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BY NATE BERG

A view of the park’s two lakes, with the city in the distance. Photo courtesy Bundesgartenschau Heilbronn.

An urban-scale garden exhibition in Germany became an opportunity to re-envision a riverside industrial site.

 

For more than half a century, the historic center of the southwestern German city of Heilbronn looked out across the waters of the Neckar River onto 80 gray acres of railyards and warehouses. As its industrial activity shifted and concentrated, the need for such large swaths of land diminished and much of this logistics landscape lay fallow.

“For urban planners, this was like a gold mine,” says Oliver Toellner. He’s a landscape architect and urban planner, and for the past 10 years he’s been transforming this large industrial plot into a new park and urban district for 3,500 residents and 1,000 jobs. (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 RANDY GRAGG

FROM THE MARCH 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A city of hilltops and lakes bracketed by two mountain ranges, Seattle owns a surplus of views. But none quite matches the grandness of the Rainier Vista. John Charles Olmsted captured it in his plan for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, guiding the era’s standard, plaster-and-wood City Beautiful architecture to frame Mount Rainier in a compressed perspective sliced through the thick forest. As the University of Washington, the site’s owner, grew, it kept the vista as a front yard, building its early collegiate gothic edifices to bracket the burly 14,400-foot volcano. Take that, Ivy League.

But then came the era of the auto and midcentury campus planning.

Olmsted shaped the grand axis as the exposition’s entrance from railroad and ferry stops at its foot. But he sketched nothing beyond the great fair’s grounds. Thus the view’s foreground became a visual ellipsis petering out in the forest and marshes beyond. That lower terminus (known as the Montlake Triangle) and its surroundings sprouted a clutter of buildings and infrastructure: widening roads, giant underground pipes for steam and sewage, and a barely buried parking garage. As UW’s medical research arm grew into one of the country’s most muscular, a second campus of beige, Lego-set buildings rose at the vista’s end. And as the UW Huskies became a Pac-12 football powerhouse, their stadium surged to the east with 70,000 seats and home-game Saturdays that clog the surrounding roads for miles. Meantime, the onetime Burlington Northern Railroad at the vista’s foot in 1978 became one of the country’s first and busiest rail-to-trail paths, the Burke-Gilman Trail. But the university plowed a service road down the vista’s midsection.

“The surroundings became the boring-edge, white-space infrastructure area, a surplus space,” says Shannon Nichol, FASLA, a cofounder of GGN, the firm given the job to resuscitate Rainier Vista. “The view ended like a foggy distance in a painting rather than being really designed as valuable space. There was nothing interesting coming out of the land.” (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 JARED BREY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Darren Damone, ASLA, and Katharine Griffiths were standing on a boardwalk at Avalon Park & Preserve, in Stony Brook, New York, looking across the pond at a gang of cormorants loitering in the branches of a beech tree.

“They used to nest over here, and it was a disaster zone,” said Griffiths, the director of the preserve. “It used to smell like a bluefish factory. It was nasty. They did a lot of damage to the trees in this area.… That’s what happens. They strip the leaves to put in their nest, and then their guano is so acidic that it just burns everything. They’re kind of sloppy birds.”

It was a May morning, and the squealing songs of cardinals spilled out of the woods behind us. We took a curving path up a hill to a smaller pond, fed by what looked like an underground stream, and I asked, credulously, where the headwaters were.

“This is just recirculating,” Damone said, looking amused. “This is completely created.”

In 1996, before the preserve existed, Paul Simons, a local nature lover who liked to ride his bike on a path through the property, was struck by a car on Long Island and killed. In his honor, the Simons family created the Paul Simons Foundation, and bought the eight-acre property that would later become Avalon Park & Preserve. Griffiths was a friend of the Simons family and had just finished college in Ontario, studying political science and horticulture, and she moved to Stony Brook to lead the preserve. Creating the preserve was a way for the Simons family to grieve, she said, and it was meant to be a place that Paul would have wanted to be. Beyond that, she told me later, “We didn’t have a vision, really.”

So it turned to Andropogon, the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, to create (more…)

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BY TOM STOELKER

A new film documents managed retreat for three New York City neighborhoods.

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The start of Nathan Kensinger’s quiet documentary Managed Retreat begins innocently enough. Waves from the Atlantic roll in toward the viewer. A lone couple walks hand in hand along a desolate beach. A seawall meanders off into the distance. An abandoned car in a marsh sends a dissonant note that builds to an ominous beat. The sound of waves gives way to the “beep, beep, beep” of an excavator backing up. Abandoned homes fill the frame until the excavator’s bucket reaches out to nudge one of the houses to the ground. It is a slow, lumbering destruction, with the “beep, beep, beep” tracking time.

Kensinger’s 18-minute film, which is currently screening at film festivals, documents the managed retreat of three New York City neighborhoods on Staten Island that never fully recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Instead, in an unusual approach, residents organized to sell their land to the state, left their homes behind, and let nature return. The film stands witness to an unheard-of scenario in New York: (more…)

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