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BY SARAH COWLES

At Washington University, students document and memorialize a landscape in flux.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The crane whined, the cable tightened, the tree swayed, and the crowd murmured. But Tree B5, an 80-year-old, 85-foot-tall, 15-ton Quercus palustris, did not budge from its place in the Brookings allée. Earlier, a crew used high-pressure hydro-excavation tools and a giant vacuum to daylight the oak’s filigree of roots, and arborists jumared up with four cable slings to steady the crown. The audience in front of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis was transfixed by this massive marionette, anticipating the moment the formidable machine might pluck it like a weed. After the failure of the initial tug, the crew phoned the crane supervisor to ply more tension, and yet some grounding force would not let go. B5 was defiantly planted.

Choreographing this potent—and at times absurdly moving—tree-removal ceremony was Jesse Vogler, Affiliate ASLA, a 21st-century Fitzcarraldo and an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Vogler and his team of students thought this act of landscape demolition (more…)

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When the landscape architects at Mahan Rykiel Associates found themselves with uprooted trees they couldn’t fit back onto a newly designed and built mixed-use building site, they offered them to a local Baltimore middle school in the Locust Point neighborhood. But after talking with the principal of Francis Scott Key Middle School, they quickly realized that there was an opportunity for a much deeper collaboration than simply donating some foliage.  So the landscape architects began designing a school yard with four different types of learning environments, to aid what they call “STEM-based environmental education.” Project Birdland will be the first phase of a partnership between Mahan Rykiel Associates and Francis Scott Key Middle School. Students will work with a biologist and the fabricators at Gutierrez Studios to design and build birdhouses for endangered and threatened bird species. From the outset, the project gives students an introduction to the humancentric world of design and craft and also to the creation of habitats for their neighboring fauna.

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BY CONSTANCE CASEY

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America's trees.

A little unkempt looking, the shagbark is one of the mightiest of North America’s trees.

From the October 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 One of the grandest North American trees is the shagbark hickory. It’s dramatic and easy to identify, with its smoke-gray bark warping away from the trunk. Grand, of course, implies big, and that’s part of the reason why the shagbark is not often planted and you wouldn’t see it in a nursery. It spreads itself in the woods from Quebec to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Texas, typically topping out at 70 to 90 feet with an irregular oval crown. It can grow to more than 100 feet, given 350 years or so.

The copper beech, with satiny bark, is British or Continental—Old World. The shagbark, to the essayist Donald Culross Peattie, is New World. “To everyone with a feeling for things American, and for American history, the shagbark seems like a symbol of the pioneer age,” he writes, “with its hard sinewy limbs and rude, shaggy coat, like the pioneer himself in fringed deerskin hunting shirt.”

(more…)

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