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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

SELECTIONS FROM THE 2018 STUDENT AWARDS

BY ZACH MORTICE

“Stop Making Sense” resists applying easily explicable narratives to the open question of nuclear waste storage. Image courtesy Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA, and Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA.

The winning entries of the 2018 ASLA Student Awards offer solutions for extreme sites and surreal conditions, completely appropriate to the times in which they were crafted. Here is a selection of six award-winning student projects that greet such days with humanity, nuance, and rigor.

Stop Making Sense: Spatializing the Hanford Site’s Nuclear Legacy

General Design: Honor Award

Composed of a pair of inscrutable concrete bunkers that are 1,000 feet long and dug 60 feet into the earth, “Stop Making Sense” by Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA, and Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA, pushes aside dominant narratives about how our nation treats and digests nuclear waste.

“We didn’t want to give people answers, and we didn’t want to force a perspective,” Keeley says. “What we wanted to do was raise questions and incite curiosity.” (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Morgan Vickers at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Photo by David Kafer.

Route 66, the nation’s first all-paved national highway connecting the Midwest to California, is best read as the first draft of contemporary America. Its establishment in 1926 definitively ended any notions of an untamed Western frontier, and it signaled the beginning of America’s total transition to a nation defined by settlement, landscape, and automobile obsession.

So much of Route 66’s cultural resources and history are dedicated and scaled to the car: motels, highways, bridges, gas stations, drive-in theaters, and oddball curios that read well from a speeding Ford. Its 2,400 miles cut through eight states and 300 towns, from Chicago to Los Angeles. It channeled migrants to the fertile coast during the Great Depression and soldiers and equipment to the Asian front during World War II.

But Route 66 eventually fell victim to the car’s success. In 1945, 65,000 cars were manufactured in America. Three years later that number had grown to 3.9 million. Cars became so omnipresent that this two-lane road was soon superseded by four-lane interstate highways. By the time it was decommissioned in 1985, Route 66 had been replaced by sections of I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15, and I-10. Overshadowed by the interstate system, the communities that had sprung up around the route were cut off from the lifeblood of commerce that it supplied them.

Earlier this summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a campaign (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force responders conduct aerial search and rescue in Rockport, Holiday Beach, and the Port Aransas area. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, photo by the Texas National Guard.

An unprecedented storm that dumped more than 50 inches of rain onto Texas over just a few days, Harvey was the kind of hurricane that worsening climate change promises to bring back for a sequel. And if and when that happens, the next round of  recovery and resilience calculus might best begin with the results of the National Science Foundation’s series of research grants dedicated to studying the storm’s effects.

Last month, the agency handed out just over $5 million across 59 research projects prompted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including several that deal with the ecological and landscape fallout of catastrophic storms. Each promises to generate valuable information about flora and fauna left reeling from extreme weather events. But these studies (four of which are detailed here) are even more vital as mile markers down the path toward a future besieged by climate change—either as guidance on forestalling it or living better within its confines.

Anna Armitage of Texas A&M Galveston is studying how the transition from salt marsh wetlands to mangroves might change how hurricanes affect the coast. In Texas, low, marshy wetlands are common, whereas dense mangroves are rare. That balance is shifting, however, as climate change heats up these ecosystems. As mangroves expand their footprint, Armitage (and researchers at Florida International University and the University of Houston) wonders if they might offer coastal ecosystems and human settlement more protection from hurricane winds and rain—at a cost of biodiversity. “It probably doesn’t provide the same value for birds, fish, and shrimp,” she says.

Climate Change Big Picture: If mangroves do offer more protection for coastal ecosystems in a climate of increasingly severe storms, then Armitage says the next question is, “Should we be planting them in restoration sites?” These kinds of “living shorelines,” she says, could be “more resilient, longer-lasting, and nicer looking protection for our communities” than concrete barriers.

Grant amount: $122,935

Paul Montagna of Texas A&M Corpus Christi is studying the inundation of fresh water (via rainfall) into saltwater ecosystems that Hurricane Harvey caused. From initial measurements after the rain, he’s observed increased amounts of dissolved organic matter in these waterways, and has seen (more…)

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Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Image by Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org) from Roman Forest, Texas, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Michael D. Talbott wasn’t shy in showing his hand about climate change. For 18 years, Talbott, an engineer, served as the head of the Harris County Flood Control District in Texas until his retirement in 2016. He flatly dismissed any links between climate change and the frequent extreme storms—four of them now since 2015—to hit Harris County, the nation’s third most populated county, and its seat, Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. The month he retired, Talbott told a team of reporters with ProPublica and the Texas Tribune that the flood control district did not plan to look at ways climate may be driving the extreme weather that affected Harris County. “I don’t think it’s the new normal,” he said of these weather extremes. (The person to follow him in the job of executive director, Russell A. Poppe, “shares his views,” according to the report.) People who are saying it’s the new normal, Talbott said, have “an agenda” to fight development.

Just as remarkable as Talbott’s denial of climate breakdown was his acquittal of the role that urban development patterns play in worsening or relieving floods. When Hurricane Harvey sat on the region for days in late August, many indignant arguments arose online that Houston’s development habits either most certainly or in absolutely no way helped create the hazards that flooded Texas Gulf Coast neighborhoods from Katy in the west (31 inches of rain) to Beaumont and Port Arthur in the east (47 inches), with Cedar Bayou (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Galveston Island State Park in the year 2060. Image courtesy of Studio Outside/Google Earth.

This is Part 3 of our conversation about Hurricane Harvey with the design team at Studio Outside in Dallas, which has won a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning for its work on Galveston Island State Park. Part 1 and Part 2 can be found below. Correction appended below on August 28.

Studio Outside’s resiliency plan for Galveston Island State Park earned a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning, drawing praise from the jury for its comprehensive and forward-looking anticipation of the havoc a hurricane could release. But Studio Outside’s Andrew Duggan and the design team, led by principal in charge Mike Fraze, knew they were pondering ironclad eventualities, not hypothetical disasters.

Over the weekend, the city of Galveston and Galveston Island State Park to its southwest found themselves in the path of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on Friday night, a Category 4 storm that has prompted mass evacuations of the Houston region.

Studio Outside’s project, “Storm + Sand + Sea + Strand: Barrier Island Resiliency Planning for Galveston Island State Park,” tracks the loss of habitat and land as perpetuated by sea-level rise, encroaching development, and hurricane flooding. It prescribes soft and green natural barriers to storm surges, assisted by flexible infrastructure. As a barrier island bordered by Texas’s West Bay to the northwest and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, there are few places to hide from floodwaters or to absorb them, and even less given that this part of the island was partially paved over to accommodate RVs in the 1970s. On Friday and over the weekend, Duggan (based safely in Dallas) and members of the design team (Fraze and Duggan of Studio Outside, and Jennifer Dowdell and Ed Morgereth of Biohabitats) emailed LAM some thoughts on how the storm might play out for Galveston Island State Park.

****Post will be updated as the storm progresses**** (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Richard Crossley [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, left; Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, right.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Susan Combs will be back for the golden-cheeked warbler. Combs is a former Texas state comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and state representative who has been nominated by President Trump to run the policy and budget section of the U.S. Department of Interior. The job will put her in charge of all things related to the Endangered Species Act, under which the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) is listed as being at risk of extinction. She “has an aesthetic interest in the golden-cheeked warbler and seeks to conserve the warbler and its habitat within Texas,” according to a petition she signed in June 2015 to have the bird taken off the federal Endangered Species list. But “Combs believes that local and state conservation efforts would be of greater benefit to the warbler and that continued unwarranted regulation under the Endangered Species Act can impede voluntary and local conservation efforts.”

Combs seems fond of these voluntary and local conservation efforts, as opposed to statutory mandates, to protect species, perhaps because they have little if any force. In 2011, she masterminded an effort called the Texas Conservation Plan for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). The plan was less about conserving the lizard than keeping it off the Endangered Species list and out of the way of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Farm Bureau, among other cosigners of the plan, with “a locally controlled and innovative approach.” Another cosigner was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region office. The problem, according to Gary G. Mowad, a former enforcement official and Texas administrator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was that (more…)

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BY ANNE RAVER

Studio Outside coaxes many landscapes from one neglected ranch.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

There’s a journey-like feeling to this landscape, both in space and time, as the path curves through dense stands of red cedar and yaupon holly, then out to open savanna, dotted with live oaks and groves of post oaks.

“You can’t really understand these landscapes and the plants on the surface until you understand the underlying soil types and drainage patterns,” said Tary Arterburn, FASLA, a founding principal of Studio Outside, one sunny cool morning in early November.

“It’s sand, sand, and sand,” said Amy Bartell, a project manager at Studio Outside, who has spent countless hours on site here. She knows where the fine clayey sands of the Southern Blackland Prairie to the west finger into the coarser sands of the Northern Humid Gulf Coastal Prairie to the east.

The Dallas-based firm first walked the 132-acre property in 2015 to assess (more…)

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