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Posts Tagged ‘Landscape Urbanism’

BY ZACH MORTICE

São Paolo is a small aquaponics farming settlement where residents and visitors gather medicinal compounds from the surrounding jungle. 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, by Vanessa Keith/StudioTEKA (New York: Urban Research, 2017). Courtesy of Terreform.

In the not-so-distant future, what remains of São Paulo is something like an ecoresort medical crop farm for ewoks. People from all over the world travel to its lush, frequently flooded rain forest and set up shop in ovular pods in the treetops connected by open-air skywalks. They farm fish, grow sugarcane, and harvest rare, medicinal compounds from the surrounding jungle. Crews deconstruct the old city, leaving more room for this life-saving flora to reassert itself.

A continent away, the city of Phoenix, Arizona, is also in the process of unbecoming. Residents of its single-family houses are cannibalizing their neighborhoods at the stern urging of statist security forces. (Let’s say something like United Nations troops, perhaps wearing black helmets instead of blue ones.) The nation’s sixth-largest city will be shrunk to a tiny fraction of its former size to make way for more massive solar energy farms that dominate the desert landscape. Former Arizonans are invited to move themselves along with the bricks and mortar of their communities to a burgeoning megacity in Vancouver. Some people don’t want to go, and are meeting in secret to talk about what to do if they’re forced.

Those companion (but tonally opposed) visions of the future begin with the same book, Vanessa Keith’s 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, published by Terreform’s Urban Research, Michael Sorkin’s publishing imprint. It envisions a world where (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

An abandoned island is the Venice Lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press 2016.

An abandoned island in the Venice lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.

In his new book, Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, the University of California, Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux develops new tools for the mass customization of underused and vacant urban lots, highlighting the limits of inflexible systems thinking. His book charts a way forward with an eye on past failures, and new possibilities founded in corrective measures that have proved to work.

American cities’ first encounters with data, he writes, happened after World War II. That’s when protocomputing power, developed by the military and Cold War consultancies such as the RAND Corporation, merged with tabula rasa modernist urban planning. These binary solutions to complex built environments (remembered most vividly as Robert Moses-style urban renewal that tore down anything old and dirty) became what de Monchaux calls (more…)

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BY JULIAN RAXWORTHY

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From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In my seminar on contemporary theories of landscape architecture at the University of Cape Town, I recently asked students, during the week allocated to discussing landscape urbanism, to choose a project from Africa that could be called “landscape urbanist.” One student chose the renovation of the Luanda waterfront in Angola. This project is an upgrade that could just as easily be described as conventional landscape architecture or urban design practice. That landscape urbanism seemed to just be landscape architecture to my students suggests how generic the term has become when considered in relation to implementation: It could be just about anything. Landscape urbanism is a vibe.

Landscape urbanism is an evocative term that has exercised great influence over academic design discourse in landscape architecture but has remained ambiguous in practical terms. One of its key propagandists, Charles Waldheim, Honorary ASLA, a professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, has attempted to provide a “general theory” for it in his new book Landscape as Urbanism, which, while engagingly going some of the way toward doing so, leaves the persistent question of “OK, but so what?” remaining.

Talking about landscape urbanism is more like (more…)

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BY ADAM REGN ARVIDSON, FASLA

Milwaukee cleans up the Menomonee Valley but keeps it working.

Milwaukee cleans up the Menomonee Valley but keeps it working.

From the April 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Menomonee means wild rice, and that is the original story of this river. Flowing just 33 miles across southeastern Wisconsin, it joins with two other smallish rivers (the Milwaukee and the Kinnickinnic) just before Lake Michigan to create a freshwater estuary—a back bay to the great lake. The estuary and valley were hunting, fishing, and rice harvesting grounds. Then European settlers came and saw this could also be a good spot for shipping, fixing, and building things.

The Valley, as it is often called, is a four-mile by one-half-mile swath of Menomonee River lowland that industrialized rapidly in the late 1800s. It became home to the great Milwaukee Road’s machine and repair shops—140 acres of railyards and mechanic sheds. In the first half of the 20th century, a middle-class resident of the neighborhoods north and south of the Valley could walk to a job that paid a living wage. Crossing the pedestrian bridges to the railyard, he would likely barely notice the stagnant, channelized, trash-strewn watercourse below.

In the 1980s, following a storyline familiar among midsized cities in the Midwest, the industries began to leave—and leave their messes behind. The Valley became a 1,200-acre scar on the city. “It was buildings that were falling down. It was environmental contamination. It was 60,000 cars driving by on the freeway looking at this property,” says Dave Misky, who has been leading the Valley’s (more…)

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In 2013, LAM filmed a wide-ranging and very candid conversation between Signe Nielsen, FASLA, and Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, two longtime friends, on New York, urbanism, and landscape architecture practice.

With more than 60 years’ design experience between them, Nielsen and Van Valkenburgh talk about the range of Nielsen’s projects, including Hudson River Park and the South Bronx; lessons from Hurricane Sandy; how to (and how not to) work with developers; the problem of “sustainability” as a trend; Nielsen’s first meeting with Kim Mathews, ASLA, her partner of 20 years at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; and learning to take the lead on big urban projects.

For more on Nielsen and the work of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, pick up a copy of the April issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. The digital issue is free or you can buy the print issue at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Single digital issues are 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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From the November 2013 issue of LAM:
Print

Landscape Urbanism and Its Discontents: Dissimulating the Sustainable City. Edited by Andrés Duany and Emily Talen. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2013; 316 pages, $29.95.

Charter of the New Urbanism, Second Edition. Edited by Emily Talen. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2013; 302 pages, $60.

Reviewed by John King, Honorary ASLA.

New Urbanism is in the throes of midlife crisis, and Charles Waldheim, Affiliate ASLA, is reaping the benefits.

As the chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, Waldheim champions a repackaging of the discipline into a school of thought that he and the like-minded call “Landscape Urbanism.” This vague term has been applied to a number of efforts that readers of this magazine will find familiar, such as CityDeck in Green Bay by the firm Stoss, as well as New York’s most-talked-about intervention of the past decade, the High Line, designed in part by James Corner Field Operations. The concept at a small scale often translates to urban parks that fold an abstract sense of nature into the built terrain; Corner has described the High Line with its wild-looking grasses amid train rails as “a combined or furrowed landscape surface.” Waldheim, meanwhile, presents Landscape Urbanism in much larger terms—no less than “a broad theoretical framework for thinking about the city as an ecological construct and concept,” to quote a 2012 interview.

Its ambitions aside, “Landscape Urbanism” remains a theoretical premise better known to design insiders than to the lay public. But it looms ominously large in the worldview of Andrés Duany, the architect who helped found the New Urbanism movement in the 1990s and now is eager to portray Waldheim et al. as the 21st-century equivalent of the modernist planners who uncorked such evils as blank-slate urban renewal after World War II. As far as Duany is concerned, efforts to restore ecological corridors within cities are nothing more or less than “green camouflage for…big box retailers, junkspace office parks, and residential high-rise clusters.” The same old formless sprawl as ever, but with bioswales instead of golf courses.

Duany has received considerable mileage from such attacks, including an invitation to be with Waldheim on the keynote panel of the 2011 ASLA Annual Meeting (an appearance canceled by Duany the night before because of flight difficulties). Now comes Landscape Urbanism and Its Discontents: Dissimulating the Sustainable City, a book-long salvo against Waldheim and his academic/ideological allies, a collection of essays that suggest many New Urbanists aren’t sure what to do now that the novelty of their crusade has worn off.

(more…)

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