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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Cowles’

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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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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BY SARAH COWLES

At Washington University, students document and memorialize a landscape in flux.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The crane whined, the cable tightened, the tree swayed, and the crowd murmured. But Tree B5, an 80-year-old, 85-foot-tall, 15-ton Quercus palustris, did not budge from its place in the Brookings allée. Earlier, a crew used high-pressure hydro-excavation tools and a giant vacuum to daylight the oak’s filigree of roots, and arborists jumared up with four cable slings to steady the crown. The audience in front of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis was transfixed by this massive marionette, anticipating the moment the formidable machine might pluck it like a weed. After the failure of the initial tug, the crew phoned the crane supervisor to ply more tension, and yet some grounding force would not let go. B5 was defiantly planted.

Choreographing this potent—and at times absurdly moving—tree-removal ceremony was Jesse Vogler, Affiliate ASLA, a 21st-century Fitzcarraldo and an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Vogler and his team of students thought this act of landscape demolition (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

In this installation by Terremoto, a carpet of pavers leads from the Rudolph M. Schindler Studio of the Schindler House into the courtyard, terminating in a circle of prickly pear cactus. Photo by Joshua White.

 A group exhibition of landscape architecture at the Schindler House, co-curated by Mia Lehrer and Priscilla Fraser.

Every May in Los Angeles, men in orange whack back the dry, gold grass, making a mandated measure of defensible space in a landscape of fires, earthquakes, and landslides. This year, though, brought relieving rains. The Hollywood Hills came in green after years of severe drought, yet the message remained fixed: We must continue to cut back, tear out this and put in that, and mulch it over with colored gravel.

In flush times, it is irresponsible to deny water to our gardens; in dry times, we are guilty if we indulge them. This austerity imperative severs our intimate connections to the land. Edicts are always prefixed with “low”: low-water, low-maintenance, low-impact, which is said to require merely an aesthetic attitude adjustment. Yet all this lowing denies us the everyday tending practices and attentions; our attention to growth, flowering, decay; our ability to watch a sweet-pea tendril spiral or to inhale the scent of wet soils.

The temptation is to flip the script: Be a lush. Resist the conservatism of conservation. Practice a radical (more…)

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