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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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If there were going to be a theme for this year’s ASLA Student Awards, it might well be sea change. A shift is palpable in the way students now seem ready to fully embody their roles as future leaders. There was great assurance in this group of award winners and a courageous willingness to tackle complex and difficult problems. The ambition of student projects leapt forward on multiple levels, with many submissions seeming to overrun the confines of traditional award categories. Projects as small as Chicago’s Jazz Fence, a Community Service winner, and as grand as the Award of Excellence winner in Analysis and Planning, El Retorno a la Tierra, which called for a total rethinking of the post-Hurricane Maria recovery of Puerto Rico, exemplified the deeply researched and carefully calibrated impacts of landscape architecture at its best. Projects ranged with authority across borders both political and cultural and did not shy from confronting the politics of place head-on. Jurors admired that “there are a lot of intense sites,” and projects were moving far away from conventional places that students had studied in the past.

And then there was the sea itself, a changing condition that appeared in many submissions, particularly in the Analysis and Planning category. With water and aridity in all its forms at the center of so many projects, it was clear that accommodating sea-level rise and climate change is no longer a choice to make but a condition that is baked into students’ design thinking. Submissions also exemplified full engagement with social issues once seen as far outside the profession’s purview, such as prison yards, nuclear plants, and a landscape approach to the reunification of Korea, which garnered an Award of Excellence in Communications. During the lively deliberations, jurors commented more than once about the remarkable initiative of this year’s students, particularly the “complexity and depth of issues they chose to tackle,” as well as how much they looked forward to hiring this next generation of landscape architects.

A spoiler alert: Among the ASLA Professional Awards, Brooklyn Bridge Park brings home the top honor in General Design, the Award of Excellence. Having taken shape over nearly three decades, the vast waterfront park, by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, came almost fully into being this year, a dogged vision for turning an old world into another one. And look at the results. This winner and many others show the long game of landscape architecture.

As always, the digital edition of the September 2018 Awards issue is FREE, and you can access the free digital issue of the September LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. You can also buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. Single digital issues are available for only $5.25 at Zinio or you can 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.

Credits: “Myth, Memory, and Landscape in the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation,” Derek Lazo, Student ASLA, and Serena Lousich, Student ASLA; “In Between Walls,” Niloufar Makaremi Esfarjani, Student ASLA; “Stop Making Sense: Spatializing the Hanford Site’s Nuclear Legacy,” Kasia Keeley, Student Affiliate ASLA, and Andrew Prindle, Student ASLA; “Korea Remade: A Guide to Reuse the DMZ Area Toward Unification,” Jiawen Chen, Student ASLA, Siyu Jiang, Student ASLA, and Xiwei Shen, Student ASLA; “Iqaluit Municipal Cemetery,” TSC Photography; “Chicago Riverwalk: State Street to Franklin Street,” © Kate Joyce; “Brooklyn Bridge Park: A 20-Year Transformation,” Julienne Schaer.

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