Detroit Transit Investment Will Spur Growth

by Rebecca McKevitz, Associate ASLA

Detroit’s new QLINE is the city’s first step towards improving transit / image: Rebecca McKevitz

The past ten years have brought no shortage of conversation surrounding the current state of America’s rust-belt cities and the endless number of impacts the 2007 economic crisis had on these important cultural hubs. There has been an on-going fascination with both the collapse and rebuilding of these struggling urban centers from economists, politicians, city planners, and residents alike. Almost five years since the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in Detroit, we are just starting to see glimpses of rebirth, and the majority of Detroiters are still questioning when they will feel the effects of this economic rebound. For urban centers, density promotes efficiency, and Detroit’s tremendous sprawl has created many challenges for the city. More specifically, a lack of reliable public transit has ailed the city for more than half a century.

Detroit’s significant transportation problems began when the city was designed for complete car dependency, resulting in spatially separated land uses, wide roadways, expansive parking lots and a lack of pedestrian friendly urban spaces (Talen). Detroit cannot afford to delay improvements in its public transit system any longer. The successful future of Detroit is dependent on many economic, political and social factors, but the first step towards revitalization is reconnecting the city through an updated and expanded public transit system. There are many systematic problems that got Detroit to where it is today, but refocusing efforts on a regional transit master plan will allow the city’s residents to engage with and contribute to their city, and will attract new business and development to the Motor City.

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Therapeutic Gardening for an Adult Inpatient Psychiatric Unit

by Nancy Wicks, OTR/L

image: Nancy Wicks

Two days before the start of the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, Nancy Wicks, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at the University of California Los Angeles, hosted Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affiliate ASLA, and Melody Tapia, Student ASLA, then a landscape architect student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The goal of the visit: to participate in a therapeutic garden group with patients on the adult inpatient unit.

The therapeutic garden group takes place each week on the adult inpatient psychiatric unit. It is an integral part of programming for acutely ill patients in recovery from a range of psychiatric diagnoses including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

The program was started as a quality improvement project through the 4 East Unit Practice Council, which is multidisciplinary (Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Social Workers) using a quality improvement methodology called A4 Lean, which is one of the quality improvement tools used at UCLA. This methodology gives clinicians a structure to assess the current state of service provision and then implement changes.

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CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2018 STUDENT AND EMERGING PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT

The ASLA 2018 Online Learning Student & Emerging Professional SPOTLIGHT mini-series call for proposals is now open! This initiative gives YOU the opportunity to work with a Professional Practice Network (PPN) mentor in creating a presentation for ASLA’s Online Learning series. Do you have eye-opening research to share with the profession, or an inclination to do a little design exploration over the summer? Here’s your chance!

ASLA members with the following membership types may apply:

Student Member
Student Affiliate Member
Associate Member
Full Member – Emerging Professional

The call for proposals is now open and will close on Friday, May 25, 2018.

TO SUBMIT AN ONLINE PROPOSAL:

  1. Visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/spotlight2018
  2. Provide a presentation description – including title, short description (150 words), outline, and three learning objectives for the presentation.
  3. Submit a portfolio giving ASLA and PPN mentors the opportunity to get to know you and your work (maximum five sheets at 8.5”x11”).

Selected participants will be notified in June. At this time, you will be introduced to your PPN mentor and the collaboration begins! Presentations will take place in August.

Check out the 2017 SPOTLIGHT presentations for inspiration!

Transitional Landscapes presented by Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA
Tactical Mycelium presented by Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP
PPN Mentors:
David Cutter, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Laura Tenny, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Kenneth Hurst, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

Tropical TalkStory: Hardwood Hammocks presented by Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA
Aloha Art presented by Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA
PPN Mentors:
Emily O’Mahoney, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN
Kristina Snyder, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN

Questions? Please email us at propractice@asla.org.

Pop-Up Playspaces Become Permanent Playspaces to Create Healthier and Happier Communities

by Missy Benson, ASLA

image: Playworld

Play is transformative and essential for us to thrive. Unique pop-up play areas can show us how to bring everyone together and live more playful lives. A new book about play describes how this is possible. Just published by the Design Museum Foundation, Design & Play is based on the nationally-traveling exhibit Extraordinary Playscapes and explores playground design, the importance of play to childhood development and social equity.

I am thrilled to be part of this book and to share this story. Two years ago, I was part of the exhibit team to provide a pop-up playspace in Chinatown Park, one of the parks created by Boston’s Big Dig project, called the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Designed by Carol R. Johnson Associates, Chinatown Park contains the Chinatown Gate, which both towers over a flurry of commuter and tourist activity, and provides a gateway into this culturally rich community.

Chinatown Park is full of activity everyday with groups practicing tai chi and playing chess on outdoor tables. Yet, there was not a place for families to play together until the installation of the pop-up PlayCubes. The pop-up PlayCubes are cuboctahedrons designed by architect Richard Dattner in the early 1960s and redesigned in 2016 by Dattner and Playworld with eight triangular faces and six square faces. Each face has a circular cutout so kids, teens, and adults can climb on top or get inside.

This iconic shape is sculptural and replicates nature—possible reasons why people of all ages are here playing together. As Richard Dattner explains, “PlayCubes are part of nature, albeit on a crystalline or molecular level. Archimedes, Kepler, and others have discovered and re-discovered this form over millennia, but it took Playworld and me to find a way to incorporate play. Stacking spheres ‘naturally’ take this cuboctahedron form, as Bucky Fuller discovered in his investigations.”

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Things Are Not Always As They Seem

by James Sottilo, Ecologist/Arborist; Dr. Efren Cazares, Mycologist; Ted Hartsig, Soil Scientist

Expedia Waterfront Campus / image: Surfacedesign, Inc.

Introduction

Our team began the day reviewing the landscape of Expedia’s anticipated waterfront campus with Michal Kapitulnik, Tim Kirby and Heath House of Surfacedesign, Inc. Our mission – find the potential of current site soil for repurposing. Reusing native soil profiles in future blends can have a tremendous impact on future plant acclimation and site maturity. The campus presented a contrasting ecology. Certain areas of vegetation were lush and dense while other areas displayed brown, drying turf; it was clear to the team where our attention would be needed – right?

Exploring the vibrant sections of vegetation, soil was dark, rich and moist to a depth of 14-inches. Its observable characteristics were rated as productive and ideas for soil reuse and logistics were already being explored.

Taking a few steps into neighboring areas, the look of the landscape began to change. A particular section of grassland was going dormant due to irrigation having been turned off as the site was pending demo and construction. Rooting in this area was measured at 4-inches and the soil profile was a fine sand and clay mix. Another section of land, deemed the Rectangle of Death, had dying to dead grass cover; the soil was a sandy gavel mix with obvious signs of compaction.

Healthy vegetative soil / image: James Sottilo
Dormant grassland soil / image: James Sottilo
Rectangle of Death soil / image: James Sottilo

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CommUNITY Station: Thinking Beyond the Parklet

by Miguel A. Vazquez and Lisa Beyer, ASLA

commUNITY station: Connecting People and Place, sponsored by The Riverside University Public Health System-Public Health and Alta Planning and Design / image: Miguel Vazquez

For the past few years, the Local Government Commission (LGC) has partnered with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and other organizations to showcase the great potential of parklets as public spaces during annual New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) Conferences. This year, during the conference in San Francisco, various organizations participated in the Parklet program. Our team, representing Riverside University Health System-Public Health (RUHS-PH) and Alta Planning+Design (AP+D), collaborated on the design and creation of a public space we called CommUNITY Station.

Our aim was to raise awareness about the potential application of parklets as transit stops in areas where bus stops lack basic amenities like seating, shade, and lighting, inspired by a group of high school students from rural eastern Coachella Valley who identified bus stops as opportunities to improve the pedestrian and transit environments. The commUNITY station was an opportunity to think beyond the traditional transit stop design. Innovation in materials, cost effectiveness, design and feel while maintaining the basic standards that protect the health, safety and welfare of transit users were some of the points of conversation and potential for future collaboration among the NPSG conference attendees.

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