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Posts Tagged ‘Urbanism’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (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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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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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM. 

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Photo by Peter Russell.

From “Permafrost Urbanists” by Jessica Bridger in the January 2017 issue, on how climate change is pushing urbanism to contend with Arctic landscapes.

“Hoarfrost rails.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

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.

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BY JESSICA BRIDGER

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The Arctic could be the next hot place to live.

FROM THE JANUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

The dock screeches and groans, the noises of cold metal in cold air. It is dawn as 14 students, two instructors, and one journalist board the Langøsund. The boat sits in the Adventfjord in the High Arctic. Barren gray slopes, crusted with snow on their peaks, rise from the glassy surface of the sea. The sky’s colors are reflected in the fjord, a mirror of this strange, cold place.

The mission is an experiment in design education: an expedition for serious research about the human settlement potential of Arctic places. We motor out into the water, leaving Longyearbyen (population 2,144), bound for Barentsburg (population 471). Both towns lie on Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. Longyearbyen is said to be the northernmost town with a permanent population in the world.

Leena Cho double-checks the zipper on her poppy-red jacket as the boat makes headway. She grins at the students; (more…)

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From We Declare in the May 2016 issue, five landscape architects, scholars, and advocates revisit “A Declaration of Concern” for the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration.

 

THE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT AS URBANIST OF OUR AGE

BY CHARLES WALDHEIM, HONORARY ASLA

The anniversary of the founding of the Landscape Architecture Foundation and the original LAF declarations invites us to revisit the identity and aspirations of the field itself. The founders of the “new art” of landscape architecture specifically identified architecture as the most appropriate cultural identity for the new professional. In so doing, they proposed an innovative and progressive professional identity. This new liberal profession was founded during the second half of the 19th century in response to the social, environmental, and cultural challenges associated with the industrial city. In this milieu, the landscape architect was conceived as the professional responsible for the integration of civil infrastructure, environmental enhancement, and public improvement in the context of ongoing industrialization. American boosters of the new art of landscape committed the nascent profession to an identity associated with the old art of architecture. This decision to identify architecture (as opposed to art, engineering, or gardening) as the proximate professional peer group is significant for contemporary understandings of landscape architecture. This history sheds compelling light on the subsequent development of city planning as a distinct professional identity spun out of landscape architecture in the first decades of the 20th century, as well as on debates regarding landscape as a form of urbanism at the beginning of the 21st century.

This line of inquiry points toward the long-standing lineage of ecologically informed regional planning that grew out of the origins of landscape architecture in the first half of the 20th century. That tradition manifests itself in (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

Little-loved plants win the affection of Future Green Studio.

Little-loved plants win the affection of Future Green Studio.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The huge backyard along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was the perfect site for the summertime Sunday afternoon parties that the DJs Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin liked to throw. It had plenty of space, room for a bar, and the overgrowth that comes alongside New York’s lovable Superfund waterway. But they had only temporary leases and permits to throw parties. Their time in the huge backyard wouldn’t last forever.

Carter and Harkin went looking for a permanent home and found something similar: a garbage-strewn industrial lot covered in weeds next to the L tracks in Ridgewood, Queens, a few miles away. “When we found it, it was, like, kind of just a junk heap,” Carter says.

Carter called David Seiter, ASLA, the principal and the design director at Future Green Studio, a landscape design and urban ecology firm of about 20 people then based close to the party space along the Gowanus. Seiter and his studio had also warmed to the area’s unkempt feeling and wanted to keep (more…)

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