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Grand Park, DTLA. Creative Commons photo by Joe Wolf (CC BY-ND 2.0)

How can Landscape Architecture Address Imminent Design Realities?: “As landscape architects, we are trained to design for dynamic conditions – our landscapes are intended to evolve over time with the changing seasons of the year and with the processes of maturity and decay over the course of decades. But with climate change we now are dealing with a new dimension in dynamic design. Planting and soils conditions are changing in unforeseen ways. The typical lifespan of a public landscape is about 30 years on average. What we design and plant now will have to work both today and in a much dryer, warmer future predicted some few decades from now.”

11 ugly urban underpasses now functioning as public parks: When Manhattan’s High Line opened on the west side in 2009, locals and visitors alike flocked to the revitalized railroad trestle to marvel at its transformation into a gorgeous and walkable park. In Seattle, a decades-old project turned a downtrodden underpass into a skateboarding destination. In Toronto, a just-completed project created an ice rink under the highway. All are examples of a new era in underpass design—one that emphasizes high-impact solutions to reconnect neighborhoods and revitalize communities.

4 Reasons Why ASLA is Celebrating African American History Month: “February marks African American History Month as a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in every endeavor of our history. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) offers four reasons why it is celebrating.”

Palm Springs planned community boasts an olive grove in the desert: “Palm Springs is the latest city to embrace environmentally conscious design, as 300 acres of what was originally slated for a golf course will instead become an ecologically-oriented planned community. Miralon, a 1,150-unit development in Coachella Valley with 75 acres of olive groves, will join agricultural neighborhoods across the country when it opens this fall.”

This Land is Your Land – Rotting cabins, closed trails: why we’re shining a light on US national parks: “The National Park Service is the protector of some of America’s greatest environmental and cultural treasures. Yet a huge funding shortfall means that the strain of America’s passion for its parks is showing. Trails are crumbling and buildings are rotting. In all there is an $11bn backlog of maintenance work that repair crews have been unable to perform, a number that has mostly increased every year in the past decade.”

All photos: Jessica Roberts

It was a friend’s wedding responsible for my return to New York. I hadn’t been back since I moved away 2 years ago, and I was excited to revisit the places I once loved, including a place known as Pioneer Works, a cultural center in the community of Red Hook Brooklyn. It didn’t hurt one of my favorite bars is just around the corner.

Even without knowing which exhibitions would be on display this particular day, I dropped by Pioneer Works to stumble upon an incredibly inspiring collection of work by artist, Anthony McCall. Solid Light Works blocks out over thirty feet of vertical clearance, filling multiple rooms with haze and light installations.

A seminal figure of Expanded Cinema, McCall is well known for his “solid-light works”, a series he began in 1973 with the 16mm film, Line Describing a Cone. A volumetric form composed of a beam of projected light slowly evolves in real, three-dimensional space. McCall regards these works as occupying a place somewhere between sculpture, cinema, and drawing. Sculpture, because the projected volumes must be occupied and explored by a moving spectator. Cinema, because these large-scale objects are not static, but structured to progressively shift and change over time. And drawing, because the genesis of each installation is a two-dimensional line-drawing.

As a landscape designer I was struck by the simplicity of the forms and how successful they defined space. Some areas of the installations defined more intimate spaces. Participants laid on the ground within the projected confines of the light, some taking photos, while others just stared up in contemplation. Other areas were more open and horizontal in their projections. These became more social spaces where participants moved their hands in and out of the light. The installation focusing viewers on the interruption of the figure within space defined only by the projection of light.

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Photos: Gregory Han

I came across Nature all Around Us: A Guide to Urban Ecology the other day, remembering briefly flipping through its pages as a student. I decided to read it during my commute last week, remembering how the book’s subtitle first caught my eye. “A Guide to Urban Ecology”– the book’s subtitle made me ponder the meaning of the word ‘ecology’, formulating a picture in my mind about what systems come into play out in nature versus urban ecology.

Nature all Around Us sheds some light on the subject, utilizing explanations spanning across micro to macro scales of basic ecological concepts and processes.  Of the numerous takeaways and inspirations discovered within the pages of this book, I’m motivated to focus on a single topic of interest: lichens.

Ecology is first and foremost a science, an interdisciplinary field related to the landscape, and in turn indirectly to our profession. With this foundation recognized, the authors go into detail to define landscape ecology as, “A branch of ecology that emphasizes the relation between patterns, processes, and scales, focusing on broad-scale ecological and environmental issues.  Studies often consider large spatial scales and examine the relation between human or natural development and ecological processes.”

Simply put, urban ecology is the science of those processes and relationships between living organisms (plants, animals, insects, us, etc.) occurring within the urban environment that we commonly live and interact with.  And one of the many, many things these ever-changing relationships impact is the appearance of lichens, a symbiosis of algae and fungi, and also are an important bioindicator of a healthy urban environment.

Before reading Nature all Around Us, I mistakenly believed lichen a parasite. Nor did I know about the distinct difference between lichen and moss. When I researched more about lichens found growing on rocks and the trunks of older trees (which remain unharmed by the lichen), I discovered a stunning variety of forms, textures, and colors, including a spectacular seafoam blue-green.

Photo: Gregory Han

Lichen discovered along the Morro Bay coast growing on cypress trees. Photo: Gregory Han

Tree lichen are uncommon in Southern California. Why don’t we see more of them growing on our trees?  In short: air quality. Pollutants in our air are absorbed by lichens, a slow grower to begin with; lichen lack a filtering mechanism for these chemicals, thus rendering them unable to survive around our urban environments. Additionally, populations of older trees with lichen growth have been cut down in favor of urban sprawl.

Lichen go above and beyond mere bioindicators. They are capable of filtering light radiation, inhibit algae growth, provide protection from herbivores, and protect both parties in their mutualistic relationship (lichen and trees) with antibiotic properties.

Furthermore, lichen are beneficial to humans too. Lichens can be used to produce antibiotics for medicine,  and ingredients for cosmetics, perfumes, and paints! As is often the case, I’m amazed how nature is able to accomplish so much with so little – small organisms operating silently behind the scenes, easily unnoticed, yet too important to our ecosystems at large. The unique beauty of tree lichen, the benefits they offer, and their integral relationship to our environment is all the more reason to work toward improving air quality.  Next time I gaze up at our trees to observe a perched bird, springtime blooms, or the falling leaves in autumn, I now know to keep an eye out for another of nature’s beauties.

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2018 Lunar New Year Celebration at Hsi Lai Temple
Join us at Lunar New Year celebration at 佛光山西來寺 Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple at Hacineda Heights on Friday, February 16th. The celebration starts with a morning pilgrimage at 5am at the temple main gate, following by A Homage to Thousand Buddha’s chanting at 10am. The most well-known Chinese traditional cultural performance at 12pm.
When: February 16th, 5:00 am – 8:00 pm
Where: 3456 Glenmark Dr, Hacienda Heights, California 91745

Metro Art Presents: The Mudbug Brass Band
Celebrate Mardi Gras at Union Station with The Mudbug Brass Band. Louisiana-rooted but Los Angeles based, the 8-piece New Orleans Jazz band is dedicated to the Second Line tradition, drawing from New Orleans traditional jazz, R&B, funk and Mardi Gras. Hundreds of Second Line parades happen in New Orleans throughout the year, usually on Sunday afternoons, and are held in neighborhoods across the city. Ranging in size, level of organization and traditions, they always include a brass band, joyful dancing in the street and participants decked out in brightly colored suits, sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners, blending the formality of a courtly function and the spontaneous energy of a roving block party.
When: February 13th, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Where: Union Station

Forest Bathing at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Slow Down. Awaken your senses. Bear witness to yourself and all beings.
Inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, Forest Bathing has been scientifically proven to boost immune strength, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning. But beyond these physiological changes, Forest Bathing also offers us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with the natural world. By slowing down and carefully observing with all our senses, we may begin to notice incredible things that may have eluded us for our whole lives. In escaping the rapid pace of our daily routines, we may find unparalleled beauty in the moment and in doing so, relax into the beauty all around us.
When: February 17th, 8:00 am – 10:00 am
Where: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Arthropolooza – the Ultimate Bugfest
As Valentine’s Day approaches, isn’t it time to give some thought about relationships – among insects? On the weekend of Feb. 17 and 18 between noon and 4 p.m. the San Bernardino County Museum will explore love bugs and bad romances during Arthropolooza! The Ultimate Bugfest. Discover the fascinating world of arthropods—insects, arachnids, myriapods, and more. At the same time, activities and presentations will look at love from a whole new perspective: symbiotic relationships. Parasites need love, too!
When: February 17th -18th, 12:00 pm
Where: San Bernardino County Museum, 2024 Orange Tree Ln, Redlands, California 92374

After The Fire: Making Our Landscapes More Resilient
Please join Lanny Kaufer and renowned fire ecology expert and author Richard Halsey for a timely workshop on how to create resilient gardens and homes in Southern California as we go forward in the post-Thomas Fire era. We will begin with a morning walk to identify and discuss fire-wise native plants and continue after a lunch break with a slideshow talk based on Richard’s book and his research into the chaparral ecosystem and fire ecology. Hosted by California Chaparral Institute.
When: February 17th, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Where: 180 N Blanche St, Ojai, CA 93023, United States

Secret Japanese Village
There is a Japanese Village in Downtown L.A., a secret world created by fashion designer Peter Lai. Dolls, kimonos, extravagant costumes, antiques, ceramics, lanterns, scrolls, and other objects have been organized into a temple, theater, tea room, and doll shop. Join Field Agent Robert Hemedes as we explore this private collection of Japanese treasures gathered by Lai over the past several decades.
When: February 18, 2018 (3 tour times available, starting from 10 am)
Where: Secret Location! Meet at the Valero Gas Station, 500 S Alameda Street, Los Angeles 90013

Photo: Gregory Han

Secrets to Share: “Until now, most anyone seeking in-depth guidance from Japanese master gardeners had to travel to Japan. That requires time, money, Japanese language skills, and finding a master under whom to work. Hands and Heart teaches Japanese aesthetics, garden history and design, stone selection and placement, Japanese tool use, and pruning. Participants also engage in a morning tea ceremony to understand a Japanese garden’s cultural underpinnings and observe how Japanese garden masters behave. Kazuo Mitsuhashi, a Tokyo native and a tea garden craftsman for more than 40 years, says, “I hope students learn not just the material we teach but who we are as Japanese people and how we present ourselves, in ways that can lead to their own practice in the garden.”

What Should Grow in a Vacant Lot?: “Some 14,000 vacant lots pockmark the city of Baltimore, where decades of population decline have left some blocks nearly abandoned…The idea behind Swan’s wildflower experiment is to help the city restore some biodiversity and reduce polluted run-off by converting these swaths of fallow land into temporary prairies while they await—hopefully—the return of new construction.”

The Life and Death of Nigel, the World’s Loneliest Seabird: “The story of a lonely seabird named Nigel who tried to woo a mate that had a heart of stone and died on an uninhabited island off New Zealand has captivated many on social media.”

An Urgent Crisis of Leadership, Climate, and Water is Unfolding in South Africa: “Cape Town is headed for unknown territory. After years of drought, the city of 4 million on the Western Cape of South Africa is facing an unprecedented disaster: Unless a major rainstorm occurs, officials are predicting that on or around April 12 the city’s water supply will run dry. After that, most residents will have to stand in line at designated areas to get their rations of water.”

Japanese gardens can calm you, kids, prisoners – Lessons on Zen-style ‘Visionary Landscapes’:“His vision of creating landscapes that give restorative experiences resonates perfectly with our mission” and the belief that gardens are not a luxury for the fortunate few, she says. “Connecting with something beautiful and natural is a fundamental need for human beings.”