Posts tagged #ThisIsLandscapeArchitecture

Jardin du Luxembourg in spring. All photos by Jennifer Salazar.

Ask me which garden in the world is my favorite and I won’t hesitate to reply, “The  Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris!” Also known as the Luxembourg Gardens. the park and garden is renowned for its beautiful long rows of large shade trees, array of individual chairs visitors are welcome to move around, its collection of formal fountains, and the network of golden paths of decomposed granite. This public space is as comfortable as it is beautiful – my definition of excellence in design.

Well, during another trip to Paris I may have discovered another fave: Jardin du Palais Royal, aka Palais Royal.

I had heard about this place before, but missed it during previous trips. I was reminded of it again recently while watching the movie Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant – a movie with a climax staged amongst the arcade columns of the Jardin du Palais Royal at night. I was also reminded of the park by Lauren Elkin’s newly released book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. In her book dedicated to the “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk,” she cites the Palais Royal as one of her favorite destinations to walk in Paris.

The Jardin de Palais Royal – like the Luxembourg – also includes rows of large shade trees, but has fixed benches, and is surrounded by a tall arcade supported by columns. This structure provides shelter for walking and window shopping along the adjacent high end stores, while also covering outdoor diners at the adjacent cafés.

During a beautiful spring afternoon I observed people picnicking in the open area. Some were playing a wood bowling game of sorts. It was such a great outdoor communal space for relaxing and people watching.

Attached to the Jardin is a smaller courtyard to the south with a reflective ball sculpture at the center of a fountain. Another more interesting courtyard is further south, one that contains Daniel Buren’s 1986 installation,  “Les Colonnes de Buren.” Buren placed 260 black and white vertically striped columns in a grid varying in height. Though formal in their layout, these columns in their unique material and heights allow for a more playful and fun take on the very regimented and formal spacing and material of the 17th century columns that surround the courtyards. These Buren columns prove to be very attractive for climbers of all ages!

I am grateful that these Parisian gardens, designed and built hundreds of years ago, are maintained to retain their beauty. They continue to be enjoyed by so many visitors many years after their creation, the sign of great landscape design.

Creative Commons photo by Accord14 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This past weekend was dedicated to Echo Park with friends. As we walked the loop around the lake, and even took a pedal boat out, we saw many interactions between people and animals. My high school friend who was visiting from out-of-town commented about the comfort between people, geese, ducks, and dogs – perhaps alarmingly so – a symptom of close quarters, I guess.

I thought back to our ragtag lunch table, which represented a similarly odd assemblage of individuals. A couple in a hammock swinging between palms traded feeding Cheetos to one another and a friendly goose (in my opinion, an example of misdirected but true romance). Arguably the cutest patrons of the park were the baby geese and turtles. We just couldn’t get enough.

Young red eared slider turtles poked their heads up out of the water while pursuing their algae-covered elders. Individuals that make it through their first year or two can be expected to live around 30+ years. They are the most popular pet turtle in the United Sates and are often considered an invasive species. However at Echo Park, these turtles are considered beloved members of the highly social ecosystem.

Photo by Jim, the Photographer (CC BY 2.0)

The resident turtles are all decedents of pets released into Echo Park Lake. I wondered how the shelled inhabitants handled/survived the park renovation four years ago. After some quick searches online I was unable to find what actually happened to the original turtles. Most articles point to the turtles being dispersed into other lakes in Los Angeles, such as MacArthur Park, to keep locals appeased.

One resident of Echo Park noted that she had been told that the turtles had been adopted, but she had found a number of dead turtles on the site during construction. These amphibians are not always thought of so fondly. In some states like Florida it is illegal to sell the red-eared slider, stemming from concerns about interbreeding with local turtle populations – a courtship frowned frowned upon by many ecologists.

My searches online led me to another odd couple of Echo Park: a gray Toulouse goose named Maria, and a retired salesman named Dominic. Their relationship blossomed prior to the renovation of the park back in 2010. The article mentions that Maria was to be temporarily relocated.

Odd ecologies and odd couples. I do hope Maria and Dominic found each other again.

 

 

In London’s Hyde Park can be found a sculptural water feature which flows with animated urgency and audible energy, its sounds and flow only hushed once its circular journey comes to rest within a peaceful basin at the fountain’s bottom. This recent Easter holiday I made way to visit Kathryn Gustafson’s 2004 landscape memorial, “Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain” to experience this landscape experience firsthand. I discovered a sculptural channel that resonated with me for its texture – both physical and aural.

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Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s design expresses the concept of ‘Reaching out – letting in’, taken from the values and practices in the inclusive spirit of the Princess of Wales. All photos and video by Evan Mather.

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545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills – were interlocked to create the cascade.

The fountain is not static. Water drawn from London’s water table bubbles, gurgles, falls, twists and turns, bends and breaks – creating distinctive sounds as it flows down the in separate eastward and westward flows. Alongside the simplicity of the project’s materials, the playful layout, and the fountain’s adjacent location near Serpentine Lake, what I will most remember from my visit to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain will be the dynamic nature of the water experience – one rewarding both looking and listening.

Photo by Katherine Montgomery

Several months ago, exhilarated by the Women’s March, a friend and I exclaimed, “We should do this every weekend!”  Since then, my anger towards President Trump has developed from a vague dread to specific fears as his policies have rolled out: Will immigrants be forever persecuted?  Will women have access to safe health care?

When House bill H.R. 861 to abolish the EPA was introduced in February, my fear sharpened to a point.  The stakes have never been higher for our planet’s health, and this bill is an arrogant deterrent to progress.

The mistrust of facts in the recent years has been well documented, and the attack on science – preventing scientists from publishing work without White House review, withdrawing research funding, gag orders related to climate change, etc. – is the continuation of this propaganda.  The administration’s attack on science has a direct impact on all of our lives.  From compromising our natural resources, to over-valuing outdated energy sources, their goals do not support the earth and are in direct opposition to the values of landscape architecture.

Download a free “March for Science Poster” for April 22, 2017, Earth Day and The March for Science!

The heart of this profession is in the service of the earth: restoration, habitat support, preserving open space, improving the earth one (rooftop) garden at a time. As the ASLA states, “[The] EPA’s role, protecting human health and the environment, intersects with ASLA’s work in leading the design and stewardship of land and communities…”

I used to advise science students on Ph.D. fellowship applications, and I’ve read more National Science Foundation applications than an art major ever should. I grasped only a small percentage of the technical details, but it was a good test for the students: if they could explain quasi-conformally homogenous Reiman surfaces or quantum computing in a way that I could understand, then they could be better scientists.

In my years advising, I learned the importance of the scientific method, and the concept of ‘good science’.  This term is heavy with meaning, but includes values like “fact over opinion”, following the scientific method, empiricism, and peer review.  I would argue that good science is the basis for all good design, and the parallel processes both include inquiry, research, concept development, trial and error, continual questioning, analyzing, and sharing results.

If science is being denounced, the scaffolding for our culture is compromised.  I urge you to join me in supporting science by marching this Saturday, April 22, in Downtown LA and over 500 other cities around the world.  The March for Science is part of a ‘global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.’ Come be part of the movement!

Village Of Yorkville Park; Photo by Duncan Rawlinson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Situated in one of the wealthiest retail districts in Toronto is Village of Yorkville Park, an urban open space just over an acre in size. This small neighbourhood park lends itself as the front door plaza to high-end retail, capping the Bloor Subway line, and directly abutting a parking garage. Because of its location, Yorkville Park experiences a high volume of traffic. This park brings up questions about the role of landscape architects in making nature more accessible for urban environments, the impact of post-modernism and contemporary design ideals in landscape design, and the need of a designer ecology.

“Designer ecology, while valid and desirable in urban contexts for many reasons, is not operational ecology; it does not program, facilitate, or ultimately permit the emergence and evolution of self-organizing, resilient ecological systems—a basic requirement for long-term sustainability.” – Nina-Marie Lister

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The design we see today is the result of a 1994 Design Competition won by a team of Landscape Architecture Stars. Conceptually, the park is a Victorian keepsake box of Canada’s pristine nature. This nature reserve is realized with a highly designed selection of some of Canada’s natural features: a birch grove, a pine forest, a wild meadow, and of course, a massive rock plucked from the Canadian shield.

Photos by Clarence Lacy

Yorkville Park’s designer ecology, 2006; “Sustainable Large Parks: Ecological Design or Designer Ecology?” by Nina-Marie Lister

To find some answers I turned to Nina-Marie Lister – graduate program director and associate professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Lister’s academic piece, “Sustainable Large Parks : Ecological Design or Designer Ecology?” examines designing natural systems and landscape around existing ecologies in large park design. Lister also explains how a highly designed “clean” version of natural ecology – “designer ecology” – may be more appropriate for smaller and more fragmented landscapes.

Lister’s wrote that piece back in 2006, the height of the landscape urbanism movement. Landscape architects were searching for ways to validate designs extending ecologies into cities. Assisted by very sexy and evocative images, ranging from the infamous minimal lone coyote collage, to illegible “complexity” diagrams, the landscape architect took more time explaining and researching ecology than actually designing them.

Small spaces do not have the capacity to host 180 species of migratory birds, 3 wolf species, and 18 threatened plant species, so maybe Yorkville Park makes sense. I don’t have the answers, and I’m sure Kanye would reiterate that point if I ever got the chance to interview him. (I hope you all got that reference).

My personal critique of Yorkville Park and this era of early contemporary landscape design is how clean and selective it is. I really would have loved if the birch grove had a supporting understory, and if the wildflower meadow actually appeared more than a collection of urban weeds (maybe some small woody species interspersed?).

I was charged as a student to create a critique video formulating a critical look of designer ecology intended as a melange of components intended to form something larger, but a solution missing a few key ingredients – and a proper reparation in response. The video uses jump cuts and free associative symbolism, reinforcing the discontinuous and referential nature of this type of design within the urban landscape.

Warning the video is slightly gross and mildy graphic.

I hope no one is offended. Yorkville Park is a great space, a great example of this notion of designer ecology.