SHIFTboston Future City Tour

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 17, 2010

The potential of potential is the leash of technology.

SHIFTboston’s 2009 competition asked architects and designers to dream up wild and inventive ideas for the city. Many intriguing concepts were submitted, and now you have a new way of viewing some of these ideas with any 3G smartphone. The SHIFTboston Future City Tour smartphone app is described as “an augmented reality tour,” which sounds very futuristic indeed. Using your phone, you can see submitted projects located in and around Fort Point Channel, an inlet of water that separates the Financial District and South Boston. Think of it as a personal presentation of the submissions, while you’re at the place where these ideas could become reality.

Fort Point Channel in Future City Layar App

Fort Point Channel in Future City Layar App

This is a very interesting premise and an attempt to solve the age-old problem of the onlookers’ disconnect between a project and its site. Fort Point Channel is in the process of becoming a socially activated space, and using this app is a decent excuse to walk around and experience it firsthand.

The app works like this: You use the camera on your phone like a filter to look at areas of the Channel, and these big black circles appear all over the screen. Each circle is a project that was submitted and is located in the approximate area that the project would be sited. Clicking on these circles brings up the people responsible for the project and about five words of a description, with—confusingly—no way to read the rest of it. Instead, one large rendered image is presented, with little explanation. The user is left to try and decipher what that image is supposed to be showing–and how exactly it’s sited in the Channel (two things the app is supposed to do for you). They are all very ambiguous projects, so this can be a difficult task. Unfortunately, about three out of four projects didn’t load anything but a 401-error page.

To this reviewer, the benefits of this application seem few and far between. It would be a good way to connect with the projects and the site, but that never really happens. Considering that all the projects can be downloaded and viewed in pdf format directly from the SHIFTboston website, people would be better off simply exploring the Channel on their own, rather than being led on the leash of technology.

Experience the future urbanity of Boston.

When wandering Boston’s waterfront, you have to cross busy streets and parking lots flooded with cars. The aggressive shift toward a more pedestrian-friendly edge condition has been discussed for years; however, until now, the renderings and imaginations of this new paradigm have been left hanging on the walls of architectural exhibits or affixed to your computer screen from a static vantage point.

Fort Point Channel in Future City Layar App

Fort Point Channel in Future City Layar App

SHIFTboston’s Future City Tour allows you to tear the renderings from the wall and take them in your hands, onsite. You have the new ability to physically walk around the Fort Point Channel and experience digitally how the area may evolve, in an exciting way that challenges personal design concepts. The mobile application demands a more active role of the viewer, further inviting criticism and participation. While holding the phone ahead of you, you walk the thin line between reality and fantasy, with the ability to flip back and forth in a glance. Real. Fantasy. Real.

The Meta Land is a great project to view through the Future City Tour app. A series of piles are arranged in the channel, creating a unique hydro park-like space with floating pathways for pedestrians to wonder through. It’s easy to imagine yourself standing on one of the pathways, surrounded by a field of piles, looking at the city skyline in the distance. It feels surreal.

Another example, Drift Boston (a series of island parks), challenges us to embrace the area’s relationship to water and shows boardwalks and a floating swimming pool. Using the app, it is easy to project yourself into the scene–and the desire for a unique area like that in the city immediately grows in your heart. Then, looking past the phone at the actual site, you are reminded of the lack of such rich urban spaces.

Future City Tour provides pedestrians with a reason to visit these waterfront areas and experience a unique city atmosphere, even if only in an augmented reality. More importantly, it offers hope for a new, more interactive waterfront.


Paving, Paving Everywhere. Not a Drop Will Sink.

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 5, 2010

Potential Green Alleys and Roofs in Boston's Back Bay

The Potential of Green Alleys

I recall standing in awe at the foot of Mount Whitney, the crown of the Sierra Nevada, watching clouds forming off the peaks of Whitney Portal. In the late afternoon sun, its sharp rock formations were analogous to a heat sink using evaporative cooling. Precipitation to the West eventually makes its way into the Pacific Ocean while, to the East, water culminates in the Great Basin. Imagine all the earth traversed, stones tumbled on riverbeds and the water’s slow weave through aquifers. And so, blinded by solar glare from snowy caps and desert browns, I followed the string of mountains, south, to Los Angeles.

Cities, marks of humanity stretching over the epidermis of a planet, are hard, impervious surfaces that disrupt the natural cycle. At the urban scale, in places like Los Angeles, we register notable changes in the microclimate as buildings and streets absorb sunlight throughout the day. They only begin to radiate stored heat into the night sky. Precipitation slips down buildings onto oily and grimy sidewalks and streets. Picking up speed, it seeps through grates, forced into complex stormwater drainage systems. It is then unloaded directly into major bodies of water. As a result, erosion and water contamination are prevalent. The groundwater table lowers and soil no longer slows down and filters out water contaminants.

Porous. Permeable. Pervious. Words that are finally percolating into urban centers as we explore solutions to problems like groundwater recharge and the urban heat-island effect (UHI). Groundwater recharge is the process of water migrating from the surface into the water table. UHI is an abnormal increase in air temperature compared to that of surrounding areas due to retention of heat by urban infrastructure such as buildings and roads.

Artificial drainage methods, once thought to be ideal, interrupt groundwater recharge that once contributed to a given microclimate’s evaporative cycle. The earliest of these—dating back to 3100 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization (now Pakistan and North India)—directed wastewater into drains beneath the civilization’s major streets. Ironically, this ancient system was more effective than many found in modern cities in the same region. Modern methods incorporate geotextiles and perforated plastic pipes into otherwise traditional pipe systems, improving the filtering of soil particles found in runoff.

Seattle's Street Edge Alternative

Seattle's Street Edge Alternative project. Click to enlarge.

However, we can reduce or completely eliminate the demand on stormwater systems through use of permeable paving and water-detention methods such as bioswales. With these, we mimic and reestablish the natural process of filtration and end up with cleaner groundwater.

The first of its kind in major U.S. cities—begun in 1999—Seattle’s Street Edge Alternative project exemplifies these methods. By reducing street widths and offering non-curbed sidewalks on one edge, the project reduces impervious surfaces by 18 percent while directing runoff into bioswales and back into the ground. Studies conducted by the University of Washington have shown that the design successfully reduced 98 percent of stormwater runoff during the wet season.

Chicago Green Alley Program

Chicago Green Alley Program. Click to enlarge.

In 2006, Chicago’s Department of Transportation, with its 1,900 miles of impermeable alleyways, spearheaded an effort to reactivate this neglected urban fabric through the Chicago Green Alley Program. The program implements recycled permeable paving, re-graded properly into detention areas through use of bioswales. Appropriately enough, paving consists of recycled concrete aggregate, slag, and tire rubber. (View the Chicago Green Alley Handbook.)

Los Angeles started its own Green Alley Program on 900 miles of alleys in late 2008, inspired by the work of Jennifer Wolch, a professor of geography and director of the Center for Sustainable Cities at the University of Southern California. Similarly, Green Garage of Detroit, an organization led by Tom and Peggy Brennan, began work on a 220-foot section of an alley that will eventually flow into the two-mile Midtown Greenway Project.

Boston Architectural College’s (BAC) Green Alley Project puts Boston on the map alongside other major cities. Don Hunsicker, head of the BAC’s School of Design Studies and the Green Alley project manager, explains why the BAC is pursuing this project. "The BAC is committed not only to teaching sustainable design practices to our students, but also to making our campus more sustainable. The Green Alley Project is one example of that commitment."

The BAC’s Green Alley, a demonstration project of modest proportion sited on the college’s backyard, improves a section of Alley #444, between Boylston Street and Newbury Street. Interestingly, the project’s roots reside on the roof of the main campus building located on 320 Newbury Street. Initial studies of a green roof design for student use and education led Pat Loheed, head of Landscape Architecture, to suggest incorporating a green alley as a holistic top-down approach to stormwater management. The Green Alley Project took off from there with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for Phase I.

Phase I of the project is scheduled to break ground sometime in spring/summer 2011 on 1,600 square feet of alley space abutting the college’s Boylston Street building. Phase II will take on the complexity of 3,600 square feet of the alley’s thoroughfare, coordinating with neighboring businesses as well as meeting the requirements of city agencies and organizations such as the Architectural Access Board, Public Improvements Commission, the Back Bay Architectural Commission, and the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay.

Boston Architectural College's Green Alley Project. Image by Jovan Tanasijevic.

Boston Architectural College's Green Alley Project. Image by Jovan Tanasijevic. Click to enlarge.

Improvements will be similar to those found in previous projects throughout the country—replacing the traditional use of asphalt and concrete with a four-foot deep layering of permeable surfaces. These will eventually mediate runoff from future green roofs, ultimately offsetting stormwater loads by replenishing the groundwater table directly. A monitoring well is also in place from which the Groundwater Trust can track changes as a result of these improvements. To showcase these methods and educate the community, informational components will be integrated into the project. The Green Alley and future green-roof projects reflect the BAC’s commitment to improving the future of Boston and its neighborhoods.

The benefits of using recycled permeable paving, with a high albedo (reflectivity), in conjunction with bioswales are numerous. Groundwater recharge is reestablished, cleaner water results, erosion and heat absorption are reduced, and construction and industrial waste find a new purpose. The long-term cost of installing and maintaining a permeable paving system is comparable to that of traditional stormwater drainage.

In concert, these methods have the potential to eliminate the load of stormwater on existing drainage systems while reducing UHI due to asphalt paving that interrupts the natural evapotranspiration cycle. If we reduce the heat stored by paving, we can carry the same effort onto vertical surfaces of buildings and their roofs. This ultimately lowers the peak demands for cooling buildings and reflects a more energy-conscious city plan.

The BAC’s Green Alley Project hopes to persuade us to take larger stock of our underutilized urban fabric, reimagining its purpose and value in the city’s fabric. If we apply this kind of thinking to areas such as alleys and large swaths of parking, we can create a more vibrant and useful resource for our community.

Jovan Tanasijevic

Tectonic Shift

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

The High Line, Manhattan.

By tackling some of the most daunting problems of the city, landscape architects are rising to new prominence.

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Elizabeth Padjen: The last time ArchitectureBoston devoted an entire issue to landscape architecture was in 2003; our roundtable discussion was titled “Burying Olmsted.” At that time, much of the buzz in the profession was focused on what might be called the artful landscape: landscape cum art installation. But the participants in that roundtable also mentioned Millennium Park in West Roxbury — where soil from the Big Dig was used to cap an old landfill — as an example of cutting-edge thinking about ecological landscapes, and they bemoaned the lack of attention such projects were receiving. It’s astonishing to see how the profession has changed in just seven years — not only in terms of the kinds of projects that are gaining wide recognition, but also in terms of a new focus and a new energy. Terms such as landscape urbanism, ecological urbanism, and agricultural urbanism are now commonplace and are even leaking into the public lexicon. One of our editorial board members recently stated, “Landscape is suddenly the most relevant player.” Let’s start by talking about this new excitement. Where does it come from?

David Gamble: More and more, the public recognizes the fragility of the environment — look at the recent floods in Nashville and the oil spill in the Gulf. Part of the landscape profession’s rise to the top is due to the general recognition by the public that landscapes are living organisms and that we need to think very carefully about how we inhabit our environment. This increase in consciousness has helped landscape architecture play a much larger role in the public’s eye than it might have otherwise.

Laura Solano: Landscape architects are especially skilled in understanding systems, and that’s why we are deeply involved in this search for an ecologically responsible life. It’s easy to say that this focus has suddenly boiled up, but in fact, it’s been a long time coming. Frederick Law Olmsted, in the 19th century, understood systems perfectly; his talents were multivalent: he was a civil engineer, a surveyor, and an author, as well as a landscape architect. In the early to mid-20th century, Jens Jensen and Aldo Leopold were writing about these issues, but there wasn’t an audience. And then Ian McHarg blew the doors open in 1969 by introducing the idea of ecological planning.

Wendi Goldsmith: Olmsted espoused the merit of Central Park long before other people ever imagined today’s development pressures. Yet he rallied people behind a vision and was very clear about doing it for reasons of air quality, exercise, civic interaction, and creating a shared space that would reinforce community. His design of Boston’s Emerald Necklace was intended to solve some very practical stormwater flooding management problems. Both projects place landscape architecture at the foundation of what we now call sustainable community design.

Shauna Gillies-Smith: The public has long understood that landscape architects work with living elements. But a recent and significant shift is that we are starting to realize that cities are also living organisms, so the systematic thinking that has been part of the landscape discipline is now being translated to new strategies for the urban condition as well.

Jill Desimini: And of course, landscape architects bring an understanding of people and the designed experience. That means they are skilled at making spaces that work for their inhabitants that also address the complexities of urban, ecological, and infrastructural systems.


Simcoe and Rees WaveDecks, Toronto.

Simcoe and Rees WaveDecks, Toronto, part of a series of three multifunctional public walkways along the waterfront. Designer: West 8 + DTAH. Photos © West 8 urban design & landscape architecture.

Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Elizabeth Padjen: The tectonic plates of the design professions seem to be shifting. I wonder if the rise of landscape architecture means that something has changed in the ligatures that tie the professions together or if it’s evidence of fundamental differences in the ways that the disciplines respond to the challenges of the world today.

David Gamble: It’s partly because of the vacuum created by the departure of the architects. Architects haven’t been thinking about larger-scale connections and about relationships to key topographic and environmental conditions or special places in cities in which the landscape is really what’s most valued. Landscape architects have found a way to take over much of that territory by engaging themselves directly in those issues.

Jill Desimini: We like to think of projects as functioning in many ways — socially, economically, environmentally — apart from how they look. Of course, many architects do, too. But, having been trained in both architecture and landscape architecture, I would say there is a real difference in the complexity of the landscape medium and the ways in which landscape architects think about how various systems might come together. A good example is the project by Stoss for the Lower Don River in Toronto. A traditional urban-design approach might have considered the river as an entity to be squeezed into an urban fabric. Instead, Stoss asked, What does this kind of river need in order to function? The designers weren’t trying to adapt it to the city fabric and then figure out how to deal with the flooding that comes later. The challenge became how to structure the city and the neighborhood around the river. If you give the river the kind of mouth that it needs, if you understand that you’ll have fluctuating water levels, then you start to think in terms of different types of land use and you can start to develop a set of performance criteria both for the river and for the neighborhood and open spaces. Various elements start to work on multiple levels but also together in a unified, sustainable whole.

Laura Solano: The example of designing for fluctuating water levels underscores an important distinction between architecture and landscape architecture, which is that architecture usually doesn’t have to deal with something that is inherent to landscape: change, which is the driver for all natural systems, for better or worse. The arc of time and change are fundamentally different factors in the landscape design process.

The emphasis in landscape urbanism should be on the urbanism. Jill Desimini

Shauna Gillies-Smith: Something that makes landscape architecture particularly resonant right now is its verb-like quality, in comparison with some earlier, more architecture-oriented urban models, like New Urbanism — all very intelligent, but really about organizing a city or town around a more static structure. Contemporary landscape architecture is much more interested in the systems and the forces and the flows, so it is a more active approach toward designing landscapes and urban systems. As we start to re-recognize that we are connected to the larger ecological world, we realize we need a model that can respond to an ever-changing world, not just one in crisis.

Wendi Goldsmith: I think that’s right. The whole green design movement started with a focus on energy systems within the building: insulation and the efficiency of HVAC systems. And then, bit by bit, it grew to include water use, glazing, building positioning, which then evolved into new ideas about things like light and lighting, water conservation and reuse, and integrating graywater management with building plumbing. Fairly quickly, sustainable design started to bleed into the landscape and to encompass infrastructure, including power generation, and people began to understand that it’s not just about the building and what goes on inside it: We need to look at what goes on outside, on site, and what goes on beyond the site. Now we’re thinking about buildings in relation to the grid, to watersheds, and to water supplies. What I am observing is a new relationship, maybe eventually a new field, where science and engineering and landscape design all merge. Our society is just beginning to recognize the value in such an approach.


The Connecticut Water Treatment Facility in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Connecticut Water Treatment Facility in New Haven, Connecticut, contributes to a larger ecological and open-space system. Steven Holl Architects. Photo by Paul Warchol.

Urban Design and Landscape Architecture

Shauna Gillies-Smith: Landscape typologies have evolved to a fair degree, and landscape architects today feel that they can take on a much larger territory than was their traditional purview: designs for entire regions or decommissioned airports or large post-industrial sites or whole infrastructure projects. That’s by necessity, because landscape systems don’t end at the property line. I always have a hard time making the distinction between landscape architecture and urban design, probably because I’ve been trained in both fields, but I think that is one area where they are different: It’s very hard to put a circle around what defines a landscape.

Elizabeth Padjen: Is the landscape architect encroaching on the traditional turf of the urban designer? Do you envision the end of urban design as a discipline, perhaps being absorbed by landscape architecture?

Shauna Gillies-Smith: That could be a very politically dangerous idea to agree or disagree with, depending on your perspective. Clearly, both disciplines will continue to evolve. I just finished teaching what turned out to be a very exciting studio. It was called an urban design project, but it addressed landscape, ecology, and environmental dynamics. The project site was on a floodplain with a daily tidal fluctuation of about six feet; we also projected an additional rising water level of six feet over 100 years. So the students had to think simultaneously about accommodating fluctuating water levels and about creating urbanism. Typically, when we think of zoning, we think of it in a horizontal way, or as vertical envelopes of height limits. But the most critical aspect of this project was the first 10 feet of the city. The challenge was to design that sectional relationship intelligently, to foster a vibrant urban life on a ground plain that must accommodate so much natural variation.

Architects haven’t been thinking about larger-scale connections and relationships to topographic and environmental conditions. Landscape architects have found a way to take over much of that territory. David Gamble AIA, AICP

David Gamble: The design professions in general have done themselves a disservice in trying to delineate distinct territories and in believing that a project needs to begin with the urban planner, then go to the urban designer, then the architect, then the landscape architect, and so on. That type of linear thinking is one reason why we haven’t been able to foster strong interdisciplinary collaborations. Major design competitions around the world now tend to be dominated by teams including very diverse disciplines, such as landscape architects, planners, economists, and historic preservation architects, because there is so much interdisciplinary discussion that needs to occur when you look at complex urban areas. I do think that the architecture profession today has much greater respect for a landscape architect’s sense of process than it did a generation ago. The work I’m doing in China now as an architect is entirely in the service of a landscape-architecture firm that is planning large regions of the country. It’s a scenario that stems in part from the client’s intuitive understanding of the nature of their ecosystems and the desire to work with their natural settings, which requires the landscape architect’s understanding of geography and place.

Laura Solano: And that’s not an unusual scenario anymore. Clients are unbelievably sophisticated now, and they do their homework in terms of the composition of the teams they hire. In my office, we are the prime for about 80 percent of our work, big and small. Many of our teams have 12 or 15 consultants, often representing narrow areas of expertise: planners, architects, historians, ecologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, and biologists. Strong collaborations offer tremendous educational opportunities.


Teardrop Park at Battery Park City, Manhattan.

Teardrop Park at Battery Park City, Manhattan, incorporates organic soils and uses graywater and stormwater for irrigation. Landscape architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Photo by Paul Warchol.

Landscape Urbanism

Elizabeth Padjen: Landscape urbanism is at least partly responsible for the profession’s new energy. What exactly does it mean?

Laura Solano: Charles Waldheim, who is now the chair of the department of landscape architecture at Harvard, coined the term. He has said: “Landscape urbanism describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway, in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism.”

Elizabeth Padjen: That’s a shot across the bow. What are some examples?

Jill Desimini: I’d like to respond first by saying that at the core of landscape urbanism is the idea that looking at, understanding, and designing urban processes will lead to making a new kind of city that is capable both of self-regenerating and of changing the way we experience the place we live. The emphasis in landscape urbanism should be on the urbanism. With that in mind, I would point to Toronto, which has hired a number of landscape architects as leads for very big projects that are changing that city, especially the waterfront. These include West 8’s reconfiguration of the central waterfront, work by Field Operations on Lake Ontario Park, and the design by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for the Lower Don Lands as a new metropolitan precinct. Landscape architects are also working on large projects in other cities. New York’s Freshkills Park project — the transformation of 2,200 acres of landfill on Staten Island into a new public park and urban habitat by Field Operations — is another example of an innovative approach to revitalizing and repurposing a piece of the urban fabric. The key now is to focus even more on the design of the city itself. Landscape urbanism positions landscape and landscape methods as a driver for urban infrastructural change.

David Gamble: Part of the momentum also comes from the shifting economics of cities. More and more cities over the last generation have been looking to old industrial sites or waterfronts as places to grow; large parks become the catalysts that drive economic redevelopment.

Elizabeth Padjen: But the idea of landscape, particularly in the form of public parks and open spaces, as a catalyst for development isn’t new. You can even find it codified in the 16th-century Spanish Laws of the Indies that was the basis for town planning in the Spanish colonies: put the square in the middle of the town and build out around it. What’s different?

Shauna Gillies-Smith: Landscape urbanism takes another approach — more profound in some ways — and looks at a larger force, a river, for example, as a generator of urban form and urban typology.

Jill Desimini: David is right that many cities are revitalizing industrial sites, and a lot of them are on waterfronts and thus have an ecological component. The difference is that landscape urbanism starts with looking at these sites in terms of the environmental systems that can serve as generators for the project.

Laura Solano: It’s about healing: taking derelict or brownfield sites and making them useful. We take a piece of land that nobody cares about any more, and turn it into something that people can identify as a place that has personal meaning and community value.

Shauna Gillies-Smith: I think it’s important to not conflate landscape and parks. It’s true that the idea of building a public park that is a catalyst for development is an old trick. But only part of landscape is parks. Part of it is plazas. Part of it is open space. And part of it is the system of stormwater management that gets built into our streets, into our yards, into our housing units. What is exciting about landscape urbanism is that it can define new types of space that not only accommodate ecological systems, but also define ways that we as individuals can relate to landscape and to ourselves in different ways.

Wendi Goldsmith: Not long ago, the words “landscape urbanism” would have sounded like an oxymoron. We worked on a project recently with Laura’s firm and with the architect Steve Holl that is a perfect example of this change in thinking. This project involves brownfields restoration, a large public-works facility including a major green-roof project, the preservation of some public open space, and programming that includes a significant public education and events component — all while making very tangible contributions to natural habitats in the south-central Connecticut region. It completely merges architecture and engineering and landscape architecture. I can’t think of any earlier examples in the US with the same level of interdisciplinary entanglement. The hydrology of the site accommodates these major functional components, but reverts the site back to its pre-development “water budget” in terms of its hydrological performance. So there’s this incredible melding of function and beauty and education that also transforms a stigmatized landscape into something that sets the stage for a new pattern of development in the region.


The Schools

David Gamble: A number of design schools have been very strategic about raising the profile of landscape architecture within the school, which is reverberating within the field itself. More landscape-architecture programs are opening up, in part because some leaders in the profession are finding ways to excite a new generation of students who want to shape the physical environment. They’re raising the profile of the profession from within the academic community.

Elizabeth Padjen: Conversely, the schools must also be responding to a market interest.

Shauna Gillies-Smith: All of us who are in academia know that it’s the students who are really driving the sustainability agenda. No question about it. And that generation’s interest in the environment is one of the really big pushes behind recognizing, first of all, that our world isn’t static and, second, that we need to find a different way of working with it instead of against it.

Laura Solano: One of my students gave a presentation on a recent project in Korea that turned 600 acres of landfill into a park. The park ended up as a reflection of the trash pile: it was essentially a pyramid with the top cut off. This student’s discussion centered around what might have happened instead if a landscape architect had been involved from the beginning: there would have been a grading plan for placing trash, there would have been systems to promote decomposition, and the nearby wetlands would have been engineered to support a river watershed. These kinds of issues capture the attention of students; they know that there are huge problems to solve, and they know the answers lie in innovation.


Rose Kennedy Greenway

Elizabeth Padjen: Let’s say that, instead of having just been completed, the Greenway project is just now in the concept phase and the initial planning has been undertaken by a team of landscape urbanists. What are some of the substantive changes we’d be seeing?

Shauna Gillies-Smith: One obvious answer is that there would be a very clear, probably somewhat artful but potentially also didactic, approach to stormwater, so that one would actually see how water is moved and treated. We would probably also see some form of urban agriculture — not necessarily community gardens, but perhaps some form of urban foraging.

David Gamble: I suspect that the engineering for the tunnels would be done in the service of a much larger vision of connectivity and continuity. Whatever you think about whether or not there should be development along the Greenway, there is still a very painful sense that it is not as robust in its role as it should be.

It is important to recognize the significance of the constructed landscape. Most people think of landscape as the backyard garden or the national parks. Shauna Gillies-Smith ASLA

Jill Desimini: It could perform in so many different ways. It could even have a greater social or economic agenda. Right now, it’s very neutral, and there’s nothing very neutral about a landscape-urbanist vision.

Shauna Gillies-Smith: Thinking of it as a landscape in isolation — what you would do to decorate the top of the tunnel — is fundamentally not a landscape-urbanist approach. Thinking of the whole tunnel and the buildings along each edge in conjunction with the landscape, ecology, and the social program is much more appropriate to a landscape-urbanist approach.

Laura Solano: There have been so many disastrous tries at linking architecture and landscape along the Greenway; it suffers for a lack of integration. But I’m convinced that, over time, it’s going to be redone, because we know it’s not right. The Greenway Conservancy is doing some useful and valuable things, like organic maintenance and developing a tree farm to supply trees for the Greenway, but management can’t fix the things that are inherently wrong with it.

Wendi Goldsmith: This is a case where some of the most important concerns were put last on the list. Lots of people other than landscape architects, let alone landscape urbanists, were calling the shots. And so, many other aspects of the project crystallized before there was actually anything resembling a final program for how the Greenway would operate, or how it would look and function.

David Gamble: The Greenway has served a purpose of sorts. All across the country, cities are facing similar problems of deteriorating highways and infrastructure and are recognizing the value of trying, even at a smaller scale, to take advantage of new opportunities to reconnect their cities. Other cities will learn some lessons from what happened in Boston and try to do it in a more synthetic way.

Elizabeth Padjen: If we were to re-do the Greenway now, I suspect we would keep part of the superstructure of the old Artery and rework it as an artifact or walkway.

Laura Solano: I agree with you. There was something sublime about driving up over the city streets.

Shauna Gillies-Smith: That sublime quality is one of the appeals of New York’s High Line, along with a nostalgia for the big old industrial superstructure as you’re floating through the city. And the elements are beautiful: the furniture is beautiful, the planking is clever and smart, and the planting is rich and a strong contrast to the more controlled environment. There’s no question that the High Line would have influenced thinking about the opportunities for the Greenway.


Burying Olmsted, Again

Shauna Gillies-Smith: I want to re-visit the idea of burying Olmsted, because it is important to recognize the significance of the constructed landscape. Part of the interest for me in the High Line isn’t so much the aesthetic of it, although it’s an amazing place, but that it calls into question what landscape is, and it calls into question the naturalization of landscape. When most people think of landscape, they usually think of the backyard garden or the national-park backgrounds in TV ads for SUVs. But by recognizing that what we are creating in both our green spaces and our hard spaces is a constructed landscape, we are held to a different standard. Our roads are landscape: they are designed landscapes. Our sidewalks, our traffic medians, our rooftops are designed landscapes. We learn to ignore them. But there is a lot of economic and design investment in all of those elements. The importance of burying Olmsted is that we need to recognize that our landscape is completely constructed, and that consequently, both our landscape and our work as designers must be held accountable.

Top: The High Line, the transformation of a 1.45-mile-long elevated freight rail line into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Designers: Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Photo by M. Altamura.

Design Biennial Boston 2010

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Allandale House by William O’Brien Jr.

pinkcomma gallery, Boston—April 30–June 10, 2010

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Mark Pasnik and Chris Grimley are two men on a mission. As the directors of pinkcomma gallery and self-proclaimed guides to Boston’s “design underground,” they are dedicated to showcasing a new generation of talented architects and designers in the city. In more than a dozen small and provocative shows since the gallery’s opening in 2007, they have demonstrated that the design culture of Boston is vibrant and energized beyond the walls of the area architecture schools.

Their ambitious and most recent initiative is the first Design Biennial, curated with Michael Kubo, featuring a juried selection of five emerging practices. Highlights of the exhibition include the serenely beautiful geometric study of an A-frame house by William O’Brien Jr., a spatially and materially ingenious back-lot house by Touloukian Touloukian, and a playful proposal to “graft” a community center onto the roof of a supermarket by Carla Ceruzzi and Ryan Murphy of C&MP. Dan Hisel’s Heavy/Light House makes visible the poetic potential of abandoned infrastructure and Gretchen Schneider’s “Making Time Visible” project, which draws the footprint of Scollay Square onto City Hall Plaza, creates a simultaneous understanding of past and present city structure.

A snapshot of the preoccupations of this generation of Boston architects at this moment in time reveals an interest in “smart design” enabled by digital technology, an innovative exploration of craft and the sensual and tactile qualities of building, and a reflection on history concurrent with an enthusiasm for the future. The exhibition presents images from different architects side-by-side, making it difficult to grasp a coherent view of each author’s work. But the pleasure of unexpected visual connections between projects is worth the experiment, as is the introduction of a welcome new event on the city’s design calendar.

Above: Allandale House by William O’Brien Jr.

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Directed by Wendy Keys, DVD (73 minutes), New Video Group, 2010

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Milton Glaser: To Inform and DelightThis aptly titled documentary offers a portrait of one of the most revered graphic designers of our time. Who hasn’t seen Milton’s “I ♥ NY” campaign or his iconic Dylan poster? As a co-founder of Push Pin Studios in 1954, Glaser, along with his cohorts, provided a truly American counter-point to the prevailing Swiss design ethos by incorporating idea-based illustration into publishing and branding projects.

Clever, articulate, and charming, Glaser is the movie’s greatest asset, and director Wendy Keys doesn’t skimp on his colorful commentary and anecdotes from his 60-year career as a thinking artist, designer, teacher, mentor, and New Yorker. At the heart of Glaser’s appeal is his love of drawing, employed in both his commercial work and fine-art projects.

While the strait-laced moviemaking may not adequately reflect the creativity of Glaser’s impressive output, it’s near-impossible not to be won over by his love and respect for his chosen profession, which is amply returned: Everyone ♥s Milton.

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Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Buffalo, by Keith Johnson

Photographs by Keith Johnson

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It’s almost a cliché: a landscape takes time. The knowledge that their work may take years, even decades, after construction to fully realize their design intention puts landscape architects on a sort of moral high-ground. Such patience! Such determination! Such delayed gratification! The rest of us feel slightly shamed in the face of such worthiness. Impatience is a common vice.

Recent photographs by Keith Johnson, however, offer a new understanding of landscapes: they have an intermediate life, a larval stage, when they in fact behave as landscapes even though they have not yet assumed their final form. These are the landscapes of process and construction, their materials — hydroseed, sod rolls, hay bales, geotextiles — as familiar as rhododendrons and cobblestones.

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The photographs were made between 2003 and 2008, part of a body of work that Johnson describes as examining “the ways we claim, construct, create, and recreate space in the pursuit of development.” These, too, are designed sites, although their aesthetics are most often determined by some anonymous hand, with results that are often, in Johnson’s words, “marvelously goofy.” Who chose the aqua and teal hues of hydroseed — and did they imagine we would mistake it for natural groundcover? Who designed the ubiquitous orange oval-mesh fencing, thus ensuring that the spirit of 1970s supergraphics would never die?

This suggests a new middle ground, so to speak. In the past two decades, landscape architects have begun to address “everyday” landscapes, claiming parking lots and median strips as extensions of their professional realm. But the temporary landscape of process — a mere blink of an eye in the lifespan of a project, but an eternity in the collective banality of everyday places — has received little attention. It’s a whole new land of opportunity.

Site Work: more thoughts on Turf

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Websites of note

The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Promoting public understanding of significant American landscapes, this robust site includes multimedia tours through significant civic parks and Modern gardens, a photo database of at-risk, lost, and preserved landscapes, and a growing collection of interviews with influential practitioners like Lawrence Halprin and Boston’s own Carol R. Johnson.

Landscape + Urbanism. A one-stop shop for the urban-landscape thing, this active blog includes it all: “landscape architecture, sustainable urbanism, vegetated architecture, urban agriculture, living walls, green roofs, ecological planning, and landscape urbanism theory.”

Landscape Urbanism Bullshit Generator. Want to sound smart at that next cocktail party? Facing a loss of words to describe your amazing design during your upcoming studio critique? Wish you knew the turn of phrase to make your “talk-itecture” jargon sound authentic? This simple, easy-to-use site’s got you covered. No pricey design education necessary.

City Farmer News. For 32 years, City Farmer has encouraged city dwellers to create their own productive landscape. With posts including stories from Vancouver, Phoenix, Tokyo, and Chandigarh as well as tips like how to use worms in your compost, this extensive site takes the “think globally, act locally” mantra to an entirely new dimension.

Waterfront Toronto. The poster child for landscape urbanism, Toronto also shows us how a municipal development website should be done. Waterfront Toronto provides design proposals and construction updates, maps, history, and more — making public process look like fun.

City Parks Blog. Coming from the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence and the City Parks Alliance, this blog covers issues from crime and safety to economics, green infrastructure, and health. Staff from both organizations regularly post on the site, creating a rich information database and offering links to other blogs.

Urban Landscapes. Urban landscape photography from around the world: settle in for a global tour.

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Studying Landscape Architecture In New England

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

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It’s a growing discipline, so to speak. Applications are up. Course offerings have exploded. A number of new programs have recently launched, or are about to. Is this just a fad, or is something more significant taking hold?

Sustainability, global warming, amplified environmental awareness — contemporary concerns may be prompting this increase, along with the building industry’s rising attention to a structure’s larger environment. In education as in the profession, landscape architecture is embracing the entire built world.

As in architecture, landscape architects in the US must hold a professional degree — a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) — from an accredited institution before taking registration exams. Many of these schools are consciously reconsidering what it means to educate landscape architects today, and retooling their programs dramatically.

In addition to the professional degree programs, there are many routes to serious study, including undergraduate liberal-arts minors, pre-professional programs, post-professional programs, and adult-ed night classes. Even institutions that don’t offer landscape “programs” — such as MIT, Wentworth, Mass College of Art and Design, and Connecticut College — are offering new landscape classes as well as expanded interdisciplinary courses on related topics like environmental justice or public horticulture.

It’s a lively time to be in school.

1900—Harvard Graduate School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture

Charles Waldheim, chair

Degree: MLA

Harvard, the first institution to approach landscape architecture as an academic discipline, is still examining “design at the intersection of urbanization, environment, and contemporary culture,” with a strong new focus on landscape urbanism.

1903—University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning

Elizabeth Brabec, department head

Degrees: BSLA; MLA

UMass, with its long attention to “sustainable communities” and “protection of the land and natural resources,” now includes environmental justice, cultural accessibility and significant outreach initiatives in Holyoke and Springfield.

1942—Rhode Island School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture

Mikyoung Kim, department head

Degree: MLA

Characterizing landscape architecture as a creative discipline bridging nature and culture, RISD emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and design across scales, from watersheds to material details.

1968 (began at Radcliffe College), 2002 (moved to Arnold Arboretum), 2009 (new affiliation with the BAC)—The Landscape Institute at the Boston Architectural College

Heather Heimarck, director

Certificates offered in landscape design, landscape preservation, landscape design history, and planting design. Through courses, workshops, and certificate programs, the Landscape Institute “stimulates creative design and stewardship,” and is soon to be expanded online.

1972Conway School of Landscape Design

Paul Cawood Hellmund, director

Degree: MA in Landscape Design

Conway is a 10-month, full-time, non-professional graduate program for those interested in “ecologically and socially sustainable design of the land.”

1985—University of Rhode Island, College of the Environment and Life Sciences Landscape Architecture Program

Will Green, director

Degree: BLA

URI emphasizes sustainable communities, materials, and practices, along with a growing attention toward the developing world.

1998—University of Connecticut, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Mary Musgrave, head

Degrees: BSLA; MLA

Though recently accredited, UConn has offered landscape design and planning courses for many years, grounded in a department with a 130-year history of plant science and horticulture.

2001—Smith College, Landscape Studies

Ann Leone, director

Degree: BA with LSS minor

The first of its kind at a liberal-arts college, Smith’s interdisciplinary Landscape Studies minor draws from art, engineering, the humanities, and the sciences “to investigate… how we shape our world.”

2010—Boston Architectural College, School of Landscape Architecture

Kevin Benham, head

Degrees: BLA; MLA (beginning fall 2010)

Though the BAC has long offered landscape courses, the new accredited professional degree programs focus on “research and education in the context of Boston and its surrounding areas” and follow its tradition of work/study education.

2011—Northeastern University, School of Architecture

George Thrush, director

Degree (anticipated): BLA

Beginning in September 2011, Northeastern’s new “urban landscape” program strategically creates curricular, research, and faculty overlaps with architecture — perhaps the first new program to be based on the principles of landscape urbanism.

The Vespa

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

The Vespa

Other Voices

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It was a typical autumn morning in London. The sky was pewter grey and the air heavy with the expectation of rain. The only sounds I could hear on the narrow residential street were in keeping with its demure Victorian brick terraces: front doors thudding shut; purposeful footsteps of men and women on their way to work; the “slick slick slick” of bicycle wheels moving along the damp tarmac. All was in its rightful place until, from behind me, the buzz of a Vespa scooter toppled my aural order. A Vespa scooter! For one glorious second, I was in Rome with its ochre-colored palazzos, dark cobblestoned streets, and fierce sunshine. Then, as the buzz trailed off into the distance, I remembered that scooter sales had recently exploded in London, a consequence of the exemption of two-wheeled vehicles from the city’s hefty congestion charge. “Mental note to self,” I thought, “erase Italian connotations of scooter noises. The Vespa is now just as much part of London’s soundscape as it is of Rome’s.”

You could call me, I suppose, a “sound hound,” a “collector of audio.” It’s a professional hazard when you work in radio. When I arrive at an interview location, I walk my ears around the place to identify what sounds I might record to give my listeners a sense of being there with me, to transport them out of their cars and kitchens to, for instance, Rome. Vespas, I realized that autumn morning, no longer work in the shorthand way they used to, at least for London listeners.

Hearing is the first sense we acquire as human beings — before even coming out of the womb. Hearing is also, we’re told, the last sense we lose before dying. Sound envelopes us every minute of our lives. There are individual sounds — the ring of a bell, for instance — so iconic that only a few seconds suffice for our brains to flash an image of the place that ring was from, whether a school, church, or door.

Cities are a cacophony of sounds — cars, horns, voices, footsteps. Recording the aural cityscape is a challenge. How can one convey without using words the intimidation caused by the Stalinist buildings of Minsk, the pandemonium of a Manila shantytown or (and this is perhaps most challenging) the modern humdrum of a bureaucratic city like Brussels? My own moment of revelation came at the National Gallery in London. Not because of any painting, but thanks to the variety of its floor surfaces. The soles of my feet still remember the sensation of moving from parquet to marble to carpet. But my ears remember, too. Voices, footsteps, the London buses outside the window — each reverberated differently depending on the floor material. Does a given soundscape, I wonder, affect our artistic appreciation?

Hearing a place is a visceral experience: it is something we can all relate to without thinking why. Recording a person interacting with a space by talking in it and walking through it creates sounds that paint a vivid picture in the mind of a listener. Consider the following radio sequence of just one minute from a documentary about land reform gone wrong in South Africa. The reporter walks into a ruined farmhouse. She describes what she sees and as she does, her voice bounces off the bare walls and her feet scrape against the rubble inside the house. She walks out of the house, and the echo is replaced by the deadened sound of an abandoned garden where she wades through brittle breaking leaves where there were once flowers and vegetable beds.

We share our streets and squares; we share their sound, too. Or perhaps more accurately, most of us still share their sound. Technology, the iPod being just one example, is already changing our relationship with the soundscape. It is a bittersweet irony that the very medium that proselytizes a community of listeners is experiencing a renaissance thanks to devices that shut people off from the sounds of their own cities.

Photo by Morten Rustad.

Let Them Eat Kale

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Murs à pêches in Montreuil, Seine St. Denis, France.

The growing interest in urban agriculture means we need to think about the city in a whole new way.

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The media moment is lasting. First ladies and queens — Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and “Queen of Cuisine” Alice Waters — have endorsed kitchen and allotment gardens for their nutritional and educational values. The New York Times and Financial Times regularly report on urban agriculture, “edible schoolyards,” foraging, and gleaning. Organizations such as Growing Power in Milwaukee hold on to the limelight, its founder Will Allen knighted with a MacArthur (“Genius Award”) Fellowship, and its greenhouses, composting facilities, job program, and tilapia tanks duly documented in videos and articles. The business world has taken notice too: New Urbanist Andrés Duany states that “agriculture is the new golf,” and a financier aims to convert 20,000 acres of Detroit’s vacant land into farmland. Whether as shorthand for sustainable land use or a loophole to acquire land inexpensively, urban agriculture and the associated idea of “the productive landscape” are central to the current discourse on the quality of life in and around cities.

Urban agriculture is about not only food, but also sustainability, health, social justice, and money. It can mean many things to many people. Hydroponic skyscrapers in cities like New York promise a bounty of tomatoes within easy reach of office workers. Strategic interventions within so-called shrinking cities such as Detroit and St. Louis seek to revalue urban land while bringing fresh produce to “food deserts” — neighborhoods without access to grocery stores offering fresh produce. Suburban developments advertise the inclusion of agricultural land as a conservation measure, a means to guarantee “safe” local food, and to satisfy our longing for a pre-agribusiness countryside. In cities like Kampala, Uganda, and Rosario, Argentina, urban agriculture is part of a participatory design process that integrates housing programs. Given this diversity of meanings and applications, urban agriculture begs for a site-specific and scale-specific nomenclature. It is a feel-good concept in need of a critical framework.

Murs à pêches in Montreuil, Seine St. Denis, France.The interrelationship of city and food, both in production and consumption, has a long history. The Mesopotamian city of Uruk, founded in 3500 BCE, relied on a system of flood protection and irrigation to yield dates, legumes, and grains to support its population. Versailles offers a more recent example, and one still visible today. There, Louis XIV expressed his integrated vision of garden design, urbanism, and food production. To the south of the château, the king’s kitchen garden, or potager du roi, featured 22 acres of ornamental vegetable beds and walled orchards. Just as spatially compelling were the murs à pêches (peach walls) of Montreuil, at the opposite end of Paris, whose now barely productive traces bear witness to their mark on the collective memory. Though somewhat of a cliché, the inextricable ties between culture and cultivation — semantically and conceptually — can be witnessed across societies from the floating gardens of Xochimilco’s chinampas, near Mexico City, to the hortillonages of Amiens, in France.

As the city displaced food production from its center, the relationship between living, working, and eating became more abstract. Landscape architecture was not central to early 20th-century architectural debates, yet a number of planners and designers sought to redress urbanization and crowded cities with a productive landscape system. German garden designer Leberecht Migge’s polemics were a call to arms for food self-sufficiency. Migge promoted an integrated housing-garden unit where greenhouses, vegetable beds, walls, and pergolas spatially extended the minimum dwelling and supplemented the family diet with a carefully calibrated output of foodstuff. Three decades later, Danish landscape architect C.Th. Sørensen took a more emotional and more modest stance. Based on his observation that apartment dwellers had lost their primordial relationship to the ground, his 1948 design for the Naerum allotment gardens created a dreamlike landscape that would reconnect man with the medium of dirt. The garden ovals cascade down the slope, their hedges allowing for a multitude of cultivation endeavors, both communally and privately.

The argument for self-sufficiency embodied in the allotment garden and community garden rested on an economic and moral rationale. The penury of war, the pressure of oil dependency, and economic recession have periodically prompted a yearning for food security and proper nutrition, and/or employment. To some, the current surge in urban agriculture projects reflects a phase as temporary as the World War II victory gardens, the UK’s Women’s Land Army (which put women to work on farms during World War I and II), and the 1970s’ embrace of organic gardening, do-it-yourself structures, and Whole Earth Catalog. Others contend that the new urban farmer represents a more enduring commitment to social justice and better nutrition in a better environment. Urban agriculture is in fact the product of both a top-down revolution and grassroot movements. The somewhat elitist desire to transform the relationship of Americans to food, the nostalgic collective memory of Jeffersonian agricultural ideals, the myth of old Europe, and the preservation of landscape through agritourism are all gathered in today’s “delicious revolution” and “slow food” movement. Conversely, urban agriculture rests on models tested in the developing world. The informal, opportunistic, impromptu, yet essential gardens and plots in the cities of Latin America and Africa contribute a large percentage of the local food supply. Likewise, the community gardens of West Philadelphia are crucial in strengthening the economic base, as well as the physical and mental health and cultural identity of the community.

Just as microloans have attracted global banks, urban farming and growing food as a means to ensure physical, mental, and ultimately economic health have come to the attention of the business world. Venture capitalist Woody Tesch put food economics and local production at the center of his 2008 book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, thus bringing attention to the Slow Money movement and the “nurture-capital” industry.

Recently, corporations have returned to the production of food as part of their operating structure. In a trend reminiscent of the paternalism of company towns, corporations such as Pepsico and Google have introduced company gardens to the workplace: employees, or sometimes corporate departments, are given access to on-site vegetable plots in order to boost morale, develop team spirit, improve employee health and well-being, support food banks, or even to improve cafeteria fare. (Response varies and is perhaps best described as mitigated enthusiasm.) On a larger and supposedly more public scale, the 20,000-acre Hantz Farms in Detroit promises to “rejuvenate [the] city by returning to its agrarian roots … and putting property back on the city tax rolls.” A commercial venture, it will use conventional methods to grow crops that include Christmas trees. Advertised as a win-win proposition, this “plantation” has already raised the specter of land-grab among community activists, given the critical importance of land tenure in urban agriculture.

The contemporary enthusiasm for urban agriculture presents a paradox: zoning regulation, olfactory and sound control, and moral opprobrium have erased almost all traces of food production within most Western cities. This contradiction reveals the difficulty of integrating agriculture into urban systems and the need for landscape architects, planners, and community activists to tackle policy. The perception of urban agriculture as a temporary land use for disenfranchised inner-city populations is also likely to hinder its potential to form a new type of open space.

It would be well worth reevaluating the mid-20th-century division between ornamental and productive landscapes, from an educational as well as an economic standpoint. As heirs to both agricultural and urbanism traditions, landscape architects are uniquely situated to bring the aesthetics of “third nature” (the garden) back into a new urban “second nature” (the farm). Productive open space will gain acceptance as an essential component of sustainable urbanism through highly visible pilot projects. The inclusion of an urban farm in Harvard University’s plan for a new campus across the Charles River would have performed such a role, had construction not been halted. The proposed Allston campus offered an ecological, spatial, and social laboratory to test ideas about urban agriculture. The interconnection of a productive and didactic landscape and urban spaces would have demonstrated Harvard’s commitment to sustainability and progressive development and taken landscape architecture and urbanism in a new direction.

But other opportunities are emerging. The 2009 proposal by Michel Desvigne and Jean Nouvel for “Grand Paris” carries implications for the redefinition of the suburban-rural interface. The periphery of Paris offers the opportunity to develop a new type of productive landscape, one performing simultaneously as an open-space system for the hyper-individualistic suburban tracts and as a test plot for the agricultural belt that lies beyond. Desvigne describes the 500-mile joint of varying width as a lisière — a term for a forest edge or a seam. Traces of a long-gone farming landscape — hedges, ditches, thickets, and paths — and an infrastructure of greenhouses, allotment gardens, recycling, energy production, composting, and sports fields organize this seam. Strictly codified, it is a terrain for exchange and experimentation, a means to make the landscape accessible to all users. In this scenario, planned indeterminacy hems the suburbanization of the countryside and allows agriculture to reenter the urban environment.

In such theoretical scenarios, urban agriculture offers the potential to recalibrate the social, economic, and spatial balance. It is the designer’s role to underscore the importance of urban agriculture as a designed open space with wide-ranging implications. And it is the politician and planner’s role to acknowledge it as a new landscape system, one that is aesthetic, productive, and sustainable.

Above: The thermal mass of the murs à pêches (peach walls) in Montreuil, Seine St. Denis, France, created protected environments for espaliered peach trees, typically grown in more moderate climates. First constructed in the 17th century, the walls remain in one small district (center and upper right of photo) of the modern city outside Paris, once famous for its peaches. Satellite image (top) by TerraServer; circa 1930 aerial photo courtesy

Correction: The location of the headquarters of Growing Power has been changed to Milwaukee.