Community Development and Tourism

San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, is a thriving community dependent on a variety of economic ventures, including tourism. image: Catalina Ávila LaFrance
San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, is a thriving community that depends on a variety of economic ventures, including tourism.
image: Catalina Ávila LaFrance

Tourism has a significant impact on much of the world. From the host to the visitor, we are all in one way or another shaped by tourism. While tourism’s positive effects include job creation, poverty alleviation, education, environmental preservation, and cultural exchange, tourism’s negative consequences–crime, loss of cultural identity, environmental degradation, species endangerment, and global warming–have proliferated in the last 30 years.

To counteract tourism’s negative side, we need to discuss what sustainable community development means within communities affected by tourism. Such a discussion must also include the steps that can be taken to ensure that those communities flourish with tourism as one part of a whole, rather than rely solely on tourism. After all, the changes that tourism brings about can be part of any community’s growth into a sustainable community.

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Life in the Margins

image: Samuel Geer
image: Samuel Geer

The Real Vegetation of our Urban Landscapes

Driving down I-94 recently, I noticed a bright orange patch of butterfly milkweed, wild bergamot, and purple coneflower growing along the highway embankment.  The plants were in bloom and stood out amongst the surrounding vegetation.  At other times of year, the planting wouldn’t make an impact, but in July it jumps out at you even at 75 miles an hour.  The plantings were so vibrant that we were inspired to exit the off ramp, climb down the retaining wall and get some close up pictures.  Once on the ground we saw that there were spots throughout the planting where people had dug up plants for their gardens.  This planting is the result of new methods for roadside vegetation planting, establishment, and maintenance specified in Native Seed Mix Design for Roadsides, a report prepared for MNDOT by Kestrel Design Group in 2010.  This report reflects the rise of green infrastructure and native vegetation restoration as emergent paradigms for understanding urban ecology and landscape management, particularly at the macro-scale of transportation networks.

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On ‘Designing for Access to Nature in Healthcare’

Mary Catherine bunting Center
Mary Catherine Bunting Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
image: Patrick Ross via Healthcare Design Magazine

Making the connection between health and nature would seem to be an obvious one, especially when we consider the emerging research on measuring health outcomes in nature or when simply viewing any variety of nature’s wonders.  And it would seem that our work as landscape architects in this field should be a no-brainer – particularly in healthcare design, right?

But there are other functions that enter into this transitioning equation which impact and influence how we bring nature into a sterile built environment.  Global issues like sustainability, aesthetics, social and cultural factors, or more specific issues like infection control.  How do we blend these synergies of influence from such disparate fields in ways that will help us to design positive interventions that will simply help people get through their good days and their bad?

The answers seem to be coming not only from the design studios but from a collection of sources and resources, like a broad ‘band of brothers’, focusing on human connections and place making.  Researchers, social scientists, strategic planners, landscape architects – like Angela Loder, University of Denver; Francis (Ming) Kuo, University of Illinois; Kathy Wolf, Washington University; Robert Ryan, UMASS Amherst; Len Hopper, FASLA, and Rodney Swink, FASLA, to name a few – all of whom are making a difference in how we collaborate and connect people with the benefits of nature through design.

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with these ‘change makers’ on the Human Health and Well-being sub-committee of SITES and with Angela on developing the Living Architecture Performance Tool.  It is Angela’s research on living architecture that this article is focused around, aligned with my work on the Green Guide for Health Care and on the Environmental Standards Council of The Center for Health Design.  We hope this will be the first of several such articles to be published around these transdisciplinary efforts.

Designing for Access to Nature in HealthcareHealthcare Design, July 2013
Written by Angela Loder and Jerry Smith

by Jerry Smith, FASLA

What makes it ‘geodesign’?

A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design 2012, showing the four necessary components of geodesign. image: Carl Steinitz
A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design, showing the four necessary components of geodesign.
image: Carl Steinitz

The term “geodesign” has some amount of buzz around it. For example, there is a Wikipedia entry; the University of Southern California offers a “Bachelor of Science in Geodesign” major; Penn State Online offers a “Graduate Certificate in Geodesign”; Carl Steinitz recently published his book “A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design”; and so on.  This is still within a small community, mind you, ask most of your friends if they have heard of ‘geodesign’, or what it might be, and you get (or at least I usually do) mostly puzzled looks.

I’ve been listening, and contributing, to the conversation that gave birth to the term for some time. Last year, in a talk at the ESRI User’s Conference in San Diego, I said “When I first heard the term I felt like I had been using it for a long time – though of course I hadn’t.”  I argued then that geodesign may be “the computer-aided design some of us have been imaging, wishing for, and working on, for many years” — making reference to the common somewhat mundane use of the term ‘CAD’ to mean simply “drawing with computers”, rather than the more ambitious “aiding design”.

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Preview of Anatomy Of A Park: Edition IV

Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition image: Waveland Press
Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition
image: Waveland Press

Anatomy of a Park (AOAP) has had a long and successful career. First published in 1971, it was originally a series of lectures by Albert Rutledge to Parks and Recreation students aiming at careers in Park Management and Administration.  I was the illustrator and case study developer of the first edition.  I’ve continued as the illustrator and became the author for the subsequent editions (1986, 2003).

The purpose of those original lectures and the resulting book was to build a bridge between the designers of parks and the users of parks.  Our goal was to explain our profession as landscape architects to people who would represent park users, administer park systems, and who would hire the design professionals who would bring the parks to life.  This new update, Edition IV, provides new information as a supplement to the timeless resource.  What follows is a sneak peak at the updates and plans for the new edition.

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SITES™ Certifies Eight Pilot Projects

The School for International Service at American University
American University School for International Service

The Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES™) has announced eight new projects that have achieved certification under the nation’s most comprehensive rating system for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. To date 23 projects have achieved SITES certification. An additional 60+ projects continue to pursue certification using the 2009 Rating System.

The newly certified projects are Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley, Texas; Harris County WCID 132’s Water Conservation Center in Spring, Texas; American University School for International Service in Washington, D.C.; Bat Cave Draw and Visitor’s Center at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, N.M.; Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center at Mesa Verde National Park, Colo.; George “Doc” Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale, Az.; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Research Support Facility in Golden, Colo.; and Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon, N.Y.

The projects certified up to this point have qualified under the 2009 rating system. It includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits that add up to 250 points. The credits address areas such as soil restoration, use of recycled materials and land maintenance approaches. Projects can achieve one through four stars by amassing 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the 250 points. An updated rating system, SITES v2, will be published this fall, using information gained through the pilot project certification process.

Read more about the sustainable features and practices of the eight newly-certified SITES pilot projects below.
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Christo’s Over the River

Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, Colorado, Drawing 2007
Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, Drawing 2007

The Confluence of Art and Land Use Politics, or the Journey is Half the Fun

As a parent, hearing the phrase “are we there yet” can cause your skin to crawl.  It isn’t that we don’t understand the frustration of a long wait for an anticipated vacation, but things that are worthwhile take time to happen – right?  As land use professionals, we find ourselves answering this question, in so many words, for our clients as we wind our way down a circuitous path towards approval of a project.  Like  the six year old in the back seat of the family wagon, our clients just wish to get on with the fun of building the project and would rather forget the often teeth grinding journey that leads to final approval.  And yet, as land use professionals who have freely chosen this profession, on some level, we must think the journey is fun.

Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, the dynamic duo behind such visually stunning and culturally evocative temporary outdoor art projects such as the wrapping of the Reichstag and the Gates in New York’s Central Park, seem to understand that the twists and turns of the permitting process is something that can and should become an integral part of any project and not just a means to an end.  Sadly, Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 but her husband and their team of consultants continue to pursue one of the couple’s latest examples of this appreciation of process in their proposed project for the Arkansas River in Fremont County, Colorado.

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Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ image: Cathy Blake
Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
image: Cathy Blake

Sometimes it helps to step back and actually think about what we are doing – in our profession and at our schools and universities.  Landscape Forms periodically hosts landscape architects to do just that.  This year I participated in a group that went to Arizona and discussed the issues facing our campuses and their landscape future.  Sharing with peers is certainly one way to test and take stock of what we routinely do on a day to day basis.

The result of the meet-up was a White Paper on Campus Planning.  The themes addressed included the following:

  • Sustainability:  Addressing energy use, resource conservation, maintenance, and adaption of structure and spaces over time.
  • Preservation:  Renovating and repurposing existing structures and spaces including “places of memory.”
  • Growth:  Accommodating institutional growth and high-cost, space intensive research facilities.
  • Technology:  Providing infrastructure for new learning and innovation made possible by universal access.
  • Collaborative Learning:  Creating spaces that support collaboration within and between disciplines, among individuals and across diverse populations on campus

While one and a half days was not enough time for great depth in any one of these subjects, it was enough time to share different experiences and impressions about the present and ultimately the future, to agree, to disagree, and to possibly learn something new.  The world of technology is changing the way business is done so quickly, it stands to reason that our need for information exchange should try to keep up.  Maybe one way to do that is simply more “old fashioned” talking.

This and past roundtable reports can be found on the Landscape Forms website.

If you have specific problems or issues that you or your campus is struggling with, I encourage you to think about organizing other round table discussions, either in person or electronically.  I would venture to guess that if you are grasping at how to find the new paradigm, so are your peers.

by Cathy Blake, Chair of the Campus Planning and Design PPN