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Posts Tagged ‘street life’

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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This fall, LAM will be highlighting professional and student winners from the 2020 ASLA Awards by asking designers to dive deep into one image from their winning project.

Yongqing Fang Alleyways: An Urban Transformation, by Lab D+H Landscape and Urban Design, Professional Urban Design Honor Award.

Photo courtesy Arch-Exist.

“During the construction of this project, most of the original stone slabs from the alleys were stolen. A lot of construction waste, such as the demolition of the building bricks and tiles, was piled up on the site. We were thinking that the best way to preserve the historical context and bring back those old memories was to reuse those old materials. Thus, most of the details [in the photo] are made from recycled materials. In fact, except for the large piece of stone in the middle of the road, the rest was basically re-completed by recycled materials. All of our efforts are to make the new design and the old [memories] work together in a microintervention.”

—Zhongwei Li, Lab D+H Landscape and Urban Design

 

Planning for urban renewal requires careful consideration of surroundings as well as sentiment; in Guangzhou’s old town, a transformation revitalized a network of crumbling alleyways while honoring residents’ emotional attachment to a culture of street life. Phase 1 reimagined two alleyways as central points of public life by rehabilitating existing alleyways and adding larger-scale public nodes. First, several damaged or illegal structures were removed; many of those materials were reused throughout the project. Insufficient drainage and lighting were remedied with a multifunctional system that blends historic features with contemporary infrastructure. Three new public amenities—the Grand Wooden Steps, the Roof Garden, and the Water Feature Garden—provide and define new public space. During the day, the Grand Wooden Steps are used as a rest and display area, whereas at night they become seating for movie screenings. Nearby, the Water Feature Garden is set back from the main street and shaded by existing trees. The Roof Garden connects the rear of buildings and provides a semiprivate leisure area. Acting as new nodes for existing alleyways, the project unifies and modernizes the neighborhood without damaging vibrant, historic public life. “The Yongqing Fang alley project proves that choices made at the microscale have the capacity to inform much larger urban design decisions,” said the jury.

—Anjulie Rao

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LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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