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

Photo by Brian Barth.

From “In the Hunt” in the January 2019 issue by Brian Barth, about Kinngaaluk Territorial Park in Nunavut, Canada, which will preserve the region’s flora, fauna, and Inuit traditions.

“Sacred soil solitude.”

–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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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 BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The design industry’s #MeToo moment arrived in March, when the New York Times published allegations of sexual misconduct against the architect Richard Meier. A total of nine women have come forward to paint a picture of decades of lecherous behavior that was well known to senior members of Meier’s firm, who did little to intervene.

The uncomfortable spotlight on the culture of prominent architecture firms has created an opportunity to bring once-private conversations among women at design firms into a wider arena. “We all knew our industry was not immune,” says Megan Born, ASLA, a landscape architect and partner at PORT Urbanism in Philadelphia. “Not only are women typically the ones being harassed, they are often tasked with the responsibility of understanding the problem and finding solutions. I think everyone in the field needs to look at this together and decide it is an issue they want to take on.”

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), surveys have found that up to 85 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. A recent survey of nearly 1,500 architects by the Architects’ Journal, a British publication, found that one in seven women at design firms had experienced sexual harassment in the previous year. In light of recent events, the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, which has long focused on highlighting the contributions of women in the design professions, is working with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to develop new ethical guidelines aimed at curbing sexual misconduct and petitioning state licensing boards to mandate ongoing sexual harassment training as a requirement for maintaining licensure. There’s no data available to clarify the scope of the problem in landscape architecture, but among a half-dozen women in the profession interviewed for this article about their personal experiences, none said they’d never experienced uncomfortable behavior of a sexual or gendered nature in the workplace. None had experienced, or knew of, instances of Harvey Weinstein-level harassment. But as Evalynn Rosado, the director of business development and operations at DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture in New York, put it, “People are very, very quiet about that once it has happened.” (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In March of 2016, the landscape architect Ron Henderson, FASLA, had the rare opportunity to visit Mcity, the autonomous vehicle research center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His entourage, which included Nilay Mistry, ASLA, as well as an architect, a transportation engineer, a social scientist, and an attorney, signed in at a gatehouse worthy of a military facility. They were then relieved of all cameras and recording devices—“It’s like a top-secret corporate espionage kind of place,” Henderson says—before being escorted on a brief tour of a 16-acre test track composed of every road condition imaginable: bridges, tunnels, gravel roads, bike lanes, railroad crossings, roundabouts, graffiti-defaced road signs, faded lane markings, a main street with parallel parking, and a short stretch of freeway. “They even have a little Potemkin village of fake storefronts,” Henderson says.

At Mcity, a consortium of academic researchers, government agencies, and corporate entities are sorting out how to make autonomous transportation a reality. Henderson was surprised to learn that trees may not be part of the equation. “We learned that vegetation interferes with the signals between the cars,” he says. “So they cut down the trees at the test track. One of the engineers jokingly said to us, ‘If we had our druthers, we would just cut down all the trees.’ The landscape architects in the group (more…)

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Technologist landscape architects rejoice—the November issue of LAM is packed with imagined scenarios, myth breakers, and tantalizing possible futures for urban design. Whether or not autonomous vehicles will allow for utopian cities of tomorrow depends on careful planning and policies today, says writer Brian Barth. And the future of autonomous vehicles might not look as green as we’re imagining. A new landscape by Ki Concepts on Honolulu’s Ford Island—site of the Pearl Harbor attack in World War II—weaves the richly layered history of the site into a sleek, cohesive design. And a new streetscape redesign by CRSA in the Sugar House business district of Salt Lake City turns a large thoroughfare into an inviting multimodal streetscape.

In Materials, Jane Berger discusses the stigma—and benefits—of the often-misunderstood bamboo. And in Tech, geodesign unites academics and agriculturists in the pursuit of the most optimal yield for their yearly crops. All this plus our regular Books, Now, and Goods columns. The full table of contents for November can be found here.

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.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting November articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Retraining of Salt Lake City,” CRSA; “Before and After Pearl Harbor,” Alan Karchmer; “Dream Cars,” Illinois Institute of Technology; “Raising Canes,” OvS; “Models of Collaboration,” Len Kne. 

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