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Posts Tagged ‘public realm’

The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA.

From “One March Day,” a photo essay by Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA, in the May 2020 issue, about how the COVID-19 pandemic settled into Philadelphia’s public spaces.

“Parks on pause.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

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BY BRICE MARYMAN, FASLA

Needs tending: the great nearby, in Seattle. Photo by Brice Maryman, FASLA.

Don does not live here or there, but “around.” We don’t know if he’s experiencing homelessness or receives a housing voucher. He’s too proud to tell us, instead deflecting vaguely with “around.” During the past few weeks, he has been knocking on our door every day, looking for work. He is 60-something, with a wild beard and a broken-down physique from a lifetime of hard labor. He seems always glad to work. We try to find things for him to do around the house. He and I both weed the garden. We at least offer him some food. Before the stay-home, stay-safe orders, Don’s primary source of income came from cleaning up bars after closing time: sweeping floors, taking out garbage, mopping the bathrooms. Now that the bars are closed, there is no money. The veneer of stability he had is peeling away, leaving him to confront a terrifying future.

Our immobility is unprecedented, for Seattle during the pandemic and for the human animal across our history. Last week, the New York Times confirmed what Seattleites have been feeling for weeks: Our lives have compressed, rescaling to just beyond our homes. Residents of the Emerald City used to travel some 3.8 miles per day, and have now adjusted to a retiring distance of just 61 feet. When have we traveled less and been more attuned to our neighbors, like Don, and our neighborhoods? In this focus on the commonplace, we have seen small dramas, marveled at the mundane, and questioned how design can serve us as we face down this crisis in the great nearby. (more…)

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BY F. PHILIP BARASH

Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Photo by F. Philip Barash.

NOTES FROM BEACON STREET.

 

My living room in Brookline, Massachusetts, recently became a home office, and the windows face Beacon Street. Beacon is roomy, with a 160-foot section designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to have sidewalks, carriageways, a bridle path, and one of the earliest electric streetcar tracks in the United States. Over the past weeks, I’ve spent more time staring at this landscape than I had ever imagined possible, amid an eternity of e-mails and Zoom conferences; a lifetime of listlessness and egg sandwiches. Olmsted designed Beacon Street at the invitation of Henry Whitney, a shipping heir who had amassed parcels along a two-and-a-half-mile corridor from central Boston to the edge of Newton. Beacon Street, Whitney said, was to be a democratic rejoinder to Commonwealth Avenue, just east, where only the Boston Brahmins tread. Commonwealth may have stature and statuary, Whitney said, but Beacon would have public transit for common people: “The laboring man, the mechanic, the clerk, and […] the poor woman.” Whitney didn’t account specifically for humble writers like me, but looking upon the trickle of people outside my window, I know what he meant.

A couple in matching pom-pom hats. A jogger, wearing a neon vest, veering into traffic lanes to keep a safe distance from a jogger wearing neon sneakers. A delivery van. Another, pausing on my block. A dog encased in a vest. Two old women, the first leaning on a walker, the second leaning on the first: a breach of distancing, but a stabilizing posture. A plumber. Teenage boys choking with laughter. A baby carriage steered by a woman with her face hidden by a surgical mask. Another masked face. Another.

In CityLab, Richard Florida speculates about a coming spatial order. Sidewalks will have to get wider and procedures at the airport retooled “like we did in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures.” In the wake of 9/11, as I remember it, anyone who dared enter an airport with a covered face was a target of hostility. Women in hijabs were subjected to automatic searches; Sikhs were harassed. As people in masks and hoodies walk up Beacon Street, I wonder how we will retool our judgments. (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

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 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.

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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