America's top architecture and design schools are filling out their lecture series line-ups with leading thought leaders in landscape architecture and design. Coast-to-coast, AN has selected six of these can't-miss lectures that delve into issues such as climate change, urban beautification, the ecology of memory, and more. Check out the events below: PRODUCTIVE RESURGENCES: the Garden of the XXI Century Speaker: Teresa Galí-Izard Harvard GSD, Gund Hall 112 October 28, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. Teresa Galí-Izard is an associate professor at Harvard GSD as well as a landscape architect. Previously, she was the chair of the landscape architecture department at the University of Virginia and is currently the principal of the firm Arquitectura Agronomia. Her work explores the “hidden potential of places” and she seeks to “find a contemporary answer that includes non-humans and their life forms through exploring climate, geology, natural processes, dynamics, and management.” LAEP Lecture Series and Film Screening with Lynden B. Miller Speaker: Lynden B. Miller 112 Wurster Hall, University of California Berkeley October 30, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. In 1982, Lynden B. Miller rescued and restored The Conservatory Garden in Central Park. A public garden designer in New York City, she has contributed work to over 45 public projects in all five boroughs, such as Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, and Madison Square Park. Her 2009 book, Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape won the Horticultural Society 2010 National Book Award. This lecture will feature a screening of the new documentary Beatrix Farrand’s American Landscapes, which follows Lynden B. Miller as she explores the life of Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female landscape architect. Speakers: Kim Wilkie, Daniel Vasini, and Andrea Cochran Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue, New York, NY October 7 and 21, November 4, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. While the first lecture in this series has already passed, the second and third are coming up. On October 21st, Daniel Vasini will give a talk titled Landscape Transformations, highlighting innovative projects such as Governor’s Island, for which his firm West 8 won an international design competition to complete the 87-acre master plan. On November 4, Andrea Cochran will take the stage with a talk titled Immersive Landscapes, in which she will discuss how she blurs the lines between the built and natural environment in her work. Kate Orff: Unmaking the Landscape Speaker: Kate Orff Scholastic’s Big Red Auditorium 120 Mercer Street, New York, NY October 22, 7:00 p.m. Kate Orff is the founder of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design practice based in New York City and now New Orleans. She is also the director of the MSAUD program at Columbia’s GSAPP. In this series of lectures, The Architectural League of New York invites leading practitioners and educators to outline new ways of thinking and acting in the professions of architecture and landscape architecture in the wake of the climate emergency. Lewis J. Clarke Landscape Architecture Lecture: Sara Zewde Speaker: Sara Zewde Burns Auditorium, North Carolina State University Boney Dr, Raleigh, NC October 16, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Sara Zewde is the founding principal of Studio Zewde, a design studio operating at the intersection of landscape, urbanism, and public art. Zewde holds a master’s of landscape architecture from Harvard GSD and a master’s of city planning from MIT. She will discuss how narratives embedded in the ecologies of memory offer opportunities for landscape architecture in today’s context of changing climate and political tensions. Green Infrastructure & Livable Cities Speaker: Jack Leonard Rutgers University Room 112, 93 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ October 16, 4:00 p.m. Jack Leonard is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and director of the Sustainable Urban Communities Program at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture + Planning. He is also a principal of JGL Design Associates. This lecture will raise questions such as how we define “livability” in urban communities, as well as how we can focus on green infrastructure as playing a role in the social, cultural, and economic revitalization of urban communities.
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More than 50 years after Montreal's Expo 67 World’s Fair, Parc Jean-Drapeau, has received a full renovation by the transdisciplinary design firm Lemay. The vast redevelopment project, titled Espace 67, involved the enhancement of a natural amphitheater and redevelopment of the central concourse that links the island’s Biosphere to Alexander Calder’s Trois Disques sculpture. The project began in 2017 and the revitalization of the site is, in part, a celebration of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary. “Lemay’s concept blends the enchanting natural setting and rich historic past of this exceptional site, to offer a truly versatile space,” said Andrew King, partner and design principal at Lemay in a press release, “It has been reborn as a destination unto itself, now able to fully accommodate a wide range of major events.” Building on the 662-acre site’s history, Lemay aimed to recreate the “festive, unifying spirit” of Expo 67, which is remembered as a landmark in Canadian history for its social, cultural, and technological advancements. With a record-breaking number of visitors, it was the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. The design approach is rooted in adaptive reuse but creates enhanced services, event spaces, and wayfinding through a holistic design strategy. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s neighboring geodesic dome, the central pathway has been shaped by inclined planes paved with a geometric pattern. The slight incline (and to many resident’s dismay, the removal of hundreds of trees) maximizes views of Calder’s sculpture as well as the surrounding context of the St. Lawrence River and Old Montreal. Service pavilions have been added near the site’s entrance with materials that echo the architectural language of the Expo and follow the same geometric design incorporated throughout the rest of the park. The pavilions themselves were also designed with wayfinding and crowd management in mind, and their metallic surfaces and lighting design making them prominent markers throughout the visitor’s journey in the park. The massive renovation spans 1,502,286 square feet, with the amphitheater alone accounting for 615,265 square feet of that. While the theater can seat up to 65,000 people at any given time, it was designed with flexibility in mind; the stage can be adjusted and the floor shortened to create intimacy for smaller events. While some are excited about the prospect of holding larger-scale events and festivals on the former fairgrounds, others are disappointed in the redesign. Retired professor and historian, Roger La Roche, told Citylab that, “The main objective of Expo 67’s planners was to make the site completely human-sized. Even if there were people everywhere, you could still feel isolated, in your own little bubble,” he explained, reminiscing on the days of his youth when he worked as a cook at the fair. The architects insist that the removal of trees for the creation of more open space was due to the disrepair that the entire park, including the landscaping, was in. However, not all is lost for the city’s nature lovers. Société du parc Jean-Drapeau has recently joined forces with the City of Montreal on a naturalization project for the south bank of the nearby Olympic Basin on Île Notre-Dame, in which more than 135 trees and 300 shrubs have already been planted. Done in conjunction with the urban forest action plan, the objective is to plant 300,000 trees by 2025, increasing the city’s canopy index by five percent.
“Very soon it’s going to be a fact that in Copenhagen we ski on the roofs of our power plants,” Bjarke Ingels, founder of the Danish architecture practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), stated a couple of months prior to the completion of his firm’s Copenhill. Now, Copenhill, a new waste-to-energy power plant, has officially opened its doors after eight years (delays were primarily caused by safety approvals to occupy the roof). Beyond its hyped rooftop ski slope, the building also houses ski lifts, a ski rental shop, hiking trails, a cafe, and the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world. Copenhill, or Amager Bakke in Danish, ironically refers to the lack of hills in the southeastern Amager area of Copenhagen, a flatness that becomes apparent when one stands on the top of the 90-foot-tall “mega-brick” metal-clad building. “We do not have mountains, but we do have mountains of trash,” Ingels said. Turning away from the panoramic city views, one sees the 1,300-foot-long artificial ski slope designed in collaboration with Colorado’s International Alpine Design, the creators of many larger ski resorts around the world. The five shades of green of the ski slope surface membrane peek out from clean steam released from the nearby smaller chimneys. The gradient of green colors has been chosen to emphasize the sustainable agenda. The slope mimics—in a cartoon-like manner—a naturalistic terrain. However, the professional skiers testing it disappear within seconds, which makes the excitement of watching the skiers fade quickly. A park, designed in collaboration with the Danish landscape practice SLA, runs along both sides of the ski track. The park was planned as a manicured Nordic wilderness with the ambition of attracting natural wildlife to the building. The metal facade, which will feature crawling plants, has setbacks for birds and other animals to inhabit. While the sustainable agenda informed details like the choice of plants, it can be questioned why the same consideration has not been given to the actual building materials. The choice of nonsustainable materials such as concrete, glass, steel, and aluminum is in many ways contradictory to the ideology of the building itself. On the underside of Copenhill is Amager Resource Centre (ARC), billed as the world’s cleanest power plant. It provides 30,000 homes with electricity and 72,000 homes with heating across five municipalities, including Copenhagen. The heaviness of the technology that goes into a building like a power plant becomes very apparent when the glass elevator takes you from the ground floor up to the ski slope. An impressive interior landscape of monochrome silver-painted machines extends as far as the eye can see, and as Ingels explained, “the only design decision BIG was able to make on the inside of the power plant was to decide the color of the machinery—if it was of no extra cost.” The building in its entirety has so far cost 4 billion Danish kroner ($670 million USD) and is one of the most expensive construction projects in the recent history of Copenhagen. It is a high cost for a building that is supposed to be obsolete in the near future—plans are being drawn for a recycling system to take over all waste management. The building—with the merging of interior industry and exterior recreative space—is what Ingels describes as hedonistic architecture. Copenhill should, in his eyes, be viewed as a landmark of an ambition to use clean tech to create a better environment, quality of life, and awareness of habits of consumption. The initial ambition was to have the 410-foot chimney discharge a smoke ring made from water vapor every time one ton of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere. There are no rings, but at least the exhaust is cleaned as much as possible before being unleashed above the city. As a contradictory landmark—the overall agenda is to have fun while increasing awareness of consumption—the building is officially part of the ambitious goal of making Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. Christine Bjerke is a Copenhagen-based architect and writer and teaches at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) announced today that Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has been chosen as the namesake of its new international prize. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit first introduced the biennial award, now dubbed the Oberlander Prize, back in August as the first and only one of its kind to provide a $100,000 award for landscape architects. Currently living in Vancouver, Oberlander, 98, has worked across Canada and the United States for over 70 years. Among her most notable works include the National Gallery of Canada, The New York Times Building in New York, the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver—one of the dozens of projects where she collaborated with the late architect Arthur Erickson. In a July meeting with TCLF president and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, Oberlander said she was “overwhelmed and smitten” by the honor and released the following statement:
“I hope the Oberlander Prize will spur landscape architects to innovate, be inventive and generate new ideas, and to be leaders in their community. Landscape architecture is ideally suited to deal with the environmental, social and ecological challenges we face now and the challenges we must plan for in the future. Landscape architects are a combination of artists, designers, choreographers, and scientists; they must also be leaders, especially in dealing with the effects of climate change. Through careful research, innovation, collaboration with allied professionals, and design excellence, landscape architecture can become a global leader in addressing the important issues we all face.”Oberlander is a highly-decorated, award-winning design professional whose influence most recently earned her the ranking of Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest level of the Order of Canada. Though she was born in Germany, Oberlander immigrated to the United States for a brief time to study at Smith College and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1951, she became a community planner in Philadelphia, eventually working alongside Dan Kiley on both the Schuylkill Falls public housing project led by architect Oskar Stonorov and the Millcreek housing project led by Louis Kahn. Two years later she established her own practice in Vancouver and quickly garnered attention for her environmentally-thoughtful design. At Expo ‘67 in Montreal, she created the Children’s Creative Center, an innovative playground that led her work on 70 playground projects in her lifetime. “It was the consensus of the Prize Advisory Committee,” said Birnbaum in a press release, “which helped shape the Prize, and TCLF’s Board of Directors that Cornelia Oberlander’s inspiring and trailblazing career in the field of landscape architecture exemplifies the critical values and ideals of the Prize, and that she is someone who embodies the Prize criteria of creativity, courage, and vision.” TCLF is in the process of raising $4.5 million to endow the prize forever and has received individual commitments of $10,000 each from donors within its 100 Women Campaign. The inaugural recipient will be announced in 2021.
The northern end of Central Park is slated to get a major upgrade by 2024. Today the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department unveiled its plans for a $150 million restoration of the long-damaged landscape surrounding the Harlem Meer. Envisioned by the conservancy’s design office, led by chief landscape architect Christopher J. Nolan, in collaboration with Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola, the project aims to repair the land, restore the local ecology, and revamp access to a new recreational facility that will replace the 53-year-old Lasker Rink and Pool. Built like a concrete box, the building has blocked views of the Harlem Meer towards the south and diminished the size of the 11-acre landscape since it opened in 1966. The project is the final piece of the puzzle that is the conservancy’s 40-year renewal plan to update Central Park. In 2016, the group completed restored the Ravine landscape next door to the Lasker Rink, and the Loch watercourse in the North Woods. Pedestrian circulation was improved, infrastructure was updated, and the deteriorating rustic bridges and stone steps that populated the landscape were rebuilt. The design team wants to build upon that project by further enhancing access to all the recreational activities available at this end of the park. By removing the rink building, they will build a new, sustainable, light-filled facility that shows off the surrounding landscape rather than obstructing it. The building will be embedded into the topography of the site along its eastern slope and feature a green roof that doubles as a pathway and gathering place. It will boast views of the park, pool, and rink below, which will be lowered slightly than its existing location and reshaped into an elongated oval to maximize its impact on the site. All of these design moves, big and small, will allow for water from the Ravine to flow more easily into the Meer. Visitors will be able to observe this transition as they walk around a curvilinear boardwalk that extends over the freshwater marsh and across a series of small islands. Other upgrades to the project will include a new pool deck, bathrooms, locker rooms, and concessions area. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.
Hare & Hare, Landscape Architects and City Planners Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein University of Georgia Press in association with Library of American Landscape History List price: $39.95; 264 pages Cemeteries are like cities. They need streets that efficiently accommodate traffic flow, harmonious neighborhoods of related structures, visual landmarks and vistas, and a sense of place that will attract not only its permanent residents but also visitors. Sidney J. Hare (1860–1938) was one of America’s most influential designers of such landscapes. “On a national level, Sid’s foremost contribution was his participation in the ideological and physical shaping of a new type of cemetery, one fit for the twentieth century,” write Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein in their book, Hare & Hare Landscape Architects and City Planners. What had once been spooky, gloomy, often remotely sited plots of land well outside the city limits for the dead, suddenly became, through the work of Hare and his son, S. Herbert Hare (1888–1960), in-town locales that were very much alive. The father-son team of landscape architects, based in Kansas City, designed fifty-four cemeteries throughout the country and one in Costa Rica—among them, Forest Hill in Kansas City, where they would both eventually be buried. In Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and Grandview in Salem, Ohio, which would forever change the way the dead and the living interact. The team fashioned cities of the dead that incorporated macadam-paved roads that honored the natural topographies, introduced engaging architectural elements, along with lakes and plant features, and chose foliage for the ways they would change throughout the seasons. A kind of design mantra evolved for them: More nature and less marble and stone. The elder Hare “understood more than aesthetics,” the authors recount in this first-ever dual biography of the designers, for he was “grounded [too] in the technical aspects of dealing with nature.” Quoting Hare directly, the authors write that he considered the best cemetery to be a “botanical garden, bird sanctuary, and arboretum.” The book proves that some of the best-recognized and most prized city planning designs are often ones whose makers go uncredited. “It was not until the formation of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1899 and Harvard and MIT’s offering courses geared toward future practitioners the next year that landscape architecture began to coalesce as a profession,” write Grove, a professor of art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri, and Millstein, founder and principal of the Architectural and Historical Research in Kansas City. This record of the Hares' lives and works reinforces the notion that the discipline of landscape architecture is “the fourth fine art after architecture, painting, and sculpture.” The moment the elder Hare enlisted his son to join the firm he established in Kansas City’s Gumbel Building in 1910, the two embarked on making some of the most resonant landscapes in America. One of the great American places is Kansas City’s Country Club District, for which Hare & Hare would plan some 2500 acres over a forty-year period. They would incorporate extant pasture land and wood into some of the residential neighborhoods, including Mission Hills, defined by narrow, sinuous roadways, interior parks or “parklets”, as they called them, and carefully chose flowering shrubs and sculptural trees. So obsessed was the father-son team during their work on the complex, which they began in 1913 with the developer, J.C. Nichols, that no element was too small to be accounted for—weathervanes, bridges, the fonts on the signage, the placement of public artworks, the locales for campfire sites and bridle paths. Grove and Millstein expertly detail the process for this city planning project, recounting that the Hares made more than two hundred finished drawings, apart from those they executed for some of their many individual residential commissions within the district. “Transformed by Hare & Hare’s plan—praised as beautiful, thoughtful, and original—Mission Hills was perhaps the finest neighborhood executed for Nichols,” conclude the authors. No landscape, no matter how seemingly topographically challenged, couldn’t be tamed and transformed by Hare & Hare. For their many works in Houston, for instance, the elder Hare’s vision for the new residential neighborhood of Forest Hill embraced as one of its defining scenic attributes what many would have considered its biggest natural obstacle—a swampy, sinuous bayou. Making that watery source one of its focal points was a revolutionary idea in its day. He and his son decided to depart from the strict street grid of nearby downtown Houston and instead fashion a series of roadways that radiated in arcs, outward like a giant fan. Meanwhile, their work in planning the city’s exclusive residential neighborhood known as River Oaks—some 2000 acres of land—endures. As the authors point out, “Fifty years after its inception, the architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable condemned 1970s Houston, but noted River Oaks’ exceptional planning.” Other notable projects of theirs documented by the authors include Houston’s Hermann Park, on which the Hares worked for more than twenty-five years, the expansive grounds of Tulsa’s Villa Philbrook (now open to the public as the Philbrook Museum of Art), the city of Longview, Washington, the Lake of the Ozarks, and parks in Fort Worth, Dallas, Joplin, Missouri, and elsewhere. Ultimately, upon the younger Hare’s death in 1960, the firm could list some four thousand projects in more than thirty states, Canada, and Costa Rica. As Robin Karson, executive director of the Library of American Landscape History (LALH) points out in her preface, the book “covers so much formerly uncharted territory in the history of American landscape design.” Indeed, LALH’s ongoing mission is to keep laying the often ignored historical groundwork for the discipline of landscape architecture. Even though the book immerses readers at times in the thick brambles of city bureaucracies and office politics through which the designers had to hack their way, the personalities of the two men emerge, so much so that the book functions, too, as a revealing biography of them. We feel them in action. Of Herbert, the authors state, “…he recognized that good design was achieved both over the drafting board and in the field, not by one or the other.” “Sid and Herbert believed that good landscape architecture was both a science and an art,” the authors state. “Although they emphasized the practical, functional role of their profession, they firmly believed that if a city for a garden ‘is not to be a work of art, then it would be best not to build it.’” We are grateful the Hares designed it and built it. And readers should be grateful this book was published to keep their accomplishments acknowledged and flourishing.
OJB Landscape Architecture’s (OJB) ambitious vision for America’s largest BMX venue opened earlier this month in Houston. Located near the Bush Intercontinental Airport on the site of a former wastewater treatment plant, the Rock Star Energy Bike Park features a massive bike track and public recreation space, spanning a total of 23 acres just north of the city. “This one-of-a-kind park is a keystone to a redeveloping neighborhood in Houston,” said Chip Trageser, managing principal and project design director at OJB in a statement. “The design balances different types of experiences, from the novice to expert rider, to the visitor, or sport spectator.” The design gives equal weight to the various types of competitive bike racing. OJB integrated a Supercross Track, a 27,000-square-foot Pump Track, and a 13,000-square-foot Dirt Jump Track across the park. There's also an 18,000-square-foot urban riding plaza that's outfitted with trick fixtures, as well as 25,000-square-feet of concrete bike bowls, and a tot-track for super young riders. A central promenade runs along the spine of the park so visitors can get from one distinct zone to the other while a bike trail encircles the entire site. In time, the extreme sports destination will be shaded by 400 towering trees that OJB planted through several years of construction. The other 400 trees on-site were preserved from the original plot—a necessary design move to mitigate the Texas heat, according to Trageser. "We wanted to put the forest back and make the different tracks feel like they were part of a series of rooms throughout one big natural space," he said. Built out by the Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority (now known as the Northeastern Development Corporation), the $25 million, large-scale activities park also includes four structures. At one end, local firm Brett Zamore Design created a 2,500-square-foot welcome center, as well as the larger BMX Center, which houses restrooms, a classroom, concessions area, and office space. The latter structure serves as the base of the starting ramps on the main track. Next door, an events space and observation deck looks out over the third turn on the course. On the opposite end of the park, EndreStudio designed a small pavilion that feeds visitors into the large event lawn in the center of the site, as well as the 223-foot-long wooden bridge that leads bikers and visitors over the bowls. According to Trageser, one of the most surprising ways bikers use the bridge is by incorporating its thick concrete columns into their trick elements. "I feel like this is what the park's going to be known for," he said. "The most memorable moment for me when the bike opened was when I saw these BMX professionals do these crazy tricks off the edges." Rock Star Energy Bike Park is seamlessly attached to the North Houston Skate Park, a 13-acre urban landscape also designed by OJB. It’s dually the largest of its kind in the U.S. and hosts major skate competitions all year long. OJB's construction manager Scott Blons told AN that when the park was completed in 2015, there was an outcry from the local BMX community, which was banned from using the skating facility. "Those two courses, of course, don't mix with one another," said Blons. "So that triggered the start of our work on the BMX park." The entire site sits in a major flood zone next to the North Fork of the Greens Bayou, so OJB integrated a series of sustainable design elements to combat a potential deluge. Permeable pavement was used across all 3.5 acres of the two parking lots on-site, while stormwater detention capabilities were also integrated into the event lawn, rain gardens, and bike bowls, among other places. "There's a substantial amount of hardscaping in the park that can handle water overflow," said Blons. "Flooding is a big deal nowadays so it was important for us to think about this from the beginning." According to OJB, Rock Star Energy Park has already gotten major buzz. It's set to hold major BMX competitions starting next month with the Texas state championship and then U.S. Nationals in October and in April of next year. In May, it will present the 2020 UCI BMX World Championships, which is the last qualifier for the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo. But it's not just the international community that will profoundly benefit from the new park. Local schools are set to visit, and STEM programs are being created to teach kids how to design and build BMX tracks, said Blons. "Even my kid is now a BMX rider. The CEO of USA BMX once told me that people are now tearing down baseball fields left and right to build these parks, which speaks to their popularity." Though the park is free to use and inclusive to everyone no matter age or ability, perhaps the most important aspect of the park's existence is its location. Situated in the lower-income neighborhood of Greater Greenspoint, the park is an investment in the future economic development of its underserved population, according to Trageser. The city is prone to flooding and lacks substantial infrastructure. "The project has the potential to score growth in this area and truly give back to the community," he said. "We worked really hard to get to know the people who'd use this park and tried to translate their passion into a physical form that would be exciting for all."
A major landscape architecture scholarship has just hit the scene—one that’s been in the works for the past five years. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) announced today that it will establish an international prize, offered up biennially, in which recipients will enjoy a $100,000 award and two full years of public engagement opportunities. Landscape architects, artists, and architects, as well as urban planners and designers, are encouraged to apply for the inaugural prize, set to be chosen in 2021. “Landscape architecture is one of the most complex and, arguably, the least understood art forms,” said TCLF founder, president, and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum in a statement. “It challenges practitioners to be design innovators often while spanning the arts and sciences in addressing many of the most pressing social, environmental, and cultural issues in contemporary society.” Unlike the vast world of architectural prizes that cater to both emerging and seasoned practitioners, there aren’t many programs honoring the work of great landscape architects. As Birnbaum points out above, designing a park or tree-filled plaza in a major urban area is a huge undertaking that involves deep knowledge of many intricate systems, both manmade and natural. Many of the most successful parks in the United States were completed only after an extensive community engagement process and serious research on the surrounding region. With a goal of becoming as relevant as the Pritzker Prize or the Nasher Sculpture Prize, The Cultural Landscape Foundation aims to use the prize to elevate the field and promote “informed stewardship among landscape architects, and the arts and design communities more broadly.” The Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy nonprofit has been working on setting up the program since 2014 and recently secured a $1 million donation by TCLF co-chair Joan Safran and her husband Rob Haimes. The rest of the board collectively matched their gift to set up a $4.5 million endowment. In addition to offering the profession a prestigious new prize, TCLF also wants to enhance critical discussion on the subject of landscape architecture, so that the public can better understand the role of design. According to the website, the prize will also support a “biennial examination of the state of landscape architecture through the lens of a specific practitioner or team.” Therefore, the individual or group chosen will represent the best of the industry today. A number of big-name landscape architects advised on the creation of the prize including Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC, Adriaan Geuze, founding partner and design director of West 8, as well as Gary Hilderbrand of Reed Hilderbrand, and Laurie Olin of OLIN. Submissions will be reviewed by a high-profile set of designers, educators, critics, and historians, though no jurors have been chosen as of yet. Five members of the Prize Advisory Committee will be selected each cycle to determine the winner while an independent curator will oversee the program.
Space Settlements By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City $24.00 The Earth is finite, and the sky is limitless. So proposed Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill during the convening of the NASA Summer Study in 1975, when O’Neill gathered engineers, architects, astrophysicists, and others to flesh out logistics for the space settlements originally conceived by his students. With fears of resource shortages and overpopulation dominating the 1970s, O’Neill, his students, and prominent science fiction authors proposed massive rotating spaceborne structures that could perpetuate humanity among the stars. Of course, as Fred Scharmen meticulously documents in Space Settlements, that’s easier said than done. How can humans make the leap to living in pastoral orbital colonies when every artificial biosphere on Earth has failed? How would placemaking work in a wholly artificial environment, where every vista must be carefully curated as to not alienate inhabitants? What is the “ground,” normally a constant constraint to push against, in a habitat where even that is constructed? Scharmen’s book starts as a history of the creation and impact of a series of Summer Study paintings from artists Rick Guidice and Don Davis, but it quickly turns into a deeper examination of what it means to exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If building vertically allows architects to imagine new spaces unconstrained by the ground plane, as Rem Koolhaas proclaimed in Delirious New York, then building in space presents designers with the ultimate freedom—while ironically constraining them with the most stringent challenges. The images that emerged from the Summer Study are, by design, both familiar and alien. They show pastoral landscapes and familiar building typologies curved around the interior of massive toroidal or spherical spaceships, rotating to create artificial gravity at their edges. While O’Neill emphasized the need to consider these settlements as places with logistical needs and eschewed flashy pop culture depictions of his work, Guidice and Davis knew that illustrating the space stations as occupiable places would drum up public interest for the research. These megastructures, half-a-mile wide or wider with names like O’Neill Cylinders, Bernal Spheres, and Stanford Tori, would be anchored into orbits or Lagrange Points—places where the gravitational pull from the Earth and the Moon were equal, meaning whatever's put there, stays there. That imagery is still powerful 40 years later. With the fears of the ’70s once again resurgent as climate change, resource shortages, and mass migration dominate the headlines, billionaires are looking for ways to leave this world behind and move to the stars. Take the Jeff Bezos–founded Blue Origin, a spaceflight and rocketry company founded by the world’s richest man for the express purpose of eventually moving humanity off this planet. In May of this year, the company released a suite of renderings of spacefaring toroidal colonies, each depicting idyllic countrysides and architectural pastiches protected by a glass-enclosed sky, clear references to the Summer Study images from 40 years prior. The renderings were created to gin up excitement—and financial backing—for extracting resources from the moon as the first phase of launching an extraterrestrial settlement, but exactly what’s depicted has a deeper significance. Scharmen devotes much of Space Settlements to the human considerations of living in space. Humans, like all animals, need certain things to thrive, including open space and greenery, and the opportunity to watch something grow; hence the abundance of agricultural landscapes and wide vistas in Davis’s, Guidice’s, and Blue Origin’s images. However, as Scharmen points out (and landscape architect Marc Miller highlighted in an online article for AN), the renderings are very conscious throwbacks to Hudson River School paintings. These paintings were intended, in part, to encourage white observers to move west and assert their dominance over the North American wilderness. In depicting their landscapes as (artificial) wildernesses to be tamed, Blue Origin is trying to entice a very specific, well-educated population to “settle” these massive structures. Therein lies the rub. Both the Summer Study artists and O’Neill knew that their depictions of leisure were a bit misleading, as all colonists would have to work hard to keep their city-in-the-sky running even with advanced automation. More importantly, the rationale behind expanding into these megastructures in the first place is rooted in an outgrowth of extractive capitalism. As Scharmen and O’Neill both discuss in the book, and as the Earth-bound billionaires of today surely know, space outposts would have to justify their immense cost, likely through extraterrestrial mineral mining. However, go one level deeper, and the implications become even darker. As Bezos and his peers have repeatedly stated, they feel that the only way to “save” humanity from our doomed planet is to expand into space. Bezos frequently claims that he has too much money to spend on Earth and that expanding into space is the only logical next step. "The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos told Business Insider. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power." To say that entirely artificial and dangerous habitats are the next logical step in humankind’s progression presupposes that this planet, one that we evolved specifically to inhabit, is already full. What was once proposed as a way to foster unique communities in the sky and expand humanity’s consciousness beyond the borders of this world has taken on a nihilist tinge. No one else has summed it up better than Elon Musk, another stargazing tech billionaire. When asked why he wanted to settle other planets in an interview with Aeon, Musk famously replied, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?”
Dutch firm West 8 has beat out James Corner Field Operations and Hargreaves Jones for the chance to create an 11-mile-long stretch of parkland in South Baltimore. The winning proposal from the studio's New York office was chosen as part of the Middle Branch Waterfront Revitalization Competition, a city-backed plan to reengage locals with an underutilized section of the Patapsco River shoreline. Located east of Westport and south of Port Covington across the river, the waterfront spanning from the existing Middle Branch Park will be expanded in the surrounding bay into a landscaped linear strip for recreational activities and observing wildlife. West 8 will partner with local teams from Mahan Rykiel and Moffat & Nichol on the multi-phase project, and figure out the best strategies to build a new green ring around the waterfront filled with piers, boardwalks, and other structures for performances and group gatherings. Per the proposal, future phases will include converting the 103-year-old, Beaux Arts-style Hanover Street Bridge, which connects Middle Branch to Port Covington, into parkland as well. A new car-centric bridge will be built stretching from the planned Under Armour campus to Brooklyn, instead of Cherry Hill where Middle Branch Park is located. An artificial island will be built underneath it in the middle of the bay. SouthBmore.com reported that in order to create this large ring of land, West 8 will redistribute dredge from a port nearby and place it further up the bay where it will eventually help form marshlands and other wetland ecologies. This move, according to Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, will help build an attractive waterfront for the South Baltimore community—one that could boost its economy like the other built-out improvements at Inner Harbor and Fells Point. West 8 also aims to build a trail system that loops from Middle Branch Park to Westport Meadows and across Ridgeley’s Cove. A decrepit bridge there could possibly be made into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare as well, providing access to Swan Park in Port Covington. For further context, the entire site sits south of M&T Bank Stadium and is close to the core of downtown Baltimore. A masterplan to revamp the Middle Branch area has been in the works since 2007, and the competition to redesign the waterfront started last summer, under the helm of the city-supported Parks and People Foundation.
Park stewards at the Hudson River Park Trust have just revealed preliminary renderings for a new public beach in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The five-and-a-half acre site used to be a parking area for the sanitation department and adjacent salt shed, but in a few years, it will be a recreation area with a kayak launch, sports field, picnic areas, and a marsh. James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) is the New York-based landscape architecture firm behind the design, while hometown firm nARCHITECTS is doing park buildings. The soon-to-be park was first announced in February of this year, and in about 18 months, the beach on Gansevoort Peninsula will open to the public on the banks of the Hudson River at the end of Little West 12th Street. While there will be ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the Hudson River is still too gross to swim in (but who knows, great strides in cleanliness could be made by the time the park is complete). From the renderings, it appears the new beach will rise alongside artist David Hammons' recreation of the demolished Pier 52, Day’s End. This is far from the only project on the Trust's plate. The organization cares for a four-and-a-half-mile greenway on the river and is now shelling out an estimated $900 million for capital projects that include Pier 57, by Youngwoo & Associates, as well as Pier 26, which features a playground designed by OLIN and an ecology center from Rafael Viñoly. In addition, construction on Pier 55, the overwater park on piers, designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and go-to artist for the hyper-wealthy, Thomas Heatherwick, is well underway. The new beach will also be a stone's throw away from the Whitney Museum. This is not the first Manhattan beach as some outlets have claimed, however, not counting pre-contact or New Amsterdam times. As recently as the 1980s, during the construction of Battery Park City, New Yorkers donned bikinis and sunned themselves on the sandy construction site just north of Manhattan's southern tip. At the same time, art organization Creative Time hosted multiple annual editions of Art on the Beach which brought large-scale public art to the desolate area. Today, way uptown, there's a semi-secret sandy beach at Inwood's Swindler's Cove, thanks to a New York Restoration Project initiative to restore shorelines in the area.
The United States of America of the 19th century was a civilization in rapid flux, subject to spiraling economic and demographic growth coupled with staggering socioeconomic inequality that manifested in deleterious urban poverty. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform, on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston through September 15, 2019, effectively encapsulates the bold visions of the era's patrician reformers with the living conditions of the urban poor that influenced their sweeping plans. The exhibition is curated by Charles Waldheim, the Harvard Graduate School of Design's John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture, Director of the Office for Urbanization, and the Ruettgers Curator of Landscape, and is largely made up of highly-detailed topographical and landscape maps, historical photographs, and personal mementos. According to Waldheim, "the show started with a very simple idea; could we take large urban plan drawings from the 19th century and treat them like works of art?" For Big Plans, Waldheim hones in on four protagonists; Frederick Law Olmsted, the historic doyen of landscape architecture; Isabella Stewart Gardiner, the museum's namesake and prominent member of the Boston Brahmins; Charles Eliot, Olmsted's apprentice and prominent city planner in his own right; and Lewis Wickes Hine, the sociologist and prodigious photographer of the American urban condition. Although contemporary controversies surrounding park construction largely center on budgetary or zoning constraints, the execution of such projects during the 19th century was remarkably radical in ideology and scope. Big Plans highlights the revolutionary nature of public landscape design with an initial focus on Olmsted & Vaux's design for Central Park in New York, juxtaposed with an original hand-colored map by William Bridges for New York's 1811 Commissioners' plan that would place the gridiron street layout of Manhattan. In comparing these two disparate visions of Gotham at the onset of the exhibition, the curatorial direction quickly lays out the reformers' visions of reshaping the rigid rationality of the industrial city into one that cultivated both economic and social progress. The theme of correcting the societal ills of the industrial metropolis is continued in the second room of the exhibition with five-by-seven-inch silver gelatin prints produced by street photographer and sociologist Lewis Hines. Similar to contemporaneous New York-based social reformer Jacob Riis, Hines advocated for photography as an effective tool to prod for social reform. The images are not beautiful; as is the case with much early photography, many are overexposed and out of focus. However, aesthetics were not their purpose. The photos are a searing indictment of child labor, depicting young men and women toiling in industrial mills and sifting through fetid landfills in search of scrap materials. The remainder of the exhibition is largely a collection of drawings that plot out the expansion of the public realm and park space in Boston and Chicago, ranging from the Back Bay Fens to Jackson Park. Absent from the curatorial direction of Big Plans is a perspective from the urban working class and impoverished for whom the grandiose schemes were tentatively laid out for. This top-down perspective was a conscious decision by Waldheim to highlight the uneasy paternalism, or noblesse oblige, of the era's social reformers. While not explicit, the exhibition begs the question of whether this condescension laid the groundwork for similarly grandiose urban renewal plans during the mid-20th century. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 25 Evans Way Boston Through September 15, 2019