Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure’

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 JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you visit one of our national parks nowadays to commune with nature, you may find yourself having instead an experience of mass tourism. Many parks are huge. You’d expect plenty of elbow room. But much of any wilderness park is inaccessible to the public. Besides, people generally head for a few famous spots—you probably want to see those too—which quickly become overwhelmed. Attendance is up over the past few years. Infrastructure typically went in over decades, usually piecemeal, not by comprehensive plan, and for smaller crowds, so both visitor experiences and the places themselves become degraded. And the National Park Service has money problems. By 2017, the bill for deferred maintenance—apart from any new capacity—was $11.6 billion (see “Roads to Ruin,” LAM, February 2016).

Still, where it can, often with help from citizen conservancies, the park service is commissioning landscape architecture interventions to redress the gridlock and throngs. Most people will still find themselves among multitudes of strangers, but these redesigns can provide more authentically natural, less contrived interactions with the environment. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park was until recently a prime example of the problem. A project there, which opened to the public last summer, is a model response. Half of its $40 million cost was donated by the Yosemite Conservancy. It was designed by Seattle-based Mithun.

Mariposa Grove actually has two concentrations of the great trees, the lower grove and the upper grove. Before, when you reached the lower grove you were in a parking lot. Several giant sequoias were stranded there like islets in the sea of asphalt; you might not even have realized you’d arrived. This lot filled up early. Overflow traffic returned some seven miles on a winding, two-lane park road to Wawona, where there is a historic hotel, a convenience store, and a small Yosemite history museum. Visitors there caught a shuttle back to the grove. But Wawona had only “a makeshift drop-off for the shuttle and no parking infrastructure for the hundreds who would come through—quite a fiasco,” says Christian Runge, ASLA, a Mithun senior associate.

When you finally shuttled back to the lower grove, “there was a sense of confusion,” Runge says. “Wayfinding wasn’t clear. There were redundant loops of trails. They had to have rangers telling (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The lago at Roberto Burle Marx’s Sítio, which he composed by eye from truckloads of species collected during his botanical expeditions. Image courtesy Julian Raxworthy.

It’s time for landscape architects to re-embrace what makes them fundamentally different.

 

Since its inception, it’s been hard to find much agreement in landscape architecture over the profession’s purpose and how it should work. For some contemporary designers, landscape architecture, in theory if a bit less in practice, is most visible when ecological systems are designed and deployed to remediate the earth, water, air, and biomes, often at an infrastructural scale. And yet, a profession wholly obsessed with infrastructure would seem to miss the trees for the forest.

The Australian landscape architect Julian Raxworthy posits a way forward in his new book, Overgrown: Practices Between Landscape Architecture and Gardening, published by The MIT Press. Landscape architects, he notes, have retreated from the defining element of their corner of the spatial world: the development and management of planting design. Plants, he argues, are defined by their growth over time and the maintenance used to train them. Gardeners (whose ranks Raxworthy once populated) haven’t lost track of this fact. Growth is landscape architecture’s fundamental currency. From there, he launches into a populist call to tear down the blue collar/white collar divide between gardeners and landscape architects. Raxworthy (who is headed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after living in Cape Town, South Africa, for five years, teaching at the University of Cape Town) seems to admire messiness and rebellion against the bespoke and delicate. That preference is not surprising if you chat him up about his days as a music writer in the 1980s in Sydney, attending shows by Public Enemy and Dead Kennedys. Of one of his case study projects (created by a designer who never studied landscape architecture), he writes: “As a gardener rather than a landscape architect, the only plans Korte produced for the project were to satisfy the authorities. All other decisions arose organically through spending four years on site with a gang of four young German laborers who had returned from Brazil and smoked marijuana constantly. He looked back on this way of working with some nostalgia, saying that this time on site was the height of his career.” (more…)

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HERE COMES EVERYBODY

BY ANNE RAVER

The final pier has opened. Brooklyn Bridge Park is all but complete.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

It was raining, so we crouched, rather than sat, in the grassy bowl that Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, had envisioned as the centerpiece of the newly completed green space and playground on Pier 3, which, like most of the other piers in Brooklyn Bridge Park, sprawls over five acres, into the East River.

“I’m lucky to know what it’s like to imagine and hope for something like this for 20 years and finally see it, have it realized,” said Van Valkenburgh, whose firm drew its first plan for this park in 1999. “Look at that sky.” (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: (more…)

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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 TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A group of designers, artists, and community activists are fighting to save the bridge. A rendering by the landscape architect Michael Beightol illustrates the viaduct’s potential as a linear park. Image courtesy Michael Beightol.

IN ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA, A HISTORY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ANIMATES THE DEBATE OVER A PIECE OF CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE.

 

Michael Keys used to walk the McBride Viaduct nearly every day to and from school. It was the most convenient route over the busy rail yard that bisected his east side Erie, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. Now, as a member of the local urban design advocacy group Erie CPR: Connect + Respect, Keys is one of dozens of residents fighting to save the 1,700-foot-long viaduct. The organization argues that the bridge is a crucial linkage between some of Erie’s poorest communities and that tearing it down could do harm to populations already considered vulnerable.

Erie CPR projects that removing the viaduct, which has been closed to vehicles since 2010, will force residents to cross the tracks at grade, which can be dangerous, or walk some 2,000 feet to a busy road known as the Bayfront Connector. With its high-speed traffic and blind corners, the connector is far less safe for pedestrians than the viaduct, says Adam Trott, an architect and the president of Erie CPR. Another danger, especially for children, is daily exposure to vehicle emissions. A recent World Health Organization report found that 10 percent of deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to air pollution.

The city’s decision to demolish the viaduct, which was originally built in 1938 and overhauled in the 1970s, is based on a feasibility study conducted by the engineering firm L. R. Kimball. The engineers reported that rehabilitating or replacing the viaduct were cost-prohibitive, in part because the bridge no longer meets basic road width requirements. And yet, having studied 11 alternatives— (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The West Bottoms Flats site is bisected by a narrow street, scaled as an intimate alley with landscaping. Image courtesy BNIM.

In Kansas City, the private sector is helping pick up the tab for green infrastructure in a new residential development.

 

Since 2010, Kansas City, Missouri, has been subject to a federal consent decree, to begin properly capturing sewage and stormwater before it flows into rivers and streams. It’s a consequence of the city’s overwhelmed combined sewer system, which covers 58 square miles. From 2002 to 2010, the system produced 1,300 illegal overflows, putting approximately 6.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage into waterways annually.

Notably, this is the first time a municipal water federal consent decree has allowed the use of green infrastructure, according to Andy Shively, a special assistant to the City Manager Troy Schulte, who works on issues relating to the consent decree. And the developer-driven West Bottoms Flats mixed-use residential complex designed by Kansas City-based BNIM is shaping up to be an influential test case for ways the private sector can grapple with public sector failure toward water quality goals.

Landscape architects at BNIM have designed the flats’ green infrastructure capacity to absorb excess stormwater as a series of placemaking amenities “in order to prevent it from being [value-engineered] from the project,” says Cheryl Lough, the director of BNIM’s landscape architecture studio. (more…)

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