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Sidewalk Illusions

Summer is a wonderful time full of non-stop events and one of my favorites are different ways of producing art whether it’s through meticulously sculpting a sand castle to look like one of the built wonders of the world, placing flowers in designs to look like intricately woven carpets or drawing an original work of art in chalk on the sidewalk. The latter can even go so far as to truly look like it could be on the sidewalk. Julian Beever is one such artist and he has been creating sidewalk masterpieces all over the world for over ten years. I especially love this coke bottle. Look at the amazing reflections on the bottle and the shadows on the pavement. I seriously thought there was a real giant bottle there when I saw it for the first time. He likes to get really interactive with h...Read More

The Sustainable Model for the World?

Could one block in Texas become just that? That’s the question asked by the City of Dallas and Urban Re:Vision in their latest design competition. Titled Re:Vision Dallas, the competition “is a revolutionary initiative to create the prototype for an innovative, sustainable urban community. At the heart of the process is a series of contests generating visionary ideas for what can and should be in the design about urban space.” They aren’t just asking for designers to take what we know and put it all together into one block but rather to challenge what we know and understand about creating a community that can sustain itself and the entire way in which a community should function. The idea is to go beyond today and truly look into the future and create a visionary co...Read More

Grading and Drainage Workshop, Skokie, IL, March 12-13

This may be your last chance to take our 2-Day Grading and Drainage Workshop, as I’m not sure I’ll be offering it again. You can read about our programs here: with a course description here: The deadline is this Friday, March 6th. Please feel free to contact me at with any questions!

Capturing the worlds cities on foot

I proudly love walking around cities. If I can get there on foot, I will. I have thought for some time that it would be a fabulous side gig to just spend a huge chunk of time walking around a city and documenting the trip through pictures and blogging. image of a busker in Leeds via Lydia Heard As it turns out, someone is doing this! Her name is Lydia Heard and her blog called Citywalker is my new favorite blog. As an urban designer she has walked and studied many cities but currently resides in Seattle where she walks and documents the most. The best part is that she looks at city’s like I do, and like most of us do as designers. She discusses the details that we would find relevant and interesting in the public realm, green infrastructure, public transportion, architecture, and so ...Read More

Rendering Tutorial – Displacement Maps

Displacement maps are the third and most powerful of the common maps. Displacement maps can use the same black and white image that was developed for the bump map but instead of shifting the image while it stays flat, the Displacement map actually generates geometry by using the map as a heightfield where white is the most displacement and black is the least. So, instead of appearing to have depth, displacment maps actually give the texture depth. But because they are creating geometry displacement maps are also the most computer intensive and take the longest to render. So let’s look at our wall again. With no maps With just a bump map And finally, with a Displacement map As you can see the displacement map brings the texture to life and interacts with the scene’s light source. I have als...Read More

Rendering Tutorial – Bump Maps

Bump maps are the next step in giving a texture some life. Bump maps adjust the image but don’t actually change geometry, giving the texture the appearance of having depth. Like transparency maps, bump maps are black and white conversions of the original texture image but probably aren’t as extreme in their conversion, and keep a lot more greys than transparency’s usually do. In a bump map the image is adjusted based on grey scale values. White has the most adjustment while black stays flat. Shades of grey adjust accordingly. They are applied in the Map section of the Vray Materials editor in a similar way to the transparency map. You will probably have to attempt the bump map black and white conversion a few times before you get it right, this one isn’t perfect, it gives some glare to the...Read More

Rendering Tutorial – Transparency Maps

One of the best ways to get the most out of 3D renderings is the use of maps on your textures. A lot of times you will see renderings where the textures are and have no depth; they are basically a flat picture pasted on a wall. This is especially bad when the image is repeating and you get a pattern that runs the whole length of the object. Pretty much every render engine lets users apply maps but I am using Vray for Rhino because of its ease of use and because Rhino great piece of software. If you want to get some textures is great. In the above shot the image of Boston Ivy is repeated four times, creating a distinct line where the images meet. To get around this problem and give the texture image some life, render engines us maps which tell it the texture should be sha...Read More

Think Inside the Box

The green bike box that is! National Geographic contained an article last month called “A Bicycle Bump” which featured Portland, Oregon for it’s “171 miles of bike lanes, ten freshly painted green boxes (picture from the article above) that put cyclists safely ahead of vehicles, even some signals just for bikes.” And this isn’t the first time the yellow-bordered magazine has featured Portland. In the August 2008 issue, it named Portland the number one city in the top five bike-friendly cities in the nation. It’s of no surprise that biking is on the rise. With gas prices soaring, more and more people are parking the car and choosing to pedal to work. How do they measure this? According to National Geographic, it’s by the additional bikes being...Read More

Celebrate Skateboarding!

I recently walked past a parking lot that should’ve been empty but instead was full of kids having set up makeshift skateboard ramps. There must have been about 10 kids there. But the most interesting part is that there is a small area to skate just a block away from the parking lot and a brand new state-of-the-art skate park just a 5 minute drive away. And yet here are more kids out in parking lots. The demand for areas where kids can skate is continuously amazing me. This brought back to my mind the old never-ending discussion topic of skaters amongst landscape professionals. Do you deter them, instlaling all sorts of different metal shapes into your seat walls or do you let ’em ride? I definitely fall into the latter group to the point where I don’t just want to let th...Read More

Book Review: The Colors of Nature, Subtropical Gardens Gardens by Raymond Jungles

The Colors of Nature: Subtropical Gardens by Raymond Jungles By Raymond Jungles Monacelli Press PURCHASE From the Land8 Bookstore One might think that a person with the last name of “Jungles” would be destined either to be a wilderness explorer and nature-lover or a master landscape designer who creates lush tropical gardens. With Raymond Jungles, we have both. Raymond Jungles is the recipient of numerous awards and has been recognized in publication such as Luxury Gardens of the World (2008), Collection of International Landscape Designers (2008), RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design (2009). In his latest book, “The Colors of Nature,” Jungles showcases more than 20 of his residential projects spanning over the last 20 years. From the a rooftop garden to backyard retreats, the book is full of...Read More

What a Picture is Worth

by Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA Starting up a new website is hard, especially when you’re trying to create a niche that wasn’t there before — and are hoping to make a little money, too. Chris Whitis, along with partner Brian Phelps, has spent most of his free time over the past few years doing just that. is a searchable image database of the built environment. It has tens of thousands of high-resolution photos ready for download. It is, in a word, voluminous. Because sitephocus was specifically created for design professionals, the images are of things we actually want to see: streetscapes, rain gardens, bollards, paving patterns, etc. But the hordes haven’t exactly come running, and ASLA has seen the site as a potential advertiser, rather than a good reso...Read More

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