31 August 2008

Seeking an environmentally-based vision for Monroe

For much of the fall our junior regional design studio will be looking at different visions for a large watershed, the 265-square mile Stony Brook Millstone Watershed. SBMW just made a presentation to Monroe Township about an environmental vision for the future of the Township.
Some of the Watershed Association’s many suggestions included creating a network of trails that extend into other municipalities, adopting ordinances that limit pesticides and fertilizers, reducing the density of development in recharge areas, requiring native plant species in landscape design, inventorying plant and wildlife species and their habitats, adopting standards and incentives to promote green buildings and using the township’s Web site to inform and receive public input.
Of course, the Township could take it personally, but the quotes suggest that while they have to point out they they are already working towards much of this, they appreciated the review by an outsider.

Blog Day 2008

To celebrate Blog Day I wanted to add links to 5 blogs, none of which seem to have been mentioned on Places and Space yet. I've chosen one for each of our 4 EP&D Options and a 5th for hometown crowd. Since some are new to me, I'll admit that I am not yet a regular reader of all of them.

Landscape Architecture
A man after my own heart, Tom Turner's GardenVisit is trying hard to help you find the very best landscape and garden experiences around the world.

Environmental Geomatics
I don't how I have not gotten around to mentioning or linking to Spatially Adjusted (maybe I have and forgot?) but is a pretty big one out there.

Environmental Planning
How about a look into the profession at the Planning Commissioner's Blog?

Landscape Industry
A nurseryman in California maintains a very active blog that reflects on his perspective on the industry.

New Jersey/Rutgers
While it hasn't been so active, I saw that Rutgers' Joe Seneca and Dean Hughes have posted something again on their NJ.com NJ Voices blog.

30 August 2008

NJ State Atlas online

While you wait for the new New Jersey Atlas to be published, you can enjoy an unrelated but similarly named New Jersey Atlas online produced by John Reiser.

As the school year gets going, this could be a great resource for students working on projects but with limited GIS access or skills.

28 August 2008

What's popular on Places and Spaces?

The end of summer is a nice chance to look back. For Places and Spaces it is a chance to peek at the hit counts and see what has driven traffic. Here is a summary of findings without any proper methodology.

The top search categories have been, in order:
/search/label/Landscape Architecture
/search/label/Environmental Geomatics
/search/label/Environmental Planning
I know, no big surprises there.

The most visited postings have been these:
/2007/10/art-of-revolutionary-war-in-nj.html
/2008/08/jarad-patko.html
2007/04/jinhua-acrhitecture-park.html
/2007/05/opposite-side-of-world.html
/2007/12/2008-asla-awards-competition.html

A few of these rely heavily on links to other sources, but I do wish there was a little more traffic on unique items like the Citation Rankings for LA Scholarship or the student work from Design Week or our recent visit to Dig It! You'll notice that the posting about Jarad Patko is very recent and is also already very high on the list. I suspect that it will quickly move into first.

The top sources of referrals are (by far) Google, then various Rutgers pages, then Google Image searches.

Top search terms in external search engines (like Google) that land visitors here:
david tulloch
david tulloch blog
henry arnold associates
lincoln memorial
levittowns
jinhua architecture park
best neighborhoods in america
andrea cochran
opposite side of the world
asla awards

25% of the blog's traffic is International coming from 134 Countries
The most frequent international visits are the 2.7% from the United Kingdom and 2.6% from Canada
30% is from New Jersey

53% of all visits have been through Firefox.
39% have been through MS Internet Explorer.
6% through Safari.
Then you've got Opera, and Camino and AvantGo. Huh? Someone has been visiting on Playstation 3? This is BFG-free zone guys.

27 August 2008

A short trip to the gallery

Not nearly enough of our student take advantage of art on campus, so I wanted to mention an exhibit going on right now: In Suspension. The Mason Gross School of the Arts currently has an exhibit art all of which is suspended from the ceiling. The Home News has a good photo to give you an idea. To juice it up a little, the exhibit includes a Calder piece. Of course, the exhibit is also free.

26 August 2008

Dialect survey maps

While posting the recent soda vs. pop maps I remembered seeing this several years ago. A researcher at UWM (or Harvard, I get the two confused) created an online dialect survey and posted the results in the form of maps. THe results show that some are regional, some are not.

For instance, if you look into how people pronounce the word Pecan, residents of the low country of South Carolina say PEE-can pie. But the maps show that to be a more widespread usage than you might have thought. Living near Route 1 I will admit to struggling with the multiple ways I say route, this map shows that it is different here than where I grew up. But I wasn't nearly as aware of how many choices there were for your old fashioned tennis shoes. Did I miss the map for nucular vs. nuclear?

25 August 2008

Flight 5191 Memorial Design

There has been some criticism lately of our rush to build memorials. Like reacting to problems with a hot-temper, rushing to memorialize a moment or experience can lead to us respond in ways that are focused more on the immediate experience than a lasting testimony to a sacrifice or loss.

For instance, while I have no particular complaints with the design, I think that the delays at the World Trade Center site might help the various parties find an increasing of areas for agreement. It might also create additional opportunities for someone to ask how this thing will look in 100 years. One of the reasons that I worry is that some of the memorials that have been rushed, have resulted in design decisions that might not stand the test of time. Will some of the smaller 9/11 memorials be moved or removed in the next few decades? Could the controversial WWII Memorial in Washington DC eventually be moved or removed? It sounds unlikely today, but in another 50 years the Mall and the sacred spaces there may be viewed differently. It isn't that WWII didn't deserve a big memorial, or that we didn't wait long enough after the war, but the design approvals process was rushed and the result was a level of contention that is unfortunate for veterans and their survivors who have sacrificed so much.

The thing that brings this up is a news item I saw recently on the Flight 5191 Memorial Design process in Lexington, KY. While I think some families may be questioning the cautious approach being taken, I found it refreshing to see that they were be very deliberate about the values they want captured and reflected in the design. For the memorial to have a lasting impact, the built landscpae needs to be something of lasting value. Otherwise, it may provide small comfort to a group who still needs comfort, but it will provide little more and quickly end up forgotten and abused. I wish the memorial's mission and values were more focused on celebrating the lives of the lost than comforting the families, but that might change as this process moves forward without the rush that we have seen elsewhere. And their response demonstrates how tightly connected the famlies and the community are when a tragedy like this strikes.

24 August 2008

InfoViz

Edward Tufte has long championed the need to improve the ways that we design how to visualize complex information. Often, artists contribute at a different level than designers, but in both cases aesthetics are a key component. Computers have helped artists increase the volume of explorations of this topic with results like WordCount and NewsMap and Touch Graph of Google Searches.

A much simpler issue is the design of each basic GIS map that we make. It is still a form of visualization that often compresses large amounts of information into a pretty tight capsule.

But for a first time summary this is great: Slate.com has posted a slidehow on InfoViz that includes a Radiohead video.

22 August 2008

Good idea turns bad

Bureaucracy seems so often to be a burden to creative and well-intentioned planning. The institutional controls of public hearings often force awkward compromises, lengthy processes, and seemingly unrelated conditions onto elegant proposals and potentially unique projects.

So, how can you get around these limitations that zoning and public policy impose? You could create a private setting with private rules and private roads where there is not public property and more of the control lies with a private organization like the developer or a homeowners organization. But then, who do you go to when you want to oppose a change? Do you have any say in the matter at all?

That is at the heart of a planning dispute described in the Home News and Tribune. Jack Morris is proposing a commercial development next to a higher density residential area where the residents are worried about the increased traffic. But, one of the problems is that since their road is private, Edison Township doesn't have the usual control over whether Morris' project, Beechwood Plaza, can connect to that road. They all signed up for a multi-use project, but didn't realize that this is how it would turn out. Here is the Home News quote:

Residents were told by township attorney Jeff Lehrer at the Council meeting that, as a matter of law, this is a private community and there is not much the Council can do other than write a letter to the Planning Board.

Lehrer said this is an internal configuration approved by the Planning Board in conjunction with the site plan approval. "If this were a public roadway, it would be a different issue," he said.

For a planning story, this one has some great elements. The photo has many many neighbors all posing together standing in the street - it stands out compared to most planning stories which lack good visuals and it shows that they present a unified front (unlike other stories where the opposition turns out to be one or two cranks). The fact that they knew it would be a multi-use project is interesting. Is it like suburbanites who buy into rural sub-divisions but then fight to prevent other rural subdivisions? Or did they not look at the plans before they bought? Is the developer forced into this situation against his will (did he sign on to an existing site plan)? Is he fighting the change?

Private roads are on the rise and make for an interesting twist to planning problems.

21 August 2008

Sustainable gardens in the Times

Today's NY Times included a Stephen Orr piece on seductive and sustainable gardens. The focus is on how sustainability is not only becoming fashionable, but how the public (or at least the trend-setting wealthy garden-loving elite) are recognizing aesthetics qualities that have long been hidden in plain sight. That alone would be enough to mention here. It included a slideshow with beautiful photos. That alone would be enough to mention here. But it featured the work and words of RU LA alumna Andrea Cochran. That made it urgent.

Ms. Cochran helped describe the changes she has seen in client responses:

But after two years of drought, the worst in California’s history, Ms. Cochran can sense that attitudes are changing. “These days, everybody’s talking about green issues and sustainability,” said Ms. Cochran, who has run her own firm for 10 years. “I find my clients really want to engage in a more meaningful way. They want to think holistically about their property."

Clarifying wetlands

US wetlands law, with its basis in such diverse language as the Commerce Clause and the Clean Water Act, lacks some clarity. A recent Supreme Court decision helped point out how flawed it could be having the whole thing pinned on the definition of "navigable waterways". A NYTimes editorial this week said that:

This tortured middle way has effectively become the law of the land, and for various reasons — including the need to conduct laborious, case-by-case investigations into hydrological linkages among water bodies — it has led to regulatory paralysis.

They supported the proposed legislation that Congress is now considering called the Clean Water Restoration Act.

19 August 2008

Presidential Debate - Tonight!

Two students have been chosen for a high stakes debate tonight. They will be debating, live on the Internet, whether Washington or Lincoln was the better president. The winner gets a $150,000 scholarship and the loser gets $50,000. If you bring that lame nonsense about Washington's wooden teeth, it could cost you $100,000. High stakes debating, indeed.

Forbes on the best colleges

Forbes magazine has published its own ranking system of universities. They worked with an economist to rank schools "based on the quality of the education they provide, and how much their students achieve." While there are some specifics I can't reconcile, I appreciate the basic notion that drove their effort.

No surprise that the magazine picks New Jersey's own Princeton #1. After all, they have a college within PU called Forbes College. Maybe we should try a US News and World Report School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

In the list of public schools, there system seems to have strongly favored smaller schools and military institutions. The service academies seem to be ranked higher here than in almost any other listing I see. I don't really have a problem with that, but it demonstrates how unique their ranking system must be. Rutgers ranking also suggests it is a different system than US News.

Any such ranking is ultimately a little silly, at best. But, I appreciate the more serious articles that accompanied the ranking.

Olympic Forest Park

For a place that was supposed to be such a premier space, it is funny that there hasn't been more publicity about the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. The best set of computer plan images I have seen online are these from t-gardenblog. Is this video from the same place?

18 August 2008

A summertime soda map

Since we live in New Jersey, a great way to cool down on a summer day would be to sit in a hammock in the shade and sip a soda. But, in Ohio we'd have some pop. And in Louisiana we'd have a Coke for sure (even if it was an RC).

If you are going to try to blend in, you'd better check out the soda map first.

The Freakonomics future of suburbia


The NY Times' Freakonomics crew asked several different notable individuals about the future of Suburbia. While a few of the responses are a bit unrestrained, the mosaic that these diverse opinions form is still one that demonstrates that:
  1. this landscape-type is probably not nearly as stable is it looks when we drive through it; and,
  2. the future of this landscape is not well understood.
While oil, energy and environmental issues come up as likely drivers for change in this dynamic landscape, there is potential for a wide variety of unknown factors to pop-up as well. Just as interesting is the nearly endless set of responses that readers have posted.

So what is the future of the suburban landscape? I encourage our regular readers (and, especially, my 331 students for the fall) to read and respond to this.

14 August 2008

Bruce Hamilton's retirement

Earlier this summer we celebrated Bruce Hamilton's lengthy career here at Rutgers. As part of that celebration we assembled quite a collection of photos of Dr. Hamilton. Here is a video slideshow from those photos (also available as a WMV).

video

Wear red, score more

Here's a time when design research spills over into the Olympics. We teach our students that colors are not neutral and they need to understand the implications. Research finds that competitors get better scores when they wear red. This is true even when the performance is the same. How'd that work out in the gymnastics? Oh.

Using Google Maps Religously

It is still amazing to me to see the breadth and depth of Google Maps applications. This one goes more to breadth.

A Google Map has been posted showing the boundaries of the Highland Park and New Brunswick Eruv. As I understand it, the boundary represents the walkable limits of the area for sabbaths and holidays - walking further would be work, not rest. There is also a very thin wire that is strung around town that shows this boundary to those are observant enough to see it.

Yet another very interesting mash-up.

13 August 2008

Clock

Its time.

Is Manville aware as Monroe builds?

One of the many municipalities in Millstone River Watershed is Monroe Township. And, while it is very far from Manville, much of the rain that falls in Monroe ends up going through Manville (and occasionally the streets and homes of Manville). However, since we often don't treat watersheds as singular cohesive units, there is a limited regulatory or planing connection between the upstream development and the impacted landscapes downstream. The most recent changes in stormwater rules have attempted to address the problem on a site-by-site basis, but the watershed approach is left to NGOs and and a small unit within the DEP.
(Disclaimer: I am claiming to have deliberately posted a less attractive map of the watershed, to leave more options for my students to freely design attractive ones this fall)

For example, Monroe Township just approved a new village-style town center that sounds like the smart growth that planners have been pushing for throughout New Jersey. The developer says the village along the banks of the Millstone River will be small and dense (possibly limiting impervious surface) and it will be tree-heavy. According to the Star-Ledger, the Township thinks of the developer as environmentally-friendly:
In 2003, the Verde Group started work on a residential development in Monroe, named Windhaven, building around existing farmland and preserving it without using state preservation funds.

"He is the most environmentally conscious developer we have," said Riggs. "He understands all the environmental regulations better than anyone I know."

The buildings in the shopping center would be situated to maximize natural light and minimize energy consumption, said Ochsner. The center also would have underground stormwater drainage systems.

"We plan projects around the environment, not through it," he said.

And maybe that is an accurate reflection of the matter. If development is inevitable, this sounds far preferable to someone more controversial. But even if the stormwater rules do limit downstream impact, should we keep making decisions impacting Manville without their participation? Of course, Manville residents are welcome to attend the planning meetings in Monroe, Millstone, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Plainsboro, Hightstown, Cranbury, Hopewll, Montgomery, Franklin and Rocky Hill. Is that fair? That is a lot to ask of a small group of citizens from a small borough on the receiving end of some big floods.

An interesting twist would be to consider how the isolated view might be a more American perspective. In a very recent NY Times column, David Brooks mentioned some sociological research that highlights how this might connect with a difference between Americans and Asians:
If you show an American an image of a fish tank, the American will usually describe the biggest fish in the tank and what it is doing. If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank, the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim.

These sorts of experiments have been done over and over again, and the results reveal the same underlying pattern. Americans usually see individuals; Chinese and other Asians see contexts.

When the psychologist Richard Nisbett showed Americans individual pictures of a chicken, a cow and hay and asked the subjects to pick out the two that go together, the Americans would usually pick out the chicken and the cow. They’re both animals. Most Asian people, on the other hand, would pick out the cow and the hay, since cows depend on hay. Americans are more likely to see categories. Asians are more likely to see relationships.

While Brooks applies this to larger geopolitical perspectives, I think we can really see it play out in local decision-making. It is easier for us to see how the economics of Monroe connect with the open space of Monroe with the policies of Monroe with the voters of Monroe. It is harder for us to see how the headwaters connect with the floodplain. Some of that is just an interesting phenomenon. But some of it is a lack of awareness that is costly and keeps getting us in trouble.

We'll be talking about this watershed this fall, so you can expect to hear more about some of the different upstream and downstream goings ons here.

12 August 2008

Jarad Patko

We are sad to report that Jarad Patko (RU LA '03) has passed away. He was always enthusiastic and curious. Jarad was willing to try new things and follow new paths with little concern for consequences or how others would see him. He even got a letter published in LAM a few years ago. He was far too young, but will be remembered for a very long time.

His memorial service is on 8/14 Thursday at Temple Sinai, 208 Summit Avenue in Summit, NJ at 2pm. But for those that can't make it, feel free to use the comments here to post remembrances and comments.

UPDATE: The Star-Ledger has published an obituary for Jarad. It said, "He loved sunrises on the beach, sunroofs and all about the universe." Yep. That sounds like Jarad.

Earthquake memorials

While it was surprising to see how quickly a memorial competition opened after the 5.12 earthquake, it is even more surprising to see how quickly the winners were chosen. ALSA has a press release on their site highlighting winners and honorable mentions. The full results will be published in JoLA.

One of the honorable mentions went to RU LA alum, Laurel McSherry and her codesigner Fritz Steiner. Congrats guys!

11 August 2008

LA prof helping schools

The recent issue of LAM had a Bill Thompson piece looking at a Denver professor who has worked with local schools to develop a better template for designing schoolyards. While it isn't as glamorous as public plazas or patios for billionaires, Thompson points out that it represents a larger pattern of designers trying to make a difference:
What does this transformed schoolyard have to do with making landscape architecture a more visible, more influential profession?

By itself, probably not much. But suppose this schoolyard was part of a school-system-wide program for transforming most or all of the schoolyards in a large American city, and a landscape architect was the instigator of it all? Would that not give landscape architecture a more powerful role in community affairs and people’s daily lives?
The online comments at The Dirt show that there is some support, but you can be sure that the line will be much longer at a session on New Urbanism than community design at ASLA this fall.

08 August 2008

Butterfly Festival

Saturday (August 9th) is the annual butterfly festival at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed.

More relevant Olympic madness

Can't get your visa in time to go to China? Google Earth has 3d buildings at the Olympic site in Beijing including the Birds Nest and Swimming Cube.

Olympic Medal Map

As part of their extensive preparation for the Olympics, the NY Times has prepared an interactive graphic that maps out the medals won by countries in all of the summer Olympics from 1896 to the present. You just most a slider bar to dial in the year you want and then, voila!

You can slide it over to the Paris Olympics in 1900 and see that Belgium got 5 gold medals. What you can't see in the graphic is that one of Belgium's 5 gold medals was for live pigeon shooting.

Is it a real Luis Barragon fountain?

A home in Los Angeles has a fountain thought to be designed by Barragon. Maybe they should call the History Detectives.

07 August 2008

Free Reading material

The only thing better than finding free reading materials is finding time to read them. Andy at Digital Urban has posted two free things to read:

06 August 2008

Supporting the plan

NJ Future, RPA, and Plan Smart NJ have jointly endorsed the Highlands Plan. Unlike some other proponents of the plan, it will be hard to suggest that these groups have the same political motivations as some other groups. But that also doesn't mean that it will settle anything. Will this give Corzine enough cover to accept the minutes?

Is bad publicity better than no publicity at all?

Forbes has published its list of the top ten dying cities in America. Don't expect to see Forbes ads on the sides of buses in Cleveland any time soon.

All of the dying cities could be described loosely as rust belt. But I wonder if Springfield MA and Charleston WV really belongs on the same list as the others. Both have things going on which could easily lead one to believe that they aren't dying - while Scranton's shift from Coal to Cool will probably end as soon as NBC cancels The Office.

Forbes mentioned New Orleans, but left it off the list even though it has experienced a serious economic and population setback. I guess it has potential that the others don't have.

Old neighborhoods are healthier

New research finds that people living in old neighborhoods weigh less. It looks like I can afford to have a banana split tonight.

05 August 2008

Land8Lounge

I am a bit of a gadget head, so when new things pop up on the web I like to check them out. But I have been slow to catch up on the various social networks online. But this seemed like a great chance to jump in: Land8Lounge.

Land8Lounge is a social network site for landscape architects. In a very short few months it has grown to over 1100 members. It includes students, faculty and practitioners from around the world. Topos called it the "premier social network for landscape architects on the web." The web site facilitates the sharing of portfolios, formation of groups (like the LSU alumni group) and hosting of personal spaces. But it is also home to a forum area for conversations about things like graphics (which quickly included people posting their own work), LA tourism, and technical details about things like soil amendments and the LEED exam.

04 August 2008

Mapping Civil War Veterans

Hopeworks N' Camden continues to impress me with the ways they manage to demonstrate impacts of GIS/GPs and related technologies while also impacting the lives of so many youth and college students.

Their latest example is Mapping Civil War Veterans. The team from Hopeworks used GPS to map out the gravesites in historic Harleigh Cemetery. So? Well, their Google Earth points were linked with photos of the headstones that hlped them connect one woman with the burial site of her great grandfather. Here is the Hopeworks description:
Recently Hopeworks was contacted by a woman looking for information about her great grandfather. He was a Civil War veteran, John Warner Kinsey, buried in Camden. She had various documents that belonged to him including letters, enlistment and discharge papers, and notifications about his government pension. However, she did not know where in Camden he was buried. Seeing our article in the paper about the Civil War veteran project, she contacted us about information on John Kinsey. It turns out he was included in our survey and we were able to provide information on John's location. He served in both the 7th and 37th Regt. NJ Volunteers. Another interesting note was that by viewing the image we took of the headstone, she found that John's wife was also buried there - who also served in the Civil War!

How not to get info from the web

At the VGI meeting in Santa Barbara in December, we were trying to talk through the ways that we assess whether or not information (particularly but not exclusively spatial information) is reliable enough for decision making. Examples included how differently you might consider a restaurant recommendation from a friend than one anonymously posted on a website.

Fast forward to this weekend. While listening to NPR's On The Media, I heard Mark Phillips talk about Quantum Leap (and the Ziggy) and how it resembled the way we can use Blackberry's and iPhones to ask questions online. Focusing on ChaCha, he described new ways of getting information that you know to be unreliable (but you do not necessarily know to be wrong). His closing comment really hit home:
Let's hope people still ask strangers for directions, friends for recommendations, and experts for opinions. Otherwise we'll all look like Al from Quantum Leap.

early golf course architects

The NY Times points out the obscurity of early 20th Century golf course architects other than Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie and A. W. Tillinghast. Instead they focus on Stiles and van Kleek.

But, I am asked, is golf course design really landscape architecture? Stiles started out as a landscape architect and those experience informed his course design:
"Stiles always found his green sites first, then worked backward from there,” Mendik said. “And as a landscape architect, he knew what the trees on a hole would look like in 60 or 80 years. He saw the picture from the tee.”

01 August 2008

Dig It! The Secrets of Soil

The Smithsonian Institute has just opened a new exhibit on soil. "Dig It! The Secrets of Soil" is open until 2010 and highlights a variety of issues and concerns about soils. It presents information in a variety of formats, which seems likely to reach a pretty wide age range.

We visited this past weekend and were duly impressed. One of the highlights was a mock-CSI episode in which the soil scientist wore an expensive pantsuit into a forested dig site and when the lead investigator over-dramatically donned his sunglasses after solving the mystery. Another cool exhibit included a monolith or profile of the state soil from each of the 50 states and a couple territories. Go Antigo! Great stuff.










Studying the PInelands

It sounds like some RU-Camden faculty and students are having a fun and productive summer using the Pinelands as an outdoor laboratory.

IFLA Student Design Awards

IFLA has announced the winners of the 2008 Student design Awards and Topos has published a summary including examples from the "3 winnars":
  • Kemet by Philipp R. W. Urech and Antonio Sassano at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Z├╝rich) - First Prize
  • Landscape Architecture for Need/Slums by Tomas Degenaar, at Wageningen University - Second
  • Waving Mat by Li Jingzhu, Zhao Yue, Yuan Shouyou, Ling Chunyang and Chen Jing at the School of Architecture of Tianjin University in China - Merit Award
This was a big competition that had 326 entries, but over a third (135) were disqualified for failing to follow the rules. The entries came from over 2 dozen countries, but over half of them (179) were from China and another 55 from the USA.