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AMAZON FIRE: WHO OWNS THE AMAZON?

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 CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Who owns the Amazon? In news reports about the unprecedented number of fires burning in this vast forest during the past several months, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vehemently answered “Brazil”—punctuating that claim with the charge that any nation holding a different opinion is simply a colonizer, usually a European one. Yet defined in terms of the river’s massive watershed, the Amazon rain forest—the world’s largest such tropical biome—falls within eight South American countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana.

Those same eight polities have been embroiled in a seven-year legal battle with Amazon.com, Inc. and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who would very much like to own .amazon—the domain name, that is. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the independent body that vets global Internet addresses—has sided with Bezos. American corporate interests, once again, seem to have the upper hand over local cultural heritage and place-name identity, despite concerns voiced by Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs and representatives from other governments that share the watershed.

Certainly, “owning” the Amazon has always been bound up in questions of sovereignty. And sovereignty has long been caught up in authoritative claims of possession. (more…)

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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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LETHAL GLASS LANDSCAPES

BY JEFF LINK

A proposed building and landscape ordinance could shape the future of bird-friendly design in Chicago.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On a mild Friday in early May, Ted Wolff took a personal day and drove to the Ballard Nature Center in Altamont, Illinois, to catch a glimpse of Lewis’s woodpecker, a nearly foot-long, pink- and white-breasted bird native to the western United States. Along with two other Chicago birders, Wolff, the garrulous, white-bearded principal of Wolff Landscape Architecture, was on a “twitch,” an English expression for pursuing a bird in a geographic area where it is rarely seen.

Early that morning, an Illinois Rare Bird Alert reported that the woodpecker—named after the explorer Meriwether Lewis, who first saw the bird on his expedition with William Clark—had been seen at the nature center. It was reason enough for Wolff to clear his docket. Before long, the three birders were driving south to be among the first people to see the bird in Illinois, outside its historic range.

When they entered the nature center’s indoor viewing area, the woodpecker was already perched on a platform feeder—a “walk-up,” in birder’s parlance—eating shelled peanuts in front of a one-way reflective plate glass window. They watched it peck at the platform for several minutes, then fly to a hackberry with a peanut wedged in its bill, pausing before circling back to the feeder.

“At some point, though,” Wolff told me later in his office on the sixth floor of the Old Republic Building on North Michigan Avenue, “it flies over toward the feeder and overshoots and flies into the window. I think it sees its own reflection and it sort of pulls up and touches the window lightly and is able to fly off.”

Many birds are not so lucky. Ornithologists estimate that up to a billion birds, often migratory birds listed as species of conservation concern, die in building collisions in the United States annually—collisions that Wolff says are largely preventable, and deaths that warrant a stronger response from landscape architects as advocates for bird-friendly design. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Just a few years ago, Keri VanVlymen, a landscape designer with Ratio in Indianapolis, had never driven a golf cart, but now she’s an expert. Over five months in 2018, she surveyed each of Indianapolis’s 13 public golf courses, trekking “every mile of every trail of every course,” she says, 49 miles in all. She’s watched colleagues get stuck on icy hills and has clawed her way up a snowy, arched footbridge, one foot on the accelerator, one hand pulling herself along the railing while the wheels spun.

In late 2017, Indianapolis hired Ratio to re-evaluate the city’s public golf courses, with an eye toward converting some into parks. Whereas most cities of its size would have one to four public courses, Indianapolis’s baker’s dozen stretches across 1,800 acres. With VanVlymen’s colleague John Jackson, ASLA, a principal and the director of landscape architecture and urban design at Ratio, the firm is proposing supplanting green fees in favor of multipurpose recreation and letting everyone onto the land.

“Golf courses are very large-scale designed landscapes,” Jackson says. “You’re playing the game through these very large corridors.” Golf courses are often designed as “18 very large rooms. If you apply that to today’s recreational trends, there’s a lot of interesting places you can go,” he says. (more…)

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

Photo by G. Lyon Photography.

From “Extreme Sports, Extreme Storms” in the February 2020 issue by Allyn West, about a BMX park in Houston by OJB Landscape Architecture that’s designed to absorb hordes of biking enthusiasts, as well as floodwaters.

“Air and water.”

–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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Photo courtesy EPNAC.

Every year, ASLA presents a number of honors to individuals and groups for their service to the landscape architecture profession and its ideals in the public realm. They include the ASLA Medal, the highest honor conferred by the Society; the Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal, given to a distinguished educator; and the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, given to an office that has built a distinguished body of work. ASLA also bestows honorary membership to nonmembers nominated for their service to the profession.

The deadline for 2020 nominations is this Friday, February 7. The Society depends on its professional members and chapters to put forward nominations of potential recipients—and asks those nominating to keep nominations confidential from the persons or groups being nominated. For the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, however, firms may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. The other nominations must be made by third parties other than the nominee.

The ASLA Board of Trustees votes on the recipients at its spring meeting, and the honors will be presented at the Conference on Landscape Architecture (previously known as the ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO) in Miami, which runs October 2–5, 2020.

If you have questions, e-mail honorsawards@asla.org, or call Makeeya Hazelton, ASLA’s honors and awards manager, at 202-216-2331.

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