UCT Landscape Architecture students win 3 out of 4 prizes in international design competition

Congratulations to University of Cape Town Landscape Architecture students


Five Master of Landscape Architecture students entered an international student competition for the redesign of a portion of the Nairobi River running through the centre of Nairobi.

The students proposed creative solutions to the challenges facing cities and the design and planning of rivers that run through them.

Three of the students were placed in the top four, including wining first prize of $1000.

The competition was judged by five international landscape architects with the award ceremony being held at the International Federation of Landscape Architects Africa Symposium held in the first week of October in Nairobi.

The student’s projects were praised for the high quality of the landscape architectural concepts, the level of innovation, the depth of ecological aspects and the feasibility of the overall projects.

Prize winners:

Winning entry: Ke Lu – University of Cape Town ($1000)

Project title: Reincarnation Landscape

Click thumbnails to view large..

Runner up: Ancunel Steyn – University of Cape Town ($600)

Project title: Metamorphosis: Transforming river, transforming lives

Special Prize (Most environmentally responsive design):
Julia McLachlan – University of Cape Town ($500)

Project title: Flowing waters: Cultural and knowledge streams

In Search of a Rwandese Regionalism; ‘Learnt in Translation’ lecture by Peter Rich, Kigali, Rwanda 2011, by Killian Doherty

An article from archinect on a lecture that highlights the plight of most african Architecture and its resultant urbanism – made from “pieces of left over” from late modernism which all developing countries aspire to emulate despite the overwhelming evidence that they are unsustainable, unsatisfactory to live in and plain ugly …. 

Kigali context and Image of Kigali Masterplan model, Courtesy of Killian Doherty

Kigali context and Image of Kigali Masterplan model, Courtesy of Killian Doherty

 ‘The reality I have known no longer exists’ laments the narrator at the loss of the Paris of his youth. This extract from Marcel Proust’s ‘A la recherché du temps perdu’ (In Search of Lost Time), is referred to in Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre’s seminal essay ‘Why Critical Regionalism today?’ in an attempt to poetically capture the concept of the loss of a place and its identity. A loss synonymous with modern architecture, particularly in relation to contemporary global development , in this essay they argue for a ‘Regionalist Architecture’ , an architecture of place making which preserves the fibres of ‘collective social structures and the collective representations’(i)that are etched within community and place ; things that cannot be recaptured if lost.

Kigali is undergoing a radical transformation in implementing its 2020 vision for the city, and in doing so is experiencing a rapid disintegration of identity and culture. Traces of Rwanda’s rich vernacular, which utilise local materials (such as earthwork construction and roof thatch; more details), have been vehemently outlawed, with generic, mono-functional high rise buildings, constructed of concrete, clad with a ubiquitous curtain walling opted for as the preferred aesthetic choice for a modern Rwanda.  These incongruous visual/architectural doctrines bare no contextual relevance to the semi-pastoral setting of Kigali, yet are being ruthlessly implemented and constructed, in most cases by Chinese contractors (more details). The traditional methods of construction which are almost forbidden , mean that within a country which is landlocked the building industry has become heavily dependent upon importing materials, carrying with it escalating material costs and increased embodied energy; this is the dichotomy that defines architectural progress in Rwanda.

Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo, South Africa, 2002-2010. Courtesy of Peter Rich Architects

Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo, South Africa, 2002-2010. Courtesy of Peter Rich Architects

Therefore it has never been timelier for the South African architect, and teacher, Peter Rich (more about Peter Rich Architects) whose very work draws heavily from its context’s, serving to bolster local communities it resides within, to now re-visit Rwanda to conduct a workshop and a lecture on his work with the Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) , also in conjunction with theUniversity of Arkansas School of Architecture. Peter Rich’s work has established an architecture which is uniquely African. Influenced directly by an understanding of spatial hierarchies and aesthetic qualities of African tribal settlements, he works directly within the community, sustaining the cultures and traditions re-emerging in his buildings. His methods are not only due to his empathy for marginalised communities, but are methods which are a forceful architectural response to the new problems posed by contemporary global development, where a disintegration of identity, culture and community is characterized by homogeneity of place.  Continue reading

Terragrams – Casey Brown of PREX

A different view of the landscape from an Interview with Casey Brown of P-REX, especially with their approach to the world in viewing the larger forces at work and  charting those to expose their action on both the economic and environmental fields. Well worth a listen and Terragrams Craig Verzone is to be congratulated on bringing us these in depth interviews.

Casey Brown is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at Clemson University and a Principal Researcher with P-REX an organization embedded within the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT. He is the 2010/11 recipient of the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture and has recently followed research concerning the U.S. – Mexico border, North American urbanization trends and large-scale mining and extraction sites. In dispatch 31 Brown shares his thoughts regarding his working methods for his research in Rome as well as for entities as diverse as Toyota, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA and the U.S. Defense Department, all of which, in Brown’s words “document herd/swarm behavior, cascading effects, negative/positive externalities, and low probability/high impact events”. June 6, 2011

You can listen to the interview here or download it through iTunes

The Future is Now- A Letter to Arup by Rachel Armstrong

From thisbigcity a very informative essay on urban and commercial realities that are often glossed over in the search for the new…..

The Future is Now – A Letter to Arup by Rachel Armstrong

Response to The Under-imagined Future of Transport by Susan Claris

I don’t agree that the importance of forward-thinking long term planning is over sold! What I do think is over-sold – is the productisation of very specific solutions to challenges that are not well characterised and we don’t yet know how to face. The current economic & political system only deals with short term-ism (returns and period in office) so investment in research and development that deals with decade or more kinds of solutions does not exist to properly support the strategic development of implementable solutions. In other words, realistic future solutions are ‘evolved’ not ‘born’. So, in my view the ‘over selling’ stems from a contemporary set of expectations and restrictions where some/one is going to profit handsomely from investing in an immediate sole solution, wrapped in IP and patents, which cannot evolve on the basis of this legal bondage and whose benefit to society is ultimately of secondary interest!

In fact, the future is very poorly invested in and governments are currently slashing funding for basic science which underpins technological and economic developments. Central funding is becoming increasingly focussed on promoting near-ready-for-market research or bolstering established industry-research partnerships.

As for the issue of under-imagining, I don’t think that there is a crisis in this capacity at all!

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Cape Town is 2014’s world design capital – Hooray!

We (Capetonians that is) would like to invite you all to come down South in 2014 ( if you can’t make it before then that is/ …….. see earlier post on this site  

Cape Town has been named the World Design Capital for 2014.

The win for Cape Town, announced at the International Design Alliance Congress in Taipei, Taiwan, on October 26, is especially timely given that 2014 marks 20 years of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa.

“2014…is the moment when the past and the future will come together for Cape Town, in contemplation and in action,” Patricia de Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town, said in heracceptance speech in Taipei. ”In South Africa, cities were designed over decades to divide people. But since our new democratic era, we have been focused on trying to bring people together, to create a sustainable city that fosters real social inclusion.”

Cape Town beat Bilbao, Spain and Dublin, Ireland for the honor. Statements on why Cape Town is an appropriate choice can be found in the city’s bid for the title. In one section, for example, the authors of the bid book write, “rebuilding is taking place in low-income communities in particular, and…we are using design to alleviate the problems around social housing,” among other goals that are likely to get high international visibility and support during Cape Town’s World Design Capital year. Continue reading

Thinking Water Part II: Water, Energy, and Climate Challenges Facing the U.S. West: A Briefing for Designers,

Hosted by the Arid Lands Institute in partnership with UCLA’s Institute of the environment and Sustainability (IoES) is a half-day seminar and briefing for designers on the critical water challenges facing the U.S. West.


On October 29, designers, scientists, and researchers will come together at Woodbury
University in Burbank for Water, Energy, and Climate Challenges Facing the U.S. West: A
Briefing for Designers. The half-day seminar tackles the critical water challenges facing the U.S.

WHAT: Water, Energy, and Climate Challenges Facing the U.S. West: A Briefing for Designers
WHEN: Saturday, October 29th, 2011 9:30 am —12:30 pm
WHERE: Ahmanson Main Space, Woodbury School of Architecture
Woodbury University
7500 Glenoaks Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91510
COST: The event is free and open to the public.

FOR MORE INFO: http://aridlands.woodbury.edu/

Water, Energy, and Climate Challenges Facing the U.S. West: A Briefing for Designers is hosted
by the Arid Lands Institute (ALI) at Woodbury University in partnership with UCLA’s Institute
of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department
of Housing + Urban Development/Office of University Partnerships and is supported by the
California Architectural Foundation (CAF), and the American Institute of Architects/California
Council (AIA/CC). Woodbury University School of Architecture is a proud supporter of the ALI’s
mission and activities.

The future of development across the western United States is intricately linked to the
availability of water. A precious, but often overlooked and misunderstood resource, water
impacts policy, the environment, and economics. Addressing these issues, a team of scientists
and researchers from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability will present
findings, brief attendees, and answer questions on water, energy, climate change, and strategic
design opportunities for a water-smart future. “We are delighted that UCLA’s IoES is joining us in
this effort” said Peter Arnold, architect and ALI co-director. “Design without science is folly.”

Presentation topics include: the limitations posed by energy-intensive water delivery systems;
projected impacts of climate change on western water resources; myths and realities of
localized stormwater management, including case studies; and the challenges, both regional and
global, of managing water in an urbanized world.

Continue reading

Australia publishes cities report & launches Liveable Cities program

From LandReader by Damian Holmes information on a new very accessible manual on Livable Cities:

The Australian Government has recently published the “State of Australian Cities 2011″ report (PDF Link) that gives “a better understanding of how our cities work, the report also identifies the specific initiatives of local councils and state planning authorities which are proving effective at promoting more productive, sustainable and liveable urban communities.”

At the same time the government also launched the Liveable Cities program allocates $AUD20.0 million over two years for “improved alignment of urban planning and design with the National Urban Policy and COAG principles, resulting in lasting partnerships between and within levels of government, and between governments, not-for-profit organisations and private interests. Projects will provide lessons in achieving good planning outcomes that can be transferred and applied across Australia’s cities”. The funding is limited to 50% of the total project cost making sure that the organisations involved also contribute to projects.

Design with the Other 90%: Cities

A “must read” essay on how the rest of the world is coping with the urbanization of the world – from the Design Observer Groups Places by Cynthia E. Smith who serves as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design. 

Community residents prepare building materials for manufacture, Kaputiei New Town, Kisaju, Kajiado District, Kenya. [Photo by Acumen Fund. All images courtesy of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and copyrighted by the respective authors.]

“We are poor, but not hopeless.”
— Melanie Manuel, Backyarders Network, Manenberg, Cape Flats, South Africa

Hybrid Innovations 
I was on my third liter of water; dirt and sand covered me as I walked in blowing wind next to the largest dumpsite in Dakar, Senegal. I had just come from seeing the efforts of a team of Senegalese and Canadian architecture students, who designed and built with local artisans a series of mosaic-clad community wells for the growing peri-urban settlement of Malika. [1] We took an hour’s journey back to the city center, passing building after building under construction, emblematic of Dakar’s rapid growth.

This would be my last interview after a year of field research in 15 different cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. “What have you discovered in your travels?” asked Oumar Cissé, Executive Director of the African Institute for Urban Management. I told him I had set out to find successful design solutions to rapidly expanding informal settlements, and had found that the most innovative were hybrid solutions that bridge the formal and informal city. [2] Oumar affirmed, “Formal mechanisms are not adequate to tackle this rapid informalization of the city. We are not able to make services available as quickly as the growth. We should make our process more appropriate for this new reality by creating an interface between the formal and informal.”

Clogged streets and overloaded public transport are typical in many of the cities I visited, and Dakar was no exception. A sea of motorbike taxis wove in and out of traffic. Often illegal and unregulated, motor-taxis, with minimal start-up costs, meet the growing demand for cheap transport in many cities in the Global South. [3] Rather than banning these illegal taxis, Oumar described an alternative system in which local governments register the drivers and provide brightly colored and numbered vests to identify them. Through this low-cost solution, motorbikes require no alterations, and their new visibility improves their perception and value within the city. [4] In Bangkok, Thailand, the government is going one step further with Prachawiwat, meaning “Progress of the People,” a new and evolving program where drivers and other informal workers get benefits like Social Security and bank loans. [5]

Left: A local artisan creates a mosaic on a community well in Diamalye, an informal settlement in Malika, Dakar, Senegal. [Photo by Cynthia E. Smith, Smithsonian Institution] Right: Registered Prachawiwat motorbike taxi, Bangkok, Thailand. [Photo by Thapphawut Parinyapariwat]

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2016 Olympic Park Master Plan | Brazil | AECOM

From World Landscape Architecture, news on Rio’s Olympic plans and a funky Samba-ish video to boot….

2016 Olympic Park Master Plan | Brazil | AECOM

AECOM won the International Competition for the Urban Master Plan of the Rio 2016 Olympic Park in August . Coordinated by the Municipal Olympic Company, the competition was held in partnership with the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB) and will go down in history as the first international architecture contest in Brazil.

The competition brought together 60 works from offices in 18 countries. With seven members, the jury consisted of representatives from Rio City Hall, the International Union of Architects, the Institute of Architects of Brazil, Rio 2016 and the Federal Government.

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How technology can help us redesign our cities – and lives (maybe?)

From a series in The Gaurdian on the Future of Urban Living another futurist hopeful on how technology could shape our lives for the better in the future with a caveat at least on how the current capitalist paradigm needs to change – for myself I am more skeptical than ever that we know what is in our best interests – with all the research and all the technology in the world – we don’t seem to able to control much in our own little lives – let alone  at a whole city level – as reputedly said by John Lennon  ” life is what happens while your were making other plans” still, no doubt, we will be salivating over the latest techno-wonders while bemoaning their lack of bandwidth and reliability – no matter who made them or how fat they are – they are always too slow and always …….

From analysing our urban spaces to ensure they encourage social cohesion, to connecting household appliances to the internet to regulate our energy needs, technological developments promise an exciting future for city living

Local teenagers in front of burnt out buildings on Tottenham High Road

Local teenagers pause in front of part-demolished buildings on Tottenham High Road after the London riots in August 2011. Photograph: Jason Alden/Rex Features

The riots that erupted across the UK in August 2011 caused devastation in many areas, but could they have been tackled earlier or even avoided through the use of advanced urban planning?

Work being done by consultants Space Syntax, who use computer-modelling to consider the spaces between buildings in the design of urban places, shows how technology can help us to understand the way we live and work in cities and how we interact with our surroundings.

Ed Parham, Space Syntax’s associate director, says: “By analysing how areas are connected, you can find patterns of accessibility.” The modelling technique, known as spatial networks, examines how streets and communities function in relation to each other. It builds on research being carried out in the slums of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where Space Syntax discovered that a deprived area can become connected to surrounding communities and potential new markets by simply removing a small number of key buildings.

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