Bike Maps

image: City of Austin
image: City of Austin

Luckily I have had the pleasure of living in a few cities that find bicycle commuting important and recognize the best way to get people out of their cars and onto a bicycle is to make that step a bit less frightening.  Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC are just a few cities that have taken steps to add bike lanes to their streets and provide maps of these bicycle-friendly streets to residents and visitors.

Usually these map legends point out bike trails, on-street bike lanes, and streets that are recommended for bicycling without marked lanes.  Though helpful for the seasoned bicycle commuter, a first timer may not be ready to venture out just yet.

The city of Austin is taking this to the next step and has developed a mapping system that “prioritizes rider comfort in its symbology.”  The color-coded bike network is “keyed to the real-world experience a person can expect when cycling on any given street.”

Read more about the city of Austin’s bike map on The Atlantic Cities: “Bike Maps That Give Riders the Info They Actually Need” by Sarah Goodyear.

by Deborah Steinberg, ASLA Professional Practice Coordinator

A Case for Cool pavement Systems

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CAimage: Soil Stabilization Products Company, Inc.
Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
image: Soil Stabilization Products Company, Inc.

Cool pavement systems as a hot mix asphalt alternative is encouraged by state legislation in California.

The Water Conservation PPN is highlighting two ways cool pavement technology save water.  First, reducing paving temperature reduces water evaporation from soil adjacent to paving. Also, plants in close proximity to pavement lose water quickly, when compared to plants adjacent to cool pavements. In addition to positive air quality impacts (carbon, VOC’s, temperature, etc.), water conservation is a good reason to look at new resin based paving technology. This will be explored here through a case study of a project in Northern California: Lake Merritt located in the middle of Oakland, CA.

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New York City’s High Line: Planting Design

Fall blooms on the High Line, NYCimage: Deborah Steinberg
Late summer blooms on the High Line, NYC
image: Deborah Steinberg

The High Line, in New York City, is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The first section of the High Line opened on June 9, 2009. One of the unique features of the High Line is the inspiration for the park’s planting design.

“The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running. The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, with a focus on native species. Many of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are incorporated into the park’s landscape.”

Taken from the official web site of the High Line and Friends of the High Line. Visit their site for more information and a complete plant list, seasonal bloom list, and plant guide.

by Deirdre E. Toner, D.T.DESIGN, LLC., Co-chair of the Planting Design PPN

Be Part of the Story: Call for Public Service

2013 Year of Public Serviceimage: ASLA
2013 Year of Public Service
image: ASLA

It’s time to bring your good work to light. The 2013 Year of Public Service (YPS2013) has been established by the ASLA Public Awareness Campaign to highlight the wide-reaching public-service activities readily performed by landscape architects and to advocate for a higher commitment by all to community service projects.

ASLA invites current members to submit documentation of 2013 projects for review by the Public Awareness Campaign to highlight in the campaign’s resources and outreach. Descriptions, quotes and multimedia content may be used – with proper credit – on the YPS2013 website, blog and The Understory Facebook page.

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Design and Politics

Capitol Building, Washington, DCimage: Shavawn Coleman
Capitol Building, Washington, DC
image: Shavawn Coleman

It’s inevitable that politics and the design profession collide. After listening to Eric Roberts, the Vice President of SH Architecture in Las Vegas, NV, it is imperative that the design profession get involved in the political aspect of our profession. Politics and design don’t seem to coincide. If we go back and look, only one United States President listed ‘architecture’ as his profession, Thomas Jefferson. It is about time we end the 200 year hiatus.

The question is how do we get involved?

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New Book: Urban Gardening for Dummies

Urban Gardening for Dummiesimage: Paul Simon
Urban Gardening for Dummies
image: Paul Simon

One of our very own PPN members, Paul Simon, is happy to announce the publication of a new book he co-authored: Urban Gardening for Dummies.

The authors provide a complete A-Z guide for the urban gardener.  Topics include preparing urban soil conditions, how to plant, where you can plant, and the many types of plantings suitable for urban gardens. And, of course urban edibles are especially covered.  You will also learn some techniques from reducing air and water pollution, how gardens may reduce crime, increase property values, and contribute to healthier, improved neighborhoods.

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The Playground Project

The Playground Projectimage: Lisa Ramos
The Playground Project
image: Liana Ramos

Creating Garden, Art, and Play Spaces for Young Children

The Playground Project was a year-long internship with Hutchison Child Development Center, the University of California Davis on-campus nursery school. The center serves children ranging from infants to pre-kindergarten of faculty and city residents. The Bright Horizons mission is “to provide innovative programs to help children, families, and employers work together to be their very best.” Originally, the goals of this project were to enhance the existing landscape by improving its color, texture, plant palette, and overall aesthetic. But after carefully analysis of the site, it was clear that other improvements were necessary, such as the need for cooling and shade. Due to the small outdoor space, it was proposed that green playground areas become multi-functional areas and also serve as outdoor classroom spaces, educational tools, and art.  The new project goal that emerged was to create natural, educational play spaces that would also improve children’s cognitive development and motor skills.

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Book Review: Sustainable Energy Landscapes

Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Developmentimage: CRC Press
Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development
image: CRC Press

The role of design, much less landscape architecture, is rarely mentioned in discussions surrounding sustainable energy topics and projects.  Fortunately, Sven Stremkem, Dr. Dipl Ing., MA (a landscape architect), and Andy van den Dobbelsteen, PhD, MSc (a building engineer) took on the monumental tasks of creating and editing a comprehensive publication on the emerging field of sustainable energy landscapes, Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning, and Development, published in September 2012.

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Expanding Horizons: The Life Enrichment Center

Flowers, herbs and fruit are grown in planters and plant beds to give participants the opportunity for cultivation and harvestimage: Dirtworks PC, photo by BBuck
Flowers, herbs and fruit are grown in planters and plant beds to give participants the opportunity for cultivation and harvest
image: Dirtworks PC, photo by BBuck

The Life Enrichment Center is located in the foothills of the North Carolina Mountains. It is a sustainable community-based Adult Day Care facility, serving adults of all ages with a range of physical and mental disabilities and neurological conditions. The Center’s philosophy is to do “whatever it takes” to help families keep adult loved ones at home and engaged in their community.

Enriching and supporting a dignified quality of life is never more poignant than when that life involves degenerative disease.  Complex neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, require concepts of treatment that incorporate both pharmacological as well as non-pharmacological approaches. Medications, the first and often last step in treatment, offer meager solace for people who live daily with these conditions. Like other chronic illnesses that require lifestyle changes such as diabetes, manic depression and AIDS, Alzheimer’s requires a paradigm of care beyond medication that emphasizes living with existing abilities. Key to realizing this necessity is understanding a recent finding in today’s neuroscience: that much remains active and vital in the brain of a person living with dementia and other neurological disorders.1

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It’s a 3D Model, what’s the difference?

Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studioimage: David Leonard
Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studio
image: David Leonard

Land planning and design are highly driven by the need for schematic designs, but understanding the best methods and tools to reflect these schemes can be daunting. Technology continues to advance at an accelerated rate and we must stay up to speed on these changes in order to most appropriately accomplish the task at hand. 3D technologies have emerged over the past two decades increasing our ability to create stunning images of our visions, but are we using the tools correctly?

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Transforming the suburbs

Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canadaimage:
Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canada

If you haven’t been paying attention, there is a bit of a housing boom happening right now.  For the past few years during the real estate slump we have been hearing about something called “the new normal”.  The new normal was supposed to mean smaller homes, multigenerational housing products, budget conscious buyers, abandonment of the ex-urbs.  However the latest housing boom is very, well, normal.  The suburbs are booming with large homes on large lots intended for single family occupancy.  It appears that if buyers can get a loan, they are going big again.  It is difficult to know how long this boom will continue and if it will again be met by a bust, but the question is: how can we, the designers of residential environments, better challenge the conventions of homebuilding industry this time around?

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CIRD Issues RFP for Rural Communities Facing Design Challenges

Citizens' Institute on Rural Design
Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design

Partnership of federal agencies and national organizations offers workshop funding, technical assistance, and additional resources

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is issuing a request for proposals to rural communities facing design challenges to host local workshops in 2013.

Successful applicants will receive a $7,000 grant and in-kind design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000. The Request for Proposals is on the new CIRD website.

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Tuesday March 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm EST.

Book Review: Asphalt to Ecosystems

Asphalt to Ecosystems book coverimage: Sharon Danks
Asphalt to Ecosystems book cover
image: Sharon Danks

Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation by Sharon Danks

The amount of published work addressing the design of children’s outdoor environments is slim, which made it a delight to hear that Sharon Danks had published a book on the design of schoolyards. She establishes herself as an authority on the subject in the first few pages of the book; she has visited over 200 schools in eight countries and worked with the San Francisco Unified School District to create green schoolyard plans for sixteen schools. Her schoolyard plan for Rosa Parks Elementary School is discussed in the previous post “It Takes a Village”.  Dinks also consults on schoolyard design through her own practice, Bay Tree Design, Inc. In short, she has the expertise.

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Time Management Tips for Designers

image: Deborah Steinberg
image: Deborah Steinberg

Who didn’t have the studio experience in school of the daunting all-nighter?  Furiously drawing scheme after scheme, the pile of crumpled trace that was once low on the ground, slowly climbing ominously high?

School too often cultivated an atmosphere of deadline-driven work that does not serve us well in our professional lives. Nonetheless, many offices run similarly to design studios, with frenzied employees working 12 or 16 hour days (or worse) to deliver a concept presentation, a bid package, etc.

As designers, we are uniquely susceptible to confusing urgency with importance.  If you have ever attended a business conference, chances are you have heard about this keystone tenet to time management.  While urgency is time-sensitive, importance is not – or it shouldn’t always have to be. Google “important + urgent + matrix” and you’ll find a variety of charts identifying time usage in the following categories: urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and unimportant, and not urgent and important.

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New Partners Takes the “Parklet” Indoors!


Minneapolis installation during 2008 Park(ing) Dayimage:
Minneapolis installation during 2008 Park(ing) Day

New Partners for Smart Growth
Kansas City, February 7-9, 2013

This year, the New Partners Conference makes its way to America’s heartland—Kansas City, Missouri.  In addition to the 90 sessions and close to 400 speakers, there are a number of special features: optional workshops, networking activities, and special events. The following may be of interest to many of our PPN members:

In recent years, a number of communities have begun experimenting with “parklets” – temporarily turning the asphalt of parking spaces into small, on-the-street spots of greenery and seating – to enliven the streetscape experience and provide more outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes. The New Partners conference will showcase five parklet model experiences inside the Kansas City Convention Center, to demonstrate for participants what a parklet is, and how it can transform a couple of under-utilized parking spaces into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant (parking) spaces in your community.

Nature Bullies

Father and son explore their local natural spaceimage:
Father and son explore their local natural space

The following commentary, whether you agree with it or not, brings up a great challenge for Landscape Architects. How can we design spaces that promote interaction with the natural world without harming it? We know how to design trails, signage, rest areas, but how do we design to allow for the creative, open ended exploration by children in nature.  We need to find the balance between conservation and discovery.  The Children and Nature Movement is much more than teaching children how to identity birds and trees, it is about creating a profound connection to the natural world.

NATURE BULLIES: A conservation biologist’s perspective on children in nature


Ron Swaisgood, author of the aforementioned commentary, is a conservation biologist and ecologist. He and his wife Janice Swaisgood (along with their two boys) co-founded the Family Adventures in Nature (FAN) Club in San Diego and it has since spread internationally.  For more information visit their website.

Outdoor Gyms

Fitness Zone™: Belvedere Park, Los Angelesimage: Trust for Public Land
Fitness Zone™: Belvedere Park, Los Angeles
image: Trust for Public Land

Over the years our municipality has taken out outdoor fitness courses or seen them severely underutilized. Could it be because of our weather here in Colorado? Perhaps, but maybe this new effort to design attractive and unique fitness solutions specific to outdoor parks will reopen opportunities to provide this sort of service in our parks. I am particularly intrigued by the City Art Gym information posted in this article.

‘Fitness parks’ catch on in cities
by Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY, December 14, 2012

City Art Gym

HORIZONS: On the move with Fitness Zones
Trust for Public Lands, February 12, 2012

ASLA Call for Presentations: 2013 Annual Meeting and EXPO

ASLA Call for Presentations: 2013 Annual Meeting and EXPO
ASLA Call for Presentations: 2013 Annual Meeting and EXPO

ASLA is now accepting proposals for education sessions for the 2013 Annual Meeting and EXPO, November 15-18, in Boston. If you are interested in presenting and sharing your knowledge with the landscape architecture profession, we encourage you to submit a proposal through our online system.

Click here for detailed information on submitting education program proposals. The deadline for submissions is February 6, 2013.


Greenbuild 2013 Call for Proposals & Reviewers

Greenbuild International Conference & ExpoNovember 20-22, 2013, Philadelphia, PA
Greenbuild International Conference & Expo
November 20-22, 2013, Philadelphia, PA

USGBC is currently accepting proposals from industry experts eager to share their knowledge and expertise with audiences at Greenbuild. This is your chance to shape the content of education sessions!

Submit a proposal or learn more about the process. The deadline for submittals is Friday, Jan. 11 at 4:59 pm ET.

USGBC is also seeking peer reviewers to evaluate session proposals. Reviewers are eligible to present at Greenbuild and receive $100 discount off a Greenbuild full conference registration. Learn more about volunteering as a reviewer.

Free Urban Design Resources from ‘Across the Pond’

TOD Station Concept, Aberdeen, MDimage: Parsons Brinckerhoff
TOD Station Concept, Aberdeen, MD
image: Parsons Brinckerhoff

Thank You, Prince Charles!

Landscape architects tend to be excellent generalists, but how well are we trained in the specialized art and science of “urban design”?  A decade ago, a change in employment inspired me to strengthen my urban design knowledge, and in the process, discover a wonderful resource from the United Kingdom (UK).

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Vilma Pérez Blanco: A Pioneer in Puerto Rico’s Landscape

Punto Verde, Puerto Ricoimage: Olga Angueira
Punto Verde,  San Juan, Puerto Rico
image: Vilma Pérez Blanco

I met Vilma Pérez Blanco in 2004 when I returned home to Puerto Rico from the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design after completing a Master in Landscape Architecture.  Vilma was one of the first landscape architects I contacted while searching for jobs in Puerto Rico.  She could not offer me a job at the time, but instead, she offered me her guidance, advice, and friendship, which have been way more valuable than any job.  Her strong will and character, her energy and enthusiasm for each project she has worked on for the last 54 years have inspired many of her colleagues and young professionals.  Through friendly conversations on her rooftop terrace and more formal interviews for local newspapers, I learned about her passion for design and her commitment to improve the public spaces in Puerto Rico.  She has been a key person in the development and recognition of landscape architecture in Puerto Rico.  Her design work includes a wide range of projects in scale, types, and clientele, while her active role in public and private organizations has created a positive impact on the role of the landscape architect in society.

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Bicycling in Spain: Is there a relation to Land Use?

Bikes share a transitway in Seville
image: Stan Clauson

This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.

Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle.  Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation.  In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands.  So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling.  Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones.  But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation?  It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well.  In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.

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Ecosystem Restoration and Ecological Design

The prairie at Marlatt Park on the northwest side of Manhattan, Kansas is burn-managed by Kansas State University personnel and serves as an important place for teaching, research, and recreation.
image: Lee R. Skabelund.

At ASLA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago in September 2009, I discussed guiding principles related to ecological restoration in urban and suburban settings. I also highlighted indicators of “restoration success.” In this post I revisit ideas shared in a subsequent summary report of our education session.

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Bicycle Connectivity: A New Perspective

Cyclists enjoying the William C. O’Neill (South County) Bike Path, Rhode Island
image: State of Rhode Island Department of Transportation

Moving Beyond the Network

You could say that the author has some familiarity with the subject of bicycle connectivity; over the course of finishing his MLA degree at the University of Oregon, he pedaled over 6,500 miles in and around the city of Eugene.  The city is already well known for its bicycle friendly environment, but this did not stop the Colorado native from questioning how it can be made even better. His hope is to make cities and communities more hospitable places by creating innovative approaches to bicycle connectivity.  The author’s graduate research explores current thought on the subject then details a new, holistic approach to that goal.

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Tulip Paradise: The History of the Tulip and Emirgan Park

Stream of tulips, Emirgan Park, Istanbul, Turkey
image: Eric Kopinski

When most people think of tulips, they think of them originating from Holland, when in fact tulips are native to Central Asia and Turkey4. Tulips noted by the Turks in Anatolia were first cultivated by the Turks as early as the 11th century2. The botanical name, Tulipa, is derived from the Turkish word “turban”, which the tulip flower resembles.  Many cultivated varieties of tulips were widely grown in Turkey long before they were introduced to European gardens in the 16th century and quickly became popular4. Although the Dutch Tulipomania is the most famous, the first tulip mania occurred in the 16th century in Turkey. Tulip blooms became highly cultivated, and coveted, for the pleasure of the Sultan and his followers. The Turks had strict laws governing the cultivation and sale of tulips; buying or selling tulips outside the capital was a crime punished by banishment3.

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SITES™ Public Comment Period Extended Until November 26

Hunts Point Landing, Bronx, New York
image: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects

SITES has extended the public comment period seeking input on the proposed 2013 Prerequisites and Credits. This incorporates feedback received during the two-year pilot program and additional research from SITES staff and technical advisors. To provide comments, please click here. The public comment period will close on November 26, 2012 at 5:00pm Central.


Watch a live 1.5 hour webinar on Thursday, November 8, 2pm CST/ 3pm EST to learn more about the proposed 2013 credits. Click here to link to the webinar (enter as guest). Prior to the webinar, follow these steps to make sure your computer’s system requirements are met.

Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife

Still from Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife animation
image: ASLA

The last animation on Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife is available!  Watch an explanation on how to transform your property into a real wildlife habitat. Learn how native plants and designed structures provide what nature needs.

This is just the latest of ASLA’s animations that are designed to be a basic introduction to sustainable design concepts, created for the general public and students of all ages.


One Week Left for SITES Comments

New seating area outside Mann Library
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
image: Schmidt Design Group, Inc. 

SITES™ Public Comment Period Closes November 5: Give Your Feedback!

The deadline to submit comments on the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) proposed 2013 credits is Monday at 5:00 p.m. CST, November 5, 2012. SITES™ is the most comprehensive set of voluntary, national guidelines ever developed for sustainable landscapes. The proposed revisions are based on experience gained through the two-year pilot program, which involved 150 projects, 11 of which have been certified so far.

The proposed 2013 credits will serve as the basis for transitioning SITES to open enrollment in mid-2013. This update is available for comment and download at the SITES™ website.

All industry professionals and interested parties are urged to participate during this public comment period to ensure the quality and applicability of the revised guidelines. Responses will inform the SITES 2013 Reference Guide, which will be released in mid-2013.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative is a partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden to create a system to evaluate sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance.