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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

AMAZON FIRE: WHO OWNS THE AMAZON?

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 CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Who owns the Amazon? In news reports about the unprecedented number of fires burning in this vast forest during the past several months, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vehemently answered “Brazil”—punctuating that claim with the charge that any nation holding a different opinion is simply a colonizer, usually a European one. Yet defined in terms of the river’s massive watershed, the Amazon rain forest—the world’s largest such tropical biome—falls within eight South American countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana.

Those same eight polities have been embroiled in a seven-year legal battle with Amazon.com, Inc. and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who would very much like to own .amazon—the domain name, that is. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the independent body that vets global Internet addresses—has sided with Bezos. American corporate interests, once again, seem to have the upper hand over local cultural heritage and place-name identity, despite concerns voiced by Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs and representatives from other governments that share the watershed.

Certainly, “owning” the Amazon has always been bound up in questions of sovereignty. And sovereignty has long been caught up in authoritative claims of possession. (more…)

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 BY JARED BREY

Why a Maryland landscape architect restores brook trout habitat in his free time.

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The underbelly of an eastern brook trout, especially when it is spawning, is orange and pink like a sunrise, and its back is dappled brown and green like a forest floor. The spots along its lateral line are small and circular like pink and yellow confetti, and the vermiculations on its back are yellowish and serpentine, like a Polynesian tattoo. It is a small fish, typically no longer than about 10 and a half inches—the height of this page—fully grown. It breeds in streams as far west as Minnesota and as far south as the extent of the Appalachian Mountains, in Georgia. First described in 1814, the species is thought to have come into its own during the Pliocene Epoch, between two million and five million years ago. Unlike the brown trout, which is commonly stocked for sportfishing, the brook trout is a member of the char genus. Both are members of the Salmonidae family, which also includes salmon.

The brook trout insists on cold water, and prefers to spend time in waterways with an even distribution of riffles and pools. When it is feeding, on plankton at first and later on insects as it matures, the fish wants to spend as little energy as possible to acquire food. It will hide in shadow in deep pools, and wait for bugs to come surfing down the thin seam of fast water that flows downstream from shallow rapids. If it senses an opportunity, it will strike. Sometimes it will catch a mayfly nymph, and sometimes it will catch an artificial fly tied to a fishing line owned by Scott Scarfone, ASLA. (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

A landscape architect and a biologist team up to counter urban biodiversity loss.

FROM THE JUNE 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A hawk glides overhead. An egret perches alongside a pedestrian walkway. Butterflies flutter in the foreground. From across the spectrum of the animal kingdom they appear in the drawings and renderings of modern architecture and landscape projects, hinting at a harmony between the designed space and the natural world. The projects, these animal cameos suggest, are not just urban developments, but healthy and diverse habitats.

“I won’t say it’s a lie, but these are big promises,” says Thomas Hauck, a Berlin-based landscape architect and a professor at the University of Kassel, in Germany. Hauck understands these images are meant to be aspirational, to show an idealized version of the designs they represent. But, he argues, sometimes too many illustrative liberties are taken “without evidence,” especially when urban development is more likely to destroy animal habitat than create it.

Hauck isn’t saying the animals should be taken out of the renderings. Rather, he wants to ensure animals actually show up once the project is built. To make that happen, Hauck has teamed up with a biologist from the Technical University of Munich named Wolfgang Weisser. Together, they’ve developed a theoretical design approach called Animal-Aided Design that seeks to counteract the ways development harms urban biodiversity by deliberately designing projects to accommodate animal species from the start. Through the careful targeting of species most likely to inhabit a given area, their approach provides the habitat requirements those species need to thrive throughout their life cycle.

“People hang up nest boxes and wonder why they’re empty,” Weisser says. “It’s because everything else is missing.” (more…)

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LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY GABRIELLA MARKS

With her one-woman practice, Radicle, Christie Green works to repair our relationship with nature—including the animals and plants we eat.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The stars were still out when Christie Green, ASLA, parked her Tundra and turned off the engine. We were somewhere near Glorieta Mesa, Game Management Unit 45, about 30 minutes southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the moonlight, I could make out the bristle-brush tops of ponderosa and piñon pine. I grabbed the camouflage gear Green had lent me and got out of the truck. The April air was just a few degrees above freezing, and the only sounds were the howls of coyotes and the quiet murmurs of cattle somewhere in the valley. As the chill began to seep in, I tugged on my gloves and cowl. I had no idea how long we were going to be out there.

Green, who for the past five years has run a one-woman landscape design practice in Santa Fe called Radicle, had agreed to take me turkey hunting. Almost all of her projects, (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Inside the years-long effort to design the world’s least traditional workplace.

FROM THE JANUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 1659, Lord Henry Capel, a member of England’s Parliament, inherited a coveted estate along the River Thames near London. Capel and his wife moved into the grand manor house at what was then known as Kew Park and, as was popular at the time, began developing a series of formal gardens. But Capel’s plant collections were unusual. He built greenhouses for species that craved warmer climates, and his gardens burst with exotic flowers, fruit trees, and rare dwarf cultivars. Evergreens, oranges, flowering viburnum, Pistacia lentiscus from the shores of the Mediterranean. It was said that Capel’s gardens were “furnished with the best fruit trees in England.”

In 1772, the estate was joined with the adjacent Richmond Gardens, and in 1840, Kew Gardens, as it was then known, was conveyed to the public. The world-renowned botanic garden and research institute now boasts more than 30,000 types of plants housed in a series of ornate, Victorian-era greenhouses and ornamental gardens. Today, Kew is considered both the “cradle of the English landscape movement” and a locus of cutting-edge botanical knowledge. The gardens draw more than 2.1 million visitors a year.

More than 300 years after Capel planted his first fir, Jeff Bezos found himself meditating on Kew’s legacy. The American CEO of Amazon, and officially the wealthiest person on the planet, found the botanic garden bewitching. It was invigorating, nourishing. He wondered if an office could have the same effect. Was it possible to capture the sense of quiet inspiration? What would it look like? (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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