EDITORIAL> LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE’S ASCENDANCE
Alan G. Brake on the growing importance of landscape architecture.
Dec 4, 2012
In recent years, landscape architects have seen their profile rise. The discipline has gained stature in the public’s imagination, as well as among the allied disciplines of architecture, planning, and even civil and transportation engineering. Some, like prominent New Urbanists, have tried to paint this growth as a threat to architects and town planners, couched in a reheated rad versus trad debate (don’t we have more pressing issues than endlessly rehashing the style wars?).
There are a number of reasons for landscape architecture’s prominence. Catalytic projects like the High Line, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and LA’s new Grand Park have certainly galvanized the public around the need for high quality parks and public space. New York is reclaiming its waterfront through projects large and small, and marquee projects like Governor’s Island the Fresh Kills promise to re-orient the city to embrace its identity as an archipelago.
Landscape architects have also been actively redefining what they do, reclaiming the profession’s civic role and layering on new environmental and infrastructural potentials. Landscape architects have also been effective in claiming urbanism as their purview. Changes in federal and city policy have reinforced that role through programs like “Greening America’s Capitals” and New York’s Clean Water Act consent agreement with the EPA. As an observer, these developments appear great for urban areas. As cities cope and adapt to climate change and rising sea levels, I expect the discipline’s role to continue to expand.
Landscape architecture’s dynamism, however, also points to certain weaknesses in contemporary architecture and planning. Architecture has been caught in a kind of hangover from the pre-crash years. Much of the profession, not to mention architectural education, is still too obsessed with architecture-as-object. The rise of tactical urbanism is a reaction to this, and also often involves landscape-based projects. Planning seems even more stuck. Too afraid to engage with design—following the failures of much of modernist planning—planners have either buried their noses in policy or retreated into colored-pencil-clichés of urbanism that seem dated. Landscape architects have stepped into that vacuum.”
Photo: BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK BY MICHAEL VAN VALKENBURGH ASSOCIATES.COURTESY MVVA
|—||Lawrence Halprin. “Freeways”|
Could New York’s waterfront be re-engineered to withstand a super-storm? Three proposals for areas hit hard last week. New ways of imaging the edges of our cities need to be addressed. These spaces should be productive useable spaces.
Rutgers University Department of Landscape Architecture Studio receives an Award of Excellence for their design of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania.
Studio ApproachThe Rutgers design methodology conceived of historic preservation, ecological restoration, and public outreach as part of an ongoing spatial narrative in which each design intervention becomes a new thread of change interwoven into a complex cultural tapestry. The studio presented an understanding of design as an open-ended process incorporating fixed moments and chance as well as the role of movement and circulation within the design process; an understanding of the value of teamwork and how to fluidly move between individual and group assignments; an exploration of design as an inclusive process that encompasses a diverse group of people with different, and often conflicting objectives; an analysis of the site as a complex network; and an understanding of how to visualize and represent change over time. The interventions proposed should not be seen as a specific, one-time solution. Rather, they should be read as a series of new dialogues that open possibilities and provoke response.
Key FeaturesThe studio consists of 14 proposals united by a trail system connecting the site to the surrounding eco-preserve and state park. The trail system is framed by a carefully orchestrated sequence of design and programmatic elements that integrate cultural and natural history with recreation activities and landscape management plans. Design elements include a new campground/picnic area, a wetland boardwalk with vernal pool, a bat hotel, meadow restoration, and new dramatic overlooks. The proposal combines a good walk in the woods with historic tales of manufacturing and the Underground Railroad, and a highly pragmatic forest maintenance and restoration scheme. A site branding exercise incorporates the use of signage, brochures, cell phone apps, billboards, and an inner city wall mural into the overall re-imagination of the park.
Jury CommentsThis studio offers a clear demonstration of how excellent teaching and long hours of group design deliberation can result in a synthesis of ideas that enhance the importance of the park’s mission and its future vision. The submission was comprehensive and ecologically strong — its landscape-led approach, with specific features designed by architects, historians, archeologists, artists, and exhibition designers, is a smart strategy applicable nationwide.
3 Projects That Transform Highways Into Urban Oases
The phrase “the other side of the tracks,” connoting declining neighborhoods across from railroad lines, could easily translate to the community havoc wreaked by urban interstates. Noise, pollution, and walls of concrete can be more than a little off-putting. But new projects in cities around the world prove that freeways don’t necessarily have to be urban dead zones.
In places like San Francisco and Oakland, where earthquakes led to the replacement of several freeway stretches, interstates have been redesigned and upgraded into walkable, pleasant spaces. Other innovative approaches are showing how to transform the right-of-way land, overpasses, and adjacent spaces to be visually attractive assets—and even raise property values as businesses and residents move closer and begin to look at their infrastructure more favorably. In Seattle, Freeway Park includes space on both sides of I-5 and a green-covered pedestrian overpass connecting them, giving a convention center easy access to a large parking structure across the freeway. Shanghai’s dramatic light-sculpture installation on its freeway placed the road in a new visual context for residents, and dozens of examples have followed. Melbourne used art panels and artful sound barriers to enable development to move closer to the freeway. Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Park, located underneath an interstate, attracts thousands of annual visitors to festivals and events and is facilitating adjacent property-enhancement by private owners.
As for what’s next, Atlanta is at the forefront in transforming its much-maligned Connector and its adjacent spaces into a series of enhancement zones that reflect the surrounding neighborhood and will attract new economic energy, from a museum to a forested nature area and a pedestrian park. Together, these projects present a snapshot of how the highway of the future can be a boon, rather than a blight on, the urban fabric.
Written by: Kinder Baumgardner
|—||Belanger, Pierre. “Landscape Infrastructure: Urbanism Beyond Engineering.”|