Posts tagged with "natural resources":

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AN travels to West Texas for a photo essay on extraction infrastructure

The stretch of I-20 between Abilene and Midland-Odessa, Texas, passes through what might be the most thoroughly harnessed land in the U.S. Here, the exploitation is complete: Water is pumped from aquifers and used to irrigate corn, cotton, and sorghum fields on the surface, where cattle and poultry are also raised; oil and natural gas are mined from the Permian Basin, the most productive such reservoir in the country, and home, some believe, to trillions more barrels of oil and cubic feet of gas; and thousands of wind farms fill the horizon, the most concentrated part of a statewide infrastructure that nominally churns out 22,637 MW per hour, which is more than any other state. While each of these components is remarkable in itself, the layering of them within a single landscape is sublimely breathtaking. Oil and gas pump jacks and refineries, tanker trains and semi-trucks, water towers and windmills, agricultural fields and center pivot linear irrigation systems, wind turbines and transmission lines create a sci-fi tableau reminiscent of fantasies about terraforming other planets, especially when this scene is compared to the relatively barren desert to the west and south. In this part of West Texas it is possible to see the Anthropocene writ large.
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Landscape architects face crossroads to address shrinking ecological resources

This presentation was part of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s The New Landscape Declaration: A Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future held in Philadelphia June 10–11. The 25 speakers were asked to write a 1,000-word “declaration of leadership” and ideas for how landscape architecture can make its vital contribution in response to the challenges of our time and the next fifty years. These declarations were then presented at the summit.

With what are we welcoming our future generations? Piles of plastic? Polluted air and dirty water? Life in degraded environments with mismanaged resources is the normal human experience in many parts of the world. The statistics are staggering. Of the total world population of 7.2 billion, about 6 billion live in developing countries, where access to clean water, clean air, and efficient systems of waste disposal is a daily struggle. Water, especially, is a severely contested resource in these contexts, both in terms of quantity and quality. In India, for example, over 100 million lack access to safe water, and diarrhea causes 1,600 deaths daily. Where water mafia and water dacoits are a grim reality, where suicides, murders, and street-fights over water scarcity are a serious issue, and where commuting back and forth from work could involve wading through chest or knee-high flood water, the problems associated with water management in India point to a crisis, which is only expected to get worse with impending climate change and rapid urbanization. And while some problems clearly fall outside the scope of a landscape architect, there are many issues that can be addressed through better water management landscapes. This is where the agency and action of landscape architects at both system-and site-scale become critical, applicable not only to water but also to other contested resources.

Today in developed countries, we are shocked and even resigned by reports and personal experiences of the air quality in Beijing, the water crisis in India, or the food scarcity in Africa. Conditions, however, were not so very different in the 1950s and 1960s in North America when people wore gas masks in Los Angeles and decried the region’s filthy rivers. When a small group of landscape architects gathered here in Philadelphia and crafted the “Declaration of Concern,” noting the degradation of America’s water and air, the world was not such a different place. If anything, the issues have become more global, critical, and widespread. And in this context of contested resources, landscape architects must step in to do what we can to restore and re-establish healthy relationships between humans and their environment. I entreat all landscape architects to rise above parochial discussions, territorial predispositions, and disciplinary comfort-zones to address the very real issues of water, air, food, waste, minerals, and energy, with which rapidly urbanizing and developing countries such as India now grapple.

The “Declaration of Concern” is a demonstration of the enormous responsibilities the profession attempted to take on. The last fifty years have seen the coming of age of the profession of landscape architecture. Landscape architects have drawn on formidable skills of research and analysis to understand and map multilayered issues, and conveyed this understanding to the general public through visualization of complex landscape systems spanning both scale and time. Many landscape architects have attempted to restore damaged ecosystems and designed better human and non-human habitats. Yet, we have just scratched the surface, and much remains to be done in the context of resource management, especially that of water, food and waste in developing countries.

From these countries, there are many lessons to be learned on alternative definitions, frames, paradigms, systems, and landscapes of resource management, all of which are rapidly being transformed and degraded as we speak. We urgently need to understand the various ecologies of resource management in the developing world. What can we learn from cultures that designed multifunctional resource infrastructure and practiced community-ownership of landscapes to inform the design of resource management in industrially developed countries, and vice versa? Before we engage in design, we must understand and evaluate existing systems.

As designers, we have two avenues of intervention for addressing resource issues. The first is through design to improve existing resource landscapes, and the second is to create alternative paradigms for better resource management through the structuring of new built environments. The projected increase of the world’s population to nine billion by 2050 will almost entirely be population growth in developing countries, accompanied by rapid urbanization. For example, in the next 50 years, India’s population will peak at 1.6 billion and the country will be adding more than 400 million to its urban population—about 20 more Mumbais! The development of urban territories to accommodate these millions desperately needs the expertise of landscape architects equipped to design urban landscape systems for better resource management. It also presents unprecedented opportunities for design experimentation. How do we take the lessons we have learned in the urbanization of developed economies and apply them in our design responses to the resource management problems of the developing world?

Part of the challenge ahead is not only to address resource management issues head on but also to make the general public, especially the decision makers in the developing world, aware of the contribution that we can make in improving resource management. In most parts of India, when I introduce myself as a landscape architect, people either catch only the first part and transform the phrase to “landscaping” or “gardening” or latch on to the familiar word “architecture.” Not surprising — because there are very few landscape architects in India. About 800 landscape architects serve a total population of 1.25 billion and of this handful, fewer still engage with issues of resource scarcity and/or mismanagement. As landscape architects, we must actively make opportunities for engagement happen by better preparing ourselves with alternative design solutions and communicating them to the public.

Today’s landscape architecture students live in a complex, networked world and must be prepared for a future defined by global professional practice, to meaningfully engage in and to craft the built environment of not only their own community but also of cultures dramatically different from their own — dealing with life-threatening issues related to water, food, and waste. These issues often fall outside a landscape architect’s traditional scope, which is a missed opportunity for the discipline. Training the future generation of landscape architects to deal with these issues at different scales is the only way to make our discipline relevant in the coming 50 years.

It is an exciting time to be a landscape architect, but only if we embrace the opportunities and challenges ahead of us. There must be a crusading determination on the part of landscape architects to address the real issues of resource management if we are ever to permanently establish and realize the true potential of our discipline.

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.
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University of Wyoming’s new energy building brings geology to life with 3D visualization lab

In crafting a building whose main goal is to make the study of natural resources accessible, architects from HOK and GSG did just that: they brought the outside in. Its purpose is to study what’s buried beneath the earth’s surface, but the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center isn’t an underground bunker. At the $25.4 million center, 3D visualizations illuminate three walls of a research lab so students can plumb the earth’s subsurface for valuable minerals and fossil fuels. The three-story, 56,941-square-foot EIC contains 12,000 square feet of flexible research lab space. A massive supercomputing system runs the 3D visualization rooms, which include a 1,296-square foot drilling simulator. “Rather than viewing a 3-D screen, the center resembles a cavern with three vertical walls and a floor,” said UW’s School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam, “that makes researchers feel as if they are physically immersed in the image.” GSG Architecture of Casper, Wyo. is the architect of record. The general contractor was GE Johnson Construction Co. of Jackson, Wyo.
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Detroit RiverWalk gets $44 Million from Feds and State

For many years much of Detroit’s riverfront was an industrial utility, characterized by derelict manufacturing sites. But efforts to reclaim public spaces on the waterfront have made considerable progress in recent years. Now a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state of Michigan ensures transformation along the Detroit River will continue. Planned projects include the redevelopment of Mount Elliott Park, improvements to Gabriel Richard Park, and an expansion of Detroit’s RiverWalk. The walk is currently not continuous between downtown and Belle Isle, but the new funding aims to close some of the gaps. $29 million comes in the form of federal highway money, while $15 million is from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Detroiters haven taken to Yelp in recent years to express their support for the ongoing project. “To the skeptical first time visitor of Detroit,” wrote one visitor from New York last year, “RiverWalk is a shining symbol of what the city is actually made of.”