31 January 2007

Samoan Circles

You asked and I stammered. This won't be much better. But I found a short description of the Samoan Circle as a public participatory process from an Australian web site. They explain it all, "Samoan circles are similar to Fishbowls." Now you get it, right?

Maybe you should just focus on Samoa.

Adam Yarinsky: 3 Landscapes

3 favorite examples of landscape architecture:

Central Park
The Lawn at UVA
Hudson Valley as a region

For background, go here: http://hahawall.rutgers.edu/tulloch/Candidates.html

Moses on WNYC

The Brian Lehrer show explored a variety of issues and attitudes in regards to Robert Moses' legacy and the ways that he is being remembered. You can listen to the show online.

One guest, Major Carter, has already been mentioned here.

Vote for Adam's Future

Visit here to vote for the ARO's 2016 vision for New York. The deadline is February 2nd.

30 January 2007

Mapping Tear-downs

Since the blog is reasonably recent, I have lots of old finds to share. Here's one that I have been enjoying for some time now...

A Montclair-centric weblog that I enjoy reading occassionally, Baristanet, has gotten a lot of publicity out of its custom GoogleMap interface that maps out nice old homes in the Montclair area that are being torn down to be replaced with larger fancier vinyl homes. Not only is it a nice map, but it is an active effort at raising public awareness of a pattern occuring throughout the landscapes of New Jersey.

28 January 2007


A $60 million "enhancement" project in Yosemite has been frozen by the courts. Aside from the usual concerns about such work, the interesting comment in the news is that visitors are down at thsi crown jewel. Why? Could it be video games?

Ford Site in Edison

The old Ford site on Route 1 in Edison appears to be moving towards its next life as Edison Towne Center. I assume that the extra E is for excitement. The article makes it clear that there is no new housing but there will be a big cinema. That seems little odd since they keep conducting studies that report on a housing shortage in the region, but I never hear about a movie theater shortage.

You can see the propaganda plans for the future at http://www.hartzedison.com/. They say it recalls the scale and style of the 1950s, but the newspaper account compares it more favorably with the artificial reality of downtown at Disney.

Like the J&J project in North Brunswick, this will be interesting to watch over the next decade or more.

Editorial on the Highlands

As a researcher and scientist who has contributed to the study of the region, I try to keep my opinions on the Highlands fairly muted. And, as I teach a planning class that relies on this as a case study, I see something fairly natural and common about the basic tensions that are being revealed in the Highlands debate pitting community needs (like water) and desires (like quality of life) against personal interests (property rights and money). As a generic issue, these as have a valid place in a debate about policy and planning decisions; that's what makes takings law interesting and makes it hard to sort out the current debate over eminent domain. But sometimes the rhetoric and politics gets out of hand, and that seems to clearly be happening.

Today the Daily Record published an editorial that addressed some of the imbalance in the arguments. In particular, some are arguing that concerns over water supply are inappropriate. Huh? Boonton has a moratorium on new hookups. It seems like nearly every summer there are water restrictions in place. And the Highlands supplies water to about half of New Jersey's population, which just keeps growing.

There's no reason -- other than partisan Republican politics -- for the freeholders to declare war on the Highlands. Instead, let the board zero in on what we see as the key problem in this debate: finding a way to force the state to compensate preservation area landowners. If the freeholders truly are thinking about litigation, this is an area to explore.
There is also an argument advanced that the Act isn't based on science. Legislation is rarely based on science as much as politics, so that isn't anything new or unusual. Although the science that spurred on the Act was mighty sound. The weakest points of the Act might be the ways that it was built on compromise with many of the opponents. Often, the political compromises undermine the consistency and science but are necessities in a pluralistic society.

I especially like the way the editorial says, "if the freeholders truly are thinking about litigation..." as if they think it is just political posturing by a group that is accusing others of being political. The Highlands are complex landscape, both physically and politically, and deserve some serious attention.

27 January 2007

Robert Moses Redux

After my earlier post about Robert Moses, I stumbled onto an interesting report by the New York Observer on Robert Caro and s little controversy around the exhibitions.

Learning from music

For those of us interested in either design or technology, there are some lessons we can learn from art forms like music. Like landscape architecture, music is highly accessible and something that many enjoy as an avocation. Here are a few musical explorations that I think raise an interesting question or two: What is the landscape architectural equivalent? Is GIS the technology to tell the landscape's story?

In an effort to help new listerners understand classical music, the San Francisco Symphony created a web experience that walks visitors through large musical pieces combining animation and explanations. The flash animation lets you see the musical score as the conductor would and helps you follow along. My favorite (so far) is Beethoven's Eroica Symphony which is not only a great stand alone composition, but also has a strong connection with European history. The application brings aspects to life very nicely.

This weekend NPR's Studio 360 visited R. Luke BuBois, a computer musician, whose talents include time-lapse music. But instead of playing the music fast, he uses computer algorithms to reduce music to an abstraction that preserves the key and certain tonal qualities but looses melodies and lyrics. Wired recently dissected some of the pieces of his latest CD, Timelapse, which is a time-lapse compilation of all of the songs that topped the chart for the last 42 years. (He has also made a video, called Academy, that applies a similar idea to every Academy awards Best Picture.)

25 January 2007

Historic zoning

A developer in Lexington, KY is caught up in a fight with the city's historic preservation office over a 175 year-old property. He is trying build an addition on a historic home in one of Lexingotn's oldest neighborhoods. He says the city is being obstinate and too picky about what he does with his property. They say that he needs to tear down the work he has already done, about $225,000 worth, and start over.

allowing him to proceed. But somehere along the way, it turns out that the city agency actually approved a different The crux of the problem is that he bought the property knowing it was going to be a historic preservation property with serious limitations, but a great location and gorgeous facade and shell. He submitted drawings for approval. He recieved a "certificate of appropriateness". The addition he is building now is differnet than the drawings they approved. Who messed up? He says they approved different plans than he submitted. THey say it doesn't matter, he is building something unapproved.

As we sit here in the very old city of New Brunswick, Rutgers has some of the only buildings from the same era as this neighborhood. Think how different New Brunswick would be if we'd saved a few blocks of old houses somewhere just off George and Albany. Historic preservation is a tough situation to deal with and we forget how much balance is involved in compromises that stop short of perfect preservation, especially if the properties are going to be used actively and/or commercially. Throw in some government intervention and you really have opportunities for conflict and loss by all parties.

It will be interesting to see if this one gets resolved well. But that seems particularly unlikely right now. Read the article and comment.

Robert Moses

I have a rather fun talk I give regularly on the Top Ten Shapers of the American Landscape. One of the Ten is Robert Moses, who is largely responsible for the New York City that we know today. He made many of the bridges, highways and landmarks that shape the city including the Throgs Neck, the the Henry Hudson, and Verrazano Narrows bridges as well as the BQE, the Staten Island Expressway, the Cross-Bronx, the Belt Parkway, Shea Stadium, 2 World's Fairs and the Lincoln Center. He also created parks and places like Jones Beach, but his projects often came with a lot of collateral damage. Many view him today as more of a wrecking ball than a builder. But, the way that he used NYC as a teaching tool to show other American cities how to destroy slums and build highways, whatever the cost, has shaped countless cities across this continent.

The New York Times is running a major feature on Moses this weekend as three different museum exhibits open, nearly simultaneously, re-examining his career and work. As part of their coverage the Times has included both a video on the exhibits and his legacy and slidehow on his work.

The exhibits, are going to be at the Museum of the City of New York, the Queens Museum of Art and Columbia University. We live in the shadow of the capital of the world, and opportunities like this are a major benefit of living here. As a student, here and now, you really should jump on that train and go.

24 January 2007

The Confluence Project

Maya Lin has been commissioned to build a series of public art installations along the lower Columbia River. Together, these works make up the Confluence Project. It looks like a very nice change of pace from her more visible projects that have been stuck between landscape and architecture. It displays a sensitivity for the tribal role in the area that has generated plenty of support for the work. But it isn't without some detractor(s).

23 January 2007

One person can really make a difference

When the Port Authority wanted to build a new jetport in the Great Swamp, it sounded like a good idea to some people. After all, no one else could afford to turn that swamp into a productive land use that would serve the entire region, and this site would allow the PA to build the world's largest airport. But, what most people failed to recognize in 1959 was that the Great Swamp was already a highly productive and deeply unique resource. The Great Swamp is a critically important piece of habitat that also serves as a recreational hub and an aesthetic centerpiece for a large portion of New Jersey's bedroom communities.

One woman, Helen Fenske, saw the intrinsic value in the landscapes of the Great Swamp and stood up to the Port Authority. She started a committee to fight the project and led a rapidly growing group to a new form of activism. ultimately, the efforts of her group led to the defeat of the port Authority (a first) and the creation of the Great Swamp Natural Wildlife Refuge. After that she helped create the DEP and establish programs like Green Acres and wetlands protections.

One of the news accounts sums it up pretty well: "She was ahead of everybody on so many things," [Abagail] Fair added of Mrs.Fenske's influence on the environmental movement. "She was a tactical lady. She brought us up to where she was. She was an amazing lady."

Helen Fenske has died, but her mark on the landscape of New Jersey remains as a real treasure. She is being remembered for a long list of accomplishments and, most importantly, how she taught us so much about what we could each accomplish if only we set out to do it.

22 January 2007

The "old" Rutgers

After we recently posted the 1930s photo of Rutgers Gardens, some folks have asked me about the availability of earlier photos of Cook and its environs. Aaron Love at CRSSA pointed out that there are some B/W aerial photos of Cook and other campus areas in the 1927 Master Plan that is currently online at: http://collegeavenuecampus.rutgers.edu/pdf/1927mp.pdf The photo above shows the college farm areas where Route 1 now runs. You can see Helyar Woods near the water on the right about 2/3 of the way up. The fairly straight road is our Ryder's Lane and the long curve is part of the train track that runs to the current BMS property.

There are some VERY recent photos of the gardens and campus that are newly available at Live.com, too.

EnvPlan Class Links

Today's class included some material that you might want to revisit.

We mentioned Mont St Michel (above).

We also talked about Ian McHarg and his book, Design with Nature.

And early environmental problems in the US.

Treeless tree photo

In one of those truly odd photographic juxtapositions, foresters in Sweden logged a site so heavily that it ended up looking like a tree.

21 January 2007

FAQ: Looking for data

Q. I need some spatial data for my class project. What can I do?

Here places where you might begin your search for data.

You can check the Data Downloads here https://njgin.state.nj.us/NJ_NJGINExplorer/index.jsp

You should also check out the DEP's site (even though they mean to put their data on NJGIN) http://www.state.nj.us/dep/gis/download.htm

Here's an excerpt from a class exercise that might help too...
Try Using Internet Data: Why just use CRSSA data when you can get really unreliable stuff from "out there"? Go to ArcCatalog and add an IMS Server for http://gisdata.usgs.net. Start a new ArcMap and add the Map Service:USGS_WMS_NED. The power is that this data mixes with CRSSA's. You could also add the DEP's hemlock data to begin to look for patterns in the landscape. Want to explore? Try looking at data at http://www.geographynetwork.com. More New Jersey-centric data can be found at http://njgeodata4.state.nj.us and http://njgin.aclink.org.

Unfortunately, data searches like these can take days if they are done well. And really the lectures on dealing with the data should be pretty extensive too. So don't feel bad if you this seems like it goes slower than you first expected.

This and other FAQs are online at: http://crssa.rutgers.edu/people/dtulloch/faq/FAQs.htm

20 January 2007

Google Earth for bad guys?

The London Telegraph reports that the British militarybelieve insuregents in Iraq are using Google Earth to plan terrorist attacks. The article quotes a military intelligence officer, "We believe they use Google Earth to identify the most vulnerable areas such as tents."

If you know anyone in Iraq you obviously should be concerned. If you like Google Earth, this should concern you as well. Unfortunately, we have a difficult time as a society balancing freedoms and security, so this story has a good chance of ending poorly one way or the other. (h/t to Pruned)

Women in Landscape Architecture

Beatrix Farrand. Martha Brookes Hutcheson. Gertrude Jekyll. Ellen Biddle Shipman. Florence Yoch. Lucille Council. Kate Sessions.
All were historically significant women in landscape architecture.

Historically, women in landscape architecture were few and far between. But stand-outs like Farrand and Hutcheson helped pave the way for a growing number of women practicing landscape architecture today (UNLV has a great reading list as a start for learning about some of these pioneeers). The ASLA has had multiple female presidents and women now account for 34% of practicing professionals (which, might be better than it sounds if you remember that the class of 1969 is probably still practicing as a nearly all male cohort, thus limiting the speed with which any change can occur). To continue addressing the problems and create a network of support, the ASLA has established the WILA network.

That doesn't mean that there isn't still prevalent attitude in many quarters that keeps women from prominent positions and creates a pay gap in the profession. And the supposedly enlightened sphere of Academia is no exception. Even though some have risen to positions as Deans, CELA presidents, editors of Journal, etc., only 24% of academics in the field are women. Could that be right? Are universities really less responsive than, say, design/build firms and contractors?

Well, the most prominent LA program in the country is under some serious scrutiny for its failue to hire women. Just over week ago Martha Scwartz, arguably the most prominent female landscape architect in the country, quit her adjunct position at Harvard because of the LA program's hiring practices in regards to women. As she pointed out to the interim president and the Harvard Crimson, the program hasn't hired a woman in a tenured position in over 100 years. “The world of architecture is still a major, major boys’ club, major, it’s an uphill battle still for women,” said Schwartz.

When you read the Higher Ed piece, make sure you get down to the comments at then end. They apear to be uncensored and, thus, provide some diverse and dissenting comments.

Photo: Princeton Campus. Princeton hired pioneering woman landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to design their campus, but didn't admit women as students until 1969.

19 January 2007

Very serious

China has demonstrated that they can knock out a satellite with a missile. While this has some pretty ominous implications for the escalation of the weaponization of space, it also says something about things here on Earth.

First, if China can do it now, will Afghanistan (or Microsoft) be able to do it in another 20 or 30 years? Since it doesn't directly hurt people and since there are no news cameras and since the rules of space wars are pretty unclear, is it really an act of war or vandalism to blow up someone else's bird?

Imagine a difficult time, with oil scarce and economies struggling, when one nation would knock out a couple GPS satellites just to send us a message. IT is hard to fathom how a major city like LA would even function now wothout GPS. Planes, deliveries, emergency services and surveyors all rely on it. With time, they'd all adjust. But the immediate financial impact would be significant.

Now get serious, if Taiwan ever gets hot, how long does it take before something happens up there? Can our military even mobilize without GPS?

This news story is very serious.

18 January 2007

Da Vinci Code for map lovers?

A new book is out that I guess I'll have to read soon: Barbara Parker's The Perfect Fake.

It's an thriller that wraps the action around a meticulously forged 500 year old map. Last winter I got to visit the map vault in the basement of the Library of Congress and see some maps that were about that same age. The maps were so vivid and so significant (we also got to see George Washington's personal handdrawn survey of his farm) that I'll never forget the experience.

The reviews describe the writing and the way the author details things like the paper used and the techniques for the forging. It sound like quite the education in historic maps. And it sounds like a decent novel for a flight or a train ride.

Celebration as a start

As the semester starts and we talk about different examples of planning and design applications, here's one to spend some time looking at. Celebration, Florida is a new town built by Disney near Walt Disney World. Slate constructed a slide show about it. Witold Rybczynski, who wrote the Slate essay, also spoke with NPR about Celebration. We will talk about it later this semester, but the slides and audio might help you begin to ask some questions about what we are trying to accomplish when we plan communities from scratch.

17 January 2007

Mapping the Homeless

Mapping out homeless is tricky, especially if you want it to be communicative. The Downtown Holess Map is an example of a creative solution that has a serious purpose. The animation showing the change is especially interesting. One of the rare times when I wish
I had a better sense for the geography of downtown LA.

Very expensive atlases

Forbes Magazine reports that of the 10 most expensive books sold in 2006, 5 were atlases. Part of the value comes from museums taking some off the market permanently, thus increasing the rarity.

16 January 2007

Gary Hilderbrand: 3 Landscapes

3 favorite examples of landscape architecture...

Villa Lante
City of Rome

For background, go here: http://hahawall.rutgers.edu/tulloch/Candidates.html

The Sitka Spruce lives!

The Klootchy Creek Sitka Spruce (the world champion) is going to be kept alive (for now). It took a public meeting for it to happen.

Free geographic explorer

NASA's World Wind is now an established and well tested digital exploration software. It works like Google Earth but is less proprietary. For those of you interested in an alternative to the big boys, this is definitely worth a try. Download it here for free.

LAF money for students

Landscape Architecture Foundation

The sponsor provides two $4,000 scholarships to undergraduate students who are third-, fourth-, or fifth-year undergraduates at Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) accredited programs of landscape architecture. This scholarship was established to: aid outstanding students who would not otherwise have an opportunity to continue a professional degree program due to unmet financial need; increase the interest and participation of economically disadvantaged and under-represented populations in the study of landscape architecture; and enrich the profession of landscape architecture through a more diverse population. http://www.lafoundation.org/Scholarships.htm

Highlands lawsuits

Now that the Highlands Council has tried to create some real policy, it is going through the processes required to make it work. This includes public hearings and legal tests.

Keeping up their end of the deal, the homebuilders are suing to get better access to douments and work products used in formulating the plan.

A conservative "farmers" group has filed a lawsuit that questions the basis of the plan. I have commented previously on the name of this organization which sounds like a pro-environment conservation group but is really helping landowners preserve their equity.

And an Allentown TV station has tried to capture the full conflict in under 3 minutes. Not a bad try.

15 January 2007

Capitol Visitors Center

When I am in DC in a few weeks I will just miss my chance to see the new visitors center. The latest photos and details certianly make it sound interesting, if not extravagent. This will definitely be a stop on the 2007 Fall Field Trip.

Soccer photos

As we slowly become better and better soccer fans, these great photos of lower tier football venues have a special appeal. There is one in Sweden that appears to be cut right out of some rock. Some others show games being payed in the shadows of historic churches or villas or hilltowns. And, still, no matter what the landscape is, the soccer seems to be all that matters to the players.
(The stadium in the photo is Barcelona's Olympic Stadium where RCD Espanyol currently plays - not meant as nearly so low a tier as the ones in the photoset)

Take a cruise to 18

Even as the Route 18 project is sealing off the River from New Brunswick, the County is spending millions on a project on the other side of the highway.


As you ponder the meaning of MLK Day, you might visit the website for the MLK Memorial that is due to be completed in 2008. The site includes a look at how it will appear when completed.

Stanford has a nice collection of his speeches online.

14 January 2007

Olympic Sculpture Park

If you saw the MoMA Groundswell exhibit, then you probably remember the then unbuilt Olympic Sculpture Park from Seattle. Well, now it is open and you can take a virtual tour or look at a slide show. The Seattle Times thinks it could redefine the waterfront.

I believe it is located at: 47.616297, -122.355921.


Apparently, the term Aerotropolis has really come of age. While we are worried about the retrofitting of the Newark aerotropolis, Hong Kong and Singapore are building giant airport cities from scratch. The link takes you to a great introductory article from Fast Company magazine.

New transit

Since Rutgers College Ave vision includes some

Eugene, Oregon is pursuing a carbon neutral existence with a very high-tech mass transit system that opens this weekend.

Here is a visualization that includes some nice video. The Anti-Planner thinks it will be a big failure.

It certainly sounds like it will quickly become antiquated when compared with other emerging ideas. The Germans are considering a driverless taxi-train. The idea is that the transportation will change to fit the needs of the individuals (or small groups) as opposed to people changing their schedule and travel destinations based on the transportation system.

12 January 2007

Interfaith Power and Light

Treehugger has a Weather Channel video exploring the role of faith in addressing global warming. This is part of a much larger conversation about the intersection of stewardship and faith that I'll have to save for another day. Just watch the video and think about how much difference this could make in local planning board meetings and national elections in 2008.

A fairly famous LA

One of the most familiar names in landscape architecture is a relatively new one. Eddie George, ASLA is better known for his Heisman Trophy and was visible this week as an on-air personailty during the BCS Championship Game but is now leading his firm called The EDGE Group. h/t to The Dirt.

Buy a computer, plant a tree?

Dell announced a new program would they would be willing to charge you an extra few bucks to plant a tree when you buy a computer (2$/laptop, $6/PC). The idea is about creating a carbon neutral policy, but the mechanism for implementing it is pretty odd. If Dell thinks they should get any sustainability credit for helping YOU spend money on trees, they are deeply confused. They should be insisting that for every machine they build, that THEY will match it with a proportionate response. After all, they are the ones profiting from this.

Institutional barriers abound. Anyone working for a government agency or on a government grant won't be allowed to check the box. How many clients would switch away from Dell over a $6 increase in price? How customers would switch to Dell if they simply insisted on a carbon neutral business model?

11 January 2007

European Space Agency Goes for Biodiversity

Even as NASA is reducing its formal interest in Planet Earth the Europeans are stepping it up. Yesterday it was annaounce that the European Space Agency was initiating a new project to protect biodiversity. Their efforts to puruse a Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (image above) may serve as a great model for how the largest economic and scientific nations can contribute to local efforts in smaller countries. Certainly, the remote sensing imagery and expertise that they can lend is significant.

Spring Speakers Highlights

While I hope to post details as we go, here are a few of the spring lectures:

* Jason Grabosky, Associate Professor of Ecology,
Evolution and Natural Resources here at Rutgers, will
present some of his research which applies high
technology and considerable horsepower to understand
how trees respond to extreme storm conditions.

* Architect Adam Yarinski will share some of the work
of his firm Architectural Research Office (ARO), which
includes the top prize from the "New York, 2106"
Competition sponsored by The History Channel, IBM,
and Infinity to envision the future of Manhattan.
Web site: www.aro.net

* The first Steve Strom Memorial Lecture will be given by
Kenneth Helphand, FASLA, Professor of Landscape
Architecture at the University of Oregon and author of the
recently published Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in
Web site: kennethhelphand.com

* This year's Margaret O. Cekada Memorial Lecture will
be given by Michael van Valkenburgh, FASLA, principal
of Michael van Valkenburgh Associates and Charles Eliot
Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at the
Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Web site: www.mvvainc.com

10 January 2007

Top Planning Issues of 2006

Planetizen sums up 2006 with a list of the Top Planning Issues. As I reconsider what to include in Fundamentals of Environmental Planning, this presents an opportunity to check which of these I do talk about already and which ones I have't. Clearly the green buliding trend and Kelo get some of my time. The housing bubble and Katrina cottages are going to be harder to fit in. And the gentrification of downtown strikes me as deserving more than the casual mention I give it. We'll see...

09 January 2007

Visual stimulation

How many different ways are there to diagram an idea or model? It turns out that there are roughly as many types of diagrams as there are elements. You can see them arrayed at the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods.

Ramping Up for 2007: Part 4

Sustainability and green design aren't exactly new ideas but they've recently become more mainstream ideas that have come into their own.

The City of Seattle is fine-tuning their codes to encourage more green roof projects. Schools like Portland State have made sustainability an integrated element of the university operations with green campuses, green buildings and green transportation. And ASLA has built a green roof on their building in DC. And when state governments are pushing rain gardens, they aren't really cutting edge anymore. Are they?

During my sabbatical, I read all or part of three different books that begin to speak to some of these issues:
* Design Like You Give a Damn
* William Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency
* Did Someone Say Participate? An Atlas of Spatial Practice

Design Like You Give a Damn was a great book that was just a long illustrated list of creative alternative solutions for design helping folks out. Admittedly, DLYDG was more about housing for the poor and clean water for villages, but this too is a sustainability problem. moreover, it showed how easy it was to create inexpensive project with reused materials, or energy efficient techniques to make life better in places as disparate as NYC's Bowery and rural Africa.

I tend to be very sympathetic to those who are arguing that the next great movement in design will not be a style so much as a philosophy that embraces more environmentally and societally friendly solutions. Landscape architects should have a leg up on the other design professions on this count, but there is limited evidence of it being true.

What is less clear to me is how environmental planning should change. It should already be sensitive to natural processes, working to minimize impact, and improving opportunities for open space within the urbanizing landscape. What's new in planning may be better policy tools and increased support for environmental initiatives.

UPDATE: The photo is a rain garden at MIT which I understand to be an Olin design as part of their larger efforts at the Stata Center which is just out of sight in this photo.

Design Week Lecture

"The Space of Trees"

Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA
Principal, Reed Hilderbrand

Tuesday, January 16th
7:00 p.m.
Trayes Hall, Douglass Campus Center

The Department of Landscape Architecture is pleased to begin its Spring 2007 Speakers Series with a special lecture for the 2nd annual "Design Week" charrette by Gary Hilderbrand. The focus of the talk will be the use of plants to create memorable spaces and meaningful places
and will draw upon some of the award winning work of his firm, Reed Hilderbrand.

Reed Hilderbrand embodies the belief that landscape is a compelling medium of cultural expression. Their ASLA award winning projects range from private residences to the Hobart Urban Nature Preserve to the Children's Therapeutic Garden at the Institute for Child and Adolescent Development. And as evidenced by their work at seminal American landscapes such as the Arnold Arboretum and the Mt. Auburn Cemetery, the firm has developed a reputation for creating designs that capable of bridging the past and the future. As a design critic, Mr. Hilderbrand's books and articles have examined critical dimensions of twentieth century landscape architecture, ranging from the traditionalist approach of Richard Webel and Umberto Innocenti to the early Modernism of Dan Kiley to the ecological responsiveness of Richard Haag to the contemporary efforts of George Hargreaves. In all cases, his writings reflect upon the challenges and opportunities of professional practice: how responding to the needs of society instills an awareness of the site, and how the process of shaping earth, plants, and water give rise to expressive possibilities. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Landscape Architects and of the American Academy in Rome.

"Design Week" was initiated into the curriculum last year to allow students in the professionally accredited program in Landscape Architecture to test their own abilities in solving complex spatial problems. In the first week of the spring semester departmental courses are replaced by a single intensive design exercise. Integrated teams of sophomores, juniors, and seniors are presented with a seemingly intractable problem that involves a multifaceted program, a large site, technical challenges, a rich cultural context, and ever-present concerns about natural system. They are then given six days to provide a solution. While members of the faculty are available for consultation, students are, themselves, largely responsible for all aspects of the undertaking: defining the precise scope of work, scheduling tasks, identifying research and analysis needs, prescribing a design-development process, procuring drawing and model making supplies, and producing a book of their work. Final drawings and models are then publicly presented and critiqued by an outside jury. For sophomores, who have just been admitted to the program, Design Week is an opportunity to apply the skills recently learned and see firsthand the kinds of knowledge they will develop in the coming years. For upperclassmen it is the chance to develop logistical and leadership skills. For all, it is the opportunity to develop a teamwork ethic. But perhaps above all, the scope and scale of these projects combined with the intensity in which they are studied provides the students with a unique opportunity for independent work. Last year's problem was to complete the College Avenue Design Competition RFP--something the professional firms had five months to do. This year's problem will be revealed to the students on the morning of the 16th.

08 January 2007

Landscape Job

Growing landscape construction company is recruiting an energetic team member knowledgeable in design, estimating and sales. Experience with planting and masonry is necessary. We service high-end residential and commercial clients in northern NJ. Competitive Salary plus benefits, paid vacation and holidays.
Submit your resume at nj.com or FAX 973 509-0623
Thank you for your assistance. Sincerely, Frederic W. Jones, Office Manager

Why is it so dark here?

So what happens when you use nice things in public places? They walk. So what do you do? Use cheaper things? Bolt them down tighter? Stop creating public space? Not many good options.

Success is a choice

No better way to start out the semester than with this message of inspiration from Michael Cera. And, coming from an actor whose show was cancelled, it means even more.

06 January 2007

Hot enough for 'ya?

The USDA Hardiness Zones are a tool that just about every serious gardener, landscaper, and landscape architect should know well. Unfortunately, the last update was in 1990 and some places in the US have changed zones. Well, the Arbor Day Foundation has come up with their own update. Aside from helping folks understand the basic information about picking the right plants for the right place, this website includes a map showing all of the areas in the US that have changed. My eyeball estimate is about 50%. Make sure you watch the animation, too.

Crepe Myrtles? Yes. Gardenias? Soon. It turns out that maybe I should have spent more time at LSU studying palms and tropicals.

After spending a downright hot January afternoon in the Pine Barrens, I found myself wondering how much more it will take to bring folks around to the real concerns of climate change. Maybe this will help folks who already use and rely on these maps?

Plant lists galore

Its going to be a gorgeous Saturday. Where could we go to see some plants I usually don't run into? If we went to Lord Stirling Park we could find some chicory and 4 different kinds birch. But at Cheesequake Park we could see 19 different kinds of grasses. And the nearby little Davidson Mill Park has 2 rushes and 3 sedges. How do I know what's there? There is a botanist who has been actively visiting hundreds of sites throughout NY/NJ/CT and cataloguing the species seen on site.

Its a fun resource for a sunny Saturday or a class project.

05 January 2007

Touchscreen technology

Here's a techie video to get you through the weekend. NYU's Jeff Han shows off some impressive touchscreen innovation at Google's TED.

Homeowners associations and free speech

The NJ Supreme court has agreed to hear a case pitting free speech rights against the powers of a homeowners association. It is happening down in Twin Rivers and is actually an interesting case since the it asks whether the contractual agreement that homeowners enter into upon moving to the neghborhood is a binding contract (bound by one set of constraints) or whether it becomes a governing entity (with a different set of epectations). Since homeowners assocaitions are the fastest growing form of government in the US, this might spark some exciting conversations.

04 January 2007



Rutgers 38 Kansas State 10
Kentucky 28 Clemson 20
Wisconsin 17 Arkansas 14
LSU 41 Notre Dame 14

There has never been a year that these schools have all played in the post-season. So it is particularly gratifying that they all have won.

03 January 2007

Ramping Up for 2007: Part 3

Events in the Middle East should be sufficient warning that history still matters. But even a sensitive planner/designer can struggle to figure out what that really means. How do we balance the desires and needs of today with the histories around us? I've been lucky enough during my sabbatical to read some short histories that have me focused on these issues than usual.

New Jersey continues to be an interesting puzzle to me. We are more like Europe than California when you consider the ways that so many different pieces of land in New Jersey have a significant history. But, unlike much of Europe, we have yet to develop a real model of how to value these histories and how to treat these properties. Especially since they are so frequently located in points of conflict with other needs and interests of the community. Preservation New Jersey picks 10 endangered places each year and the pattern is stunning. Many of these aren't hidden away country cabins where George Washington's cousin spent a night, but are substantial structures hidden in plain sight in the urban landscapes that so many New Jerseyans speed through. Check out these from Trenton, Jersey City, and Camden. And some are just things that we taked for granted like old hotels and trees.

On Sunday, the Times described how some historic properties are re-entering the private realm since their public hasn't stepped up to embrace them. These clearly seems like the sort of pattern that we will live to regret in a few decades. Who's fault is this? What are we supposed to do about it?

Some of the problem is simply awareness. It is exciting to see a sustained growth of organizations that are helping track these histories and make them increasingly accessible. For instance the National Assocaition of Olmsted Parks is putting lists of projects online (especially with help from the NPS). And I've recently been revisiting the wonderful resource, Pioneers of American Landscape Design, which catalogs a long list of forgotten historic designers. I think it is one of the most enjoyable and underappreciated books on landscape architecture.

02 January 2007

Bethesda Terrace

Great graphics from the NY Times, as usual.

Central Park's centerpiece, Bethesda Terrace, is going to return to its original glory with a long promised overhaul. The 3-dimensional diagram helps explain the work, which will include returning the plaza's tiles which have been in storage since the 1980s.

Ramping Up for 2007: Part 2

There is serious concern about the ways that GIS threatens privacy. Daniel Sui writes about what he calls Stolen Geography. I generally agree with his basic premise that technology is allowing more and more information about us to be used in ways that rob us of some funamental privacy and, in turn, robs us of our own private places. But I am troubled by the examples he uses in the column.

For instance, he highlights the use of aerial photography of Barbara Streisand's property as a new, technologically enabled way that people are violating her privacy. Yet, for decades, people have been able to fly over these same properties (at a safe altitude) and see what they could see. The ability to photograph it hasn't changed much at all. But the ability to publish it has changed, especially when you intersect the Internet with California's anti-paparazzi statute. That's the change. A similar change is the change in records about property ownership, which have always been a matter of public record.

I appreciate that California wants to protect their most treasured natural resource (celebrities) and I certainly appreciate that they are worried about inappropriate violations of privacy.

At least the photos, taken with an explicit public purpose in mind, are a private product. But the property data are a form of public records whose public accessibility is key to their purpose. How can you challenge your tax assessment or check property boundaries? How else can reporters and investigators look into tricky land deals? The transparency is important to establish the trust between the citizens and their government.

01 January 2007

Bowls: 3 down

Rutgers 38 Kansas State 10
Kentucky 28 Clemson 20
Wisconsin 17 Arkansas 14
LSU on Wednesday

This is the first time all four schools have made it to a bowl. Imagine the chances of all four winning them.

Ramping Up for 2007: Part 1

Coming off of sabbatical I am trying to refill my head with the sorts of ideas and information that I need to shape my courses for the spring - especially Fundamentals of Enviromental Planning.

One thing I've been doing is revisiting the basic problems plaguing so many of our communities at the intersection of environment and race. How is it that decade after decade, so many minorities who try to improve their lot in life seem to end up in dangerous, unsustainable positions? Even when government offers them solutions, they never seem to work out as planned. Certainly my interest in groups like Future City Inc. and the Green Map System are an effort to dig into this a little more. But there are other folks who grapple with this stuff every day.

One of those folks is Majora Carter, who leads Sustainable South Bronx. Having received a MacArthur fellowship in 2005, she was a featured speaker at Google's TED in 2006. In a great 20 minute video, Carter talked about the need to get grassroots groups to the table during the decision making process rather than after the fact. More importantly, she made an impassioned presentation about how SSB is making its impact with visionary projects like teaching area residents skills so they can be engaged professionally building green roof projects - employment and environmental improvement are wrapped in one. She says, "Green is the New Black".

This weekend the NY Times ran an op-ed guest column called "The Last Race Problem" by Orlando Patterson. As a sociology professor at Harvard, Patterson starts with some strong credentials for his exploration of how the black community continues some of its struggles with segregation. He points to the ways that schools are even more segregated than in the 1960s and that black neighborhoods often remain self-segregated. "[B]lacks generally prefer to live in neighborhoods that are at least 40 percent black." Additionally, "we learn from repeated polls that whites say they are comfortable living in neighborhoods that are approximately 25 percent black." His final suggestion is that if the black community wants to get serious about improving their own situation, the black middle class may need to follow the lead of other minority groups and sacrifice their automonomy and force integration through changes in their own lives. Its a short column and hard to know the specifics he has in mind, but it shows a very different way of looking at some of the same issues that Majora raises. (It also dovetails with another recent news article that detailed the challenges for a middle class black family to hire a nanny that can work in these segregated neighborhoods.)
The Times also maintains a web page on Race that I had not before seen.

A little provocation goes a long ways on an issue like race. It isn't about A solution as much as vigilently continuing to work towards improvement and always studying what is working and what isn't.

Watch the video.
Read the op-ed piece.
Think about the future.

UPDATE: On 1/2, the Star-Ledger wrote about Corey Booker's one-kid-at-a-time approach to dealing with urban issues. We also watched the movie about Booker's first run at Mayor, Street Fight. Booker's approach is not at all inconcsistent with the things these other approaches, but it certainly has its own style and flavor. And, the movie really reminds you of how many issues are woven into the tattered urban fabric of a place like Newark.