Posts Tagged ‘Island Press’

THE SCHOOLYARD IS SICK

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 JANE MARGOLIES

FROM THE JUNE 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Not long ago, the schoolyard of Eagle Rock Elementary, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, was a sea of cracked asphalt. Now it has rows of budding trees that divide up the three-acre expanse, and there’s a large grassy area and little enclaves with stumps and log seating away from the hustle and bustle. By offering a variety of settings, the schoolyard gives students the ability to choose where and how they spend their time at recess. Claire Latané, ASLA, the Los Angeles-based ecological designer who led the renovation of the grounds, says it also should improve their mental health.

Latané believes supporting the mental health of students is key to their happiness and well-being. Her conviction is based on decades of academic research by others, her own experience analyzing and designing schoolyards, and her gut feeling about the topic, as both a designer and a mother. Despite all we know about the impact our surroundings have on us—and the progress being made to introduce therapeutic environments to health care facilities—schools aren’t being designed with mental health as a consideration, let alone a priority. They are defensive (and ever more so, even provisionally, given gun violence in schools). Many schools have as much charm as storage facilities these days, and the worst are, in their environmental design, practically penal.

Through advocacy, writing, and teaching, Latané is trying to change that reality. She has encouraged the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Mulan Primary School in Huaiji County, Guangdong, China, by Rural Urban Framework and the Power of Love. Photo Courtesy of Rural Urban Framework.

John Cary’s book Design for Good (Island Press, 2017) details a now familiar formulation for do-good design in the developing world: a western architect working closely with local partners, using local materials assembled to respect vernacular traditions and modern aesthetics, employing local labor trained as an act of grassroots economic development.

From the remotest outposts of developing-world privation to the forgotten places much closer to home that exist in the shadow of great wealth, Cary (the former executive director of Public Architecture, the public-impact design nonprofit) advocates on behalf of design for dignity. “Dignity,” he writes, “is about knowing your intrinsic worth and seeing that worth reflected in the places you inhabit.” It’s not an aesthetic goal, or a measure of the designer’s saintly ambitions. It’s a quality of the users’ experience.

The building types he examines are familiar (Rural Urban Framework’s Mulan Primary School, supportive housing by Michael Maltzan for the recently homeless in Los Angeles’s Skid Row) and totally singular to their contexts. There’s MASS Design Group’s cholera treatment center in Haiti made necessary by the region’s devastation from a 2010 earthquake that piled onto what was already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Also by MASS (Cary’s prototypical standard-bearer for his generation’s inequity-attuned designers) are “maternal waiting homes” in Malawi. These combat sky-high maternal mortality rates by creating lodging near health clinics for women in the last weeks of pregnancy, assuring quality medical attention when they give birth. Atlanta’s BeltLine, the most landscape-oriented project profiled, forges a new landscape type out of a disused rail corridor: a network of greenway trails that loop an entire city.

Quoting the social activist Dorothy Day, Cary calls for places like these that create a (more…)

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