Lummis Day Festival
Lummis Day celebrates the arts, history and ethnic diversity of Northeast Los Angeles through educational and cultural events and an annual festival that draws the community together for a shared experience while providing a platform for cooperation among people of all ages and backgrounds.
When: June 2, 3 & 4, 2017
Where: Various locations

Future Aleppo
This summer, visit Future Aleppo at the Skirball—an installation about the human capacity for resilience, hope, and perseverance in times of darkness. A four-by-four-foot model, Future Aleppo was created by a young Syrian boy and aspiring architect named Mohammed Qutaish while living through the indiscriminately violent war in Aleppo. Between 2012 and 2015, as he witnessed his beloved city being demolished, Qutaish crafted his vision for the future of Aleppo using paper, wood, colored pencils, and glue.
When: Thru August 18, 2017
Where: Skirball Cultural Center

How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and The Fight for the Neighborhood
Gentrification has become a household word, but few really understand its causes. We talk about hipsters, craft beer and condos as they’re all unexplained phenomena, part of some mysterious process that we can neither foresee nor control. But gentrification is more predictable and more pernicious than we’re often told. In How to Kill a City, journalist Peter Moskowitz explains the hundred-year-long quest to turn cities into gated communities for the rich at the expense of the lives of the poor and middle classes.
When: May 30, 2017, 7:30pm
Where: The Last Bookstore

Charles Phoenix: Long Beachland
Live Comedy Slide Show Performance Celebrating The Epic City By The Sea … Presented by Inretrospect on Retro Row … Be prepared for your local pride to SWELL when Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, sweeps us away on a time travel slide show adventure exploring Long Beach’s classic and kitschy landmarks and lore then and now.
When: May 28th, 2017, 11:00am
Where: Art Theatre of Long Beach

Beyond Streets & Avenues: Simple Visual Guide to Different Types of Roads: “They’re not just named at random,” explains Edwards. And while “there’s no rule book for building a city there are naming conventions that are surprisingly strong — ones you’ll find across the world. There are exceptions, but if you comb through postal service guides, state departments of transportation and dictionaries you can start to decipher a code behind our roads.”

The High Line Effect: Are Our New Parks Trojan Horses of Gentrification?: “Parks are now for yuppies. Some of us might still have an image of green and open public spaces as being places where people of all incomes, races, backgrounds, and interests can mingle, freeing themselves from a system of which the city grid is the very embodiment. There is a long history of landscape architects designing and municipalities decreeing parks to be not just places where those with means could enjoy their leisure, but also artificial Edens where the working class could escape from their grim places of working and living. The latter option is becoming more and more difficult to find.”

Why Is Greenspace Different From a Park? “Greenspace is the non-place padding put between buildings to set them back from the street. Greenspace has a negative impact in many neighborhoods because it artificially spaces things out around it, reducing the amount of destinations within walking distance. It can also burden private property owners if they are required by law to landscape and maintain their greenspace.”

The Secret Life of Urban Crows: “But what if I were to tell you that the crows you spy in your yard are almost always the same individual crows? That those birds—usually two, a male and a female known as a territorial pair—don’t live there but fly in every day from 20 miles away? During the day urban crows rummage and build nests in a specific spot, in a specific neighborhood, then decamp for the evening to a massive, crowded roost outside the city—their own crow planet— and report back to the neighborhoods each morning. Like you, they commute to work.”

Can Virtual Reality Help Us Tackle Climate Change?: “Their new, 8-minute film Tree lets users experience life as a kapok tree from the moment it pierces through the earth to its death in a slash-and-burn farming operation. “Deforestation is a bigger contributor to climate change than the entire transport industry combined,” Zec emphasises, yet it’s not common knowledge. In addition to forest degradation, it accounts for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Photos by Gregory Han

Halfway across the world I find myself thinking about my AHBE Lab colleagues, wishing they were here in Tripoli, Lebanon at the International Fair of Tripoli – a phantom landscape that never realized its intended purpose due to an outbreak of civil war that began in 1975 just at the precipice of the project’s completion.

Designed in 1965 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the International Fair of Tripoli is the sort of public utopian modernist project we never see today, an expanse of visionary landscape intended to unite people shoulder-to-shoulder under a unifying experience intended for global audience at a massive scale. The landscape of Niemeyer is grandiose, yet immediately inclusive – firmly, yet invisibly guiding visitors through carefully articulated arteries of walkways interconnecting 15 pavilions, halls, auditoriums, and other structures at a massive scale. The invisible hand of the designer still haunts these abandon walkways.

Perhaps the closest one could imagine as the modern day equivalent of Niemeyer’s International Fair of Tripoli are the commercial campuses of Apple’s or Google’s respective headquarters, each incorporating a similar architectural vocabulary of communal spaces and pavilions, but each restrictive and redefined by their privatized intent – a pale equivalent to an era of design that embraced an internationalist, humanistic egalitarianism rather than one manufactured and guarded by capitalistic mechanisms. For that, we are all a little less well off.

This is architecture at both its most political and apolitical state, somehow both defining and erasing the lines of where and how humans of different backgrounds interact and engage with one another. Ironically, it was the last gasp of optimism before the dire pessimism of conflict swallowed the region whole, leaving the grounds abandoned for years, now to slowly fall into a state of beautiful decay (but become a playground to skaters as the sun falls, a small consolation) – a crumbling concrete reminder our best intents occasionally succumb to the worst of social forces outside a designer’s control.

 

Not being a native English speaker, I find it difficult sometimes to differentiate concepts that in our day to day conversations we use interchangeably. Most of the time I do so myself without even noticing it. However, recently I recognized a need to seek the true and appropriate meaning of some concepts that we often use in the landscape architecture field when writing documents, or preparing presentations, lectures, etc.

I think the main application of these concepts at their objective denotative meanings takes place at the philosophical intersection of a project’s theory and practice. Many times I find it difficult to describe how to deal with a situation in a structured way, one which requires hierarchy in the deliverance of ideas. In this work-in-progress exercise I made sort of a compilation – a personal glossary of sorts – to understand myself better, determining the main difference between these concepts and what do they entail. Of course, this is just an idea and has no validity as formal classification. But I sure found the process helpful as a self-reflection exercise, especially when planning future projects.

Approach
“A way of dealing with something or arriving at some destination”. It denotes manner and answers the ‘how’. These approaches in our field work better when being pre-formulated; approaches already out there adopted, perhaps modified to suit our needs. A solid and well-defined approach in a project is the best – a safer and smoother way to transition from the theory to the practice.

Examples of theoretical approaches: multidisciplinary, advocacy planning, inclusive urbanism, civic-pedagogy, public engagement.

Philosophy
The philosophy is the link between the entity and the product. If a firm has goals and ideals reflected in their code of ethics, mission, vision, and statement,  then the project’s philosophy has ability to infuse those motivations and expectations into the project itself. That’s why both need to be aligned. It also must represent realistically the intention of the project. It is a broader umbrella term, a sphere that encloses all the mentioned: values, mission, vision, history, area of expertise, trending currents, and so on. It is complex to identify or define because it happens to be the very ethos of the firm’s culture, subject to space and time, and sometimes even reinforced by art movements, individual mindsets, or currents of thinking. While the philosophy is the internal spirit behind a project, the approach is the way external spirit visibly manifested outwards to others.

Example of philosophies: Sustainability, Identity, Aesthetics, Health, Holism, Spirituality.

Line of Action
The elements of a broader field or discipline. It denotes category and answers the ‘which’. Disciplines are fields of study, and their sub-categories are ‘lines’ of study. If a philosophy is a reality, then the lines of action are the dimensions in which that reality takes place. Lines of action define the character of the general goal and the amount of specific goals to achieve, separating them by areas.

Examples of lines of action: Social, economic, ecological, individual, communal, private, public.

General Goals
Derived from the intention of the project, a good general goal would synthetize the overall purpose of the project, and perhaps also the purpose of all of its areas (see line of action) if they all demand equiparable priorities. The definition of goal is “the result of achievement toward which effort is directed”. Serves as an aspiration statement for the project.

Example of a general goal: The conception of a quality recreational space that brings the community together through diverse program elements and activities.

Specific Goals
Purposely isolated goals that will aid the general goal in terms of opportunities. A more specific level are SMART goals, which help even more to determine future strategies and tactics. But some people argue that SMART goals are more of a blend of goals and objectives, for they are not as abstract as conventional goals might be.

Examples of specific goals: The provision of a new urban landmark to the city. The regional recognition of the firm in alike projects.

General Objectives
The measurable and quantifiable steps required to reach a general goal.

Example of general objective: To design and build a neighborhood park in the City of XXXXX with the help of the non-profits and local government over the next six months.

Specific Objectives
Answers in form of actions to particular challenges, chances, or concerns. Each specific goal could have many specific objectives.

Example of specific objectives: To design and build a large-size iconic sculpture in the entrance of the park ensuring clear visibility from the main streets. To achieve certification from a leading sustainability entity during the management phase.

Methodology
The study of how research is done, how we find out about things, and how knowledge is gained. Methodology is about the principles that guide the research practices, and it explains the methods or tools utilized.

When applied to non-research projects, methodology is the connection between the goals and the approach. Methodology diagnoses why we are doing things in the way we are doing them, and how these actions are going to lead us towards the goal. Methodology is not a statement, a phrase, a slogan nor a word; it is a narrative in which you communicate why and how you are planning to carry out the project. But it goes far beyond a justification, since it also talks about the tools and the philosophy being adhering to.

Example of a methodology narrative fragment: “[…] Previous cited works and articles have shown how projects using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) design principles are lacking the community participation and engagement elements, since the experts rarely show an interest in delegating planning tasks to the residents. The crime rates in this community seem to suggest to us that in order to deter further criminal activity it is also important to give the community quality infrastructure that they truly own. Just as the ‘Parques-Bibliotecas’ case study we discussed in the previous section, we also consider vital for this project to reinforce the sense of identity and ownership in the community. Thus, we would like to inject into our CPTED design principles the Placemaking approach and we pretend to implement design charrettes, visual preference surveys, joint site visits, and other participatory activities.”

Practice
The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories about such application or use. It is a process, an activity and a goal that encompasses many other diverse sub-processes and sub-activities to ultimate achieve its very form as goal. Confusing enough? Of course. It’s hard to put in perfect words a practice into a theory in the same way it’s hard to put into perfect words a theory into practice. But practices constitute those activities that projects, fields of work or fields of study involve.

Examples of practices: planning, research, design, communication, construction, management.


Please note the definitions above have been heavily adapted and are only proposed, still undergoing development. I find a need in our field to properly define, classify, and most importantly, exemplify these concepts with tangible scenarios so we can improve familiarity. If you have comments or suggestions to enrich these, I welcome any submissions about your understanding or resources that could further help clarify their meaning. A future second part in this series will aim to discuss the Praxis System diagram, defining concepts like policy, strategies, tactics, roles, methods, tools, techniques, technologies, systems, tasks, processes, procedures, and more.

Photos: Jennifer Salazar

This is the first in a series of posts examining city streets, identifying how and which landscape elements can help provide benefits to the local community. First, we begin with a general description of what many Los Angeles streets look like today. In the future, I will take a look at other street options, including some AHBE projects, and also the challenges related to improving streets, alongside looking at other options for inspiration.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Street: noun \ˈstrēt\
1a :  a thoroughfare especially in a city, town, or village that is wider than an alley or lane and that usually includes sidewalks b :  the part of a street reserved for vehicles c :  a thoroughfare with abutting property

Elements of our typical streets today include the asphalt roadway, concrete curb and gutters, sidewalks, and sometimes tree wells (spaces in the sidewalk where trees are planted, often covered with metal tree grates). Vehicular drive lanes of varying widths, sometimes parallel parking at the curb, turn lanes, and occasionally built medians make up the roadway. On the sidewalk – besides trees – site furniture including benches, trash receptacles, bus stops, and/or shelters also exist. Signs – directional, street name, standard traffic – also inhabit space along the sidewalk.

Streets are one of the few remaining outdoor public spaces we have in our built-out cities. And in many cities, these spaces make up much, if not a majority, of the total square footage of public outdoor space in a city. Because of this significant amount of real estate, environmental mitigation by the installation of street trees can be significant, providing shade to encourage the use of more alternative modes of transportation, mitigating heat island effect, and providing habitat for insects and birds.

I think we need to be addressing and providing smart solutions for increased multi-modal uses of our streets, with increased use of trees as transportation methods change. As populations grow older and live longer, as obesity rates increase and threaten the health of so many of our population, and as environmental conditions worsen the need becomes more significant. We should re-examine what these thoroughfares should become to better serve the communities in which they exist.

So, I hope you will stay tuned as we look closer at the Landscape of Street Design over the next couple of months.