Smokey Hollow, a HALS Landscape

Smokey Hollow, Florida image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection
Smokey Hollow, Florida
image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) documents significant historic landscapes of the United States and its territories, which can range from gardens and cemeteries to neighborhoods and parks. Using historic ground and aerial photos, land surveys, plats, property records, and oral histories, HALS captures and records the cultural history of a place, the story of people who occupied the landscape, their customs, their landmarks, social traditions, and how the landscape evolved over time. The National Park Service submits completed HALS projects to the Library of Congress, where they become a permanent record of our nation and are accessible to the public.

The Florida Chapter of ASLA established a HALS program in 2007 and has submitted documentation on eight state sites to the Library of Congress so far. Measured and interpretive drawings, photographs, and written histories may be viewed on the Library of Congress website. HALS FL-01 is Barrancas National Cemetery at the U.S. Naval Air Station, 80 Hovey Road, Pensacola in Escambia County. Many Union and Confederate dead are interred there, and HALS large format photographs were produced by the National Park Service. Some of these photos are stunningly beautiful.

Continue reading

Changing Museum Landscapes

The Music Concourse in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, home of the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum image: Alexandra Hay
The Music Concourse in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, home of the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum
image: Alexandra Hay

Whether the context is densely urban or idyllically pastoral, changes made to a world-famous museum’s immediate environs often results in much heated debate, as many have already seen in response to the Museum of Modern Art’s plans for expansion, which include opening the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden to the public free of charge. Previously, access to the garden—originally designed by John McAndrew and Alfred Barr Jr. in the 1930s and updated by Philip Johnson in the 1950s and Yoshio Taniguchi in 2004—required a $25 admission to the museum.

As anyone who has taken advantage of MoMA’s popular Free Friday Nights knows, the Museum can get crowded—extremely crowded—which is a cause for concern with a space that was designed as a contemplative oasis for museum goers. A quick look at the titles of articles on the subject makes clear the mixed response this move has garnered. In The New York Times, “MoMA’s Proposal for Sculpture Garden Pleases and Riles” includes comments from a bevy of landscape architects, Michael R. Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, Laurie D. Olin, FASLA, George Hargreaves, FASLA, Ken Smith, FASLA, Donald Richardson, FASLA, and James Corner, ASLA, among them. Earlier this month, an opinion piece by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, founder and president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, with the provocative title “Is the MoMA Sculpture Garden Doomed?” appeared in Architect, setting off another flurry of responses. One of the many follow-up articles—Lloyd Alter’s “Should All Parks Be Public?”—included an online poll for readers to vote on the issue.

This isn’t the first time that changes to an iconic museum’s sculpture garden or original setting drew ire.

Continue reading

Retrofitting for Resilience

Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program (LRAP) Meeting<break>image: Coastal Sustainability Studio
A Louisiana Resiliency Assistance Program (LRAP) meeting
image: LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio

Over the last two years, my colleagues and I at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Coastal Sustainability Studio have been developing a program that provides resources to planning staff in Louisiana communities to integrate resilience into planning efforts, whether they are working on zoning codes, comprehensive plans, or water management plans. The results of the program to-date have been based on the development of an online, decision-support tool and a webinar and workshop series that included presentations from national experts and partnerships with regional practitioners to address local challenges in Louisiana. While cultural, environmental, and economic context is critical in proposing sustainable mitigating actions in response to risk, there are clear lessons that are transferable to communities around the US. The following is one of many strategies for resilience we have identified.

Communities spend large amounts of money on infrastructure improvements, including road maintenance, building renovations, and drainage and sewer repairs. Precisely because these retrofitting efforts represent costly community investments, they should be conducted in ways that achieve multiple goals: increase livability and sustainability, reduce hazards and risks, and prepare for post-disaster recovery.

Continue reading

Structural Soil — Part 2

image: Nina Bassuk
image: Nina Bassuk

In Structural Soil—Part 1, the many problems confronting urban trees were outlined and the need for a specially designed growing medium for such trees was amply demonstrated. In Part 2, the authors describe their development of CU-Structural Soil™ and share lessons learned after using this load-bearing soil for 15 years.

Why was CU-Structural Soil™ developed?

Soils under pavement need to be compacted to meet load-bearing requirements so that sidewalks and other pavements won’t subside and fail. Soils are often compacted to 95% peak (Proctor or modified Proctor) density before pavements are laid. When trees are planted into these soils, root growth is severely reduced or eliminated beyond the tree-planting hole. When root growth is restricted, tree growth suffers as water, nutrients and oxygen are limited. The need for a load-bearing soil under pavement gave rise to the development of CU-Structural Soil™, a blended soil that can be compacted to 100% peak density to bear the load of a pavement while allowing tree roots to grow through it.

Continue reading

Sensory Diets in Outdoor Play Environments

image: Chad Kennedy
image: Chad Kennedy

During a recent trip to the sunny beaches of San Diego, California, I watched my three children closely as they interacted with the salty ocean water and the silky smooth sand. I am constantly amazed at the differences between each of them, and their distinct individual actions at the beach were no surprise. The oldest methodically traveled the beach, fascinated with the textures and colors of the many seashells and with the spongy qualities of the sand as evidenced in the depth of her footprints. The middle child was timid and tiptoed across the sand trying, futile as it was, to avoid as much skin-to-sand contact as possible. The youngest ran across the sand to the water’s edge, jumping, tripping, rolling and splashing without reservation and continued with messy, wet play for hours.

Continue reading

Stormwater Infrastructure & Streetscapes

Bainbridge Island, WA image: SvR Design Company
Winslow Way streetscape, Bainbridge Island, WA
image: design and photo by SvR Design Company

The article below, written by Professional Engineer Nathan Polanski of SvR Design Company, is based on a presentation Nathan gave to the Landscape and Environmental Design Committee of the Transportation Research Board at that organization’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC this January.
—Craig Churchward and Wendy Miller, Landscape Architecture and Transportation PPN Co-Chairs

Integrating Green Stormwater Infrastructure into the Streetscape

Across the country, local governments are integrating green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) into the streetscape to manage urban stormwater runoff. More frequently implemented to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs), streetside GSI also treats polluted runoff that includes oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens to help protect the quality of local water bodies. Often overlooked, however, is the vital role that GSI can play in creating a thriving, pedestrian-friendly streetscape by providing physical buffers, reducing imperviousness, increasing opportunities for tree canopy, mitigating heat island effect, and promoting traffic calming.

Continue reading

Creating a Native Planting Design Style

image: Adam Woodruff
image: Adam Woodruff + Associates

The Planting Design PPN, chartered in 2012 in response to ASLA members’ interest in the subject, creates many opportunities for examining the area of planting design and  horticultural selection within the bigger picture of categorical expertise in our profession. As PPN Chair, I am charged with seeking interesting contributions for The Field. So, traveling along the internet I came across a planting design style for a modern prairie picture that truly took my breath away! It turns out that garden designer Adam Woodruff, of Adam Woodruff + Associates in Clayton, MO, was able to travel extensively to develop his planting design style. Landscape architect Thomas Rainer found Adam’s work breathtaking, too, and in his spare time between teaching at the College of Professional Studies at The George Washington University and his position as Associate Principal at Rhodeside & Harwell, a leading national urban design and landscape architectural consulting firm, he’s written a great re-cap of Adam’s travels and professional thoughts. Check out Thomas’s blog, Grounded Design, for additional planting design-themed posts!
–Deirdre E. Toner, Affiliate ASLA, Planting Design PPN Chair

Continue reading

The Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter’s Desert Parks

Rock art image: Erik Mustonen
Limestone rock art in the desert parks of the Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter
image: Erik Mustonen

History of the Diplomatic Quarter

In the 1970s the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia decided to relocate the international diplomatic community from Jeddah on the coast, to the capital, Riyadh, in the center of the country. This was to include not only all the foreign embassies, diplomatic residences and offices of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also all the residential, commercial, recreational and other support facilities that would make up a complete, self-sufficient neighborhood on the edge of the city of Riyadh. A German planning firm, Albert Speer and Partners, developed the master plan with Boedeker, Wagenfeld & Partners (initially Boedeker, Boyer, Wagenfeld & Partners) providing landscape architectural input.

Continue reading