Places are memories and possibilities..

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From Project for Public Spaces (PPS) newsletter

Place Talk
Community is not just a place, it’s an activity.”
Majora Carter, delivering the keynote address at the EDRA48 Conference in Madison, WI
A building does not have to be an important work of architecture to become a first-rate landmark. Landmarks are not created by architects. They are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built. The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city’s memory. Compared to the place it occupies in social history, a landmark’s artistic qualities are incidental.
– Herbert Muschamp

Placemaking…is a questionable concept in so many ways.

This critical view by Dean Saitta of the concept placemaking and its narrow implementation in many planners and designers views of what is a relevant version of placemaking, is welcome, especially here in South African cities  and in Africa generally, where racial stereotypes and gentrified views obscure the reality of the majority of users needs and understanding of what contributes to a places reality, beyond its physical attributes and aesthetic considerations. 

An extract form Deans commentary on a presentation to his university on some campus improvements from Plantizen shows  that these stereootypes of  “public space ” are in fact creating an ersatz or quasi  place, that these concepts are are pervasive and as irrelevant in his context of a North American university campus as they are in our cities. 
Hi post elicited a good conversation that is worth reading.
“There’s very little that differentiates proposals by four distinguished planning and design firms to better connect my university to its immediate neighborhood and the wider city. Why is that, and does it have to be that way?”

Differentiators of planning and design philosophy were few and far between. One firm didn’t mention faculty as a key campus constituency, which was a terrible mistake. Another firm celebrated its impressive data base of campus master plans from all over the country, although it wasn’t entirely clear what’s to be learned from these comparisons. A couple of firms channeled the Denver Union Station metaphor that our academic leaders routinely use to envision our future as a crossroads for people on journeys of discovery. However, Union Station is much better known for its Terminal Bar and trendy restaurants than anything else. One firm mentioned that “place grows from context,” but no real examples were provided of what that would look like in this particular case. One bit of context would be the university’s location on Cheyenne and Arapaho ancestral land, but nothing was said that suggested an awareness of that deep indigenous history or the extraordinarily painful period of contact with white settlers, including DU’s founder. Other contexts can be found in the area’s more recent Euro-American history. In the early to mid-20th century DU was known as Tramway Tech, a theme that could be picked up in re-imagining the campus Light Rail station.

Come to think of it, the Denver area has always been a locus of interaction between different cultural groups. An attending staff member at one firm began to get at this point when he suggested, almost inaudibly from the stage’s edge, that “people use space in different ways.” This might have been the most important comment I heard during the entire four hours of public meetings, but it was left unexplored. Absent a substantive engagement with cultural and historical context, the most obvious differentiator between the firms was their style of public presentation. Some firms were much more participatory than others in soliciting opinions from audience members about what they would like to see in a regenerated campus neighborhood.

Campus Green with Adirondack Chairs. (Image by Dean Saitta)

In fairness, the lack of obvious differentiators was understandable. All firms want to be guided by planning ideas offered by the campus and neighboring community. However, none of them gave any real indication that “community” is plural, except for the one staff member’s comment described above. Nor did any indicate that we might want our university neighborhood to draw visitors from other neighborhoods that aren’t populated by white people. None indicated the role that a liberal arts education—as distinct from professional training—could play in producing STEM innovation. Ideas for using culture and the arts as anchor venues for campus edges (e.g., a museum, art gallery, cultural center, or some other kind of learning lab or Idea Store) were not mentioned. None took up the multicultural theme briefly mentioned in passing by ULI, and what this might mean for the quality of public space, green space, public art, signage, historical markers, amenities, and residential housing. The commitment to multiculturalism—or, alternatively, interculturalism—should certainly amount to more than just making signs in Spanish as well as English.

Read the full a post here:

 

MORE THAN TOYS

More on current research on state of the art in digital modeling and tools for Landscape Architects

Landscape Architecture Magazine

BY DANIEL TAL, ASLA

lam_03mar2017_now-morethantoys-cover_resize When it comes to new technologies, small investments can lead to big returns.

FROM THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

As at many small firms, five years ago, the technology in THK Associates’s office mainly consisted of hand-drawn plans, some 3-D modeling, Photoshop, and CAD. Now, the firm is incorporating drones, 3-D printing, and virtual reality into many of its projects. Thanks in large part to Jon Altschuld, ASLA, a landscape architect and project manager at the Denver-based firm, THK is an example of how small firms can integrate new technologies into practice with little overhead.

On a number of recent projects, the firm used drones to collect 3-D terrain data and turn it into high-resolution aerials. Using an application called Maps Made Easy, Altschuld can automate the flight path of the firm’s Phantom 4 drone in as little as 15 minutes. The drone…

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DIGITAL DIVIDENDS

More Digital reverie – reality lags behind the movies it seems

Landscape Architecture Magazine

REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-Conceptualising Design and Making

From the October 2016 Issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

Warning: possible confirmation bias ahead.

One of the most perplexing aspects of landscape architecture education and practice that I’ve encountered is what I’ll grossly refer to here as representation. In the nearly two decades that I’ve been a student, professional, or involved in some capacity with teaching at the university level, I can think of no other domain as consistently polarizing than the critically important area of how landscape architects generate and communicate their ideas. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of this issue is the ongoing divide between digital and analog processes—using the computer versus hand drawing. At first glance, one may likely assume this issue to simply be generational—older generations of designers were not educated in the use of the computer and so are less accepting of it than of those techniques and media with…

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THE LIMITS OF BIM

More on BIM for Landscape Architecture and Site Design

Landscape Architecture Magazine

BY BRIAN BARTH

Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software. Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software.

From the February 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Building information modeling, or BIM, has become the default digital format for designing buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure the world over, though in theory it is just as applicable to landscape design. You are not likely to find an architecture or engineering firm that does not employ BIM software, but there are surprisingly few landscape architecture firms that do. It’s not that landscape architects don’t appreciate the information-rich approach of BIM—quite the contrary—but many loathe its building-centric nature.

“Landscape architecture as a profession is kind of down on BIM,” says James Sipes, a landscape architect based in Atlanta who was an early proponent of adapting the technology for landscape architecture purposes. “It seemed to be exactly what we were looking for—that combination of CAD and 3-D modeling and smart software…

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The New Landscape Declaration

This renewal of a half century old landscape document in many ways echoes the feelings of frustration many of us feel over the  seemingly mindless pursuit of self interest and greed that continually threatens to overwhelm us, yet unless we are able to get more politically engaged within our communities of interest and beyond; into the other professional and public domains, we are preaching to the converted and our words are unheard by those who are crying for creative steps towards overcoming the myriad challenges awe face in our cities, towns and rural environments.  If you feel this to be true and worthwhile then I urge you to head on over to LAF  , sign the declaration and decide how you can let it be heard more widely than the jus the community of landscape architecture.

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On June 10-11, 2016, over 700 landscape architects with a shared concern for the future were assembled by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Inspired by LAF’s 1966 Declaration of Concern, we crafted a new vision for landscape architecture for the 21st century. This is our call to action.
Across borders and beyond walls, from city centers to the last wilderness, humanity’s common ground is the landscape itself. Food, water, oxygen – everything that sustains us comes from and returns to the landscape. What we do to our landscapes we ultimately do to ourselves. The profession charged with designing this common ground is landscape architecture.

After centuries of mistakenly believing we could exploit nature without consequence, we have now entered an age of extreme climate change marked by rising seas, resource depletion, desertification and unprecedented rates of species extinction. Set against the global phenomena of accelerating consumption, urbanization and inequity, these influences disproportionately affect the poor and will impact everyone, everywhere.

Simultaneously, there is profound hope for the future. As we begin to understand the true complexity and holistic nature of the earth system and as we begin to appreciate humanity’s role as integral to its stability and productivity, we can build a new identity for society as a constructive part of nature.

The urgent challenge before us is to redesign our communities in the context of their bioregional landscapes enabling them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its root causes. As designers versed in both environmental and cultural systems, landscape architects are uniquely positioned to bring related professions together into new alliances to address complex social and ecological problems. Landscape architects bring different and often competing interests together so as to give artistic physical form and integrated function to the ideals of equity, sustainability, resiliency and democracy.

As landscape architects we vow to create places that serve the higher purpose of social and ecological justice for all peoples and all species. We vow to create places that nourish our deepest needs for communion with the natural world and with one another. We vow to serve the health and well-being of all communities.

To fulfill these promises, we will work to strengthen and diversify our global capacity as a profession. We will work to cultivate a bold culture of inclusive leadership, advocacy and activism in our ranks. We will work to raise awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contribution. We will work to support research and champion new practices that result in design innovation and policy transformation.

We pledge our services. We seek commitment and action from those who share our concern.

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