Working with Pirates

Even in the contractor's nurseries, the standard of care does not reach the level that the design landscape architect may expect--schedule control, procurement and construction documentation should be clear and complete. image: Edward Flaherty

Even in the contractor’s nurseries, the standard of care does not reach the level that the design landscape architect may expect
image: Edward Flaherty

You may wonder what it’s like to work in the cradle of Western Civilization—the trading posts between the East and West, the Middle East and North Africa, and, for millennia, primarily a landscape of traders.

But first, we’ll start with something you may be more familiar with. Large nurseries like Monrovia, Keeline Wilcox and ValleyCrest often have rows upon rows of trees, shrubs and ground covers, each properly pruned, grown to near perfection and available in seemingly unlimited quantities in any size you want. Selecting plants there is the same as going down the breakfast cereal aisle in a large American grocery store—huge selections, multiple sizes of each, in massive quantities. Just like cereal boxes, the plants in these nurseries are labelled, well displayed, properly set out and all uniformly healthy. That sophistication and mastery of horticultural and logistics processes—integral to plant growth—is a spectacular achievement that some landscape architects never fully appreciate—until they worked with the pirate landscape contractors of the Middle East.

In the Western Region of Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, a large new town was under construction and street trees were part of the infrastructure work. That was the first time some landscape architects had seen—on a competitively bid, huge project scale—plants being grown in used, empty tin cans. Always rusting, the cans rarely even had drainage holes and were always stacked cheek-by-jowl to save on land rental costs. Plants were hand watered seemingly by chance. Pruning equipment? Just never around.

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The Art and Science of Urban Landscapes

Klyde Warren Park; Dallas; designed by the Office of James Burnett; opened in 2012. An LAF Case Study Investigation (CSI) performance study image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2013

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, designed by the Office of James Burnett, opened in 2012 — an LAF Case Study Investigation (CSI) performance study
image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2013

The Art and Science of Urban Landscapes—One Performance Study at a Time

As urban areas continue to densify—cities now house more than 50% of the population in the United States—open green space has become a much desired but scarce commodity. The meaning attached to urban landscapes is now much more than its mere aesthetic value. It is the combination of economic, environmental, social and aesthetic implications of landscape projects that creates synergy around landscape architecture as part of urban form and function.

The global ‘environmental awakening,’ especially in the early 2000s, and growing awareness of sustainable and green design practices across design and planning fields made us more cognizant of issues such as rapid urbanization, uneven natural and human resource allocation, extraneous consumption behaviors, climate change and rapid ecological and environmental degradation. Such developments reminded both academia and practitioners that there are two sides (“the art” and “the science”) to understanding, designing, constructing and managing landscapes, and landscape architecture professionals have the opportunity to be in the forefront of this discussion with well-established, knowledge-based practices, especially in complex urban settings.

Investigating landscape performance and learning from past lessons has become a necessary dimension of landscape architecture, not only to reduce the gap between academia and practitioners, but also to promote the impact of the field as part of urban design. It is critical to subscribe to the phrase “the art and science” more than ever to elevate our roles and to better understand and shape the built environment.

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Urban Renewal & Resilient Design at SXSW Eco

The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine image: John McNicholas via Flickr

The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine
image: John McNicholas via Flickr

Interview with Nette Compton, ASLA

Nette Compton has served as an officer of the Sustainable Design and Development PPN for the past year, and she will be stepping up to the PPN co-chair position at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver. Nette is actively involved in many sustainable and urban design initiatives and events through her work at the Trust for Public Land, and we wanted to highlight her upcoming session at SXSW Eco, which takes place next week, October 6-8, 2014, in Austin. Nette will be on the panel discussing “Urban Renewal and Resilient Design” on October 8. In the interview below, she shares some information about the session and why this topic is of such critical importance.

One of the reasons that we have decided to provide more exposure here in The Field about this event is to encourage other SDD PPN members to participate in outreach efforts on sustainability and resiliency aimed at groups outside of the profession. Landscape architects can raise awareness about how our profession contributes expertise and solutions for urban renewal and resilient design. We welcome contributions like this by SDD members, on talks that they will be or have been involved in on sustainability initiatives. Please share your ideas!
–Lisa Cowan, ASLA, SDD PPN Co-Chair

How did this presentation come about?

In my new role at the Trust for Public Land, part of my position entails speaking about the impact of public space on cities. As Associate Director of City Park Development, I focus on how parks can improve the livability and function of cities for its residents, from providing a place to play to landscape-scale improvements in air and water quality. The presentation’s emphasis on resiliency and creative use of urban space fit right in with my past experience at the New York City Parks Department, where I was the Director of Green Infrastructure and involved in climate and resilience planning both pre- and post-Sandy. We wanted to have practitioners from around the country as part of the discussion as well, to show how these big ideas of resilience planning for cities at the landscape scale can happen anywhere, and take advantage of a range of opportunities.

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The Story of Denver’s Learning Landscapes

A bird's eye view of Moore Elementary's Learning Landscape  image: Designscapes

A bird’s eye view of Moore Elementary’s Learning Landscape
image: Designscapes

Lois A. Brink is a professor at the University of Colorado and principal leader of the Learning Landscapes project in Denver, a $50 million design and construction initiative that in 2012 completed 96 elementary schoolyards over a 12-year construction schedule. She is a leader in the industry examining the sustainability of schoolyard redevelopment through many programs and research projects. She will be presenting this topic in detail at the ASLA Annual Meeting this November with a field session on Denver’s Schoolyard Learning Landscapes.
–Chad Kennedy, ASLA

School in the Yard: The Story of Denver’s Learning Landscapes

In the last analysis, civilization itself is measured by the way in which children will live and what chance they will have in the world.
–Mary Heaton Vorse, 1935

Denver was at a turning point during the 1990s. The city’s schoolyards primarily consisted of asphalt and pea gravel, with few play structures and limited green space. Most did not meet ADA requirements, provided little protection from the sun, and had limited lighting. They were underutilized, and gravel-related accidents were common.

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Public Practice at the ASLA Annual Meeting

Denver's 16th Street Mall image: Kent Kanouse via Flickr

Denver’s 16th Street Mall
image: Kent Kanouse via Flickr

Many of the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting sessions spotlight the different roles landscape architects play in public policy and the design of public space through transportation system planning, green infrastructure, health care, sense of place, and historic preservation. These sessions address a broad array of opportunities and provide students with pertinent career development information.

Below is a list of sessions likely of significant interest to those involved in public works of landscape architecture.

Field Sessions – Friday, November 21

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PARK(ing) Day 2014 Recap

BicycleSPACE's parklet in Washington, DC image: Alexandra Hay

BicycleSPACE’s parklet in Washington, DC
image: Alexandra Hay

PARK(ing) Day‘s annual takeover and transformation of parking spaces around the world took place this past Friday, September 19. Creators of parklets this year included:

Taking place the third Friday in September since 2005, PARK(ing) Day began with a single parking space re-imagined as a temporary public place by the San Francisco art and design studio Rebar. For more on PARK(ing) Day’s origins and story, check out Rebar’s PARK(ing) Day Manual and Manifesto.

In Washington, DC, the District Department of Transportation launched a new system this year, with an application process and permit for PARK(ing) Day pop-up spaces—among the requirements, a park concept and site design had to be submitted for approval. Washington, DC hosted 18 parklets, spread throughout the city and organized by design firms, shops and eateries, and various departments of city government, among others. Below, we take a look at 7 PARK(ing) Day spaces in downtown DC. From inviting sitting areas to cornhole, these spaces offer a look at the potential a single parking space holds to spark new ideas on the different functions curbside space can support.

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Healing Gardens as Transformative Spaces

In the labyrinth with Air (one of the four sculptural elements) at Schneider Healing Garden at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center image: Brad Feinknopf

In the Schneider Healing Garden’s labyrinth at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland
image: Brad Feinknopf

Below is an excerpt from the article “‘It’s Somewhere Else Instead': Healing Gardens as Transformative Spaces,” published in the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects’ LANDSCAPES | PAYSAGES magazine. To read the full article, visit CSLA’s website and see volume 16, number 2, pages 20-23.

Healing gardens are intentionally designed to provide a physical space that supports people who are dealing with disruptions in their lives that make the present confusing and the future uncertain. Whether a person with a challenging health issue, a loved one, or a caregiver, one is waiting in liminal space, suspended at the threshold of new experiences.

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