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Will the real Los Angeles please stand up? “To the world, Los Angeles seems like a hyper-real fabrication. But what lies behind the mask? Foreground speaks to LA resident and landscape urbanist Mia Lehrer, ahead of her keynote lecture at the 2017 International Festival of Landscape Architecture.”

Speculative Urbanism: Must-Read Megacities of Science Fiction & Fantasy: “Urban worldbuilding is at the heart a lot of speculative fiction classics. But authors don’t develop the history, geography and ecology of their imaginary worlds in a vacuum. Often, their creations reflect present (or predicted) conditions right here on Earth.”

Native or Invasive: “Lantana is not well suited to questions about origins. The plant’s genes were muddled to begin with by plant breeders and have further intermixed across wild populations. Wild lantana after two centuries of adaptation to tropical climates is not the same as its tame cousins relaxing in California gardens. It’s fitting that one of lantana’s landing points across the Global South—the Indian subcontinent—also happens to have one of the most genetically diverse human populations on Earth. But it is targeted by policy makers as an invasive, as an invader, as a rootless hybrid immigrant doing just a little too well for itself in its present environs.”

Map Drawings of the Landscapes: “The map-landscape-drawings present a visually distinct means to document a place, a site, a landscape. Paying homage to Corner and MacLean seminal book, Taking Measures across the American Landscape, the purpose here is to interpret the Southern Ontario landscape in a similar fashion.”

Behind the U.S. Botanic Garden there’s … an architect?: “A garden can mature and evolve in a way that a building cannot,” says Nick Nelson, the botanic garden’s landscape architect. “I still do love the power of a hand sketch and a hand-drawn perspective. Even though I’m not selling anything, I still need to sell people on my idea.”

Dallas, TX, USA | OJB Landscape Architecture | Client: The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. Photo Credit: Dillon Diers Photography

The 2017 ASLA Professional Awards Announced: “The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has announced its 38 professional award recipients for 2017. Selected from 465 entries, the awards recognize the best of landscape architecture in the general design, analysis and planning, communications, research, and residential design categories from the United States and around the world.”

Should Architects Work With Nature or Resist It?: “Frank Lloyd Wright famously urged architects to follow nature’s lead. But as the planet warms, and with sustainability an inadequate response, they may need to pursue a more defensive, “resilient” position.”

How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness: “Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. A neighborly sense of the commons is missing. You don’t have to be a therapist to realize that this creates lasting psychological effects. It thwarts the connections between people that encourage us to congregate, cooperate, and work for the common good. We retreat into ever more privatized existences.”

How Much Are Trees Worth to Megacities?: “A team of researchers led by Theodore Endreny of SUNY’s College of Environmental Studies and Forestry sought to quantify how leafy infrastructure pays dividends in 10 chock-full cities—and the extent to which the benefits could compound if those areas went greener.”

National monuments protect meaning, not just landscapes: “Over time, our understanding of the Pueblo peoples’ connection to the landscape evolved, as did the way the Antiquities Act was implemented. In 2000, President Bill Clinton designated Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (just over the Colorado line from Hovenweep). Instead of targeting individual sites, it blanketed a relatively large swath of landscape. “Canyons of the Ancients was perhaps the first to explicitly recognize that ruins do not tell the entire story,” says Bruce Babbitt, Clinton’s Interior secretary at the time. “That ancients lived in, hunted, gathered and raised crops, and developed water and religious sites throughout the larger landscape.” This ethos was taken to another level when President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument 16 years later.”

Rendering: Herzog & de Meuron, courtesy of Berggruen Institute

Think Tank Reveals Renderings For Sprawling ‘Monastery’ On Top Of Santa Monica Mountains: “The 447-acre development is set just north of the Getty Center on a hilltop near the Mountain Gate Country Club overlooking the 405 freeway. The project, designed by architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron is scheduled to open in five years “if we don’t run into too much trouble,” Berggruen told the Los Angeles Times.”

From Landscape Architect to Fashion Designer: “He literally takes the drawings out of my hands. All of the adults are sitting together planning everyone’s future and talking about the community. He was like, ‘This girl is not going to be a doctor. She needs to be an architect. She needs to go into something like this.’ So of course, he says it and everyone trusts him and they say, ‘Amal, you’re now going to be an architect.’”

Walter Hood’s (Extra)ordinary Witness: “The site of this protest is now home to a commemorative public art and landscape installation by Walter Hood: Witness Walls, for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, completed in April. It’s the city’s first civil rights-themed piece of public art, according to The Tennessean, and cost $300,000. In an existing park next to the Metro Nashville Courthouse, a group of concave and convex concrete arcs forms a series of outdoor rooms. Two concrete cylinder-shaped fountains burble along, and popular music from the civil rights era plays intermittently.”

Is re-introducing steelhead trout into the Arroyo Seco another fish tale?: “The list of humans who made Pasadena famous starts with the Tongva, the native people who settled near the Arroyo Seco, followed by your Eatons, Wilsons, Huntingtons, Greenes, etc. As for the animal that put the city on the map, the answer may surprise you. Many say that creature was the Southern California Steelhead, a salmon-like species that between 1850 and 1940, attracted fisherman from across the country to the San Gabriel, Los Angeles and Arroyo Seco rivers.”

“The Blue Line’s future: 5 ways Metro plans to fix its oldest rail line: Opened in 1990, the Blue Line has been operating continuously for 27 years. By now, much of the rail line’s infrastructure is simply worn out or obsolete. It’s also prone to delays—about 16 percent of trains arrive behind schedule, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.Transit officials say the huge investment will improve the old rail line’s reliability, reduce the travel time between LA and Long Beach, and restore train cars to like-new condition.”

Image by Dan Hubig for CALmatters

A tale of two regions: In California’s economy, North trumps South — for now: Ouch! “How Los Angeles wound up eating the Bay Area’s dust, at least in economic terms, is a tale of civic and political decisions, demographic circumstance and even global politics. And with the two regions accounting for most of the state’s population and the economic output that makes it a global powerhouse, whether the stark differences widen or narrow will have a huge impact as California meanders further into the 21st century.”

City-Wide Study Shows How Much Water Urban Landscaping Really Uses: “University of Utah scientists have conducted the first study to document landscape water use on a city-wide scale. Among other findings, trees are shown to be an excellent water-saving tool in grassy landscapes.”

White Supremacists Are Waging a War Against Public Space: “The attack also threatens public space, an amenity that is both scarce and necessary for democracy. The idea of the public square is under attack. And the extremist alt-right is waging a campaign to shut down the public square, using both violence and intimidation, especially under open-carry laws.”

Plan for San Joaquin Valley Reservoir to Recharge Groundwater Draws Concern: “The Semitropic Water Storage District proposes building a new reservoir on part of an ancient lakebed, then using it to capture flood flows to recharge groundwater. But others in the region fear it will deprive them of water.”

Artist at Work: Maya Lin: “I went to architecture school because I got labeled as an architect. The architecture professors were having a horror of time because I kept spending more and more time over in the sculpture department, and I don’t tend to think analytically as an architect. I analyze more like a scientist; I’m exploring the Earth, but not necessarily finding meaning and symbolism. Whereas I think with architecture, you get to codify, you understand why you do what you do. In a way, I’m much more interested in that I have no idea what it is or where it will lead to. So I got labeled as an architect…”

Pholisma sonorae (sand food) is a rare plant found in the deserts of southeastern California, Arizona, and El Gran Diesierto in Sonora, Mexico.
This parasitic plant has a long stem that reaches about 6 feet below the surface where it attaches to the root of a nearby host plant such as desert buckwheat. Photo by USFWS/Jim A. Bartel (CC BY 2.0)

The Most Bizarre Wildflower In The United States: “One of the most interesting of all dune plants, and certainly one of the most bizarre wildflowers in North America is ‘sand food’ (Pholisma sonorae). This amazing parasitic flowering plant grows in the Algodones Dunes of southeastern California and adjacent Arizona, and in the sand dunes of El Gran Desierto in Sonora, Mexico (north of Bahia Adair in the Gulf of California). Within this area, the plants grow on sand dunes produced by wind transport of sand from the beaches of ancient Lake Cahuilla and the Colorado River delta.”

L.A. is park poor. So why is one of the most beautiful green spaces in the city locked behind a fence?:  “DWP isn’t in the parks business,” Adams points out. “But we are open to opportunities to use our properties in different ways.” In other words, the Rowena Reservoir isn’t a lost cause. City Council District 4, which contains it, could take it on. So could the Los Feliz and Silver Lake neighborhood councils. And if study and retrofitting are what’s required, why not consider larger possibilities as well?

How Driverless Cars Could Be a Big Problem for Cities: “To assess how vulnerable cities’ budgets could be, Governing conducted the first national analysis of how city revenues might be affected by autonomous vehicles. For the 25 largest U.S. cities, we requested and obtained revenues for parking collections and fines, traffic citations, traffic camera fines, gas taxes, vehicle registration, licensing and select other fees. In all, these 25 cities collectively netted nearly $5 billion in auto-related revenues in fiscal 2016, or about $129 per capita.”

Disrupting the Park Bench: “Data-collecting street furniture is one of the first areas where the smart city concept has spilled over from buildings and infrastructure into green space, though one could argue that features such as free Wi-Fi in parks, GPS-guided interpretive walks, interactive light and water installations, and computerized controls of lighting and irrigation systems—increasingly common in the urban environment—also fit the bill.

A happy 115th birthday to Trenton’s Cadwalader Park: “The beauty of Trenton’s Cadwalader Park endures. And as this sylvan oasis — designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture — marks its 115th birthday, people who treasure the city’s biggest park are working hard to make sure it not only survives but also thrives.