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BY JARED BREY

Pashek + MTR works with two public agencies to design a heavy-hitting stormwater park in Pittsburgh.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

One bright-blue Friday afternoon in October, I was paused at a stoplight in Squirrel Hill, a residential neighborhood about five miles from downtown Pittsburgh, when I saw a young woman with a red backpack try to summit a steep slope on her bicycle. She approached the hill with good momentum and no shortage of confidence and was halfway up the block before she started losing speed. Two thirds of the way, she began to wobble. Pedaling a few more yards, she surrendered to the inevitable and finished the journey on foot.

At the bottom of the hill sat Wightman Park, recently redesigned around the very force the young woman was trying to overcome. In Pittsburgh’s Hill District, stormwater accumulates in the valleys. In 2014, the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) began a master-planning process for the low-lying, two-acre park, with its small baseball field, half basketball court, and aging playground, through which a long-since channelized stream used to flow. In the process of collecting community input for the master plan and redesign, the landscape architects at Pittsburgh-based Pashek + MTR heard from neighbors that basement backups during storms were getting worse.

“And so we thought, ‘Oh, this would be a great place to really bump up the stormwater capacity and start to try to capture water from the surrounding streets,’” says Sara Thompson, ASLA, a principal at the firm. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Promenade at the Metropolitan is a 40,000-square-foot park space serving a mixed-use multifamily building. Photo by Design Collective/Jennifer Hughes.

The developer James Rouse planned Columbia, Maryland, as a tabula rasa New Town in the 1960s, including ample green space woven throughout, a robust public realm, racially integrated housing, and the ability to make a tidy profit. In many ways, this ambition was realized, but with one important exception: the lack of a lively downtown. An inward-facing mall sits at Columbia’s center, looped by a small ring road, but the city has struggled to bring activity back to its center in recent years.

Just across from the mall’s ring road is the Metropolitan, downtown Columbia’s first mixed-use multifamily residential complex. Its signature amenity is a 40,000-square-foot open space called the Promenade, a hybrid playscape and rain garden intended to be a didactic showcase for stormwater retention and native plantings. (The project won a Merit Award from ASLA Maryland last year). The Promenade encourages kids to have some rambunctious fun while learning a thing or two about how these landscapes can shepherd rainwater from the sky to the ground. (more…)

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WHERE THE WATER WAS

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 ANNE RAVER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

We were driving around west Philadelphia when Anne Whiston Spirn, FASLA, stopped at the corner of Walnut and 43rd Streets to recall the moment of discovery that still drives her work. It was 1971. She was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, on her way to the supermarket, when she was stopped at a gaping hole where the street had caved in over the Mill Creek sewer. “I looked down and saw this big, brown rushing river, and all this masonry that had fallen in. I thought, ‘My God, there are rivers underground. We’re walking on a river.’”

She was looking at Mill Creek, buried in the brick sewer pipe in the 1880s. Historic photographs show workers dwarfed by its size, constructing the pipe, about 20 feet in diameter, snaking along the creek bed. Drawings depict horse-drawn carts loaded with soil—millions of cubic yards dug with pickaxes and shovels—to cover up the pipe. Row houses were built right on top of the fill.

That buried river would become the heart of Spirn’s work when she came back to Penn 15 years later to chair the landscape architecture department and to launch the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP), but also in her larger vision of (more…)

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Sandra Albro’s Vacant to Vibrant initiative (detailed in “Lots of Opportunity”) converts vacant lots in struggling Great Lakes cities into rain gardens and bioswales. At an average cost of $18,000 each, they’re a fine-grained and tactical solution for reversing blight and helping beleaguered combined sewer systems from polluting the Great Lakes. As Albro, of Holden Forests & Gardens, observes, these neighborhoods were gradually disinvested from and abandoned, and have limited access to comprehensive public infrastructure improvements. As such, an equally piecemeal and gradual approach allows them to stabilize properties with desirable urban green spaces that can be wrapped into broader redevelopment efforts. An alternative to massive, centralized sewer upgrades that cost billions, this dispersed model of stormwater filtration turns an economic drain into an ecological engine.

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It’s the first of August, which means the latest issue of LAM is here! You’ll find these stories inside:

FOREGROUND

Lots of Opportunity (Water)
PUSH Blue helps Great Lakes communities manage their stormwater with rain gardens,
playgrounds, and greenhouses created on vacant parcels.

The Finer Fabric (Preservation)
A historic Tucson neighborhood is making an inventory of the street details,
big and small, that make it singular.

Tooling Up (Tech)
Digital work flows for CNC fabrication are coming out of the studio and into practice.

FEATURES

Democratic Void
Zurich’s vast public square, Sechseläutenplatz, opened in 2014. Now the city’s residents must decide how (and how often) they want to use it.

Almost Wilderness, Maybe Forever
The 24,000-acre Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve on the California coast was bought—and protected—with the largest donation ever made to the Nature Conservancy.

Made to Disappear
Berger Partnership’s landscape for the Washington Fruit & Produce Company headquarters takes inspiration from Yakima Valley’s agricultural heritage.

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

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 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 August articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Tooling Up,” Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA; “Lots of Opportunity,” Sandra Albro, Holden Forests & Gardens; “The Finer Fabric,” Steve Grede; “Made to Disappear,” Kevin Scott; “Almost Wilderness, Maybe Forever,” The Nature Conservancy/Peter Montgomery; “Democratic Void,” © Manuel Bauer Agentur Focus.

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BY MARGARET SHAKESPEARE

A sophisticated stormwater system elevates Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue interchange.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Around the world, cities are demolishing, burying, or capping their elevated freeways, but an interstate in Philadelphia provides a possible alternative—one in which the highway stays up but connectivity, open space, and water quality are still prized. In redesigning three miles of Interstate 95 north of Center City Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation planned 27 acres of park and open space, and the first phase of the $1 billion project, due for completion by 2027, incorporates examples of green infrastructure. According to AECOM, the prime consultant on the project, landscape design and green infrastructure accounted for between 5 and 7 percent of the first phase’s total budget.

At the Girard Avenue Interchange, I-95 runs parallel to the Delaware River two blocks away. Rather than whisking stormwater runoff directly into the river, overtaxing an already burdened municipal system, or funneling a deluge into a rock pit, AECOM and other experts devised a treatment scheme of basins, weirs, bioswales, and rain gardens. Ten planted acres can capture the first inch of runoff (more…)

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