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Archive for the ‘Landscape Architecture’ Category

EU Offers Millions to Cities Willing to Innovate

Posted in Landscape Architecture, Opportunities, Policy and Regulation on 02/03/2016 | Leave a Comment »

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Award. Park 20 / 20, A Cradle to Cradle Inspired Master Plan by William McDonough + Partners / DPI Animation House

More than 70 percent of Europe’s population live in cities, and that number is expected to grow to 80 percent by 2050. As European cities further densify, they must find new solutions to ever-worsening problems, like congestion, pollution, and poverty. To stay ahead of these challenges, cities must remain the nexus of innovation. To ensure this happens, the European Commission (EC) just launched the Urban Innovative Actions program, which seeks bold projects that can push forward innovation in urban planning and design throughout the Union. Projects, which must be submitted by an urban government with a population of at least 50,000 people, can receive up to €5 million over three years. From now through 2020, the EC will be offering €372 million for these urban experiments.

In the program’s inaugural year, the Commission seeks projects that focus on renewable energy, the integration of migrants and refugees into European society, jobs and skills development, and urban poverty.

To be considered, projects must “not be part of your normal activities,” the EC tells city governments. In fact, the projects must be something truly experimental, never before implemented in Europe. Innovation accounts for 40 percent of scoring. Projects must also show that they have real multi-stakeholder partnerships in place; a clear plan for measuring results; a scalable and replicable approach; and a solid strategy for implementation, with a realistic budget.

A general lack of urban experimentation is why the EC created the program. As the EC explains, “many urban planners and authorities have proposed new and innovative ideas, but these solutions are not always put into practice. One of the reasons is that urban authorities are reluctant to use their own financial resources to fund ideas that are totally new, unproven, and hence risky. Budget constraints therefore limit the capacities of urban authorities for experimentation.”

The Commission hopes to identify those city governments with the “imagination to design, prototype, test and eventually scale-up novelties that citizens and users would perceive as having an added value, therefore providing a wider, if not completely new, market for them.”

While there will surely be some failed experiments, it’s an exciting chance to test new approaches that can have lasting impact and spread far beyond Europe’s borders. The rest of the world’s cities can only benefit from the EC’s ambitious investment in the future.

Urban governments should submit proposals by March 31.

Another convention-buster is the annual Buckminister Fuller Challenge, “socially-responsible design’s highest award,” which seeks original submissions from multi-disciplinary teams of designers, planners, artists, and scientists. In 2014, SCAPE landscape architecture won the $100,000 prize for their innovative Living Breakwaters, an oyster reef restoration project. This year, for the first time, the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) will also offer a separate student award. Submissions are due March 1.

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New Videos: Inside the Landscape Architect’s Studio

Posted in Landscape Architecture on 02/03/2016 | Leave a Comment »

Each year at the ASLA Annual Meeting, some of the world’s top landscape architects and designers explain themselves in front of audiences of hundreds. These designers give in-depth presentations, explaining the logic behind their designs and their latest projects. Now, ASLA has made these presentations available online for free. From the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago, you can watch more than 6 hours of videos by:

Floor Associates

Since its inception in 1997, Floor Associates’ work has sought to integrate a contemporary design approach with the timeless beauty and ecology of the desert Southwest. Through case study examples of their work, this wife and husband team will discuss the firm’s highly collaborative, interdisciplinary design approach to urban, healing, learning and playing environments and how they continue to refine their new, yet authentic, “Desert School” design vernacular.

Watch Kristina Floor, FASLA, principal; Christopher Brown, FASLA; and Ashley Brenden, ASLA, all with Floor Associates; moderated by Todd Briggs, ASLA, principal, Trueform landscape architecture studio.

HM Design

Meet this one-of-a-kind international planning and design firm that practices it’s very own quadruple bottom line philosophy – one that balances economic, environmental, social and spiritual aspects for every project. HM Design is a multi-disciplinary modern-renaissance practice that respects animals, native plants, local people and the spirit of the place.

Watch Hitesh Mehta, FASLA, and Hirsh Kabaria, HM Design; moderated by Todd Hill, ASLA, DTJ Design

Hollander Design

Edmund Hollander Landscape Architects has been involved with environmental planning and design projects covering a wide range of scales for 20 years. Each project focuses attention on detailed design and environmental appropriateness encompassing, wherever possible, elements of the native or vernacular landscape. Hollander Design utilizes a combination of landscape architectural, horticultural, and ecological talents to develop creative solutions to design problems.

Watch Edmund Hollander, FASLA, president; Stephen Eich, ASLA; Melissa Reavis, ASLA; Marjorie Bart Salcedo; and Geoffrey M. Valentino, ASLA, all with Hollander Design; moderated by Bradford McKee, Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects

SPLA combines deep understanding of southern California regional ecologies—urban, natural, and political– with deep analysis, research, and design rigor. Over three decades they’ve created transformative, restorative landscapes that embrace the paradoxes of the contemporary west and connect people, communities, and environments. Principals will discuss the firm’s influences, evolution and design approach, including the practice of taking the long view.

Watch Martin Poirier, FASLA, principal; Andrew J. Spurlock, FASLA, principal; and Leigh Kyle, ASLA, all with Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects; moderated by Thomas R. Oslund, FASLA.

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We Must Better Communicate the Health Benefits of Nature

Posted in Health + Design, Landscape Architecture on 02/02/2016 | Leave a Comment »

ASLA 2015 Professional General Design Honor Award. Mill River Park and Greenway by OLIN / OLIN, Sahar Coston-Hardy

While landscape architects, arborists, and park advocates, and an increasing number of mayors, planners, and public health officials understand the presence of nearby nature in cities to be central to human health and well-being, the public seems to think of tree-lined streets, trails, and parks as “nice, but not necessary, add-ons,” according to a new report commissioned by the TKF Foundation and conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, a non-partisan research organization. The report shows wide gaps in understanding between members of the public and experts on the health benefits of nature, the value of daily exposure to nature, how landscape design can enhance nature’s health and social benefits, and how the presence of green space and trees can boost neighborhood and, by extension, community connections. The members of the public surveyed also don’t perceive the typical differences in the amount of trees and parks available to wealthy and poorer urban neighborhoods and so don’t see it as a major equity issue. Urban nature is simply not a top priority. As one survey respondent said, “nature doesn’t pay the bills.” FrameWorks argues the best way to the public to demand more parks, trails, and green streets is to undertake a broad communications campaign to educate the public about the health benefits of nature.

FrameWorks interviewed 13 experts on urban nature in one-on-one sessions over multiple hours. Interviews with 52 members of the public were conducted across the country, with 20 in-depth dialogues along with 32 10-minute ones on the street. Interviewees were selected to be representative of the make-up of the country in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, residential location (inner city, outer-city, and rural areas up to three hours from the city), educational background, religious involvement, and political views. This is a small sample of the general public, but FrameWorks argues it’s enough to get a sense of the public’s “top of the mind” thinking about nature, cities, and health.

The experts and members of the public agreed on many things, and FrameWorks argues these areas of agreement are key starting points for creating a campaign that can increase public demand for more urban trees and green spaces:

First, nature is the root of human existence. Humans evolved from natural environments. FrameWorks says experts know this because their training is “firmly grounded in evolutionary biology,” but members of the public understand this, too.

Second, both the public and experts agree that nature sustains us. “Nature is the source of human sustenance,” said both groups, but members of the public tend to be more “consumerist in tenor and less attuned to the importance of biodiversity and linkages across ecosystems.” Consumerist because many of the respondents view nature as simply a source of food, wood and paper, etc — something to be consumed to meet human needs.

Third, cities are inherently stressful; they work against human well-being. Members of the public and experts agree that city life, with its fast pace, as well as “elevated levels of congestion, air pollution” and prevalence of concrete, can be “hard, cold, grey, and depressing.”

Fourth, feeling safe in nature boosts well-being. A quiet natural spot is seen by both members of the public and experts as a “respite from the stressors of modern urban life.” Places with lots of trees and water can provide “rest and positive distraction.” Nature is the opposite of our hectic urban life. Another key concept upon which to build greater understanding.

The gaps between members and the public are too numerous to list in full here, but here are main areas of divergence:

While experts view nature as central to human health and well-being, members of the public view it as a nice add-on and the absence of urban nature doesn’t rank among their top concerns. This may be because the members of the public surveyed don’t understand how time in nature reduces their stress, improves their ability to pay attention, or boosts their sense of well-being.

Experts understand that neighborhood access to trees and park space trends quite closely with income levels — wealthier neighborhoods typically have more of these natural assets than poorer ones, but members of the public are unaware of these different levels of access of nature. Experts also look to the broader return on investment these green spaces provide to tree and park-laden neighborhoods — in terms of increased safety, greater social cohesion and community connection, and improved health — while the public isn’t thinking in those terms. In particular, the community benefits of trees and green spaces are way off their radar.

Experts conceive of a whole range of innovative green infrastructure to deliver the health benefits of nature, but the members of public surveyed mostly thinks in terms of parks and walking or bike trails for recreation and exercise. According to the experts, natural infrastructure helps maximize daily exposures to nature, as exposure needs to be continuous for the benefits of small doses to accrue. But the public thinks of time in nature as a memorable one-off experience — a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, or a weekend hike on the Shenandoah Trail. Nature is a place to go to outside the city to recharge.

For experts, designed nature — realized through landscape architecture or garden design — has intrinsic value. They believe it’s still nature even if it’s managed, but the public largely sees nature “out there,” away from cities, as the most “salutary.” According to the experts, even a small urban garden can provide benefits, but members of the public don’t think these places offer a true break, only those places that truly remove them from their everyday urban life.

Lastly, the experts see the value of good design in public parks, but members of the public surveyed simply think in terms of quantity of green space. “For the public, design is largely a taken-for-granted feature.”

The question then for the many health, design, parks, and trails organizations working on these issues is: how best to communicate the health benefits of nearby urban nature to the public? How can we convince the broader public that spending time in a park, riding a bicycle on a tree-lined trail, or jogging along an urban forest path will have a “meaningful difference” in their health and this natural infrastructure can boost the broader health of the city? How can we convince them that nature in cities can be just as restorative as the nature “out there?”

The best proof may be the reality — well-designed urban parks are natural draws. But many argue that what’s needed is more research and more promotion of positive findings through the media and advocacy efforts directed at urban policymakers. ASLA created a guide to the Health Benefits of Nature, which collects the most credible research, and it has been immensely popular. But, clearly, more research studies are needed, which TKF and some universities and foundations are sponsoring, and more targeted communications campaigns are also needed to reach the urban public.

More promising small-sample research studies could also generate demand for a government-financed, large-scale, longitudinal study examining the impact of nature on all sorts of health mental and physical health issues. This kind of study, if it demonstrated positive results, could help bring the mainstream public health community on board, and, in turn, even more urban policymakers.

The good news is that many mayors and cities already get the value of access to nature, even in car-centric places like Houston, which is investing huge sums in new parks and trails. As momentum builds and more cities act, we can imagine a future where people in all of a city’s neighborhoods enjoy a daily nature outing because nature is everywhere, but this future will take lots more work to achieve.

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New Research: Students Learn Better in Classrooms with Views of Trees

Posted in Health + Design, Landscape Architecture on 02/01/2016 | 1 Comment »

A Tree Campus, Rice University / Carol Ciarniello

What if what is outside a school’s windows is as critical to learning as what’s inside the building? A fascinating new study of high school students in central Illinois found that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows. The researchers, William Sullivan, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dongying Li, a PhD student there, reported their findings in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

Sullivan and Li argue that “context impacts learning. It is well-documented, for instance, that physical characteristics of school environments, such as lighting, noise, indoor air quality and thermal comfort, building age and conditions all impact learning.” However, schools’ surrounding landscapes have been too long overlooked for their impact on learning, and it’s time to understand what campus greenery — or lack thereof — means for student performance. Research studies to date have had relatively small sample sizes. While these studies point to encouraging correlations or associations between improved student performance and access to nature on campus, Sullivan and Li argue that up until their study, no causal connections have been proven.

Looking at the effect of views of nature on both cognition and stress recovery, they test two theories: attention restoration theory and stress reduction theory. According to their report, attention restoration theory posits that “people use voluntary control to inhibit distractions and remain focused, and this capacity to remain focused fatigues over time.” But the theory also contends that even just a short period of time in nature (10 minutes or so) can renew our cognitive capacity to pay attention. Nature does this through its ability to engender “soft fascination” that doesn’t demand all of our attention, just enough to enliven us. Stress reduction theory looks at how nature supports psychological and physiological recovery, including lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.

In Sullivan and Li’s study, a third of the 94 students, equally male and female, were each randomly assigned to a classroom with either no windows, a window view looking out on a barren landscape, or a window view looking out over greenery. They were all put through about 30 minutes of classroom exercises. Their stress and cognitive states were tested in the beginning to set a baseline, at the end of the classroom activities, and then again after a 10 minute break after the activities. Researchers used both standard questionnaires to test stress and attention levels and various tools to measure their physiological responses to stress, including heart rates, body temperatures, and skin conductance.

After the students had completed 30 minutes of classroom activities, the researchers found the window views of greenery had no impact on students’ ability to pay attention or their stress levels. However, at the end of a 10 minute break after the activities, the researchers discovered those who had a green view bounced back, attention-wise, and became less stressed — this group “performed significantly better on standard tests of attention and showed significantly greater stress recovery than their peers who were assigned to classrooms without a green view.” They think this is because during the classroom activities the students were too busy focused on what they were learning. Only when students with green views had a chance to take a break was their “involuntary attention” engaged while looking out the window. Only then did they receive the restorative benefits of looking at the trees.

Sullivan and Li say they found a causal relationship: “green views produced better attentional functioning and stress recovery.” Furthermore, viewing nature helps both cognition and stress recovery, but through separate mental pathways. In other words, nature’s ability to help us recover our ability to pay attention has nothing to do with whether we are stressed out or not, but nature, separately, also helps us recover from stress. (To learn more about this aspect of their research, read the study).

Results of study / WIlliam Sullivan and Dongying Li

What’s important for designers, school principals, and educational policymakers is that this is yet another promising study that points to the direct benefits of exposure to nature for students. Sullivan and Li argue that new schools, which are often placed at the “urban-rural fringe” need to be sited where there are a lot of existing trees, and, if that’s not possible, trees and shrubs need to be added. New schools should also be designed so they maximize views of trees and greenery from the inside; and existing schools retrofitted to improve the connection to nature. As Sullivan and Li argue, “architects should work to ensure every classroom has views of green space. Landscape architects should consider the location of classrooms, cafeteria, and hallway windows in the development of their campus design.”

These changes to schools could be more cost-effective than “most interventions aimed at relieving stress (e.g., emotional skill building, anger management, positive behavior programs). Placing trees and shrubs on the school ground is a modest, low-cost intervention that is likely to have long-lasting effects on generations of students.” Lots of schools encourage student environmental groups to engage in volunteer community service. Why not involve these students in the greening of their own campuses and teach them about the value of nature at the same time?

Garden Day at Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, New York / New York Daily News

As with any study on the health benefits of nature with a relatively small sample size like this, there are priming issues. And Sullivan and Li acknowledge this: “one limitation is that we could not take into account students’ interactions, physical activities, and their immersive experiences out on the school ground during break, or their exposure to green space during physical education classes or after school. This limits the ecological validity of the findings.”

What’s needed is a large-scale, longitudinal, government-financed study that looks at the benefits of nature across all critical dimensions, but, until then, here is another study that points to the positive effects of nature on cognition and stress recovery, this time in an educational environment.

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Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (January 16 – 31)

Posted in Landscape Architecture, Public Spaces, Green Infrastructure, Urban Redevelopment, Memorials on 02/01/2016 | Leave a Comment »

Winning WWI Memorial design by Joe Weishaar & Sabin Howard / U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

Houston’s Big Green TransformationThe Huffington Post, 1/21/16
“The car-centric, zoning-averse city is undergoing a monumental transformation that is being led by landscape architecture–transformation at a scope and scale unseen in the U.S. in more than a century.”

7 Picturesque Public Parks Soon to Sprout Around the WorldForbes, 1/23/16
“Now underway on Governors Island, ‘The Hills’—designed by Dutch landscape firm West 8—will comprise of four mounds made entirely of construction debris and clean-fill material, blanketed with over 860 trees and 43,000 shrubs.”

How This Pop-up Park Engages an Excited CommunityThe Landscape Architect’s Network, 1/25/16
“When designing a site, it is necessary to research and analyze existing conditions in the beginning, but after a project is implemented, natural and human processes usually change the landscape in unexpected ways.”

Landscape Architect Sara Zewde’s Urban Monument Design Has Brazil BuzzingTadias, 1/26/16
“In the spring of 2011, Sara Zewde was on her way to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to study landscape architecture when she found herself in the middle of a movement to preserve a historic Afro-Brazilian heritage site in the Pequena Africa (little Africa) neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.”

World War One Centennial Commission Moves Forward, CautiouslyThe Washington Post, 1/26/16
“The World War One Centennial Commission has decided to go forward and endorse a winning design in the competition to create a new national memorial to the Great War at Pershing Park.”

WWI Centennial Commission Selects “The Weight of Sacrifice” for Memorial in Washington, D.C.Architectural Record, 1/27/16
“The United States got in and out of World War I in well under two years. The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission hopes it can move as quickly.”

Recreational, Scenic Wetlands Planned for Inner Harbor The Baltimore Sun, 1/28/16
“Three years from now, a green oasis of floating wetlands, bay grasses and terraced edges leading down to the water will greet visitors to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, under a plan unveiled today by officials of the National Aquarium.”

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U.S. Invests $1 Billion to Boost Resilience

Posted in Cities, Climate Change, Ecosystem Restoration, Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure, Landscape Architecture, Policy and Regulation, Public Spaces on 01/27/2016 | Leave a Comment »

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana / Lacamo.org

Five cities, both large and small, and eight states were winners of the first-ever National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), which was organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation. Communities impacted by major disasters in the past few years will receive $1 billion to develop “resilient infrastructure and housing projects.” While many projects boost resilience for coastal or river communities, there are also inland projects that aim to protect communities against fire and flooding. A majority of the projects include multi-use green infrastructure — systems that both provide flood prevention and control and public green spaces. Winning projects also focus on transit, housing, and jobs. Some 40 communities submitted proposals.

In a conference call, HUD Secretary Julian Castro said this investment in resilience will help communities become “safer, stronger, and richer” as they adapt to climate change, which is the “great challenge of the 21st century.” The past few years, he said, have seen “extreme and devastating drought, wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes.” And with 2015 now just confirmed as the hottest year on record, extreme climate events will only get worse.

Here’s a brief overview of the state and city winners, organized by the amounts they won:

States:

Virginia: $120,549,000 for the Ohio Creek Watershed and Coastal Resilience Laboratory and Accelerator Center, which will develop “distributed green infrastructure projects, such as rain barrels and gardens, and combine them with coastal shoreline development to address flooding due to storm surge and torrential rains.”

Iowa: $96,887,177 for the Iowa Watershed Approach, an innovative program, which seeks to create local “watershed management authorities” that will assess hydrological and watershed conditions and create management plans for a more sustainable agricultural system.

Louisiana: $92,629,249 for its Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environmen

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