Posts Tagged ‘nature’

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 MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you visit one of our national parks nowadays to commune with nature, you may find yourself having instead an experience of mass tourism. Many parks are huge. You’d expect plenty of elbow room. But much of any wilderness park is inaccessible to the public. Besides, people generally head for a few famous spots—you probably want to see those too—which quickly become overwhelmed. Attendance is up over the past few years. Infrastructure typically went in over decades, usually piecemeal, not by comprehensive plan, and for smaller crowds, so both visitor experiences and the places themselves become degraded. And the National Park Service has money problems. By 2017, the bill for deferred maintenance—apart from any new capacity—was $11.6 billion (see “Roads to Ruin,” LAM, February 2016).

Still, where it can, often with help from citizen conservancies, the park service is commissioning landscape architecture interventions to redress the gridlock and throngs. Most people will still find themselves among multitudes of strangers, but these redesigns can provide more authentically natural, less contrived interactions with the environment. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park was until recently a prime example of the problem. A project there, which opened to the public last summer, is a model response. Half of its $40 million cost was donated by the Yosemite Conservancy. It was designed by Seattle-based Mithun.

Mariposa Grove actually has two concentrations of the great trees, the lower grove and the upper grove. Before, when you reached the lower grove you were in a parking lot. Several giant sequoias were stranded there like islets in the sea of asphalt; you might not even have realized you’d arrived. This lot filled up early. Overflow traffic returned some seven miles on a winding, two-lane park road to Wawona, where there is a historic hotel, a convenience store, and a small Yosemite history museum. Visitors there caught a shuttle back to the grove. But Wawona had only “a makeshift drop-off for the shuttle and no parking infrastructure for the hundreds who would come through—quite a fiasco,” says Christian Runge, ASLA, a Mithun senior associate.

When you finally shuttled back to the lower grove, “there was a sense of confusion,” Runge says. “Wayfinding wasn’t clear. There were redundant loops of trails. They had to have rangers telling (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY GABRIELLA MARKS

With her one-woman practice, Radicle, Christie Green works to repair our relationship with nature—including the animals and plants we eat.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The stars were still out when Christie Green, ASLA, parked her Tundra and turned off the engine. We were somewhere near Glorieta Mesa, Game Management Unit 45, about 30 minutes southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the moonlight, I could make out the bristle-brush tops of ponderosa and piñon pine. I grabbed the camouflage gear Green had lent me and got out of the truck. The April air was just a few degrees above freezing, and the only sounds were the howls of coyotes and the quiet murmurs of cattle somewhere in the valley. As the chill began to seep in, I tugged on my gloves and cowl. I had no idea how long we were going to be out there.

Green, who for the past five years has run a one-woman landscape design practice in Santa Fe called Radicle, had agreed to take me turkey hunting. Almost all of her projects, (more…)

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REVIEWED BY MELISSA S. RAGAIN

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2000, the German artist Reinhard Reitzenstein suspended a tree from a pair of abandoned hydroelectric towers in La Gabelle Park in Quebec. Hung upside down, the 55-foot spruce tree contrasts tragicomically with the immense structures beside it, as though they had seized the tree and subjected it to this humiliating inversion. This arresting image flips (quite literally) our expectations of the landscape, even a human-altered landscape like the escarpment of a hydroelectric dam, and dramatizes the clear-cutting that makes such sublime industrial monuments possible. Reitzenstein relies on those expectations in order to subvert them. The cultural baggage of landscape, both pictures of the landscape and the land’s design as an aesthetic object, is the ground against which a work like Transformer appears. The urgency of climate change and mass extinction has made it necessary for anyone who works with natural materials or images to rethink the historical conventions that govern our perceptions of the natural world.

I was choosing a new survey text for my course Contemporary Art and Ecology when I was commissioned to review Mark Cheetham’s new book, Landscape into Eco Art. To judge by the title and the array of evocative illustrations, it looked like a viable candidate to replace my go-to anthology, Jeffrey Kastner’s Nature (The MIT Press, 2012). Though Kastner’s book offers an excellent selection of short primary documents perfect for an undergraduate seminar, it lacks what many art history textbooks offer: the lure of chronology, the analysis of individual artworks, and an authoritative narrative to help navigate the last 50 years of ecological art making. And yet, as I thumbed through Cheetham’s Landscape into Eco Art, I began to realize that it was not a survey text. Neither was it the kind of fine-grained history of a single object or movement we have come to expect in contemporary art history. Other texts in the genre take the standard contemporary art historical model of diving deep into a subject only to pop back out of it again with a new perspective on the long history of contemporary practices. For instance, James Nisbet’s Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s (The MIT Press, 2014) tells a history of land art and systems thinking by tethering it to a lengthy analysis of Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977). Similarly, Suzaan Boettger’s Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties (University of California Press, 2003) takes a wide-angle lens to land art in a chronological survey of the era’s greatest moments to shed light on the complex network of artists, gallerists, and collectors who motivated land art’s monumental minimalism.

Instead, Landscape into Eco Art might be more readily compared to work in environmental aesthetics, a subfield of (more…)

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REVIEWED BY KOFI BOONE, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

With more than 15 million views, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s groundbreaking TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” is likely the most viewed treatise on the consequences of making one story the story of the African continent. With surgical precision, Adichie reveals the lasting consequences of perpetuating Africa and Africans as only victims suffering from famine and war, or only the exotic backdrop for experiencing “charismatic nature.” But in the end, her most devastating criticism of the single story is embodied in her quote of the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, “If you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with ‘secondly.’” Illustrating her point, Adichie asks facetiously what we would think if the story began with a “failed” African state instead of with European colonialism.

The issue of starting with “secondly” is present in cultural landscape study of the continent of Africa. The spirit of Adichie’s and Barghouti’s arguments resonates in the pages of Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by John Beardsley. The volume collects essays delivered at a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in 2013 and reflects an important first step in laying the foundation for future exploration. Through a wide array of disciplinary lenses, geographic locations, and time periods, Beardsley’s work eschews deriving a single conclusion about what is “African” and instead reveals the wealth of issues and opportunities with engaging the many cultures of a continent. The avoidance of narrowing and bridging the divergent voices contained within the book is challenging and perhaps belies the fact that this is one of the first mainstream publications on this topic. Given the lack of similar texts, there could be a tendency to attempt to be singular and definitive. However, borrowing from one of the book’s many themes, the result is a contribution to the “continuity” of a conversation about the lives and practices that have shaped meaningful place in Africa, a continent still invisible to the profession of landscape architecture. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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Avenida Houston is a 60-foot-wide promenade in front of Houston’s convention center. Image courtesy of Jonnu Singleton/SWA.

Avenida Houston was designed to celebrate the flyway paths of migratory birds and the vibrant energy economy that has made Houston attractive to domestic and international migrants alike. But in early February a new set of visitors will be attracted to this linear plaza: Football fans drawn by the suite of Super Bowl programming unfurled at the nearby (and newly renovated) George R. Brown Convention Center, and Super Bowl LI, to be played a few miles away at NRG Stadium.

Avenida Houston, designed by SWA Group, is a four-acre, 60-foot-wide strip of space that turned a desolate and unforgiving stretch of multilane traffic in front of the city’s convention center into an informal promenade. Two central themes, seemingly opposed, animate this new public event space: Houston’s industry and nature. “The conversation really started as, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Hever Castle Maze, Kent, UK, 1904. Courtesy Hever Castle & Gardens


Yew Maze, Hever Castle & Gardens, Kent, UK, 1904. Courtesy Hever Castle & Gardens

Labyrinths and mazes are meandering ways to get from one place to another. As such, they’ve mostly been placed in the arena of baronial garden follies like topiary: trimmed hedges, a gazebo at its center, some ducks in a pond, and a high five once you’ve successfully traversed from point A to B. But author Francesca Tatarella has found that labyrinths’ persistence over time and their geographic pervasiveness are clues to a much deeper truth. In her book Labyrinths and Mazes: A Journey Through Art, Architecture, and Landscape (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016), she sees them as a set of existential questions we ask ourselves. “Labyrinths help us draw closer to mystery, and stave off the fear that the unknown creates in us,” she writes. “They deal with questions such as: Should I even start a journey if I don’t know where it will take me? Will I get lost if I head down an unknown path? And if I do get lost, will I be able to find my way back?”

By navigating a labyrinth’s contours and completing its choreographed rituals of movement, she believes we can master a small bit of our inner world, (more…)

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BY DANIEL JOST

A palette of possible play spaces by Studio Ludo and Roofmeadow calls for natural materials including salvaged tree trunks and rainwater.

A yearlong design campaign in Philadelphia promotes the value of recreation.

From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Today, young children spend much of their time in schools and child-care centers, but these places rarely offer rich outdoor environments for unstructured play. That’s a problem, says Sharon Easterling, the executive director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children. Such play is not just a leisure activity. It’s how children learn. “Good early-
childhood education is really hands-on, play-based learning,” she says.

Over the past year, the association and the Community Design Collaborative in Philadelphia have partnered to bring attention to the important role that play—and thoughtfully designed play environments—can have on children’s intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. As part of an initiative called Infill Philadelphia: Play Space, they created an exhibit, brought in speakers, hosted a charrette, and sponsored a design competition.

Their Play Space Design Competition, funded by the William Penn Foundation, sought ideas for (more…)

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