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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 DIANA FERNANDEZ, ASLA

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Vicki Estrada, FASLA, opened Estrada Land Planning in 1985, and over the course of nearly 35 years, the firm has worked on planning and landscape architecture projects that have helped define the city of San Diego. Her work as a community planner and advocate over the past three decades was community engagement before there was “community engagement,” and her imprint can be seen everywhere in the city’s parks, streets, communities, and transit. We asked Diana Fernandez, ASLA, an associate at Sasaki, to interview Estrada about her career and her life, and what followed was a very candid and wide-ranging conversation about gender, representation, identity, and making landscapes that don’t pretend. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Diana Fernandez: I’m so curious to find out what brought you to landscape architecture. I often feel like all of us landscape architects have stumbled into the field somehow.

Vicki Estrada: It’s a funny, interesting story actually. There were two processes. First of all, when I was in elementary school, I would draw. They were little downtowns. I was supposed to be listening to the teacher, but I would draw little downtowns in isometric view and with a ballpoint pen and my dad’s old office papers. You can still see his office logo on them.

The principal came by one day and said, “Hey, Steve,” my name at the time, “you’re going to be an architect.” I am? So from fourth grade on, it was kind of ingrained in me. You’re going to be an architect. You’re going to be an architect.

I got accepted at Cal Poly for architecture, and I went off. I had one year to go. I met some architecture friends, and I went down to Cal Poly Pomona on one Saturday to visit them. I remember walking down to the campus on a Saturday afternoon. It’s all deserted. It’s all quiet. We looked at this great big new lecture hall. So I walked in—have you seen the movie, The Blues Brothers?

Fernandez: No, I haven’t.

Estrada: Well, there’s a scene in The Blues Brothers where they walk into a church, and James Brown is the preacher, and the door opens up and you see the sunlight come down. I opened up the door, and there’s this room full of students, and onstage was this old guy with long, gray hair, with a cane. He pounds on the stage and he points—I swear it looked like he was pointing at me. “Imagine the Earth as a canvas,” he says. “Architects put dots on the canvas. Engineers connect the dots. You are the only ones who can paint the entire canvas.” Being an architect, I go, “What the fuck? What is he talking about?” (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

After two rare storms inundate Ellicott City, Maryland, the town tries to sort through what can be saved.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, in Howard County, Maryland, drains three-and-a-half square miles of mostly developed land in and around Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1772 on the banks of the Patapsco River. The terrain surrounding the town is steep. On the south side of lower Main Street, a series of mill buildings is packed alongside and astride the Tiber Branch, one of the watershed’s three main tributaries to the Patapsco. On the north side, old stone buildings are backed up to a hill made of granite bedrock. Rainwater flows downhill, east toward the river, and in Ellicott City, there’s nothing farther downhill than lower Main Street, the historic center of the town.

When I visited at the beginning of February, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. Walking downhill into lower Main, where the street is narrower, the air temperature dropped and the shadows darkened. On my right, behind a row of boarded-up storefronts, I could hear the Tiber Branch rushing along parallel to Main Street. It smelled like a basement.

On the night of July 30, 2016, a storm rolled in and sat directly on top of Ellicott City, dropping 6.5 inches of rain in the watershed in just three hours. Water jumped the banks of the Hudson Branch uphill and flowed down Main Street, (more…)

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THE RISING TIDEWATER

BY BRETT ANDERSON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

Disparate but urgent efforts to address sea-level rise in the Virginia Tidewater, one of the country’s most important strategic centers, are striving to keep up with visible realities.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The first question that sprang to Ann C. Phillips’s mind soon after she moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2006 was, “Why, when it rains, does the whole place submerge?”

She wasn’t referring only to dramatic weather events, although Phillips, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, landed in Norfolk during a bumper crop of those: Norfolk saw more major coastal storms and hurricanes in the 2000s than in the four previous decades combined, according to the city government.

Harder to fathom were the floods caused by light rains and “blue sky floods” triggered by lunar tides. Tidal flooding affects low-lying areas of Norfolk nine times per year on average.

These more regular floods were unlike anything Phillips experienced growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. They’re an alarmingly routine part of life in Norfolk and the surrounding Hampton Roads area (more…)

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Stave sections of trees native to Scotland, from a Scottish Gaelic alphabet. Image courtesy Laurel McSherry.

The Design with Nature Now conference at the University of Pennsylvania will celebrate the life and work of the pioneering landscape architect Ian McHarg this month with a slate of exhibitions and conference events held at the design school.

Among them will be an exhibition of works by the landscape architect and artist Laurel McSherry titled Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days that twins the valleys that defined Ian McHarg’s life—the River Clyde in his native Scotland and the Delaware in Philadelphia—and incorporates McSherry’s own meditative explorations of Glasgow through video, etchings, and sculpture. In this interview conducted by Lynn Marsden-Atlass, the executive director of the Arthur Ross Gallery, McSherry weaves a site-specific installation that encourages people to reconsider the prosaic landscapes that surround them.

Design with Nature Now takes place June 21–22, 2019, at the University of Pennsylvania. Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days will be on view from June 21 through September 15. (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

After two rare storms inundate Ellicott City, Maryland, the town tries to sort through what can be saved.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, in Howard County, Maryland, drains three-and-a-half square miles of mostly developed land in and around Ellicott City, a historic mill town founded in 1772 on the banks of the Patapsco River. The terrain surrounding the town is steep. On the south side of lower Main Street, a series of mill buildings is packed alongside and astride the Tiber Branch, one of the watershed’s three main tributaries to the Patapsco. On the north side, old stone buildings are backed up to a hill made of granite bedrock. Rainwater flows downhill, east toward the river, and in Ellicott City, there’s nothing farther downhill than lower Main Street, the historic center of the town.

When I visited at the beginning of February, the sun was out and it was warm enough to leave my jacket in the car. Walking downhill into lower Main, where the street is narrower, the air temperature dropped and the shadows darkened. On my right, behind a row of boarded-up storefronts, I could hear the Tiber Branch rushing along parallel to Main Street. It smelled like a basement.

On the night of July 30, 2016, a storm rolled in and sat directly on top of Ellicott City, dropping 6.5 inches of rain in the watershed in just three hours. Water jumped the banks of the Hudson Branch uphill and flowed down Main Street, (more…)

Read Full Post »

THE RISING TIDEWATER, REVISITED

BY BRETT ANDERSON / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

Disparate but urgent efforts to address sea-level rise in the Virginia Tidewater, one of the country’s most important strategic centers, are striving to keep up with visible realities.

Editor’s Note: Norfolk, Virginia, is both highly vulnerable to sea-level rise and a critical center of military and government infrastructure. As Hurricane Florence bears down on Virginia and the Carolinas, the risks associated with storm surge flooding are intensified by the region’s strategic importance. As Brett Anderson reported in the magazine’s December 2017 issue, this isn’t a new story, and landscape architects, academics, municipal officials, and residents are collaborating to find ways the region can respond to the inevitability of rising tides.

The first question that sprang to Ann C. Phillips’s mind soon after she moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2006 was, “Why, when it rains, does the whole place submerge?”

She wasn’t referring only to dramatic weather events, although Phillips, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, landed in Norfolk during a bumper crop of those: Norfolk saw more major coastal storms and hurricanes in the 2000s than in the four previous decades combined, according to the city government.

Harder to fathom were the floods caused by light rains and “blue sky floods” triggered by lunar tides. Tidal flooding affects low-lying areas of Norfolk nine times per year on average.

These more regular floods were unlike anything Phillips experienced growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. They’re an alarmingly routine part of life in Norfolk and the surrounding Hampton Roads area (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

In Great Lakes cities, derelict parcels sponge up stormwater.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Eight years ago, Sandra Albro, a research associate in applied urban ecology at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (now Holden Forests & Gardens) began to think about opportunities lurking in the city’s vacant lots—in particular how to help cities with their water quality problems. During heavy rains, raw sewage from old, leaky, combined sewer-stormwater systems is often flushed into the Great Lakes, resulting in beach closures not fun for tourists. At the same time, in Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Gary, Indiana—where populations have declined by as much as 40 to 50 percent since the 1950s—derelict houses and vacant lots have increased: 30,000 in Cleveland, 7,000 in Gary, and more than 6,000 in Buffalo.

Cleveland, Buffalo, and Gary are among 158 communities with permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge treated wastewater into the Great Lakes. The agency has also charged them with implementing Long Term Control Plans under the Clean Water Act to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from their combined system overflows. “It’s a funny thing,” says David Rankin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a private nonprofit corporation that funds projects to build the health of the lakes. “Most of the time these systems do a great job of managing stormwater—they actually treat it. It was state-of-the-art Victorian engineering that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. But in heavy rains, some waste gets flushed out, too—and when you’re looking at more than 100 dischargers, it starts to add up.” According to the EPA, in 2014 the toll was an estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater discharged into the lakes.

Rankin says Great Lakes cities need to think differently about the problem—many are trying to find funding to build massive pipes. But with their populations declining, he suggests these cities should think about solutions that don’t involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. So when Albro came to him with her idea for using vacant lots to capture stormwater, the fund awarded her a small grant to develop a plan. She contacted 11 Great Lakes cities, (more…)

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