Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

BY ZACH MORTICE

The lago at Roberto Burle Marx’s Sítio, which he composed by eye from truckloads of species collected during his botanical expeditions. Image courtesy Julian Raxworthy.

It’s time for landscape architects to re-embrace what makes them fundamentally different.

 

Since its inception, it’s been hard to find much agreement in landscape architecture over the profession’s purpose and how it should work. For some contemporary designers, landscape architecture, in theory if a bit less in practice, is most visible when ecological systems are designed and deployed to remediate the earth, water, air, and biomes, often at an infrastructural scale. And yet, a profession wholly obsessed with infrastructure would to seem to miss the trees for the forest.

The Australian landscape architect Julian Raxworthy posits a way forward in his new book, Overgrown: Practices Between Landscape Architecture and Gardening, published by The MIT Press. Landscape architects, he notes, have retreated from the defining element of their corner of the spatial world: the development and management of planting design. Plants, he argues, are defined by their growth over time and the maintenance used to train them. Gardeners (whose ranks Raxworthy once populated) haven’t lost track of this fact. Growth is landscape architecture’s fundamental currency. From there, he launches into a populist call to tear down the blue collar/white collar divide between gardeners and landscape architects. Raxworthy (who is headed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after living in Cape Town, South Africa, for five years, teaching at the University of Cape Town) seems to admire messiness and rebellion against the bespoke and delicate. That preference is not surprising if you chat him up about his days as a music writer in the 1980s in Sydney, attending shows by Public Enemy and Dead Kennedys. Of one of his case study projects (created by a designer who never studied landscape architecture), he writes: “As a gardener rather than a landscape architect, the only plans Korte produced for the project were to satisfy the authorities. All other decisions arose organically through spending four years on site with a gang of four young German laborers who had returned from Brazil and smoked marijuana constantly. He looked back on this way of working with some nostalgia, saying that this time on site was the height of his career.” (more…)

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REVIEWED BY KOFI BOONE, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

With more than 15 million views, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s groundbreaking TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” is likely the most viewed treatise on the consequences of making one story the story of the African continent. With surgical precision, Adichie reveals the lasting consequences of perpetuating Africa and Africans as only victims suffering from famine and war, or only the exotic backdrop for experiencing “charismatic nature.” But in the end, her most devastating criticism of the single story is embodied in her quote of the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, “If you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with ‘secondly.’” Illustrating her point, Adichie asks facetiously what we would think if the story began with a “failed” African state instead of with European colonialism.

The issue of starting with “secondly” is present in cultural landscape study of the continent of Africa. The spirit of Adichie’s and Barghouti’s arguments resonates in the pages of Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by John Beardsley. The volume collects essays delivered at a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in 2013 and reflects an important first step in laying the foundation for future exploration. Through a wide array of disciplinary lenses, geographic locations, and time periods, Beardsley’s work eschews deriving a single conclusion about what is “African” and instead reveals the wealth of issues and opportunities with engaging the many cultures of a continent. The avoidance of narrowing and bridging the divergent voices contained within the book is challenging and perhaps belies the fact that this is one of the first mainstream publications on this topic. Given the lack of similar texts, there could be a tendency to attempt to be singular and definitive. However, borrowing from one of the book’s many themes, the result is a contribution to the “continuity” of a conversation about the lives and practices that have shaped meaningful place in Africa, a continent still invisible to the profession of landscape architecture. (more…)

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Americans throw away more than 146 billion coffee cups every year, says Alex Henige, a senior in the landscape architecture program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. That number may seem low, but with no end in sight to the nation’s coffee addiction, Henige has a plan to take it down even lower—and plant trees in the process.

For his senior project, which Henige has turned into a Kickstarter campaign, he is developing “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup,” which turns a beverage container into a seed packet. The plantable coffee cups, made with fibers from local recycling centers, are embedded with an assortment of California native seeds. In his scheme, their first lives as cups would end one of three ways: The cups could be soaked in water for five minutes and planted in the ground; they could be collected in a special container for use at nearby reforestation sites; or they could be thrown away and would biodegrade within six months or so.

Henige was part of the team that won the 2014 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in Community Service for work on the Ratang Bana AIDS Orphanage Playscape in South Africa. On that trip, he saw the potential for a dual-purpose product. “They don’t have proper disposal techniques over there,” he says, “so what if we had a product that can benefit the communities by dissolving the waste?”

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At this point, the Kickstarter prototype is for the California region, and there are still many tests to complete, such as putting the seeds through the manufacturing process to see whether they can germinate afterward. If they can, he will put the cups in consumers’ hands and monitor usage patterns. “If they’re throwing them in urban environments, then we need certain species” that wouldn’t hurt ecologically, Henige says. “If there are more people who are actually throwing them into our containers where we can collect them, then, okay, these people actually want us to use this product for reforestation.”

For more information, visit “The World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup” Kickstarter, running now until March 14.

Credit: Courtesy Alex Henige.

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