New Book: Urban Gardening for Dummies

Urban Gardening for Dummiesimage: Paul Simon
Urban Gardening for Dummies
image: Paul Simon

One of our very own PPN members, Paul Simon, is happy to announce the publication of a new book he co-authored: Urban Gardening for Dummies.

The authors provide a complete A-Z guide for the urban gardener.  Topics include preparing urban soil conditions, how to plant, where you can plant, and the many types of plantings suitable for urban gardens. And, of course urban edibles are especially covered.  You will also learn some techniques from reducing air and water pollution, how gardens may reduce crime, increase property values, and contribute to healthier, improved neighborhoods.

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The Playground Project

The Playground Projectimage: Lisa Ramos
The Playground Project
image: Liana Ramos

Creating Garden, Art, and Play Spaces for Young Children

The Playground Project was a year-long internship with Hutchison Child Development Center, the University of California Davis on-campus nursery school. The center serves children ranging from infants to pre-kindergarten of faculty and city residents. The Bright Horizons mission is “to provide innovative programs to help children, families, and employers work together to be their very best.” Originally, the goals of this project were to enhance the existing landscape by improving its color, texture, plant palette, and overall aesthetic. But after carefully analysis of the site, it was clear that other improvements were necessary, such as the need for cooling and shade. Due to the small outdoor space, it was proposed that green playground areas become multi-functional areas and also serve as outdoor classroom spaces, educational tools, and art.  The new project goal that emerged was to create natural, educational play spaces that would also improve children’s cognitive development and motor skills.

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Book Review: Sustainable Energy Landscapes

Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Developmentimage: CRC Press
Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development
image: CRC Press

The role of design, much less landscape architecture, is rarely mentioned in discussions surrounding sustainable energy topics and projects.  Fortunately, Sven Stremkem, Dr. Dipl Ing., MA (a landscape architect), and Andy van den Dobbelsteen, PhD, MSc (a building engineer) took on the monumental tasks of creating and editing a comprehensive publication on the emerging field of sustainable energy landscapes, Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development, published in September 2012.

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Expanding Horizons: The Life Enrichment Center

Flowers, herbs and fruit are grown in planters and plant beds to give participants the opportunity for cultivation and harvestimage: Dirtworks PC, photo by BBuck
Flowers, herbs and fruit are grown in planters and plant beds to give participants the opportunity for cultivation and harvest
image: Dirtworks PC, photo by BBuck

The Life Enrichment Center is located in the foothills of the North Carolina Mountains. It is a sustainable community-based Adult Day Care facility, serving adults of all ages with a range of physical and mental disabilities and neurological conditions. The Center’s philosophy is to do “whatever it takes” to help families keep adult loved ones at home and engaged in their community.

Enriching and supporting a dignified quality of life is never more poignant than when that life involves degenerative disease.  Complex neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, require concepts of treatment that incorporate both pharmacological as well as non-pharmacological approaches. Medications, the first and often last step in treatment, offer meager solace for people who live daily with these conditions. Like other chronic illnesses that require lifestyle changes such as diabetes, manic depression and AIDS, Alzheimer’s requires a paradigm of care beyond medication that emphasizes living with existing abilities. Key to realizing this necessity is understanding a recent finding in today’s neuroscience: that much remains active and vital in the brain of a person living with dementia and other neurological disorders.1

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It’s a 3D Model, what’s the difference?

Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studioimage: David Leonard
Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studio
image: David Leonard

Land planning and design are highly driven by the need for schematic designs, but understanding the best methods and tools to reflect these schemes can be daunting. Technology continues to advance at an accelerated rate and we must stay up to speed on these changes in order to most appropriately accomplish the task at hand. 3D technologies have emerged over the past two decades increasing our ability to create stunning images of our visions, but are we using the tools correctly?

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Transforming the suburbs

Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canadaimage:
Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canada

If you haven’t been paying attention, there is a bit of a housing boom happening right now.  For the past few years during the real estate slump we have been hearing about something called “the new normal”.  The new normal was supposed to mean smaller homes, multigenerational housing products, budget conscious buyers, abandonment of the ex-urbs.  However the latest housing boom is very, well, normal.  The suburbs are booming with large homes on large lots intended for single family occupancy.  It appears that if buyers can get a loan, they are going big again.  It is difficult to know how long this boom will continue and if it will again be met by a bust, but the question is: how can we, the designers of residential environments, better challenge the conventions of homebuilding industry this time around?

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CIRD Issues RFP for Rural Communities Facing Design Challenges

Citizens' Institute on Rural Design
Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design

Partnership of federal agencies and national organizations offers workshop funding, technical assistance, and additional resources

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is issuing a request for proposals to rural communities facing design challenges to host local workshops in 2013.

Successful applicants will receive a $7,000 grant and in-kind design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000. The Request for Proposals is on the new CIRD website.

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Tuesday March 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm EST.

Book Review: Asphalt to Ecosystems

Asphalt to Ecosystems book coverimage: Sharon Danks
Asphalt to Ecosystems book cover
image: Sharon Danks

Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation by Sharon Danks

The amount of published work addressing the design of children’s outdoor environments is slim, which made it a delight to hear that Sharon Danks had published a book on the design of schoolyards. She establishes herself as an authority on the subject in the first few pages of the book; she has visited over 200 schools in eight countries and worked with the San Francisco Unified School District to create green schoolyard plans for sixteen schools. Her schoolyard plan for Rosa Parks Elementary School is discussed in the previous post “It Takes a Village”.  Dinks also consults on schoolyard design through her own practice, Bay Tree Design, Inc. In short, she has the expertise.

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Time Management Tips for Designers

image: Deborah Steinberg
image: Deborah Steinberg

Who didn’t have the studio experience in school of the daunting all-nighter?  Furiously drawing scheme after scheme, the pile of crumpled trace that was once low on the ground, slowly climbing ominously high?

School too often cultivated an atmosphere of deadline-driven work that does not serve us well in our professional lives. Nonetheless, many offices run similarly to design studios, with frenzied employees working 12 or 16 hour days (or worse) to deliver a concept presentation, a bid package, etc.

As designers, we are uniquely susceptible to confusing urgency with importance.  If you have ever attended a business conference, chances are you have heard about this keystone tenet to time management.  While urgency is time-sensitive, importance is not – or it shouldn’t always have to be. Google “important + urgent + matrix” and you’ll find a variety of charts identifying time usage in the following categories: urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and unimportant, and not urgent and important.

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