Landscape Architecture and Political Action

Two recent articles I posted comments on, one from Land8 and the other from The Dirt , on the need for landscape architects to engage with the political process in order to further the goals of a small profession that sees itself as stewards of the environment, makers of urban places and guardians of cultural heritage, reflect the hubris that the many built environment professionals, not just landscape architects, are prone to indulge in. The unstated belief behind these ideas is that we as educated and trained professionals know what’s best for the design of the public places that all of us inhabit together, including the uneducated poor and needy, the educated and avaricious rich and greedy as well as all the rest of us enmeshed in the consumerist world we find ourselves part of.

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This bias on the part of landscape architects is again clear in many of the statements by the keynote speakers at the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF)‘s New Landscape Declaration: Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future in Philadelphia on June 10-11, 2016, which was attended by over 700 landscape architects, here are some extracts form a post on The Dirt. Many of these speakers held out lofty environmental goals and ideals: Nina-Marie Lister, Hon. ASLA, professor at Ryerson University argued that “A central part of achieving that just landscape planning and design approach is to better respect the other 2.5 million known species on the planet, “We must think of the quality of being for them, too.” To protect their homes, landscape architects must lead the charge in “re-establishing the role of the wild.” There are also some social goals: Kate Orff, ASLA, founder of SCAPE, explained how her community-centric approach “creates a scaffolding for meaningful participation that is an active generator of social life.” For her, it’s all about “linking the social to the ecological and scaling that up for communities.” On the apparent need for many more landscape architects Mario Schjetnan, FASLA, Mexico’s leading landscape architect, said that the existing numbers may not be enough and more numbers are needed. For example, while there are more than 150,000 architects in Mexico, there are only 1,000 landscape architects.

He said: “There are not enough landscape architects in the developing world. And we need a global perspective. The U.S. and Euro-centric perspective must change. More landscape architects from the developing world studying in the U.S. and Europe need to return to their countries and help.” Political engagement and advocacy: Kongjian Yu, FASLA, founder of Turenscape, may be the epitome of the political landscape architect. His work spans planning and design across mainland China, but he spends a good amount of his time and energy on persuading thousands of local mayors and senior governmental leaders alike on the value of “planning for ecological security.” He called for landscape architects to “think big — at the local, regional, and national scales” — and to influence decision-makers. and of course the role of design: Marc Treib, professor of architecture emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, added that “the sustainable is not antithetical to the beautiful. We can elevate the pragmatic to the level of poetry.”

My enthusiasm for these ideals and goals was seriously tempered by a response to the post by RANTING LANDSCAPE PHILOSOPHER

I am calling Bull-shit (please excuse my language), what we need is planners and policy makers to have a design education.Do we need to train more Landscape architects or students in public policy? It seems that Landscape needs policy to stay relevant (though policy would benefit from an influx of design thinking) Do we really need more landscape architects? Most won’t go into the political system? Is it really fair to draw students in with promises of “changing the world” when the reality of these EXPENSIVE programs turns out to be a debt ridden individual that works horrible hours for scraps (usually under an emotionally abusive boss).Don’t you think it’s a bad sign that it is always is the same 10 names on repeat? James, Laurie, Martha, Kongjian….etc If we want new ideas then we need to start hearing from other voices and get out of this annoyingly incestuous family.”

This is not to say that these articles are wrong, I do believe that as a design profession we need to engage politically, without political engagement very little is possible, especially here in Africa where there are very few landscape architects and we are continually sidelined by economic and social pressures that undermine our ability to perform real service to those who need it most. As we see in the landscape and architectural design press, the big projects are mostly for the rich or for the reinstatement of large environmental disasters funded by governments who are ill-equipped to manage the implementation of these grand schemes or unable to stop similar resource extraction disasters in the future. Many of the projects of this kind, outside of a few rich countries, become hamstrung by the time-scales of their implementation, bureaucracy, corruption and are seldom able to become a reality.

To my way of thinking landscape architecture and the other design professions need to be able to show its worth by real projects that make a difference to people and the environment and by their success in generating community or local scale interventions that have a broader impact, as John Thakera is quoted in a recent interview in Domus “Thackara is one of those rare people who can open up huge intellectual vistas, but who can also give a very practical idea of the tools to use to realise them. To do that, he points to projects from around the world that interweave design, urban and rural planning, energy efficiency, and new ways of sharing resources, and in which communication technologies play a key role, but always in the service of the real needs of the people who live in a specific place with well-defined – and resolvable – problems. It is through these myriad small solutions, conceptualised and then put into practice, that the world will change. Thackara mentions here the theory of complexity: tiny changes can accumulate over time until one final alteration, apparently irrelevant in itself, provokes a radical transformation across the whole system”

 For the landscape profession to make the difference it believes is needed, will require more than the limited advocacy landscape architects on their own can achieve, I believe it is way past bedtime now and we will need to put aside academic and professional egos, get out of the silos that we have built so arduously and actively solicit and engage with the professions that have the greatest numbers, budgets and political clout i.e. Engineering, Quantity Surveying and Architecture. Many practitioners and firms in these professions have rapidly moved to embrace new technologies and have made sustainability, albeit in the limited versions of LEED and Greenstar, central to their practices, engineering has literally taken over the entire sustainable water systems and energy fields and most acknowledge the need for landscape architects to make their projects “fit or be more natural.”

Most  landscape architects have experienced varying difficulty with multidisciplinary teams that are dominated by project mangers, architects, urban designers or engineers that dominate the show and expect landscape architecture to decorate the spaces left over after design, frustrations with the public participation process and its relative ineffectiveness, true co-design is still long way from becoming a reality, but it is my belief that it is only by engaging side by side with these professions and showing them what we have to offer as discipline and as individuals that we will be able to make the difference we desire and combined with them as a reasonably convergent group, be able to have our say in the planning, and political policy of our towns, cities and countries and from that on the places and people who we profess to serve.

A recent visit to the Venice Architecture Biennial “REPORTING FROM THE FRONT” highlights a proposed realignment of architecture with people’s needs, environmental concerns and grass-roots research and action.

Quoting its organizer Paulo Barrata “We are not interested in architecture as the manifestation of a formal style, but rather as an instrument of self-government, of humanist civilisation, and how it demonstrates the ability of humans to become masters of their own destinies. Architecture in action as an instrument of social and political life, challenges us to assess the public consequences of private actions at a more fundamental level. We need to engage with the public and with all possible stakeholders in the decisions and actions whereby our living spaces are created, both as individuals and as communities. As Architecture is the most political of all the arts, the Architecture Biennale must recognize this.”

And Alejandro Aravena, the curator of this years Biennale , has this to say “REPORTING FROM THE FRONT will be about listening to those that were able to gain some perspective and consequently are in the position to share some knowledge and experiences with those of us standing on the ground. We believe that the advancement of architecture is not a goal in itself but a way to improve people’s quality of life. Given life ranges from very basic physical needs to the most intangible dimensions of the human condition, consequently, improving the quality of the built environment is an endeavor that has to tackle many fronts: from guaranteeing very concrete, down-to-earth living standards to interpreting and fulfilling human desires, from respecting the single individual to taking care of the common good, from efficiently hosting daily activities to expanding the frontiers of civilization. Our curatorial proposal is twofold: on the one hand we would like to widen the range of issues to which architecture is expected to respond, adding explicitly to the cultural and artistic dimensions that already belong to our scope, those that are on the social, political, economical and environmental end of the spectrum. On the other hand, we would like to highlight the fact that architecture is called to respond to more than one dimension at the time, integrating a variety of fields instead of choosing one or another.

 

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REPORTING FROM THE FRONT will be about sharing with a broader audience, the work of people that are scrutinizing the horizon looking for new fields of action, facing issues like segregation, inequalities, peripheries, access to sanitation, natural disasters, housing shortage, migration, informality, crime, traffic, waste, pollution and participation of communities. And simultaneously will be about presenting examples where different dimensions are synthesized, integrating the pragmatic with the existential, pertinence and boldness, creativity and common sense.

 Such expansion and synthesis are not easy to achieve; they are battles that need to be fought. The always menacing scarcity of means, the ruthless constraints, the lack of time and urgencies of all kinds are a constant threat that explain why we so often fall short in delivering quality. The forces that shape the built environment are not necessarily amicable either: the greed and impatience of capital or the single mindedness and conservatism of the bureaucracy tend to produce banal, mediocre and dull built environments. These are the frontlines from which we would like different practitioners to report from, sharing success stories and exemplary cases where architecture did, is and will make a difference “

I suggest that it is worthwhile endeavour that is being sought and we as landscape architects would be more able to achieve the ends of stewardship and advocacy for all the causes we believe in, if we are able to combine our skills and insights in the way Aravena is suggesting.

The New Landscape Declaration: Visions for the Next 50 Years

 

 

Over the next 50 years, landscape architects must coordinate their actions globally to fight climate change, help communities adapt to a changing world, bring artful and sustainable parks and open …

 

Source: The New Landscape Declaration: Visions for the Next 50 Years

While Massively inspiring to read the comments might be more relevant here in the Global South:

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called for all landscape architects to get more active at the urban and regional scales. “That’s where society needs us the most.”

“changing the unsustainable status quo and inspiring new social movements.” Landscape architects must become “essential game changers.”

“in the future, there will be much more stringent regulations on natural resources” as they become rarer and more valuable. Landscape architects will play a larger role in valuing and managing those resources.

I am calling Bull-shit (please excuse my language), what we need is planners and policy makers to have a design education.

Do we need to train more Landscape architects or students in public policy? It seems that Landscape needs policy to stay relevant (though policy would benefit from an influx of design thinking)

Do we really need more landscape architects? Most won’t go into the political system? is it really fair to draw students in with promises of “changing the world” when the reality of these EXPENSIVE programs turns out to be a debt ridden individual that works horrible hours for scraps (usually under an emotionally abusive boss).

Don’t you think it’s a bad sign that it is always is the same 10 names on repeat? James, Laurie, Martha, Kongjian….etc If we want new ideas then we need to start hearing from other voices and get out of this annoyingly incestuous family.”

The Necessity of Advocacy: Discussing the Politics of Landscape Architecture

The role of advocacy and political engagement  here espoused by ASLA in the USA is as needed in South Africa, where the demands and needs of the needy poor is sidelined by the greed of the avaricious in business and politics.
Posted by Jonathon Geels on Land8

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“When people think about what influences elected officials, nine times out of ten their first thought is money… Clearly, skepticism reigns supreme when it comes to our views of how to influence a policymaker.” – Stephanie Vance, “Citizens in Action”

Despite being “for the people, by the people,” our representative democracy can seem distant. It can appear inaccessible and elitist, particularly when sensationalized by the “yellow journalism” of contemporary news media. Lobbying, and by extension advocacy, further brings to mind a hidden element of governance. Because of that, they are both practically four letter words. While this presidential election cycle has brought to the forefront the concept of politicians being “bought” by powerful lobbies, simply viewing government as a trade deal undermines the value of advocacy and professional lobbying.

I attended my first ASLA Advocacy Summit with a similar perspective and with a far greater understanding of the concurrent Awareness Summit. At the same time, I approached the event both grateful for being there and committed to gleaming every ounce of value out of the experience for the chapter I represented*. Of the dual arms of chapter outreach, Awareness (Public Relations) is sexy and glam; who doesn’t want their picture on television? Advocacy, because of the distance of government, lacks the same initial luster. Even as I listened to a professional lobbyist describe the services that he offered the society, I still had misgivings. As he outlined case studies in landscape architecture licensure battles that had littered the ground of advocacy for the society in recent years, I was unconvinced. In a state that seemingly had a shield to any licensure attacks – Indiana has a combined board with the architects who were not likely to come under any sunset issues – it was hard to reconcile the cost of lobbying. Despite the need for vigilance, the issue of licensure did not have the same sense of urgency in my state as with other chapters. Without the urgency, advocacy remained a back-burner issue, especially compared to the draw of World Landscape Architecture Month or the need for continuing education credits and networking value of the state’s Annual Meeting.

As the presenter shifted to outline the tangent benefits of advocacy and lobbying, one line was burned into my mind: “Raising the profile of the profession.” That even without a specific “ask” or dramatic need, landscape architects would benefit from engaging policymakers if for no other reason than to make the profession more prominent in the eyes of those individuals who controlled much of the direction of the built environment through the allocation of funds or the implementation of guiding policies. This was a seminal moment for me and one that changed the way that I viewed professional practice. I began to see advocacy as a partner to awareness and public relations. At the same time, I began to view Government Affairs as the natural progression in the pursuit to work as a landscape architect. It’s a complicated feeling to watch the built environment evolve, knowing that your own involvement could improve the quality of place or positively contribute to changing public health, safety, and welfare. This was a moment of clarity, like Neo seeing the Matrix for the first time. Everything was different. I was already aware of the problems that plague the profession – lack of understanding, vague licensure laws, engineering bias; finding problems to solve is easy. Inherently, landscape architects also know that layering in solutions to the problems would produce systemic benefit. But it was through advocacy to local, state, and federal policymakers that landscape architects would have the opportunity to be a constant part of the conversation. Through better advocacy, landscape architecture can become a baseline expectation, not just an add-on or luxury component or easy to value-engineer out.

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Waldheim and Desimini’s Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary

Mapping is the essential  function that gives our brain the ability to manage the huge amount of information about the body’s internal states, the world around it  and our learned responses and memories and it then uses the complexly layered maps  to make pre-concious decisions about how to respond before it tells us what we need to do to ensure our survival, security, comfort and pleasure, this is according to the latest research and theories of how the brain works by Antonio Damasio and other researchers that he references in his  book  Self Comes to Mind- Construction get the Conscious Brain. Is it any wonder then, that mapping plays such a seminal role in all types of design and planning and has infiltrated the hand-held wonder that each of us uses every day, the smart phone,  in the form of not only Google Maps but the very structure of the web and the sites we browse that are complexly connected into hyperlinked information  maps layered over each other that are able to return us the the information and connections we wish to see. This revue from Land8 Posted by Benjamin Boyd takes us through some of the ground covered in a new book :

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Most people’s interaction with maps is on their phone these days and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. However, the landscape architect knows that mapping is one of the keys to both speculative design and its representation. A map “merges spatial precision and cultural imagination.” With data being increasingly ubiquitous, the transformation of maps into artistic visualizations has increasingly become a greater part of the design process. At the same time, data can be a crutch that eliminates “speculation and agency, while supporting a methodology that looks for projects to emerge out of an illusory objectivity.”

Cartographic Grounds: Projecting the Landscape Imaginary explores the varied methods of geographic representation and the intricacies of translating maps to plans – from representation to intervention. Jill Desimini and Charles Waldheim, both of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, have produced one of the most visually stunning books I have had the pleasure of reading this year. The book represents the culmination of work that was showcased in an exhibition in late 2012 at Harvard.

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According to the authors, the ability of maps to not only represent space but also to depict “unseen and often immaterial forces” holds the “projective potential of cartographic practices that afford greater connection with the ground itself, making present and vivid the landscape, as it exists and as it could be, both to the eye and the mind.” This power is wielded by all landscape architects to varying degrees of success. Thus, it is the transformation methods of data to plan that are the focus of this the book.

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Desimini and Waldheim explore and dissect ten key cartographic conventions and show how historical as well as modern practices levy their unique characteristics to provide better analysis, convey more information, and to increase the usefulness of a plan. The aforementioned map typologies discussed are:

Sounding / Spot Elevation
Isobath / Contour
Hachure / Hatch
Shaded relief
Land classification
Figure-ground
Stratigraphic column
Cross section
Line symbol
Conventional sign
The authors assert that “the cartographic imagination is a study of the importance of multiple representations – of seeing and depicting various realities depending on the relevance of the occasion.” This abstraction is fundamental to the future of mapping. Google understands this as well and aims to personalize maps to an even greater degree in the future for better representation and to aid us in translating that data into interventions

One of Waldheim’s other books published in 2016, Landscape as Urbanism, has also been profiled by Land8 as well as his involvement in the LAF Summit in June of 2016. Below is a video of Waldheim’s presentation provided courtesy of The Landscape Architecture Foundation:

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Practical vistas – John Thackera interview

John Thackara, a philosopher, writer and wide-ranging thinker, summarises the decisive contribution by design that gives practical form to a story, always in the service of the real needs of the people.

From Domus Interviews / Stefania Garassini

John Thackara at the Meet the Media Guru event in Milan

When you hear someone quote Marcel Proust – “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” – there is a temptation to dismiss them as just another utopian, a dreamer who might have inspired ideas but cannot translate these into anything practical. Nothing could be further from the truth if the person in question is John Thackara, a philosopher, writer, event-organiser, thinker ranging across the boundaries between design and economics, and the author of numerous books – his most recent is How to Thrive in the Next Economy (Thames & Hudson).

Interviewed at the Triennale in Milan at the “Future Ways of Living” event (31 May), part of “Meet the Media Guru” platform, Thackara is one of those rare people who can open up huge intellectual vistas, but who can also give a very practical idea of the tools to use to realise them. To do that, he points to projects from around the world that interweave design, urban and rural planning, energy efficiency, and new ways of sharing resources, and in which communication technologies play a key role, but always in the service of the real needs of the people who live in a specific place with well-defined – and resolvable – problems. It is through these myriad small solutions, conceptualised and then put into practice, that the world will change. Thackara mentions here the theory of complexity: tiny changes can accumulate over time until one final alteration, apparently irrelevant in itself, provokes a radical transformation across the whole system.
Talking with this unique thinker – as we had the opportunity to do during his stay in Milan – means moving constantly from the plane of general ideas to that of small, practical, everyday things, where design, given a broader and in some ways innovative interpretation, can make a decisive contribution.

What is the contribution of design today?
It is the task of design to help us look at everything that surrounds us in a new way: to examine and evaluate the materials and structures – and, in general, everything that characterises a specific place. It is then up to the designer to find new, creative solutions to connect efficiently the people who live in the same area, but who have different expertise and interests. The third type of contribution, which is perhaps tied more closely to the traditional idea of design, is to give practical form to a story – the story of a place, for example. This should not remain a simple narrative, but can be translated into an object or practical service, one that can be shared, discussed and express a point of view.

Have there already been examples of services created in this way?
One very interesting example is the French site La Ruche qui dit oui, which started thanks to the contribution of a designer who is also a chef, Guilhem Chéron. In 2009 – using his experience with ethical purchasing groups – he came up with a new model for putting citizens in direct touch with farmers. The aim was to make the model more efficient and logical, offering consumers more choice and a wider network, with good prices and favourable conditions for the various actors in the game. Being a chef helped him make a very careful choice on the quality of the raw materials. Another example is a Maine farmers’ group, which has redesigned the way in which their products are distributed, and has also enhanced transport by boat as far as New York. These are projects that are sometimes very ambitious: they dare to imagine a world very different from the one that exists now.
What, in your view, are the changes needed most urgently today?
I often think of a simple question that can have far-reaching results if you ask it seriously and try to answer it: “Where did my meal come from?” Once we know the answer to that, the second question is: “How healthy is the place where it came from?” We should start afresh from the need to bring ourselves back into contact with the basic materials: food, air and water. This is the only way in which we can start to develop a different mindset and reach what I call “ecosystem thinking”. An interesting example is the West Country Rivers Trust, which is working to safeguard rivers in the southwest of England. A river is part of the heritage of an area, but they were polluted and no one seemed to be asking why. We started by showing very clearly, in visual terms, all the points at which a specific river is polluted by the behaviour of the people living or working on its banks. So we led people to wonder what they could do to remedy the problem. We designed a new form of association for environmental conservation based on the medieval “guild” model: someone cleans the river, someone else convinces the farmers not to pollute it with pesticides, and so on. We gave back to the people living in the region the ability to establish a form of contact with their rivers.

For several years, you have organised the Doors of Perception festival, which explores the cutting edge of technology, from the most innovative Internet developments to virtual reality – and doorsofperception.com is still the title of your blog, which provides extensive documentation of the projects and workshops that you have organised around the world. What, in your opinion, is the role of technology today in opening these “doors of perception”?

Web technologies are obviously fundamental for facilitating projects connecting people. It is very important that these involve encrypted, secure communications, so that you can share aspects of various projects that you do not want to make public, such as the assessments made by a community of each person’s work. I do not see a future for the dominant model today in the information technology industry, which is based on a hectic rush towards new products. I am no longer so interested in complex, costly technologies like virtual reality or robotic systems. I believe instead that we should recover a little of “hacker culture”, following the example of what is happening in countries like India, where the residents of whole city block make their living from repairing electronic objects with recycled materials, with the new deriving harmoniously from the old.

 

John Thackara certainly does not yearn nostalgically for a totally technology-free world. But after talking with him, it is clear that the last thing we need to see the world with new eyes is a virtual reality headset.

Landscape Institute launches the BIM for Landscape book

Further to earlier posts on the importance of BIM ( Building Information Management) for Landscape architecture in the UK, the Landscape Institute have released a new guideline book and webpage “BIM (Building Information Modelling)”in support of BIM in landscape architecture. While most Southern African landscape architects are  not yet up to speed on this, it will soon    become necessary of for us to keep up with their colleague sin engineering  with Autodesk Civil 3D and Architects with Autodesk Revit. Ti book will be a good if daunting introduction .

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is transforming working practices across the built environment sector, as clients, professionals, contractors and manufacturers throughout the supply chain grasp the opportunities that BIM presents. The first book ever to focus on the implementation of BIM processes in landscape and external works, BIM for Landscape will help landscape professionals understand what BIM means for them.

This book is intended to equip landscape practitioners and practices to meet the challenges and reap the rewards of working in a BIM environment – and to help professionals in related fields to understand how BIM processes can be brought into landscape projects. BIM offers significant benefits to the landscape profession, and heralds a new chapter in inter-disciplinary relationships. BIM for Landscape shows how BIM can enhance collaboration with other professionals and clients, streamline information processes, improve decision-making and deliver well-designed landscape projects that are right first time, on schedule and on budget.

This book looks at the organisational, technological and professional practice implications of BIM adoption. It discusses in detail the standards, structures and information processes that form BIM Level 2-compliant workflows, highlighting the role of the landscape professional within the new ways of working that BIM entails. It also looks in depth at the digital tools used in BIM projects, emphasising the ‘information’ in Building Information Modelling, and the possibilities that data-rich models offer in landscape design, maintenance and management. BIM for Landscape will be an essential companion to the landscape professional at any stage of their BIM journey.

Order a copy now

Parks as Magnets that Shape Sustainable Cities

Amy Hahs, Parkville, Australia, has posted this interesting metaphor of a magnet and iron filings  as personal take on the attraction value of urban parks

Parks with strong “magnetism” can potentially exert forces of attraction and repulsion for people.

The pull and push of highly valued green spaces

I am a glass half full person, but I am also a realist. In the days that followed my visit to the park, I started to think about what goes into making a park like that. If I rolled back the turf on that fabulous big hill, what would l find? Where do those beautiful boulders come from, and what will happen if we keep gathering those rocks to use in other parks? Are there enough weathered logs to feed our desire for naturalistic playgrounds? And how can we make sure that these parks are distributed equitably now, as well as into the future? These are some critical questions that I would like to explore in the remainder of this essay.

A useful analogy to help with this discussion is the relationships between magnets and metal filings. The forces of attraction and repulsion combine to reveal the shape of the magnetic fields by creating clearly defined areas with and without filings. Some magnets have quite strong fields and produce very clear patterns, whereas others are much weaker and barely make an imprint.

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Strong (left) and weak (right) magnetism result in different patterns of iron filings along magnetic fields. Images © Flickr/Windell Oskay/ Magnetic Fields – 12, Magnetic Fields – 23

If we think about parks as being magnets in an urban area, the filings are a way of visualising the impact they have on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of the urban landscape. Outstanding and engaging parks, such as the one I described, have stronger and farther-reaching magnetic fields compared to the smaller parks with fewer resources, which have only a limited effect on a smaller number of filings. However, these strongly magnetic parks also create more obviously binary landscapes, and accumulate a much larger volume of filings.

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Are plant wall/living walls sustainable or Green Wash?

With this post of the”largest living wall in North America being made”  on Contemporist it rekindles my old dilemma about their resilience in interns of water use and maintenance costs:  Aer they really just a type of expensive green wall paper, would conventional clinging views or creepers do the same thing a at lower cost albeit a bit slower? To their credit, the installation / maintanance   track and cage is a good design solution.

Living Wall Timelapse by Green Over Grey

Vancouver-based company Green Over Grey, designed and installed a huge living wall named ‘Mountains & Trees, Waves & Pebbles’, for the Guildford Town Centre mall in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Often we just see the finished design, which is fully planted, so we thought we would share a time-lapse video of the creation of the wall.

The wall system is made from 100% synthetic recycled materials. It incorporates waterproof eco-panels that are made of recycled water bottles and plastic bags, and this project kept over 20 metric tons of plastic out of landfills.

Autonomous Vehicles: Expect the Unexpected

A very insightful prediction of a future thats almost arrived but is just not evenly distributed yet, if even half of this turns out to be true, then the design of cites and their interstitial networks will be radically changed – and its not long from now – I can’t get my head around what all the extra people will do, but it certainly does not look good of the “workers” APRIL 3, 2016 BY 

A recent trip to the tax attorney’s office put me in close proximity to a fellow client as we waited. This guy was one of the lead developers of autonomous vehicles so I picked his brain for a while. He said his company is on track to have products on the road in four or five years. Here’s a little heads up for those of you who think you know how driver-less cars will play out in the culture and economy.

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The first commercial adopters of this technology (other than the military) will be fleets of long haul trucks. The big box retailers have already calculated the savings on labor and fuel efficiency as well as just-in-time delivery optimization with vehicles that aren’t burdened by humans.

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Uber and other taxi services have already announced their desire to convert to driverless cars in an attempt to improve service and lower costs. Car sharing services may convert to the on demand driverless taxi model as well. The U-Haul folks will eventually morph with the storage pod pick up and delivery services that are already in operation.screen-shot-2016-03-27-at-10-18-21-pm

Municipal governments hemorrhaging cash for salaries, health insurance, and pension costs will find it irresistible to phase out humans for sanitation vehicles. When I was a kid there were three men (and they were, in fact, always men) on each truck. Today there’s one person with a video camera and a robotic arm collecting the trash. Soon the truck and the robot arm won’t need a human at all. We can expect the same trajectory for mail carriers, utility meter readers, and other such activities.

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City buses will eventually see the end of human drivers, particularly as dedicated bus lanes and BRT come to dominate the surviving transit systems. In many suburban locations public buses may cease to exist at all due to loss of funding and competition from decentralized on demand services

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Even ambulances and fire trucks can be made more cost efficient if drivers are eliminated. The real value of humans is in their skill as EMS workers and firefighters rather than drivers. There’s already a well established precedent for existing unionized workers to accept such innovation in order to preserve their positions and benefits at the expense of future hires.

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You need look no farther than the fully digitized and mechanized toll both or parking garage to see how this is going to play out over time. The end result of all this is that some highly skilled workers are going to make lots of money in innovative technologies while large numbers of less educated people are going to be made redundant.

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For those of you who expect to be sitting in your own personal car being whisked around in effortless comfort and privacy as you commute to distant suburban locations…Not quite. The true promise of autonomous vehicles isn’t about you. It’s about the larger institutions that are relentlessly squeezing costs out of the system and optimizing expensive existing infrastructure. Aging highways will be maintained by charging for their use on a mile-by-mile pay-per-view basis. Traffic congestion will be solved by having more people ride in fewer vehicles. The rich will have stylish robotic SUV chauffeurs. Everyone else will be climbing inside a fully loaded eight or twelve passenger minivan bound for the office park. And in the future you will choose this voluntarily based on price.

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Here’s something else to consider. Insurance companies will become more and more influential players in the culture and economy. A few insurers are already offering customers a discount for having their cars chipped and monitored. Sooner rather than later auto coverage will be based on how well and how often a human drives. In the not-too-distant future the chips and monitoring may not be entirely negotiable unless you’re willing to pay a great deal extra for the privilege of opting out. You may think you’re a good driver, but you may quickly and expensively be informed otherwise by the authorities. That’s going to pull a lot of people off the road, especially when the gooey details of your swerving and speeding are cross referenced with local law enforcement. But the cops won’t necessarily be in squad cars. They’ll be the cars themselves. That’s coming too. And sooner than you think. Brace yourself.

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Yes! Brace yourself – Here comes robocop!!

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