Landscape Architecture on Campus

Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford by Tom Leader Studio image: Tom Leader Studio

Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford by Tom Leader Studio
image: Tom Leader Studio

This post was originally published on Land8 with the title “The Power of Landscape Architecture on the American College Campus” on April 3, 2014.

Landscape architects—and I include future ones in this group—seem obsessed with cities these days. Urban projects are all over the place at conferences and in design magazines, and even more predominate in related social media and the blogosphere, to the point that it makes me wonder if we all really just want to be urban designers. Of course there are legitimate and good reasons for this focus, such as the fact that more work is becoming available in cities as people migrate back from the suburbs, and high profile urban projects give landscape architects greater exposure on the media map.

Even so, I do worry a little that this preoccupation with big city landscapes may limit the perspective of students and young professionals to just how vast and diverse this profession really is. Although I won’t address all the possible career paths for landscape architects here, I do want to point out a specific and important segment of landscape architecture that rarely gets much attention: the campus landscape.

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The Latest in Urban Agriculture

Riverpark Farm, located in a New York City neighborhood that previously had no grocery stores with fresh food, uses portable planters made from milk crates on a stalled building project site so it can move to its final location when the building is developed.  image: April Philips

Riverpark Farm, located in a New York City neighborhood that previously had very limited access to fresh food, uses portable planters made from milk crates on a stalled building project site so it can move to its final location when the building is developed.
image: courtesy of Riverpark Farm – photo by Ari Nuzzo

Interview with April Philips, FASLA

Spring seems like a good time to visit the subject of landscape architects and urban agriculture, and April Philips, FASLA, has put her time and passion to work in this rapidly emerging field that supports the creation of more sustainable cities and communities. In addition to her practice, April has written a book on the subject titled: Designing Urban Agriculture: A Complete Guide to the Planning, Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Management of Edible Landscapes, published by John Wiley & Sons. After reading her interview in The Huffington Post last July—“The Urban Jungle: April Philips Has a Concrete Plan for Tasty City Landscapes”— I thought that SDD members would appreciate some follow up.
–Lisa Cowan, ASLA, SDD PPN Co-Chair

From the research for your book, Designing Urban Agriculture, and your on-going work in designing and facilitating urban agriculture projects, have you learned anything that surprised or challenged you as a landscape architect?

Simply put, food can become a platform from which we address other important elements of community, ecology, and livability, including the physical, social, economic, cultural, and environmental health of the city. Food is the gateway to the stakeholder conversations between city, community, and project developer or funder. It is also surprising how many edible projects and ideas are out there to learn from so there is still tremendous interest in delving deeper into this complex subject.

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Cozy Spaces & Restful Play

image: Chad Kennedy

image: Chad Kennedy

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood forms of play by society is the rest period between active play periods. Parents and teachers often misunderstand restful play and observation time as completion of the play period and force children back into cars, homes, and classrooms. As a father of three young children, I can relate to this and sometimes struggle with making a mental effort to pause and wait for just a moment to make sure that play has indeed reached an end. What adults perceive as an end to play is often a retreat from the sensory stimulation accumulated during the prior activity and a form of respite while a child self-regulates their emotions, body heat, and sensory intake. It is also often a time to take a step back and understand the environment from a cognitive and social perspective. This past weekend, I observed a four-year-old child at his birthday party. After jumping and bouncing non-stop in a large bounce house with a large group of children, sweaty and red-faced, he quickly distanced himself from the group. Several adults watched as he sought out and found a spot away from the bouncing and flailing of other children. The spot he chose was small, enclosed and intimate. It provided a spot where he could rest from the active and social events nearby, but still allowed him the option to observe safely while resting. He was obviously still actively engaged as he observed, moving his eyes and head back and forth as other children ran around in circles. Then without warning he was up and running around as if he had never stopped. Unbeknownst to him, he had just found his own “cozy spot” where he was able to self-regulate his physical, cognitive, sensory, and social inputs.

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Edward Godfrey Lawson, “Our First Fellow”

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano, Watercolor plan of villa and gardens by Edward Lawson, circa 1917 image: James O'Day

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano, watercolor plan of villa and gardens by Edward Lawson, circa 1917.
image: James O’Day

In 2009 while researching at the American Academy in Rome, I came upon a cache of images in the Academy’s Photographic Archive. The photographs were diminutive, measuring only 2×3 inches, but the subject matter was colossal—the gardens of the Italian Renaissance. I had serendipitously discovered a collection of nine hundred photographs taken in the early 20th century. I learned that these photographs had originally been known as the “Lawson Collection” and had been reference material in the Academy’s library. The work was attributed to Ralph Griswold, Henry V. Hubbard, Richard Webel, and Edward Lawson. Most of these names were stalwarts of American landscape architecture and easily recognizable with the exception of one—Lawson. I wondered about the mysterious and little-known Lawson—who was he and why had this collection been named after him? Surely, he must have had some prominence. This is where my research and journey began.

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The Future of Recreational Lands

Anaheim Coves at Burris Basin image: Pamela Galera

Anaheim Coves at Burris Basin
image: Pamela Galera

Almost all older, heavily urbanized cities are facing a shortage of parkland and open space. As density and property values increase, cities are less likely to purchase large parcels of land for recreation. As a result, urban populations have fewer opportunities to exercise and socialize outside, which exacerbates chronic health issues such as asthma and obesity. The solution may lie in the creative strategy of utilizing lands owned by utility companies within the urban core.

Anaheim, California, like most cities, is growing in density. Anaheim’s 820-acre Platinum Triangle is emerging as a high-density, mixed-use area that is replacing older industrial developments. The area is nestled between the SR-57 and I-5 freeways and surrounds Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, two of Orange County’s most prominent sports and entertainment venues. However, this high-density development has few opportunities for large scale recreation or nature parks.

In the early 2000s, it was apparent that the City of Anaheim needed to find open space near the high-density Platinum Triangle that would provide a connection to nature and give residents and visitors a place for exercise. The City of Anaheim forged a creative partnership with the Orange County Water District (OCWD), the largest landowner in Anaheim and owner of Burris Basin, a 116-acre ground water replenishment facility on the west bank of the Santa Ana River only half a mile north of the Platinum Triangle.

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Earth Hour 2014

image: Earth Hour Starter Kit

image: Earth Hour Starter Kit

The stars may look a little brighter this weekend. This Saturday, March 29, at 8:30pm, people around the world will be switching off the lights for the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour, a global movement celebrating our commitment to the planet, promoting awareness of our environmental impact, and also translating that heightened awareness into action. The 2014 participants include landmarks and buildings, cities, colleges and universities, businesses, organizations, and individuals in over 150 countries.

The first Earth Hour took place in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Since then, Earth Hour has become one of the world’s largest voluntary environmental actions, with more than 7,000 cities and towns worldwide participating. New this year, Earth Hour also includes Earth Hour Blue, a crowdfunding platform for sustainability and conservation projects and environmental campaigns, including:

Help Canada Go Renewable
Help Canada say goodbye to planet-warming fossil fuels. Fund our project to create a detailed map of renewable resources across the country—wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass—and set Canada on the path to 100% renewable energy.

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Parklets 2.0 Recap

The "Get Outdoors!" parklet, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and Yonder image: Deborah Steinberg

Get Outdoors!, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and Yonder
image: Deborah Steinberg

This February in Denver, CO, the New Partners for Smart Growth conference hosted a unique set of communal spaces. Parklets 2.0 was the second annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors. Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational or beautification purposes. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with sod, planters, trees, benches, café tables and chairs—even artwork or bicycle parking. They are designed to provide urban green space and to bring awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than creating vibrant communal spaces.

Four parklet installations spanned the communal spaces outside conference session rooms. Each space offered a unique twist on community space, but all offered areas for attendees to congregate, relax, interact, and learn about the importance of urban community spaces.

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