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Posts Tagged ‘LAMcast’

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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Olana, the estate and landscape designed by Frederic Church–America’s foremost landscape painter of the 19th century–might be the painter’s deepest and richest creative act.

This hillside on the banks of the Hudson River in Upstate New York was a work of art that became Church’s own studio for painting the landscapes that made him a national celebrity—a mutually reinforcing circle that tied this land to his fantastical, but finely grained, depictions of it. “I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio,” Church wrote of his stewardship of Olana.

As detailed in this summary of what led Church to the Hudson Valley and what kept him there, Church’s landscape accentuated the stunning beauty of one of the Hudson River Valley’s most dramatic sites. To accompany the Persian-themed house he built for his family starting in 1872, Church planted trees to frame views, added a system of carriage roads to ferry visitors from one to another, and installed a lake that echoed the shape of the river. For his house, he mixed colors he would use to paint its rooms on his own palette.

A new plan for Olana by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects won a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning for its sensitive approach to encouraging greater public engagement and its deep research into the site’s soil, hydrology, land use, and topography. The jury praised the plan for allowing the estate’s essential beauty to shine through, free of overwrought design and unnecessary flourishes.

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Martha Schwartz, FASLA, began her lecture last fall at the University of Southern California School of Architecture with a dire warning, and an invitation to play.

In “Beyond Practice” (her comments start at 13:08), she began by outlining the ecological imperative that climate change and carbon emissions place on landscape designers and the rest of the world: the exceptionally long tail of ocean warming, and methane bubbles released from melting permafrost that clog the atmosphere.

From there, it’s a quick exposition of Schwartz’s carefree straddling of the art and landscape architecture worlds. She recounts her 1979 Bagel Garden, when she designed the garden at her Boston home with only materials she could purchase on her block: bagels, purple flowers, and purple aquarium gravel. That act of strident whimsy prompted LAM editor Grady Clay to put this project on his magazine’s cover, bordered in neon pink and hand-drawn bagels. It was an early curation of “native” landscape materials combined with boundary-pushing art installations. “It’s a Dada piece. It’s Duchamp’s toilet,” she says. And it also made her name in landscape architecture.

A survey of Schwartz’s contemporary work (detailed further in this month’s cover story) demonstrates her continued emphasis on offering users quirky art objects to interact with, such as the train-cart seating at Manchester’s Exchange Square, and the gawking polygonal pavilions at Fengming Mountain Park in the Chinese city of Chongqing. This narrow slice of her work shows off a wild range of cultural conditions and aesthetic treatments. There are gritty, postindustral reuses, razor-sharp Libeskind-esque angles, and meditative contemplations of vernacular materials and forms.

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The artist and landscape designer Patricia Johanson sees her ecologically driven, site-specific artworks as a way to weave together two disciplines that seemed to have parted ways a long time ago: science and art. She imagines them to be “parallel explorations” that share the same goal (exploring and interpreting the world), gone about in different ways. “In a way, we’re like inchworms,” she says in an interview from 2010. “We’re out on a twig, feeling around, testing the air. Where do we go from here? What can we learn? And you begin to look at these things, and you begin to discover the world. I think that’s what scientists do, and I think that’s what artists do.”

Johanson grants herself the opportunity to try it both ways. Her Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California, clocks in to perform all the progressive landscape-as-infrastructure functions asked of it. It’s a sewage treatment plant, and a park with three miles of trails whose wetlands help filter and clean Petaluma’s water. It’s also a wetland wildlife habitat where visitors set up easels and sketch the landscape, part of which playfully resembles a mouse (with two beady little eyes that are islands in a pond) from above.

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Filmed over 18 months by Jim Richards Productions of Reston, Virginia, this time-lapse look into the construction of ASLA’s new home begins with a few swings of the sledgehammer by ASLA executive committee members and staff. Builders Coakley & Williams Construction installed green walls, opened up the roof for a three-story atrium, and dug into the earth to bury a stormwater collection cistern. The design by Gensler, with a lower-level garden by landscape architects Oehme, van Sweden, sets the Center for Landscape Architecture up to act as a leader in workplace design and ecological stewardship for decades to come.

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The nearly unquestioned dominance cars have had over our cities for more than half a century, we’re told, is a very expensive problem to fix. Now that we have millions of miles of car-serving infrastructure, is it too late and too expensive to replace it?

No. The Spanish have a better way. Developed by Salvador Rueda of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona (and documented in a video by Vox), the plan for Barcelona “superblocks” (or “superilles” in Catalan) gives urban planners and transit engineers a simple template to gradually reclaim streets from automobiles.

Best applied to nine-block areas as discrete superblock districts, the plan confines regular traffic to the perimeter of the site. Streets internal to the nine-block area become one-way loops, (more…)

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While most renewable energy advocates push for an inclusive “all of the above” approach that embraces solar panels, geothermal, and tidal power, there’s usually one method around which all others orbit. In Northern Europe and the North Sea, that’s wind power.

Dutch landscape architecture firm H+N+S has a plan to harness this potential by installing 25,000 wind turbines in the North Sea across 22,000 square miles, the focus of this month’s cover story, “Power Play 2050.” Over the next 33 years, they say the North Sea can generate 90 percent of power demanded.

H+N+S’s plan, dubbed “2050 – An Energetic Odyssey” and featured at the 2016 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, is an economic development plan as well as a climate change plan. They predict booming and expanded ports (including an entire island dedicated to the manufacture and construction of wind power infrastructure) and a net gain of jobs, even after accounting for job losses in fossil fuel industries. It would be an incomparable build-up of energy infrastructure, but there’s also a conscientious sense of economical re-use and environmental sensitivity. As described in the video, oil pipelines will be co-opted for carbon sequestration, serving the fossil fuel burners that remain. And wind turbines will have to be designed so that they act as welcoming habitats for underwater plants and animals. These towers will be 12 miles out from shore so that they don’t ruin anyone’s seaward view, far enough away so that the curvature of the earth makes them mostly imperceptible.

“It can be done,” intones the video’s calm, precise BBC-documentary-style narration, “but only when a tailwind can be organized in the shape of realistic pricing or taxation of carbon dioxide that would provide the invisible hand of the market with green gloves.”

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