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Posts Tagged ‘urban’

BY ZACH MORTICE

A mirrored hut, in the shape of Thoreau’s New England cabin, reminds us to slow down our metabolism for appraising and interpreting landscapes. Photo by Justin Knight.

Günther Vogt on the limits of design, and the boundless reach of landscape architecture.

 

Ask Günther Vogt what the problems facing landscape architecture are, and he’ll tell you that there’s a bit too much design happening today.

This provocation suggests that it’s time for landscape designers to spend less time fussing with the proportions of a public square and more time working through urban and region-scaled problems. That was the thrust of Vogt’s Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design earlier this month, which accompanied an exhibition of his work on display now at the GSD’s Druker Design Gallery at Gund Hall. First the Forests exhibits six of Vogt’s projects and is filled with artifacts, models, specimens, and dioramas presented in tactile wood boxes—references to the European tradition of the “Wunderkammer” or “cabinet of curiosities,” eclectic containers filled with wonder and mystery.

There are cylindrical core samples of Boston’s mineral geology, impossibly delicate 19th century Italian gypsum models of mushrooms, excerpts from German plant morphology diagrams, and deconstructed and collaged 19th century landscape paintings, with foreground and background elements cut out and separated between panes of glass, giving the painting a semblance of texture and depth. LAM spoke to Vogt before the lecture about the exhibition. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Can waste glass be repurposed as a planting medium for green infrastructure?

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

It is easy to paint landscape architecture as an inherent “greener” of communities, particularly when it comes to green infrastructure and the profession’s more recent emphasis on creating and sustaining urban ecologies. But every project has an environmental footprint, including, in some cases, the destruction of wilderness areas hundreds of miles from the project site through sand mining and soil removal, which provide the raw material for landscape soil blends. “We put ourselves out there as purveyors of sustainability, but meanwhile we’re kind of like these crazy organ harvesters, borrowing healthy soil and transplanting it somewhere else,” says Richard Roark, ASLA, a partner at OLIN in Philadelphia. “I was like, can we stop that?”

That is exactly what OLIN is attempting to do through a multidisciplinary research project known as Soil-less Soil. Led by the firm’s research division, OLIN Labs, the landscape architects and their partners are studying the feasibility of (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Birdlink, at Sara Roosevelt Park in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Stephen A. Scheer.

BIRDLINK IS ONE PART ECOLOGICAL PUBLIC ART, ONE PART BIRD MIGRATION SCIENCE.

 

More than 300 species of birds migrate through New York City along the Atlantic Flyway each year. The goal of the art installation and avian habitat Birdlink, by Anina Gerchick, Associate ASLA, is to get a fraction of them to linger in the city for a bit.

Birdlink is an assemblage of stair-step bamboo and gabion planters stacked almost a dozen feet high, and intended to offer food and habitats for birds and other pollinators in urban areas outside major wildlife hubs such as Central Park or Jamaica Bay on Long Island. If you look closely, you’ll see bird varieties that shift with the seasons, as tides of migratory birds arrive and depart in New York City. (more…)

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REVIEWED BY SARAH COWLES

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Street trees occupy a shifting and contested dimension of cities. Whereas trees in parks and private gardens in cities are afforded a measure of stability and protection, street trees are literally on the front lines of urbanism, absorbing the impacts of changes in policy on errant cars. Street trees are surrounded: hemmed in by architecture, tree grates, cages, with leaking gas conduits at their roots and power lines teasing their crowns, soaked by deicing salt on one side and dog urine on the other.

Although there are field guides to street trees and technical manuals for planting and soil specifications, there is no comprehensive look at the culture and politics of the urban forest. Seeing Trees by Sonja Dümpelmann fills this void and unearths a detailed and complex vein of urban history that (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Inside the years-long effort to design the world’s least traditional workplace.

FROM THE JANUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 1659, Lord Henry Capel, a member of England’s Parliament, inherited a coveted estate along the River Thames near London. Capel and his wife moved into the grand manor house at what was then known as Kew Park and, as was popular at the time, began developing a series of formal gardens. But Capel’s plant collections were unusual. He built greenhouses for species that craved warmer climates, and his gardens burst with exotic flowers, fruit trees, and rare dwarf cultivars. Evergreens, oranges, flowering viburnum, Pistacia lentiscus from the shores of the Mediterranean. It was said that Capel’s gardens were “furnished with the best fruit trees in England.”

In 1772, the estate was joined with the adjacent Richmond Gardens, and in 1840, Kew Gardens, as it was then known, was conveyed to the public. The world-renowned botanic garden and research institute now boasts more than 30,000 types of plants housed in a series of ornate, Victorian-era greenhouses and ornamental gardens. Today, Kew is considered both the “cradle of the English landscape movement” and a locus of cutting-edge botanical knowledge. The gardens draw more than 2.1 million visitors a year.

More than 300 years after Capel planted his first fir, Jeff Bezos found himself meditating on Kew’s legacy. The American CEO of Amazon, and officially the wealthiest person on the planet, found the botanic garden bewitching. It was invigorating, nourishing. He wondered if an office could have the same effect. Was it possible to capture the sense of quiet inspiration? What would it look like? (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Beavers become partners in restoration.

FROM THE JANUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As public support for trapping has waned, beavers are making a comeback in urban waterways around the country. In Seattle, they are now said to be found in every suitable stream and water body, and some project designers now see them as partners in wetland restoration rather than nuisances. They say the benefits beavers bring to an ecosystem outweigh the challenges, and point out that working with them is far less expensive—and more humane—than trapping.

“Beavers construct wetlands that hold back and store water, allowing for groundwater recharge and pollution sequestration, and increasing biodiversity,” says Ben Dittbrenner, the aquatic ecologist and executive director of Beavers Northwest. “We do the same thing for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they do it for free.” This past October, (more…)

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Sandra Albro’s Vacant to Vibrant initiative (detailed in “Lots of Opportunity”) converts vacant lots in struggling Great Lakes cities into rain gardens and bioswales. At an average cost of $18,000 each, they’re a fine-grained and tactical solution for reversing blight and helping beleaguered combined sewer systems from polluting the Great Lakes. As Albro, of Holden Forests & Gardens, observes, these neighborhoods were gradually disinvested from and abandoned, and have limited access to comprehensive public infrastructure improvements. As such, an equally piecemeal and gradual approach allows them to stabilize properties with desirable urban green spaces that can be wrapped into broader redevelopment efforts. An alternative to massive, centralized sewer upgrades that cost billions, this dispersed model of stormwater filtration turns an economic drain into an ecological engine.

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