Posts tagged with "James Corner Field Operations":
Questions of environment, ecology, and climate have never more intensely occupied the cultural zeitgeist. According to editors Christophe Girot and Dora Imhof of the ETH Zurich, as scarcity, ruin, and a siege mentality drove the functionalism that dominated architecture of the post-war period, the profession of landscape architecture is still in the midst of responding to a decades-long environmental crisis, and has produced similarly functionalist design. They suggest (as Elizabeth Meyer has for years in her Sustaining Beauty writings) that recent landscape architectural production is too highly conditioned by analytics, abstracted from site, and producing works that don’t rise above functionalist responses to an environment in peril.
Thinking the Contemporary Landscape, a 17-essay collection, attempts to set up a discourse between opposing ideologies, such as science and memory, power and territory, fact and myth, in order to present an all-encompassing theory of contemporary landscape practice. While this endeavor ultimately frays, revealing the unlikelihood (or frankly, undesirability) of such unification, the book itself is a must-read for landscape architects and urbanists. The editors wittingly construct a discourse about a schism in modes of practice, a reaction perhaps to the dominance in recent years of landscape urbanism and its hybrids. Despite the foregrounding of an environment in peril, they react to scientific positivism by advocating for a return to aesthetics, poetics, myth, and meaning. The current volume suggests other new identities. If we are to believe Charles Waldheim, landscape architect equals urbanist. Waldheim and James Corner in particular are intent on fomenting this shift in perception; beseeching practitioners to take control of urban design territory (presumably, before the architects and urban planners beat them to it).
Girot’s essay laments the modes of visualization epitomized by the “layer-cake” approach of Ian McHarg, author of the 1969 Design with Nature. He suggests that years of design with 2-D maps and collage have effectively broken down landscape thinking into abstract, and ultimately, meaningless, layers. Girot argues that the results of this diagrammatic thinking have stripped design of character, of local connections, and ultimately, of meaning.
As a counterpoint, Corner argues for the preeminence of the plan, composite layers, and collage, suggesting they have the capacity to become “engendering machines” of “rich and unpredictable interactions,” a method that comes from ecology itself. Corner plays both ends of the spectrum, at once advocating for performance and form. In a mediated (and ultimately modest) position, Corner’s conception of “format” is hardly memorable. In the context of design reviews as long as six years ago, Corner declared that the University of Pennsylvania was about form and aesthetics, and Harvard was about performance. This dissonance of Corner’s recent commentary with his earlier writings manifests as some subconscious and uncoordinated id-war, a shift away from the working landscape and toward the “pictorial impulse” he earlier reviled (in New Operations and the Eidetic Landscape).
Recalling David Gissen’s Subnatures, Vittoria Di Palma’s intriguing discussion of aesthetics engages the wasteland as site of primal disgust and ultimately, subversive aesthetics. She revisits the picturesque and its power to give “a new prominence to aversive landscape,” (a topic explored by Robert Smithson in 1973’s Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape), an apt aesthetic history to sample when theorizing the entropy, asymmetry, and gnarliness of the Anthropocene.
Other contributors reject the editors’ prompt of aesthetics altogether. Notably, Kongjian Yu, a practitioner of ecological design in China, argues powerfully for landschaft or the working landscape, suggesting that “the quality and beauty of the landscape has been detached from the notion of a holistic land system for living and survival, and has now become high art landscape design exclusively for the pleasure of the urban elite.” In a similar vein, Saskia Sassen’s critique eviscerates the blunt hand of capitalism that is currently playing out in the form of global land acquisition.
Rather than a clear way forward, the diversity of this volume evidences a fraught world in need of urban design leadership, solutions for the anxious environment of climate change, and rethinking the future of landscape’s territory and meaning in the 21st century.
Thinking The Contemporary Landscape Christophe Girot, Dora Imhof, Princeton Architectural Press, $45
Seattle’s waterfront transformation by James Corner Field Operations prepares to break ground this year
Seattle, Washington’s waterfront redevelopment, an endeavor James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) has been working on diligently for nearly a decade, is steadily moving closer to being implemented, as the $700 million project heads toward beginning construction this year.
The development cleared a major hurdle in August when supporters of the project garnered over 80 percent of the cast ballots needed to reject an initiative that would have derailed the JCFO scheme. JCFO’s vision for the two-mile-long promenade would stitch together city’s burgeoning downtown with its isolated, post-industrial waterfront, converting the space currently occupied by the Alaskan Way Viaduct into a broad pedestrian-oriented waterfront park and roadway. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, built in 1953, is currently in the process of being replaced by a partially completed underground highway tunnel that would free up the city’s coastline for public recreational activities. The redevelopment will be funded via a new tax levied on downtown businesses and will continue a nationwide trend of replacing or repurposing aging infrastructure with a mix of public amenities and new development.
Andrew tenBrink, a designer at JCFO who has been working on the project since it started in 2010, said the firm had been “struck by the ‘big nature’ of the area,” as it developed a project for a city sitting “on the cusp of the wilderness, between the bay and mountains.”
Aside from creating a new recreational spine for the city’s downtown, the new route will also string together existing cultural destinations along the waterfront like the famed Pike Place Market to the south, the Bassetti Architects–designed Seattle Aquarium at its center, and the Weiss/Manfredi Architects–designed Olympic Sculpture Park to the north. Charles Anderson Landscape Architecture was a landscape architecture consultant for the project.
The aquarium, built in 1977 on the waterfront’s Pier 59, can currently only be reached via a disruptive landscape of viaduct overpasses and parking lots. In the new plan, it will be located at the end of a broad public plaza accessible by a scenic lookout designed in concert with the waterfront scheme, reconnecting it to the city center.
JCFO’s redevelopment plan would also connect to the iconic Olympic Sculpture Park located at the northern edge of the development, connecting the city’s network of bicycle and walking trails, currently divided between north and south, together along the waterfront. TenBrink described the history of the waterfront as something that has “constantly evolved” over its transition from native habitat to industrial area and transportation corridor. In the near future, Seattle’s waterfront will transform once again to become a line between the “pristine nature of Pacific Northwest and a very manufactured (urban) landscape,” said tenBrink.
Another major and partially completed component of the project entails rebuilding an existing seawall used to mitigate Puget Sound’s constantly fluctuating tides. Between epic “king tides,” monthly lunar tides, and other seasonally variable waves, the water’s height can vary by as much as 12 feet, so the design team has deployed specially-designed panels, some codesigned with local artists, to create spots for tidal wildlife to live and grow. The wall also marks the area’s mean, low, and high tides and contains walkway areas with embedded glass blocks that allow for daylight to permeate the water, as to not disrupt sensitive spawning grounds.
The remaining areas that feed into the promenade and roadway will also receive improvements to their streetscapes in order to facilitate the pedestrianization of surrounding areas while also inserting key landscape components.
This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.
A pop-up preview of James Corner Field Operations’(JCFO) “Brickell Backyard” will be unveiled Tuesday next week. The temporary mini-gym and fitness area has been designed and installed by Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation and will provide a six-month sneak preview of what is to come for the Underline project.
The event will signal the start of the Underline's first stage of development. It's the precursor to the “Brickell Underline Park," a northern section of the Underline located near the Miami River. The park aims to breathe new life into the ten-mile stretch of underused land beneath Miami’s Metrorail, transforming it into a linear park, urban trail and living art destination. Once complete, the area will offer picnic areas, park benches, native vegetation, a nature-inspired playground, a dog park, basketball court, and art installations. In addition to this, further mixed-use parks are planned for other parts of the Underline, all of which come under JCFO’s master plan for the site.
According to the Underline website, the project is "aimed at encouraging Miami-Dade residents to walk, bike or ride transit as an alternative to driving... [it] will serve as an enhanced mobility corridor, designed to better connect communities, improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and promote a healthier lifestyle with accessible green spaces and park amenities for exercise and relaxation."
The Underline is the product of a public/private partnership among Miami-Dade Parks, Miami-Dade Transportation and Public Works, and Friends of The Underline. It also fits within the county’s wider scheme of the Masterplan Greenway network that comprises 500 miles of trails and connected public spaces.
As for the Underline’s “Brickell Backyard” fitness area, funding for the pop-up gym equipment—amounting to a total of $47,000—will come from the Community Outlay Reserve Funds (CORF).