Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

BY SARAH COWLES

Designers find new ways to tell communities about climate change.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In the early 1920s, leaders of the Soviet Union had a communication problem: how to relay the abstract and complex communist ideology and economy to their scattered constituents across several nations, languages, and varying literacy levels. Enter the agit-train, a multimedia spectacle covered with constructivist supergraphics that drew crowds at every stop. The agit-trains carried agitprop (agitation propaganda) acting troupes, movie theaters, printing presses, pamphlets, and posters.

Today, leaders of coastal cities are facing an urgent communication issue: how to draw public attention to the looming threats of climate change and sea-level rise. Last winter, 10 teams in the San Francisco Bay area were selected to participate in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, “a yearlong collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea-level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Resilient by Design, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, built on the success of the Rebuild by Design initiative, which focused on the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape of New York and New Jersey. Each team was assigned to a swath of bay lands, where a confection of urbanization, predevelopment remnants, and infrastructure collide. A significant component of the initiative was public outreach, to address the issues germane to the most vulnerable communities that are already facing pressure from gentrification.

A significant, and perhaps unexpected, outcome within the Resilient by Design process was a revolution in public outreach, one that echoes Soviet agitprop methods. Three teams, Field Operations, Bionic, and HASSELL+, designed new physical devices, events, or spaces that kick-started public participation in the design process and informed residents on methods of climate change adaptation. Bionic and Field Operations wrapped vehicles with supergraphics to create a striking visual presence at community events, while the HASSELL+ team repurposed a former bank as an info shop. Their agitprop works were especially suited to the constraints of Instagram. The supergraphics make striking backgrounds for selfies, and all teams made liberal use of hashtags. These bold environments prompted action in real and virtual communities.

The Field Operations concept for urban resilience is simple: (more…)

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REVIEWED BY JUSTIN PARSCHER 

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In their continual search for respect, recognition, and equal pay, landscape architects find themselves in a quandary. On one hand, they understand that credit attaches itself to authors, masters with distinct visions and styles, and are forever writing letters to the editor to assert that the city didn’t do it—the landscape architect did. They celebrate acting as project leads, not only because it validates their way of working, but because the project lead can safely be given final credit. However, having toiled so long in subsidiary roles, landscape architects are also mindful of the networks of expertise that actually form ambitious designs, particularly in the public realm. A chain of public officials, architects, structural and civil engineers, ecologists, lighting designers, and community members all contribute to the shape of the place, which is naturally also conditioned by social and environmental realities on the ground.

The urban historian Alison Isenberg’s Designing San Francisco is, among its many other virtues, a vital text for helping landscape architects think through this dilemma. Isenberg’s book focuses on (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Bay Area landscape studios team with local artisans to evolve CNC-fabricated site elements.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Alcatraz keeps disappearing, but not because of sea-level rise. “Alcatraz Island has been stolen, replaced, and stolen again,” says Nicholas Gotthardt, a senior associate at Surfacedesign in San Francisco. The irresistible Alcatraz is one element of a large topographic model of San Francisco’s Golden Gate headlands that anchors the visitor overlook at Fort Point National Historic Site, where Surfacedesign was part of a team that designed new site amenities completed in 2014.

The model, made of finely detailed precast concrete, is a literal touchstone at the overlook, which offers dramatic views to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, as well as a rest stop for cyclists and hikers. Gotthardt recalls the impetus for creating the model: “We wanted to design an interpretive piece that wasn’t signage and words. We wanted something tactile—something people could touch.” Gotthardt had honed his digital modeling skills in the fabrication lab at the Ohio State University’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. With the Fort Point project, he found an opportunity to apply those skills, including fabrication using computer numerical control, or CNC, at the site scale. “The idea of a pancake topo model as the centerpiece of this small urban space came from the officewide comment that ‘We should build more models!’ There isn’t always the time or resources in practice to get into physical modeling the same way that you get to do in school.”

Today both undergraduate and graduate landscape programs provide training and facilities in CNC fabrication, including five-axis mills for sculpting wood and foam, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. Yet this new generation of graduates, facile with the work flow producing CNC models in the design studio, often finds it difficult to ply these skills once they reach (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

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (more…)

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BY RACHEL DOVEY

The team led by SCAPE proposes breaching levees to allow trapped sediment out, creating a stronger network of marshes and mudflats that can cushion developed areas. Image courtesy SCAPE/Public Sediment team.

They’re no stranger to wildfires and drought, but the cities around the San Francisco Bay haven’t been hit with a climate change-fueled disaster on par with Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey—yet. Still, sea-level rise won’t spare the metros. Even if they escape the drowning predicted by certain apocalyptic maps, Bay Area residents rely on freeways and rail lines built on soft, low-lying bay fill—areas particularly vulnerable to flooding and erosion. And the region’s tidal marshes and mudflats, which should act as natural barriers, are slowly losing sediment owing to poorly engineered dams.

“Unlike New York City, the Bay Area has all these slower and more invisible problems related to climate change,” says Gena Wirth, ASLA, the design principal at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge is bringing some of those unseen issues to light. Last year, judges selected 10 winning teams (SCAPE is the leader of one) made up of ecologists, designers, and landscape architects to imagine infrastructure that works with the region’s shifting landscape rather than against it. The challenge, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, is modeled on New York’s post-Sandy Rebuild by Design contest, with one key difference: This one is proactive, not reactive. Instead of waiting for federal funds to come in after a disaster, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, compiled in 1979 and printed in 1982. Image courtesy of John Davies and Alexander Kent, The Red Atlas.

A map of Vilnius, Lithuania, produced in Russia at the tail end of the Soviet era, details the speed of the Neris River’s flow (1.8 miles per hour), its depth and width, and that it had a sandy riverbed. In addition, it reveals the dimensions of a nearby bridge, what it’s made of (concrete), and how much it can carry (55 tons). Across the Cold War divide, on Western shores, Soviet cartographers still had a grasp of some of the minutiae that made up its sworn rival’s infrastructure. A 1980 map of San Francisco points out that the Oakland Bay Bridge is constructed of metal and rises between 171 and 213 feet above the water. One of perhaps a million maps made by the Soviets to secretly and conclusively chart the surface of the earth, it’s a relic from what might be the largest and most ambitious cartography effort in history.

Though much of this story’s origins and methods are shrouded in secrecy, British authors and map enthusiasts John Davies and Alexander Kent have found a way to break open these mysteries with a beautiful and brief cartographic volume. Their book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, 2017), focuses on how these maps (more…)

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