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Posts Tagged ‘California’

BY JANE BERGER

There’s a palm for just about any place you’re planting.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You can’t always get what you want—unless, that is, you’re into palms. Lisa Gimmy, ASLA, of Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture in Los Angeles, finds palms uniquely suited to small gardens, given small root balls that leave “a very tiny footprint on the ground.” One that Gimmy likes to use is the blue hesper or Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata), native to Baja California, Mexico, with stunning, silvery-blue, fan-shaped fronds and creamy white flower clusters that cascade down from the leaves. Gimmy selects palms for spatial characteristics first, then for texture, leaf color, and the character of the trunk. “They are like poems,” she says. “With the head up in the air, there’s really nothing else like it.” Gimmy also likes palms because they provide “instant gratification, and that’s very important in Southern California.”

Ray Hernandez, the president of the International Palm Society, told me a story about a friend who drives from Long Island, New York, to Florida every year to pick up specimens that will last for just the summer season. “The folks that live out in the Hamptons and have 10 zeros behind their bank account can afford to haul up a coconut palm or something hardier and plant it in their landscape, and (more…)

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BY JEFF LINK

A pilot study suggests playground equipment can provide social and emotional benefits for children with sensory disorders.

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Lucy Miller lost her sight when she was 16 and, in 1970, underwent one of the nation’s first corneal transplants. A procession of specialists flitted in and out of her recovery room—doctors, nurses, residents, fellows—but she recalls thinking that only the occupational therapist was interested in her as a person.

Shortly after her release from the hospital, she abandoned her plans to go to law school and headed to graduate school at Boston University to study occupational therapy. It wasn’t only the care and attention of her former occupational therapist who had led her to this decision. In the hospital, over several months when her eyes were surgically detached from her skull, she noticed her other senses had grown sharper. She wondered why, neurologically, this had happened, and was determined to find out. So, in her early twenties, still in graduate school, she embarked on a summer mentorship at the Torrance, California, clinic of Jean Ayers, the originator of a then-emerging field exploring the relationship between the sensory processing dysfunction and the behavior of children with disabilities.

Nearly half a century later, Miller, who is the clinical director of the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder just south of Denver, has become one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on sensory processing disorder (SPD). This term is used to describe difficulty with “one or more of the sensory processes that occur along the neurological pathway, from detecting stimulation to regulating the input and output, to interpreting the sensations correctly, to responding accurately, and finally, to turning the sensory input into meaningful responses,” as she explained in her 2014 book, (more…)

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University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (more…)

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BY MADELINE BODIN

The video game Minecraft has become a new tool for community engagement.

FROM THE MARCH 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In Anaheim, California, the children couldn’t wait to show Pamela Galera, ASLA, the zip lines and tree houses in their parks. As she visited their creations, Galera, a landscape architect and planner for the City of Anaheim, saw the road on one side of the site and the river on the other, just as they are in real life. The landscapes, created by the kids using the video game Minecraft, were blocky by nature, but three dimensional, and from their laptops, they could explore the park designs from all directions.

Galera had no experience with Minecraft until recently, when Mojang, the company that created Minecraft, asked the City of Anaheim to use the game to help design a park. The design project would be featured at a Minecraft convention held in the city. “I am not a video game player,” she says, “so I had my concerns.” (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Image by Jocelyn Augustino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

In November, Moody’s Investors Service, the bond rating agency, released a cautionary report on climate change. Looking ahead, the report said, the effects of what it describes as climate trends and climate shocks are sure to become a “growing negative credit factor” for states, localities, or utilities that don’t appear to be responding to potential climate change effects through mitigation or adaptation. Cities and others issue bonds to borrow money for building things such as infrastructure or schools. They need investors to know they’re a good risk. Moody’s came out to say that it has begun deciding, based on climate resilience among a matrix of other factors, whether a given risk is good or bad. “If you’re exposed,” one Moody’s analyst told Bloomberg, “we know that.”

The other of the two biggest rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, is also keenly onto climate (it and Moody’s together run 80 percent of the bond rating business). It released a report in October to explain how municipal bond issuers will be affected by climate impacts. Like Moody’s, S&P specified two theaters of risk: the sudden extreme event, such as a hurricane, and “more gradual changes to the environment affecting land use, employment, and economic activity that support credit quality.”

This may all seem very back-office in the design world, and for now it is. It is also, critically, moving to the fore as the federal stance on climate change and its many hazards is not only in retreat but in vicious denial. Trump administration appointees, who are like drones for industry, are ordering the removal of references to climate change in agency communications. The administration is also purging our government of good-faith, (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

Working in a multidisciplinary firm means every day is different.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You certainly never get bored in a multidisciplinary office. A landscape architect might find herself reviewing federal endangered species listings, hydrology maps, or legal frameworks for land use planning in the daily shuffle, and these are just some of the diverse types of work likely to be present. Industrial mining methods, vernal pool construction, and high-rise plumbing systems could also come into play. The number of landscape architects working in these professional environments is growing as businesses find a competitive edge providing full, in-house services for site development projects that require expertise from designers but also from scientists, legal teams, and engineers. Four landscape architects at the center of these integrated office types share insights about collaboration, isolation, and the willingness to learn something new each day.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Weston & Sampson, Boston

Gene Bolinger, ASLA, Vice President

What are lessons learned from working in a multidisciplinary office for more than 25 years?

Staff at Weston & Sampson (clockwise from left): Elise Bluell, Associate ASLA; Cassidy Chroust, ASLA; Desmond Fang; Brandon Kunkel; and Farah Dakkak, Associate ASLA. Image courtesy of Weston & Sampson.

I came to Weston & Sampson through an acquisition, and I’ve been here since the fall of 1991. Weston & Sampson is an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, and it’s one of those old, legacy northeastern firms. It’s been around since 1899. One of our larger clients is the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and at any given time, we have  eight to 10 projects under way with the City of Boston. We’re pushing up against 500 people in our organization and, again, we’re mostly in the Northeast, with the largest projects in Massachusetts, for sure. Just recently the firm went to a discipline-based structure—we’re actually six disciplines. One of the disciplines is the design discipline, and I manage the design discipline. I’ve become accustomed to working within a multidisciplinary realm, and I celebrate what’s great about it and try to take advantage of what’s great about it.

If you’re sitting back on your hands and you’re assuming that people are going to be delivering exactly what you want at the exact moment you want it, you’re so mistaken. So, that’s why you can’t let things (more…)

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