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The following news articles are geared toward students and other professionals.
Landscape Architecture
Drava River | Maribor Slovenia | estudioOCA Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 07:10
This riverfront redevelopment project provides a range of possibilities and aims to improve urban life and spatial appropriation. There are no grand gestures; areas remain open, often surprising, and spatially generous. The project invites residents to take a walk with children along the river, go fishing, stop under the trees of Lent Square, watch a [...] → Continue Reading Drava River | Maribor Slovenia | estudioOCA Add a comment
Australia Unveils Carbon Tax Print E-mail
Monday, 18 July 2011 15:36

After more than six months of intense public debate and parliamentary maneuvering, the Australian government announced the introduction of a new carbon tax that will price the pollutant at nearly US$25 per ton by mid-2012. Then, in 2015, the tax will be replaced by an emissions trading system like the one found in Europe. While Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, succeeded where her predecessor failed, she may pay a high political price for her bold environmental leadership and deft navigation of Australian party politics, which are dominated by the Green party. According to The Economist, her Labour party’s approval ratings now stand at a lowly 27 percent, in part because of public fears of the economic impact of the tax.

The new tax is expected to cover 500 of Australia’s top polluters and cut 5 percent of total emissions (160 million tons) by 2020. However, a number of sectors, including export-focused industries, steelmakers, coal mines, and electricity producers will receive assistance (up to 90 percent free credits), reports Reuters. Under the new policy, dirty local industries will receive significant support to switch to cleaner forms of energy. The program will also lead to the creation of a independent renewable energy agency, which will manage A$10 billion in renewable energy investments.

The Australian economy contributes 1.5 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, largely because of its heavy reliance on coal. The Economist notes that Australian emissions are equal to those of South Korea, Britian, and France, which have 2-3 times Australia’s population of 22 million. Per capita, it’s the “biggest carbon emitter in the world.”

While government experts estimate that the tax will push up prices by around 1 percent, Gillard’s government isn’t relying on these estimates and seems to be planning for the worst on price impacts. Perhaps in an effort to win broad public support, the program’s designers insured that 40 percent of the tax revenues will be redistributed to compensate 90 percent of households for higher food and electricity prices. 

Given the amount of coverage on the tax in Australia, the debate will most likely continue. On one side, the main concern is that tax will have a negative economic impact. The other side questions whether the program is strong enough environmentally. The Green party, which holds power in the Australian Senate, has called for a carbon tax of A$45 to A$50 a ton but has OK-ed the lower price given the lack of international action on controlling emissions. The idea now is that if the world moves on carbon pricing, the taxes could be moved up in the future. Christine Milne, Green Deputy Party Leader, told Reuters: ”We have a view about how quickly we’d like to be addressing climate change, but our focus in the climate negotiations has been to make sure that if the world does decide to become serious about climate change… there would be nothing in the scheme that prevents us making those adjustments.”

Read The Economist article and check out an interview with Milne on the new carbon tax.

Image credit: Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Cole Bennetts / Getty Images

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Sustainable Education Pavilion | FRLA Print E-mail
Monday, 18 July 2011 02:19
FRLA‘s design for a Sustainable Education Pavilion was a winner of the BD/Dyson Airblade Washroom of the Future competition. Dyson teamed up with BD Magazine to run this competition. As a way of finding radically different and creative designs for washroom facilities that were also practical, environmental and featured a Dyson Airblade. Intended for an [...] → Continue Reading Sustainable Education Pavilion | FRLA Add a comment
Reading the Landscape: The Emergence of Landscape Urbanism Print E-mail
Sunday, 17 July 2011 23:09
The next essay from the Landscape Urbanism Reader is by David Grahame Shane, entitled 'The Emergence of Landscape Urbanism'.  This essay builds on Waldheim's essay and further elaborates on the origins of the theory - with a broad take on the historical foundations and precedents around landscape urbanism as mentioned in the introductory text: “Shane surveys the growing body of literature attendant to landscape urbanism, while tracing the institutions and individuals implicated in the discourse, especially as they relate to the disciplinary formations and discourses of urban design.” (17)

As far as defining landscape urbanism, Shane mentions that the concept "has recently emerged as a rubric to describe the design strategies resulting in the wake of traditional urban forms.” (58) and echoes Waldheim in describing it as encompassing: "the practices of many designers for who landscape had replaced architectural form as the primary medium of citymaking.  This understanding of decentralized post-industrial urban form highlighted the leftover void spaces of the city as potential commons.” (57-58) Furthering this defintiion that provides a way out of the current methodologies of urban design practice.
“Landscape urbanists want to continue the search for a new basis of a performative urbanism that emerges from the bottom up, geared to the technological and ecological realities of the postindustrial world… implies an opportunity open urban design out beyond the current rigid and polarized situation to a world where the past building systems and landscape can be included as systems within urban design.” (65)
Shane mentions this in terms of creating new "recombinations and hybridizations, liberating the urban design discipline from the current, hopeless, binary opposition of past and present, town and country, in and out." (65)  but does mention that although filled with potential as noted above, "All of landscape urbanism’s triumphs so far have been in such marginal and ‘unbuilt’ locations.” (62)  This is another common refrain from critics of landscape urbanism, and it is worth noting that the ideas of contemporary urbanism and its potential solutions are very different in distant open spaces as opposed to dense urban fabric, which is valid, but also misses the point that the theory is attempting to address this situation, not, as many posit, blindly accepting sprawl as a given and deciding to operate within the residual post-industrial or generic Koolhaasian fields of landscape within the periphery.  Rather there is a residual fabric of corridors, edges, and other surfaces that can be re-engaged within this ideology.

:: Louisville Waterfront Park - image via LouisvilleKY.gov

The precise operational dynamic of works of landscape urbanism is one thing - but to move beyond this and think of ways in which the concepts that interweave into practice is a different approach altogether.  The landscape urbanist project, if you would call it such, is addressing all of this (hence the term distiguished from the suburban), and Shane does explain that “The recent discourse surrounding landscape urbanism does not yet begin to address the issue of urban morphologies or the emergence of settlement patterns over time. The problems of this approach is its amnesia and blindness to preexisting structures, urban ecologies, and morphological patterns.” and concludes that “Landscape urbanists are just beginning to battle with the thorny issue of how dense urban forms emerge from landscape and how urban ecologies support performance spaces.” (63)

This essay is way to dense to capture in any detail, but does offer some thought provoking historical origins of theory spanning the last century.   The change in urban form and dynamics through this time period are exp
ressed by 'decompression', evolving from the ideas of Post-Fordist modes of production, deindustrialization leading to shrinking cities, and the resultant postmodern organization that "became obvious in the 1990s with the proliferation of sprawling cities, gated enclaves, residential communities, megamalls, and theme parks.” (59)

This context of contemporary urbanism is best captured by the provocatively wonderful 'City as an Egg' diagram from Cedric Price, which contrast three city morphologies "traditional, dense, ‘hard-boiled egg’ city fixed in concentric rings of development… the ‘fried egg’ city, where railways stretched the city’s perimeter in accelerated linear space-time corridors out into the landscape, resulting in a star shape… and the postmodern ‘scrambled egg city,’ where everything is distributed evenly in small granules or pavilions across the landscape in a continuous network.” (64)

:: City as an Egg - image via Archiable

A wide array of projects are included as examples.  Some are more obvious or oft-mentioned, such as the Parc de la Villette, Downsview, and Freshkills competitions, and also the East River Competition conducted by the Van Alen Institute.  There are some new ones, includingWest Market Square by West 8 (1994) which is a space owned, maintained and programmed by the city, but " which is also free at times to be occupied by local people of all ages, under the surveillance of cameras and local police.” (60) marking a new example of heterotropic space.  The New Town Competition entry from Koolhaas/OMA from 1987 is another precedent where the residential form is shaped by, in the words of Corner, "linear voids of nondevelopment." (60) hinting at the concept of privileged site over architectural form.

Other examples include the unbuilt Greenport Harborfront project in Long Island (1997), which is an example of  “the concept of ‘performative’ urbanism based on preparing the setting for programmed and unprogrammed activities on common land.” (59) which is reflective of some of the later work from Field Operations as well.  A built example of the idea, in a more architectural and site scale context, is the sculptural Osaka Ocean Liner Terminal by FOA, where the architects "turn the concept of the green roof into a dynamic, flowing, baroque parkland setting… Pier and park, two previously separate urban morphologies, are hybridized so as to become inseparable.” (65)

:: Yokahama Terminal - FOA - image via Matt Kingstreet

Shane references an even more extensive list of references, which provide some great historical precedents.   Many of these cover basic historical urbanism, such as the work of Kostof (The City Shaped, The City Assembled), history of the Western/US landscape by Slater and Conzen, and early 20th century writings on garden cities from Howard and regionalism, specifically 'Cities in Evolution' by Patrick Geddes from 1915.  Other writings include later writings of Lynch, Rowe, as well as McHarg's 'Design with Nature' and shifts to more contemporary discussions from Harvey and Soja for exploration of postmodern urbanism, writings from Guy Debord 'The Society of the Spectacle' from 1995 and the explorations by Garreau of the edge-city phenomenon from 1991.

::  Tyson's Corner Edge City

A fundamental aspect discussed by Shane is the connection to landscape ecology, specifically the work of Forman (Landscape Mosaics) and Forman & Godron (Landscape Ecology) and mentioning that its strength "is the consideration of the geographical landscape and the ecological cause-effect network in the landscape.”(61)  The connections of landscape ecology and its roots in Europe are important due to the differing relations between nature and culture (rather than just dealing with landscape sans humans).  As Shane elaborates:
"European land management principles merged with post-Darwinian research on island biogeography and diversity to create a systematic methodology for studying ecological flows, local biospheres, and plant and species migrations conditioned by shifting climatic and environmental factors (including human settlements.” (61)

Finally, the essays captures some of the more recent writings tied closely to LU theory, mentioning 'Stalking Detroit' (2001), 'Mississippi Floods' by Mathur & da Cunha (2000), 'Reclaiming the American West' by Berger (2002), 'Sub-urbanism and the Art of Memory' by Marot (2003), and 'Recovering Landscape' edited by Corner and published in 1999 - which i would consider a close precedent to the currrent discussion.  Stalking Detroit is also an important contribution, offering essays by Waldheim and Corner and provides context, within the prominent shrinking city model of Detroit for a changing city typology.  "After Ford' by Schumacher and Rogner, “provides a most convincing explanation for the relation between modern urbanism and Fordist economic imperatives, as well as the surreal spectacle of decay and abandonment found today in many North American industrial cities.” (57)

:: Shrinking Detroit - image via VIA Architecture

The work in Stalking Detroit, although unbuilt, provides some examples of potential operational methods of landscape urbanism.  One project discussed was Waldheim's 'Decamping Detroit', which illustrates a four stage process for recolonization of space in the shrinking city, including "Dislocation (disconnection of services); erasure (demolition and jumpstarting the native landscape ecology by dropping appropriate seeds from the air ); absorption (ecological reconstitution of part of the Zone with woods, marshes, and streams); and infiltration (the recolonization of the landscape with heteropic, villagelike enclaves.” (59)

 :: Decamping Detroit (Waldheim) - image via detroit disurbanism project

This context of deindustrialization and surburban sprawl is a consistent theme, moving away by necessity from the modernist planning ideology and including a different reading of the city, focus on urban morphology, activated with new strains of thinking from landscape ecology with a goal, as explained by Shane:  “A determination not to accept the readymade formulas of urban design, whether ‘New Urbanist’ or ‘generic’ urbanist megaforms a la Koolhaas.” (64)  The key this is a reversal of normal processes, which "opens the way for a new hybrid urbanism, with dense clusters of activity and the reconstitution of the natural ecology, starting a more ecologically balanced, inner-city urban form in the void.”(59)

Check out as well a longer version of this article from the Harvard Design Magazine (pdf) and I would highly recommend 'Recombinant Urbanism' from 2005 for an exhaustive study of urban modelling processes.
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Reading the Landscape: Landscape as Urbanism Print E-mail
Sunday, 17 July 2011 17:39
The next essay in the Landscape Urbanism Reader, following 'Terra Fluxus' and the initial 'Reference Manifesto' is a longer essay by Waldheim exploring the idea that landscape is most suited to the modern metropolis, being "uniquely capable of responding to temporal change, transformation, adaptation, and succession... a medium uniquely suited to the open-endedness, indeterminacy, and change demanded by contemporary urban conditions." (39)  This idea could be considered one of the formative structures on which landscape urbanism is built, explained by many writers as a response the failings of architecture and urban design to cope with the complexity of the urban situation, leading to Waldheim's apt, but somewhat hyperbolic statement that "the discourse surrounding landscape urbanism can be read as a disciplinary realignment in which landscape supplants architecture's historical role as the basic building block of urban design." (37)

:: Lower Dons -  River + City + Life by Stoss LU

Ironically, this essay explains clearly that landscape urbanism theory has its origins in the same rejection of modernist architecture and planning, and the retreat to "policy, procedure, and public therapy." (39)  This is a common refrain from contemporary planners as a way to distance themselves from top-down, totalitarian schemes of the mid-twentieth century, which has led to a renaissance of engagement in both community and context that makes all urban design and planning better but also a tendency to favor specific strategies.  Corner is quoted as well, mentioning that "only through a synthetic and imaginative reordering of categories in the built environment might we escape our present predicament in the cul-de-sac of post-industrial modernity, and 'the bureaucratic and uninspired failings,' of the planning profession." (38)

I think at heart it means there is room for both a rejection of modernist planning, along with a rejection of some contemporary approaches as well which may be suited for some situations but not appropriate for all.  As an alternative path to new urbanism, rational planning and similar strategies, the fixed nature of deterministic planning must be questioned - thus forming the heart of this debate, Waldheim mentions:  
"the very indeterminacy and flux of the contemporary city, the bane of traditional European city-making, are precisely those qualities explored in emergent works of landscape urbanism." (39)

The context here is important, as many critics of landscape urbanism point out some form of 'anti-urban, pro-sprawl, pro-car' agenda within the writings, whereas proponents of LU might be summarized as arguing that the current forms of urban planning and design are alternatively 'anti-reality,' as they don't acknowledge the messy reality of shrinking, decentralized, globalizing, capitalist, sprawling, market-driven, polluted, socially diverse and complicated nature of the modern city.  Thus beyond a palliative that uses greenery to mitigate urban ills, the definition includes a more expansive field of view, including infrastructure systems (water, waste, transportation), post-industrial sites, waterfronts, linear systems, public open space, as well as more traditional urban-scaled landscape projects.

 :: The Contemporary Context - image from Drosscape - Alan Berger (link)

The context of environmental movements is important as well, as this drives the landscape architecture to a new relevance in sustainability (yet a marginalization in such contemporary processes such as LEED).  Invoking ecology as a "model for process" (39) where projects "appropriate the terms, conceptual categories, and operating methodologies of field ecology: that is, the study of species as they related to their natural environments." (43)  Corner warns of the ecological being solely about advocacy that leads us into the distance of humans from the natural environment, summing current environmentalism as "nothing more than a rear-guard defense of a supposedly autonomous 'nature' conceived to exist 'a priori' outside of human agency or cultural construction." (38)  Applied in a holistic manner to a range of systems and project types listed above, this fundamental advantage of landscape urbanism and its ecological viewpoint allows for "the conflation, integration, and fluid exchange between (natural) environmental and (engineered) infrastructural systems." (43)

These fundamentals of cultural ecology draw on historical precedents like Olmsted's Emerald Necklace, urban development in Barcelona in the 1980s and 90s, and the human-shaped landscape of the Netherlands, which is often used as a model for a non-pastoral idea of shaped (i.e. cultural) landscape that differs from the American frontier model of verdant wilderness).  More specifically, Waldheim mentions some of the other formative competitions, including the less ecological Parc de la Villette (1982) as well as more recent examples of Downsview Park Toronto and Fresh Kills Landfill which strongly incorporate the ideas of ecology.

:: Downsview proposal by Corner/Allen - image via ecosistema urbano

La Villette, on the other hand, focuses on ecologically inspired idea of indeterminacy in spatial arrangement and programming, with both Tschumi's winning entry and the OMA/Koolhaas plans providing "a nascent form of landscape urbanism, constructing a horizontal field of infrastructure that might accommodate all sorts of urban activities, planned and unplanned, imagined and unimagined, over time." (41)  Thus the fluidity of the plan is the generation of adaptable, not fixed, form - able to react and change, quoting  Koolhaas from 'Congestion without Matter':
"the program will undergo constant change and adjustment... the underlying principle of programmatic indeterminacy as a basis of the formal concept allows any shift, modification, replacement, or substitutions to occur without damaging the initial hypothesis." (41)
Other current practice that fits into landscape urbanism derive from global context, such as the work of West 8 in the Netherlands, which allows for a wider latitude in cultural conceptions of open space that have been implemented including the Shell Project (Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier), Schipol Amsterdam Airport, and Borneo & Sporenburg, the last referenced as "an enormous landscape urbanism project... suggests the potential diversity of landscape urbanist strategies through the insertion of numerous small landscaped courts and yard, and the commissioning of numerous designers for individual housing units." (46) 

:: Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier - West 8

In addition to the work of West 8, inventive work in the post-industrial realm is evoked, including historical precedent like Seattle's Gas Works Park by Richard Haag, and the more expansive contemporary Duisburg Nord Steelworks Park by Latz & Partners - the model for reclaiming post-industrial landscapes as a cultural landscape.

The list of references is long, with some of the formative writings that have been incorporated in the structure of landscape urbanism, including ecological regional perspectives of Geddes, Mumford, McHarg (Design with Nature), the urban city-theory of Lynch (Image of the City; A Theory of Good City Form), and more recently the expanded realm of the polycentric city with Rowe (Making a Middle Landscape), Lerup (Stim and Dross) and Koolhaas (Delirious New York; S,M,L,XL).  Koolhaas marks the shift in thinking towards landscape using Atlanta as a prototype, stating that "Architecture is no longer the primary element of urban order, increasingly urban order is given by a thin horizontal vegetal plane, increasingly landscape is the primary element of urban order." (42)

:: 2008 Aerial View of Atlanta - image via Ace Aerial Photography

An important contribution to this is an 1995 essay by  Kenneth Frampton entitled 'Toward an Urban Landscape' in which he expands on the early essays on critical regionalism with a focus on the "need to conceive of a remedial landscape that is capable of playing a critical and compensatory role in relation to the ongoing, destructive commodification of the man-made world." (42)  He continues with two main points privileging landscape: "First, that priority should now be according to landscape, rather than to freestanding built form and second, that there is a pressing need to transform certain megalopolitan types such as shopping malls, parking lots, and office parks into landscaped built forms." (43)

 The second source worth exploring in more detail is the essay 'Mat Urbanism - the Thick 2-D' by Stan Allen (2001) - which expands the flat horizontality of the field with imbuing these suficial space as a process landscape.  "Increasingly, landscape is emerging as a model for urbanism. Landscape has traditionally been defined as the art of organizing horizontal surfaces… By paying close attention to these surface conditions – not only configuration, but also materiality and performance – designers can activate space and produce urban effects without the weighty apparatus of traditional space making.” (37)

This essay is another building block in the tradition of urbanism as exploration and study, not yielding specific answers to these questions but looking at the history of critical thought and linking to some of the formative analyses done, as well as some of the preliminary precedents that have emerged in the past century.  Critics have claimed as well that many of the concepts of landscape urbanism theory is not necessarily new - which is true, but is also a claim which sort of misses the point.  We should always look back to sources to inform our current thinking as there is much to be learned from both successes as well as failures - and by looking at new ways to apply these lessons to our current context (which I would posit is unique to cities throughout history).

Thus, Waldheim encapsulates the context of landscape urbanism within this historical framework, where:  "…the ability to produce urban effects traditionally acheieved through the construction of buildings simply through the organization of horizontal surfaces – recommends the landscape medium for use in contemporary urban conditions increasingly characterized by horizontal sprawl and rapid change.” (37)
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Copyright © 2014. Robert Hewitt | Clemson University professor of Landscape Architecture.
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