WILA Highlights from Denver

The 2014 WILA Walk, led by Connie Perry and Susan Morris-McCabe, included a stop outside the Denver Art Museum image: Tanya Olson

The 2014 WILA Walk, led by Connie Perry and Susan Morris-McCabe, included a stop outside the Denver Art Museum
image: Tanya Olson

We hope you all enjoyed the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver last November. The main WILA events included the WILA Professional Practice Network (PPN) meeting, where we had speed-mentoring, and the WILA Walk.

The WILA PPN meeting took place on Saturday, November 22 in the Colorado Convention Center Expo Hall. We had an amazing turnout, stretching the capacity of the PPN meeting room with over 30 attendees ranging from students in landscape architecture to practitioners entering retirement. Although “ice breaker” questions were provided, the group had no problem jumping right into sharing their experiences in landscape architecture. Discussions covered all aspects of landscape architecture practice, from entering practice for the first time to starting a landscape architecture firm, on to ownership transition and retirement.

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Dry Stacked Stone Walls

Natural Drystack Rubble Stone Wall with Mortared Cap image: Chris Miracle

Natural drystack rubble stone wall with mortared cap
image: Chris Miracle

From the rolling country sides of Ireland to the mountains of Kentucky, the craft of building dry stacked stone walls has a rich history. Hand crafted stone walls dating back hundreds or even thousands of years can be found around the world. They are usually mortar-less, built of local stone and reflect each areas vernacular architecture and cultural heritage.

Dry stone walls are built for many reasons. Some hold back significant amounts of earth allowing railroads, highways and buildings to be constructed. Others form the foundations for bridges or provide protective armoring for shorelines. Some are stacked as fences to delineate property limits and others are created for a sense of enclosure and can make a strong architectural statement.

Just within Wisconsin alone, we are truly blessed with a dizzying array of native stone to choose from for our dry wall constructions and would like to share some images and information with you. These projects highlight the dry stone wall building craft as well as the wealth of material riches that there is to choose from. We also invite you to contribute information through words and images including cases where dry stone walls solved a landscape architectural need in your area. Were there any special techniques or unique stone products used to complete the construction project?

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Book Review: Birthright

Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, by Stephen R. Kellert image: Yale University Press

Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, by Stephen R. Kellert
image: Yale University Press

Lisa Horne, ASLA, reviews Birthright by Stephen Kellert, giving insight into how his exploration of humans’ relationship with nature is distinct from that of his predecessors and contemporaries. This analysis touches on the intricacies of Kellert’s arguments, including the role of design in this broad and complex arena, and how connections between humans and nature can be beneficial to both. Kellert’s approach is nuanced, balanced, and honest, providing sound academic reasoning as well as a human perspective on what is, after all, a fundamentally human issue.
–Brenna Castro, Associate ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Officer

Book Review: Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World

As the keynote at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Boston, Stephen Kellert gave a provocative presentation for the profession. “Biophilia” is a relatively new concept in design and Kellert’s recent work Birthright gives a heartwarming survey of ideas with relevancy to design and theory.

Birthright provides a basis for incorporating nature into our lives. Kellert leaves classifications of nature open-ended and defines biophilia as a love of life. We have an innate desire for nature, which is “a birthright that must be cultivated and earned” (Kellert xiii). This attitude neither advocates a return to an Arcadian past nor forecasts apocalyptic doom. Instead, he asserts that humans will recognize their own self-interest and benefit from investing in the environment. An audience of academics, leaders, policy makers, and professionals interested in biophilia will appreciate the pace, text, and reasoning.

To read to full review, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s blog.

by Lisa Horne, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Co-Chair

Slow Down, Soak Deeper

Wusong Riverfront: Landscape Infrastructure Pilot Project in its third year, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province - ASLA 2012 Analysis and Planning Honor Award Winner image: Hui-Li Lee, SWA Group

Wusong Riverfront: Landscape Infrastructure Pilot Project in its third year, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province – ASLA 2012 Analysis and Planning Honor Award Winner
image: Hui-Li Lee, SWA Group

2014 was an uneasy year for most landscape professionals practicing in China. Once fast and furious, the market’s sudden slowdown has left well-adapted practices, both local and international, stumbling to regain their balance. This January, the government announced the country’s 2014 GDP growth of 7.4 percent, which was the lowest in 24 years, and the first year to fall behind the target. Private developers suffered from the policies regulating an over-heated real estate market and stagnant sales. Local governments struggled with heavy debt burdens from previous wasteful decades and became fiscally conservative, especially under the current anti-corruption campaign. When the major drivers of the building industry started to lose their momentum, the looming climate makes everyone wonder which direction this world economic powerhouse will be heading.

Let’s not forget that China’s slowdown is partially due to an increasingly large economic base, and there is still endless potential waiting to be explored. From my own observations, further densification in built environments, integration of stormwater management, and rural redevelopment might be several avenues worth noting for my fellow international landscape practitioners.

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Convergent Futures: Cities, Ecology, and Design

Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York introduces ecological functionality into a highly urbanized environment. image: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates project team: Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, Great Ecology

Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York introduces ecological functionality into a highly urbanized environment.
image: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
project team: Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, Great Ecology

By 2050, an estimated 66% of the world’s human population will reside in urban areas. That number reflects a steady increase in urbanites from 1950 onward.

As our world becomes increasingly populated and urbanized, how we as designers plan for that growth will affect the health of the planet and its ecosystems. Too often, our urban landscape design solutions oversimplify or ignore the importance of habitat quality, quantity, and connectivity. We grasp the costs and benefits of green roofs, bioswales, urban forests, greenways, and other components of urban green infrastructure. We now need to integrate those strategies into a larger, more connected urban ecological framework. Read the rest of this entry »

Limited Access Roadways, Full Access Neighborhoods

image: Keith Billick

image: Keith Billick

We all know and can understand the benefits and the advantages of limited access roadways, better known as freeways. But, it is the emerging negative impacts that these freeways have on our urban neighborhoods that we are just now beginning to understand.

So how did it all start? The envisioned purpose and need stated in the 1938 Federal-Aid Highway Act was to create a roadway network. A network built to a set of standards that would provide for national defense, as well as to meet the desire and ability of the growing general population to drive longer distances.

After viewing the autobahn, leading highway engineers in the US agreed the German roads were wonderful examples of modern road building, but noted that the network was in predominantly rural areas, serving small amounts of traffic. The engineers were clear that the system in the US would be different, it would be one that served the crowded and congested urban areas. Interregional Freeways, limited to areas where the present and future traffic would justify the infrastructure, these were to be major roadways intended for the purpose of relieving urban traffic congestion. Read the rest of this entry »

Designing for Bikes at UC Davis

UC Davis bike circle at Shields Avenue and West Quad Street image: UC Davis Strategic Communications

UC Davis bike circle at Shields Avenue and West Quad Street
image: UC Davis Strategic Communications

Traveling by bicycle is the one of the easiest ways to traverse the sprawling University of California, Davis campus. Located in the Central Valley of California, the campus is topographically flat and weather is mild—perfect for bike riding. Average annual rainfall in Davis is 18 inches, therefore it is a rare day when you cannot easily get to your destination by bike. With 900 acres in the core campus and another 4,400 acres for agricultural and other natural science research fields, this growing campus with a current student population of over 33,000 is too spread out for walking alone to provide an efficient mode of transportation for most. The campus core area is generally closed to vehicular traffic, significantly enhancing bicycle safety. There are hourly bike traffic rushes during breaks between classes. During that time delivery and facilities vehicles are required to yield the right of way to thousands of cyclists or risk a ticket from the campus police.

Pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation are integral components of any design at UC Davis; however, designing bicycle infrastructure is a unique and complex exercise typically driven by the Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture (CPLA) and Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) Units on campus.

In the summer of 2014, one acre of a five-acre vehicle parking lot was reconfigured into a 600-space bike parking lot serving a gymnasium that was converted into a large lecture hall. This project was designed by CPLA and funded by TAPS. The design involved rethinking and redesigning all modes of transportation in the area to safely and efficiently accommodate the anticipated influx of cyclists. Circulation design for bike lanes, bike paths, bike circles, and bike parking throughout campus is a major component of the CPLA Unit’s workload. Typically CPLA deals with four major bike design situations on a regular basis.

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