Landscapes Under Threat

December in Central Park image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr
December in Central Park
image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

In 2013, we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members which projects they felt were most at risk. Threats to landscapes—even to the most beloved places that attract thousands of visitors each year—are manifold and complex, ranging from encroaching development, poor maintenance, climate change and rising sea levels, and more. A quick look at The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF)’s At-Risk Landscapes illustrates just how tenuous the survival of some landscapes, from urban parks to intimate gardens designed by the biggest names in landscape architecture, can be.

Here are a few places—some of which may be surprising; even the most iconic and historically significant landscapes can be at risk—that were mentioned more than once:

  • Central Park, New York City
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • The Grand Canyon, Arizona
  • The National Mall, Washington, DC

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Designing Habitats with Technology – Part II

Grading checking and as-built documentation conducted with handheld and 4-wheeler attached RTK gear image: Wildlands, Inc.
Grading checking and as-built documentation conducted with handheld and 4-wheeler attached RTK gear
image: Wildlands, Inc.

A collaborative effort between the Digital Technology PPN and Ecology and Restoration PPN.

Ecological restoration and habitat creation are benefiting tremendously from the variety of software available to help analyze, design, visualize and construct complex systems and subtle topographies. While landscape architecture is embracing 3D drafting and illustrative modeling, habitat restoration can especially benefit from the use of many of these software options.

In Denver, Mark, Dave, and Allegra presented an overview of a variety of software that are used in this facet of landscape architecture. In Part I, published on July 14, 2015, we summarized our presentation by including how technology is used in Site Analysis and Design Development within restoration design. Below, in Part II, we will summarize technology used for visualization, construction documentation, and construction.

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Fair Landscapes for All Americans

Lafayette Square Park, Oakland, CA image: Hood Design
Lafayette Square Park, Oakland, CA
image: Hood Design

Environmental justice requires that landscapes be designed through processes that are fair, and in forms that are fair. Without fairness there can be no peace, because we have the responsibility both to obey just laws and to disobey unjust ones. Civil disobedience and destructive revolt follow injustice. Without fairness we can never achieve lasting beauty, except in isolated pockets of exclusive affluence. For these reasons and more, our profession must courageously champion fair landscapes for all, not just a few, Americans.

The form of the landscape contributes to racial, economic, gender, and age segregation and discrimination. Half a century ago, freeway construction and urban renewal, nicknamed “Negro Removal,” destroyed neighborhoods and uprooted primarily African American and poor people. This land was then used to serve wealthier citizens. This exploitation met violent resistance, and over time the injustices became less blatant, but justice and formal ordering of the landscape remain at odds. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. concluded that the problem that persists is that many Americans are more devoted to order than to justice. Today, three formal considerations are directly related to fairness: inaccessibility, exclusion, and unequal distribution of resources and amenities.

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The International Landscape Convention Initiative

Mexico City streetscape image: Erik Mustonen
Mexico City streetscape
image: Erik Mustonen

From May 20-23, 2015, I attended the Annual Congress of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA). This in itself was not surprising, since in addition to being a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, I am also a member of CSLA. What was notable was that the Congress was in Mexico City. Every ten years or so, CSLA likes to add interest to their annual meeting by having it outside Canada (last time, in Cuba).

Mexico City is amazing! Estimates vary, but the metropolitan area—the largest, by population, in the Western Hemisphere and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world—has about 22 million people living in an area of 2,072 square kilometers. This compares to 20.1 million in the New York metropolitan area, which is 17,405 square kilometers in size. Mexico City’s density is nine times greater in spite of having very few tall buildings.

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Town & Gown: Walkable Neighborhoods on Campus

Village center image: Cynthia Girling
Village center
image: Cynthia Girling

Due to their size and relative autonomy, universities are like small cities, and like any city, they have a significant environmental footprint. They control large and permanent areas of land and inventories of buildings and are among the top employers in many cities. As such, they are major commuter destinations. If we compare the attributes of complete, walkable neighborhoods to many university campuses, they typically fail by basic metrics. In complete communities, people can: live throughout their lives, work, access a range of services, and enjoy social, cultural, educational, and recreational pursuits. Most campuses are exceptionally job-heavy but have limited residents on or near campus. On-campus housing typically includes some student dormitories, and sometimes student family housing, but staff and faculty and many students typically have to commute to campus. In terms of providing day-to-day services that everyone, including workers and students need, again they fail. Students living on campus and daytime workers often have to travel off campus for basic services and entertainment.

Town and Gown developments, or residential communities on or adjacent to campus, can help to make the university more complete as a community by adding a greater diversity of residents, as well as services and entertainment for the whole campus population. The objectives of such developments are often threefold: 1) to raise revenue to support the university enterprise, 2) to attract permanent residents to campus and thus reduce commute trips, and 3) bring services and night life to campus, thus adding more completeness and vitality.

Wesbrook Place is one such neighborhood, located adjacent to the University of British Columbia’s main campus. Wesbrook Place was intentionally designed to be a compact, complete, and walkable neighborhood. The design is also intended to strengthen the University’s identity and to improve the overall campus vitality. The first plan was adopted in 2005 and the first residents moved in by 2008. At build-out, it is projected to house 12,000 people on a 45-hectare site, and as of 2014 it was 25% complete, with an estimated population of 3,100 residents.

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Designing Habitats with Technology – Part I

Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Construction Equipment to validate elevation during construction. image: Wildlands
Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Construction Equipment to validate elevation during construction.
image: Wildlands

A collaborative effort between the Digital Technology PPN and Ecology and Restoration PPN.

Ecological restoration and habitat creation are benefiting tremendously from the variety of software available to help analyze, design, visualize and construct complex systems and subtle topographies. While landscape architecture is embracing 3D drafting and illustrative modeling, habitat restoration can especially benefit from the use of many of these software options. In Denver, Mark, Dave, and Allegra presented an overview of a variety of software that are used in this facet of landscape architecture.

Why is this integration and diversity of software especially important for restoration design and construction? Many restoration sites have and need subtle topography and soil conditions to successfully understand and restore the habitats in a timely manner. For instance, many plant species associated with wetlands have very specific inundation limits, resulting in certain plants growing within limited elevation ranges – sometimes as narrow as centimeters or inches.  Therefore, having or creating adequate expanses of these elevations can be critical in the success of a wetland.

Throw sea level rise in the mix and the elevations for potential wetland migration or loss becomes critical. Being able to easily and accurately document and share existing conditions, concepts and alternatives, construction documentation, and construction precision is leading to a better understanding and success of ecological restoration projects.

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This July, Celebrate National Parks & Recreation Month

image: NRPA’s Park and Rec Month Toolkit
image: NRPA’s Park and Rec Month Toolkit

Parks and Rec Social Media Challenge

This month, the National Recreation and Park Association is celebrating 30 years of Park and Recreation Month, and we’re inviting you to take part. The mission parks have had since the start—to serve the people, and give them a place to appreciate nature, exercise, socialize, and have fun—is as important as ever. July is a great month to get out and enjoy parks, so the ASLA Parks & Rec Professional Practice Network (PPN) would like to challenge you to show off your favorite park and activities in parks, highlighting what you consider the best feature of that park (or parklet!). Think big or small, tangible or experiential, amenity or observation. Take photos and post to Instagram, Twitter, or your favorite social media platform and include what you value most about the park. Don’t forget to add #JulyPRM30 and #ThisIsLandArch. You can view all posts on the #JulyPRM30 tagboard.

To get you started, here are some guidelines and samples for your posts, courtesy of NRPA:

Official 2015 Park and Recreation Month Hashtags

  • #JulyPRM30
  • #PowerOfParks
  • #JulyTBTChallenge (contest hashtag—you can find more information about this year’s contest at nrpa.org/july and on NRPA’s blog, Open Space)

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Natural Water Features

Tanner Springs Natural Water Feature   image: Boora Architects
Tanner Springs Natural Water Feature
image: Boora Architects

As the notion of “sustainable sites” becomes increasingly important, the Natural Water Feature can provide the rejuvenating and life-affirming elements of water, while maximizing a site’s sustainability factor. Borrowing design techniques from natural and constructed wetlands and the increasingly popular “natural swimming pool,” the Natural Water Feature offers a green alternative to the traditional, chlorinated, and resource consuming display.

So what exactly is a Natural Water Feature? While the definition is still being debated, there are three main aspects upon which everyone agrees:

First, the display will use a non-chemical water treatment system. The Natural Water Feature relies on a living ecosystem in lieu of adding chlorine and acid. Chemical pollution becomes a non-issue—nature does the work.

Second, the Natural Water Feature should use minimal mechanical gear and electricity. This means eliminating or downsizing the mechanical filter and its pump, the effect pump, and other equipment—which translates into using less energy.

Third, the display should use recaptured water where possible, and in general, minimize the use of potable water. Some localities demand this for any water feature.

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Collaborative Landscape Planning: Redington Pass

The view of Rincon Mountains and Redington Road looking southeast across Redington Pass  Image: Rachel Glass
The view of Rincon Mountains and Redington Road looking southeast across Redington Pass
image: Rachel Glass

U.S. Forest Service Sustainable Recreation Planning through Community Engagement

The mountains surrounding Tucson, Arizona hold a bounty of scenic desert recreation opportunities, from waterfalls to archaeological sites and geological rock formations. A fifteen minute drive through northeast Tucson leads to Redington Pass, connecting the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges in the Coronado National Forest – managed by the US Forest Service (USFS). Redington Road, a 14-mile strip of unpaved road maintained by Pima County, winds across the Pass connecting the Tucson and San Pedro valleys. The scenic and challenging desert backcountry of Redington Pass attracts a diverse range of users, including recreationalists, ranchers, and researchers.

When I started my research, the Forest Service was finalizing revisions to their comprehensive Forest Plan to meet the needs of public land access for the 21st century. Presently, only one ecological management area exists for the entire district. The Plan revision proposes a collaborative area management plan specific for Redington Pass, in coordination with the Friends of Redington Pass (FRP), a non-profit organization representing social and environmental interests on the Pass. This partnership is illustrative of modern network development forged across sectors to tackle complex shared issues.

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