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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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You can almost watch it come to life on the page: In the sprawl of Bangkok, an illegal dump the size of a large city block was scraped clean, sculpted, and planted thickly with 60,000 trees, many of them quite small. It now looks thick as a rain forest, with an elegant skywalk overhead and cobras on the ground (which is why you’d use the skywalk). This remarkable reforestation project, called the Metro-Forest, by Landscape Architects of Bangkok, repatriates more than 275 species once common enough locally, as James Trulove reports, that sections of the city around it bear their names. Thick as it appears, it’s only getting started. The plan is for the trees to engulf the skywalk in their canopy.

How to describe the vindication of taking an embarrassed site and bringing back some form of its original dignity? “Strangely exciting,” is how Gwendolyn McGinn, Associate ASLA, puts it to the reporter Anne Raver in this issue. McGinn, of Studio Outside, in Dallas, is working at the Tylee Farm in Texas, not far from Houston. The farm holds what is left of southern post oak savanna that was overturned and grazed nearly to death since the mid-1800s. With Studio Outside’s founder, Tary Arterburn, FASLA, and Amy Bartell, a project manager, she is working to restore the many ecological segues the site once had for newish residential owners who want to live well—as long as their land does, too.

Also in this issue: Staff writer/editor Katarina Katsma, ASLA, writes about the interlocking of plant science and aesthetics in the designs of Sandra Clinton, FASLA, in the mid-Atlantic; Jeff Link looks at the fine points of poured-in-place rubber playground surfacing; Karl Kullmann considers the new heights of drone mapping; and Jane Gillette reviews City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning by Michael J. Lewis, a book that will leave you thinking about squares. The full table of contents for May 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 ungating May articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Control of the Canopy,” Rungkit Charoenwat; “Side Pocket,” By oinonio [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr; “Along for the Ride,” Gwendolyn McGinn, Associate ASLA; “Color and Cushion,” Site Design Group; “The Right Fit,” Huguette Row.

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Picture: dwg. founder Daniel Woodroffe, ASLA, (right) and Jacob Walker in dwg.’s Austin, Texas, studio.

From the April 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Design firms come in all sizes—though a large design firm of, say, 400 people is peanuts in many other businesses. At any rate, the size of a firm is not incidental. It tends to reflect the principal’s business philosophy. Many principals wish to stay tiny for a reason, to keep projects and relationships intimate and keep their own stamp on everything possible. Among those who grow to juggle multiple major projects at a time, a magic number often comes up—35 employees, or 40. It may be a matter of available space in the office. More often, a target number is seen as a threshold of quality, the point beyond which an office focused on design might shift focus to its management culture, which can take on a life of its own. We interviewed four principals at firms of various sizes to find out why they choose to be the size they are.

dwg.

Austin, Texas
Established: 2010
Current Size: 18
Daniel Woodroffe, ASLA, president and founder

What’s the largest the firm has been?

Woodroffe: Eighteen. We’ve had about a 10 percent growth each year, year on year. It’s been very (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

Parks and bike paths embroider the city in the Bayou Greenway Initiative plan.

Parks and bike paths embroider the city in the Bayou Greenway Initiative Plan.

From the March 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, the president of SWA Group and the managing principal of its Houston office, is not the type of landscape architect to shy away from controversial ideas. In 2013, at the zenith of the vitriolic debate around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, he sent an unsolicited design proposal to the White House, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and a slew of other federal agencies with a stake in the project. In it were a set of overlay maps of the proposed route that illustrated various ecological and cultural dimensions of the pipeline landscape, as well as a set of renderings suggesting that a bike path be built within the pipeline corridor from its starting point in Hardisty, Alberta, down to the terminus in Port Arthur, Texas, near Houston.

“It was roundly hated,” says Baumgardner of the idea, insisting it was not an endorsement of the pipeline but an attempt to puncture the status quo notion of “infrastructure as a one-dimensional thing.” Reactions were neatly divided along ideological lines. “Some people saw it as: ‘You’re trying to make this bad thing better, and that might mean it would get built.’ On the other side, people who were much more conservative were saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this; it’s going to make it difficult to operate and they’ll end up closing it down.’”

The Obama administration recently gave what appears to be the final ax to the (more…)

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