Posted in Cities, Design Practice, Green Infrastructure, LA Education, Landscape Urbanism, Parks, tagged architecture, green infrastructure, landscape urbanism, parks, urban planning on December 9, 2012|
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It’s the holiday season – and I’m sitting in the mall, blogging. Somehow I feel unique… but probably not unique, though, in waiting. In the Architect’s Newspaper, Alan G. Brake writes of the ascendance of landscape architecture. Brake hits on a few themes that fit this blog well – relationships between landscape architects and architects, planners as well as the rise of urbanism as a focus of the profession. Generally, I think landscape architects are too fixated on boosterism – and we love to highlight such praise – but I’m inclined to agree with Brake here. And I hope the profession rises to the opportunities before us. Ascendency, yes.
Landscape architecture’s dynamism, however, also points to certain weaknesses in contemporary architecture and planning. Architecture has been caught in a kind of hangover from the pre-crash years. Much of the profession, not to mention architectural education, is still too obsessed with architecture-as-object. The rise of tactical urbanism is a reaction to this, and also often involves landscape-based projects. Planning seems even more stuck. Too afraid to engage with design—following the failures of much of modernist planning—planners have either buried their noses in policy or retreated into colored-pencil-clichés of urbanism that seem dated. Landscape architects have stepped into that vacuum.
For the public, my hunch is that landscape architects offer something that architects typically do not. Parks and gardens have always engaged our Edenic fantasies. In a world under strain these places must also do considerable work, absorbing stormwater, filtering air pollution, and providing refuge in an increasingly urbanized world. Landscape architects are offering redemptive visions for neglected, damaged, and underutilized places. Environmental problems may seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But landscape architects offer solutions to improve our roofs, our blocks, our neighborhoods, a nearby waterway, or the city at large. If that sounds patronizing, it’s not meant to be. In the absence of aggressive federal (let alone global) environmental action to address the myriad of challenges we face, these interventions take on a critical, if piecemeal, significance.
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Stumbled upon a nice stormwater green infrastructure website today and am passing it along. It’s the work of a private Nashville landscape architecture firm, Hawkins Partners. Take a look. The post that attracted my attention was GI in Seattle: The Importance of Pilot Project Success For All Green Infrastructure.
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Posted in Design Practice, Green Infrastructure, Landscape Planning, tagged cities, ecology and design, environmental protection, green infrastructure, recession, trends, urban planning, water quality on November 2, 2011|
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The economic downturn has hastened the move to stormwater green infrastructure (GI) approaches (e.g., permeable paving, vegetative swales, rain gardens, green roofs) as a way to combat combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the United States. Federal policies that mandate water quality improvements in cities have commonly been met with arguments about how the new measures will not be financially feasible (even in the pre-Clean Water Act days when urban creeks might be called “bubbly” because of methane discharge from rotting waste). However, the financial argument carries weight even with regulators in today’s fiscal environment, and U.S. EPA is now signaling a willingness to be more flexible in the arrangements it makes with cities. EPA’s embrace of stormwater green infrastructure has been apparent for some time, and that trend appears to be set for the foreseeable future. Greenwire, a subscription service, reports on new guidance to regulators from EPA’s water chief, Nancy Stoner, and uses the following example of past agreements with major cities:
Over the past 10 years, EPA and the Department of Justice have sought to stop the overflows by suing cities and striking settlement agreements that require massive upgrades. As a result, at least 40 cities or sewer systems across the United States have entered into such agreements with EPA since 1999.
The agreements tend to require rebuilding pipelines, expanding treatment plants and digging underground tunnels big enough for subway trains. The tunnels act as storage tanks for stormwater that would normally pour into waterways and allow time for treatment plants to clean up the mess.
As part of its 2003 consent decree with the federal government, Washington, D.C., broke ground last month on a $2.6 billion tunnel-building project, the largest since construction of the metropolitan area’s subway system. The tunnel will be 23 feet wide and 100 feet deep and will extend 4.5 miles from the sewage-treatment plant along the east bank of the Potomac River, crossing under the Anacostia River and extending to RFK Stadium on the city’s east side. [Emphasis added.]
With eye-opening treatment options like that, it is no wonder that cities are interested in hosting GI experimentation. Hoping to head off even more tunnel construction, the Washington, D.C. Water General Manager is enthusiastic about contributing to the GI body of knowledge!
“No city or utility has ever done a sustained and large-scale pilot study of green roofs, trees and porous pavement to help in those areas,” D.C. Water General Manager George Hawkins said. “We hope to do just that.”
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An upscale neighborhood in Hinsdale, IL has drainage problems and is considering stormwater green infrastructure (GI) solutions. The neighborhood has been around for decades, but the development boom resulted in many new LARGE houses and associated impervious surface. Now the residents have to agree to a special tax to take care of runoff issues. I found this news account (Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Patch) of how GI is being sold to be interesting:
Under the improvements that would be installed in three phases over the next six years, rain gardens and bioswales—two methods of absorbing stormwater and directing it to natural underground seams—would be installed along the public rights of way in the area. Creech said these gardens will be “tucked in between” the road and residents’ front yards.
Though rain gardens have a reputation for appearing weedy and unattractive, those installed in Woodlands would feature prairie-style, aesthetically pleasing plants.
“For this particular development, the character of the planting is going to be more formal,” Creech said.
Tanks below the rain gardens will collect stormwater and control its distribution back into the underground water seams, according to Creech, making the project environmentally responsible, or “green.”
“We’re just attempting to direct that [water] into the subsurface seam sooner just to take it off the surface,” Creech said.
Underground water seams? And neat and tidy rain gardens. Should be interesting. But it is a green solution, and indicative of the challenge of educating homeowners. Altering their aesthetic expectations also might have to be part of this exercise.
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