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This fall, LAM will be highlighting professional and student winners from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

Yongqing Fang Alleyways: An Urban Transformation, by Lab D+H Landscape and Urban Design, Professional Urban Design Honor Award.

Photo courtesy Arch-Exist.

“During the construction of this project, most of the original stone slabs from the alleys were stolen. A lot of construction waste, such as the demolition of the building bricks and tiles, was piled up on the site. We were thinking that the best way to preserve the historical context and bring back those old memories was to reuse those old materials. Thus, most of the details [in the photo] are made from recycled materials. In fact, except for the large piece of stone in the middle of the road, the rest was basically re-completed by recycled materials. All of our efforts are to make the new design and the old [memories] work together in a microintervention.”

—Zhongwei Li, Lab D+H Landscape and Urban Design

 

Planning for urban renewal requires careful consideration of surroundings as well as sentiment; in Guangzhou’s old town, a transformation revitalized a network of crumbling alleyways while honoring residents’ emotional attachment to a culture of street life. Phase 1 reimagined two alleyways as central points of public life by rehabilitating existing alleyways and adding larger-scale public nodes. First, several damaged or illegal structures were removed; many of those materials were reused throughout the project. Insufficient drainage and lighting were remedied with a multifunctional system that blends historic features with contemporary infrastructure. Three new public amenities—the Grand Wooden Steps, the Roof Garden, and the Water Feature Garden—provide and define new public space. During the day, the Grand Wooden Steps are used as a rest and display area, whereas at night they become seating for movie screenings. Nearby, the Water Feature Garden is set back from the main street and shaded by existing trees. The Roof Garden connects the rear of buildings and provides a semiprivate leisure area. Acting as new nodes for existing alleyways, the project unifies and modernizes the neighborhood without damaging vibrant, historic public life. “The Yongqing Fang alley project proves that choices made at the microscale have the capacity to inform much larger urban design decisions,” said the jury.

—Anjulie Rao

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BY CHERMAINE LEE

Months of protests leave a mark on Hong Kong’s streetscapes.

FROM THE JUNE 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Until recently, gray metal railings have been a ubiquitous element of Hong Kong’s streetscape. Installed to delineate spaces for cars and pedestrians and enhance safety, the railings have multiplied over the past decade. In 2010, the government reported 435 miles of these roadside barriers. By 2018, the number had more than doubled to 1,087 miles, according to Hong Kong’s Transport Department.

But in the wake of the recent antigovernment protest that first erupted in response to a bill that would have permitted extradition of criminals to mainland China, the metal railings have been torn apart by thousands of black-shirted protesters to use as roadblocks, and bricks have been dug up from the road for use as weapons. Along with changing political and social dynamics, Hong Kong’s urban fabric has experienced dramatic changes. What has long separated pedestrians from the roadway is suddenly gone, and the definitions of public space have become more flexible. As the government has been slow in replacing the railings, perhaps for fear of the metal bars being again used by protesters, urban designers in the city are wondering if the interim streetscape is an opportunity. (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 JESSICA BRIDGER

FROM THE JANUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

It is likely you have never heard of Paul Mathews, but if you ski it is probable that you have been on a slope that he had a hand in designing. In 1975, he founded Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, “Ecosign” being a portmanteau of ecology and design. Whistler, the downhill and backcountry ski hub in British Columbia, has been his home turf since the 1970s, and Ecosign has worked on more than 400 ski resorts around the world.

Mathews was responding to the state of skiing in the 1970s when he founded Ecosign. Ski areas had evolved over the years, some growing from ad hoc paths down the sides of mountains into massive areas, choked by car traffic on the weekends, full of stairs and narrow, poorly designed ski slopes, or pistes, with disorganized ski villages at their base. Infrastructure was insufficient; environmental degradation was rife. Some resorts were made by tearing into the landscape, moving large amounts of rock and soil, cutting excessive numbers of trees, ignoring flora and fauna. Few undertook adequate transportation planning to handle weekly visitor flows. Other ski areas suffered from fragmented ownership, with multiple operators in single small town or village settings, hampering the investment needed to keep facilities modern and ensure longevity and employment. Four decades after founding Ecosign, Mathews knows what to do with both challenges—how to plan for sustainable futures and growth and how to establish completely new ski resorts in places that have none. The company is about 20 people and includes landscape architects, architects, engineers, soil scientists, and MBAs, among others, who work around the world from Ecosign’s base at Whistler. “There is lot of work in China, the Balkans, Turkey—anywhere where they have mountains, snow, and incomes that are rising,” Mathews says. (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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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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BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

The stone industry adopts a new sustainability standard.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, Bill Browning, an environmental designer and founder of Terrapin Bright Green, cites “material connection with nature” as a significant principle. In other words, materials from nature, with minimal processing, can be used to construct the built environment—reflecting the local geology and connecting people to a place and natural setting. More than any other material, stone fulfills this “pattern”—often seamlessly settling a built landscape into the larger natural context. Yet in some cases, heavy stone can travel thousands of miles between harvest and use—offering absolutely no connection to the local natural landscape and creating a substantial environmental footprint.

Stone holds great potential to be a highly sustainable construction material for use in paving, stairs, and walls. It can be extremely durable, with relatively low embodied energy (energy used to produce a material), and nontoxic. However, a study from the University of Tennessee estimates that more than half of all dimension stone—defined as any stone that has been cut or shaped for use in construction—is imported, primarily from China, India, and Brazil, owing to far lower labor costs and fewer worker safety regulations, which combine for a lower product cost. Some of this stone might have been harvested in the United States, sent overseas for processing, then returned as “imported stone.” Minimal records of stone harvest, sales, and processing make it challenging to track stone’s path to market. Additionally, environmental impacts from waste and water use in stone quarrying and manufacture are not insignificant. Fortunately, a new standard from the Natural Stone Council (NSC) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offers criteria for reducing the environmental impacts of stone harvest and processing and requires a chain of custody for stone so consumers can know for sure the path their “local” stone has traveled.

The stone quarrying process is often lumped together with metal mining’s heavy blasting and toxic runoff, but Kathy Spanier, the marketing director at Coldspring in Minnesota and a participant in the development of the new stone standard, emphasizes (more…)

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Martha Schwartz, FASLA, began her lecture last fall at the University of Southern California School of Architecture with a dire warning, and an invitation to play.

In “Beyond Practice” (her comments start at 13:08), she began by outlining the ecological imperative that climate change and carbon emissions place on landscape designers and the rest of the world: the exceptionally long tail of ocean warming, and methane bubbles released from melting permafrost that clog the atmosphere.

From there, it’s a quick exposition of Schwartz’s carefree straddling of the art and landscape architecture worlds. She recounts her 1979 Bagel Garden, when she designed the garden at her Boston home with only materials she could purchase on her block: bagels, purple flowers, and purple aquarium gravel. That act of strident whimsy prompted LAM editor Grady Clay to put this project on his magazine’s cover, bordered in neon pink and hand-drawn bagels. It was an early curation of “native” landscape materials combined with boundary-pushing art installations. “It’s a Dada piece. It’s Duchamp’s toilet,” she says. And it also made her name in landscape architecture.

A survey of Schwartz’s contemporary work (detailed further in this month’s cover story) demonstrates her continued emphasis on offering users quirky art objects to interact with, such as the train-cart seating at Manchester’s Exchange Square, and the gawking polygonal pavilions at Fengming Mountain Park in the Chinese city of Chongqing. This narrow slice of her work shows off a wild range of cultural conditions and aesthetic treatments. There are gritty, postindustral reuses, razor-sharp Libeskind-esque angles, and meditative contemplations of vernacular materials and forms.

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