29 January 2009

Water expert to speak at Alexander Library

The spillover from environmental issues into other areas is becoming much more widely recognized, as you can see with this announcment of a relatively high-profile talk on campus.
The connections between access to water, gender, security, environment and human rights will be the subject of a talk by Dr. Peter H. Gleick on Thursday March 26th in the Rutgers University Libraries.

Dr. Gleick is the president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, CA. The institute monitors the quality of the world's water supply and its effect on health, climate change, industrialization, and international relations. The work of the Pacific Institute has been cited by government officials and/or community activists in South Africa, India, the United Nations Global Compact, and the State of California.

Dr. Gleick's talk is supported by a grant from the School of Arts and Sciences International Programs office and is part of the office's year long series of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The talk will be held in the Scholarly Communication Center, on the 4th floor of Alexander Library in New Brunswick, starting at 6:00 pm.

In December Dr. Gleick spoke with National Public Radio's The Takeaway show about "What President-elect Obama needs to know about water." To hear Dr. Gleick's comments, visit: http://www.thetakeaway.org/stories/2008/dec/22/page-americas-briefing-book-water/.

28 January 2009

Live Blog: Tom Woltz on Desiging the Frame

“Designing the Frame: landscape architecture as a tool in the ecological conservation, education & sustainable architecture.”
Thomas Woltz, ASLA
Nelson Byrd Woltz

Holly Nelson described him as "Practicing what he preaches"
Interesting to visit a program situated amidst other professions like ecologists and plant scientists. Here are some projects that he spoke about:
  • The Dell - Stormwater management project at UVA
An aesthetic solution as well as a functional solution.

He refocused on bringing out natural beauty on a series of farm projects. One was called Tupelo Farm. It was recently described in the New York Times:

At Tupelo Farm, an estate near Charlottesville, Mr. Woltz drew on the region’s geology, agricultural traditions and plants — both native and imported — in designing the garden, a project that he has been working on since 2000. Locally quarried fieldstone walls retain the heat of the springtime sun and establish curving terraces for a peach orchard, a gesture at Albemarle County’s history as one of the state’s largest producer of peaches in the 19th century. Nearby, on a smooth flagstone terrace, a group of half-buried boulders has the same geological composition and similarly mounded shapes as the Blue Ridge Mountains that loom over the farmland.

While each farm is different, one of them was intended as a life-long design project, evolving slowly over time. The ethics of water quality management, native grasses, and green design have been so successful that 6 neighbors have also hired the firm to expand their efforts to 2,000 acres.

He also showed us a Charlottesville Urban Farm which helped turn open land in the city into a more productive and more community-oriented landscape.

Finally we looked at Nick's Head Station in New Zealand. It was a controversial site, with many locals initially opposing its purchase by an outsider. Not only is it the place that Cooke first saw, but it is also the place that the Maori first saw (and they found the fossilized remains of a Moa here). However, their designs for conservation of this significant site have helped. Their They have planted 250,000 trees so far, but aren't done yet. But the tree planting is only part of the design process. They've begun actively attracting rare birds with both habitat and recorded calls. But they worked to design the naturalized forms on the site in a way that reveals the human hand. Even areas of crops are formed in more structured ways than you might expect elsewhere. He closed with a few thoughts about the cultural connectivity that is becoming with the site too.

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27 January 2009

Mark your calendars

March 7 - 13th Annual NJ Land Conservation Rally - New Brunswick Hyatt
April 19-22 - GITA in Tampa
May 21-22 - Digital Landscape Architecture 2009
May 27 – May 31 - EDRA’s 40th Annual Meeting, Kansas City Hyatt
July 13-17 - ESRI User Conference
September 18-22 - ASLA in Chicago
September 29-October 2 - URISA in Anaheim

26 January 2009

Fighting over a rock

Kentucky and Ohio are fighting over a rock that someone pulled out of the Ohio River, NPR reports. Kentucky says it was already registered antiquity. Steve Shaffer says he offered it to them before giving it to Portsmouth, OH. After the legal system sorts it out, the rock's rich cultural heritage will pivot on this new story as much as the possibility that Native Americans etched on it. It is a lot like that time when NY and NJ fought over a rundown little island on their border and now people visit to see this interstate (national, even) park.

SoCal sprawl reducing equestrians

Is urban sprawl really a threat to Southern California's horses?

Western forest mortality increases

This past week a study was published in Science that reported an increase in tree deaths in American forests. The Washington Post reports some details:
The report, led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), found that the increase in tree deaths has included trees in a variety of forests, elevations and sizes. Species have included pine, fir, hemlock and other coniferous trees. In addition, the rate of new tree growth has not changed, according to the report in the Jan. 23 issue of Science.
At the same time, they reported, Nature had two papers reporting on impacts of climate change:
Seasons now arrive two days earlier than they used to, one study from scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University concluded. Not only have average worldwide temperatures been rising for the last 50 years, according to the report, but the hottest day of the year has shifted to almost two days earlier.
So will it simply mean that the forest ecology is modestly compromised? Or will it lead to an increase in forest fires? Or will it lead to a significant loss of wildlife species? It will be interesting to watch as evidence mounts.

Maybe you could go to a seminar on a related topic:
Dr. Daniel Bunker, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Thursday, January 29, 2009
“Global change, community composition, and ecosystem functioning.”
4:00 p.m., Alampi Room, Marine and Coastal Sciences

24 January 2009

Professional shortcourse on stream restoration


The NJ section of the American Water Resources Association is presenting a course on river and stream restoration. The course will be presented in a 2-day and 5-day format and both sections begin on April 27, 2009.

Course details can be found in the attached announcement and at the course web site: http://streamrestorationnj.com/. For more information, please contact Skip Jonas, Course Coordinator via email at njawra_stream@yahoo.com .

23 January 2009

Internships in Northern Delaware

Posted more or less as I received it:

Salutations from Mt. Cuba Center <http://www.mtcubacenter.org/> , Hockessin Delaware.

A non-profit, public garden - Mt. Cuba Center <http://www.mtcubacenter.org/> is considered to be the region's finest woodland gardens. Our mission is to foster an appreciation of the Appalachian Piedmont and the conservation of their environment through garden display, education, and research.

We are currently accepting internship <http://www.mtcubacenter.org/contact/internships.html> applications to eight positions. These internships are geared for students who are interested in working and studying native plants. Our program encompasses both working hands on with professionals and plant studies. Students complete the internship knowing how to identify native plants, how they grow and how to incorporate them in the landscape. Students spend time both in the field and in the lab.

Please pass this internship application
<http://www.mtcubacenter.org/contact/documents/InternshiipBrochure2009professorversion.pdf> to any of your students who may benefit from this
hands-on training. The application deadline is March 1, 2009.

Please feel free to contact me at 302 239-4244 ext. 234 or jehrhardt@mtcubacenter.org.

Julia Lo Ehrhardt
Education Assistant
Mt Cuba Center Inc
PO Box 3570
Greenville, DE 19807-0570
302.239.4244 ext 234

22 January 2009

Roberto Burle Marx

The NY Times posted a slideshow and review of a new museum exhibit in Rio on Roberto Burle Marx. It is great to see this important painter and landscape architect getting some well deserved attention. His parks are treated as giant paintings and his home is a national landmark. But it his sensitivity to the landscape that is praised by Virginia's architecture dean, Karen Van Lengen :
“Burle Marx was prescient in his reverence for plants and his stewardship of the whole nursery, for his ability to see the garden both as an aesthetic experiment and also as part of the ecology,” Ms. Van Lengen said. “That’s the challenge for today’s landscape architects, to bring those energies together.

“Burle Marx was already doing that before most people were even thinking about it, so he really stands alone.”

Land+Living had some good photos and links a while back.

21 January 2009

Live Blog: Networked Ecologies: Infra-Architecture

Mason White
University of Toronto
Lateral Architecture
InfraNet Lab
"Networked Ecologies: Infra-Architecture"

Since he is used to talking to architects, this is a refreshing opportunity to explore this topic without having to first educate his audience on the different nature of the landscape.

Four figures have provided guidance for this presentation:
In thinking about infrastructure - somewhere in the mix there is an immense amount of science, but also an opportunity for an immense amount of design

The networks of food, economics, aeroponics, hydroponics and infrastructure are all about SYSTEMS.

One student project was from Scotland looking at seaweed agriculture. How is it moved? How is it stored? The design looked at a net system with a drying tower and seed farm on the land. The multiple public lives it could have include a nighttime use as a lighthouse.

Another project looked at the possibility of merging speculative office space with sustainable agriculture/greenhouse space.

Both have great graphics. Be sure to look closer.

In Reykjavik they looked at turning runways into greenways for production, civic/ecology, and recreations.

Their final project was a metis garden inspired by the map that changed the world and brought in soil samples from throughout Canada.

Infrastructure quotes

"The operation of infrastructure disrupts the opposition between culture and nature, which posits landscape as an unbuilt, original condition upon which architecture, as part of culture, is built. Infrastructure is a built ground onto which a landscape, nature, is built. They [infrastructures] acquire the spatial and functional characteristics of the places onto which they are grafted. They [infrastructures] emerge as frame works for urban development.”

-- Berrizbeitia, Anita, and Linda Pollak. Inside Outside : Between Architecture and Landscape. Minneapolis: F & W Publications, Incorporated, 2003.

Infrastructures are flexible and anticipatory. They work with time and are open to change. By specifying what must be fixed and what is subject to change, they can be precise and indeterminate at the same time. They work through management and cultivation, changing slowly to adjust to shifting conditions. They do not progress toward a predetermined state (as with master planning strategies), but are always evolving within a loose envelope of constraints…. Infrastructure creates a directed field, where different architects and designers can contribute, but it sets technical and instrumental limits to their work. Infrastructure itself works strategically, but it encourages tactical improvisation.

--Stan Allen, INDEX Architecture, A Columbia Book of Architecture, 2003, p. 87

Google Earth on Inauguration Day

Google Earth has some special updates today.

Sea level rise in NJ

The Asbury Park Press focused attention on some of the potential impacts of sea level rise. The reporting cites Cook College alum, John D'Agostino, as well as a CRSSA study:

Another mapping study by the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers predicted inundation of coastal marshes all along the state's littoral, from the Hackensack River Meadowlands through the Shore's back bays and up the Mullica and Great Egg Harbor rivers. Left to nature's ways, those marshes would gradually migrate landward with sea-level rise, but in many places retreat is blocked by roads, utility lines and other vital infrastructure, D'Agostino said.

Still, you'd be better off checking out the actual studies and papers since the slightly awkward reporting reveals that they might not quite be picking up on some subtleties and caveats that those reports may have built on.

20 January 2009

Google Earth on Inauguration Day

Google Earth has some special updates today.

Nature's Infrastructure

PlaNetizen has published a timely column by Jim LaGro encouraging the new administration to make sure that it's infrastructural development emphasizes improvements in nature's infrastructure. Since infrasturcture is central to the theme for Design Wek, this stands out as being notable.

Group think and other collective failures

The Utne Reader has two interesting articles looking at problems with groupwork.  One looks at how groups that get along well are susceptible to the problem called groupthink.
Groupthink—the go along to get along mentality that results in accelerated, false consensus—was vexing collective endeavors long before psychologist Irving Janis popularized the phenomenon in 1972. A sure sign of groupthink is team members getting along too well. Those who might dissent stifle themselves: No one wants to rock the boat, irritate superiors, or lengthen a meeting by disagreeing with the consensus. But a project can be doomed if no one stops to wonder “What if we’re wrong?”
The other makes suggestions about how to lead your group through tough times.  Great reading as you start Design Week.

Obama knows Jane Jacobs

Welcome back to school. We can celebrate Inauguration Day with this link to a video of Obama talking up planning principles in a political context.

19 January 2009

Design Week Lecture

Jan 21, 2009

Mason White, University of Toronto, Lateral Architecture, InfraNet Lab
"Networked Ecologies: Infra-Architecture"
Wednesday 4:00-4:55 PM
Cook Douglass Lecture Hall 110

Mason White has a B.Arch from Virginia Tech and an M.Arch from Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Mason’s work and research privileges architecture as a mutable territory that is formed out of and responsive to its environment and history. His work, research and teaching invites readings of Architecture as a byproduct of complex networks within ecology and culture. Design is conceived more as a system for open patterns of use and active engagement rather than merely arranged objects. Recent research pursues questions of the role of infrastructure and networks within contemporary spatial practice. His design research exists at the intersection of architecture, landscape, and urbanism. It is often situated within sites where the systems and codes that determine these environments must be uncovered and rethought.

Mason founded Lateral Office <http://www.lateralarch.com> in 2002 in partnership with Lola Sheppard. He is also Director of InfraNet Lab <http://www.infranetlab.org> , an exploratory initiative launched in 2008. InfraNet Lab is a non-profit research collective probing the spatial byproducts of contemporary resource logistics.

Mason received the Alumni Travel Fellowship from Virginia Tech in 2001, and was the Lefevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at Ohio State University in 2003-04. In 2005, Lateral Office was selected for the Young Architects Forum by the Architectural League of New York.

Mason’s work has been published in Young Architects: Situating (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), Canadian Architect, Landscape Architecture, C3 and l’Arca. His writing has been published in Alphabet City: Fuel (MIT Press, 2008), Ourtopias (Riverside Press, 2008), MARK, Detail, A+U, and 306090. Mason has taught at Cornell University, The Ohio State University, and is currently the Director of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design.

Photosynth innauguration

I don't know how this is going to end up looking, but I think it is a very cool test of an emerging technology. CNN is trying to crowdsource the photography of the inauguration and then use Microsoft's Photosynth to create a 3dimensional spatial representation of the historic day.

Sonoran Desert Museum

A little more from the Sonoran Desert Museum.

Bad apples on studio projects

I know. You've spent your entire winter break thinking about how much you hated working on a team. It would have been great except for that one person. Thank goodness you'll never have to work with anyone else for the rest of your time here...

Until Design Week 2009!

Well, to get ready for a little more group work, you might want to listen to the opening segment of the recent episode of This American Life called Ruining It for the Rest of Us. To set the stage, they talk to a researcher who experimented with group behavior. He explored the three general kinds of bad behavior that could bring down a group:
  • Insulting jerk - attacks others - "Are you kidding me?"
  • Slacker - does less than they can - text messages other friends during team meetings
  • Depressive pessimist - puts their head down - "We can't succeed" or "This isn't fun at all"
What he found was that just one bad apple could bring down the group - performance was down 30-40%. What ever the bad actor did, the behavior spread to the whole group. The jerk's insults would quickly lead to other insults, not just directed at the jerk. When he just kept his head on the table, the rest of the group would end up tired and say "let's just get this over with".

But here's the thing. A good leader should be able to recognize these behaviors and intervene. Did you have one of these bad apples on a recent team? Did you try to keep it from spreading? Or did you let their defeatism become the team's motto?

One of the challenges for Design Week 2009 will be to watch out for the bad apples and try to help them improve.

Cream Ridge

Design Week is almost here, but have you looked at the site?

We'll spend the week looking at The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station's farm down at Cream Ridge. This has been home to Rutgers Fruit & Ornamental Research Extension Center. The farm is in Upper Freehold Township at the western end of Monmouth County. That puts it in WMA 20 and just inside the upper right corner of the New Egypt quad sheet.

There are lots of air photos. Historic Aerials has a nice 1931 and 1947 image. When in doubt, check this latlong out 40.117235,-74.526186

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18 January 2009

Liberty State Park

The Star-Ledger took a look at reasearch that Rutgers is pursuing at Liberty State Park.  One of the folks they talked to was Frank Gallagher. Aside from his role in overseeing the new plans for the park, Gallagher is also teaching our class called, Environmental Issues in the US.

16 January 2009

Harris Hawk

At the Sonoran Desert Museum.

Lecture: Tom Woltz on Desiging the Frame

Jan 28, 2009
Thomas Woltz, ASLA
Nelson Byrd Woltz
“Designing the Frame: landscape architecture as a tool in the ecological conservation, education & sustainable architecture.”

Wednesday 4:00-4:55 PM
Cook Douglass Lecture Hall 110

Mr. Woltz is a landscape architect who holds Masters degrees in Architecture and in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia. In addition to his practice, Mr. Woltz maintains a part-time faculty position at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. He currently teaches Sites and Systems, a graduate course which explores ecological system analysis as a generator of design strategies in architecture and landscape architecture. Through teaching and constructed form, he seeks to emphasize the rich dialogue between the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and ecological process.

Nick’s Head Station, Gisborne, New Zealand
The firm of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects is developing a master plan for the estate that would assure a productive farming operation while repairing ecological damage done over the past hundred years including near total deforestation, drainage of fifteen hectares (37 acres) of wetland to the Pacific Ocean, and serious erosion due in part to over-grazing. With the completion of the Master Plan and the extensive conservation work, only 470 hectares (1,160 acres) of the 680 hectare (1,680 acre) property will be farmed. Despite the reduction in farming area, the fencing plans and improved fertilization regime have allowed livestock numbers to remain at levels prior to the implementation of the plan. Already the estate is a destination for local environmental groups, international students, and local farmers and the goal of an environmentally responsible livestock farm is slowly being realized.

14 January 2009

El Prado en Google Earth

Google's effort to digitize everything on the planet has taken another leap forward. Somehow they got into the great art museum, the Prado, in Madrid. They captured the highest possible resolution images of the paintings and have put the Prado online in Google Earth.

When you follow the link, be sure to watch the video (seriously), it will make you appreciate what it takes to generate these high quality images. The detail is unbelievable. And, I can take my time to study the images, unlike when I visited the real Prado with two small boys.

Is Gen X really in charge?

Some people are using next week's peaceful transition of power as a metaphor for everything under the sun. Tammy Erickson, at the Harvard Business Review, thinks that this is a time for many in business too. Gen Ys are being integrated fully into the work teams and Xers are taking the reins while the baby boomers are stepping back to help. She writes:
Will these new roles suit the times? I think perhaps they will. Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, coauthors of Generations, posit that each generation makes a unique bequest to those that follow -- and generally seeks to correct the excesses of the previous generation. They argue that the Boomer excess is ideology -- and that the Generation X reaction to that excess involves an emphasis on pragmatism and effectiveness.

This generational priority will give X'ers a strong advantage in remaking organizations to reflect twenty-first-century realities: the need for transparency, accountability, real-time performance, lack of ideology, top-of-market effectiveness, and cash value.

What will that mean for the professional firms and public offices where our grads are working? Is there any chance that the Ys will jump past the Xs and take over directly from the boomers?

13 January 2009

Self-handicapping isn't excused

The NY Times reports on a researcher that studied the ways people used excuses for performing below the expected standard. We've all heard someone say something like, "I did poorly on that test because I didn't get enough sleep." It starts out as a temporary excuse but becomes an addictive long-term problem:
As a short-term strategy, self-handicapping is often no more than an exercise in self-delusion. Studies of college students have found that habitual handicappers — who skip a lot of classes; who miss deadlines; who don’t buy the textbook — tend to rate themselves in the top 10 percent of the class, though their grades slouch between C and D.
On the other hand, I have had students who seemed to be single moms, wrecked their only car, constantly sick AND working 3 job (OK, maybe 2 of the four?), but found a way to attend every class and outperform their classmates. It seems like people who really want to succeed just find a way.

12 January 2009

A map of sand

The NY Times has turned its attention to mapping out sand. It is certainly more fun than reading the world news.

09 January 2009

The season is finally over

Thank goodness. We finally have a National Champ and the SEC is somewhat vindicated. LSU climbed back in to the Sagarin's top 25. And Kentucky and Rutgers both finished with improvements. Oddly enough, both RU and UK finished 3 spots worse than where they started in the pre-season rankings.

I can't wait until next year...to see what graphing options Google presents us.

Too much, too late

In the last year I have gained a greater appreciation for Philadelphia. In particular, our field trip to ASLA included some great walks and provided a different perspective on the city. So, I was primed for the photo archives from Philly History. This is an award-winning collaborative effort that has posted over 60,000 historic photos and 5,000 maps capturing the old Philadelphia. Oh, did I mention that they are all geotagged?
  • This one from Quarry street has some ne'er-do-well hanging out.
  • This photo of the Broad Street Station under construction helped me realize how much the city has changed in just several decades.
  • And here's a great photo taken from the top of City Hall showing some areas near where the conference was held.

Video: What is Landscape Architecture?

Here's a short video of Jane Amidon describing landscape architecture as a profession. A perfect treat on transfer advising day.

08 January 2009

Sustainable Sites Initiative makes the NY Times

Today's NY Times included a fairly lengthy piece on the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Their article looks more at the USBG's participation. It includes a quote from Ray Mims:
“We want to make sure that you look at the soil, the vegetation, the hydrology, so that you are improving — or certainly not harming — the natural ecosystem,” he said.
That would be an interesting contrast with the LEED standards which seem designed to promote building by trying to be less bad.

Your last chance to comments on the report is January 20th!

Take some time out for film

Movies are a great way to relax while still peeking at special landscapes or learning a little more about how the world sees designers. Here are a few movies you might watch before returning from the break:
Did anyone see Jude Law's landscape architect in Breaking and Entering? I hate to recommend it since I haven't seen it (and since it was a January release). Somewhere I have a much more complete list, but it'll probably have to wait until Spring Break.

07 January 2009

Study abroad featured at SEBS

Direct your browsers to SEBS.Rutgers.Edu right now and you will see a photo (and a link to more) from last summers' Germany studio. If you follow the link to the scholarships you'll see a picture from our studio in Barcelona.


Things are moving (slowly) at the depot in Hillsborough.

05 January 2009

Is eminent domain a mainstream topic?

Some of the planning topics that we explore have proven to be a bit obscure. I know, because when I chat with people at public meetings or sit next to a stranger on an airplane, it takes while for me to explain why PPGIS or TDR are interesting to me. I mean they all impact your property rights and taxes, and they all might shape the places where you live or play, right? At least that's how I see it. But the citizenry has a mixed response to the issues.

So, now eminent domain comes along and is in the papers a little more often than the others on the list. I know it has some non-profits trying to fight its use and make the public aware of the tradeoffs involved. But do people really care? Or is this a fringe movement? Well, today I found this interesting piece of evidence that suggests this is a mainstream conversation.

An online map of red dots

Camden's new spatially-enabled online reporting system of complaints has resulted in an easily accessible map that has some people feeling "despondent". Maybe they should consider a new tagline like, Camden: The City of Unresolved Complaints. This is a good example of how VGI and PPGIS can backfire. Being able to complain isn't the same as having your voice heard.

04 January 2009

2009 Milestone

I was so busy writing weighty and meaningful items for the blog that I didn't notice when our counter hit the 100,000 visits mark. Yes, some commercial sites hit that in a day (or even an hour). But we'll take what we can get here at Places and Spaces.

01 January 2009

Berlin reconstruction

Germany has picked the architect for a notorious reconstruction project in Berlin and the TImes has some very helpful photos. I suspect that our summer studio students visited the whole in the ground last summer.