THE SHAPE OF WATER

From Jason King’s Landscape+Urbanism site

 

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“Rendering of Houston wetland channel showing ecological wetland, conservation areas, and recreation trails” p. 90-91

An amazing resource posted on ASLA’s The Dirt (here) focuses on Design Guidelines for Urban Wetlands, specifically what shapes are optimal for performance. Using simulations and physical testing to investigate hydraulic performance the team from the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) at MIT. Led by Heidi Nepf, Alan Berger and Celina Balderas Guzman along with a team including Tyler Swingle, Waishan Qiu, Manoel Xavier, Samantha Cohen, and Jonah Susskind, the project aims to have a practice application in design guidance informed by research. From their site:js_plan_typical-01

“Although constructed wetlands and detention basins have been built for stormwater management for a long time, their design has been largely driven by hydrologic performance. Bringing together fluid dynamics, landscape architecture, and urban planning, this research project explored how these natural treatment systems can be designed as multi-functional urban infrastructure to manage flooding, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and create amenities in cities.”
Starting in the beginning by outlining ‘The Stormwater Imperative’, the above goal is explained in more depth, and issues with how we’ve tackled these problems are also discussed, such as civil-focused problem solving or lack of scalability, but also explore the potential for how, through intentional design, these systems “can create novel urban ecosystems that offer recreation, aesthetic, and ecological benefits.” (1)

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The evolution that has resulted in destruction of wetlands through urbanization, coupled with deficient infrastructure leads to issues like flooding, water pollution due to the loss of the natural holding and filtering capacity of these systems and the increased flows. However, as pointed out by the authors, this can be an opportunity, as constructed wetlands “can partially restore some lost ecosystem services, especially in locations where wetlands do not currently exist.” (5)

The modeled flow patterns are also interesting, showing the differentiation from fast, regular, slow flows, along with any Eddy’s that were shown in dye testing using the flumes.

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Check it out and see what you think.  The report is available as a online version via ISSUU or via PDF download from the LCAU site, where there are also some additional resources.  All images in this post are from these reports and should be credited to the LCAU team.

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Urbanism and the Landscape Architect

A thoughtful and seemingly realistic appraisal of the influence and position of Landscape Architects, although based in USA I think it would be fair to say that this would apply in many other places, definitely here in South Africa – it would be interesting to have others voice their opinion and views. I certainly agree with his views that the Landscape Urbanism formalism and rhetoric has caused more confusion and  hype than real results – I mean Landscape Urbanists never speak of the City in integral terms of people and built places and spaces – the actor-networks of humans and non-humans it is composed of, but only its green spaces! From Planitzen  by MARK HOUGH

Landscape architects are not given nearly enough recognition for being urbanists.

This is not because we don’t get enough work in cities but, rather, it is the types of projects we get or, more importantly, don’t get. We have always been the go-to designers for parks, waterfronts and streetscapes, but have had a tougher time finding seats at the table alongside (or instead of) planners and architects when broader planning decisions are being made. Because of this, we are usually forced to respond to change orchestrated by others rather than direct it ourselves. Exceptions to this certainly exist, but aside from landscape architects working as planners in public offices, there aren’t many.

I’m not whining. I’m just trying to establish a benchmark in relation to the more optimistic direction I see things headed. Urban design is changing, and it is changing fast. Due in large part to environmental and climatological crises that are translating directly into quality of life issues, cities are focused on their urban landscapes as perhaps never before. This is not groundbreaking news, and I’m not the first person tobring it up, but it is still a worthy discussion.

Urban landscape is a tricky term that is often misunderstood and incorrectly used by people who don’t really know what to do with it. Architects, for instance, whose preference for a top-down, figure-ground approach to urban design that lets buildings alone dictate urban form, relegates the landscape to a series of insertions fitting within the pattern of buildings. Planners, whose sensibilities are typically more in line with landscape architects, don’t really get it either. Their habit of treating landscape as generic green shapes on land use maps or as elements to standardize within form-based codes isn’t much better.

The problem with these approaches (both of which I, of course, grossly generalize) is that they address landscape as just one of many components that make up a larger urban whole, an additive piece that may be needed, but is not required to make things work. Landscape architects, on the other hand, don’t see it as a stand-alone thing; we understand that it is the underlying and unifying framework upon which everything is built. It is not about buildings and landscape, but buildings within landscape – an important distinction to recognize.

The urban landscape is essentially the overlay between a city’s natural systems – the water, trees, air quality, open space, and biodiversity – and its human systems – the sidewalks, bike lanes, fields, transit systems, infrastructure, etc. The two systems are intertwined to the point they are inseparable, and combine to make up what we commonly refer to as the public realm. Even if you disagree with my definition, it is hard to argue that the public realm is the main arena in which cities are competing against one another these days in order to attract rent-paying residents and businesses. The demand has been made very apparent in New York CityChicago,St. LouisLos Angeles, and many other cities, where parks and open spaces – not the skyscrapers – have become the main attractions.

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Trevor Manuel – Minister of Planning: South Africa

From Daily Maverick – an interview with Trevor Manuel Minister of Planning – South Africa – on what the planning commission means and what it intends for working on South Africa’s extremely unequal demographics and poverty.

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Interviewing politicians can be difficult, because they hardly ever give a straight answer, and Minister for Planning in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, is a consummate politician. But in a wide-ranging interview, he spoke as openly as possible, among others, about how he has won over sceptics over the years, first as minister of finance and now as planning minister, about his displeasure at ministers whose utterances go against the Constitution, his anger at the policemen who killed a Mozambican man in Daveyton last week, his resignation in support of Thabo Mbeki and how his current job is very different from his previous one as minister of finance. He remained hesitant to speak about his future, however. By RYLAND FISHER.

We interviewed Manuel in his office at Parliament on Friday morning, a few hours after he had hosted a report-back meeting in the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain where he spoke about the need to rekindle the activism that was prevalent in the 1980s.

Below is an edited extract of the interview:

RF: When you were appointed minister in charge of planning in President Zuma’s Cabinet, there were obviously some sceptics who did not quite understand what it is that you had to do. Now that the National Development Plan has taken centre stage in our political life and, indeed, our economy, do you feel vindicated?

TM: I don’t actually set out with that objective. I think that too frequently we start out not being given the benefit of the doubt. What it entails is just working hard to get things right and if, in the process, you disprove the sceptics, that’s okay, but you start out to get things right.

In the last few years of Madiba, in spite of the fact that many people told him he was crazy to appoint me minister of finance, I did not set out to prove the sceptics wrong, but I hoped that through my efforts I would be able to win the trust of Madiba and the organisation that gave me the opportunity to do so. What is important is that one is able to take decisions and learn in the process.

I understand very clearly that if the only thing you want to do in a position of leadership is to please people, the quality of your leadership is going to be severely compromised. If you try and do things that go against the grain of your belief system, then you will be unhappy and feel compromised.

If you want to deal with these issues, you have to ask questions constantly about what your reference points are, about what is your value system. Some people use the term “compass”: so where are you heading and why?

The ability to think past ideological rigidity is also important.

If I take these points and try and use them to answer the question about the National Development Plan, it makes for an interesting read.

The commission [National Planning Commission] itself is an interesting construct. I’ll be bold enough to say that my initial thought was to have the commission structured more along the lines of the Indian Planning Commission which has about half a dozen ministers on it. It is chaired by the prime minister and often the president or the deputy president could chair it and I would do the spade work inside. I lost that battle, and it was not about wanting to be a prime minister. It was about wanting to follow a construct whose relationship to implementation would be understood.

The second thing about the plan and the commission is that its composition actually lives out !ke e: ǀxarra ǁke (Khoisan for “diverse people unite”). It is quite a diverse group of people and that’s a real strength.

When we approached people to participate, on the recommendation of the president, some of them said: “Why are you approaching me? I’m not even an active member of the ANC.” However, everyone accepted. There were some people who felt rejected by the ANC. In putting this together, a lot of these people got a new lease on life and have given the commission a new lease on life. It has been very important for that reason.

The third issue is that, in many ways, when, 13 months into the process, the diagnostic report was released, it was a coming out for the commission. If people thought it was a lapdog, then the release of the diagnostic report – which deals with issues such as the unevenness of the public service, the breakdown of unity, the need to tackle corruption, etc. – spoke volumes about the way so many South Africans feel.

But it also spoke to the fact that the president, in inviting the commission to take a long-term, independent view, was actually not curtailing that. There was no censorship about the views of the commission. He allowed it to happen and has built on the momentum created by the National Planning Commission. It is going to be quite important because it was a commission started on his watch and it has been allowed to generate the unity and momentum. It is something that he wants to see through and that is very positive.

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For Driverless Cars to Succeed Wireless Infrastructure is Crucial

For the world envisioned in Minority Report with its driverless cars and big brother surveillance systems to become a reality (for better or worse?) much improved infrastructure is needed – two recent articles give indication of the drive to achieve this- at least in American Cities and definitely for the commercial benefit of the automakers and cyber companies shareholders – so I again have my doubts about the real benefit of continued reliance on private vehicles

Driverless cars from movie Minority Report

The first article is from Urban TImes giving insight into the need and possibility of alternative technologies to wireless in order for the machines to communicate with each other

At CES 2013 driverless cars were big news. And while the likes of Toyota and Google are working on the technology inside the cars to make these a reality – William Webb, IEEE fellow and CTO of Neul knows that the wireless infrastructure needs to be up to scratch too.

IEEE experts have recently identified driverless cars as the most viable form of intelligent transport, set to dominate the roadway by 2040 and spark dramatic changes in vehicular travel.

Related: Google’s Driverless Cars Now Legal in Nevada

As far as I can tell, there is one key barrier to the widespread adoption of intelligent transport (aside from driver and passenger acceptance of automated vehicles) and that is the infrastructure of our roads and vehicles. More specifically, the wireless infrastructure.

Monitoring traffic flow is relatively easy, as is deducing where congestion is occurring and working out where to reroute cars. However, there is still a big piece missing from the intelligent transport puzzle – a way to get information from sensors to controls centres, and from there back to cars, traffic lights, and roadside signage. Wireless connectivity is the only option when facing this challenge. Whilst this might seem obvious in the case of moving vehicles, the cost of installing the wires for sensors in stationary items such as bridges of car-parking spaces is completely prohibitive – making wireless a big issue.

Self-driving car Toyota Prius prototype. Via Google

The second article is  note from Smart Planet a few days ago highlights the amount of effort being put into these machine communication systems – again – one has no doubts about whose interests this is in – only a  nagging suspicion that this all looks very familiar in terms of science fiction – anyone see a likeness to the Matrix here – machines in control – humans in servitude?

Google’s secretive wireless network could impact urban connectivity, Wi-Fi

By  | January 25, 2013, 2:19 AM PST

Google’s secretive wireless networking project could have severe repercussions on the consumer market it seems.

Filing an application to build an “experimental” wireless network on the tech giant’s Mountain View headquarters, Google is petitioning the FCC to allow 50 base stations to be built on the campus, in order to support 200 user devices for an “experimental radio service.”

The application and proposal state that the area covered will be close to the firm’s Android building, but small, indoor base stations will only reach up to 200 meters, and outdoor systems will go no further than a kilometer. In total, the network will have a two-mile radius.

The experimental network remains under wraps for now, but who knows what Google is planning for the future. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the FCC request may be in relation to the tech giant’s partnership with Dish Networks.

The filing, uncovered by Wireless engineer Steve Crowley, would provide coverage for 2524 to 2625 megahertz frequencies — which wouldn’t be compatible with most of the consumer mobile devices currently available, such as Apple’s iPhone or smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. It would, however, work well in densely populated areas.

Nature as Infrastructure- An Interview with Kongjian Yu

An architecture report from Domus by Ethel Baraona Pohl

Turenscape’s founder Kongjian Yu demonstrates how nature can be a cost-free service provider in an urban context. Ecology is a synonym of economy

The cross-disciplinary project is an urban stormwater park and a national nature reserve. It filters storm water from the city and protects against flooding. The new urban district of Qunli New Town was zoned with only 16.4% of developable land as permeable green space

Ethel Baraona: Let’s talk about the close relationship you have with natural environments. Where does this interest come from?
Kongjian Yu In Chinese tu means dirt, earth and ren means people, man. So, Turenscape means “people from the land”, the wonderful metaphor behind our name is that we are “the land and the people”. I come from a rural area and grew up with people who lived there for decades, which gave me a true sense of nature. I started Turenscape with my wife and a friend. One of our first projects began in 2000. We finished it in 2002. Suddenly it became really famous. People were admiring projects they never had seen before in China.

A network of walkways is built into the pond-andmound ring allowing visitors to observe the wetland, which Turenscape planted with native marsh grasses and silver birch trees. Platforms and viewing towers lend panoramic views of the surroundings

Is ecology part of an economical system?
That is a key point. Economy means ecology. Nature has no waste. If species can’t have minimum energy to survive, they die. So, nature is economy. We should consider the city as an organism and parks should provide all these services. At the same time this project is very economic. We used a very simple cut-and-fill system on the ring with a minimum cost. We built the sky-walk, a kind of jungle inside the park, with wood, bamboo, stone: all local materials. And it is important as a social node too.

Read the full interview

Read other posts on Turenscape and Konjian Yu
Terragrams -delivering the landscape

The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu

Architectures of Hybrid Migrations (via Free Association Design (F.A.D.))

I wonder how this type of advanced engineering science meshes with the worlds of migration and how the determination of which fish to allow to migrate and which to reject is not modifying the system that it is trying to preserve?

Architectures of Hybrid Migrations Although very likely not submitted to this year's Animal Architecture Awards, the design for the "Selective Water Withdrawal Tower" on The Deschutes River could have been a candidate for the prize, or at minimum, a poignant contribution to forums discussing "the myriad issues arising from the complex interactions between animals and human society", and how such interactions tend to co-shape one another. The Round Butte Selective Water Withdrawal … Read More

via Free Association Design (F.A.D.)

Decade Hillside: The Sigirino Depot (via Free Association Design (F.A.D.))

Serous infrastructure as can only imagined in Europe in the 21st Century -…. while Africa weeps….. seriously though, it is interesting that even in Europe it is considered notable that a “the client understood the requirement to add, from the onset, a landscape architect to the design team.
.” – when will the engineers and politicians who collaborate on these vast infrastructure projects “get it” that it is a collaborative design effort – not just hard engineering finance and politics that makes out environmental interventions sustainable now and in the future?

Decade Hillside: The Sigirino Depot [Point cloud visualization of existing and constructed hillside in the Sotto Ceneri mountain range] As described by Christophe Girot in Topos’ current Issue (Building With Landscape), the Sigirino Depot is “the landscape byproduct of the largest infrastructure project in Swiss history, where a series of tunnels are transpiercing the Alps from north to south to allow for high-speed trains to reach Italy in record time.”  In the process of creating … Read More

via Free Association Design (F.A.D.)

Madrid Replaces a Highway with Park Space -West8 collaborate with MRIO Arquitectos

Could Cape Town ever consider replacing the Foreshore freeway with a new urban park linking the city again to its real waterfront – the harbor which was lost when the ‘foreshore’ was created in the golden days of Modernism? In Madrid West8 collaborate with MRIO Arquitectos : by the polis blog 


After eight years of delays, traffic jams, noise and dust the last section of Madrid Rio— a combined infrastructure and public space project — was finally opened to the public on April 15. In the 1970’s Madrid was cut off from the (already forgotten) Manzanares river by the construction of the M30 ring motorway. Although this separation of city and waterfront was a common phenomenon in many cities around the world in the mid-20th century, Madrid’s “waterfront” went through the middle of the city, not at the edge; Madrid lost not only its river — it was cut in two. Neighborhoods once just over the river were instantly relegated to the periphery.

The Madrid Rio project, a six-kilometer linear park spanning the a sunken motorway is the finalization of a plan hatched a decade ago to reconnect the city center and adjacent neighborhoods to the river. Continue reading

What is a Park – Landscape or Infrastructure

This article from Archinect by Nam Henderson interviewing  Gerdo Aquino who  is president and principal of SWA Los Angeles studio, on how parks are a vital and critical infrastructure need of cities from the perspective of its value to the urban population not just in its social and cultural values but also from its ecological and movement based functions. Seeing as how African cities parks are under threat from both the needs of land for development, overrun by illegal squatter populations and underfunded in their maintenance and policing,  often the perception of urban citizens iis that they are  a dangerous hazard and of no value. See Ian Ollis’ essay “No quick fix  to save our cities..”

How can a park be designed to serve as infrastructure(s)? Thinking not in terms of metaphor alone. But rather a park as the architecture for numerous designed outcomes. Park as infrastructure, means park as platform not only designed object/scape. From a singular tool to multivalent toolkit. It is important in such discussion to think of the less immediate impact. Of social design, the design of relationships. Such a platform-as toolkit-may result from more efficient, and stack(ed) programming. Thus maximizing urban spaces, suburban spaces, available spaces, that are under-performing. In essence, we should think about the best ways to maximize our various infrastructural corridors: utility, transportation, waterways et al.

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Winners of NETWORK RESET: Rethinking the Chicago Emerald Necklace

From bustler: A rethinking of how a large cities fragmented infrastructure and famous parks designed by one of the founders of the disciplines of both Landscape Architecture and Urbanism, Frederick Law Olmsted, can be reshape the urban periphery.

MAS Studio and the Chicago Architectural Club announced the results of NETWORK RESET, a single-stage international competition that seeks to provide ideas and actions that can reactivate the Boulevard System of Chicago and rethink its potential role in the city

Background from the competition brief:

” NETWORK RESET, a single-stage international competition that seeks to provide ideas and actions that can reactivate the Boulevard System of Chicago and rethink its potential role in the city.”

FIRST PRIZE: Chicago Constellation

FIRST PRIZE: Chicago Constellation”

“Proposed by John S. Wright in 1849, the system was envisioned twenty years later when the State Legislature established the South, West, and Lincoln Park Commissions. Also referred as the “Emerald Necklace” since the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, it is composed by a series of streets and parks, some of them designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and William Le Baron Jenney. After the mid-twentieth century, the lack of proper funding, the split of management of the system as a whole (parks would be managed separately from the streets) and the migration of residents to the suburbs were some of the circumstances that accelerated the deterioration of the system. While portions of it, such as the Logan Square Boulevards District (an official city landmark district since 2005) still maintain the original character, other parts have just become underutilized areas and oversized streets that act as barriers within neighborhoods.”

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