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Podcasts in the Spotlight: 10 Brilliant Shows for Design Enthusiasts

In 2017, 112 million Americans listened to a podcast and 42 million listen to a podcast on a weekly basis. This amounts to 15% of the total US population, which is five times more than weekly visits made to the movies.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something NEW.” – Dalai Lama

The reason why podcasts are so popular is because most of us want to learn new things and broaden our knowledge base. They are the 21st century’s offline radio. Podcasts can be a great tool for landscape architects to keep track of current trends and topics, feed new vocabulary to your brain, or give you a deeper perspective of the world.

Next time you are doing research for a project you should take 30 minutes out of your day, possibly on your commute to work, to listen to one of the podcasts listed below, they just might help you connect the ideas and make better-informed decisions.

1. 99% Invisible

This highly commended podcast is all about unnoticed architecture and design. While not directly related to landscape architecture, it will teach you about the history and information for things that shape our world, such as how air conditioning was invented or what research tells us about creative scientists and artists. It is basically a fact bomb for the curious. The shortest episode available is only seven minutes long and the longest is 30 minutes.

In a recent episode, 99% Invisible teamed up with VOX to create a visual podcast that talks about biomimicry and how designers should be bringing biologists to the table for the purpose of solving complex human problems.

Recommended Episode: “Biomimicry

2. Infinite Earth Radio

This podcast is dedicated to exploring one of the trendiest and most important issues of our time — sustainability. Every week, there are 30-minute interviews with forward-thinking individuals who are actively taking part in building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities. They stem from government officials and local organizations to savvy businesspeople. If you are dedicated to this topic, you will be blown away by the wide range of directions each takes.

Recommended Episode: “Authentic Community Engagement in Gentrifying Communities

3. The Sod Show

Hosted by horticulturist Peter Donegan, the SodShow Garden podcast host interviews several personalities across the industry. The 30-minute interactive episodes are very informative for tips and tricks on garden design. You will also find the podcast entertaining and moving.

Recommended Episode: “Live, Salt Lake City: Fritz Kollmann, Red Butte Garden. Thyme and Place

4. Common Edge

This podcast is brought to you by the non-profit Common Edge to connect architecture and design to the public that it is meant to serve. Each episode lasts around 30 to 50 minutes and reports on public engagement in planning and design of the built environment. If you are interested in sociology and design, this would be it.

Recommended Episode: “Landscape Architecture in the Age of Climate Change

Image courtesy of Local Office Landscape Architecture

5. The Landscape Architect Podcast

This podcast connects the voices of landscape architecture and hosts interview prominent landscape architects of our time. Each episode is a pleasant listen, recorded with stories, intentions, and impacts of contemporary landscape architecture. The lengths of each episode vary from 20 to 55 minutes. If you want to know the thoughts and ideas behind the minds of leaders in landscape architecture, this is a great starting point!

Recommended Episode: “Feng shui and Landscape Architecture

6. Homeland Lab

Here is a topic that we do not normally come across in our daily lives: what is the profound relationship between homelessness and public space? The podcast explores the spatial manifestation of homelessness on the landscape and features politicians, designers, public space managers, and researchers to help foster better spatial strategies for everyone. Each episode length varies from 30 minutes to an hour.

Recommended Episode: “Reflections 1

7. In Defense of Plants

For the plant geeks inside us, if you want a more technical, science-related podcast, this is it! The knowledgeable host tells stories about the smallest duckweed to the tallest redwood, sharing his love for plants as we take a peek inside the botanical world.

Recommended Episode: “For the Love of Growing Plants

8. The Urbanist

As the name suggests, this podcast is dedicated to cities and all things related to our urban environment. The weekly show, with each episode lasting 30-minutes in length, talks about what makes cities work or fail. The episodes are fascinating and give a global perspective by covering major cities such as Rio, London, and Dubai. We also get an insight to current innovative solutions that are trying to tackle urban problems.

Recommended Episode: “Land reclamation and prizes

Image courtesy of Heatherwick Studio

9. Placemakers

From a global perspective with The Urbanist to a communal perspective, Placemakers zooms into the stories of people that are shaping the community that they live in by solving complex issues from the bottom up. This podcast is very real and has a strong “Power to the People” feeling. Each episode ranges from about 20 to 30 minutes in length.

Recommended Episode: “The Greatest Misallocation of Resources in the History of the World

10. Remarkable Objects

Remarkable Objects is an outstanding podcast that looks at the intersection between natural landscape and urban design and how they both shape one another. With an average running time of 20 minutes, the episode topics are advanced in thinking. They include interviews that explore how including nature in our cities will create a more beneficial future for all.

Recommended Episode: “Quantifying the Landscape
View Remarkable Objects recaps:

BONUS: America Adapts – The Climate Change Podcast

Land8 has promoted this podcast previously, which hosts some of the most innovative and leading adaptation thinkers in the country to talk about how we as a society should adapt to climate change. The host of the podcast made a special trip to the ASLA Meeting + EXPO in Los Angeles. Listen below to hear his insights and takeaways from meeting with many in the landscape architecture profession and industry.

Recommended Episode: “Landscape Architects Adapt to Climate Change

The podcasts listed above are a testament to smart technology becoming a positive source of influence. Within a relatively short amount of time, you can connect with community activists bringing important changes to their neighborhoods, learn about equitable development from a Professor at the University of Southern California, hear a landscape architect speak about design of commemorative landscapes, and so much more! We are interested to hear what you think about our recommendations.

Lead image: Elizabeth Quay in Perth, Australia courtesy of Peter Bennetts

This Beautiful Model District is Raising the Quality of the Residential Market in China

Development in China is known to happen very quickly. Imagine the intensity of the design process from project conception to construction, which amplifies the importance of getting it right within a small time frame. Vanke Huafu Mansion Model District has done just that. Vanke Mansion Real Estate’s brand is one that promotes elegance and zen spirit of traditional Chinese mansions in a contemporary manner. The design direction was not only to design the low-density high quality residential development itself but also, more importantly, to design the main entrance area of a future residential community and the sales center within the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an. Resolving practical issues of circulation satisfy the residents and visitors to the sales center. As the saying “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” goes, the designers had a heavy task at hand.

What Makes Up the Zen Spirit of This Place?

There are many ways to approach this curiosity, but in this context we can pick up a sense of quiet rhythm. If a place could resemble the soft tones of a piano, this would be it. Users are led down to this quietness through a sequential approach. Circulation is divided via a series of courtyards, carefully arranged to take them down from a loud urban surrounding to a tranquil community area, transitioning from this bustling urban town to an exalted mansion.

This zen spirit is also represented through sculptures. The stone sculptures, which we will come to discuss later, add an earthy element to the place. They are solid-grounded and rooted so majestically that the place further radiates an inner peaceful quality.

Following the Traditional Ways

In the ancient times, common people lived in houses that shared one or two courtyards. Houses with three courtyards only belonged to nobles. To create this rich and majestic sense, the design follows the three courtyard tradition. This provides a grand entrance, bringing a sense of ritual. However, a courtyard atmosphere is also very communal and can be interpreted as a welcoming return to one’s home. The Gate, one of the three courtyards, is a luxury mansion with a repeated gateway entrance. The Courtyard, the second of the three, has a square water pool that reflects the sky and clouds.

The last courtyard, Mountain Hall, includes a 25-piece yellow sandstone mountain sculpture on a mirror of flowing water representing a metaphorical concept of Qinling Mountains.

Qinling Mountains sit adjacently to the south of Xi’an City. The notorious mountainous region, also known as the “Szechuan Alps,” create a natural boundary that divide the northern and southern parts of China, which brings more significance to this sculptural reference.

Around the doorway just after the courtyard series is a smaller courtyard for the marketing suite, which is used to showcase the district. This space, in particular, has been divided into several pieces. As it currently lacks activity, the area will be used for marketing but from abandoning the traditional vacant lawn design, it becomes a multi-functional space.

Thinking Ahead…

The first model house or “Outdoor Sanhao Mansion” is located after the courtyards. Being the furthest away from the urban town and as the last space, Sanhao Mansion is truly serene in nature and provides an exemplary outdoor space for future development.

The scale of the external area is designed to even ensure that the grass area can be mowed comfortably, including satisfying the requirements for a cultural gallery function for the future community. In order to strengthen the zen musicality within the courtyard, the designers have replaced traditional community planting with a floating evergreen planting pool, made out of a curved aluminum board. A group of mountain-cloud themed sculptures also sit within the middle.

A Subtle Kind of Beauty

There is a sense of purity and innocence within the project because a subtle language of poetic design starts to be formed by the materials and the rhythmic layout. An example is the “cloud” and “mountain” stone sculpture that is combined with the effect of fog and lighting to create a sensory experience.

You can catch the trunk and narrow branches of the young trees casting patterned shadows on the vertical and horizontal elements that narrate the transient beauty of nature and its cycles.

It is exciting to see the emergence of residential development of this quality — one that is contextually well considered and brings forward the design of outdoor areas to the forefront of the overall scheme. The clever conception of the project is building the sales center (a model home to allow prospective buyers to explore the design of home) first with exemplary spaces. This sets the standard and the notorious rhythmic tone for the future housing area.

The artistic sculptural quality of the scheme also contributes a charming layer of aesthetics that is not usually associated with residential developments. This is what makes it unique. This project makes the perfect “first impression” that is so important in today’s design world.

Project Information
Project Name: True Love, Vanke Huafu Mansion Model District
Project Address: No.4 Heyanqu Road, South Park Road, Xi’an City, Shanxi Province
Project Area: 5000 ㎡
Date: March, 2017
Completed Date: July, 2017
Developer: Vanke Real Estate
Design Firm: FLO Landscape Design Company
Design Team: Kai Fu, Lei Guo, Lixing Pan, Shiqian Luo, Jianhao Sun, Xiaoyin Wang, Shuyi Zhang

All images courtesy of FLO Landscape Design Company.

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