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BY ELIZABETH KENNEDY LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT, PLLC; MANTLE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE; MNLA; RDG PLANNING & DESIGN; AND SWA HOUSTON

Some say the retail street is down for the count—five landscape architecture firms say not so fast.

FROM THE APRIL 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Retail is the heart of American life. Dating back to the earliest U.S. towns and cities, commercial storefronts have been more than a place to purchase goods. At their best, they have been a central hub for exchanging news, a way to make a living for recent immigrants and women, and a source of new ideas and tastes. At their worst, commercial streets have been separate spheres with hard boundaries. In many neighborhoods, as new waves of residents have arrived, commercial streets have created and sustained communities.

Before the pandemic, there were many worrying reports of street retail’s demise, a consequence of the dominance of the digital economy. Many retail companies were shifting from emphasizing products to selling experiences, but that evolution vaporized overnight in March 2020. Today, the retail street is struggling. Online commerce has accelerated under the pandemic, and many small businesses have not survived the year without a steady flow of customers. Recent economic research forecasts up to 10,000 stores could close in 2021, and though it also predicts 4,000 openings, most of those will be concentrated in discount (think dollar-store chains) and grocery. In addition, surveys suggest that many who migrated to online-only shopping during the pandemic aren’t rushing back to in-store shopping after it ends. Sociable, vibrant street life will need an injection of energy and vision to meet the next moment.

At the end of 2020, we asked five landscape architecture firms to reimagine, in the biggest way, the next world for retail. We asked each firm to choose a street they knew well and to quickly sketch out a few ideas of what that retail street might become and write a short statement. No constraints were placed except that the street should appeal to the same constituency that it currently serves—no displacement, and no big-box retail. The results, on the pages that follow, chart a way forward. (more…)

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FOREGROUND       

Carol R. Johnson, 1929–2020 (In Memoriam)
In an interview from 2010, one of the first women to be awarded the ASLA Medal looked back on
her trailblazing career.

Keep the Commons (Preservation)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities have seen their distinctive campus designs erode with
time and change. A new grant program will help them navigate the future.

Words Lost and Found (Planning)
When the Great Lakes Ojibwe tribes realized western planning for climate change didn’t
reflect their worldview, they remade it. Now natural resource planners are catching up.

FEATURES

 The Best Medicine
The Stanford medical campus in Northern California underwent a dazzling 12-year, $2 billion transformation. Details that take advantage of sight lines and the senses yield a landscape that’s also state of the art.

Shop Shape
A yearlong pandemic and skyrocketing online shopping have gutted retail streets. Five landscape architecture firms sketch out how to remake them as livelier, more equitable destinations.

The digital edition of the April LAM is FREE, and you can access it here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. You can also buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Single digital issues are available for only $5.25 at Zinio or you can 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) for more updates on #ASLAawards and the September issue.

Credits: “Carol R. Johnson, 1929–2020,” IBI Group, formerly Carol R. Johnson Associates; “Keep the Commons,” Broadmoor via Wikimedia Commons (CC by-SA 4.0); “Words Lost and Found,” Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission/College of Menominee Nation; “Shop Shape,” Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect, PLLC (photograph), LAM (image manipulation); “The Best Medicine,” Patrik Argast. 

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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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