland Security—specifically by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, better known as ICE. (more…)

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