Posts tagged with "Landscape Architecture":

Why are we wrecking our best modernist landscapes?

This is a feature article from Issue 8 of The Architect's Newspaper. If you’ve seen the movie Columbus, you’ll remember, among all the nerdy dialogue about modernist bank branches and James Polshek’s buildings, that scene where the two protagonists passionately discuss the Dan Kiley landscape outside the Eero Saarinen–designed Miller House. No? That’s because landscape architecture, though intrinsic to the experience of some of the best modern buildings, rarely gets the conversation it deserves. Despite being featured in all the film’s promo shots, the landscape by one of the last century’s best landscape architects got zero shout-outs. This snub, brought to light by the Cultural Landscape Foundation Executive Director Charles Birnbaum in a Huffington Post op-ed, reflects larger attitudes toward landscape architecture in the United States. It’s a long-held and frequently heard complaint inside the discipline that even successful landscapes by the very best designers are treated like scenery for architecture. While New Yorkers love Central Park, concrete plazas between modernist skyscrapers—even though they are essential to the experience of the buildings themselves—don’t elicit the same joy. Modern and late-modern landscapes in American cities are the least appreciated and least understood outdoor spaces, though they shape day-to-day experience in the contemporary American city more than leafy 19th-century destination parks. These modern spaces contrasted with—and challenged—the platonic ideal of the American urban park, established by Frederick Law Olmsted and largely unchanged since the 1860s. Urban renewal gave designers the opportunity to think up supersize projects (New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Boston’s Government Center, Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center, Philadelphia’s Penn Center) that afforded new ways of experiencing space and the city. Instead of offering the faux-countryside, 20th-century designers summoned concrete and right angles to create dynamic public spaces rooted in modernist functionalism. In the postwar years, as industry abandoned cities en masse and corporations moved white-collar workers to lush suburban campuses, cities and captains of industry commissioned the best landscape architects in practice to activate declining downtowns with plazas and parklets. In smaller urban projects like Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, Fountain Place in Dallas, and Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, designers like Lawrence Halprin, Kiley, and M. Paul Friedberg offered contemporary city experiences that both responded to and represented these profound changes in the American urban form. This not only applies to plazas from the boomer or Gen X era, but to Millennial landscapes, too. Just as chokers and platform sandals are cool again, designers are expressing renewed interest in successful 1990s postmodern landscapes, like Wagner Park or Pershing Square. Despite their significance, these parks are now threatened by thoughtless development. Unlike their forbearers—most of which were baked into city plans or carved from large swaths of open space—modernist landscapes like Freeway Park in Seattle shaped vestigial areas, harnessed from leftover space (like vest-pocket Paley Park in Manhattan), or repurposed former industrial land (Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco). In their comparatively tiny areas, designers deployed textural materials like concrete, gridded trees into mini urban forests, and masked obtrusive city sounds with water features. Despite their historic significance, these sites are constantly imperiled by bad maintenance, and the public antipathy that follows—“What’s with all that concrete, and where are all the flowers?” While it can take decades for an artist’s work to be appreciated, as Halprin noted, landscapes and the land on which they sit are often at the mercy of changing real estate interests and don’t have time to mature in the public perception. Though some, maybe most famously Boston’s Government Center, are wildly unsuccessful and are being (sensitively) adapted right now, many upgradeable landscapes whose potential could be teased out with thoughtful changes are instead being plowed over with heavy-handed schemes that dishonor the original design intent. Maybe because they are underappreciated, many postwar urban parks and plazas are threatened by market forces and dumb human decisions: out-of-place nearby development, revamps that turn parks into front lawns for speculative real estate, rising downtown land values, and, paradoxically, resilience measures that anticipate future coastal flooding. Compared to buildings, landscapes have fewer protections afforded to them. Since June, there’s one less: The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the demolition of a Sasaki fountain and plaza that anchored the base of Citicorp Center, a suave Hugh Stubbins–designed 1970s angle-topped tower on Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street. The architect would faint if he were around to see the flowerbeds proposed for the base of his building. Though developments like these can be jarring, the cities around these landscapes have changed substantially, too. After fleeing in the mid-20th century, people and prosperity have returned to cities. Though regional development is always uneven, there’s a persistent and widespread demand for walk-to-work neighborhoods with a healthy mix of day-into-night life. Downtown is hot. And tastes have changed, too. As megaprojects like Hudson Yards and smaller regional ones like SWA’s San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas, demonstrate, there’s a desire for more programmed space, with Ping-Pong tables and colorful, interactive public art. These landscapes reflect a turn from urban production to urban consumption; though the social life of these public spaces still includes people-watching and book-reading (or phone-staring), spaces are increasingly programmed around shopping, tourism, and scenery that’s good content for Instagram. Planners today promote infill housing and mixed-use everything, so visitors to these downtown parks are, increasingly, residents too. Outside of a few true classics that have never lost their luster, how do modernist landscapes fare against their newer predecessors? For this feature, we chose some of the notable urban landscapes of that era currently under redevelopment to assess where they are now, and how they’re being adapted—or not—for the future. Their designers never intended for their landscapes to be built and forgotten. There’s little to love in badly patched concrete, treeless planters, or dry fountains. We’re looking anew at famous landscapes by the best of the best and at those that are less familiar. Some honor the landscape architect’s original design intent, while others…don’t. Preservation isn’t about ossifying landscapes in some vintage ideal, but framing updates around the original design intent. Across the country, designers are looking at landscapes with consideration of their significance while adapting them for contemporary knowledge of ecology, accessibility, and programming. In a May 2017 talk at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Meyer, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, explained why landscapes of the 1950s through the 1980s are significant today: They are a record of postwar modernization and urbanization, and they should be reimagined—not cast in amber—for the 21st century. “Adapting modernist landscapes does not require demolition and redesign,” Meyer said. Just like the designers who revamped the 19th-century city park in the 1970s, these projects will need careful updates for today’s users, made with intelligent materials, to facilitate life in the present while looking back to history, not to pickle the past but to energize urban life.

NASA’s bold space habitats inspired a generation of designers

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.

Reimagine the Canals: Competition

The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation launched a competition seeking ideas to shape the future of the New York State Canal System, a 524-mile network composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal. Selected ideas will be awarded a total of $2.5 million toward their implementation. The New York State Canal System is one of the most transformative public works projects in American history. The entire system was listed as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2017 for its role in shaping the American economy and urban development. Despite its past success, vessel traffic on the Canal System has steadily declined over the last century. Deindustrialization and competition from rail, pipelines, roadways and the St. Lawrence Seaway, put the Canals at a disadvantage in transporting freight. Pleasure boating activity levels have likewise fallen and are today only half what they once were. In contrast to the decreasing maritime activity on the Canal System, recreational uses along it – from hiking and bicycling in spring, summer, and fall to cross-country skiing and ice fishing in winter – have grown in popularity. The 750-mile Empire State Trail, which will run from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo, is expected to be completed in 2020. It will further enhance opportunities for recreation along portions of the Canal System. To date, however, much of the Canal System’s potential to stimulate tourism and economic activity in the communities along its corridor remains untapped. To address the challenges and opportunities facing the Canal System, the Competition seeks visionary ideas for physical infrastructure projects as well as programming initiatives that promote:
  • the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreational asset
  • sustainable economic development along the canals and beyond
  • the heritage and historic values of the Canal System
  • the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal System
The two-stage Competition is open to individuals, businesses, non-profits and municipalities. Respondents are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams. These could include, for example, urban designers and architects, planning and community specialists, hydrologists, infrastructure engineers, artists and curators, development economists, real estate developers, local officials and financing partners. Submissions from both domestic and international teams are welcome. Submission deadline is January 5, 2018. More details about the Competition structure, timeline, and submission guidelines can be found on the website.

Major landscape design competition announced for Philadelphia International Airport

An airport is the gateway to any city: It’s the first—and last—thing a visitor sees. In a push to establish Philadelphia as America’s ‘Garden Capital,’ the Philadelphia International Airport is launching a landscape design competition to transform the airport into an icon of the city. The airport is collaborating with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) for the competition. With 130 acres of natural and planted lands that surround the airport as a canvas, it’s an opportunity to re-image the transportation hub. “The experience of any city’s airport sets the tone for the traveler; the landscape around the airport plays a vital role in setting that tone,” according to the PHS website. The goal of the competition is to place Philadelphia’s airport at the forefront, creating an iconic, “Image Maker” airport that will leave lasting impressions on travelers arriving and departing the city. The design should also consider sustainability and resiliency as an objective. The competition will launch on June 8, when the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) will be distributed. Responses for the RFQ are due by July 21, 2017. From there, four finalists will be selected by a jury. Each finalist will receive a $20,000 stipend to develop a budget and a “thoughtful, creative, environmentally appropriate concept plan,” according to PHS. The concept plan should also provide details for the airport to seek funding for design development and phased construction implementation. Further details and the full application can be found over at PHS’s website.

ASLA-NY announces its 2017 Design Awards winners

This year the American Society of Landscape Architects, New York (ASLA-NY) has bestowed five Honor awards and ten Merit awards to New York–based firms for their landscape architecture projects located across the U.S. The winners were selected by a multidisciplinary jury featuring members from ASLA chapters in North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia. "From projects that examine a site’s historic and cultural influences to those that explore innovative design approaches, this year’s winning award submissions showcase the full range of the landscape architectural profession," the ASLA-NY said in a statement. "There is a clear theme of resiliency and sustainability with the award winners that show appreciation for the long-term value of landscapes—again embracing changing conditions of climate and urbanization in the urban projects to appreciation of seasonal characteristics of plants, light and weather in the residential projects." Below is a list of the Honor and Merit awards; the awards themselves will be given to the firms at the ASLA-NY Design Awards Ceremony and Reception (Thursday, April 6, at the Center for Architecture in New York City). These projects will also be on display at the Center through April. Honor Awards Battery Perimeter, Bikeway, Oval and Woodland, Quennell Rothschild & Partners / Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners Governors Island Phase 2: The Hills, West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture P.C. / Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Abstract Morphology, Hollander Design Landscape Architects Navy Pier South Dock and Polk Bros. Plaza, James Corner Field Operations - Hudson Highland Cottage, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Merit Awards Olana Strategic Landscape Design Plan, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Naval Cemetery, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Southwest Brooklyn, AECOM St. Patrick’s Island, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture / Civitas, Inc. Resiliency Rocks Garden, Local Office Landscape and Urban Design Croton Water Filtration Plant, Ken Smith Landscape Architect Compass Resiliency, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners Garden Rising Green Infrastructure Feasibility Study, WE Design / eDesign Dynamics Times Square Reconstruction, Snøhetta The Spiral, BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group

$100 million pledged for Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing interstate cap and waterfront park

The waterfront park at Penn's Landing in Philly has edged closer to realization as Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) pledged $100 million to the project which has been on the books for a decade. Despite this news, however, a timeline for the project has not been confirmed. Sited between Walnut Street and Chestnut Street, an 11-acre park will cross the I-95 and Columbus Boulevard, becoming a cap-cum-esplanade on the banks of the Delaware River. In charge of the park's design is planning and landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates. Senior principal of the firm's New York office (the arm covering the project) Mary Margaret Jones told The Architect's Newspaper that PennDOT would be "taking over" the scheme and Hargreaves Associates will begin working with fellow New York engineering practice Pennoni. Jones explained that the news follows a "rigorous and comprehensive" feasibility study which was carried out by her firm and estimated costs to come to $250 million. The park is set to connect Center City to the river and activate the water's edge as well as pave the way for establishing future development sites. The 12-acre site will include 11 acres of public space, a 50-foot-wide pedestrian esplanade along the river, and opportunities for 1,500 new residences, 500 new hotel rooms, and 75,000 feet of retail space. In doing so, the project will replace the current Great Plaza with an angled park that slopes down to the river and frames views over the water. Additionally, the South Street Pedestrian Bridge across Columbus Boulevard will be extended to the southern edge of the Penn’s Landing marina basin. According to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Hargreave's study "concluded such an investment would yield nearly $1.6 billion in returns to the City, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the School District of Philadelphia."

Bradley Cantrell chosen as Chair of Landscape Architecture at UVA School of Architecture

The University of Virginia has announced the appointment of Bradley Cantrell as the new Chair of Landscape Architecture at the School of Architecture. Cantrell is currently an associate professor of Landscape Architectural Technology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and director of their Master in Landscape Architecture Program. The Architect’s Newspaper met with Cantrell in April of last year to discuss his groundbreaking work in the fields of landscape architecture, ecological analysis, technology, and artificial intelligence. In that interview, Cantrell describes his work as "cyborg ecologies" that focus on blurring the lines between natural and man-made systems. “I think a lot of people have issues with the idea that we’re actually extending even more control over the landscape,” said Cantrell. “I think there is a fear of that we’re constantly in discussion about how we relinquish control. I think it’s an open question.” He believes that the integration of technology and nature should be seen as a powerful and positive synthesis and something to be celebrated, as opposed to an “us versus them” duality between man and nature. Cantrell discusses the power of technology that is not only designed to serve mankind, but can also be used to serve the natural environment. In our interview, he explained: “I think this idea that there are competing goals and that humanity might not always be at the center of all of those goals—that takes somewhat of an enlightened viewpoint, but it also is one that is necessary for us to have.” Cantrell will step into his new role at the University of Virginia on June 25, 2017.

2016 Best of Design Award for Landscape > Public: Lower Rainier Vista & Pedestrian Land Bridge by GGN

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you. 2016 Best of Design Award for Landscape > Public: Lower Rainier Vista & Pedestrian Land Bridge Architect: GGN Location: Seattle, WA

With the Lower Rainier Vista Project, GGN extends and completes the Olmsted Brothers’ historic vision for a monumental campus axis at the University of Washington. The project’s defining feature is the lowering of the roadway that isolated the last portion of the historic axis, reconnecting it with an elegant land bridge. This new connection allows pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and automobiles to move easily between the UW Husky Stadium light rail station and the campus heart. By creating a more generous, people-focused feel to the campus, the Vista Project reenvisions a disconnected landscape as a place to linger.

Structural Engineer and Civil Engineer KPFF

Electrical Engineer and Lighting Designer AEI/Pivotal Lighting Design Irrigation Design Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company Gabion Basket Walls Hilfiker Retaining Walls Linear LED Lighting i2Systems

Honorable Mention, Landscape > Public: Governors Island Park & Public Space

Architects: West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture Location: Governors Island, NY

With an extraordinary 360-degree panoramic experience of the New York Harbor, the sculpted topography, winding pathways, and carefully planted trees of Governors Island Park create a beautifully choreographed celebration of nature while improving resilience for rising sea levels.

Honorable Mention, Landscape > Public: Newark Riverfront Park

Design Team: Weintraub Diaz Landscape Architects, Newark Planning Office, Hatch Mott MacDonald, MTWTF Location: Newark, NJ

Using a participatory design process with input from over 6,000 residents, this project transformed a brownfield adjacent to a Superfund site into an oasis meant to reflect its ethnically diverse working class community, while benefitting it socially, economically, and environmentally.

A new must-read book explores the divides within landscape architecture and urban design

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

From penguin watching to healing gardens, see the best Australian landscape architecture from 2016

The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) has presented this year's National Landscape Architecture Awards. The winners span an eclectic mix of typologies ranging from penguin viewing platforms to waterfall trails and healing gardens. The AILA chose 40 state-level finalists from ten categories: Civic Landscape; Parks and Open Space; Infrastructure; Cultural Heritage; Land Conservation; Tourism; Urban Design; Research, Policy and Communication; Communities; Gardens and International. "The winners range in focus and theme, but all have appreciated the merit of urban green spaces and sustainably minded infrastructure to promote health, social and economic prosperity for urban and regional communities," the AILA said in a press release. AILA National Civic Landscape Award of Excellence Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane Conrad Gargett Landscape architecture firm Conrad Gargett were duly rewarded for their inclusion of a "Healing Garden" at the Brisbane hospital. With the design based around the concept of a living tree, 11 gardens—primarily used for therapy and recreation—can be found on the rooftops. 23,000 plants can also be found on the building's green extensive roof.
AILA International Award of Excellence Nanjing Tangshan Geopark Museum Hassell According to the AILA, the project is an "experiential and immersive gateway and forecourt" for the Nanjing Tangshan Geopark Museum, which was designed by Parisian architect Odile Decq. Multidisciplinary firm Hassell integrated a network of pathways and gardens into a 15-hectare park that includes a 300 million-year-old Paleozoic quarry.
AILA National Award for Parks and Open Space McCulloch Avenue Boardwalk Site Office Completed on a "modest" budget, the McCulloch Avenue Boardwalk sets travellers within the diverse topography and landscape of the site. "What could have been a simple boardwalk through a dune has become an experiential journey that rewards the user with a sense of pride and enjoyment," said the AILA. "No longer will be the destination be the focus."
AILA National Parks and Open Space Award of Excellence MacKenzie Falls Gorge Trail Hansen Partnership Creating new routes through Grampians National Park, urban design, planning, and landscape architecture firm Hansen Partnership were able to cast MacKenzie Falls Gorge (one of Australia's largest waterfalls) in a new light. Bolted steel bridges and mesh pathways are able to endure flooding and fires (but can't protect you from spiders).
AILA National Gardens Award of Excellence Forest Edge Garden Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture approached this project with the view to blend the garden into the terrain. The result was a subtle and elegant series of interventions that kept the existing landscape in harmony with the dwelling through careful design, plant species selection, and water management.
AILA National Tourism Award of Excellence Penguin Plus Viewing Area Tract Consultants with Wood Marsh Architecture On Phillip Island, tourists can catch glimpses of penguins both inside and outside this curvaceous, topographic timber structure by planning and design firm Tract Consultants with Wood Marsh Architecture. "The work is beautifully detailed and provides a replicable prototype for the development of other components of this fragile landscape into the future," said the AILA.
AILA National Award for Communities Get Sunflowered OUTR Research Lab, RMIT University Get Sunflowered saw new life come to the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Australia. Community events include cleaning, planting, weeding, watering, and "harvesting"—all accompanied by local live music, food, and entertainment. The AILA praised Get Sunflowered for making use of a forgotten place which has been subject to a population and economic shift.
AILA National Award for Civic Landscape Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park (GASP!) Stage 2 McGregor Coxall Multidisciplinary firm McGregor Coxall's work the second stage of the Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park pays extensive tribute and homage to the dramatic landscape of Wilkinson’s Point. The "build it and they will come" approach has paid dividends and is, according to the AILA, a well-used civic and cultural space. "It has captured the imagination of locals and visitors as well as being recognized nationally and abroad."
AILA National Award for Infrastructure Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project Stage 2 Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership Juggling numerous constraints, Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership educate visitors to Sydney Park on environmental issues and the value of inner city green space. Integrating ecology, play, stakeholder management, engineering and sustainable water management requirements within an existing and well-loved inner city park is a difficult brief in any context," the AILA said. "The project beautifully expresses the forms, shapes, context, ecology and management of water, while also focussing on people, place, habitat and ecology."
AILA National Award for Land Conservation Shipwreck Coast Master Plan McGregor Coxall Shipwreck Coast in South Victoria is a popular tourist destination on the Australian southeast coast. Tourists, however, are the issue at hand with their presence threatening the site they flock to. Tackling this challenge, McGregor Coxall (in their 4th mention in the full list of 40) tie in habitat preservation with investment opportunities while maintaining and amplifying the sight-seeing experience–something which is a must for the economic prosperity of the area.

“Landscape as Necessity” conference aims to broaden the role of landscape architects

Reyner Banham, in his 1971 Los Angeles: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies, chose to view L.A. as an interwoven network of ecological systems: freeways, suburbs, mountains, and beaches. This urban expanse, even in the 1970s, was not only a landscape radically different than what people of Banham’s time had seen before, but more importantly, presaged the prevailing type of urban geography that would become a defining characteristic of the late 20th century and beyond. This new type of urban region, where the lines between and among the city, its suburbs, and nature are increasingly blurred, defines the so-called “megalopolises” of today.

With Banham’s Los Angeles in mind, landscape architects, geographers, and researchers came together at University of Southern California (USC), under the direction of Kelly Shannon, director of the USC School of Architecture's Landscape Architecture Program, and USC assistant professor Alison Hirsch, for the Landscape as Necessity conference September 22–24 to focus on issues relating to the connections among megalopolis, nature, and the future of both on a rapidly warming planet.

The three-day-long conference was built around the idea that the landscape architecture discipline is, as stated on the conference website, “uniquely able to synthesize ecological systems, scientific data, engineering methods, social practices, and cultural values, integrating them into the design of the built environment.” It was organized around six prevailing themes: “Preemptive Territorial Design,” “Cultural Agency,” “Water Urbanism,” “Landscapes of Infrastructure,” “Productive Landscapes and Food Security,” and “Energy Fields.” These topics point to the ever-expanding mantle the landscape architecture discipline has increasingly embraced in recent years. This positioning has enabled landscape architects to achieve a new level of prominence in society, both in the rapidly urbanizing areas of the world and in legacy cities, where urban renewal, post-industrial society, and climate change mitigation are being harnessed in an effort to make cities more equitable and sustainable.

These considerations come heavily into play in the work presented at the conference, which was broadly based and featured research and projects from around the world. One panel discussion, called “Resource and Risk,” mined the generative potential of “resource-strained geographies” and featured the work of Miho Mazereeuw, director of the MIT Urban Risk Lab, Eduardo T. De Mesa, chief of the Planning Division at the Los Angeles District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Kristina Hill, associate professor at University of California, Berkeley, and Gerdo Aquino of Los Angeles–based SWA landscape architects. Mazereeuw presented research from her project “Risk Ecologies– Haiti Evacuation System,” a complex and multivalent study of the currently practiced strategies deployed in Haiti to adapt to the region’s many climatic and social struggles. Aquino presented his firm’s work for the Sava Promenada in Belgrade, Serbia, a project that introduces a one-kilometer long, variable urban waterfront that accommodates seasonal river flooding the Sava River.

Aside from panels, the conference featured paper presentations, such as “Preemptive Territorial Design, Energy fields, Infrastructures,” and showcased work from experts such as, Barry Lehrman, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, who presented a substantive hydrological analysis of his Los Angeles River research. It also featured work by Bradley Cantrell, a Harvard-based researcher who presented the robotic modeling techniques his team uses to create abstracted sediment simulations for riparian landscapes and that of Yusuf Zoheb Nazerali, an architect, landscape designer, and educator who presented his urban design project “Basha Wolde Chilot” for the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that seeks to stitch together old and new parts of the city through landscape infrastructure and economic re-orientation.

The lengthy and impressive grouping of presenters, which ran the gamut from heroes of the field to rising researchers and visionary thinkers, lent a sense of urgency to the conference’s major themes, reinforcing Shannon’s notion for the meeting, that, “More than ever, there is a fundamental necessity for landscape architects to continually expand the public realm, creatively repair polluted sites, and develop innovative hybrid programs.” As conference attendee Kelly Majewski, principal at Los Angeles–based landscape architecture firm Superjacent said: “There was overall feeling from the conference of a call to action for landscape architects from Los Angeles and around the globe to get involved at all levels of the process from design to politics to funding.”

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.

First “Remarkable Objects” podcast makes the case for quantifying the landscape

A production of DeepRoot Green Infrastructure, Remarkable Objects is a new podcast series focused at the intersection of nature and urban design, and is interested in how nature and the built environment engage with each other, as well as the potential for resilient and sustainable architecture through research and innovative practice. In its first full episode, producer and creative director at DeepRoot Leda Marritz chatted with Barbara Deutsch, executive director of the Landscape Architecture Foundation, about the Landscape Performance Series—an online resource to “help designers, agencies, and advocates evaluate performance, show value, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions,” according to their website. The project also works to demystify the actual work of landscape architects by making their findings a public and accessible resource, and in the process, seeking to bridge the gap between academia and practice. The Landscape Performance Series is six years in the making and consists of over 100 case studies of projects across the United States. After gathering research, each project is quantified, and an analysis is composed of its successes and failures. As Deutsch explains on Remarkable Objects, “sometimes [the architecture] doesn’t perform the way you wanted it to,” and this outcome could be “a result of the design solution, a change in the process, that something wasn’t implemented as designed, or something was value engineered out that made a critical difference.” The Landscape Performance Series has noble goals but is not without its own set of constraints. Sometimes there isn’t enough time, the data collection tools are not available to practitioners, and, of course, the environment is always changing and evolving. Still, Deutsch argues that the very act of evaluating and documenting performance creates a mindset around sustainability and resilience, leaving practitioners in a position where they can understand more fully “how to do it better the next time,” Deutsch said. The Remarkable Objects podcast airs every other Wednesday over the course of the eight-episode season.