International design firm Sasaki has been selected to develop a master plan for the Chengdu Panda Capital. Chengdu is also the human capital of China’s Sichuan province, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country, and the only native habitat of the giant panda. The city government recognizes its responsibility as steward of this vulnerable species and, in June of last year, called for submissions to expand its panda research and tourism facilities. Sasaki beat out 98 other contenders with a plan that balances smart urbanism and thoughtful conservation. The masterplan is spread across three sites, each playing a different role in the panda conservation effort. Longquanshan Panda Village, located near the airport, will be focused on education. Visitors there will be introduced to the region’s history, culture, and dedication to conservation. Panda Park, in Beihu, is the closest to downtown Chengdu and reachable by mass transit. Here, panda tourists will learn more about the panda and its habitat at a new visitor center. The primary research center and gateway to the giant panda preserve is outside the city in Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where conservators breed and prepare pandas to enter the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the greatest threats to the giant panda is the tourism and recreation areas, and large-scale infrastructure projects. Tourism, if not properly managed, is a particular concern for the expanded capital, which is anticipated to receive 20 million annual visitors— that’s about two million more people per year than Disneyland. This plan involves all those threats, and Sasaki is embracing the challenge. “How do you reconcile human land use and wildlife protection?” asked Sasaki principal Tao Zhang. “With this project, we’re aiming to set a new baseline for how cities can achieve a sustainable model that generates win-wins…through extensive educational and environmental stewardship programs and a fully-integrated design approach.” The new master plan will help ensure that the city will grow in a sustainable manner while reaffirming its brand as the panda capital of the world and securing a shared future for both of the area’s major species.
Posts tagged with "Sasaki Associates":
Sasaki has designed a 180-acre masterplan in Central Florida for what it's calling the “Central Park of Lakeland.” Bonnet Springs Park, situated between Tampa and Orlando, is set to become a major cultural magnet and an ecological jewel of landscape design in the state. The massive site, which is being privately funded by a pair of local philanthropists, has sat vacant for over 30 years and gone through numerous attempts to reuse it. Now, the over-100-year-old former rail yard is being officially transformed with a vision from the Boston-based planning and design consultancy. By restoring the site's natural ecosystems and removing any harmful contaminants from its days as an industrial throughway, Sasaki will revitalize the land into a mega-park that’s safe for all ages. Because 84 acres of the abandoned brownfield contain arsenic and petroleum hydrocarbons, the team plans to stockpile the toxic materials into large, undulating hills, completely altering the land's topography. The architects will also remove invasive exotic plants and construct wetlands and bioswales to treat stormwater runoff. Four new buildings will also be constructed for the park, including the “Bridge Building,” which will be set between two man-made hills and house a children’s museum. Overlooking Lake Bonnet, a nature center will feature classrooms, an exhibitions space, a café, and a boat rental facility so visitors can learn more about the parkland and the freshwater lake itself. An events center and welcome center will additionally be built out for weddings, corporate events, and other large-scale gatherings. An extensive network of walking and biking trails, as well as a sculpture garden and canopy walk will be incorporated into the park’s design as well. This huge community undertaking, backed by a 20-person advisory committee of local advocates, underscores the town's collective dedication to its fast-growing population by providing a new connection to nature and play. Sasaki and the Bonnet Springs Park Board aim for construction completion in 2020.
A 27-acre expansion of Arlington National Cemetery opened yesterday in Arlington, Virginia, with a ceremonial burial for two unknown Union soldiers from the Civil War. The $87-million addition, designed by landscape firm Sasaki, design architect Beyer Blinder Belle, and Jacobs Engineering, added 27,282 interment spaces to the cemetery, including 6,000 pre-dug graves and 16,000 niche wall burial spaces for cremated remains, according to Military Times. The development, dubbed the Millennium Project, began nearly two decades ago when the cemetery announced it would likely run out of space to bury the nation’s veterans by 2040. Currently housing over 400,000 gravesites, Arlington only has about 100,000 spaces left, even after the addition, but the new land will extend the 154-year-old cemetery’s lifespan by 10 years. Construction on the project began in 2014 just above the northwestern part of Arlington’s current plot. The new section takes over land formerly used as a recreation spot for a nearby military base, the cemetery’s construction staging area, and woodlands owned by the National Park Service. The Millenium Project is the first time in 40 years the site has undergone any significant additions, and it won’t be the last. By 2025, another project called the “Southern Expansion” will add 37 acres of land to Arlington, taking over the location of the demolished Navy Annex building. Both projects will provide new, space-saving opportunities for the cemetery. The new addition features pre-placed concrete grave liners that ease grave openings and prevent major amounts of on-site excavation. They boast only a 3-by-8-foot footprint compared to the 5-by-10-foot footprints found throughout the rest of Arlington, wrote Military Times. Shelters made of granite and concrete were also constructed for the expansion, along with new walkways, stainless-steel step railings, and stone gardens. The landscape additionally features new trees, plantings, and shrubs native to the region.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach might be some of the world’s busiest shipping facilities, but just beyond the stacks of shipping containers and bustling cranes sit densely populated neighborhoods that have struggled for decades to maintain a vital hold on the nearby waterfront. That dynamic is about to change, as a slew of transformative waterfront-adjacent projects aim to reclaim and transform the shore for nearby communities. Following a new master plan issued in 2014, the waterfront areas along the Port of L.A.–adjacent neighborhood of Wilmington have been in a continual state of restoration and redevelopment. There, Boston-based Sasaki built out the first phase of the Wilmington Waterfront Park in 2012, a 10-acre installation packed with natural berms, playing fields, and trees. The plans—developed with Studio-MLA—would create a “buffer against port operations” and a “window to waterfront,” according to Zach Chrisco, partner in charge of the project at Sasaki. The latest phase of the waterfront redevelopment project aims to recast the existing waterfront areas with more widely accessible leisure and shopping spaces connected by public amenities like a giant lawn, stepped landings that meet the water, a small floating harbor, and a fishing pier. “Our goal with the project is to diversify the way the community can engage with the water,” Kate Tooke, landscape architect at Sasaki, explained, describing the metallic shade structures and an open-floor leisure pier with hammocks that dangle directly over the water. The waterfront will connect to the Wilmington community via the Avalon Promenade and Gateway, a new promenade and pedestrian bridge sequence designed by T.Y. Lin International that will feature underground restrooms on one end and a public plaza on the other. Both projects are slated to break ground this year with an anticipated 2019 opening. In the nearby neighborhood of San Pedro, developers Ratkovich Company and Jericho are leading the Ports O’ Call Village redevelopment project aimed at bringing a new 180,000-square-foot San Pedro Public Market project to life. The development is led by Rapt Studio, a local design firm. Describing the lead-up to the project, Sam Farhang, Rapt Studio president and project lead said, “We went in immediately and said, ‘This is not a project that could be designed and delivered by single team.’” The designers got to work on assembling a “dream team” for the project that includes James Corner Field Operations and Adamson Associates as executive architects. Rapt is designing a series of new warehouse-like prefabricated steel moment frame structures flexible enough to hold new retail programs while remaining malleable over the developer’s 55-year ground lease over the site. Plans call for adding a new “town square” containing the aforementioned retail and plaza spaces, a new marketplace to hold the relocated San Pedro Fish Market, and an event lawn that connects to the waterfront directly so that “every type of person—whether it’s longshoremen on their lunch break or a Millennial mom and dad with a single child in a stroller—can find an aspect of this site that resonates with them.” The project will be delivered in phases through 2020 or 2021 as to not displace some of the larger tenants that will remain. Across one of the shipping channels, Gensler is working toward a long-term vision that would rework the area’s employment and economic demographics, as it builds out the multi-phase AltaSea development; a new 35-acre complex that will combine marine research, public education programs, and sustainable energy development. The $150 million complex will aim to redevelop a series of existing waterfront warehouses, replacing industrial shipping uses with high-tech research equipment and hordes of visiting tourists, school children, and researchers. Describing the goals of the project, Li Wen, design director at Gensler said, “We see the Port of L.A. becoming a place of education through experience,” adding that the project seeks to “re-introduce the ocean as a place to be preserved, revered, and studied.” Work on that project is currently underway and the first phase is expected to be completed in 2023.
The Architect’s Newspaper’s Facades+ conference, part of a conference series on innovative building envelopes, has once again touched down in New York City. This year’s morning keynote speaker, Francine Houben of Mecanoo, delved deep into the firm’s projects around the world. The Dutch architect described seven very different projects, united by technically demanding facades that all referenced the unique history of their surroundings. Houben began with the Maritime and Beachcombers Museum on the isle of Texel, The Netherlands. The 4,000-square-foot museum punches above its weight with a facade of vertically-oriented, recycled wood planks that dapple the incoming sunlight and reference the maritime history of the island. “I’m here to tell you how I work,” said Houben. “I try to observe, I try to extend the flow of the people, how they walk through the city; how can I connect these people to the building, bring them up?” That attention to observation extends to a series of contextual facades. In discussing the Palace of Justice in Córdoba, Spain, Houben referenced the city’s extreme heat and the way that residents layered terraces to block the harsh sunlight as key factors that drove the densely-layered development around courtyard recesses. The tessellating perforations in the white glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels passively shade the interiors and cool occupants while also referencing historic sun shading in the region. A blending of old and new design also featured prominently into Mecanoo’s work on the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston. The firm’s first built projects in the U.S.–in collaboration with the locally-based Sasaki Associates–involved inserting a sinuous brick building on a triangular plot with curving historical facades in each corner. The integration of the freestanding stone facades was accomplished by convincing then-mayor Thomas Menino to purchase and expand the initial site to include two other buildings beyond the original’s single-facade scope. In between the historic remnants, Mecanoo paid homage to Boston’s history of intricate brickwork by designing snaking walls built from bricks laid vertically and in a variety of other patterns. Houben described the influence as “Boston meets the Netherlands”. Infilling with sensitivity and drawing from the surrounding environment are strong hallmarks of Mecanoo’s work. But beyond the aesthetic appeal of the firm’s facades, Mecanoo makes sure that they’re also practical and contribute to the comfort of those inside. “We always try to combine the formal with the informal,” said Houben. “The inside with the outside.”
Designs for a transformative make-over of the Wilmington waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles are steadily moving forward as new renderings for the project offer a glimpse of what will soon be two of L.A.’s newest public spaces. Renderings unveiled by the Port of Los Angeles showcase views of the Avalon Promenade and Gateway and the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade projects, two new open spaces designed by T.Y. Lin International and Boston-based Sasaki, respectively, on adjacent sites in conjunction with the Wilmington Waterfront Masterplan project. L.A.-based landscape architects Studio MLA is assisting with the design of the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade project. The two public spaces will cap off an L-shaped spine of new open space and future commercial development envisioned by the master plan for the formerly-industrial areas that ring the port. The nine-block plan area includes the 30-acre Wilmington Waterfront Park, also designed by Sasaki, which opened in 2011. For T.Y. Lin International’s Avalon Promenade and Gateway component, plans call for vacating sections of three streets and removing a pair of storage tanks to create a large landscaped open space that will connect the city’s urban fabric with the Wilmington Waterfront to the south. The 13-acre site will contain a public plaza at its northernmost point and will be traversed by a sculptural promenade that runs to the waterfront. The project would involve constructing a new bridge over an existing depressed rail yard, with renderings showing a new cable-stayed pedestrian bridge crossing the gap. The nine-acre Wilmington Waterfront project will be located at the end of this path abutting the harbor. Here, Sasaki and Studio MLA are working to craft an interconnected series of plazas, piers, and restaurants, including a four-acre event space and playground, according to Curbed. A below-grade section of the park will contain a cluster of accessible bathroom facilities. Renderings for these areas showcase a central lawn and plaza fronting the ocean, with active uses located at the site’s corners. The central plaza area gives way to rough-hewn boulders that step into the water, according to the renderings. The developments join a cluster of recently-announced waterfront redevelopment efforts, including the Altasea development by Gensler. Both projects are well into design and are expected to break ground later this year, in anticipation of a 2019 opening.
In Boston, a booming job market is drawing people back from far-flung suburbs and remaking the region, but it is also exacerbating a housing-affordability crisis and forcing difficult conversations about the future of the city. Greater Boston is riding a wave of development that is perhaps the largest the region has ever seen. By 2030, the city of Boston projects its population will top 700,000, a number it has not seen in 60 years. “The vast majority of our growth is happening in the inner core of the Boston region, so within the city of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, and in some of the other municipalities within the Route 128 corridor,” said Eric Bourassa, director of the transportation division at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). “This is a trend we’ve been seeing over the past decade, and we’re just predicting more of this growth.” The MAPC is in the process of updating the 30-year plan it released in 2008, highlighting housing, sustainability, and transportation. Another regional planning group, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, is updating its periodic long-range regional transportation plan. But change is happening quicker than the region’s existing plans can reflect. Data from the MAPC shows the region added more than 225,000 jobs between 2009 and 2015, and nearly two-thirds of them were in those inner-core cities. In July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Boston’s non-farm employment rose 2.1 percent compared to the previous year, outpacing the national rate of 1.5 percent. The engines of that growth are Greater Boston’s dozens of colleges and universities, and the biotech industry that grew out of them in the 1970s. Biotech turned Cambridge’s Kendall Square from an undeveloped urban frontier into a regional hub home to the highest concentration of biotech companies in the world, but many migrated to the area around Route 128 during the 1980s and ’90s to build suburban campuses. Today some of the same genetic engineering startups that began that transformation, like Biogen, are reinvesting in Boston and Cambridge. That trend is likely to continue. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently announced his plans to put another $500 million into the life-sciences industry over the next five years. In addition to Kendall Square, the South Boston Waterfront—better known as the Seaport—has gathered a growing share of those new jobs in a growing portfolio of pricey office developments and luxury condos. Many suburbs are also becoming more dense. Needham, Natick, and Framingham are among the further-out cities developing around commuter rail stations in their downtowns. Two areas of Somerville are undergoing massive redevelopments tied to public transit, as well: Assembly Square, which recently landed the new offices of the state’s largest private employer, Partners Healthcare; and Union Square, which is preparing for major changes ahead of getting the first new MBTA train stop in decades. Matthew Littell is principal of the Boston design firm Utile, which is working on the Cambridge Master Plan, and was a lead consultant on Imagine Boston 2030, Boston’s first citywide plan in 50 years. His firm analyzed demographic patterns in the region and found that younger employees in industries like tech tended to cluster around the inner-core cities and neighborhoods where they worked, compared to Boston’s bankers and lawyers, who still generally preferred houses in the suburbs. Littell pointed to Autodesk’s decision to supplement its office space in the suburban Route 128 corridor with a new space in the Seaport. “That’s a classic example, and the only reason these companies are moving is to attract and retain talent,” he said. “The young, smart folks don’t want to be out in Framingham or Waltham. They want to be in downtown Boston or Kendall Square or somewhere like that.” MAPC socioeconomic analyst Sarah Philbrick agreed that young people are flocking to the inner-core cities in search of walkable neighborhoods and city life, and businesses are following them. “Businesses want to attract these workers and therefore decide to locate in highly desirable locations,” Philbrick said. “I don’t believe many businesses would pay the high rents of the core if this were not the case.” Real estate is booming along with the regional job market, but housing is coming up short, and local business leaders worry that could hobble their ability to attract top talent. Finding enough skilled employees is already an issue in a state with one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates—soaring housing costs could drive away would-be residents. “We just we don’t have enough housing to meet the demand,” said Bourassa, “and so we lose a lot of young professionals who can’t afford to live here.” The MAPC estimates only about two-thirds of the region’s housing needs are being met. Some worry that could lead to long-term stagnation or brain drain away from Greater Boston. “I have a real question about how sustainable this rental housing boom is actually going to be in the long term,” said David Hacin, principal of Hacin + Associates. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand here, but it’s hard to build in the Boston area. It’s a very expensive market from a construction cost point of view, and when you combine years-long review processes with limited site opportunities because it’s a mature market, you run into problems of affordability.” The City of Boston said it’s trying to address that problem. Mayor Marty Walsh has pledged 53,000 new housing units as part of a new housing plan—a sizable effort that may have contributed to median rent in the inner-core cities dropping for the first time since at least 2009. Still, Barry Bluestone, professor of political economy at Northeastern University and lead author of the Boston Foundation’s Housing Report Card, estimates the region needs around 160,000 new housing units by 2030. So far statistics show that efforts to ease the housing crunch are having mixed results. The pace of new housing construction in the same inner-core cities seeing the most population growth has slowed lately, according to the Foundation’s report card, published in November. In its report, the Boston Foundation found that the City of Boston has issued more than 41 percent of the new housing permits in the region this year, almost double its share five years ago. But fewer than one in five new units put on the market since 2011 were affordable, less than half the rate seen between 1996 and 2003. Meanwhile, the number of permits issued outside the city of Boston declined this year, while more than half of renters reported paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the report. The region’s recent growth spurt may be making that problem more severe, but it should not come as a surprise, said Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Population growth is contributing to some of the congestion and growth pressure being experienced in Greater Boston,” said Goodman. “But our transportation and housing issues are primarily the result of inadequate infrastructure investment and counterproductive zoning regulations which limit new housing development.” With more people and corporations calling Boston home, housing advocates are calling on local governments to direct the benefits of a growing tax base into more affordable housing initiatives. “Even in Boston, there continues to be a challenge of creating a housing stock that benefits working households along with everyone else who strives to live in the city,” said Barry Bluestone, lead author of the Boston Foundation’s housing report, in a statement. He recommends the creation of “21st-century villages,” defined as multistory mixed-income buildings located near public transit. In an interview, Bluestone expanded on that idea. Many communities around Boston currently prohibit accessory dwelling units and, in some cases, ban multifamily housing outright, he said. “In the past, everyone has acknowledged there’s a housing problem, but they’ve mostly looked to their neighbors to solve it,” said Bluestone. Now that the whole region’s housing market is feeling the squeeze, however, more local governments are starting to take note. On December 5, municipal leaders from 14 cities and towns in the Boston area came together to identify a regional housing goal and recommend zoning changes to help them get there. “I’ve been looking at housing for two decades, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of coordination,” said Bluestone.
[Editor’s Note: This the third in a three-part series documenting the winners of the AIA 2018 Honor Awards, which are broken down into three categories: architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. This list covers the regional and urban design awards, but additional segments spotlight winners in architecture and interior architecture.] The American Institute of Architects announced its 2018 recipients of the Institute Honor Awards January 12. The 17 winners were pulled from approximately 500 submissions from across the globe and only three regional and urban design projects took home the prize. The designs range from the double-award winning Chicago Riverwalk, to frameworks for dealing with sea level rise. In one way or another, this year's notable topic was living with water. The five-person jury that selected this year’s AIA Regional and Urban Design Honor Award winners included:
- Roger Schluntz, FAIA (Chair), School of Architecture and Planning, University of Mexico
- Lisa Chronister, AIA, City of Oklahoma City Planning Department
- Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, DiGeronimo Architects
- Tim Griffin, AIA, Minnesota Design Center
- Gerry Tierney, AIA, Perkins+Will.
This is the first article in a three part series documenting the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards. This lists the winners of the architecture category, while additional segments contain the winners in the interior architecture and regional & urban design categories. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the 2018 winners of the AIA Institute Honor Awards. The list contains projects from all around the world, and of varying programs and uses, and honors firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be recognized at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York City, in late June. This year's eight member jury panel included:
- Lee Becker, FAIA (Chair), Hartman-Cox Architects
- Anne Marie Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects
- Susan Johnson, AIA, Strata; Anna Jones, Assoc. AIA, MOD Design
- Caitlin Kessler, AIAS Student Representative, University of Arizona
- Merilee Meacock, AIA, KSS Architects
- Robert Miller, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
- Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation
- Rob Rogers, FAIA, Rogers Partners.
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.
While tech giant Alphabet recently announced it would develop 12 acres of Toronto waterfront into a smart-city-technology testing ground, a similar undertaking has already begun 12 miles south of Boston. Developer LStar Ventures has big plans to turn this 1,500-acre site, dubbed Union Point (formerly South Weymouth Naval Air Station), into a “smart” development that will specially cater to technology companies. On the surface, the project is an eco-friendly exurban development with a leafy, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly mixed-use master plan. In addition to offering housing, retail, residences, restaurants, three million square feet of office space, and eight million square feet of commercial development, Union Point would connect to Boston—and its booming tech industry scene—via a nearby MBTA commuter rail. Boston-based Elkus Manfredi and Watertown, Massachusetts–based Sasaki are master planning Union Point and working with engineering firms such as Arup, Vanderweil Engineers, and VHB on a range of sustainable features, including natural, on-site wastewater treatment systems. However, where Union Point really sets itself apart is in its information technology infrastructure. The city will lay the foundations for its tenants to use its streets and buildings as testing grounds for smart city technology. In addition to omnipresent wi-fi, “Union Point will have a site-wide fiber-optic cabling system to support commercial tenants, building assets, and IoT [Internet of Things] systems,” said David Wilts, associate principal and digital master planning leader at Arup. In other words, companies will be able to install sensors to collect data on air quality and building performance, and even be able to set up public digital signage. In this way, Union Point could easily support smart city ventures similar to Chicago’s Array of Things sensor network or New York City’s LinkNYC towers. The first stage of development is a $25 million sports complex designed by Elkus Manfredi and Sasaki that will feature multiple fields, including a rugby pitch, playground, park, restaurant, and renovated gymnasium. Including this complex was crucial in the two-year process of getting local communities on board with the development; its fields will be available to the three nearby towns at reduced leasing rates. Technology, however, is a notoriously fickle thing to design into a project. For example, the video-call screens installed in Korea’s smart city mega-development Songdo are already obsolete. But Union Point hopes to avoid that by only laying the groundwork for its tenants. “LStar Ventures aspires to be the leader in the practical application of technology that we know, that we can imagine, and that is beyond today’s imagination,” said David Manfredi, founding principal at Elkus Manfredi. “That is why the armature that we create must be flexible, durable, and adaptable over time.” The Boston-area is no stranger to smart city developments, as the 45-acre Cambridge Crossing tech hub was also unveiled this year.
While many architects moon over biennials and architecture festivals, these shows are often a bit esoteric for the general public. The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is no exception. Amidst the complex discussions and abstract installations, the average visitor may enjoy the show, but also feel a bit disconnected. However, there is one show at CAB that anyone would find accessible. Located in EXPO 72 across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center, the exhibition, Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab, presents the visions of nine firms for the Chicago River. Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab was initiated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Council to solicit proposals for the city’s quickly evolving riverfront. Firms participating in the show include David Adjaye, James Corner Field Operations, Perkins + Will, Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki, Site Design, SOM, Studio Gang Architects, and SWA. Each firm addressed three sites along the river with designs that ranged from outdoor theater spaces to water remediation and ecological classrooms. Other ideas included policy suggestions, such as SWA’s forest bonus, rather than a density bonus. Multiple offices proposed ways of engaging more closely with the river itself, including James Corner Field Operation’s softened edge and Perkins+Will’s riverside beach. The three sections of the river addressed by the show are the Civic Opera House, the Congress Parkway, and the Air Line Bridge. Each of these sites present different challenges which the city hopes to resolve. While large stretches of the riverfront have already been converted into the Chicago Riverwalk, there are over 156 miles that have yet to be developed or connected with public walkways and activity spaces. The initial downtown stretch of redeveloped space was designed by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki, and was completed earlier this year. The exhibition, which was also designed by Ross Barney Architects, aims to engage public feedback and present ambitious yet feasible visions of the river’s future. Throughout, large renderings with texts allow visitors to compare proposals side by side. Those interested are directed to the project's extensive website to watch interviews with the architects, watch animated shorts about the proposals, and send commentary to the city and designers. “We thought this would be a great way to bring together a bunch of very creative folks, as well as help Chicagoans begin to imagine how this could work and what their place in it would be,” explained Josh Ellis, vice president of Metropolitan Planning Council at the exhibition opening. While the exhibition is not intended to be a competition, it is clear that each of the offices poured resources and brain power into the project. The Department of Planning and Development as well as the Mayor’s office have been explicit in their search for ideas for the future of the river. “This is just a snapshot of how serious each of these teams took this. These are meant to be ideas that can be realized,” said Clare Cahan, studio design director at Studio Gang at the opening. “There are things that will be attractive to communities, attractive to the city, and attractive to developers.”