Posts Tagged ‘New Urbanist’

BY JONATHAN LERNER

A new central plaza in Fort Worth reveals the advantages of—and anxieties about—privately developed public places.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Start with the bones. Fort Worth has such good ones.

The downtown grid, established in the mid-19th century, has blocks a modest 200 feet square. So pedestrian scale has been in place from the start. The young Texas city prospered as a meatpacking hub from the 1870s when the railroad arrived, and later as a center of the oil industry, through to the Great Depression. The buildings that went up in those boom decades tended to be unrestrained in both architectural expression and stylistic range. Classical, Romanesque, Renaissance, Mission, Moderne—there was patterned brickwork, carved granite, molded terra-cotta, the odd Gothic turret and mansard roof and deco spire. Exuberance and ornament were the norm.

Fort Worth’s downtown flourished into World War II, but suffered the postwar hollowing out typical of American cities. Still, a critical mass of the early buildings remains standing. A great many have been renovated, and infill construction has been fairly complementary to what survived. The periphery of downtown remains scarred by swaths of surface parking. But there is a reactivated, walkable core that feels intact and has the intricate and varied traditional look the public generally finds attractive. Now, at the heart of this district, Fort Worth has finally received one urban amenity it always lacked: a central plaza. (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Harahan Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee, opened in 1916. Down its center ran railroad tracks. Cantilevered off each side was a 14-foot-wide “wagonway” for cars, trucks, horse carts, and pedestrians. This bridge is what’s called a through truss, with a latticelike steel superstructure like something from a giant Erector Set. The two outboard roadways, however, were originally planked in wood. Trains tend to throw off fragments and sparks—and not just antique ones that blew fiery debris from their smokestacks. “It’s like shrapnel,” says the landscape architect Ritchie Smith, ASLA. “Rocks, nails, anything that’s on those tracks just gets pulverized, and can even be inflamed.” In 1928, the Harahan’s wagonways caught fire and burned out of control. “They had all the water you want 120 feet below, but no way to siphon it up,” he says wryly. Rebuilt, the Harahan continued to convey motor traffic until a highway bridge opened nearby in 1949. The wagonway decking was removed. Then, until recently, only trains used the bridge—officially. “There are all kinds of people who, when they were kids, would try to go walk across it. How tempting was that?” asks Lissa Thompson, ASLA, a coprincipal at Smith’s Memphis firm, Ritchie Smith Associates.

Tempting indeed. Anybody willing to clamber out along the exposed girders could have been rewarded with (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In March of 2016, the landscape architect Ron Henderson, FASLA, had the rare opportunity to visit Mcity, the autonomous vehicle research center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His entourage, which included Nilay Mistry, ASLA, as well as an architect, a transportation engineer, a social scientist, and an attorney, signed in at a gatehouse worthy of a military facility. They were then relieved of all cameras and recording devices—“It’s like a top-secret corporate espionage kind of place,” Henderson says—before being escorted on a brief tour of a 16-acre test track composed of every road condition imaginable: bridges, tunnels, gravel roads, bike lanes, railroad crossings, roundabouts, graffiti-defaced road signs, faded lane markings, a main street with parallel parking, and a short stretch of freeway. “They even have a little Potemkin village of fake storefronts,” Henderson says.

At Mcity, a consortium of academic researchers, government agencies, and corporate entities are sorting out how to make autonomous transportation a reality. Henderson was surprised to learn that trees may not be part of the equation. “We learned that vegetation interferes with the signals between the cars,” he says. “So they cut down the trees at the test track. One of the engineers jokingly said to us, ‘If we had our druthers, we would just cut down all the trees.’ The landscape architects in the group (more…)

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