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BY HANIYA RAE

Technology helps shape what hardscapes can be.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Courtney Goode was working on a project in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. Buffalo Bayou, one of the slow-moving rivers that Houston relies upon to hold stormwater, flooded, and the waters would end up spilling out over the city’s aging infrastructure and impermeable surfaces, exacerbating the problem.

“My heart was in my throat,” Goode says. “We had been working on these super-detailed axonometric drawings of all angles of the city—we knew the city like the back of our eyelids. It was a total shock to see the bayous obliterated and murky, debris-filled water covering the walkways, roads, and even ground floors of the buildings near the bayou. The flood just engulfed everything we had been designing.”

For Goode, a landscape designer in Sasaki’s Urban Studio and a Fabrication Studio coordinator, the disaster afforded her a very real account of how the city managed stormwater and led her to think more about how low-impact development can divert stormwater from streets during flooding. She describes a scenario in which a city like Houston could divert some of the excess water by excavating 40-foot-deep gravel dry wells (the size of a typical four-story parking garage) topped off with permeable pavers that could hold excess rainwater until it’s able to seep back into the ground. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

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Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (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 different languages. 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 DANIEL ELSEA

FROM THE APRIL 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Paris “is still a crucible, still a focal point.” These are words written by Henri Lefebvre, the philosopher and sociologist best known for his insights regarding urban development, power, and the organization of space in cities. He wrote these words in his seminal work The Production of Space as the dust was still settling from the trauma of the 1968 revolts that rocked the city. His words previewed a French modern tradition meant to inject gusto in the city—the grand projet. In the 1970s and 1980s came a string of grands projets: from great new cultural institutions with muscular buildings to match (Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay) to a corporatist paradise for French multinationals (the La Défense business district). The inauguration of grands projets continued apace through the 1990s with loud echoes of France’s global reach (Jean Nouvel’s Institut du Monde Arabe and Musée du Quai Branly) and a rather large park by Bernard Tschumi (Parc de la Villette). With their strong design pedigree and a dose of radicalism, these seductive projects are a bursting of the French id, and they’ve been good to French designers.

Crucially, grands projets involve heavy public sector backing. It is in this tradition that Paris has embarked on major regeneration projects around the Périphérique, the ring road around the edge of Paris proper. Three significant new neighborhoods are being built at the moment, and each of them features a large public park at its heart, the Grand Parc de Saint-Ouen, the Parc Martin Luther King, and Parc de Billancourt, designed by either Agence Ter or Atelier Jacqueline Osty, Parisian landscape architects known for their large-scale civic projects with a growing international profile. Ter recently won the competition to overhaul Ricardo Legorreta’s Pershing Square in Los Angeles.

The parks anchor massive regeneration projects delivered via public–private partnerships, or P3s, in which private developers collaborate with the state to deliver whole new neighborhoods and a significant expansion to Greater Paris’s housing supply. But these are not the P3s you might know. The public sector retains a majority share of ownership in the delivery vehicles set up for each. In France, one P is more important than the other two. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Milwaukee pilots a new stormwater management tool.

Milwaukee pilots a new stormwater management tool.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

By August, the faded yellow house at 3930 North 35th Street in Milwaukee will be gone. In its place, invisible to all but the team that designed it, will be a new tool for stormwater management: the “BaseTern.” Conceived by Erick Shambarger, the deputy director of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, a BaseTern is a basement that’s been converted into a rainwater or stormwater cistern. Milwaukee is completing what is said to be the world’s first such system this month.

The BaseTern concept, which Shambarger trademarked, is simple. Stormwater will be directed to an abandoned or foreclosed property’s basement, which, after the aboveground structure is demolished, is waterproofed and filled with gravel and stormwater-harvesting cells. According to a feasibility study by engineers at HNTB, the system can hold anywhere from 13,000 to 40,000 gallons of water during storms, reducing flooding in adjacent homes.

It’s a clever riff on adaptive reuse, taking advantage of one urban issue—a surplus of city-owned foreclosures—to solve another: the flooding that is increasingly common in dense, impervious neighborhoods like Milwaukee’s Sherman Park, where the pilot project is located.

(more…)

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