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Posts Tagged ‘Zach Mortice’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Morgan Vickers at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Photo by David Kafer.

Route 66, the nation’s first all-paved national highway connecting the Midwest to California, is best read as the first draft of contemporary America. Its establishment in 1926 definitively ended any notions of an untamed Western frontier, and it signaled the beginning of America’s total transition to a nation defined by settlement, landscape, and automobile obsession.

So much of Route 66’s cultural resources and history are dedicated and scaled to the car: motels, highways, bridges, gas stations, drive-in theaters, and oddball curios that read well from a speeding Ford. Its 2,400 miles cut through eight states and 300 towns, from Chicago to Los Angeles. It channeled migrants to the fertile coast during the Great Depression and soldiers and equipment to the Asian front during World War II.

But Route 66 eventually fell victim to the car’s success. In 1945, 65,000 cars were manufactured in America. Three years later that number had grown to 3.9 million. Cars became so omnipresent that this two-lane road was soon superseded by four-lane interstate highways. By the time it was decommissioned in 1985, Route 66 had been replaced by sections of I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15, and I-10. Overshadowed by the interstate system, the communities that had sprung up around the route were cut off from the lifeblood of commerce that it supplied them.

Earlier this summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a campaign (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Vitrified brick in Cincinnati. Image courtesy Robin Williams.

Uncovering historic pavements reveals each city’s “urban fingerprint.”

In the past 200 years, cities have become larger, safer, and healthier places to live, but there’s one arena of urban infrastructure that has become incalculably more monotonous and denuded: the range and diversity of pavement types on city streets and sidewalks.

Before the dominance of concrete and asphalt, city streets were paved in a wild diversity of minerals and materials: glassy vitrified brick, wooden block, crushed oyster shells, rough-hewn granite blocks, and more.

Robin Williams, the chair of architectural history at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has traveled to 40 cities across North America to study their historic pavements and found a rich spectrum of street coverings that somehow persist with no preservation protections. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

“Altitudes” reorients formerly disused ecologies for the production of local cash crops, organized vertically in the Selva Central region of Peru. Image courtesy Openfabric.

The coffee production industry is a “global economy with a local ecology,” says Francesco Garofalo of the landscape architecture studio Openfabric. The studio has a plan for a coffee-producing region of Peru that would align local cultivation practices with global distribution networks. Openfabric’s “Altitudes” plan steps back from coffee plantation monocultures to spread cash crop risk by encouraging production of a range of foodstuffs. The goal is to create more sustainable cycles of cultivation, production, and distribution.

The plan focuses on the Selva Central region of Peru, east of Lima, which straddles both the Andes and the Amazon River Basin. The local economy is intensely reliant on coffee production, but it’s a fragile and volatile market. Prices surge and plummet on a whim, vulnerable to small climatic shifts that can greatly affect yield. That makes life for the region’s coffee producers precarious.

And lately, temperatures in Selva Central have been rising because of climate change, causing (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy Raphaël Thibodeau.

For a temporary installation celebrating LGBTQI Canadians during Pride Month, Claude Cormier + Associates created a rainbow canopy to acknowledge a spectrum of identities that are “plural, diverse, inclusive, and nuanced,” as the firm’s website states. Asked to “create a place with a sense of magic” for a summer pedestrian mall, says Claude Cormier, his firm didn’t want to clog the streetscape with more visual noise as thousands of people in a festival atmosphere walked Saint Catherine Street East in Montreal. So instead, they looked up, forming an outdoor room with one kilometer’s worth of recycled plastic balls strung up on wires.

Six principal colors are differentiated with three hues each, hence the title of the installation (“18 Shades of Gay”). This long strip of color (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Minbo Zhao’s “Better Trail, Better Life.” Image courtesy the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

For her study of the landscape dimensions of the opioid crisis, Aneesha Dharwadker, a designer in residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, taught an undergraduate and graduate studio grounded in the endlessly complex set of cultural, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Called “Landscapes of Dependence,” the landscape architecture studio synthesized research into a diagram called “The Labyrinth of Addiction.”

The diagram portrays addiction not as a cycle or individual pathology, but as an intricate maze, an array of orbits connecting the pharmaceutical industry, poppy cultivation, the environmental conditions of users, health care resources, and local institutions—punitive and otherwise. As explained by the accompanying website and manifesto “The Declaration of Dependence,” there’s no single entry point to the labyrinth, no clear linear progression, and only one dead end: fatality after an overdose. Everything else is an endless feedback loop. Invited by Dharwadker onto campus for reviews in April, I was confronted by the intimidating vortex her students were tasked to defy. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Stoss’s greenway begins just south of the Gateway Arch, amid a tangle of freeways and rail lines. Image courtesy Stoss.

The Chouteau Greenway (pronounced “show-toe”), which is planned to run about five miles from Forest Park on St. Louis’s western edge to the newly rejuvenated Gateway Arch National Park at the Mississippi River, is not a park. It’s not even a park system. It’s a landscape-driven development strategy for an entire swath of the city. Its goal is to break down the city’s stark north-south racial divide by attracting St. Louisans from across a socioeconomic spectrum toward a corridor defined by a tangle of transit infrastructure. Along the way are some of the region’s most eminent education, medical, and cultural institutions.

The plan is led by the Great Rivers Greenway, a public agency that works to connect the city’s three rivers with a network of greenway trails (which currently measures 117 miles). It envisions these often desolate and transit-scaled corridors as a series of parks, memorials, trails, and art spaces that tell the cultural history of the city. The proposed greenway could put St. Louis’s two premier urban landscapes—and the city itself—on a new pedestal. But inspiration for the winning plan from the Great Rivers Greenway’s design competition, concluded earlier this month, draws from subtle histories.

The winning prescriptions, by Stoss, call for reviving ecologies long paved over and making visible the erased narratives of African American communities. “We wanted to use this project as an opportunity to unearth these buried histories,” says Stoss’s founding director, Chris Reed, FASLA. Especially in its treatment of the bulldozed African American neighborhood of Mill Creek Valley, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Upstate Archipelago proposal. Image courtesy Cornell Design, H+N+S, and SOAR (Strengthening Our Area Residents) of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

New York’s Erie Canal once projected a young nation’s power and commercial ambitions across half a continent. Connecting New York City and the Hudson River north of Albany all the way to the Great Lakes, at 363 miles long, it was the second largest canal in the world when it opened in 1825, and one of the most transformative infrastructure projects of America’s early history. It reduced bulk commodity costs by 90 percent, according to some estimates, and it’s been immortalized in stories and songs ever since.

But in the 201 years since it began construction, the canal has been leapfrogged by nearly every manner of freight and commodity transit: rail, road, pipelines, and even the now-navigable St. Lawrence River. Vessel traffic on the canal peaked in the early 1950s, and recreational boating peaked in 1989.

To reverse this slide, the New York State Canal Corporation is hosting the Reimagine the Canals Competition to re-envision how this feat of 19th-century land engineering can be better integrated into the 21st century. (more…)

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