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Posts Tagged ‘Zach Mortice’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Carré Casgrain in Montreal. Photo by Alexander Cassini, ASLA.

The reasons that Alexander Cassini, ASLA, got involved with the Carré Casgrain community garden in the Little Italy neighborhood of Montreal are as common as such green spaces should be. It was a chance to get to know neighbors, “foster a feeling of belonging,” and a way to “feel rooted in something real,” he says. Since the fall of 2017, Cassini, a landscape architect with Claude Cormier + Associés, has worked with a group of a half-dozen neighbors to plant, maintain, and program the space.

It all went pretty much according to plan. As a landscape designer, Cassini says his role has been “offering a bigger vision” and sketching out simple plans for the 2,000-square-foot garden. Planting mounds extended into the rectangular site from concrete blocks painted with playful depictions of plants and produce, smiling carrots, and stacked bowls. There’s open space for event programming, and lights and festive flags are strung overhead, all typical of the block-level intimacy community gardens use to beguile. Cassini and his neighbors, calling themselves “Le Carré et sa Ruelle” (French for “The Square and Its Lane”), grew cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and strawberries. They hosted BBQs, movies, concerts, and even a lecture about ways to minimize one’s trash footprint. Monarch butterflies were frequent guests as well. But for Cassini, “the fun part is that besides those more organized events, it also took off as an informal space, [where] you could just walk from work and see a couple neighbors having a drink there, hanging out,” he says.

But the good times came to an end in October 2019, after three seasons of planting and harvesting, when Albino Del Tedesco, the owner of the vacant lot the community garden sat on, sent out a backhoe to tear the garden apart, raking over the one-and-a-half-foot mounds with a diesel engine. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Just a few years ago, Keri VanVlymen, a landscape designer with Ratio in Indianapolis, had never driven a golf cart, but now she’s an expert. Over five months in 2018, she surveyed each of Indianapolis’s 13 public golf courses, trekking “every mile of every trail of every course,” she says, 49 miles in all. She’s watched colleagues get stuck on icy hills and has clawed her way up a snowy, arched footbridge, one foot on the accelerator, one hand pulling herself along the railing while the wheels spun.

In late 2017, Indianapolis hired Ratio to re-evaluate the city’s public golf courses, with an eye toward converting some into parks. Whereas most cities of its size would have one to four public courses, Indianapolis’s baker’s dozen stretches across 1,800 acres. With VanVlymen’s colleague John Jackson, ASLA, a principal and the director of landscape architecture and urban design at Ratio, the firm is proposing supplanting green fees in favor of multipurpose recreation and letting everyone onto the land.

“Golf courses are very large-scale designed landscapes,” Jackson says. “You’re playing the game through these very large corridors.” Golf courses are often designed as “18 very large rooms. If you apply that to today’s recreational trends, there’s a lot of interesting places you can go,” he says. (more…)

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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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BY ZACH MORTICE

Ronnie Siegel’s Carry the EARTH environmental art project has sent 39 palm-sized globes traveling across the world, visiting 15 nations and counting. Image courtesy Ronnie Siegel, ASLA, Carry the EARTH.

The handheld globes the landscape architect and environmental artist Ronnie Siegel, ASLA, has crafted and sent around the world carry a lot of weight. Carry the EARTH, the project Siegel designed and launched in 2018, focuses attention on different aspects of the world’s ecology, with both hopeful and dire points of view. Some are cheerily expository, like her Rivers globe, where exaggerated river basins carve deep canyons across the continents. Many foretell calamity, like the Time Bomb globe, with a fiery lit fuse trailing out of the North Pole. But others are tentatively optimistic, like the Seeds for Change globe, where the Earth’s continents are transparent and the globe is filled with seeds of different shapes, sizes, and textures. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The nitrate mining town of María Elena in Chile. Photo by Ignacio Infante.

For an exhibit focused on extractive industries, Beyond the City: The South American Hinterland in the Soils of the 21st Century is mercifully short on aerial photos of strip mines and oil derricks. Instead, the installation by Somatic Collaborative now at the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial focuses on the human settlements that serve resource extraction industries.

Beyond the City catalogs five South American cities established or expanded because of the growth of heavy industry from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The five case studies are spread across three nations and several extraction, or at least exceptionally invasive, industries: gold mines in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; nitrate mines in María Elena, Chile; oil drilling in Judibana, Venezuela; iron mining in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela; and the production of hydropower in Vila Piloto, Brazil. Each of the cities shares “a very strong national or state government that was pushing forward a project that they believed would advance a larger greater good,” says Somatic Collaborative cofounder Felipe Correa, the chair of the architecture school at the University of Virginia (UVA). These public–private partnerships sought to develop housing and working environments for a white-collar managerial class that would guide populist infrastructure expansions harvested from this land. “Industry had a social project,” Correa says. “If you look at what oil companies are doing in the middle of the Amazon today, they’re completely devoid of a social project.” Beyond the City presents historical evidence on how this mandate was introduced, but the exhibition trails off once each town left its designers’ hands. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Kua Bay Residence is a simple pitched roof pavilion that works as an enticing collector of ocean views. Photo by Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA.

More than half of the world’s anchialine ponds are located on Hawai‘i, also known as the Big Island. They’re formed when fresh water flows downward toward the ocean through porous volcanic rock and mixes with salt water pushed inland by wave action. Where the shoreline dips below sea level with sizable crevices, pools of water are exposed at the surface. It’s a brackish mix, though the salinity can vary, as can the depth and size of anchialine ponds. Some can be more than a dozen acres wide; others are smaller than a bathtub. These pools were vital to native Hawaiians, who would harvest shrimp (such as the ‘ōpae‘ula red shrimp) for food or bait, or use larger ponds closer to shore with higher salinity levels as fishponds. Freshwater ponds were used for drinking water and bathing.

Anchialine pools are characteristic of the landscape of the Big Island, the site of the Kua Bay Residence, and were a source of inspiration for its landscape architect, Ron Lutsko Jr., ASLA, of San Francisco-based Lutsko Associates Landscape. Like the pools themselves, the project has an intimate connection to water defined by the rock-face crevices at its border, and it offers cloistered shelter for local and native species amid an otherwise beautifully barren landscape. The project is a recipient of both a Northern California ASLA award and, most recently, a 2019 ASLA Professional Award. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

M. Paul Friedberg’s Billy Johnson Playground. Photo courtesy the Central Park Conservancy.

M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, on why cities should be places to play instead of places for playgrounds.

 

The granite slide in New York City’s Billy Johnson Playground is an illustration of M. Paul Friedberg’s design philosophy. Its 45-foot serpentine curve is nestled into a rocky outcropping, one of Central Park’s startling moments of geologic heft. The slide came from Friedberg’s observations of how his own children tumbled down the slate gray behemoths.

Located at the East 67th Street entrance to Central Park, the playground is inspired by the park’s landscape and context, expressed through rustic wood pole knots and stone blocks. The granite slide, like other elements of the playground, is less a discrete object and more “an incident in the park” that flows naturally from its setting, says Friedberg, the recipient of the 2015 ASLA Medal. “You wanted to make it look like you just came across this.”

By layering the slide on top of geology, the slide “doesn’t have to be in a playground,” Friedberg says. And it  gets to the heart of his approach at Billy Johnson Playground. “Do you consider Central Park a place for playgrounds,” he says, “or is it a place to play?” (more…)

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