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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 JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Milwaukee’s city-sponsored recreation program was established in 1911 for the purpose of benevolent social engineering. Its goal was the civic integration of burgeoning, and mostly poor, European immigrant populations. It offered classes in the English language and U.S. citizenship, as well as arts and industrial crafts, sports, clubs, and other entertainment. In some locations there were showers and, during the Depression, workshops for repairing one’s own shoes. These programs were frankly geared toward acculturation and the transmission of mainstream ethics such as team spirit and wholesome presentation; a 1918 list of tips for staff advises that each neighborhood location “must have its own yell and song,” and to “instruct young men to remove hats upon entering buildings.”

The recreation program was placed within the school system, an atypical arrangement. It’s still there today, as the Department of Recreation and Community Services of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Over time, this department acquired the use—and responsibility for maintenance—of 52 neighborhood parks, called playfields. Most were constructed between 1912 and 1974, occupy around three acres each, and are pretty bleak. Typically, they have space for sports such as basketball and softball, a field house with restrooms, maybe a patch of grass. Some have amenities for younger kids—wading pools, slides, and swings. At about 20 of the parks, the department now runs free, drop-in Summer Playground activity programs. Inner-city Milwaukee is still immigrant rich, though ethnicities have changed. Many residents are Hispanic, most of Mexican origin. Some are Asian, including a relatively large Hmong community. And more than 35 percent of city residents are African American, descended not of immigrants, but of migrants who moved north around midcentury for plentiful jobs. Milwaukee was an industrial powerhouse then, but no more. The poverty rate approaches 30 percent. One index of the economic situations of kids who use the playfields is that last year the Summer Playgrounds served them nearly 29,000 free meals—lunch and supper, five days a week.

As Milwaukee’s fortunes fell, the playfields deteriorated. Many now are simply expanses of cracked and heaving asphalt with no shade, broken play equipment, backboards minus hoops, boarded-up field houses, and hostile accretions of chain-link fencing. Custer Playfield, for example, “was a very dark place,” says Beth Rosenow; she’s a neighborhood safety coordinator for Safe & Sound, a nonprofit that tries to build bridges between communities and the police. “People were afraid of who was hiding behind a bush. Nobody used the park unless it was for drinking, smoking weed, a place for kids to hide and do inappropriate things—teenagers, young adults.”

In 2014, Blake Theisen, ASLA (then with SAA Design Group, now the principal owner of Parkitecture + Planning), was hired to conduct a facilities assessment. His report ran to 861 pages. “It showed we had $25 million in identified projects,” says Lynn Greb, the recreation department’s senior director. “Like, holy cow! And that was all just for replacement, not development or design.” Realizing that the department was unequipped to define a comprehensive strategy, Greb hired Pam Linn, FASLA, as recreation facilities project manager, the first-ever landscape architect on the public school system’s staff. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Not much good is coming from this parlous time, as the novel coronavirus floored just about everything people normally rely on, and with shocking speed. Some strands of hope, should they hold up with time, have appeared amid the desperate confusion. There is an odd but significant reassurance in how quickly so much of daily life buttoned up early on. That progress has been uneven, depending not least on brands of leadership. But once the severity of the situation everywhere became clear, enough people took heed of the stay-home advice that the numbers of holdouts thinned quickly if, alas, not to zero. Everything can change fast. The public compliance, the mass cooperation, happened without much pronounced role for the police, whose jobs have grown steep with new danger, like the work of all public safety professionals. Having everyone stay apart is the only way to contain the crisis. Each infection avoided supports the health care and public health community, who offer societies the only chances of stopping loss and getting through it all.

For landscape architecture, there’s a deep paradox. The bad part is that there is pain, and will be more pain as this business contracts along with everything else. The profession is looking into a future far more unknowable than during the Great Recession a decade ago, when it lost a generation of new landscape architects, and some not so new. Total employment in the profession, federal data shows, fell from 22,000 in 2006 to 15,750 in 2012. Membership in ASLA fell to 15,000, from 18,000 before the economy collapsed; it never bounced back. For emerging designers during the recession, there was no path forward, no new jobs, and many jobs lost. Interns had no place to get the office time they need to qualify for licensure. They went elsewhere. We are still feeling it.

The good part during this crisis is that landscapes for people have seldom seemed as vital and as visible. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Honolulu’s popular Queen Kapi‘olani Park is closed as of Friday, March 20. Photo by Timothy A. Schuler.

It could have been a scene from any number of dystopian films: a group of skateboarders, their faces obscured by bandanas or other makeshift masks, slaloming down an otherwise empty street, the landscape around them—the wide beach, the grassy lawn, the parking lot—deserted. In reality, the scene was one of many strange tableaux in Honolulu this past Friday afternoon, following the closure of city parks and beaches in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Hawaii is regularly ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation, and Honolulu is a bustling city with a noticeably active population. Over the past 96 hours, it has become a ghost town. On Saturday, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 48 (which in two days would nearly double), Hawaii’s governor instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers. The next day, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered residents and visitors to “shelter in place” and leave their houses and apartments only for essential services, an order that was later expanded to the entire state. By Monday, Waikiki’s famed hotels sat mostly empty, its shops shuttered as if preparing for a Category 5 hurricane. Along Waikiki Beach, yellow caution tape fluttered from trees and lampposts, encircling public areas and blocking access points as if the entire beachfront were one giant crime scene. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A mirrored hut, in the shape of Thoreau’s New England cabin, reminds us to slow down our metabolism for appraising and interpreting landscapes. Photo by Justin Knight.

Günther Vogt on the limits of design, and the boundless reach of landscape architecture.

 

Ask Günther Vogt what the problems facing landscape architecture are, and he’ll tell you that there’s a bit too much design happening today.

This provocation suggests that it’s time for landscape designers to spend less time fussing with the proportions of a public square and more time working through urban and region-scaled problems. That was the thrust of Vogt’s Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design earlier this month, which accompanied an exhibition of his work on display now at the GSD’s Druker Design Gallery at Gund Hall. First the Forests exhibits six of Vogt’s projects and is filled with artifacts, models, specimens, and dioramas presented in tactile wood boxes—references to the European tradition of the “Wunderkammer” or “cabinet of curiosities,” eclectic containers filled with wonder and mystery.

There are cylindrical core samples of Boston’s mineral geology, impossibly delicate 19th century Italian gypsum models of mushrooms, excerpts from German plant morphology diagrams, and deconstructed and collaged 19th century landscape paintings, with foreground and background elements cut out and separated between panes of glass, giving the painting a semblance of texture and depth. LAM spoke to Vogt before the lecture about the exhibition. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Just a few years ago, Keri VanVlymen, a landscape designer with Ratio in Indianapolis, had never driven a golf cart, but now she’s an expert. Over five months in 2018, she surveyed each of Indianapolis’s 13 public golf courses, trekking “every mile of every trail of every course,” she says, 49 miles in all. She’s watched colleagues get stuck on icy hills and has clawed her way up a snowy, arched footbridge, one foot on the accelerator, one hand pulling herself along the railing while the wheels spun.

In late 2017, Indianapolis hired Ratio to re-evaluate the city’s public golf courses, with an eye toward converting some into parks. Whereas most cities of its size would have one to four public courses, Indianapolis’s baker’s dozen stretches across 1,800 acres. With VanVlymen’s colleague John Jackson, ASLA, a principal and the director of landscape architecture and urban design at Ratio, the firm is proposing supplanting green fees in favor of multipurpose recreation and letting everyone onto the land.

“Golf courses are very large-scale designed landscapes,” Jackson says. “You’re playing the game through these very large corridors.” Golf courses are often designed as “18 very large rooms. If you apply that to today’s recreational trends, there’s a lot of interesting places you can go,” he says. (more…)

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BY BRICE MARYMAN, FASLA

The Supreme Court leaves in place a decision that prevents criminalizing the habits of the homeless.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

With nowhere else to go, people experiencing homelessness increasingly occupy spaces designed by landscape architects: parks, medians, overpasses, stream corridors, and urban forests. Fearful of this new phenomenon, many communities have made it illegal to ask for change, sleep on benches, or pitch tents in public. A recent action by the United States Supreme Court may stem this tide of reactive stigmatization, criminalization, and incarceration. While homeless advocates and constitutional scholars hope that it may force cities to pivot toward a more comprehensive, proactive set of strategies to help people exit homelessness, they are also wary of recent signals from the federal government that suggest a doubling down on counterproductive punitive approaches.

Between 2007 and 2009, Boise, Idaho’s criminal justice system cited, fined, and sentenced Janet Bell and Robert Martin for violating the city’s new ordinances that made it illegal for anyone to be “occupying, lodging, or sleeping in any…place…without…permission,” including the use of “streets, sidewalks, parks, or public places as a camping place at any time.” Though they were members of the public, sleeping in the city’s public spaces had been deemed a crime. (more…)

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

FOREGROUND

Public Space, No Exceptions (Law)
The Supreme Court in December affirmed that people have a right to sleep in public space when no other options are provided, but homeless advocates see worrisome holes in the net.

Mulligans (Planning)
As golf declines in popularity, the office of Ratio helps Indianapolis fix its oversupply of public courses.

FEATURES

Amazon Fire: Who Owns the Amazon?
Issues of sovereignty and colonialism in the Amazon Basin have long hindered efforts to protect its rain forests. The recent destructive push for development has made those conflicts more urgent.

Lethal Glass Landscapes
North American wild bird populations have dropped by almost 30 percent since 1970. Landscape
architects are working with policy makers to avoid the collisions that kill birds in cities.

Editorial Discretion
For a lakeside residential compound in Vermont, Wagner Hodgson weaves together
old and new elements with a few striking moves.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for February can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for 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.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting February articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Amazon Fire: Who Owns the Amazon?” AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano; “Lethal Glass Landscapes,” Marek Lipka-Kadaj/Shutterstock.com; “Editorial Discretion,” Jim Westphalen; “Mulligans,” Ratio; “Public Space, No Exceptions,” Brice Maryman, FASLA. 

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