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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

TEXT BY MIMI ZEIGER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHAD RESS

As the country confronts economic stalemate, Chad Ress’s photographs prompt comparisons with imperfect efforts to rebuild in the past.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On February 17, 2009, less than a month after his inauguration, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. A stimulus bill meant to jump-start the nation’s flatlined economy, the Recovery Act, as it was popularly known, promised nearly $800 million to state and local governments for the funding of “shovel-ready” projects.

The following year, the Ojai, California–based photographer Chad Ress stood on a dry lake bed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and watched a tractor maneuver boulders into totemic piles in New Hogan Lake in Valley Springs, California. He was there to document a project funded by ARRA. The resulting photograph is almost boring. The frame captures signs of California’s epic drought; what was once covered in water is now dust. The sky is nearly white. Yet that line of rocks was evidence of money at work.

The book America Recovered (Actar Publishers, 2019) pairs Ress’s photographs with snippets of text that he pulled from recovery.gov, the government-sponsored and now-defunct website that listed each of the public works funded by ARRA. Although the site was taken down in 2016, a mothballed version can be found in the Library of Congress archive. The recovery.gov site didn’t show photos or drawings, just obtuse project descriptions of what might get done and a dollar amount. The unheroic list was meant to demonstrate transparency, but it had all the charm of bureaucratic efficiency married to a partisan political climate (the Republican-controlled Senate at the time aimed to minimize many achievements of the Obama administration).

The website struck Ress as an important counterpoint to the archive of images amassed during the Great Depression by Roy Stryker, who launched the documentary photography division of the Farm Security Administration under New Deal legislation. Photographers including Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange were assigned to photograph America under economic hardship. Their cameras captured how people were living, government buildings, factories, and places of worship. Parallel documentation undertaken by the Works Progress Administration celebrated the monumentality of new public works—such as the majestic Hoover Dam photographed by Ansel Adams.

“I wanted to explore those disconnects between what I could read on recovery.gov and what I could see,” Ress says. “I was hoping that the language would align with what I could photograph, but that only happened once: New Hogan Lake, Valley Springs.” (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Congress puts permanent cash behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improvements to national parks. C-SPAN screen capture by LAM.

FROM THE UPCOMING SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a milestone law to lock in permanent federal funding for public lands and parks. President Trump signed the measure August 4, having been persuaded several months ago to support it by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is up for re-election this year. On the day the House passed the Senate’s version of the bill, approved in June, by a vote of 310 to 107, the president said on Twitter: “We must protect our National Parks for our children and grandchildren. I am calling on the House to pass the GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOORS ACT today. Thanks @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines for all your work on this HISTORIC BILL!”

In 1964, back in the days of broader bipartisanship than it currently manages, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), with the goal of safeguarding the country’s natural resources by using revenues from offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction activities. Every year, $900 million was supposed to pour into the fund to protect national parks and forests, waterways, and wildlife refuges, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. But since its inception, the fund has expired twice and has had to be reauthorized repeatedly. It has never been fully funded, with the exception of two years during the Clinton administration. “It was considered a win to get even half of it,” says Daniel Hart, ASLA’s federal government affairs manager.

In 2019, the LWCF finally received permanent reauthorization, giving resource managers and community planners cause for celebration. But the reauthorization did not include a permanent cash flow, meaning that funding would continue to be a challenge as it would depend on repeating rounds of appropriations, which were not always assured. Now the Great American Outdoors Act has remedied the problem by permanently funding the LWCF. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE, EDITOR

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The National Association of Home Builders, among others, is giddy about a new Trump administration rule that allows widespread water pollution and wetland destruction. In late January, the federal government put out its final fixes to the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, known also as the Waters of the United States rule, under the Clean Water Act. The changes remove safeguards for most wetlands and more than 18 percent of streams. You are now free to fill these wetlands and foul these waters unburdened by law or by the unforgiving science that tells us which things turn water toxic and that water still runs downhill. The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, even showed up at the home builders’ annual gathering in Las Vegas to announce the changes the group has wanted so badly. Their website headlined the announcement as “a big splash.” (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 JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

One morning last March, Brice Maryman, ASLA, walked to his downtown Seattle office at MIG|SvR through linear parkland that hugs Interstate 90. Maryman recently completed a Landscape Architecture Foundation fellowship to explore the intersection of homelessness and public space; one result is his podcast HomeLandLab. Now he wanted to check on some encampments. He has a boyish look, a gingery beard, and a ready chuckle. He was dressed like many Seattle professionals, in a hooded puffer jacket and sneakers. He doesn’t smoke, but before leaving the house he dropped an unopened pack of Marlboros into his bag. “My public outreach tool,” he grinned. Also for distribution: new socks, granola bars.

Seattle is a powerhouse of contrasts. The city has added about 22,000 jobs a year recently, but only about 8,000 new residential units. The median house price doubled between 2012 and 2017. In Maryman’s originally working class and still less-than-glamorous neighborhood, new town houses smaller than 1,500 square feet on postage-stamp lots are listing for around $700,000. Downtown and its margins are thick with new residential towers and construction cranes. But Seattle, with surrounding King County, has among the largest homeless populations, per capita, of any American metropolis. A one-night count in January 2019 found 11,199 people homeless. Nearly half were “unsheltered”—sleeping not in emergency shelters or transitional housing but in parks, beneath bridges, in doorways, parking lots, alleys, or the verges of expressway on-ramps. They live in cars or RVs, vacant buildings, tents, or literally without shelter. Drifts of makeshift dwellings shape themselves to interstitial spaces, seemingly everywhere. From a distance, they are unified by their blue tarps. Blue tarps, as in refugee camps.

Maryman pulled on an orange safety vest, stepped off the paved trail, and headed down a steep informal path. The vest, suggesting he was a park worker, counterintuitively made his approach “less threatening,” he said. Homeless people, “often themselves victims” of theft, manipulative drug dealers, or sexual attack, can be wary of strangers. Nearing a small cluster of tents, he stood well back and called cheerfully, “Knock, knock! Anybody home?” Home. (more…)

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

FOREGROUND

Every Branch and Blade (Interview)
At the Miller House and Garden, in Columbus, Indiana, the site manager Ben Wever
knows exactly how to maintain Dan Kiley’s original vision for the place.

For Floods, a Stage (Planning)
On the Indiana banks of the Ohio River that look at Louisville, OLIN is planning
ways for people to come out and see the river when it swells.

FEATURES

The Green New Deal, Landscape, and Public Imagination
Ambitious proposals to attack climate breakdown and social inequity together could dramatically alter the American landscape, ideally without the compromises of the first New Deal.

What’s in a Nativar?
Among the hottest items in the nursery industry are cultivars of native plants bred to behave better in designed landscapes. The trick is in creating new plants that offer the
ecological benefits of the originals.

Sound Gardens
How to compose the score for a landscape? The Swiss acoustic designer
Nadine Schütz is figuring that out.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for July 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 July articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Green New Deal, Landscape, and Public Imagination,” Tennessee Valley. United States, None. Between 1933 and 1945. Photograph. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USW33-015672-ZC https://www.loc.gov/item/2017877279/; “What’s in a Nativar?” courtesy Shedd Aquarium; “Sound Gardens,” Courtesy Kyoto Institute of Technology; “Every Branch and Blade,” Mark R. Eischeid; “For Floods, a Stage,” Troy McCormick.

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ON BRAZIL’S BEHALF

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

Araucárias, Paraná, ca. 1884. Photo by Marc Ferrez/Gilberto Ferrez Collection/Instituto Moreira Salles.

 FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Speaking out against the military dictatorship of Brazil during the late 1960s and early 1970s had definite risks. Politicians, human rights advocates, artists, and intellectuals who publicly opposed the right-wing government’s programs of hyperdevelopment did so under threat of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Many fled into exile. Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect (1909–1994), had been a public figure for decades when, three years after the 1964 coup, he was appointed by the dictatorship’s first president, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, to a 24-member national cultural council. For Burle Marx, the decision to join the council was ethically freighted. He accepted with one clear objective: to save the Brazilian landscape.

In a new book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes Under Dictatorship (University of Texas Press, 2018), Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, brings forth a series of 18 frankly activist speeches, or depositions, that Burle Marx delivered as a member of the council. They target, among other things, the unchecked destruction of Brazil’s forests for raw materials and agriculture. He surveyed the progression of environmental tragedy with a deep knowledge of botany and ecology, an intricate alertness to policy, and always appealing to a Brazilian pride in its national landscape patrimony.

“The way I read his depositions, Burle Marx is positioning an argument that’s against the economic development theory of the regime,” Seavitt Nordenson told me recently. “Sometimes they listen to him and sometimes they don’t. But he’s on the inside and he’s arguing passionately, because he’s been working on the cultural project of the Brazilian landscape for so long.” Seavitt Nordenson notes that in these speeches of 50 years ago, Burle Marx touches on two huge problems of today, anthropogenic impacts affecting climate and the loss of biodiversity. “They’re very clear—they’re jocular speeches, often funny, and have so much spontaneity—and he manages to communicate a serious message to an audience that has significant political power.”

This excerpt of Depositions includes a brief introduction by Seavitt Nordenson to three depositions on forests, followed by her translations of the depositions themselves.

 —Bradford McKee

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

“It’s happening again.” That was a repeated phrase May 27 on Twitter as a deluge of water came downhill on Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, carrying cars and garbage and ruining businesses that had rebuilt after a similar flood in 2016. This time, the historic town received more than seven inches of rain within a few hours; a Maryland National Guardsman was killed as he tried to help a woman rescue her cat.

Ellicott City has known flooding since its founding, though it now comes from above the town rather than creeping up from the Patapsco River below. Our editorial in October 2016 explains the problem, which officials still, apparently, have not been able to fix.

——

Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, has reopened, its historic storefronts repaired for the moment but its bigger problems unsolved. On July 30, almost six inches of rain fell in two hours right atop the 244-year-old former mill town—now a shopping and dining destination—which is built into a tight granite valley atop a network of streams that flow into the Patapsco River. The flood was a surprise. The water came not from the river but from upland, where suburban development in recent decades has hardened the ground. Main Street turned into a torrent within minutes. Dozens of people who had gone out to shop or eat had to be rescued, and two people died. The water shoved around a couple hundred cars and gouged out the streetscape, baring the infrastructure beneath about 100 ruined businesses. (more…)

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