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Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Vitrified brick in Cincinnati. Image courtesy Robin Williams.

Uncovering historic pavements reveals each city’s “urban fingerprint.”

In the past 200 years, cities have become larger, safer, and healthier places to live, but there’s one arena of urban infrastructure that has become incalculably more monotonous and denuded: the range and diversity of pavement types on city streets and sidewalks.

Before the dominance of concrete and asphalt, city streets were paved in a wild diversity of minerals and materials: glassy vitrified brick, wooden block, crushed oyster shells, rough-hewn granite blocks, and more.

Robin Williams, the chair of architectural history at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has traveled to 40 cities across North America to study their historic pavements and found a rich spectrum of street coverings that somehow persist with no preservation protections. (more…)

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BY CAROL E. BECKER

An Australian town decides what to do with a spent quarry.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Hornsby Quarry is like many quarries that roared with life in the 19th and 20th centuries and then suddenly fell silent because their resources were tapped out or became too expensive to extract. It is deserted today. The quarry, in Hornsby, New South Wales, Australia, has for a generation remained “the big hole in the ground”—300 meters roughly square, 100 meters to the bottom—and a major safety hazard that Hornsby Shire was forced to buy at the market rate of AU$25 million (about $16 million U.S.) after CSR Limited, a private company, ceased extracting hard rock basalt for road base material and gravel in 2001.

The Hornsby Shire Council acquired the quarry in 2002. Because it was built before reclamation laws and it was zoned as Local Public Recreation Land (technically called Open Space A) by the New South Wales Environmental Planning Act in 1994, CSR had no obligation to mitigate the site before ceasing operations, and the Shire was required by state legislation to buy it back. The huge cost of the land, set by the solicitor general, was ultimately reduced in court by AU$9 million, but the final price still cost each rate-holder (taxpayer) approximately $50 per year, for a total of 10 years, says Kurt Henkel, a landscape coordinator at Hornsby Shire.

The quarry will not remain dormant, however. Its stories—physical, historical, geographical—parallel the long development of Australia and are about to get a bold retelling. The vision for Hornsby Quarry (more…)

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BY RANDY GRAGG

Plans to string gondolas over American cities abound.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In the early 2000s, one of Portland, Oregon’s leading employers and research institutions, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), faced a steep, downhill battle. Sited on a hilltop, surrounded by unbuildable canyons and neighborhoods unwilling to yield another inch to expansion, OHSU’s nearest sizable hunk of developable land lay on the Willamette River less than a mile away—for a blue heron. Cars and buses contended with winding, traffic-snarled commutes of anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

A campus planner’s brain brightly blinked: Why not an aerial tram? Protests erupted, politicians tangled, and costs lurched $47 million over the earliest budget fantasy of $9.5 million. But in 2007, two sleek, bubble-shaped cars (their shiny artisanal shells carefully machine-hammered by craftsmen from Gangloff Cabins of Switzerland) began flying to and fro across the campus. Today, they ferry more than 50,000 riders per week to a 2.35-million-square-foot cluster of new OHSU buildings.

At the time, the tram was only the third urban transit ropeway system in America, after Telluride’s in Colorado and Roosevelt Island’s in New York. Now, however, proposals for urban tramways are becoming more prevalent. A consortium in Washington, D.C., is poised to launch a $1 million environmental impact study for an aerial connection between Rosslyn, Virginia, and Georgetown across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., to bypass the clogged Key Bridge. New York is angling for two flights: a midtown connection to Roosevelt Island and (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 Spanish. 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 JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Harahan Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee, opened in 1916. Down its center ran railroad tracks. Cantilevered off each side was a 14-foot-wide “wagonway” for cars, trucks, horse carts, and pedestrians. This bridge is what’s called a through truss, with a latticelike steel superstructure like something from a giant Erector Set. The two outboard roadways, however, were originally planked in wood. Trains tend to throw off fragments and sparks—and not just antique ones that blew fiery debris from their smokestacks. “It’s like shrapnel,” says the landscape architect Ritchie Smith, ASLA. “Rocks, nails, anything that’s on those tracks just gets pulverized, and can even be inflamed.” In 1928, the Harahan’s wagonways caught fire and burned out of control. “They had all the water you want 120 feet below, but no way to siphon it up,” he says wryly. Rebuilt, the Harahan continued to convey motor traffic until a highway bridge opened nearby in 1949. The wagonway decking was removed. Then, until recently, only trains used the bridge—officially. “There are all kinds of people who, when they were kids, would try to go walk across it. How tempting was that?” asks Lissa Thompson, ASLA, a coprincipal at Smith’s Memphis firm, Ritchie Smith Associates.

Tempting indeed. Anybody willing to clamber out along the exposed girders could have been rewarded with (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Upstate Archipelago proposal. Image courtesy Cornell Design, H+N+S, and SOAR (Strengthening Our Area Residents) of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

New York’s Erie Canal once projected a young nation’s power and commercial ambitions across half a continent. Connecting New York City and the Hudson River north of Albany all the way to the Great Lakes, at 363 miles long, it was the second largest canal in the world when it opened in 1825, and one of the most transformative infrastructure projects of America’s early history. It reduced bulk commodity costs by 90 percent, according to some estimates, and it’s been immortalized in stories and songs ever since.

But in the 201 years since it began construction, the canal has been leapfrogged by nearly every manner of freight and commodity transit: rail, road, pipelines, and even the now-navigable St. Lawrence River. Vessel traffic on the canal peaked in the early 1950s, and recreational boating peaked in 1989.

To reverse this slide, the New York State Canal Corporation is hosting the Reimagine the Canals Competition to re-envision how this feat of 19th-century land engineering can be better integrated into the 21st century. (more…)

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University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (more…)

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