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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Cornell students bring visions for climate adaptation down to the Hudson shore.

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Hudson River is tidal, gaining a mean elevation of only two feet for 150-plus miles inland from the Atlantic. It is flanked, almost without interruption, by bluffs and cliffs. Most communities along it have only a slender strip of land at river level. Historically, industries and infrastructure were sited below, with more salubrious parts of towns built up the slopes. Most industry is gone. Communities want to reinvent their riverfronts, which means contending with the tides and storms of a changing climate. They’re getting help from Josh Cerra, ASLA, the director of graduate studies in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University. With collaboration from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, he has been bringing community-based “Climate-Adaptive Design” studios to Hudson River towns.

The studio has obvious pedagogical value. Students learn site research and engagement skills, and to imbue design with climate science. Meanwhile, it lets Cerra pursue an interest in applied education and cross-disciplinary experiences. In developing their concepts, his students get “consultants”—other students, from Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. To assess the studio’s benefits, Cerra is collaborating with a Cornell researcher who studies behaviors and conservation management. Their inquiries, he says, include “how working with engineers or other technical partners may enhance learning innovation” for landscape architects. And then there is the studio’s value to the towns, which are gifted with provocative visions for their futures. (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Parks along New York City’s vulnerable waterfront, like the one recently completed at Hunter’s
Point South, are both amenity and armor.

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Even as the tides lapping at its edges rise, New York City is turning eagerly toward the water to relieve both a congested transit system and a shortfall in housing stock. For example, you can now travel among all five boroughs by ferry. Ferries have several advantages over streets and subways. For the passenger, those include wind in your hair and magnificent, alternately thrilling and calming views of the harbor; for the city, minimal fixed infrastructure and the ability to easily alter routes if circumstances—such as the shorelines themselves—should change. And from the new ferries that ply the East River, you can see the city’s most visible effort to address the housing crunch: clusters of enormous apartment towers recently built and under construction along once-industrial waterfronts.

The city mandates that, with redevelopment, the water’s edge be public space. Some of that is the “waterfront public access area” each newly developed riverside property is required to provide. Those areas must at least have landscape and seating; as built, they vary from quite thoughtful to afterthought. There are also a number of city and state parks along the river. So there is beginning to be a continuous public edge. It will probably always have gaps, but they are filling in as the new housing developments rise. Viewed from out on the water, the chain of public spaces resolves into a thin green line, as much of it consists of esplanades and piers or is otherwise flat. Still, discontinuous and varying in design quality as its component pieces are, they are hugely popular—just because they exist, and also because some of them are truly inspired. That would describe one of the newest of the city-developed pieces. In its case, you do begin to glimpse its features from the river, because it has hills and an architectural overlook jutting up and out toward you. This is, in fact, just where the ferry stops in Long Island City, Queens: Hunter’s Point South Park, designed by Thomas Balsley, FASLA, (whose eponymous firm joined SWA in 2016) in collaboration with Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism. (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi.

From “The Thin Green Line” in the March 2020 issue by Jonathan Lerner, about a new waterfront park in New York City by SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi that keeps floodwaters at bay and people flocking to the shoreline.

“Working out the waterfront.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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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FOREGROUND

On Belonging and Becoming (Interview)
Julian Agyeman, a Tufts University planning professor, talks about his work in the realm of
environmental justice.

Perfume Genius (Materials)
SALT Landscape Architects relates the history of downtown Los Angeles through a series of olfactory encounters.

FEATURES

The Thin Green Line
The second phase of Hunter’s Point South in Queens, designed by the office of Thomas Balsley, FASLA, (now SWA/Balsley) with Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, extends the park’s renowned toughness.

Tallgrass Rehab
A former U.S. Army arsenal in Illinois is now Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the only public land
of its kind, and one of the continent’s rarest biomes.

Have Van, Will Garden
The Winnipeg-based landscape architects Anna Thurmayr and Dietmar Straub, ASLA, have a simple
description of their work: humble and never complete.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for March can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 March articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Thin Green Line,” Vecerka/Esto, courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi; “Have Van, Will Garden,” Brian Barth; “Tallgrass Rehab,” Michelle Wendling, “On Belonging and Becoming,” Alonso Nichols/Tufts University; “Perfume Genius,” Michael Wells. 

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The banks of the Stonycreek, Little Conemaugh, and Conemaugh Rivers were encased in concrete after a 1936 flood. Photo courtesy students of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

A Columbia University seminar led by Kate Orff, FASLA, brings fresh eyes and new ideas to western Pennsylvania.

 

On a visit to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with a group of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) students in late October, Kate Orff, FASLA, a professor and principal of SCAPE Landscape Architecture, happened upon a landscape metaphor for this section of steel mill country that’s been battered by decades of environmental degradation, an epic history of flooding, and a declining industrial economic base. After a 1936 flood ravaged Johnstown, the three rivers that define the city were excavated and covered in concrete. The moves tamed the river, though Johnstown itself seemed to be as entombed as its riverbanks.

“This seemed to be a metaphor for Johnstown being stuck,” Orff says. “That massive relic [is] not necessarily supporting the needs of the people that are living there now.” (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Image courtesy Jaime Lerner Associated Architects.

From “On the Edge” in the December 2019 issue by Jimena Martignoni, about a project to bring the waterfront of Porto Alegre back to the people.

“Porto Alegre waterfront.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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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LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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