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Posts Tagged ‘GIS’

BY KARL KULLMANN

Drone mapping fills a missing link in site representation.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

In many ways, the satellite has been instrumental for landscape architecture. As the apex of two centuries of progressively higher aerial reconnaissance, the satellite’s view reveals landscape associations and patterns that remain concealed at lower altitudes. Through these revelations, satellite imagery played a key role in the reinterpretation of cities as complex ecological systems instead of mere assemblages of buildings. Ultimately, online satellite mapping applications confirmed that the entire planet is composed of landscape. Through the convenience of GPS-equipped mobile devices, we now seamlessly integrate the satellite’s landscape into our everyday lives.

A world tuned in to the synthesizing role of landscape is undoubtedly empowering for landscape architecture. But as enlightening and convenient as the satellite’s all-encompassing gaze may be, the tyranny of distance coupled with a downward viewing angle also undermines its potency. As landscape architects are abundantly aware, the nuances and details that enrich the landscape are often camouflaged from 450 miles above Earth within shadowed, interstitial, and underneath spaces. Even with familiarization and steadily improving image resolutions, abstract planimetric forms routinely fail to resonate with an individual’s perception of his or her place in the world. The recurring popularity of more immersive angles such as the archaic bird’s-eye view is probably a reaction to this lingering apprehension.

These shortcomings are revealed at the site scale, at which a significant portion of landscape practice occurs. At this scale, the substitution of feature surveys or commissioned aerial imaging with freely available satellite-derived GIS data often lowers the quality of spatial information. GIS mapping data interpolated from much larger data sets trades site specificity for expansive coverage, and its accuracy typically has not been verified on the ground. Given that landscape architecture relies on maps in one form or another to interpret, abstract, conceptualize, and ultimately reconfigure the ground, (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

The National Map is a feat of modern-day cartography. It also reveals our country’s shifting priorities.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Lisa Orr, ASLA, was 11 years old when she attended her first West Virginia funeral. Her great-grandmother, Susan Bolyard Summers, had died at the age of 102 and was being buried in the family cemetery, behind a little country church called Mount Zion. Orr’s family drove the hour and a half from Morgantown, in the northern part of the state, to rural Preston County, winding through a tangled warren of hills and hollows and passing a dozen other hilltop cemeteries before reaching their destination.

The trip made a lasting impression on Orr. Preston County was so unlike her life in Morgantown: The landscape was as breathtaking as it was formidable. “It’s hard to explain how rugged the territory is,” she says, speaking from her office at West Virginia University (WVU), where she teaches landscape architecture. “It’s like a mini-Grand Canyon everywhere you go.” It illuminated the hardscrabble life that her great-grandmother had lived, living on foraged chestnuts and whatever else would grow in Preston County’s rocky soil. And it gave Orr her first glimpse into the role these cemeteries played in local people’s lives.

Caring for these places, she learned, was part of many families’ cultural heritage, including her own. “Part of my grandmother’s life was just visiting cemeteries,” she says, (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Jack Dangermond built a tech colossus, and a fortune, from GIS. Now he’s sharing it all to save the world.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Jack Dangermond wears oversized tortoise-shell glasses. At 72, his hairline has receded halfway back on his head. For work, he dresses casually—open collar, v-neck sweater. His manner is gracious and energetic, but calm and notably confident. He tends to speak as if in final draft, which he credits to years of dictating correspondence. He is tall and rangy, but it’s quite possible that when he arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1967 to earn an MLA he would have been taken for a geek. His ulterior motive in going there, after all, was “to start playing with computer mapping”—when computer mapping barely existed.

The school’s pioneering Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis had been founded two years earlier by the architecture professor Howard Fisher.

Dangermond says that on meeting Fisher, “He immediately hired me. Within an hour. Which was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my life.” Harvard was one hot spot of the era’s radical activism. “The Vietnam War was going on,” he says, “revolution in the air, protestors shutting down the university, creating all kinds of controversy. This big aha! moment came for my wife Laura and myself, who were both working there in the basement of Memorial Hall. We had a job making computer maps, doing air pollution studies and land-use suitability studies. The realization was, ‘We don’t want to go right or left; we just want to go forward with this idea of (more…)

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April is, of course, World Landscape Architecture Month. This year, to mark the occasion, LAM is issuing a special supplement for young readers, called YOUR LAND. It offers a basic introduction to landscape and landscape architecture, a look at the methods and goals of the profession, a breakout of several intriguing types of projects, a career primer, and, not least, a glossary of landscape architecture terms! Our goal is plain: to encourage the making of more future landscape architects. For many people, landscape architecture is a second career choice after they have made their first, and one they like better—it’s mainly a matter of exposure to the wide range of things landscape architects do in their work. We figure sooner is better, so this supplement is free and available digitally for downloading. For limited quantities of bulk print copies for classrooms or other groups, e-mail discover@asla.org (shipping charges apply).

Our regular April issue is every bit as exciting, covering a range of bold work that is reshaping landscape architecture today. In the cover feature, Michael Dumiak reports on an audacious plan by H+N+S Landscape Architects in the Netherlands, led by Dirk Sijmons, to power the countries around the North Sea with wind energy by the year 2050. It’s a multinational endeavor that transcends bureaucracies as well as boundaries in hopes of making these countries fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which took effect last year, of holding the average global temperature to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels by reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

Back in North America, Jack Dangermond and his company, Esri, have done as much or more than anyone since the onset of the digital age to help decode the Earth’s landscape with the computational tools known as geographic information systems, or GIS. At this stage of his career, as Jonathan Lerner profiles, Dangermond is putting that might behind his Green Infrastructure Initiative, the goal of which is “to identify and secure the critical remaining large cores of relatively unspoiled landscape” on a national scale. It is a galactic attempt to counter (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

An abandoned island is the Venice Lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press 2016.

An abandoned island in the Venice lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.

In his new book, Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, the University of California, Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux develops new tools for the mass customization of underused and vacant urban lots, highlighting the limits of inflexible systems thinking. His book charts a way forward with an eye on past failures, and new possibilities founded in corrective measures that have proved to work.

American cities’ first encounters with data, he writes, happened after World War II. That’s when protocomputing power, developed by the military and Cold War consultancies such as the RAND Corporation, merged with tabula rasa modernist urban planning. These binary solutions to complex built environments (remembered most vividly as Robert Moses-style urban renewal that tore down anything old and dirty) became what de Monchaux calls (more…)

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BY DANIEL ELSEA

Ireland's National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

Ireland’s National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In May, Ireland unveiled a National Landscape Strategy (NLS), in an attempt to establish guidelines for the governance of the country’s historic geography while recognizing its inherent dynamism. Getting to grips with a nation’s landscape in such an ecumenical, broad-brushstrokes way is a tall order, even for a small island nation the size of Maine. Human settlement has left its mark on the Irish landscape for nearly 10,000 years. It’s an old place etched with memories, from the craggy coasts of Western Ireland to the karst of County Clare to the genteel Georgian terraces of Dublin.

These all now come under the protective purview of Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht (the latter word referring to the Gaelic language). The agency has committed itself to a 10-year program to implement the NLS, with the completion of a comprehensive national Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) within five years. “It encompasses all landscapes—rural and urban, beautiful and degraded, ordinary and unique,” says Martin Colreavy, Ireland’s principal adviser on built heritage and architectural policy.

Ireland, of course, is a divided island, and the department’s remit extends to the boundaries of the Irish Republic—that is, the three historic southern provinces. The fourth province to the north—what we call Northern Ireland—remains part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has drawn up its own “Landscape Charter,” which will complement this one, reminding us that politics is often a land-based proposition.

If boundaries define landscapes, then landscapes define identity. As the NLS indicates, this is Ireland living up to its European obligations as (more…)

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