SOM Wins Master Plan Competition for Beijing Bohai Innovation City

From bustler – of particular interest is the relationship of the site to the high speed rail links and to the ecological systems of Turenscapes central wetland park, both critical for the success of the project if it is to fulfill its design intent.

In an international design competiton for the rapid development of satellite cities along Chinese high speed rail corridors, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill‘s Beijing Bohai Innovation City master plan has just been named the winning submission.

Aerial view of SOM's competition-winning Beijing Bohai Innovation City master plan (Image: SOM)

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Aerial view of SOM’s competition-winning Beijing Bohai Innovation City master plan (Image: SOM)

Project Description from the Architects:

The winning SOM plan leverages the economic and lifestyle assets of the Beijing-Tianjin corridor by centering the new environmentally friendly district along the high-speed-rail line linking the national capital to the port city of Tianjin. The city expansion will host 17.6 million square meters of mixed-use development, with a focus on providing a premier headquarters location for advanced industries in the dynamically growing Bohai Rim, a region that already accounts for more than a quarter of China’s GDP. Continue reading

Videos: The Second Wave of Modernism

From The Dirt

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) put together The Second Wave of Modernism II: Landscape Complexity and Transformation, a powerhouse conference held last fall at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, which featured some of the top landscape architects around. Now, TCLF has posted full videos of the entire conference online.

Above, check out the conference introduction by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, Founder of TCLF, who explains how landscape architects must now work with complex systems, including cultural and ecological systems, when transforming early Modernist sites into more functional, people-friendly spaces that also enhance the natural environment.

While all sessions are worth watching, featured below are some of our favorite talks by landscape architects transforming Modern landscapes. Each landscape architect talks about the people who artistically influenced them, their evolution as designers, and then their own projects, which reimagine sites rich with history.

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Real Urbanism Is Rare

While I am not fan of New Urbanism , the regeneration of suburbia is a pet interest of mine and Chris Bradford’s commentary on the problems experienced in Austin Texas from Sustainable Cities Collective highlights the real problems experienced in trying to solve the parkiing problem and how we are not prepared to pay individually or collectively to solve its problems – its probably “someone else’s” problem isn’t it?

Back in 1998, Cedar Park adopted a comprehensive plan that set aside 42 acres of land along Highway 183 for a mixed-use, village-like town center.  They imagined something like this:

Cedar Park Town Center
The plan called for the city hall to be built there to anchor the town center and for the rest to be filled in with apartments and boutique shops.   But in 2007 the city voters turned down a tax hike to build the city hall there,settling on a cheaper location that had existing buildings.

The plan was approved in 2001 and has been updated since, but the large tract of land lies fallow.  D.R. Horton owns the tract and has been seeking PUD zoning that would allow it to break from the boutique-shop plan and build something more like a generic shopping center.  This upset a bunch of the people who bought near the tract on the assumption that it would be a new-urbanist village.   Their protests have evidently worked, for now, because D.R. Horton has taken down its rezoning application.

I don’t blame the folks for wanting a quaint, urbanist town center.  But, honestly, the kind of thing they want is really an urban kind of thing, and is very hard to grow in a cow pasture.

Here’s the economics:

There are no buildings in the town center today.  Everything must be built from scratch.  That means the retail must be built from scratch.  And new retail space in a mixed-use village is just as expensive, if not more expensive, to build as retail bays in a new shopping center.

No one’s going to build that retail space unless they get the rents to make it worth their while.  And in order for the small shops they have in mind to generate the necessary rents, there must be a lot of traffic.  The kind of traffic this area will never generate on its own — there are no significant job centers nearby, and there is no chance that the center will develop the residential density that could sustain a retail district by itself.  The town center doesn’t even sit astride a major arterial, so drive-by traffic is out.

There’s simply nothing to generate the kind of traffic retail would need to pay the rents to justify the construction cost . . . unless they were to build a lot of retail, with anchors to ensure a steady stream of traffic, and a lot of parking for all those cars.  But that’s a shopping center, not a town center.

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Landscapes, Hyperobjects, and the Linguistic Turn: some thoughts on Timothy Morton’s “Zero Landscapes in the Time of Hyperobjects”

Although somewhat academic, difficult in parts to fathom and not being able to read the original in German, but am in turn intrigued enough by its passages translated here, that I think I will try to find more about it  from faslasync

Not too long ago we got our grubby hands on Timothy Morton’s provocatively titled essay “Zero Landscapes in the time of Hyperobjects”.  It was written for the Graz Architecture Magazine, a publication of the Graz University in Germany and boasting of a very fine editorial board and an absolutely bulletproof lineup in issue 7.  Morton is the author of the recent influential books Dark Ecology and The Ecological Thought, and has spent a lot of time in the last year speaking on object- oriented philosophy.  Last January we read on his blog the following quote:

I had such a good time composing an essay for Graz Architectural Magazine that I thought I should just share it a little bit. It’s called “No Landscape”—the issue is about the role of landscape in ecological design (I believe). I take the “Zero” in the issue’s title very seriously. I mean absolutely no more landscapes, whatsoever…”

In one of the best passages, Morton states:

If we’re going to think beyond the modern period, beyond the era of philosophy, society and ecology in which we have been stuck for about two hundred years, then we will have to let go of the idea of landscape as a picture in a frame, even if the picture is liquid and motile, like a movie.  Why? The problem is the notion of the frame, and the distance the viewer has to assume for the landscape to appear as such. Because of this distance, the landscape embodies a subjective (whatever word works best for you here, “spiritual,” “ideological,” whatever) state. The picture is about the attitude you must assume to look at the picture. It’s less about land, then, and more about scape.  

It’s all very Genesis 3:6.  Nonetheless, it does point to a real difference between intentionality and agency in the landscape, and compellingly suggests future landscape designs will have to grapple with this minute chasm.  More hopefully, it offers the rudiments of some of the conceptual tools that will be needed in this task, specifically his defining and characterizing of the hyperobject and challenging the historical biases and weaknesses of the landscape approach.  These should be further prototyped and tested and added to the good work already underway.

[Adam, Eve, Satan, the hills, the sky, the groundwater, the mycorrhizae, all together in the Garden of Eden hyperobject/landscape on the Sistine Chapel]

It seems certain now that microbiology underpins everything – according a microbiologic view of evolution we (humans & their cells) are in essence “endosymbiotes”( Lyn Margulis) that have evolved to transport our microbes around the world in a more efficient manner and the Earth itself a living “sentient” being (Gaia Hypothesis – James Lovelock) composed of a balance between its physics and its lifeforms which act to ensure its biosphere maintains the precise conditions for the survival of its passengers. To think that we as a unwitting and unknowing species,we have no control of our autonomic bodily functions nor are conscious of most of what goes on daily in forming and maintaining the world above and below us, however “evolved” we think we are, have the power to destroy this magnificent place is pure hubris on our part! A system so evolved will surely autocorrect itself and use its part to engineer self correcting mechanisms – however painful that auto-corection might be for those living at the time. To become more in tune with our bodies and the invisible co-inhabitants in our cells and in the “last frontier” the soil beneath our feet, is surely the work of the future bio-engineers and bio-(landscape) architects of the later 21st century – in all the line between them will become ever more blurred, and we can in fact learn much from civilizations with more wisdom who have been more in tune with the planet and their own energies (dao -chi – prana) than Western civilization and its “science” has been to date.

Moss Tea

It dawned on me that the 20th century was the reductionist, mechanistic ‘Age of the Engineer’

The 21st century will be the ‘Age of the Biologist’

We are already very clear that nothing exists in isolation, and the interrelationship of the Elements of the Whole are more significant that their respective qualities when studied in a vacuum.

We (engineers included) need to study the rising (Yin)energy of the sentient world more, and focus less exclusively on the descending (masculine/Yang) of the mechanistic world.

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Sunni Brown’s visual persuasion – Doodling & Creativity

Being a user of mind-maps, fast sketches and doodles  the translation to mainstream use and the removal of the frustration people experience with drawing you all know,  or are people who say “I can’t draw” this should open your mind to how you can use words and sketchessquiggles and lots of interesting colours to find and make your ideas communicable and fun. From DAILY MAVERICK

In the beginning there was the word and the word was good. Better than good in fact, it was aloof, if not arrogant and proud. Written language was deemed to be a sign of elitism and intellect, and so it became de rigueur that if you were a child you went to school, and learnt letters and words and sentences. And when you doodled in your work book, your teacher told you to stop making a mess and get back to the real business of learning.

Photo: Examples of doodles Sunni has done for corporate clients. 

Sunni Brown is a visual revolutionary who wants to change all that. Why do words inevitably get the upper hand, Brown asks. “There are a lot of different takes on why we have verbal dominance. Historically, literacy, verbal and spoken language has been associated with a certain level of status and economic class. If you are educated, have the capacity to communicate and interpret language, this somehow makes you more intelligent than other people. You become part of an elite group of people,” says Brown.

Human beings are moreover heavily visually orientated, but despite this, for the longest time text has dominated visuals. “People haven’t made the connection between doodling and thinking, or sketching and problem solving, or visual language and creativity. I don’t think we understand how to apply visual language, and this misunderstanding is a consequence of having a cultural aversion to visual language, which is perhaps related to the historical classism. But that’s just a theory – I haven’t done enough research to offer a definitive answer.”

Photo: Sunni Brown teaches us to make the connection between doodling and thinking, sketching and problem solving. Applying visual language to life.

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Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden

New photos of one of my favorite gardens , although I haven’t been there (yet) the ethno- botanical Garden in Oaxaca, Mexico has been an inspiration in both its contemporary form and its cultural/historical aspects to my work here in Cape Town, From Garden Design

Organ pipe cactus (Marginatocereus marginatus), planted here next to the mirror pool and around cochineal-covered nopal cactus, are traditionally used in Mexico as borders, corrals, and fences to keep out foraging livestock or strangers.

This inspiring  and influential garden was created by Mexican artists and activists in the 1990’s

The distinctive walkways parallel a canal flanked by Agave macroacantha on the left and fouquieria on the right.

The botanical garden  illustrates the relationship between plants and culture, with a wide mix of plants, textures, and colors.

Francisco Toledo’s water sculpture, La Sangre de Mitla, is made from slabs of Montezuma cypress.


To read more about the story behind the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca in Mexico, read Jeff Spurrier’s story, Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden.

See more inspiring pictures here

Increasing the density and multiplicity of South African low cost and suburban housing is high priority and this proposal from 26’10 South Architects has all the necessary attributes to achieve this in a realistic and affordable fashion – as always it remains to be seen if it can be implemented in the complex politico- social environment of the contemporary South African city

From 26’10 South Architects: “Can we imagine a move towards a dynamic flexibility which can deliver subsidised housing in which the unit becomes an asset leading to income generation?  The housing types proposed for Diepsloot attempt to achieve higher occupational density in order to achieve minimum displacement of residents.

“The design also attempts to enable income generation through accommodating rental rooms, retail and small business enterprise.  In addition ground floors are conceived as flexible spaces accommodating both trade and/or residential use.  Circulation and services are positioned in such a way as to provide for these diverse occupation scenarios.  This allows for economic development over time, especially along busy routes.

“Houses are located close to the street boundary to create a sense of urbanity, surveillance, ease of trading and to limit the amount of unusable space between units.  The increased densities also achieve the necessary thresholds for the efficient provision…

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Sasaki Associates, with RDG and AES, Wins Water Works Parkitecture Competition

From Bustler :  a review of a project reintegrating people, water and nature which is both educational and engaging – funky use of fashionable stand up paddle boards and  representation which is viewed as if we are navigating the brochure and looking out on the scene must have played apart in winning over the judges:

Des Moines Water Works, working in partnership with Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture, recently announced that Sasaki Associates, with RDG Planning & Design and Applied Ecological Services (AES), is the winning team of the Water Works Parkitecture Competition.

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

The Parkitecture competition, aptly named for its emphasis on the fundamental role landscape architecture and design play in re-envisioning Water Works Park, began June 2011.  The international design competition entailed the creation of a conceptual plan for Water Works Park to form dynamic relationships between the river, the watershed, and the community.The competition sought proposals to integrate the ecological and social function of a park and river into a unified landscape; to inspire the community and to generate discussion about watershed issues/best practices; and offer innovative design solutions to address ecological and recreational challenges specific to Water Works Park.

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

The design team and Des Moines Water Works will begin a concept validation process which will address specific issues and include public outreach. It is expected that a majority of the funds for implementation of the vision plan will be obtained through private fundraising and will not be borne by water rate payers.

Throughout the design process, the design team interviewed citizens, community leaders, focus groups, and stakeholders, and will continue engaging the public throughout the master plan and implementation process of the park

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

Image courtesy of Sasaki Associates

Sasaki collaborated with Des Moines-based RDG Planning & Design and Minneapolis-based Applied Ecological Services on the competition entry and will continue to do so through implementation. Collectively, the team proffers progressive design strategy, creative vision, acute regional understanding, and technical prowess.

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