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Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Lerner’

BY JONATHAN LERNER

Parks along New York City’s vulnerable waterfront, like the one recently completed at Hunter’s
Point South, are both amenity and armor.

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Even as the tides lapping at its edges rise, New York City is turning eagerly toward the water to relieve both a congested transit system and a shortfall in housing stock. For example, you can now travel among all five boroughs by ferry. Ferries have several advantages over streets and subways. For the passenger, those include wind in your hair and magnificent, alternately thrilling and calming views of the harbor; for the city, minimal fixed infrastructure and the ability to easily alter routes if circumstances—such as the shorelines themselves—should change. And from the new ferries that ply the East River, you can see the city’s most visible effort to address the housing crunch: clusters of enormous apartment towers recently built and under construction along once-industrial waterfronts.

The city mandates that, with redevelopment, the water’s edge be public space. Some of that is the “waterfront public access area” each newly developed riverside property is required to provide. Those areas must at least have landscape and seating; as built, they vary from quite thoughtful to afterthought. There are also a number of city and state parks along the river. So there is beginning to be a continuous public edge. It will probably always have gaps, but they are filling in as the new housing developments rise. Viewed from out on the water, the chain of public spaces resolves into a thin green line, as much of it consists of esplanades and piers or is otherwise flat. Still, discontinuous and varying in design quality as its component pieces are, they are hugely popular—just because they exist, and also because some of them are truly inspired. That would describe one of the newest of the city-developed pieces. In its case, you do begin to glimpse its features from the river, because it has hills and an architectural overlook jutting up and out toward you. This is, in fact, just where the ferry stops in Long Island City, Queens: Hunter’s Point South Park, designed by Thomas Balsley, FASLA, (whose eponymous firm joined SWA in 2016) in collaboration with Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism. (more…)

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

Courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi.

From “The Thin Green Line” in the March 2020 issue by Jonathan Lerner, about a new waterfront park in New York City by SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi that keeps floodwaters at bay and people flocking to the shoreline.

“Working out the waterfront.”

–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 JONATHAN LERNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM WESTPHALEN

Wagner Hodgson’s assignment for a lakeside estate in Vermont required subtle deletions, essential corrections, and thematic consistency.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The property is a stubby peninsula jutting west into Lake Champlain. The lake is nearly two miles wide here. Beyond it, in New York, the tiered peaks of the Adirondacks appear flattened and monochromatic, blurring as they recede into the distance. Given the setting, the place seems even more expansive than its 140 acres. But the grandeur is counterbalanced by the land’s gentleness—it has the unassertive quality characteristic of Vermont’s culture, if not of the state’s more typical mountainous terrain. From a country road, you turn onto a half-mile-long drive. The approach runs between meadows, where sheep from an adjacent farm are grazed, before entering a wood and then curving toward the house. From here, 30 feet below through the filter of trees, the lake gleams slate blue.

Bays scoop out the north and south shores of the peninsula, shaping it like an anvil; the west shore runs for 2,000-plus feet along the lake proper. The main house sits in neat, tree-dotted lawns near the anvil’s southern point. It’s grand in scale, and traditional though restrained in style. There’s a pool and pool house, and a carriage house that doubles as entertaining space. Both are well spaced from the house and each other and visually buffered, at least in summer, by planting areas: There’s a curve of river birches undergirded by Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’), Astilbe, and a mix of sage and grass varieties, and separately, a little grid of honey locusts. Farther away, past an intervening sweep of woods, a guesthouse overlooks the south bay. A quarter mile from that, above the north bay, sits a smaller second guesthouse. Near that structure, but also shielded by trees, there’s a reconstructed antique barn. Aside from a short steep drop down to the lake all around, the land has only soft contours. As a whole, of course, this estate is plenty splendid. But its buildings are scattered, and unostentatious. Sight lines are veiled by the skeins of trees. There is no hill to provide a commanding view of the place all at once. When you’re there, it feels understated and quiet.

The Burlington, Vermont, firm Wagner Hodgson was hired in 2014 to create a coherent master plan that would transform the abandoned farm property into a working estate. That required addressing woodland management, shoreline protection, field restoration for sheep husbandry, management of agricultural runoff, siting of outbuildings, and establishment of outdoor living spaces for the client family. The property had been neglected. Some fields had been in agricultural use, but wooded areas including the lakefront bluffs had become overgrown and thick with invasives. “Before, all the way up to the house, you couldn’t even tell there was a lake here,” says H. Keith Wagner, FASLA, who was the principal in charge on the project. “You couldn’t see the house either,” until you’d come right up to it. A big part of the job came down to editing. Wagner says, “It wasn’t only what you added; it was what you subtracted.” Thinning of trees along the bluff now allows views to the water as you get close. And selective removal neatly “opened up a shot,” as Wagner puts it, between remaining trees, to provide a 400-foot head-on prospect from the curve of the driveway right to the front of the house. You glimpse the building for a moment—it’s a stately one, well served by that long view—before passing back among trees that intermittently screen it, and finally arriving at the door.

Editing, of course, involves not only deletion but also elaboration and punctuation. (more…)

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

Image courtesy Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture.

From “Editorial Discretion” in the February 2020 issue by Jonathan Lerner, about a Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture residential landscape in Vermont that’s an exercise in judicial subtraction.

“Very Vermont.”

–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 JONATHAN LERNER

Solitary moments with nature as a response to urban loneliness.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As one might expect, the winners of Bubble Design Competitions’ Eliminate Loneliness challenge mostly offered ways to bring people together. Second prize went to a concept for umbrellas that hook together. A high-angle view shows a cluster of about 20; under this bumpy canopy only people’s bodies are visible, not their heads, but perhaps murmured conversations are starting (or even flirtations). The third prize winner proposed a building game. Giant shapes of recycled plastic would be piled in public places for passersby to assemble into structures, necessarily interacting as they do. (“What happens later inside made objects is up to the people,” its designers note, possibly winking.)

First prize went somewhere else altogether. The brainchild of Gandong Cai, Associate ASLA, and Mingjie Cai, Student ASLA, landscape designers at Sasaki and Stimson respectively, it imagines “spiritual infrastructure” for crowded central Tokyo. It’s not about togetherness, and it won’t get anybody a date. Recognizing the distinction between being lonely and being alone, (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

A new central plaza in Fort Worth reveals the advantages of—and anxieties about—privately developed public places.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Start with the bones. Fort Worth has such good ones.

The downtown grid, established in the mid-19th century, has blocks a modest 200 feet square. So pedestrian scale has been in place from the start. The young Texas city prospered as a meatpacking hub from the 1870s when the railroad arrived, and later as a center of the oil industry, through to the Great Depression. The buildings that went up in those boom decades tended to be unrestrained in both architectural expression and stylistic range. Classical, Romanesque, Renaissance, Mission, Moderne—there was patterned brickwork, carved granite, molded terra-cotta, the odd Gothic turret and mansard roof and deco spire. Exuberance and ornament were the norm.

Fort Worth’s downtown flourished into World War II, but suffered the postwar hollowing out typical of American cities. Still, a critical mass of the early buildings remains standing. A great many have been renovated, and infill construction has been fairly complementary to what survived. The periphery of downtown remains scarred by swaths of surface parking. But there is a reactivated, walkable core that feels intact and has the intricate and varied traditional look the public generally finds attractive. Now, at the heart of this district, Fort Worth has finally received one urban amenity it always lacked: a central plaza. (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.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

One morning last March, Brice Maryman, ASLA, walked to his downtown Seattle office at MIG|SvR through linear parkland that hugs Interstate 90. Maryman recently completed a Landscape Architecture Foundation fellowship to explore the intersection of homelessness and public space; one result is his podcast HomeLandLab. Now he wanted to check on some encampments. He has a boyish look, a gingery beard, and a ready chuckle. He was dressed like many Seattle professionals, in a hooded puffer jacket and sneakers. He doesn’t smoke, but before leaving the house he dropped an unopened pack of Marlboros into his bag. “My public outreach tool,” he grinned. Also for distribution: new socks, granola bars.

Seattle is a powerhouse of contrasts. The city has added about 22,000 jobs a year recently, but only about 8,000 new residential units. The median house price doubled between 2012 and 2017. In Maryman’s originally working class and still less-than-glamorous neighborhood, new town houses smaller than 1,500 square feet on postage-stamp lots are listing for around $700,000. Downtown and its margins are thick with new residential towers and construction cranes. But Seattle, with surrounding King County, has among the largest homeless populations, per capita, of any American metropolis. A one-night count in January 2019 found 11,199 people homeless. Nearly half were “unsheltered”—sleeping not in emergency shelters or transitional housing but in parks, beneath bridges, in doorways, parking lots, alleys, or the verges of expressway on-ramps. They live in cars or RVs, vacant buildings, tents, or literally without shelter. Drifts of makeshift dwellings shape themselves to interstitial spaces, seemingly everywhere. From a distance, they are unified by their blue tarps. Blue tarps, as in refugee camps.

Maryman pulled on an orange safety vest, stepped off the paved trail, and headed down a steep informal path. The vest, suggesting he was a park worker, counterintuitively made his approach “less threatening,” he said. Homeless people, “often themselves victims” of theft, manipulative drug dealers, or sexual attack, can be wary of strangers. Nearing a small cluster of tents, he stood well back and called cheerfully, “Knock, knock! Anybody home?” Home. (more…)

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