Landscape architects work at a slow pace. While your projects and deadlines might argue, the design and construction process seems like molasses when compared to the speed of today’s world. Some would argue that to keep up with this unrelenting velocity, we have forgotten that being slow allowed us to be more methodical and precise. Others say that in order to stay relevant, we should broaden our scope to quickly fight global problems like climate change, sustainability, and social issues. Still, others worry that our unrelenting focus on ecology has made us forget the art and beauty that design brings to the built world.
LAF’s New Landscape Declaration wants you to realize landscape architecture’s potential. Image Courtesy of lafoundation.org
Our industry’s leading pioneers want us to do a lot of things to rapidly respond to what they perceive as threats to both our planets and our livelihoods. All have strong opinions on how to go about it. However, their frustration seems to unanimously find the same fault for many of these problems – we are slow.
We will probably be the last pertinent profession to fully integrate BIM, despite efforts by certain individuals and software developers to bring us into the fold. Most firms that see the writing on the wall are just now making the capital investments to train their workforce, or at least considering it for the future. Until we are able to sit at the table with other trades and work in their native language, we will continue to be marginalized in both scopes and fees. We need to consider this as more than a trend and a more likely reality.
No BIM program is the perfect solution. via Autodesk University
Along these lines, if you haven’t been introduced to the term Anthropocene, then consider yourself in the minority. Though the term is used to bludgeon us with the notion of human dominated influence on the environment (mostly on those that don’t need convincing), the idea behind it has sparked a debate in the scientific community on proper nomenclature that no one except the scientific community cares about. Is the really the Anthropocene or is it not? Does it even matter what we call it? Expect the slow debate on what to designate our current predicament as to continue until long after it matters what clever vocabulary we use to describe the state of the planet.
“Where are all the flying cars?” asked the disappointed Baby Boomer. Yeah! Where are those cars? As much as we may try to predict the future trends, it is really impossible to be certain what will make the most dynamic change in our daily lives and at what pace. For today’s generation, it has been the internet and digital economy. Will the next big thing be self-driving cars? Green infrastructure? Artificial intelligence? The sharing economy? The internet of things? Drone delivery? (No. The answer is no to that last one.) We need to be able to react to these trends now in real-time – considering how landscape fits into each and how to apply our unique brand of stewardship and design. You can be sure that we will react… probably slowly.
Examples like the 11th Street Bridge in DC are supposed to set precedents for green infrastructure.
We need to be able to react to these trends now in real-time – considering how landscape fits into each and how to apply our unique brand of stewardship and design. You can be sure that we will react… albeit slowly. The main issue seems to be that we can no longer afford to adapt at this pace. The Earth used to react slowly too. Taking each scar with a smile and spinning along. Most believe that along with technology, the planet will continue to change at an exponential pace. We can’t be as slow as we used to. The future of landscape should be fast.
This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader
Democracy operates on engagement and relationships. To elevate the profile of landscape architecture, the public outreach of the profession’s government affairs must move beyond the virtue based rationalization and create arguments that resonate and connect. Without effective involvement, landscape architects risk substantial economic costs and lessen the overall impact of our work. McKinsey and Company notes that, “the business value at stake from government and regulatory intervention is huge: about 30 percent of earnings for companies in most industries.” That figures roughly $630M in potential impact to landscape architecture design services nationally, using figures from a 2015 NEA Report. From fighting regulation battles to continual challenges of marketplace jurisdiction and scope, it is clear that landscape architects face an uphill climb.
In the Venn diagram of landscape architecture public outreach, politics and policymaking occupies a small overlap in the perception of the requirements of everyday practice. Couple that small allotment of time with the fact that we all, presumably, have day jobs that account for at least 40 hours a week, and family obligations as well as personal time that make up the rest of one’s schedule and a problematic pattern starts to emerge given the social, environmental, and economic impacts at stake. The space allotted to think about professional service through ASLA, let alone government affairs and advocacy, shrinks with each overwhelmed moment, making the job of advocacy all the more difficult and geared toward simply managing crisis. The cost of this current meager model is dire.
While it’s true that the space for this conversation is minute and currently limited to a subset of a few wonks, activism and advocacy are the most important and meaningful thing we can do as professionals. In order for landscape architects to make the type of impact we know the profession is capable of, we must create space for these interactions to seize the attention of policymakers.
Over half of the states have had some challenge to professional regulations and licensure in the recent years. The last few months alone have seen a dramatic uptick in the frequency of these attacks, mostly under the false pretense that licensure is unnecessary and that it serves as a barrier to otherwise qualified individuals to practice. At the same time ASLA fights state to state battles for the right to practice, the Federal Government Affairs team continually works toward maintaining the programs that employ landscape architects, making policymakers and allied coalitions aware of landscape architecture’s diverse role, while also uncovering opportunities for landscape architects to author our own legislation.
To compound the issues landscape architects face, the resurgence of Yellow Journalism does little to spur support for ASLA’s priorities. In a recent essay on how landscape architects adapt practice to realize the full potential of professional impact, I wrote, “The spectre of rhetoric from [the 2016 presidential] election will haunt us for generations.” The scandal and polarizing grandiloquent spurred deep political divides that make the typically bipartisan legislation ASLA supports frequently get lost in the shuffle or used as political bargaining chips. This actuality propels advocacy, making policymakers aware of the profession and its priorities, to a greater significance in the society’s public outreach efforts.
The Value of ASLA: Advocacy Day
Advocacy is the lens that I look at ASLA through. Why become a member of ASLA? Because the protection offered for my professional license and the economic impact to the work we do is tangible. Advocacy Day is one of the “boots on the ground” moments that showcase the value of membership. Each year, delegates and leaders from each chapter of ASLA gather in Washington D.C. for mid-year meetings (Chapter Presidents Council and the Board of Trustees) combined with a one day lobbying event on Capitol Hill. ASLA’s annual Federal Advocacy Day fly-in, the society’s premier advocacy event, involves legislative briefings and meetings with home state Congressional offices of the chapter delegates. Across all the meetings, the chapters each discuss common priorities, from introducing/re-introducing the profession to key legislation that comes from a combination of critical programs, member identified priorities, and leadership driven initiatives.
This year’s event took place in the shadow of a flurry of political activity, sucking up the already depleted supply of oxygen in Washington D.C. From the President’s debrief on North Korea that dramatically involved busing all Senators to the White House, a looming government shutdown due to the Federal budget priorities of ACA and border wall funding, the threat of selling off public lands, a large scale march for the Climate, all of which marked the first 100 days of the new administration. They each contributed to an atmosphere abuzz with nervous anticipation and uncertainty heading into a day full of meetings, where a significant number of delegates were first time participants.
Leading up to this year’s Advocacy Day involved a variety of preparation meetings including webinars and preparing elevator pitches because you never know who you’re going to run into waiting for an elevator in the Russell Senate office building – I actually ran into Ted Cruz myself. Besides familiarizing themselves with the issues, delegates were asked to focusing on telling stories, because as great as statistics are, in-district stories coupled with that information connect and resonate.
Then there was a fire on the DC Metro. With no time to get nervous and meetings with the policymakers scheduled throughout the day (2 Senate and 1 House meeting per delegate, across all of the different chapters, with at least three representatives per chapter), delegates quickly made alternate plans to travel from the hotel meeting room to Capitol Hill. This year, the overall message for each meeting was in consolidating the different advocacy focus areas around landscape architecture as necessary infrastructure. For me, this means discussing Efficacy vs Efficiency, systems thinking vs linear problem solving. In this way, landscape architects ensure that investments in public infrastructure have high ROI and wise spending of taxpayer dollars.
Three primary “asks” the delegates make in the various meetings with their Congressional representatives. These included upgrading to a multimodal transportation network through supporting TIGER Discretionary Programs. Adequate funding for this program allows landscape architects to successfully assist more states and local communities with building multimodal projects that address congestion, improve safety, and expand economic opportunity. Additionally, ASLA advocated for landscape architect’s role in fixing our nation’s water management systems through the EPA Clean Water State Revolving Funds. Specifically, the delegates requested their representatives to support increased funding for these funds, which will allow urban, suburban, and rural communities to utilize green infrastructure projects to address water issues. Lastly, the delegates sought further recognition for public lands, parks, and other recreation areas as to be defined as critical Infrastructure. To do this, the delegates asked each Congressional representative to cosponsor bipartisan legislation introduced in the House and Senate to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The day was capped off with Representative Earl Blumenauer addressing the delegates as everyone regrouped and shared stories of their experiences. Congressman Blumenauer is especially involved in the Congressional Bike Caucus as well as the Trails Caucus, so his familiarity with the work of landscape architects was refreshing. His call for continued engagement and enthusiasm succinctly encapsulated the day and served as a launchpad for future Advocacy Days.
What’s Next: Going on the Offensive
Between the schisms of party politics, the exhausting barrage of elections, and the tedious legalese language of actual policy – concluding that government affairs is best left to more enthusiastic practitioners is all too common. While uncertainty continues to arise from contemporary political decisions, this must impel us to the action that Ernie Wong concludes in his call to action, “Landscape Architects and Civic Engagement.”
After the blitz of Advocacy Day, landscape architects have the the responsibility of continued active engagement with policymakers, maintaining and building relationships, and serving as resources on important (and related) concerns. During our representatives in-district time, we have the opportunity to not only attend town hall meetings, but showcase the value of landscape architecture through Site Tours (ASLA has a handy guide for that).
ASLA chapters have often promoted landscape architecture month through municipal and statewide Proclamations and Resolutions, where we author the language (Pro-Tip: Include a statement about the public health, safety, and welfare) that can then be used to demonstrate support of the profession should the need arise. These do not have to be one off events, but used within advocacy packets to continually showcase support of the profession from policymakers. Additionally, discussing landscape architecture as public infrastructure will help fundamentally change the tone of the profession’s message: from luxury to necessity. A small shift in thinking that will help landscapes advocacy across political divides. The profession will need a combination of these tactical approaches to fully leverage our capabilities and unique world view.
I have said before but it is worth repeating, “if we take our oath of stewardship seriously and embrace the declarations of the next generation of landscape architecture we have to do more. To do this work successfully, we must advocate at every level of government with clarity, consistency, and insight.” The space landscape architecture meagerly occupies within the government affairs and political dialogue is undersized and the cost of that is dire. Connecting business issues to virtue based concerns, landscape architects increase their understanding of the regulatory value at stake with government affairs.
Jonathon Geels enjoys solving problems by connecting people to new ideas through design, innovation, and advocacy. He is passionate about improving public health, the built environment, social equality, as well as resource management and hopes to engage other professionals with the same enthusiasm.
“Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”
*This article is part 2 of a 2 part article. You can find Part I here.
How does proximity to the urban core affect an urban park?
“It depends on how you are defining “urban park.” Those within a 10 minute walk are most likely to use a park. A park in an urban area need not be in the urban core to be successful, provided that it serves a decent population and caters to that population’s needs.” – Landoll
“Your target demographics and stakeholders can vary greatly, whether it be a city of 10,000 or 500,000. Are you near a university where you will have young adults that always wants to be plugged in, study alone in intimate settings, or group settings with presentation pods? Is it a small community where parents and children can walk or ride their bikes to watch a movie in the park or run around in a playscape? Are you at a public plaza where young, professional adults want a place to spread their legs from the apartments and play bocce or sit on a lawn and read a book? These spaces can also be places of demonstrations, protests, fundraisers, and community gatherings. The audience is crucial.” – Stout
“Site access is critical. At Maggie Daley Park, one of the main focuses was finding better ways for the public to access the park. This required looking at transportation patterns on a neighborhood level and also at the site scale to understand where nearby residents were accessing the park on a regular basis.” – Bird
“There is a correlation between the issues of the proximity and accessibility. Do people have to drive and how far/long people are willing to drive before they find it too far. In NYC, the public transportation system allows people travel distances with the same amount of monetary investment so people may be more willing to go a bit further for that favorite park. But not everyone has a car or money to use public transport. Many of the solutions to these problems need to be addressed during the early planning stage much as provided access on all fronts on the site scale.” – Tominaga
“Proximity is everything. To be the icons that 21st century parks aim for, we must consider location. Adjacencies to density of residents, office workers and retail opportunities are essential for a park’s survival. A successful urban park is a part of your daily life, while also being considered a weekend destination for city inhabitants and visitors. These spaces are extensions of our interior environments and must be lived-in to be successful, with varied places to sit, stay and use for recreation.” – Russo
So the adage of location, location, location holds true with parks. However, location, doesn’t necessarily mean downtown. Location means insightfully planned spaces that have a direct relationship to the surround communities and the needs of those communities. As cities densify and grow, investments will be made to build the city park stock and as means for enticing new residents.
What, if any, benefits come from the combination of public/private investments?
“P3’s do provide financial resources, but nonprofits can also provide staff capacity, planning and research services, project management, and pre and post project evaluations beyond what the City could otherwise afford to do. We can also help form foundations to help preserve a park’s legacy.” – Landoll
“There are efficiencies and innovations that come from public/private investments. These arrangements allow many projects to escape some of the bureaucracy that can weigh down publicly led projects which have strict rules of engagement and a standardized process. When outside entities can disrupt the normal design process and push for greater innovation, there can be a greater chance for creation of a unique space.” – Bird
When public dollars mix with private funds, the opportunity exists for abuse and the misalignment of public money from the public goals. While this is not often the case, it certainly garners the attention of the media. A quick search for controversial uses of public funds in parks will turn up several articles. Here are a few examples.
Are passive parks still relevant? What purpose do they serve today?
“In urban areas, these spaces are certainly still necessary. They may not seem as engaging as active public spaces, but they are often essential public spaces especially for aging populations.” – Bird
“Absolutely. People, as humans, have an intense desire to connect with nature. Whether natural or man-made, the experience of immersion in natural elements is something we all need in order to unplug from our hectic, technology driven lifestyles.” – Russo
“Of course. Not only do they often occur in environmentally sensitive areas, therefore provide protection of these resources (wetlands, streams, buffers, forests, etc.), our most disadvantaged communities are often seeking stress relief for their mental health as much as physical health opportunities. Additionally, air quality is a big concern for many urban communities and our youth are losing their connections to nature. The natural aspects of parks can provide relief for many of these challenges.” – Landoll
A panel at the 2016 ASLA Meeting in New Orleans (The Primacy of Programming: Is it Lowering the Value of Design?) brought up a point of contention that exists between some designers and organizations like PPS. With all investors looking for a high ROI, designers are constantly, subtly if not directly, pushed to inject a variety of programming into urban parks. We should be asking ourselves how to do this in a way appropriate to the with the other needs of the site and if that is always the primary goal. Having a good understanding of the dynamics and the effects of active and passive programming will help designers appropriately meet the various needs of the community.
How does a park inject value into an urban area? Are they amenities or assets?
“They are assets. They provide increased revenue from increased property values, can increase tourism, and these two combined can impact the collective wealth of the citizens. The use of city parks can provide savings to citizens as well, as they don’t have to seek out recreation opportunities from the marketplace. Then there are health benefits that result in savings on healthcare and on city subsidized healthcare. They can store stormwater, reduce water pollution, and improve air quality. They can reduce heat island effect, making areas more livable. I could go on and on.” – Landoll
“Parks create value. Consider the High Line in New York, perhaps one of the most notable right now. Its founders were trying to find a solution to an aging piece of infrastructure by creating a community amenity. What they did was lay the groundwork for a world-renowned park that has skyrocketed land values, and catalyzed development along its edges. In this best-case scenario, this amenity to residents has become an asset to the city, as well as an international tourist attraction.” – Russo
“In urban areas where space is at a premium, public parks are an asset both economically and sociologically. The highest profile developments around the country are often directly connected to a thriving public park which have proven to be engines of economic growth. And the spaces themselves serve as needed escapes for all people within a community.” – Tominaga
Organizations like the Landscape Architecture Foundation are making great strides in defining and validating the value that landscapes like urban parks bring to our cities. You can check out over one hundred case studies and dozens of tools on their website: www.landscapeperformance.org
Is gentrification by way of urban park important, vague, meaningless, to be avoided, or unavoidable? Can parks provide social equity?
“Finding ways to better understand how parks impact gentrification is one of the most important topics in the field I believe. Just as environmental issues have come to the forefront of the design world, social justice reforms will also play a big role in how the field changes in the near future.” – Bird
“Gentrification is unavoidable to a certain extent. Public housing programs help maintain existing communities to thrive but is often an uphill battle. If you look at any large successful park, it is surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate whether residential or commercial. However, a successful park will maintain sensitivities to existing communities and remain inclusive. It is often that public and private investment has brought some of the most successful parks to fruition and return on investment is expected.” – Tominaga
“Gentrification from parks can definitely happen, but do poor people not deserve good parks? Again, I go back to neighborhood and city planning and working with other service providers from the start to understand and mitigate potential impacts. Can parks provide social equity? Everyone deserves access to a good park, so cities can help improve social equity by providing equal access and opportunity through strategic investment. Within the park itself, they can break down social barriers.” – Landoll
Gentrification has been a trending topic over the past decade, but is by no means a new topic. Social reform and the restructuring of the classes has always impacted our cities and mixed the politics of parks. We can look back to historic examples like Seneca Village, the once run-down community found on what is now known as Central Park. Even modern urban values push out those with less power and privilege. Our national Olympic venue models do this year after year. Here are some articles where you can explore gentrification further.
Are urban parks social infrastructure?
“They should be. They often aren’t designed that way.” – Landoll
“Society is reflective in the built environment. The greatest symbol of a free and open society is a communal space that it shared for and cared for by all. These urban spaces are where the different classes, age groups, genders, and races collide on a daily basis as we live out our lives together. Our urban spaces, particularly parks, where people relax and unwind in cities are the great melting pots of shared space. These are the places where we really experience community and neighborhood. These spaces are essential to city life, our shared living rooms, so to speak. Everyone should have access to such a place.” – Russo
“Not only are parks social infrastructure, but they should be considered physical infrastructure of the city as well. Often a park can be considered less important than the highly engineered ‘infrastructure’ project, but parks have historically been shown to be key pieces of a city’s fabric. Especially as density in cities increases and environmental challenges are more present, having established parks available for use by citizens as well as playing a role in environmental remediation will lead to more successful urban space.” – Bird
As we step into the summer, be sure to get out and visit your parks. Pay attention to who uses the parks, what they are using at the park, and how they are using the park. Parks are nothing without people. Pay attention to the people. Design for the people!
*A special thank you to each of the professionals who took the time to share their thoughts and years of experience with our audience. Your valued input and insight pushes the envelope of design, public engagement, and healthy cities. Thank you.
If you are looking to explore urban parks more, we suggest you visit the following parks in person or on the web:
Cameron R. Rodman, Associate ASLA, is a Landscape Designer at Stewart Inc., a multi-disciplinary design firm in Charlotte, NC.
Maggie Daley Park | Image: Scott Shigley
“You can neither lie to a neighborhood park, nor reason with it. ‘Artist’s conceptions’ and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighborhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”
– Jane Jacobs
*This article is part 1 of a 2 part article. You can find Part II here.
The urban park has become the object of fascination and desire of many cities across the nation and the world. Everyone wants their sleek version of the High Line. Outside onlookers fantasize of their chance to make a name for their city and reap the benefits of such a wild success story, both financial and social. It would be easy to assume that projects like the High Line hold in themselves the recipe for creating an assemblage of prosperity, cultural vitality, innovation, creativity, and in the end, success. But is that what we find beneath the surface when we more deeply examine the phenomenon of urban parks like the High Line?
To find out more about the High Line, you’ll have to visit the park itself or read another article. It was our interest at Land8 to get down to the core of what makes urban parks successful. What attracts users? What ensures the care and longevity of a park? To do this, we reached out to a variety of landscape architects, landscape designers, and urban designers to get their thoughts on urban parks. They weighed in on what helps to create these special places in the hearts of our cities to a point of success and lasting memory.
Our respondents were Courtney H. Landoll, ASLA, PLA, Parks for People Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land; Carmine Russo Jr., PLA, ASLA, LEED AP BD+C, Partner, REALM Collaborative; Ryoma Tominaga, Senior Project Manager, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.; Matthew Bird, PLA, Senior Associate, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.; and Patrick Stout, ASLA, PLA, Rundell Ernstberger Associates.
A series of questions were provided to the group and their responses may just change how you previously thought about urban parks and the value that parks bring to a city. The purpose of this variety of questions was to encourage open thought and dialogue on urban parks with little guided direction. While common threads wove throughout their responses, variations therein, brought to the surface the deeper more important issues and challenged the notion that plug and play design concepts are responsible or even beneficial.
Have you noticed any trends in Urban Parks?
“The trend I noticed is capturing the opportunity for derelict and underutilized spaces and repurposing them for a park. This is possible today perhaps due to the definition of what a park has evolved into. It’s no longer just a green lawn with trees and planting, but a place of respite from the daily grind.” – Tominaga
“The trends in urban park design, particularly in our largest urban centers, is the creation of an iconic community amenity that is emblematic of the city. An identifiable brand that provides an instant vision in people’s minds of the essence of that city as a notable place to be. Consider Millennium Park and the Lurie Garden in Chicago, how could someone visit that city today without a picture under the Bean?” – Russo
“Rapid densification and gentrification are marginalizing and displacing people, creating park equity issues, which then impact health. These drivers also put a burden on existing park infrastructure to meet the need of new populations who may have different wants and needs. These demographic changes often happen at a rate we are ill-equipped to solve and while wealth abundance can provide financial resources, it also creates many challenges.” – Landoll
At the core, parks often become reflections of the values which are in place, driving the direction of the investments within the city. Priorities will often surface in the public realm and a multitude of issues influence this decisions. While we have trends that are emerging around things like tangible objects, (i.e. splash pads, beer gardens, etc.) trends also exist which are intangible in nature and call the designer and the community to look beyond the physical and require them to examine what the object is achieving and/or providing. What needs are being met or need to be met? Do unifying central identities need to be developed for a city or does the city need to restore forgotten places? What role does programming play in activating the community?
It seems that no matter the trend, value systems exist that press at the boundaries of what our society is willing to accept and stretch us to consider alternatives to traditional approaches. These design exercises in current trends require us to place value either in a physical interpretation or in a perceived reality. These choices construct a very real sociological paradigm which is either met with glowing support or vehement opposition.
What should one not include in an Urban Park?
“This is difficult to say on a broad scale. Each site may call for unique elements that may be completely inappropriate at a site a block away. The real answer is that things which do not enhance the user experience or relate to the site itself should not be included.” – Bird
“It’s not about what not to include but rather having the correct value system in place to provide what is needed the most. For example, in a small urban park will find a basketball court more useful than a tennis court depending on the demographic. A trail network may be more valuable to connect a broken link to a larger trail system that offers refuge to arid areas that have little shade throughout the city.” – Tominaga
Stout and Landoll both recognized the need to be mindful of the materiality and elements included. While at one time it was considered fashionable to design large expansive concrete plazas and sunken amphitheaters, these are now seen as undesirable and have even become associated with themes of vacancy and dereliction.
Awareness will play a large part not only in considering what elements to design into a park but which elements and programming are hindrances to creating successful spaces and valued public spaces.
While there are a variety of elements that one can have in an urban park, are there some essentials?
“It really depends on the community you are serving. Traditional white populations go to a park to exercise, traditional Latino cultures go to a park to spend time with family and friends, so there is no one size fits all. Beyond the basics, active programming can really help enliven a park while making it safe and inviting.” – Landoll
“People love water. It appeals to a variety of senses in numerous forms. It can create an interactive element for engagement or provide soft, white noise to calm one in a chaotic environment.” – Stout
“I think the essential part is the variety itself. This can be at a macro or micro scale, as in seeing a mixture of program in the same park, or seeing a blend of textures in the planting and material palettes.” – Bird
“Providing for the target audience of today and future generations 10-20 years from now. This means it has to be inclusive to the public. Accessibility, program for all types of youths, activities for animals, and spaces for children throughout range of age groups. A park should be intentionally designed for the unintentional activities. A flexible, multi-purpose open lawn, can provide more value to a park that reaches a larger audience compared to an amazing dedicated children’s play space. The key is balance.” – Tominaga
Designing for the unknown and the people are key elements for creating successful parks. While some parks are designed for specific uses and programs, many urban spaces need to have the ability to invite the community into its spaces. Designing spaces that allow for choice and expression of self are great ways to give back to a community and provide opportunities where they can come together no matter their personal interests or place of origin. Variety only increases the usability of each park. After all, that’s the point of most urban parks, to get people to visit and service the needs of the community.
What is core to designing a successful urban park?
“It’s important to understand that parks are part of the neighborhood fabric. They should reflect the communities they serve, serve their community’s actual needs (not what we think they need), and their success is dependent on good city/neighborhood planning. For example, if a city is lacking affordable housing or services related to substance abuse, parks can become a haven for the homeless or for drug activity, greatly impacting use of the park for others.” – Landoll
“It’s hard to define a core element in the physical sense. Demographics, contextual elements, and the community’s input all contribute to creating a strong sense of place. A park, or any space for that matter, should have flexibility it how it can be used. The world around us is constantly evolving and a space that can adapt becomes something that people identify with most passionately.” – Stout
“I would argue that one of the primary goals to designing a successful urban park is to instill a place that facilitates are memorable experience. This not only includes the finished product but the design process as well. The memorable experiences lie throughout all phases of design. From the initial concept, public outreach, defining what would provide the best value for the limited resources available on a project, construction, and continued maintenance of the site. A net positive experience among all constituents and the ends users will more often bring people back to the park and increase the likely hood of further public investment and more important increased quality of life.” – Tominaga
So while variety is good, a mindfulness needs to exist in the planning phase. Having an accurate awareness of the existing desires and the potential opportunities that exist in a site and the surrounding community will ultimately have great influence on the design. Success is found in revealing and empowering desires of the community. Without the input of those invested individuals, we end up with spaces which lack diversity and eventually fade.
This ends part one of our two-part article. You can find Part II here.
Cameron R. Rodman, Associate ASLA, is a Landscape Designer at Stewart Inc., a multi-disciplinary design firm in Charlotte, NC.
Seizing an opportunity to broaden its reach and significantly grow its network, Land8 is announcing the acquisition of Landscape Architects Network (LAN), a prominent online resource dedicated to highlighting the work of landscape architects around the world and spreading the latest projects, events, and news that impacts the profession. Supported by its 1.5 million Facebook followers, LAN has widely promoted the profession and provided a valuable resource for both professionals and those interested in the work of landscape architects.
Land8 and LAN will initially operate as two separate websites (land8.com and landarchs.com), with strategic planning underway to merge the content of the two sites into one powerful resource and social network. Land8 has experienced immense success during its 9-year history, particularly with landscape architecture professionals in the United States. The acquisition of LAN extends that reach internationally and those outside of the profession.
Matt Alcide, Managing Partner of Land8, says, “We are thrilled to bring together Land8’s social networking capabilities, blog, and forum with the global audience and content that LAN has built over the years. With these two platforms and the amazing group of dedicated writers, millions will experience the important work of landscape architects, and professionals will have an even greater resource at their fingertips.”
The combined audiences of Land8 and LAN will prove an enormous platform for the field of landscape architecture.
Founded in 2008, Land8 is the social network for landscape architects with over 19,000 user profiles. Landscape architects use Land8 as a resource to read articles, ask questions to the community of users, find employment opportunities, research, view design inspiration, network, and access other resources.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Alcide
Article by Aybige Tek – Uiliuili Bench, by Piotr Zuraw, in Wroclaw, Poland. Designers have always known that ergonomic furniture can increase creativity in the people who use it because if people are not annoyed by the furniture they are using they seem to work more smoothly. This very thought is even explained by the International Ergonomics Association, who define the word “ergonomics” as, “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design, in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” It was with this in mind that the Uiliuili Bench was created. Each piece is created with careful attention to detail and proportion so that the user has full comfort when he or she sits, leans, or lies down on the bench.
How can a seat that performs as a sculpture inspire creations of public creativity? Located on the Grunwaldzki Campus in Wroclaw, the wooden Uiliuili bench twists and turns to create fluidity. Each piece is calculated and constructed accordingly so that they change when the furniture form changes. The form is so aesthetic that it proves form follows function.
The bench is comfortable and it suits most people’s anatomy while also serving as a sculpture because the shape is unique and natural as well as carefully crafted. The urban furniture turned to an art object because of its unique shape and form and quality. The flexible design of the bench exceeds the expectations that people have of a typical street bench. How is the Architecture of the Seat? Describe the Materials used?
Uiliuili bench is made up of beechwood and steel and opaque lacquer finish. It is approximately ten meters long and as wide as three meters in places. The exact dimensions of the seat are in its width; 270-cm, its length; 960-cm, and its height; 85-cm. The structure has repetition in its parts and by giving colors to its parts it achieves variety in its industrially-design elements. The length can be adjusted because the geometry of it runs on a single axis of space. These parts change in dimensions and angles each time they are combined; it is like the torso of our body, in that it is able to twist and turn.
The bench sits in the library area of the university, and has a presence that is peaceful and smooth to our eyes because of the curvy look of its design. For a library function, seats are crucial elements and when this is placed outdoors, suddenly it becomes a landscape design element which is unique to its location. This seat design is made for parks, landscape architecture, outdoors streetscapes, and playgrounds. The concept of the chair is chairs merged with other chairs forming a fluid structure.
The whole piece looks like a deck of shuffled cards in motion. The design was developed from late 20th-century Polish railway seats. People were lying on these old ones, offending other people, and it was a problem. This design is making what was offensive once in history, a fun thing to do in the 2000’s. It is innovative urban furniture.
People do not just sit on this bench; they can sit, lie down, get up and take photos on it, stretch their bodies, they can climb it and jump on it. They can jump because it is strong and durable. The most important feature of this bench is that it can be multiplied into many shapes and forms and colors. Each wood can have color combinations and this makes the design infinite.
It is a free-form object that separates the user from everyday rectangles and squares and takes the body into other feelings due to its ergonomic, natural feel. This can also be a small urban landmark or a meeting point for students. The library being close to it, reading on it is easy and fun. Trendy and modern landscaping is successful when the designed landscape of that area is improved.
Designers have tried a lot of fun shapes and forms for urban bench designs. There are musical bench designs with music notes on them by Jim Glover, there are tulip-flower-shaped seats by Tulpi Design, also there are a lot of benches that look like something such as books, pencils,or even some animals. This design is closer to curved custom benches. It does follow the precedent benches that have been done before, however because the pieces of the bench change dimensions and twist in angles, it differs from its ancestor benches in a sharp way and creates its own typology of benches for future designers.
Uiliuili bench offers a variety of uses and colors and it can even be multiplied in an array of different shapes; if the public takes this creative idea and implements it, the results can be mind-blowing inspiration from this urban furniture concept. Imagine if one person created street lights for a park that also created variety or maybe a piece of garden furniture with many combinations.
Even if the designers don’t use colors, the shadows and texture of the wood frames create variety in their own design. However, if they add a color element to it, possibilities are limitless. How about you? Can you name some of the newest public urban sculpture-like objects with functions that you have started to see in your city?
Project Name: Uiliuili Bench Project Address: Wroclaw Project Author: Piotr Zuraw Function of structure: Sculpture/seats/Multifunctions Photos: Piotr Zuraw Year: September 2016 Recommended Reading:
Emily Sinclair – Read this article if you want to learn some top plant choices that can be implemented for a bee-friendly city. There are many factors to consider when planting for a bee-friendly city. After all, you want the garden to be enjoyable for the bees, but also for yourself. This will look different depending on who you are and where you live. Some places to consider engaging in some bee-friendly plantings could be your existing garden, your balcony or window boxes, and even your lawn. The Honey Bee Conservatory has outlined the different ways you can encourage bee activity in your garden, including providing spaces for them to burrow – an often overlooked component of the bee’s lifestyle. In planting, you want to avoid highly hybridized plants as they are bred to produce far less pollen.
The same is true for plants with double flower tops, so stick with the singles for maximum production. Also important to keep in mind is that you want blooms for as many months as possible, so plant a variety of species that will bloom successively throughout the growing season. For blooms in the early spring you want to start with plants such as the following: 10) Crocus (Crocus spp.) When planning your bee-friendly city you must consider including this early bloomer. Planted from bulbs, these can easily be planted in the fall for a spring bloom. These little blooms are almost guaranteed to be the first sign of spring no matter what your climate. Choosing between the shades of blue, purple, white, and yellow gives you lots of options with this flower and the low-growing nature of this plant lends itself well to ‘natural’ plantings as opposed to more structured beds. Plant these bulbs in lawns and throughout your gardens for a quick burst of colour at the beginning of the season. Crocuses can also be grown in containers with very good results so feel free to add these to your balconies and window boxes. The blooms are very short-lived, usually only lasting two weeks, but enjoy these as they appear for they mean spring is near.
9) Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Something to keep in mind when planting in urban areas is that space is often limited. Some grow in their backyards and are able to have sizeable gardens. Others have plots in community gardens which still offer lots of space for numerous plants. However, when planting on a windowsill or balcony, double-duty plants are key. One great plant option that delivers a lot is the chive. Small in size and completely edible, this herb’s flowers are very attractive to bees in a bee-friendly city. This perennial should be cut back 3-4 times in the first year and monthly in the following years according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. This plant loves the sun though, so be sure to find a spot with maximum amount of sunlight for it to call home and you will have blooms as early as May.
The calendula will offer you bright blooms over the course of the summer, lasting much longer than some of the other plants on this list. The blooms tend to be yellow or orange and stand on stems 12-24 inches tall. These flowers will grow in most conditions and are not very fussy, making them easy additions to the garden in terms of maintenance. In terms of structure, you will find that the daisy aesthetic of the plant makes these an interesting focal piece or a good choice for background colour, given its height. Watch out for insects with this species though; aphids love these flowers so be sure to watch and treat with your preferred method upon sight. In the summer you can rely on blooms such as the following to keep your plantings looking fresh.
Hostas come in all sizes making this a fun plant to add to most gardens or spaces. The large, distinctive leaves will make for a charming addition to the garden even outside of the bloom period. Keep in mind though, bees are not the only animal attracted to this plant. The hosta is a favourite of many deer so if planting in an area frequented by them, be sure to undertake deer-proofing measures. Hostas love the shade though, so if you live in a particularly shady area this might just be the plant for you.
With a name like that how could we not add it to the list? Another shade lover, the bloom of the bee balm plant comes out in the summer and stays until fall. Its jaunty petals create a decidedly spiky look to the bloom. The plant itself grows up to two feet wide and four feet tall, although dwarf varieties are available, it also provides blooms in colours ranging from red and blue to white. Bee balm is also known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds so expect this one to bring lots of life to your garden. Bee balm is also deer-resistant and drought tolerant, making this an excellent choice for some of those more difficult areas.
Another great container plant, thyme will bloom throughout most of the summer, attracting bees – especially honeybees – to your garden with ease. The herb is especially useful in the kitchen and since harvesting the leaves of this plant only encourages more growth you can be assured that you will always have plenty. For those of you planting in yards and open spaces – the creeping thyme plant makes an excellent ground cover. Thyme loves sun so keep this one somewhere where it is sure to get lots of it. This lovely, delicate-yet-hardy plant will show small white flowers throughout the summer. As it grows you will also be treated to the strong aroma of the thyme plants so sit back and enjoy.
Sometimes known better as coneflowers, depending on the company you keep, this flower will bloom typically between June and October. These plants prefer partial shade during excessively hot periods although be sure to plant them in an area that also gets sun at some points during the day to encourage blooms. If you want a second bloom in the fall, try deadheading after the first flower. These flowers will not only attract birds, butterflies, and bees but also are favourites of some types of beetles which are natural predators of the aphids that will be attracted to some of your plants. These also tend to be deer-resistant so plant without fear. The blooms of these plants tend to be purple or pink in hue, adding a bright pop to your late summer gardens. Finally, for the fall blooms. With winter just around the corner you do not want to leave out the fall blooms. Not only will they keep your spirits up as the days begin to shorten but they will provide one last burst of food for the bee population in a bee-friendly city
This small, daisy-like flower will begin blooming in late summer and continue throughout the fall. Asters are an excellent source of ground colour in the autumn and the bloom is available in hues ranging from white to purple to blue. They require very little in the way of maintenance and can easily be started from seed. Stay away from the more modern hybrids though, as they will have less pollen production than the older varieties. Stick with ones like the white Woodland Aster (Eurybia divaricata) or the purple New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). Due to the wide flower, there is plenty of space for bees to land as well, the pollen and nectar are not hidden away deep in the flower. Since some bees come equipped with a shorter tongue, some with longer ones, the Aster will be able to feed both bee types easily. This attribute is perfect for the colder months as there will be less food available to the pollinators.
Sedums can be an excellent addition to your bee-friendly city with many varieties to choose from, most boasting an extremely hardy nature. Sedums are very useful – and especially charming – in rock garden settings, they are very tolerant of sun and poor soil conditions. Overwatering can hurt these plants so let them be and enjoy the greenery – and other colours – they bring to otherwise inhospitable conditions. With hundreds of species of sedums available on the market you will be able to find something with the plant architecture that fits with your garden type. Plants vary from filler varieties to groundcover to colourful statement plants.
If you have ever considered swapping your lawn for an alternative, odds are you have heard that clover is an excellent substitute for the green grass lawn. The long-tongued bees will love the alsike and red clovers but the short tongue of the bumble bees will not be able to reach into these clover species. Instead, opt for a white clover, as the florets are more shallow, if you want to cater to a larger spectrum of bees. The white clover is a rapid spreader, making it a perfect choice for meadow or lawn locations. Make sure to do your research if you decide to change your lawn to this alternative, since clover has different water and fertilizer requirements than a typical lawn. The flowering clover will be approximately 4-8 inches tall during its bloom time, keeping a low profile which can still be mowed if needed. If the clover look is something you want in your balcony or window box you can still grow these in containers and, of course, if you keep them close there is no chance that someone else will find that four-leafed clover first.
There are many plants out there that bees and other pollinators enjoy. The plants on this list are by no means exhaustive. If you do plan on planting any of these plants though, check out the local conditions. Many of the plants on this list are good for hardiness zone 3 and higher, based on the USDA map of hardiness zones and will not always work for all conditions. Have you had success in planting a bee-friendly city? What plant species have you tried, and how well have they worked?
Article by Monika Roy – We take a chance to list 10 of the best TED talks we could find, that we feel will inspire landscape architects. For 33 years, the famous online platform TED has been simultaneously spreading newer and newer inspiring ideas about numerous technological and social breakthroughs going on around the world. Day by day, more people are getting interested in such passionate talks not only because of their brief lengths but also as these talks boost our creativity and broaden our perspectives. Here, we have presented 10 intriguing TED talks involved with landscape-related elements, materials, social integration, and city life. We believe these talks will inspire many landscape architects to follow their dreams in today’s challenging world!
“Bamboo will treat you well if you use it right.”– Elora Hardy With the notion of the right nurturing of natural materials, sustainable designer Elora shares the enigmatic potential of using bamboo in the world. Since no two poles of bamboo are alike, therefore every little design point becomes unique. Her outstanding designs of bamboo structures array incredible ways of how to keep buildings in blend with natural landscapes. WATCH >>> Magical houses, made of bamboo | Elora Hardy
“Design is not just how something looks but it’s how your body feels on that seat in that space.”- Amanda Burden In this inspiring talk, Amanda sensibly points out that lively, enjoyable public spaces are the pivotal elements for planning a city. For a public space to be successful for the people living in the cities, the architect has to give enormous dedication to the details. Meaningful open spaces act like they have powers. She shares here, one of the very successful projects where she turned a degraded waterfront in Brooklyn into an incredible park with lots and lots of trees, plantings, and seatings where people love to wander. She also shares the unexpected challenges of planning parks while emphasizing that public spaces must never be taken for granted. WATCH >>> Amanda Burden: How public spaces make cities work
“You could look at nature as being like a catalog of product”- Michael Pawlyn Greatly inspired by nature, Michael rediscovers 3 ways to build a new world of sustainability; radical resource efficiency in the Eden Project, linear to closed loops in the Mobius Project, and drawing energy from the sun in the Sahara Forest Project. He brilliantly shows that even waste, which is a big urban problem in cities, can also be turned into a massive opportunity! WATCH >>> Michael Pawlyn: Using nature’s genius in architecture
With the thought of reviving the use of abandoned buildings in his neighborhood as an expansion of artistic practice, the ambitious potter and social activist, Gates, came up with an idea of making community hubs. As he believes that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, his ultimate purpose is to build a “miniature Versailles” in Chicago. WATCH >>> Theaster Gates: How to revive a neighborhood: with imagination, beauty and art
Jeff Speck, the city planner famous for his general theory of walkability, shares 4 rational ways of how to transform a car-oriented city into a walkable one. Providing proper reasons for walking, ensuring safety, and making the walk comfortable as well as interesting should be considered together. He figures out that factors such as huge parking lots, height-to-width ratios, block sizes, unnecessarily-wide traffic lanes, etc. can be utilized to create walkable spaces full of bike lanes and tree-lined streets. WATCH >>> Jeff Speck 4 ways to make a city more walkable
By mentioning real-world examples of climate change and energy usage, planetary futurist Steffen shows us that a brighter, greener future is ours to choose. He dreams of the “Carbon Zero” cities, accelerating their economies while reducing their climate emissions to zero. For sake of saving the future, he gives importance not only to some cool neighborhood-based green projects but also to expanding our access to things we want and need while reducing the time we spend in cars. WATCH >>> Alex Steffen: The shareable future of cities
In this short talk, strategist Dan Barasch gives us a brief of the project, “Lowline”. Together with his partner Ramsey, Dan is going to transform an abandoned trolley terminal into an underground park using innovative solar technology to capture light above the ground and make it a space filled with greenery that can be used for all seasons; even in winter! It is Dan’s intense desire of wanting to make a difference in a city like New York that makes it all possible. WATCH >>> Dan Barasch: A park underneath the hustle and bustle of New York City
Architect and urban planner Ryan changes the provincial view of infrastructure we perceive by mentioning that it is the foundation for our social life and culture. He shares his brilliant idea of urban revitalization by adapting an old railroad circling downtown in Atlanta, Georgia. He stunningly transformed the abandoned railroad track into 22 miles of public green space called the Atlanta BeltLine. It is changing the way people think about the city, he strongly feels. WATCH >>> How an old loop of railroads is changing the face of a city
Architect Aziza here shows us briefly how she is rehabilitating the Fez River, once considered the soul of its Moroccan city. In order to transform the river from sewage to public space for all, she is not only restoring its riverbanks and creating pedestrian pathways covered with trees but also shifting the illegal parking lots into playgrounds built with recyclable materials. It sets for us a pragmatic example of reviving a mortifying city into a living one. WATCH >>> Aziza Chaouni: How I brought a river, and my city, back to life
Architect and director of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, Carlo makes cool sensory things using passive data sets we use every day. He mentions a project where his team designed a water curtain with pixels of water in Spain. Another interesting project is the “digital water pavilion”, as he calls it. It’s a building made of water with no doors or windows but the water façade would open up to let one in. This has been possible because of the innovative use of sensors. He thus opens up a new door of using the technology before us which has the potential of creating many interactive public spaces throughout the city. WATCH >>> Carlo Ratti: Architecture that senses and responds
Let us know which talks excite you most!