The winner of the Competition to Design a House Under the Hollywood Sign: Ambivalent House, experimental residential design. Image: Hirsuta (Jason Payne, Michael Zimmerman, Joseph Giampietro, Ryosuke Imaeda); Los Angeles, California, USA

Hollywood: The Last House on Mulholland Winners Announced: “Arch Out Loud has partnered with Last House on Mulholland (LHOM) to host the HOLLYWOOD design competition. The competition asks participants to design a house of the future which demonstrates the use of innovative technology, integrative environmental strategies, and capitalizes on the iconic prominence of its site beneath the famed Hollywood sign. The competition serves as a design charette generating ideas about the potential for what the site could become and how it can inspire the future of residential design.” And the winners are…

LADWP to Begin Refilling Silver Lake Reservoir: “Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) officials confirmed today that surplus water from the above average snowpack runoff water from the Eastern Sierra region will be made available to refill Silver Lake Reservoir ahead of schedule. Utilizing this water source, the refill of Silver Lake Reservoir will begin in mid-April and take approximately two months. This option replaces the originally planned -May refill of the reservoir using local water resources that would have taken approximately 12 months.”

Another reservoir overflows as Northern California receives more rain: The milestones marking California’s wettest year in decades continued to pile up Thursday, as state water officials said a reservoir high up in the Sierra Nevada has exceeded capacity for the first time in 21 years.

Cornfield Park in Chinatown reopening in April after $20M renovation: “It’s finally happening: An official date for the reopening of Los Angeles State Historic Park has been set. The park, nicknamed Cornfield Park, has been closed for about three years for a transformative, $20-million renovation project to expand the grounds and add a host of new amenities.”

Architecture Enters the Age of Post-Digital Drawing: “The return of the architectural drawing in the digital age is a reinvigoration of the tradition of drawing, but its techniques, tools, and media make it fundamentally new, too. A screen is not only technically different from a page but conceptually different as well.”

All photos by Katherine Montgomery.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park has become an immensely popular destination of late, and this past weekend I joined my fellow Southern Californians to witness the super bloom in full effect.  As I drove into the park from the west, winding down into the Borrego Valley from the Cleveland National Forest, the landscape changed dramatically from oaks, white salvia, and ceanothus to low scrub and tall ocotillo branches tipped with red flower buds.  The scent of creosote and the blast of heat through the open windows were signs that we’d transitioned to a very different landscape.

The proximity of two very distinct biomes – noted by the quick change in temperature, elevation, smells, and colors – is one of the unique features of California.

The desert flowers were everywhere, and plant species and patterns varied with the geography of the valley.  Hillsides were mostly spotted with yellow Encelia and valleys were filled with orange desert poppies.  The evidence of water – a weaving of dry washes and vegetation across the desert floor – could be seen from the road above. It wasn’t until we got out of the car at Plum Canyon that we could grasp the diversity of plants.  The washes were full of color from lupines, phacelia, chuparosa, lilies, and primroses.

The desert blooms every year, but this year was exceptionally lush due to the record amount of rain this past winter.  Patterns of drought and wetter years are part of the California climate, although climate change is making those patterns less predictable and/or more extreme.  Ecosystems wax and wane with these fluctuations, and this year’s explosion of flowers means more than just a pretty display of color. An entire ecosystem is set into motion by the abundant rain.

Looking closer at the flowers, I noticed a large number of fat caterpillars with a single horn eating away at the juicy stems.  These were Hyles lineata – larvae of the well-known White-Lined Sphinx Moth aka Hummingbird Moth that hovers over flowers and is often mistaken for its namesake bird. Population explosions coincide with years of large desert blooms, and the bounty moves up the food chain to birds, amphibians, and mammals.  Owls, lizards, and bats feed on these caterpillars.  Swainson’s Hawks are currently flocking to the valley in record numbers to gorge on them.

If they survive the larval stage, H. lineata pupate underground before emerging as moths. They are key pollinators for local plants. Their long proboscis, or tongue, is necessary to reach the nectar of the desert primrose. They are one of the only pollinators of the rare lemon lily.  Sphinx moths are very common, but with a wingspan of up to 5 inches, seeing one always feels special.

The ephemeral desert bloom will soon morph into seasonal dormancy and harsh summer conditions. The moths will be metamorphosing underground and the Swainson’s Hawks will continue their migration to Canada. This weekend may be your last chance to see the desert bloom at its peak.  If you go, be sure to take a minute to absorb the bustling ecosystem around you.

If you’re like me – and I figure most people in 2017 are – you listen to music while walking, running, ride sharing, or driving through the landscape. Music has the power to express complex emotional and spiritual concepts, teleporting the mind to a certain time and place, or even bring about an altered state.

Beyond its role in audio-visual bias in spatial perception, your earbuds and track 13 on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album can heavily influence experience and emotions, or even spiritually connect to your surroundings.
This augmented experience becomes landscape around you.

When I think of the tie between music and landscape, or music and nature, I think of a few examples of music augmenting the landscape. An artist can teleport you to a certain setting. An artist can reify a natural landscape’s unpredictability or ominous scale. Music can explain concepts within nature that are too broad for our consumption. Music can mimic nature. An artist can capture and isolate parts of nature.

That is a lot to think about!

Before we get into it let’s get some definitions out of the way:

  • Landscape n. – in a broad sense, the features of an area of land and its landforms; how these features interact with the broader nature and man-made features. This includes features both physical and cultural, natural and anthropological. Landscape can also be described as setting, a geographical location at a moment of time.
  • Music n. – sounds combined to produce a beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
  • Nature n. – the physical world and its organisms; features and products of the earth as opposed to humans and human creations.

When I think about a song that can teleport the listener to a discreet place and time, I think of Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”. The song vividly describes a series of scenes as Ice Cube through the urban landscape of South Central Los Angeles. The scenes and experiences he describes have direct references to the city, teleporting listeners to South Central on the alleged date of January 20, 1992.

The song also teleports me to that warm August night in 1996 when my sister first played the song for me. I remember listening to it at a low volume, so my mother didn’t hear us listening to “grown-up” music.

Bjork is one of the greatest examples of an artist who seeks and finds inspiration in nature, one who utilizes landscape as a sonic experience.

I’m specifically thinking about Bjork’s album, Biophillia. Inspired by the hypothesis linking humans with nature, Bjork explores the nexus where nature, technology and human experience all intersect. She used nature as an inspiration for musical structure, theme, and metaphor for human experience. Bjork taps into our intrinsic and primal connection to what is beyond human invention.

In the song Crystalline, Bjork uses the growth and facet structure of a crystal in designing her changing time signature and concept for the song. This creates an uneasy beauty that only feels complete because of its tie to nature.

More Connections to Nature
Many songs sample nature, including Blackbird and the Storm, who use samples of bird songs and calls to add to the theme of the bird wing metaphor, while adding to its serene atmosphere.

In 1970, Beaver and Krause released an album abstracting nature themes into a hybrid of sample, tape loop, and synthesizer electronic music. This album samples the broader landscape, things both natural and man-made.

Using Nature as metaphor
Ok, so this is a stretch. Not because it isn’t accurate, but because the music isn’t a metaphor using nature. Rather the following is a sonic adaptation or literary metaphor using nature/ animals. (I’m really including this because it is one of my favorite concept albums).

Based loosely on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Pink Floyd’s Animals album describes the capitalist conservatism in the 1970’s England.

This is a very brief exploration of concepts and songs. Think about songs you like. How do they make you feel? Is there a connection between any of your favorite songs and the nearby landscape?

When it comes to styles, Lidija Grozdanic from Architizer, recently published a post identifying seven mainstream rendering styles used in the architectural visualization market. We conclude our three part series (part one and part two) about the field of virtual representation looking at these styles, alongside four additional styles I’ve noted common in the professional vernacular.

Image: Samaranch Memorial Museum by HAO Holm Architecture Office.

Rendering Styles (by fashion):

  • The Mad Max: A fantasy-oriented style of rendering in which context and lighting plays a major role to furnish the architectural object. Often used for aerial shots, this style works best when applied to large-scale project interventions to communicate an idea of innovation and state-of-the-art technology: skyscrapers, stadiums, arenas, large shopping centers, theatres, opera houses, etc.
  • The Whodunit: A cold-toned, conceptual-like render ideal for showcasing parametric design, materials, and shapes. Mostly used for medium to large scale interventions, like multiple-story buildings. Better suitable for projects which incorporate a lot of white-colored surfaces.
  • The David: This photorealistic style is very intimate for showcasing a project’s angles and composition, since it focuses primarily upon details and the quality of execution. Photographic techniques like depth of field and a combination of exposures supplement the effect. The architecture and the landscape play an equal secondary role, best suited to showcase details, furniture, and individual features.
  • Paranormal Activity: The use of transparencies and the emphasis in vegetated areas make this style a good candidate for projects requiring a ‘green’ factor in their imagery. This conceptual style is fuzzy and it is great for those projects which incorporate a lot of vegetation.
  • The Gondry: Named after the filmmaker, The Gondry is a challenging approach to traditional architectural compositions. Artistic, geometric, and intentioned, this technique uses mixed elements using photographs, cutouts, and/or 3D models. It is a great asset for representing art-oriented projects, and by its nature, it offers an extra ability that the other styles lack: the clear communication of private goals into the project, whether it be political, social, or philosophical.
  • The Theodore: A glamourous photorealistic project style often rendered in warm tones where natural light and diffuse materials play a major role in the composition. Works better in interiors, being proficient at promoting comfort and inhabitability of the space; i.e. healthcare, workplace, and institutional projects.
  • The Katherine Heigl: A style named after the actress that focuses upon two things primarily: to show how the design solution adapts to its context, and to highlight the given ‘social acceptance’ of design. The landscape plays a major role as well, serving as a judge for the architectural elements. The composition, as Grozdanic mentioned, seems to play upon nostalgic memories and emotions of the audience.

I would also add the following four additional styles I’ve identified as common within the architecture and landscape architecture industry:

  • Real-estate: Perhaps the most traditional of all, it relies on saturated colors, communicating clear ideas of vegetation areas, materials, and shapes. The simplistic 2-point perspective shots have been the favorite of real-estate companies in the past decades, showing ‘enough’ to sell the product and to communicate the design intent and program. Usually these are exterior façade shots of residential, commercial, and institutional projects. [Example 1, Example 2]
  • Layered: A poetic style chosen to portray specific features and programs in the composition. It plays in such a way that some elements receive a special focus of attention by incorporating more level of detail  (i.e. photorealistic textures, while some other remains more conceptual). It has clear edges that define where one space ends and where the next one begins. It is basically a render-diagram that highlights the functionality of the space. Works better when using one-point perspective or bird’s eye views. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]
  • Fragmented: White space, desaturation, photomontages, and diffuse edges define this style. It incorporates a great balance of minimalism, communication, and graphic skill set, and is best applicable for adapting other elements like text, key maps, and signage into the composition, all arbitrarily sectioned by geometric shapes. It usually uses one-point perspective compositions. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]
  • Nature Walk: Perhaps the style best suited for landscape architects, the Nature Walk incorporates a great level of detail in plant species and trees, using cutout elements to populate the scenery. A template generated by a 3D model often serves as a guide for mapping textures with Photoshop or other editing software. Most of the heavy production tasks are done here through photomontages, producing a characteristic look recognized by diffuse soft edges and brushes. Somewhat like the Katherine Heigl technique, it is oriented towards the landscape. [Example 1, Example 2]
  • Crowd-oriented: If the program allows it, this style places a strong focus upon 2D people cutouts to give life to a place. This style makes the place play a secondary role to its imagined inhabitants. [Examples, Example 2]

There are many other authors out there that have compiled similar visualization techniques lists to offer professionals a wide variety of options to add to their repertoire. Be sure to take a look at the following works:

Welcome to our last in a series of Cal Poly Pomona Coastal Resiliency posts, featuring the observations of 4th year undergraduate students in the Landscape Architecture program.

With today’s post we mark the conclusion of our collaboration with the Cal Poly fourth-year undergraduate studio.  In the course of 11 weeks, the students explored both natural and manmade strategies for adaptations and mitigation for coastal resiliency in Long Beach. Almost as important, as practicing professionals we’ve noted we too learned so much from these “bravely curious” landscape architecture students instructed by Professor Barry Lehrman.

The students presented strategies in proposal of applications to their areas of focus in Long Beach during their final presentation at AHBE. We wanted to share with you some of their amazing strategic diagrams, inventory, and analysis these students have been working on during this quarter.

Ecological hotspots in Long Beach Estevan C. and Amanda F.

“Mapping out observed bird sightings in the City of Long Beach, a pattern was shown that not only does the rich ecology try to follow bodies of water, lakes and the ocean, but the areas with the highest density were places with the highest density of people.” – Estevan C.

Zoning and Logistics of the Port of Long Beach by Jorge C.

“Our research considered of analyzing several factors and conditions such as sea level rise, ecology, mitigation strategies, demographics, all of which determine what type of intervention is the most effective in addressing the issues of a particular area. I created this map to better understand the land-use of the Port of Long Beach, which is adjacent to my team’s project site in West Long Beach.” – Jorge C.

Strategies to dissipate wave energy by Andres R.

“Our team developed strategies that attempt to dissipate wave energy which is a significant contributor to Sea Level Rise (SLR), while also supporting public use and ecological communities. The coastal resilience strategy strives to provide a space that can adapt to SLR, while also providing habitat niches for the fauna of Long Beach. The channeling concept refers to slowing down the wave energy and dispersing the water towards branching canals where the water can generate a new zone for human interaction with flourishing ecosystems. The groin and breakwater concept strives to provide an accessible space for pedestrian’s off-shore, while also accumulating SLR to generate a tide pool where fauna can congregate and be exposed to the public.” – 
Andres R.

Adaptation Strategies for Amphibious Neighborhoods by Illiana

“Amphibious Neighborhood is a design strategy that can work along areas with high concentration of sea level rise as well as near residential zones. In the process of creating typologies for amphibious strategies, the urban human habitat and the emergence of biodiversity are highly important. Therefore, a recognition of existing conditions but also of future scenarios that Long Beach will be adapting to.” – Illiana V.

Marine Terracing / Saltwater Tolerant Plants by Amanda F.

“Sea level rise will inevitably cause drastic changes within the urban ecosystem. As the ocean rises, the shoreline is brought in closer to the city, shifting the margins in which plants are able to thrive in various salt-inundated microclimates.

Large, open areas would be ideal for marine terracing strategies to create socially and ecologically adaptable wetlands as the water level continues to rise. Color is used in the plant diagram to highlight the variety of potential plant growth that can be installed to adapt to these new conditions, and across various scales, including the marine terracing scenario.” – Amanda F.

Re-using Shipping Containers to create dunes by Tong X.

“By burying shipping containers we can create a large displacement of sand that can be used to cover, create a series of dunes to protect against sea level rise, and will still function as a public beach” – Tong X.

Ecological Armoring Strategies with recycled concrete by Tong X.

“Enhanced seawalls take advantage of recycled concrete to provide armoring along with a surface that encourages the growth of marine life and broadens the marine ecosystem, support growth of various marine plants and animals. These surfaces provide shelves, notches, overhangs, and shade that replicates the natural formations seen along rocky coastlines. They can be tailored to induce growth of specific species of conservational value. This developing marine ecology provides an educational location for local school and facilities.” – Tong X.

Stepped Pools for wave attenuation by Tong X. & E_Esquier

“In our project, we designed terracing walls that account for high and low tides allow for the creation of artificial tidal pools that creates an interactive zone between the community and marine life. This developing marine ecology provides an educational location for local school and facilities.” – Tong X.

The question now is how we can start implementing these tactics and strategies to prepare and minimize the effects of sea level rise in our coastal communities.