China’s Urban Revival: Lessons Learned

by Ming-Jen Hsueh, ASLA, and Dou Zhang, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP BD+C, SITES AP

Suzhou Creek, Shanghai
Suzhou Creek, Shanghai / image: Sasaki

The following article was originally published on Sasaki Associates, Inc.’s blog on June 7, 2019. Reposted with permission. The article is also available in Chinese via Sasaki’s blog.

Beginning in the late nineteenth and extending into the mid-twentieth century, many American cities found themselves embroiled on either side of a hot-button issue that had an immense impact on American life. Urban renewal strategies employed by cities all over the country endeavored to make cities more livable, yet the rebuttal was sharp: “More livable for whom?”

In China, similar urban regeneration experiments have played out rapidly as China’s development took off during the last few decades—with similar regrets and lessons learned following in kind. The greatest difference, however, is that urban renewal in China has been interwoven with its unprecedentedly swift urbanization over the past forty years. With these two complex development patterns happening simultaneously, there have been few moments along the way to hit pause and reflect on these changes until fairly recently.

What Now? Learning From Our Mistakes

In both China and the United States, once communities and city leaders reflected on the impacts of their urban renewal projects, the picture was not always rosy. On both sides of the globe, city-led and developer-fueled overhauls of urban districts received vocal criticism from impacted communities. They frequently disrupted communities with strong ties to the existing urban fabric—with immigrant, the poor, minorities, and other disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt of sacrifice and upheaval. Entire histories were razed to make way for other populations ready to write new stories in their place. Much was lost in social, cultural, historical, and ecological terms in the zealous march toward modernity.

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Reclaiming Land for Downtown Parks in Dallas

by Taner R. Özdil, Ph.D., ASLA

Downtown Dallas skyline
Downtown Dallas / image: Taner R. Özdil

Vision is Green in Urban Design: Reclaiming Land for Downtown Parks in Dallas

21st century cities are being challenged by significant land and resource allocation and optimization issues requiring balance between the natural and built environment especially in high-density urban areas. Concerns such as population growth, rapid urbanization, climate change, natural resource depletion, extraneous consumption behaviors, and hasty ecological and environmental degradation are increasing new urbanites’ appreciation of the value of nature, land, and open and green space within cities. Recent population trends show that cities now house more than 82% of the population in the United States (The World Bank, 2017). Integrating parks in 21st century downtowns, as part of urban design practice, has become highly desirable, but is often contested by stakeholders. However, it is perhaps the most valuable strategy for reshaping the built environment in urban areas.

Since the turn of the century, increasing environmental awareness coupled with social and economic trends has dramatically affected where people choose to live, work, and play in United States. Downtowns, after half a century of neglect, have become more attractive to members of the aging Baby-Boomers, Gen X, and Millennial generations and young families. There is a growing interest (at least for some segments of the population) and need to return to the traditional centers with smaller housing units and compact environments that have architectural character, pedestrian friendly walkable streets, and the essential elements of a livable community. More importantly, today’s urbanites seem to want both “access to nature” and a “room with a view” within walking distance of employment, housing, and essential services such as parks, grocery stores, schools, and “third places” like restaurants and coffee houses (Reconnecting America, 2017; Florida, 2002).

Even cities like Dallas, the fifth best economically performing large city in US (Jackson et.al., 2019), are not immune to these changes and challenges as available land to provide such amenities and services for future residents is rapidly becoming a scarce commodity. Indeed, the City of Dallas is ranked a dismal 49th out of 100 in the US for park availability/access (Trust for Public Land, 2018). Up until 2013, its downtown has offered only about 8.3 acres of park land per 1,000 residents, whereas the greater city of Dallas offers 22.6 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents (EPS, 2015; Hargreaves Associates, 2013).

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Professional Development Resources for Landscape Architects

Professional development resources for landscape architects offered by ASLA include: ASLA Online Learning webinars, LATIS papers, and conference education recordings.

The official start of summer and the mid-year point of 2019 are just about here—if you need PDH, ASLA has you covered!

Professional license expiring soon? Need professional development hours (PDH) right away? Check out our on-demand education offerings: over 200 Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved online learning presentations and reports, making it easy to meet your continuing education requirements for state licensure.

ASLA Online Learning

Members have access to discounted prices on ASLA Online Learning live and recorded webinars. Throughout the year, ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks host courses on topics from sustainable design to business practices.

If you missed this week’s Pollinator Week webinar, Promoting Pollinators Through Landscape Architecture: Strategies to Improve Habitat Value & Landscape Performance, the recording is now available.

Our next live presentation, co-hosted by the Environmental Justice and Transportation Professional Practice Networks, takes place on Thursday, June 27: Developing an Equity Framework – A Case Study: Los Angeles Metro.

To see discounted prices, log in using your existing ASLA username and password.

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High School Architecture Programs Need Landscape Architects

by Barbara Peterson, ASLA

Student final project presentation
Fourth-year student final project presentation in front of design professionals, former program students, and fellow classmates. / image: Chris Carson

When did you first hear about landscape architecture? Was it before, during, or after college?

When I asked fellow landscape architects that question, their answer was frequently while in college, often in an architecture program, or after they had graduated with a degree in business, finance, horticulture, art, interior design, or, like me, biomedical science. But their common interests included art, nature, the outdoors, working with their hands, and creating things. So, why didn’t someone suggest landscape architecture before they went to college?

Perhaps because most people don’t understand what a landscape architect is or does: landscaper—yes; but landscape architect—no. Participation in workshops, summer programs, and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Landscape Architecture Merit Badge help spread the word to youth, but what about high school architectural design programs?

Wait…you didn’t know that some school districts offer architecture as part of their high school curriculum? I had no idea either, until flipping through a course catalogue with my son when he entered the ninth grade. He liked architecture and wanted to try the program to be sure.

The four-year program is taught by a registered architect. Students from the district’s five high school campuses are bussed to a central Career Center for a half-day, studio-style class. They learn drafting, hand-lettering, sketching, AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp; make cardboard, basswood, and 3D models; and research, design, and learn critical thinking. Projects focus on architecture but each has a landscape design and, sometimes, a planning component.

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Headed for New Heights: Employing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Resiliency Evaluation

by Emily Schlickman, ASLA

Aerial photos of Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston
Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 / images: Jonnu Singleton

Over the past four decades, the United States has experienced 241 distinct climate and weather-related disasters, each incurring over $1 billion dollars in damage. From catastrophic wildfires and landslides in the West, to hail storms and tornados in the Midwest, to unexpected freezes and destructive hurricanes in the Southeast, these events are becoming more common and more expensive. While the overall average since 1980 has been 6.2 billion-dollar events per year, the average for the last five years has doubled, to 12.6.

In response to this trend, landscape architects, urban designers, and urban planners are not only embedding resiliency-focused strategies into their work, they are also assessing the performance of their built work in the face of these events. To do this, they are expanding the traditional designer toolbox to include emerging devices that might help with this assessment. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) represent one type of tool currently being tested for resiliency analysis.

Commonly known as drones, UAVs have a complicated history rooted in the military. For over 150 years, they have been used both on the defensive, for reconnaissance, and on the offensive, with predatory exercises. In the last 10 years, though, with the rise of the consumer drone, applications for UAVs have significantly increased. For the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, many professionals have been experimenting with UAVs to document built work, focusing primarily on marketing and promotional functions.

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Paul Dolinsky – Four Decades of Preservation Through Documentation

by Christopher Stevens, ASLA

Dumbarton Oaks Park recording project
The Historic American Buildings Survey conducted the Dumbarton Oaks Park recording project (HABS DC-571) as part of an ongoing effort to create standards for documenting historic landscapes in 1989 (NPS HDP, 1989). Paul Dolinsky, HABS principal architect, served as project leader. Thomas Ford on bridge; Paul Dolinsky, Jakub Zemler, and Andrew Wenchel (behind). / image: NPS HDP

On Friday, April 12, 2019, Paul D. Dolinsky, ASLA, retired from an almost 40-year career with the National Park Service (NPS) Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP), where he served as Chief of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) from 1994 to 2005; Chief of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) from 2005 to 2019; and Acting Chief of HDP from 2018 to 2019.

HDP administers HABS, the Federal Government’s oldest preservation program, and its companion programs: the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). Documentation produced through HABS/HAER/HALS constitutes the nation’s largest archive of historic architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation. Records on more than 40,000 historic sites (consisting of large-format black and white photographs, measured drawings, and written historical reports) are maintained in a special collection at the Library of Congress, available to the public copyright free in both hard copy (at the Library of Congress) and via the Library’s website. It is the most heavily used collection at the Library of Congress’ Division of Prints and Photographs.

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Leading Landscape Design Practices for Cost-Effective Roadside Water Management – A Review

by Christine Colley, ASLA, RLA, and Lucy Joyce, ASLA

cover images from the Leading Landscape Design Practices For Cost-Effective Roadside Water Management / images: Nevada Department of Transportation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection report
Leading Landscape Design Practices For Cost-Effective Roadside Water Management / images: Nevada Department of Transportation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Does your state Department of Transportation (DOT) have standards for green infrastructure (GI)? A recent study from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) investigated how transportation agencies are applying the principles and practices of GI. The study—Leading Landscape Design Practices for Cost-Effective Roadside Water Managementwas requested by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and prepared by a team of experts that included Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and DOT staff from across the country (California, Minnesota, Washington, Maine, Louisiana, and Nevada). The team scanned existing state DOT GI regulations, targeted regional, city, and DOTs with robust GI programs, and conducted a deep dive into GI standards and specifications. The intent was to suss out successful and unsuccessful practices with an eye toward developing guidelines for state and other public agencies to use when creating GI programs.

The study defined green infrastructure as roadside stormwater management, low impact development (LID), and hydromodification or watershed actions that conserve water, buffer climate change impacts, improve water quality, water supply, and public health, and restores and protects rivers, creeks, and streams as a component of transportation development projects and operations. Despite substantial documentation on GI design, buy-in from all levels of government (federal, state, and local), ample research, and a plethora of knowledgeable consultants, the team found that state DOTs do not consistently employ GI techniques and often only use them when required by regulatory agencies. The study was developed to help inform public agencies on the components of successful GI programs.

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Celebrate Pollinator Week this June 17-23

Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard in San Francisco
ASLA 2018 Student Honor Award in Student Community Service. Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard in San Francisco, CA. Julia Prince, Student ASLA, Benjamin Heim, Associate ASLA, University of California Berkeley. / image: Julia Prince

The third week in June is National Pollinator Week, established in 2006 by the U.S. Senate and the Pollinator Partnership to spotlight the manifold benefits pollinators provide and the urgent need to preserve and create more pollinator-friendly landscapes. Landscape architects play an integral role in designing spaces that foster healthy pollinator habitats, using their ingenuity to create vibrant, well-designed landscapes that support the pollinator population.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, ASLA’s Government Affairs team is co-hosting a congressional reception with the Pollinator Partnership at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture later this month. There will also be an ASLA Online Learning presentation on June 18, hosted by the Ecology and Restoration Professional Practice Network (PPN) and presented by Anthony Fettes, ASLA, PLA, SITES AP, Senior Associate at Sasaki Associates, Inc.:

Promoting Pollinators Through Landscape Architecture: Strategies to Improve Habitat Value & Landscape Performance

Tuesday, June 18, 2:00-3:00 p.m. (Eastern)
1.0 PDH (LA CES/HSW)

Pollinators are an imperative part of biodiversity and also vital to our well-being, contributing to one-third of global food production, and yet their populations and habitats are sharply declining. This presentation explores how pollinators can be supported at multiple scales by the collective effort between conservation ecologists and landscape architects. Join us to learn about the importance of understanding your ecoregion, ways to identify research opportunities, and how to develop a design strategy that includes foraging resources, safe locations, and materials for shelter and nesting sites (or host plants for butterflies and moths).

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