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BY JARED BREY

As the pandemic slows projects, Philadelphia has a chance to rethink a difficult public space.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Most of Philadelphia was still asleep when city workers pulled the nine-foot-high statue of Frank Rizzo off the concrete steps of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall, loaded it into a truck, and carted it off to an undisclosed storage locker. It was early June, and by then, the Rizzo statue, which depicted in monumental proportions the racist former mayor and bully cop, had been a target of protesters for years. They had tugged on it with ropes and chains, tried to set it on fire, yarn-bombed it with a pink bikini, and covered it in a white Ku Klux Klan hood. In late May it became a focal point of protests again. Long lines of police began standing guard in front of the statue daily. Officially, they were guarding the Municipal Services Building, but as the police presence grew, it began to seem like they were there to protect the statue or the very legacy of Rizzo himself.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had previously said the statue would be removed as part of an eventual redesign of Thomas Paine Plaza, the elevated public podium that surrounds the Municipal Services Building. But in a statement that day, explaining the sudden overnight removal of the statue, he acknowledged that tying its removal to the long-term plans for a plaza makeover, rather than the immediate and repeated demands of protesters, was “a mistake.”

“The statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others,” Kenney said.

Still, for days after the statue was removed, police officers and military service members remained stationed at Paine Plaza as if they were occupying a hill, looking down on the surrounding sidewalks from the high corners of its concrete walls. Pennsylvania National Guardsmen holding rifles and dressed in fatigues blocked access from the street. “Why are the cops being paid to watch this?” someone wrote in chalk on the west wall. Long after the military left town and the police force on site dwindled—up until the time this story went to print—loose security fencing remained around the entire perimeter of the plaza, vaguely suggesting that passersby shouldn’t enter the space, even as city workers and skateboarders nonchalantly passed through the gaps in the fencing. With the provocation of the Rizzo statue gone, Thomas Paine Plaza was exposed: an overbuilt space with no apparent purpose, overpoliced for no discernible reason. What was it supposed to be? (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

Robert Hewitt, FASLA, at Clemson University leads students and colleagues through a studio project where they designed a satellite city outside Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Image courtesy Robert Hewitt, FASLA.

Even before the latest round of social distancing efforts and shelter-in-place orders began to shut down American communities, colleges and universities were making plans to finish their semesters online. And for some courses, the transition is trickier than for others. Students and teachers in landscape architecture design studios are facing the same day-to-day meeting and communication questions as everyone else. But they’re also facing challenges to the long-standing culture of the studio, where casual interactions are encouraged and friendships are formed, professors give in-person feedback to students in real time, juries convene to evaluate student projects that take months to complete, and students experiment with materials and fabrication techniques. At the same time, educators at nearly a dozen schools of landscape architecture in the United States say the technology needed to carry out the most critical functions of design studios is largely available, and most schools are well-positioned to switch to online learning, at least temporarily. 

“The conversation around the shift to remote instruction has always found this uncomfortable relationship with how you do that for a design studio,” says Roberto Rovira, ASLA, an associate professor and the chair of landscape architecture at Florida International University. “In some ways, I see this as an opportunity to really test that, and see how we can bring about a paradigm shift that is no longer really a choice but rather a need. That is something we all saw coming, but now we have to respond to it.” (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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 BY JARED BREY

Why a Maryland landscape architect restores brook trout habitat in his free time.

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The underbelly of an eastern brook trout, especially when it is spawning, is orange and pink like a sunrise, and its back is dappled brown and green like a forest floor. The spots along its lateral line are small and circular like pink and yellow confetti, and the vermiculations on its back are yellowish and serpentine, like a Polynesian tattoo. It is a small fish, typically no longer than about 10 and a half inches—the height of this page—fully grown. It breeds in streams as far west as Minnesota and as far south as the extent of the Appalachian Mountains, in Georgia. First described in 1814, the species is thought to have come into its own during the Pliocene Epoch, between two million and five million years ago. Unlike the brown trout, which is commonly stocked for sportfishing, the brook trout is a member of the char genus. Both are members of the Salmonidae family, which also includes salmon.

The brook trout insists on cold water, and prefers to spend time in waterways with an even distribution of riffles and pools. When it is feeding, on plankton at first and later on insects as it matures, the fish wants to spend as little energy as possible to acquire food. It will hide in shadow in deep pools, and wait for bugs to come surfing down the thin seam of fast water that flows downstream from shallow rapids. If it senses an opportunity, it will strike. Sometimes it will catch a mayfly nymph, and sometimes it will catch an artificial fly tied to a fishing line owned by Scott Scarfone, ASLA. (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Image courtesy Mahan Rykiel.

From “Twice Bitten” in the May 2019 issue by Jared Brey, about Ellicott City, Maryland’s near-yearly run-ins with 1,000-year floods.

“Can removing historical structures help save lives?”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

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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…)

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