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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 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 BRIAN BARTH

A flood-friendly park re-creates a resilient landscape in Calgary’s Bow River.

FROM THE JANUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the summer of 2013, catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta killed five people and forced 100,000 to evacuate. With $6 billion in property damage, it was one of the costliest natural disasters in Canadian history. The swollen Bow River, which flows from glacial headwaters in the Rockies to Calgary, left much of the city’s urban core underwater. The inundated area included St. Patrick’s Island, one of several islands in the downtown stretch of the river, where Barbara Wilks, FASLA, and Mark Johnson, FASLA, had just kicked off construction on a new 31-acre park. A new pedestrian bridge to the island, which was partially built at the time, suffered significant damage. But for the park itself, Wilks and Johnson—the founders of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Civitas, respectively—say the floodwaters provided positive reinforcement of their design.

This was not the initial reaction, however, of the folks at the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), their client.

“Our client called and said, ‘Oh, God, you have to get up here; we’re going to have to change the design,’” said Johnson as he, Wilks, and I strolled across the bridge to the completed park on a clear spring day.

“The whole island flooded!’” Wilks recalled members of the CMLC team saying in an urgent and distressed call. “We said, ‘It’s going to be fine; there’s nothing to change. We designed it to flood—this is what’s supposed to happen.’” (more…)

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

Photo by Mark Hough, FASLA

From “The Water You Can’t See” in the December 2019 issue by Kofi Boone, ASLA, on Duke Pond, a chiller plant water retention basin that’s also an ecological showcase for the historic Duke University campus landscape.

“Cypress symmetry.”

–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 LESLEY PEREZ, ASSOCIATE ASLA

In Pittsburgh, Merritt Chase wants to help the city capitalize on its biggest unsung assets: stairs.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Growing up about an hour south of Pittsburgh, Nina Chase, ASLA, always admired the bold natural beauty of the city’s dramatic hills. But relocating to the city two years ago gave her a new appreciation of the incredible amount of human ingenuity that went into transforming that terrain into a livable, connected place. “There’s this whole motley crew of infrastructure that helps people navigate the topography,” Chase says. With elevations ranging from 710 feet above sea level where the rivers meet to 1,300 feet at the highest points, Pittsburgh relies on a vast network of bridges, inclines, stairs, and tunnels to knit itself together.

It’s the stairs, however, that have come to be most emblematic. There are more than 800 stairs scattered across Pittsburgh, which according to the city’s website is more than any other city in the United States. They scale steep hills, open up vistas, function as sidewalks, and provide (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.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text, with English text available below.

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

On a chilly Sunday afternoon in the spring of 2016, a group of designers and preservation professionals wandered through one of Newport, Rhode Island’s oldest neighborhoods, visualizing what it would look like underwater. It wasn’t hard to imagine water flowing down the narrow streets and into the basements of the quaint, colonial-era homes located just blocks from Newport Harbor and a mere four feet above sea level. Some had already seen it.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy sent floodwaters into many of the Point neighborhood’s historic homes, including 74 Bridge Street, a red-painted, two-story house originally built in the late 1720s. The basement flooded up to the first-floor framing and the kitchen took on at least seven inches of water.

Two years later, the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF), a nonprofit preservation group founded by Doris Duke in the 1960s, purchased the house at 74 Bridge Street. As the house of one of Newport’s most notable cabinetmakers, a Quaker named Christopher Townsend, it had sat for years at the top of the NRF’s list of most desirable historic Newport properties. It was an important acquisition for the NRF, which currently owns 78 properties throughout the city and helps fund their upkeep. But the organization also knew that 74 Bridge Street would flood again.

“It’s in the lowest point in the Point neighborhood—literally, the lowest topographical point,” says Shantia Anderheggen, NRF’s former director of preservation. With sea levels on the rise—and in Newport they already had risen 11 inches over the past century—it was a statistical certainty that what happened in 2012 would happen again. And it wasn’t just the Townsend residence. The entire Point neighborhood, which has one of the highest concentrations of colonial-era structures on the continent, was under siege from the sea. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Upstate Archipelago proposal. Image courtesy Cornell Design, H+N+S, and SOAR (Strengthening Our Area Residents) of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

New York’s Erie Canal once projected a young nation’s power and commercial ambitions across half a continent. Connecting New York City and the Hudson River north of Albany all the way to the Great Lakes, at 363 miles long, it was the second largest canal in the world when it opened in 1825, and one of the most transformative infrastructure projects of America’s early history. It reduced bulk commodity costs by 90 percent, according to some estimates, and it’s been immortalized in stories and songs ever since.

But in the 201 years since it began construction, the canal has been leapfrogged by nearly every manner of freight and commodity transit: rail, road, pipelines, and even the now-navigable St. Lawrence River. Vessel traffic on the canal peaked in the early 1950s, and recreational boating peaked in 1989.

To reverse this slide, the New York State Canal Corporation is hosting the Reimagine the Canals Competition to re-envision how this feat of 19th-century land engineering can be better integrated into the 21st century. (more…)

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