30 November 2007

Mapping polluters

A new web app has emerged that uses public data (especially sources like TRI) to map out where
polluters are in your neighborhood.

28 November 2007

What a load of trash

When I took this photo over the Meadowlands, I saw a landfill. But now, years later, I see a powerplant.

A team of scientists here at the New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station worked on a NJ Board of Public Utilities project to study the potential for biomass as an energy source across the state. Since garbage and landfill gas are both part of the equation, NJ has some pretty rich resources to tap. At the end of this initial study we found that NJ's total biomass resources could light about a million homes. As quoted in the papers:
"For the first time, we have an extremely detailed understanding of our bioenergy capabilities," said Margaret Brennan, who directed the biomass study for the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. "This gives us something to strive for. Before, we didn't know what the potential was."
The project has an NJAES page now and is a pretty good place to start. It has the bioenergy calculator and basic project info.

The final report is big and grand. But the highlights are Caroline's maps. At least I think so.

Pretty soon our landfills will start looking like model landscapes...

Common Lecture: Georgeen Theodore, Interboro Partners

Georgeen Theodore
Interboro Design

Allan Shearer described them as "One of those young, hip urban design firms".

She started with:
In the Meantime, Life With Landbanking (e.g., PDF)
which looked at the "dead mall" phenomenon with a case study of the Dutchess Mall.

Interboro's methodology works around three rules:
  • Detective work - do you know the problem?
  • Ghostwriter - Identify people on the ground who need someone to sing their life.
  • Life Coach - entails advocating for a person or place, advocating for a specific solution or outcome
The next example, Improve Your Lot, emphasized the problems with the individual lots in Detroit. This one has been written up as an academic paper (PDF). THis project involved looking around Detroit for "blots" - lots that were vacant but have been caught up in the New Suburbaism. Their ghostwriting captures how those who stayed have been rewarded.
You can see one of the areas she talked about here on Google Maps.

The final project was The Critical Path, set in Columbus, OH. This was their winning entry in Columbus Re-Wired. As an example of how their vision would work, they re-worked an area in NW Columbus without displacing anyone.

Georgeen mentioned Paul Davidoff in contrasting the old advocacy with the new work they are pursuing.

The Most Famous Tulloch

Well, it looks like the title of "Most Famous Tulloch" has changed hands.

It used to be Lieutenant Colonel Tulloch, of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District. The (in)famous wetlands Tulloch Rule was named after him and specified how excavations would be treated as opposed to just the dredging and filling under the Corps' 404 duties. Since it was first created in the early 1990s, there has been a Federal court ruling overturning it (in the late 1990s) and now there is a new Tulloch II rule established by EPA and COE. And I trust that wetlands advocates and home builders will help keep the Tulloch name alive in the courts for years to come.

But now, ruining everything for Lt. Col. Tulloch, comes along an actress named Bitsie. after some other minor roles, Bitsie Tulloch is starring in quarterlife which is an online tv show which has been picked up by NBC for wider broadcast. NY Magazine's headline captures it well, "Quarterlife's Bitsie Tulloch on Her Role as the World's First Attractive Blogger."

Cool class: 20th Century Architecture

Carla Yanni is teaching 01:082:392 20th Century Architecture this spring. It is a great way for LA students to learn more about architecture while developing academic skills. ask your advisor for further details.

27 November 2007

Data visualization videos

Yesterday I noticed a colleague brought an Edward Tufte book to class, but never got around to talking about it. After class I took a few moments to see some of Tufte's latest work online. The ones that stood out the most right now are some Wavefields that mix video of water reflections and data visualization. The text suggests that the ideas haven't been taken as far as he hopes, but the videos are lovely and the idea has a great depth that will keep me checking his site.

Piping plovers closing beaches

The NY Times writes about the efforts to help the piping plover, an endangered species that nests on beaches. It represents a classic human-species conflict since helping the bird requires closing some beaches. But have people learned, slowly, that sometimes these things happen?

Efforts to protect the birds have led to closed beaches, canceled fireworks, lawsuits, warnings to cat owners and shelters to not release the animals near the shoreline and closed trails for all-terrain vehicles.

“When I first started this job almost 20 years ago it was really heated,” said Susi von Oettingen, an endangered species specialist with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.


26 November 2007

Levittowns revisited

In my lecture on the Top 10 Shapers of the American Landscape, I talk a little about the Levittowns and their impact on American suburbia. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Levittown NY, Joel Kotkin looks back at the Levittowns, fairly fondly, and reflects on their contribution and where they have ended up.
Today's Levittown, N.Y., is still only 10% nonwhite, but Willingboro, N.J., another Levittown development (in the Philadelphia suburbs), is now majority black. Indeed, more than one in four suburbanites nationwide is a minority-group member. Along with immigrants and their offspring, African-Americans have been consistently moving to the suburbs; the percentage of blacks living in the periphery has risen to well over one in three.

Changing architecture

John Silber has written a book called Architecture of the Absurd in which he describes his complaints with contemporary (not Modern) architecture. In particular, this former president of Boston University seems equally upset with buildings where details fail (like Pei's John Hancock with windows that popped out and Gehry's Stata Center currently tied up in a lawsuit) and buildings that are deliberately designed in ways he can't comprehend (like Gehry's Stata Center and Holl's Simmons Hall, both at MIT). The Wall Street Journal reviewed the book recently:
A recurrent theme of Mr. Silber's is Genius architects' talent at verbal persuasion -- often a combination of jargon and bullying. For Mr. Silber, no one does it better than Frank Gehry, whose "misconception...that architecture has no distinct purpose or consequent limitations that distinguish it fundamentally from painting and sculpture has led him to impose on clients works that are profligate in cost and grotesquely unaccommodating to their purpose." Which brings us back to the Stata Center, "the pièce de résistance of absurdity in architecture."
Silber seems especially interested in buildings in the Boston area. For instance, Sert's Peabody Center on the Charles. Based on the descriptions online, I suspect that I agree with his assessments of some individual buildings but would tend to disagree with his contempt for architects trying to achieve new and exciting things with their buildings. Practicality is probably underrated these days, but it isn't the only measure of success in design.

If reading isn't your thing, you can watch an interview about the book online.

(The photos is of Gehry's Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota)

25 November 2007

A day beside the park

On Thanksgiving morning we got within about 100 feet of Central Park, but some sort of parade kept us from getting across the street.

This one was an art piece based on a smaller art piece by Jeff Koons.
Just some fun photos from Turkey Day as a final respite before
the real work begins.

23 November 2007

Ten Crucial Days

Set yout TiVos now. NJN will be showing a new High Def Special on the Ten Crucial Days that included Washington's Crossing and the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. There will even be a special public screening with reservations still available.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 at 8 pm • Friday, December 28 at 9:30 pm

Nouvel's MoMA

A towering change to midtown will be Jean Nouvel's MoMA Tower. The images online are smooth and you can see in this one where some of the people are even blurred ghostly figures.
Nice examples for or graphics studies.

21 November 2007

Things have settled down now. The changes in Sagarin rankings a small, although a loss by LSU could still cost them the National Championship.

The SEC's South

In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the SEC, NPR sent a reporter to visit and experience the SEC's South. Like a cultural anthropologist, he didn't try to judge the experience so much as let it wash over him. Travelling from Baton Rouge to Ole Miss, he met a pretty wide variety of people all connected in some way or another with football. There were the familiar stains of the LSU's Golden Band from Tigerland and there were interviews with some folks who might not normally get as much attention.

When one person was about Tiger Stadium:
"Why is it so loud?" he asks as he stands outside the 92,000-seat colossus of a building. "It's the weight of the sky, the density of the air here. It's really louder than anywhere else. We have to blame the sky."

20 November 2007

Highlands Council disappoints

It took a six-hour meeting for the Highlands Council to reach a point at which they could approve a new plan for the NJ Highlands. It was not unanimous and was not appreciated by environmentally-oriented groups:
"Basically, what they've done tonight is gutted the whole Highlands Act," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, who was in the audience. "This plan's now about development and not about protecting water supply."

In a lengthy statement preceding her vote, Pasquarelli said the plan now favors development and described it as "political pandering under the guise of environmental protection and growth management."
There is no such thing as the "last word" on the Highlands, so just sit back and wait for the next twist.

Ordnance Survey in Second LIfe

CASA's Virtual London has been politely removed from Second Life out of respect for a request by the British Ordnance Survey. As the Digital Urban blog reports:
Details on the work currently unavailable are in the post below, we are reserving comment at request on this one, but i guess you know our views...
Since I have never met Andy I can only guess that this is a very polite British way of saying that the Queen's rules on mapping are a tad bit crazy and oppressive. I have never fully grasped the rather extreme British system, but always thought it was just because I was an American, on the outside. This little episode reveals more fully the extremes to which this system continues to prevail upon the GIS community, even in a metaverse.

Artifical Momma owl

It isn't clear to me why baby owls are easier to fool than our children. You would think they would notice that their Momma has a clearance tag.

19 November 2007

New Look the RU LA online

The new web page for Rutgers Landscape Architecture is up and is (presumably) compliant!

Defiant Gardens Dot Com

Kenny Helphand has sent out word that, by popular demand, he has created a Defiant Gardens blog/site. I can't say that I am surprised. The posts I have mentioning his book and appearance here at Rutgers have continued to get unusually high visitation rates. And, I see how popular his appearances have been elsewhere. Defiant Gardens has remained one of the best recent publications in the field. And the information he is posting is new and will energize many readers.

18 November 2007

Ken McCown visits IIT

Cal Poly Pomona's Arizona State's Ken McCown keeps an awesome Flickr stream online, but I've said that before. Now he has a photostream of Koolhaas' IIT Student Union on the Southside of Chicago. You can still see it under construction in the Google Map photos.

Vernal Pools in the Highlands

Potential changes in development policies are seen by some to be threatening the vernal pools of the Highlands. CRSSA has been active in explaining vernal pool habitat loss and mapping out the locations of pools. But it isn't as if the Council member don't recognize the potential harm, the debate seems to be centering more on the costs of these policies:

"I'm concerned with the logic of why, as a matter of policy, we would allow the exacerbation of water deficits," said member Tim Dillingham. "We should be very, very prudent in the watersheds we know are in a deficit."

"We have to do the right thing here," said Jack Schrier, the council's vice chair from Mendham Township. "If we are going to prohibit flat out any more depletive uses, we are essentially stopping all development. I don't think that's our purpose."

Even if the policies change it doesn't mean that the debate will end. This is a fundamental tension between property rights, development pressures, societal valuing of wildlife, and concerns over environmental quality.

17 November 2007

Trees of Toronto

A Canadian arborist got to take lots of aerial photos of Toronto's late fall color from a helicopter. Like any good arborist, he stops to explain the science behind the color. But the photos would be great by themselves.

16 November 2007

GPS as an employee surveillance tool

Islip, NY has been using GPS as an employee surveillance tool and it is sparking an interesting controversy. They installed GPS trackers on government vehicles as a way of monitoring how the vehicles were used. Ostensibly, many employers use tracking as a means for monitoring fuel usage and identifying more efficient alternatives.

Barton said Delaware paid $425 per unit for the GPS devices, as well as $24.99 a month per vehicle for tracking services. Information from each car is sent back to a central location, where things like fuel consumption and speed are recorded. He estimated the investment will be recouped in 3 1/2 years.

"If we're getting fuel reduction, less accidents and have our people slowing down, it more than pays for itself," Barton said.

But others worry about this as an intrusive tool that has the potential to violate the privacy of employees.
The use of GPS has led to firings, stoking complaints from employees and unions that the devices are intrusive, Big Brother technology. But city officials say that monitoring employees' movements has deterred abuses, saving the taxpayers money in gasoline and lost productivity.
In 3 months Islip saved 14,000 gallons of gas. Does it matter if it was because of more efficient routing or because employees stopped using public vehicles for driving to Michigan?

Video games changing the environment?

Andrew Revkin writes, on the NY Times' Earth Dot Blog, about how some new video games might actually change the way that people see the environment. For instance, the new SimCity forces players to recognize the tradeoffs that happen when we simply don't have enough power, coal appears cheap and dirty, and solar isn't well developed. It leads Revkin to ask, could these games surpass Inconvenient Truth in overall impact.

15 November 2007

2 GIS jobs in Hunterdon County


The County of Hunterdon seeks to fill the full time position of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist III in the Department of Information Technology / Division of GIS.


ABILITIES Extensive knowledge of and experience with ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) products ArcInfo, ArcView, ArcMAP, ArcCatalog as well as Trimble GPS equipment. Knowledge of and experience in computerized data entry and formatting, data base management, and data base utilization. Ability to maintain your focus on long-term work assignments. Knowledge of all phases of computer map preparation including digitization, data transmission, data reformatting, and map production. Experience with Trimble GPS products and software including data dictionary development, GPS data collection, correction and export. Knowledge of and experience in Metadata creation.

Knowledge of ESRI products Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, ArcIMS and ArcSDE, Visual Basic Scripting as well as Microsoft SQL Server and Adobe Illustrator a plus.

EDUCATION Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor's degree.

EXPERIENCE Two (2) years of experience with geographic information systems including computer graphics and computer hardware digitizing procedures, focusing on spatial data development and maintenance. Experience in reading and evaluating land surveys a plus.

NOTE: A Master's degree in Geography, or Environmental Science may be substituted for one (1) year of the indicated experience.

NOTE: Applicants who do not possess the required education may substitute additional experience as indicated on a year-for- year basis.

NOTE: A specific Bachelor's degree in Geography, Environmental Science or related field with twelve (12) semester hours in computer mapping/GIS which shall have included spatial programming and digital image processing may be substituted for one (1) year of the above experience.

LICENSE Appointees will be required to possess a driver's license valid in New Jersey.

Salary Range: $30,800 – $44,620

Please submit a resume and a County Application for Employment to:

Hunterdon County Department of Human Resources

Cheryl A. Wieder, Director

Huntedon County Human Resources

PO Box 2900
Flemington, New Jersey 08822-2900
908-788-1114 * FAX 908-806-4236




The County of Hunterdon seeks to fill the full time position of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist Trainee in the Department of Management Information Systems / Division of GIS.


ABILITIES Knowledge of and experience with ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) products ArcInfo, ArcPlot, ArcEdit and ArcView as well as Trimble GPS equipment. Knowledge of Windows NT Operating System. Knowledge of computerized data entry and formatting, data base management, and data base utilization. Ability to develop effective work methods. Knowledge of all phases of computer map preparation including digitization, data transmission, data reformatting, and map production. A successful candidate will have the ability to work with diverse agencies and departments in determining, coordinating and developing GIS data sets, goals and activities.

Knowledge of ESRI products Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst, Arc CAD and Map Objects as well as Microsoft SQL Server and Adobe Illustrator a plus.

EDUCATION Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor's degree in Geography, or Environmental Science including or supplemented by twelve (12) semester hour credits in computer mapping/GIS which shall have included spatial programming and digital image processing.

NOTE: A Master's degree in one of the above disciplines including or supplemented by the additional credits as shown may be substituted if the applicant holds a Bachelor's degree in another field.

LICENSE Appointees will be required to possess a driver's license valid in New Jersey.

Salary Range: $28,340 – $41,050

Please submit a resume and a County Application for Employment to:

Hunterdon County Department of Human Resources

Cheryl A. Wieder, Director

Huntedon County Human Resources

PO Box 2900
Flemington, New Jersey 08822-2900
908-788-1114 * FAX 908-806-4236

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial turned 25 this week and has some wondering about a proposed Visitors Center. US News and World Report mentions the new controversy but also revisits the old.

14 November 2007

Big Change in NJ Affordable Housing Law?

NJ's assembly is trying to change the current Regional Contribution approach to affordable housing. Newsday describes the impact of the former controversial policy, which allowed wealthier towns to send money to other cities to compensate for not building affordable housing in their own town:
According to the state, 120 suburban towns have paid $210 million to 53 cities since 1988. The cities use the money to provide affordable housing. For instance, Colts Neck recently agreed to pay Long Branch $2.83 million to repair and develop 107 homes for low-income residents.
Builder online reports more fully of the Democrats' 12 point plan.

Happy GIS Day

Today is the biggest holiday of the GIS year - it is GIS Day! It is the one day of the year when everyone is spatial.

While you could celebrate by making a digital map product, you might settle for visiting a GIS Day event near you, or just checking out the GIS Day website.

12 November 2007

LA Times: Did succulents save her home?

One woman in California showed the LA Times how the succulents around her home may have saved it from the fires.
Their garden of aloes, agaves, euphorbias and more -- created by Suzy with the help of San Diego landscape architect Robert Dean -- encircles the Southwest-style home, which is adjacent to a palm- and eucalyptus-filled canyon. The garden is intact, but many of the canyon's trees are blackened skeletons.

Land Use Change and Riparian Buffer Zone Status in the Barnegat Bay Watershed


Rutgers Center Assesses Land Use Change and Riparian Buffer Zone Status in the Barnegat Bay Watershed

New Brunswick, NJ--The Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis (CRSSA) at Rutgers has completed a project to assess recent land use change in the Barnegat Bay watershed. The updated mapping reveals that urban land use increased from approximately 25 percent in 1995 to approximately 30 percent of the watershed in 2006. Including all altered land uses (i.e., agriculture and barren lands) puts the percentage of altered land in the watershed at over 33 percent in 2006.

"The Barnegat Bay estuary system is continuing to experience a significant conversion of forested and wetland habitats to urban land cover and thereby exacerbating nutrient loading to the estuary," said Richard Lathrop, director of CRSSA. "The Barnegat Bay Estuary Program has identified the protection of riparian buffers as vital to meeting the goals of water quality and habitat protection within the Barnegat Bay watershed."

Riparian zones may constitute the immediate buffer to a stream as well as areas that may be more physically distant but are connected through groundwater flow, such as when wetlands are in close proximity to a stream. Protected riparian buffer zones adjacent to water bodies and streams, where human development and agriculture is excluded or minimized, is advocated as a "best management practice" to reduce the impact of human developed land uses on adjacent aquatic ecosystems and downstream water quality.

"Unfortunately," said Lathrop, "our assessment shows that between 1995 and 2006, approximately 1,920 acres of riparian habitat were developed. The northern portion of the Barnegat Bay watershed, which encompasses the Metedeconk, Beaver Dam, Kettle Creek and Silver Bay sub-basins, was especially hard hit with greater than 20 percent of the riparian zone being altered for land development."

On the positive side, the study identified approximately 1,300 acres of barren land and 677 acres of agricultural land within the mapped riparian zones that could serve as potential targets for re-vegetation and restoration.

Funding for the project was provided by the Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program. To access a copy of the full report go to http://crssa.rutgers.edu/projects/coastal/riparian.

CRSSA is a research center of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

What do you do when memorials get old?

What do you do when your memorial or monument starts to show signs of wear? As this NY Times video shows, multiple voices are emerging on how to handle the aging of the Tomb of the Unkowns at Arlington Cemetery. This serves as a small rehearsal of the larger conversation that we will have one day about places like the WWII and Korean War Memorials or the countless 9-11 Memorials that have been constructed around the country.

11 November 2007

Great images of Paris Exposition of 1900

A very nice collection of postcard photos from the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle is available online. (You can buy posters of the photos, too.) It is amazing to see how many lasting structures were built, like the Alexander III Bridge, Gare d'Orsay, and the Grand Palais.

And they all moved up

It was a great week. All four of my teams climbed in the Sagarin standings. LSU is seen as the frontrunner for the National Championship. UW beat Michigan. UK kept their distant hopes alive for the SEC championship game.

To me, the close clustering of UW, RU and UK shows how much could still change in the next couple of weeks.

09 November 2007

EPA Design competition

Thanks to Jason Berner, I got a heads up on the The EPA's P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability which is still open for a few more weeks.

Horticultural Heroes

Charles Birnbaum visited campus earlier this week (although, sadly I missed it). Still, his visit sparked a quick trip through the website for The Cultural Landscape Foundation. That is where I discovered this year's winners of the 2007 Horticultural Heroes. The winners aren't horticulturalists, but trees. The bald cypress grove at the Spring Grove Cemetery and the bamboo grove at Avery Island both stand out as marvelous examples that I still enjoy reflecting on even though I haven't seen them in years.

08 November 2007

Environmental Geomatics/GIS position

See complete details at
Deadline has been extended to November 16, 2007.

Information Officer
(GIS/Data Manager - Hudson River Estuary Program)
The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) is seeking an information specialist with experience in database design and management to manage GIS and other data, perform analyses on a wide variety of datasets and to develop methods for synthesis of data to derive projects, maps and tools for outreach programs. Position located in Albany, NY. The successful candidate will hold a BS degree in mathematics, information or computer science, engineering or related field, with work experience in database design and management. Experience using ArcGIS 9.1/9.2 to create, edit, analyze and maintain spatial data. Submit application, including cover letter, resume and writing sample.

More lessons for professional practice classes

Other reports on the Gehry/MIT lawsuit reach beyond the building and into the landscape. The contractor is claiming that they tried not to build the amphitheater (pictured above) this way:

An executive at Skanska's Boston office yesterday blamed Gehry for problems with the project and said Gehry ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company prior to construction that there were flaws in his design of the amphitheater.

"This is not a construction issue, never has been," said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA. He said Gehry rejected Skanska's formal request to create a design that included soft joints and a drainage system in the amphitheater, and "we were told to proceed with the original design."

After the amphitheater began cracking and flooding, Skanska spent "a few hundred thousand dollars" trying to resolve the problems, but, he said, "it was difficult to make the original design work."

I am sure that all parties will produce reams and reams of data before this is over. This could turn into a lesson for Pro Practice classes for decades to come; we just have to learn what that lesson is first.

Sagarin update in a slow week

Sorry for the late post. It is getting harder and harder to make a big change in the rankings:

06 November 2007

MIT is suing Frank Gehry

The NY Times is reporting that MIT has filed a lawsuit against Frank Gehry for his Stata Center. No, not because of how the building looks or what it has done to their campus image. Instead, it is because they feel he inadequately accounted for the water and snow and mold.

05 November 2007

Is the Kentlands really working?

The Washington Posts published one person's answer to that question.

Moynihan Station is moving ahead

The replacement for the replacement for Pennsylvania Station is moving ahead, slowly. Called Moynihan Station, the plans for moving into the Old Post Office are being revived and, as the New York Times writes, it is not going to be easy to make something grand and meaningful. Among other things, the Times asks for a greater separation of MSG and Penn:

Finally, the Beaux-Arts stairs and columns on the front of the old Farley post office cannot become primarily an entrance to the Garden — or a bulletin board to hawk Garden events. This is no ordinary building. Built to complement the old Pennsylvania Station, torn down 44 years ago, the Farley is a public treasure that must be preserved. The last thing New York needs is another dreadful Pennsylvania Station that only serves developers and Madison Square Garden.

03 November 2007

Missing Barcelona

After our class presentation on Barcelona and Italy the other day, I started missing Spain and thought I would offer up some photos while I take care of some other business. Plus, I wasn't able to live blog it, since I was keeping things on schedule.

01 November 2007

Cool Class: Environmental Issues in the US

It is advising time and folks are asking me for class recommendations. Here's a great general class for students interested in the environment and wondering about directions for future study:
Frank Gallagher's 11:372:202 Environmental Issues in the US

The photos on the class site are great.

Neutra's Kaufmann House goes up for auction

Another modernist classic is up on the auction block. But, after the Farnsworth House went for $7.5 million, it is hard to judge what this will go for. And, reports the NY Times, the whole auction thing has some folks upset:

Still, such sales sometimes draw criticism from preservationists who would prefer that the houses be tended by a public institution or trust that guarantees continued access for architecture students and scholars rather than sold to the highest bidder. (The Farnsworth House, now open to the public, was bought by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while the Maison Tropicale went to a private bidder.)