Book Review: ‘Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA’

A review of a new book by iconic landscape architects SWA from LANDSCAPE+URBANISM reflects the Landscape Urbanism’s intense interest in the infrastructure and hard material of the urban park – I still wonder where the space for the changing roles of people and their needs are in these lucrative control structures? 

Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA‘ published in 2011, is edited by the Infrastructure Research Initiative of SWA including Los Angeles office principals Gerdo Aquino and Ying-Yu Hung.  This is supplemented with contributions from Charles Waldheim, Julie Czerniak, Adriaan Geuze, Matthew Skjonsberg and Alexander Robinson.  While ostensibly about landscape infrastructure, this type of book is a new sort of publishing hybrid that has emerged, combining the firm-specific work of a monograph within a more topical subject matter on a particular typology or approach to project work.

I think this may become a new trend in publishing, as it provides firms with the opportunity to showcase work, but also offers a more expansive vehicle for exploration of themes and inclusion of more collaborators, making the book both more widely marketable while putting the work of the firm in the forefront of emerging trends.  This differs somewhat from the Dutch examples and their production of brick-like graphic tomes of research and work.  This collection of essays and case studies benefits from the inclusion of more voices, although is similarly directed at positioning a firm within a certain intellectual and conceptual frame of reference.

This frame of reference, landscape infrastructure, is not altogether new, but is definitely one of the more emerging ideas within landscape architecture and urban design, which is reflected in the description of the book, per the SWA website:

“INFRASTRUCTURE, as we know it, no longer belongs in the exclusive realm of engineers and transportation planners. In the context of our rapidly changing cities and towns, infrastructure is experiencing a paradigm shift where multiple-use programming and the integration of latent ecologies is a primary consideration. Defining contemporary infrastructure requires a multi-disciplinary team of landscape architects, engineers, architects and planners to fully realize the benefits to our cultural and natural systems.”

The book exhibits some of the exploration of these topics, picking up on what Aquino mentions as the aim of SWAs Infrastructure Research Initiative “as a testing ground for engaging and redefining infrastructure in the context of future growth in our cities and towns.” (p.7)  This is echoed by Waldheim, and the research of the firm and the position of infrastructure as a way to “enter contemporary discourse on landscape as a form of urbanism.” (p.9) and is thus connected to the more well-known broader goals of landscape urbanism and other ‘adjectivally modified’ forms of urbanism. (for more on this, read Aquino’s interview on Archinect ‘What is a Park?‘)

Read More

SWA Group design Mixed Use Fairgrounds in California

By Damian Holmes of World Landscape Architecture

SWA Group-Mixed Use Fairgrounds-Solano360
SWA Group has been named to provide detailed site planning and a Specific Plan for the 149-acre Solano360 mixed-use development that will transform the County Fairgrounds property at I-80 and Highway 37 into a year-round destination. The project will integrate a new County fairgrounds with entertainment, retail, hospitality, event- and meeting-space, offices and open space. Solano360 is a joint effort of Solano County, the City of Vallejo and the Solano County Fair Association.

Read  original post on World Landscape Architecture
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.

Continue reading