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If there were going to be a theme for this year’s ASLA Student Awards, it might well be sea change. A shift is palpable in the way students now seem ready to fully embody their roles as future leaders. There was great assurance in this group of award winners and a courageous willingness to tackle complex and difficult problems. The ambition of student projects leapt forward on multiple levels, with many submissions seeming to overrun the confines of traditional award categories. Projects as small as Chicago’s Jazz Fence, a Community Service winner, and as grand as the Award of Excellence winner in Analysis and Planning, El Retorno a la Tierra, which called for a total rethinking of the post-Hurricane Maria recovery of Puerto Rico, exemplified the deeply researched and carefully calibrated impacts of landscape architecture at its best. Projects ranged with authority across borders both political and cultural and did not shy from confronting the politics of place head-on. Jurors admired that “there are a lot of intense sites,” and projects were moving far away from conventional places that students had studied in the past.

And then there was the sea itself, a changing condition that appeared in many submissions, particularly in the Analysis and Planning category. With water and aridity in all its forms at the center of so many projects, it was clear that accommodating sea-level rise and climate change is no longer a choice to make but a condition that is baked into students’ design thinking. Submissions also exemplified full engagement with social issues once seen as far outside the profession’s purview, such as prison yards, nuclear plants, and a landscape approach to the reunification of Korea, which garnered an Award of Excellence in Communications. During the lively deliberations, jurors commented more than once about the remarkable initiative of this year’s students, particularly the “complexity and depth of issues they chose to tackle,” as well as how much they looked forward to hiring this next generation of landscape architects.

A spoiler alert: Among the ASLA Professional Awards, Brooklyn Bridge Park brings home the top honor in General Design, the Award of Excellence. Having taken shape over nearly three decades, the vast waterfront park, by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, came almost fully into being this year, a dogged vision for turning an old world into another one. And look at the results. This winner and many others show the long game of landscape architecture.

As always, the digital edition of the September 2018 Awards issue is FREE, and you can access the free digital issue of the September LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. You can also buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Single digital issues are available for only $5.25 at Zinio or you can 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.

Credits: “Myth, Memory, and Landscape in the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation,” Derek Lazo, Student ASLA, and Serena Lousich, Student ASLA; “In Between Walls,” Niloufar Makaremi Esfarjani, Student ASLA; “Stop Making Sense: Spatializing the Hanford Site’s Nuclear Legacy,” Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA, and Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA; “Korea Remade: A Guide to Reuse the DMZ Area Toward Unification,” Jiawen Chen, Student ASLA, Siyu Jiang, Student ASLA, and Xiwei Shen, Student ASLA; “Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery,” TSC Photography; “Chicago Riverwalk: State Street to Franklin Street,” © Kate Joyce; “Brooklyn Bridge Park: A 20-Year Transformation,” Julienne Schaer.

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

In Great Lakes cities, derelict parcels sponge up stormwater.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Eight years ago, Sandra Albro, a research associate in applied urban ecology at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (now Holden Forests & Gardens) began to think about opportunities lurking in the city’s vacant lots—in particular how to help cities with their water quality problems. During heavy rains, raw sewage from old, leaky, combined sewer-stormwater systems is often flushed into the Great Lakes, resulting in beach closures not fun for tourists. At the same time, in Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Gary, Indiana—where populations have declined by as much as 40 to 50 percent since the 1950s—derelict houses and vacant lots have increased: 30,000 in Cleveland, 7,000 in Gary, and more than 6,000 in Buffalo.

Cleveland, Buffalo, and Gary are among 158 communities with permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge treated wastewater into the Great Lakes. The agency has also charged them with implementing Long Term Control Plans under the Clean Water Act to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from their combined system overflows. “It’s a funny thing,” says David Rankin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a private nonprofit corporation that funds projects to build the health of the lakes. “Most of the time these systems do a great job of managing stormwater—they actually treat it. It was state-of-the-art Victorian engineering that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. But in heavy rains, some waste gets flushed out, too—and when you’re looking at more than 100 dischargers, it starts to add up.” According to the EPA, in 2014 the toll was an estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater discharged into the lakes.

Rankin says Great Lakes cities need to think differently about the problem—many are trying to find funding to build massive pipes. But with their populations declining, he suggests these cities should think about solutions that don’t involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. So when Albro came to him with her idea for using vacant lots to capture stormwater, the fund awarded her a small grant to develop a plan. She contacted 11 Great Lakes cities, (more…)

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BY RANDY GRAGG

Plans to string gondolas over American cities abound.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In the early 2000s, one of Portland, Oregon’s leading employers and research institutions, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), faced a steep, downhill battle. Sited on a hilltop, surrounded by unbuildable canyons and neighborhoods unwilling to yield another inch to expansion, OHSU’s nearest sizable hunk of developable land lay on the Willamette River less than a mile away—for a blue heron. Cars and buses contended with winding, traffic-snarled commutes of anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

A campus planner’s brain brightly blinked: Why not an aerial tram? Protests erupted, politicians tangled, and costs lurched $47 million over the earliest budget fantasy of $9.5 million. But in 2007, two sleek, bubble-shaped cars (their shiny artisanal shells carefully machine-hammered by craftsmen from Gangloff Cabins of Switzerland) began flying to and fro across the campus. Today, they ferry more than 50,000 riders per week to a 2.35-million-square-foot cluster of new OHSU buildings.

At the time, the tram was only the third urban transit ropeway system in America, after Telluride’s in Colorado and Roosevelt Island’s in New York. Now, however, proposals for urban tramways are becoming more prevalent. A consortium in Washington, D.C., is poised to launch a $1 million environmental impact study for an aerial connection between Rosslyn, Virginia, and Georgetown across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., to bypass the clogged Key Bridge. New York is angling for two flights: a midtown connection to Roosevelt Island and (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates plan uses a series of intensely programmed pavilions at the park’s urban edge. Image courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Update 4/10/2018: The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has chosen Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ plan as the competition winner. 

At 22 acres on a prime Detroit River site southwest of downtown, the future West Riverfront Park could become the city’s new civic front yard.

A design competition hosted by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has collected a short list of plans to fill this need, with work by GGN, James Corner Field Operations, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), and Hood Studio making the cut. The winner will be determined by jury later this month. Several of these plans deal with the site’s relative surrounding vacancy and lack of connection to active, urban uses by building up dense layers of programming, but differ on whether the park is to be a regional centerpiece or one notable amenity along the Detroit RiverWalk’s miles-long string of them.

West Riverfront Park is part of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s larger plan to rejuvenate 5.5 miles of the Detroit Riverfront. East of downtown Detroit, 3.5 miles of the RiverWalk is already complete, featuring entertainment and event spaces, sculpture gardens, cultural venues, parks, and hotels. At the confluence of downtown, Corktown, and Mexicantown, the West Riverfront Park sits near some of the city’s most dramatically resurgent (and stable) neighborhoods. But the park site has been largely barren for decades. Previously, a hulking warehouse for the Detroit Free Press dominated the site. It was privately owned and closed off to the public for about (more…)

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BY RACHEL DOVEY

The team led by SCAPE proposes breaching levees to allow trapped sediment out, creating a stronger network of marshes and mudflats that can cushion developed areas. Image courtesy SCAPE/Public Sediment team.

They’re no stranger to wildfires and drought, but the cities around the San Francisco Bay haven’t been hit with a climate change-fueled disaster on par with Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey—yet. Still, sea-level rise won’t spare the metros. Even if they escape the drowning predicted by certain apocalyptic maps, Bay Area residents rely on freeways and rail lines built on soft, low-lying bay fill—areas particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion. And the region’s tidal marshes and mudflats, which should act as natural barriers, are slowly losing sediment owing to poorly engineered dams.

“Unlike New York City, the Bay Area has all these slower and more invisible problems related to climate change,” says Gena Wirth, ASLA, the design principal at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is bringing some of those unseen issues to light. Last year, judges selected 10 winning teams (SCAPE is the leader of one) made up of ecologists, designers, and landscape architects to imagine infrastructure that works with the region’s shifting landscape rather than against it. The challenge, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, is modeled on New York’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design contest, with one key difference: This one is proactive, not reactive. Instead of waiting for federal funds to come in after a disaster, (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

Working in a multidisciplinary firm means every day is different.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You certainly never get bored in a multidisciplinary office. A landscape architect might find herself reviewing federal endangered species listings, hydrology maps, or legal frameworks for land use planning in the daily shuffle, and these are just some of the diverse types of work likely to be present. Industrial mining methods, vernal pool construction, and high-rise plumbing systems could also come into play. The number of landscape architects working in these professional environments is growing as businesses find a competitive edge providing full, in-house services for site development projects that require expertise from designers but also from scientists, legal teams, and engineers. Four landscape architects at the center of these integrated office types share insights about collaboration, isolation, and the willingness to learn something new each day.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Weston & Sampson, Boston

Gene Bolinger, ASLA, Vice President

What are lessons learned from working in a multidisciplinary office for more than 25 years?

Staff at Weston & Sampson (clockwise from left): Elise Bluell, Associate ASLA; Cassidy Chroust, ASLA; Desmond Fang; Brandon Kunkel; and Farah Dakkak, Associate ASLA. Image courtesy of Weston & Sampson.

I came to Weston & Sampson through an acquisition, and I’ve been here since the fall of 1991. Weston & Sampson is an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, and it’s one of those old, legacy northeastern firms. It’s been around since 1899. One of our larger clients is the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and at any given time, we have  eight to 10 projects under way with the City of Boston. We’re pushing up against 500 people in our organization and, again, we’re mostly in the Northeast, with the largest projects in Massachusetts, for sure. Just recently the firm went to a discipline-based structure—we’re actually six disciplines. One of the disciplines is the design discipline, and I manage the design discipline. I’ve become accustomed to working within a multidisciplinary realm, and I celebrate what’s great about it and try to take advantage of what’s great about it.

If you’re sitting back on your hands and you’re assuming that people are going to be delivering exactly what you want at the exact moment you want it, you’re so mistaken. So, that’s why you can’t let things (more…)

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BY KATARINA KATSMA, ASLA

Landslide 2017

FROM THE DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In a time of great upheaval for the United States, it is hard to keep track of the many risks to our national landscapes. Even our nationally recognized and federally protected sites are under threat from privatization or lax oversight, making them vulnerable to destructive practices that place monetary gain over equitable enjoyment of parkland. Open Season on Open Space, this year’s Landslide program from the Cultural Landscape Foundation, minces no words on this subject, calling out municipalities, states, and the federal government for undermining a century’s worth of progress for our public lands, parks, and national monuments.

The reclamation of urban parks for future development is a slippery slope. Appropriating parkland for a presidential library could be considered of exceptional merit. But once such land has been taken from Chicago’s Jackson Park, it could set a precedent for future development or change the criteria for what is considered exceptional and therefore worthy of erasing park space.

Landslide considers the monetization of open space and weakening of park equity as the biggest threats to Jackson Park. These, along with detrimental effects of shadows, resource extraction, and the devaluation of cultural lifeways, make up Landslide’s five central themes. And it is the last two that loom greatest over the Antiquities Act of 1906, an act pivotal in the protection of federally owned lands now under siege by the country’s current administration.

The threat to our open space may not necessarily be from land use. With recent rezoning of the neighborhood surrounding Greenacre Park in New York, the possibility of perpetual shadow could damage precious park space in an area almost completely dominated by hardscape and high-rises. Although the selected open spaces only begin to account for the landscapes in danger of erasure, they work to remind us of the long road ahead in the preservation and maintenance of America’s cultural landscapes for generations to come. (more…)

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