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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. 

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you lived in Paris in the 17th century, you paid the taxe des boues et lanternes, the tax on mud and lanterns. The levy paid for the maintenance of the city’s streets and its system of lanterns, a network of some 5,000 tallow candles suspended in glass cases 20 feet above Paris’s streets, and one of the earliest examples of public street lighting in the world.

The inventor of this early illumination system was not a city planner or a scientist but Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, considered to be the city’s first police chief. Since its earliest days, “public lighting was closely connected with the police,” writes the cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch. The high-strung lanterns in Paris were “beacons in the city, representing law and order,” while the paid torch bearers who wandered Paris’s streets providing supplemental illumination also doubled as police informants.

Today, street lighting and surveillance are as tightly enmeshed as ever, as manufacturers proffer networked luminaires with embedded sensors that are capable of feeding enormous amounts of data into proprietary operating systems, turning the city into what the writer Geoff Manaugh, author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, describes as a “forensic tool for recording its residents.”

“It’s very Fahrenheit 451,” says Linnaea Tillett, Affiliate ASLA, the founder and principal of Tillett Lighting Design Associates, which specializes in lighting for outdoor spaces. “You have a light pole that can listen to you, watch you, and it’s all hidden.” (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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BY BRIAN BARTH

Cities are getting “smarter.” But are they getting wiser?

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

“Oh, no. My phone is dead. Better head to the park.”

Walk past the basketball court down at Anita Stroud Park, toward the little creek below, and you might find a gaggle of teens clustered around a very modern-looking bench that would seem more at home outside a coffee shop in Soho than in a tiny neighborhood park next to I-77 on the north end of Charlotte, North Carolina.

A pair of USB ports on a console on the front of the bench provides juice from the solar panel mounted at lap level between the seats. Who wouldn’t want to hang out at a bench like this? It certainly catches the eye of passersby. What these kids might not realize, however, is that this bench is watching them back. Underneath that solar panel is a small Wi-Fi enabled sensor that sends data back to an office building in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Anyone who passes within 150 feet of the bench with a Wi-Fi enabled mobile device in their pocket is picked up by the sensor and (more…)

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Placing Martha Schwartz, FASLA, the past decade has been tricky to folks in the U.S. She has been teaching here, but otherwise has been anywhere else, working away. Now Schwartz has moved back to New York and says she wants to reconnect with her home ground. James Trulove talks with Schwartz in the July LAM about her practice and teaching, a focus on climate hazards, and recent work in China, where Trulove visited two projects in Beijing.

Liz Sargent, FASLA, doesn’t have a slick website or a press packet, but chances are you’ve probably been to one of the cultural landscapes she’s worked on, including nine U.S. World Heritage sites, 33 National Historic Landmarks, and more than 50 National Park Service sites. Kevan Williams takes a deep dive into her work documenting the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Being online means consenting to leaving a trail of personal data wherever we go, but what does consent mean when you’re in public space? Data-tracking furniture in our parks and cities can have a lot of community benefits, but is the technology way ahead of the privacy conversation? Brian Barth looks into the systems that are looking into us.

Also in this issue: podcasts for designers, not just about them; Meg Calkins, FASLA, on new sustainable concrete products; and just in time for your summer road trip, Jane Gillette reviews landscape architect Jack Williams’s Easy On, Easy Off: The Urban Pathology of America’s Small Towns, a book about how highways helped shape the country. The full table of contents for July can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or 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), as we’ll be posting July articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Disrupting the Park Bench,” Melissa Gaston; “Context Clues,” Liz Sargent, FASLA; “Martha Schwartz, Reconnecting,” Sahar Coston-Hardy; “Concrete Minus Carbon,” Chicago Department of Transportation; “Reopened for Business,” EPNAC.COM; “Pictures in Sound,” Courtesy Mark Morris, ASLA.

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