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BY ZACH MORTICE

Stoss’s greenway begins just south of the Gateway Arch, amid a tangle of freeways and rail lines. Image courtesy Stoss.

The Chouteau Greenway (pronounced “show-toe”), which is planned to run about five miles from Forest Park on St. Louis’s western edge to the newly rejuvenated Gateway Arch National Park at the Mississippi River, is not a park. It’s not even a park system. It’s a landscape-driven development strategy for an entire swath of the city. Its goal is to break down the city’s stark north-south racial divide by attracting St. Louisans from across a socioeconomic spectrum toward a corridor defined by a tangle of transit infrastructure. Along the way are some of the region’s most eminent education, medical, and cultural institutions.

The plan is led by the Great Rivers Greenway, a public agency that works to connect the city’s three rivers with a network of greenway trails (which currently measures 117 miles). It envisions these often desolate and transit-scaled corridors as a series of parks, memorials, trails, and art spaces that tell the cultural history of the city. The proposed greenway could put St. Louis’s two premier urban landscapes—and the city itself—on a new pedestal. But inspiration for the winning plan from the Great Rivers Greenway’s design competition, concluded earlier this month, draws from subtle histories.

The winning prescriptions, by Stoss, call for reviving ecologies long paved over and making visible the erased narratives of African American communities. “We wanted to use this project as an opportunity to unearth these buried histories,” says Stoss’s founding director, Chris Reed, FASLA. Especially in its treatment of the bulldozed African American neighborhood of Mill Creek Valley, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Damon Rich talks about the planning approaches that recently earned him a MacArthur Fellowship.

FROM THE JANUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Damon Rich describes himself as a designer who uses the tool set of a community organizer. Rich says his goal at his design firm, Hector, with partner Jae Shin, and at his previous post as a founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, is to “[assemble] constituencies, trying to connect people so they can better exert political influence.” As a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient, Rich will get a chance to see how an infusion of money ($625,000), translated through broad-based grassroots urban planning, can pull policy levers to make urbanism more equitable, healthy, and vital.

With Hector, his goal is to go into a neighborhood and uncover design elements that can offer multilayered meanings and associations to meet a wide range of needs. “I’m really excited to keep on finding ways to design things that really become social objects and social symbols,” Rich says. At the Newark Riverfront Park project, designed by Lee Weintraub, FASLA, during Rich’s tenure as the planning department director for the city of Newark, New Jersey, the color orange is used prominently in a boardwalk. The color references local schools’ heraldry and Newark’s municipal neighbors, East Orange and West Orange. It also works because it’s a neutral hue across local gang turfs. After it was built, a yoga instructor who teaches classes there complimented Rich for selecting this color because (unbeknownst to him) orange represents the water chakra.

Rich practices largely in the urban planning tradition, but he’s not careful about disciplinary lines. At the Center for Urban Pedagogy, he created users’ manuals for the city, working with marginalized communities that most need civic jargon translated into plain language. “I Got Arrested! Now What?” explains in graphic novel format how the justice system works, while “Vendor Power!” uses nearly wordless IKEA-like diagrams to show street vendors (who may be recent immigrants who don’t read English) how to comply with vending rules. Clear explanations of the city’s form, use, and regulations are part of his responsibility to (more…)

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January’s issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine does a global scan to see how different countries tackle familiar problems. In Europe, the writer Michael Dumiak travels across Switzerland, where almost every corner of the country is accessible by public transportation. An ocean away, efforts to mitigate the effects of future disasters ramp up after the devastating tsunami that rocked Japan’s shores in 2011.  San Francisco has required downtown projects to add privately owned public spaces since 1985. But private ownership can sometimes make it hard for the public to find, much less access, these spaces that are meant for the public.

In Materials, SiteWorks’s Andrew Lavallee, FASLA, details common problems and remedies for natural and human-made edging in the landscape. In Water, lessons in evolving a moribund cranberry bog into its former glory as an ecologically productive wetland. And in Interview, planner Damon Rich discusses his firm’s work and his recent MacArthur Fellowship. All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for January 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 January articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “New Roots,” Nate Berg; “Public, with an Asterisk,” Kyle Jeffers; “Clockwork,” Michael Dumiak; “Exit Strategy,” Nick Nelson, Inter-Fluve; “Trouble on the Edge,” James Dudley, ASLA, SiteWorks; “A Force for People,” John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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BY KEVAN KLOSTERWILL

A custom geodesign process aims to help prototype solutions for the health of a rural watershed.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Sam Ziegler, a corn-and-soybean farmer in southern Minnesota, had a chance to try out a new geodesign tool that could change the way he plants his crops. “It’s always on your mind what you can do better, but it’s hard to physically take an acre or a hundred out of production just to try something,” Ziegler says. “You can’t afford it. But this computer model allows you to play with things and get an understanding of what potentially would be the ramifications and benefits of switching things around.” The tool, operated with a touchscreen, was developed by a team of University of Minnesota (UM) researchers from the fields of landscape architecture, urban planning, economics, and soil and water science.

In the fall of 2013, the research team brought together about 40 community members, including farmers and environmental advocates, who were interested in improving the health of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed near Mankato, Minnesota. The group participated in a series of workshops that culminated with their generating alternative scenarios using an interactive computer model of the watershed. This investigation was supported by background layers such as aerial photographs, parcel lines, and topographic data that would feel familiar to regular users of geographic information systems. Using a 55-inch touchscreen, participants could assign various agricultural land uses to the landscape, including conventional corn and soybeans and perennial prairie grasses. “Basically, it was like painting a map, with some boundaries,” Ziegler says.

Once participants settled on a design, the geodesign program would analyze its environmental performance around various factors such as (more…)

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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. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In March of 2016, the landscape architect Ron Henderson, FASLA, had the rare opportunity to visit Mcity, the autonomous vehicle research center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His entourage, which included Nilay Mistry, ASLA, as well as an architect, a transportation engineer, a social scientist, and an attorney, signed in at a gatehouse worthy of a military facility. They were then relieved of all cameras and recording devices—“It’s like a top-secret corporate espionage kind of place,” Henderson says—before being escorted on a brief tour of a 16-acre test track composed of every road condition imaginable: bridges, tunnels, gravel roads, bike lanes, railroad crossings, roundabouts, graffiti-defaced road signs, faded lane markings, a main street with parallel parking, and a short stretch of freeway. “They even have a little Potemkin village of fake storefronts,” Henderson says.

At Mcity, a consortium of academic researchers, government agencies, and corporate entities are sorting out how to make autonomous transportation a reality. Henderson was surprised to learn that trees may not be part of the equation. “We learned that vegetation interferes with the signals between the cars,” he says. “So they cut down the trees at the test track. One of the engineers jokingly said to us, ‘If we had our druthers, we would just cut down all the trees.’ The landscape architects in the group (more…)

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REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

To listen to some mainstream urbanists today, you have to wonder what body of theory, if any, they are paying attention to in order to make what often seem hopelessly naive and homogeneous proposals for new urban developments. Admittedly, this group is often the same bunch who don’t have time for impractical theorization because they are out there doing real work, but some idea about “good” city form obviously drives their approach. Unfortunately, many of the theories in circulation stem from a belief that the city is nothing more than a problem to be solved—it’s too dense, or not dense enough; gray and dirty rather than green; impervious and polluting; unjust and inequitable; or not living up to that crowning achievement of being “walkable.” Obviously, most if not all of these criticisms can be leveled at cities in one place or another at one time or another, but what are the implications for the urban imagination of designers if this is the only lens through which the city (arguably the greatest cultural artifact ever produced) can be viewed—a massive problem which must be “restored” to some nostalgic, fictional notion of the healthy city? And, more optimistically, what new propositions, pedagogies, and disciplinary alignments are necessary to overcome these narrow worldviews and begin to engage the phenomenon of urbanization in a more compelling and realistic way?

In his new book Landscape as Infrastructure, Pierre Bélanger, ASLA, an associate professor of landscape architecture and a codirector of the Master in Design Studies Program in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, lays the groundwork for such an approach. Assembling a decade of design and scholarly research, Bélanger provides readers with a much-needed alternative history of urbanization (primarily in mid- to late 20th and early 21st-century North America), as well as a survey of the contemporary forces that drive urbanization patterns today. These aspects of the book are complemented by an account of the accompanying epistemological shifts brought about by new understandings of complexity and ecology as well as a resurgence of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The world’s protected areas. Currently around 15 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is protected. The United Nations target is to reach 17 percent by 2020. © 2017 Richard J. Weller, Claire Hoch, and Chieh Huang, Atlas for the End of the World.

Within the hundreds of maps Richard Weller, ASLA, assembled for his Atlas for the End of the World, there’s an implicit argument for something like a new mandate for landscape architecture: Instead of mostly planning the development of public outdoor spaces in developed and affluent cities, it’s time for landscape designers to mediate the battles between rapidly expanding developing-world cities and the irreplaceable biodiversity they’re consuming. It’s a task that increases landscape architects’ zones of influence from the scale of city blocks to hundreds of square miles.

 The online atlas, which launched on Earth Day 2017 and just passed its 50,000th click, has a bracingly apocalyptic name. But within the discipline of landscape architecture, it points to a new beginning.

“There’s a whole question for us about how we approach urban design and planning so that cities (more…)

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