31 March 2009

Census jobs

Even if the economy is tough, the United States needs to get its decennial head count to figure out whether New Jersey gets to keep all of its congressional districts. And that means that the Bureau of the Census is going to need some extra help. And, while they'll be needing some folks to go into the field, they may also need some more spatial thinkers, since their results are fundamentally geographic. If you are interested in applying, you should check out their employment page.

Quote of the Day

“Only in the oasis of silence can we drink deeply from our inner cup of wisdom.”
—Sue Patton Thoele

30 March 2009

Jersey Fresh

At a recent lecture one of our audience members, Nick Tufaro from the Middlesex County Planning Office, said that as recently as the early 1960s Middlesex County was the single largest broccoli producing county in the country. While I can't find documentation online, it makes sense that the Garden State was producing the truck farmed produce for New York City.

So it is interesting to see that despite evidence from our colleagues at SEBS, NJ is cutting it support from the profitable Jersey Fresh program.

Quote of the Day

"We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive."

Are surveyors the only ones who should map parcels?

Directions Magazine has a short article on a proposed law in Missouri that could make GIS mapping of parcels a job only for surveyors.

29 March 2009

Another alum keeping busy

Jason Husveth is an alum of our program who has taken a somewhat less traditional path. He gave a great talk here a while back where he explained how with 2 degrees in landscape architecture he has moved into a more scientific arena. Now his ecological work has caught the attention of his local newspaper.

Geocaching as a gentle digital sport

The Medium in today's Sunday Times Magazine is a feature on the GPS-based sport of geocaching. While the author, Virginia Heffernan, seemed a bit puzzled at first she also clearly warmed to the activity, which involves using a handheld GPS unit to guide you to a hidden treasure. By the end she calls it "sweet" and likened it to an "earnest guidebook to life on Earth." But there is no mention of how new GPS tools, like GPS-enabled phones, are being used.

27 March 2009

Quote of the Day

For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things might vanish by piecemeal.
—Thomas Jefferson

26 March 2009

Blogging for education

Here is something different for our current or former students...

I am working on a very short magazine inset on my use of Places and Spaces as an educational tool. But I would like to include a quote or two from students about how blogs do or don't contribute to their educational experience. What planning or design or environmental blogs do you read other than Places and Spaces? Are you spending a lot of time on them? Do you see the blogs as an integrated part of your learning experience, or an entirely separate optional experience? What have you learned from these blogs that you didn't in class? Is this one interesting just because it is one of the only school-related ones you have?

So, here's the thing. In order for me use the quote, or simply acknowledge your participation, I need your name. But even anonymous comments that help me understand what isn't working may be helpful.

Comment away.

A bacterium threatens Northern Red Oaks

Although our state tree is at risk, it may be helping our cities get greener.

College towns are special places

It used to be that a college town was a place where you could count on a good used record store and a cheap hamburger place. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, it is a place where can expect a well educated work force and low unemployment.

25 March 2009

Liveblog: Bob Melvin and Environmental Planning

Robert F. Melvin, AICP/PP

Looked at the dynamics that are changing the way we think about what makes a community sustainable and the way the field of landscape architecture, planning and urban design are adding to the discussion.

The last 50 years were an experiment in an old way of doing things. The results were sprawl and bad design, road widening and increased congestion, homogenous landuse and cookie-cutter neighborhoods. Bob Melvin says that experiment is over.

As an example he looked at retail space. In 1990, communities in the US had about 19 sq ft of retail space per person. In 2005 it was up to 38. THat is a 100% increase in 15 years. IN EUrope it is less than 10 sq. ft. and some studies say that communities cannot support more than 25 sq. ft. per person.

Other issues like quality of life and carbon footprints and public health issues are also in play. In NJ, 59% of adults are either overweight or obese.

New communities will be different. So many buildings were built for single uses, when mixed use contributes more to the community and is a more flexible feature. Eating locally is a key - but it requires a substantive change in the food supply chain and on the agricultural landscape. We need to ensure that out public spaces are well designed and vibrant, if they are going to be sustainable. It will take a full complement of tools from rain gardens to solar power to make these urban places successful.

As a case study he presented his form's recent work in a newsworthy project in Woolwich, NJ (mapped) and showed examples of TDR and sustainable design can be implemented in a neotraditional design environment. Another example, in Newark applied similar principles to the urban landscape.

Integration is the future of planning and design.

When one of the questions asked how we can make our least pleasant urban landscapes more livable, he suggested that Society Hill in Philly was just as bad in 1964. (He suggested that we watch the YouTube videos, but I can't din them. Anyone?) But what does it mean for Bucks County?

Pedestrian planning for Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City has really grown in recent years and (to the consternation of many) has even nabbed its own NBA team. And while it may surprise some of our friends here in the Northeast, OK City has gotten big enough (metro area of 1.2 million) to need some serious planning help. The Oklahoman reports that they have brought in Jeff Speck to help develop a new pedestrian plan for the city:
Jeff Speck, who first introduced himself to Oklahoma City by announcing "your codes are bad,” is back with a new message: the sidewalks and streets aren’t great, either.
Speck, who is a notable new urbanist, could be seen as pushing that agenda, but he makes a clear case for why pedestrian friendly landscape are valuable to a city:
Speck cites three reasons the city should be more concerned about being pedestrian friendly: less traffic translates into cleaner air, and more walking promotes health and reduces health care costs, and a pedestrian-friendly community is high on the list of amenities sought by 20- and 30-year-olds as they look at where they want to live and work.

"To be walkable, a street needs to be safe, comfortable and interesting,” Speck said. "You guys lose it at safe.”

The new troubled economy may also make a free walk seem like a nice alternative to paying to park so you can pay to drive.

Small Milestone

We just passed the 1,500 posts mark. Either we have momentum, or I have done a great job of postponing some real work.

24 March 2009

The date of the Annual NJDEP Mapping Contest is April 30, 2009. Students are welcome to attend and participate in the contest, and in past years have frequently produced winning maps. The event is always fun, snacks are provided and students have the opportunity to meet GIS professionals.

You can see galleries of past winners online:

Map Quote

"The quality of a map is also in part an aesthetic matter. Maps should have harmony within themselves. An ugly map, with crude colors, careless line work, and disagreeable, poorly arranged lettering may be intrinsically as accurate as a beautiful map, but it is less likely to inspire confidence." John K. Wright

Lecture on Water Quality and Effects

Talk by International Expert on Water Quality and Effects

The connections between access to water and gender, security, environment, and human rights will be the subject of a talk by Dr. Peter H. Gleick on Thursday, March 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Alexander Library Scholarly Communication Center, 4th floor, College Avenue Campus. A
poster presentation and reception will precede the talk at 4:30 p.m. Dr. Gleick is the president and cofounder 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 talk is sponsored by the Rutgers University Libraries and the School of Arts and Sciences Office of International Programs. This event is free, although an RSVP is requested. To attend, send an email events@rci.rutgers.edu> or call 732-932-7505.
Visit the website <http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/news/09/03_water_quality.shtml>
for additional information.

23 March 2009

Redeveloping Glassboro

In this Spring's Geomatics Lecture, John Hasse talked about some of the changes that were on their way to Glassboro. The newspapers are just now catching up with our lecture series.

20 March 2009

Spatial distrubution of lottery winnings

John Reiser has mapped out 10 years of NJ Lottery winners to show the "luckiest" places in NJ.

A little data can go a long way to making an interesting map. Note that on the right side he has provided four different ways to view the data. But none of them may make you feel good about not winning millions.

First day of spring? Really?

It doesn't look like spring this morning, but maybe it will all change at the exact moment that the sun crosses the equator.
Happy vernal equinox!

19 March 2009

17 March 2009

Piscataway in the NY Times

I enjoy reading the "thinking of living in..." section in the NY Times. It often presents an outsider's view of a place that I thought I already knew. This week they took a closer look at Piscataway, NJ. I think the slideshow is the part I liked the best, since it shows the difficulty in finding a strong graphic theme to tie together this rather complex municipality.

Spring Break lists

In lieu of real blogging, I've made some Top One Lists for Spring Break. If you wanted a Top Ten list, try elsewhere. It is sort of a Book of Lists meets Larry King kind of thing.

Best Teen Vampire Movie: Lost Boys
Best Toast: Rye with butter
Best Desert: Sonoran
Best Name of Vice President You've Probably Never Heard Of: Hannibal Hamlin
Best Early Modern Artist: Wassily Kandinsky
Best State Capitol: Honolulu
Best TV Show Set in Portland OR or ME: Hello, Larry
Best Ice Sport Without Skates: Curling
Best Chili: Skyline
Best Palm Tree: Phoenix dactylifera
Best Hotdogs in NJ: Rutt's Hut
Best Chris Elliot Movie: Groundhog Day

16 March 2009

Great NCAA graphics

Although it isn't as riveting as the NIT brackets, the NY Times has an elegant graphic that shows the big hubs of NCAA success over the history of the tournament. Because, as we Kentucky fans know, it is not about this year but the long view of NCAA history.

15 March 2009

NCAA Tournament time

Basketball season is coming to a sweet but merciful end. And, no, there won't be an NIT contest here, don't even ask. But there is the 11th annual Friends of Dave NCAA pool in the online ESPN Tournament Challenge. Sign in, pick a bracket, and prove your mettle. All are welcome to join the group I have created called, FoD - Friends of Dave v11.

The free throws are called "free" for a reason. Photo Credit: D. Tulloch

14 March 2009

P&S in ArchiDose

I am really quite enamored with The Daily Dose of Architecture, so I found it very flattering that they noticed Places and Spaces. Archidose is a great example of what a blog can be when the author is devoted to their material and has a great city just outside their door.

13 March 2009

Sketch-up money

Sketch-up is now, apparently, a tool for communication about financial concepts.
(h/t NJGeo)

Spring Break sightseeing

Don't waste your Spring Break on the Internet. Get out and see some great designed or cultural or natural landscapes. But where?

If you aren't leaving New Jersey, then try out some nearby sites. You could try this short list of notable NJ landscapes which includes Pier A, Grounds for Sculpture, Van Vorst Park and the Appalachian Trail. Or you could try out our new Rutgers/NJASLA NJ LA Sites Database to explore some landscape sites - it includes NJASLA design award winners like the Smithville Floating Walkway and the Turtleback Zoo.

You could head into Philly and explore Fairmount Park and the Patrick Dougherty sculptures at Morris Arboretum or you could take a train to New York and see his masterpiece at Prospect Park.
If you are heading to Florida for some fun and sun, you might want to stop in at the classic New Urban comimunity of Seaside or Disney's newer Celebration. Or maybe you should look for McHarg's hidden touch on Sanibel Island.

Then again, you could just pick up a book.

12 March 2009

Google blend-ins

Now, when you search locally on Google Maps, Google has started blending in answers that come from what they call the "geo-community". That means that your little KML file, you know, that you never expected anyone to look at, could now help 10,000 find that street vendor selling chaat.

11 March 2009

Censoring Google Maps

A California legislator wants to blur out all of the schools and hospitals and churches and government buildings that you currently can see on detailed image sites like Live.com and Google Maps. He would charge them a $250,000/day fine each day that he can find a government building displayed. In an interview, he clarifies that they don't have an inalienable right to show those photos"
Q: If AB-255 (the censorship bill) does pass, why do you believe it would stand up to a court challenge?

Anderson: That's their option. They can take it to court. But since when do you have a First Amendment right to yell fire? This falls under the same category.

I don't think he understands how integrated this resource has become in day-today government operations around the country. It would be like taking away the GPS sugnal after we have all adjusted our business models and flight plans based on a heavy reliance on it.

Just imagine what our enemies could do if they could locate this top secret government facility that is otherwise so well hidden:

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Liveblog: Annette Voigt on Landscape Conservation

Annette Voigt Technische Universität München Dept. of Landscape Ecology
Nature Conversation in Germany – Problems and Perspectives

Today's talk explored questions about the meaning of nature in a place like Germany, where there remains an active dialogue about whether conservation should be favoring natural or cultural landscapes, especially since 19th century agricultural landscapes are treasured by much of the public. This process is pursued to preserve the Germany of the past:
  • Heimatschutz = Homeland conservation
Ecologists are less positioned to address the meaning of nature and simply rely on concepts like wilderness and ecosystems as subjective constructs as a convenience.

As an example she described the wilderness development area at Koenigsbrucker Heide in Saxony. Her
dissertation abstract is available to help you digest some of these concepts.

(I know little about these ideas, but it looks like this might be an interesting read, too)

A new vision for Agriculture

The new Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, was interviewed by NPR's Morning Edition. Shortly after his nomination by Obama Michael Pollan appeared on the same show and suggested that this appointment was good for corn but bad for real food and eaters. Well, the former governor of Illinois is already making a move for corn. But he has also staked out a clearer need to promote real food, especially for kids: “We ought to be about encouraging our kids to be just terrific consumers of food. They ought to want different colored fruits and vegetables on their plate, they ought to demand it, they ought to be encouraged to do that.”

Here at SEBS (formerly known as the College of Agriculture and Environment) his goals may seem particularly fitting. In a recent speech at the Agricultural Outlook Forum 2009, he said that one of the three goals that Obama wants from the USDA is to "make sure that we worked hard at doing the research necessary to allow, over time, agriculture to transition away from its rather significant dependence today on fossil fuels." Interesting times in Washington.

It is worth pointing out that NJ has new Secretary of Agriculture as well, Doug Fisher.
(h/t Bob Goodman)

09 March 2009

AC Solar Roof

Atlantic City is about to celebrate the completion of the "largest single-roof solar-panel array" in the US. AC has built this large solar array on the roof of their convention center and it is getting national attention. I would even anticipate a few AC/DC jokes in the local media later this week.

08 March 2009

Foreclosure maps

Maps of economic disaster seem to be a new growth market for GIS.

Louis Kahn's drawing

Yet another good slideshow from Witold Rybczynski, this one called Back to the Drawing Board. This time he looks at some beautiful hand drawings by Louis Kahn. You can see them youself at the Arthur Ross Gallery at UPenn which has a small exhibit called Louis I. Kahn:
The Making of a Room
, that continues until
March 29th. I'm not sure what the exhibit is like, but Rybczynski does a ince job of emphasizing the way that Kahn uses his sketching as real tools of modernist exploration and communication.
What's interesting is that Kahn's drawing doesn't look anything like a conventional architectural rendering; it's more like a sketch of an actual place.
Since Spring Break is coming soon, it might be a nice time to slip down to Philly, see some design art, and then get some good food in University City.

07 March 2009

Data models

Oakland's Hydrography Data model
ESRI's Federal Lands Model
ESRI's Address Data Model

Trains are awesome

Now the NY Times agrees:

At least for now, train travel remains in what the former flight attendant I met called an “age of innocence,” by which she meant that you can keep your shoes on to board. It is a relapse into a simpler time.

With some cash, Amtrak could add modern amenities like Wi-Fi and still preserve that slower pace that makes train travel a salve for our modern psyche, the perpetual motion lulling the rider to stillness, like a rocking cradle, and that hushing sound: choo-k-choo-k-choo-k-choo-k-choo-k.

Trains are fun if you have the time.

06 March 2009

The Green Energy Education Act

ASLA has posted an interesting legislative action item:

Congressman Mike McCaul (TX) has re-introduced legislation aimed at preparing the next wave of design and construction professionals to improve the energy efficiency and productivity of our nation's buildings.

H.R. 957, The Green Energy Education Act, would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with the National Science Foundation to award grants to university programs related to the design and construction of high performance buildings. The legislation specifically states that in awarding grants, DOE should give priority to university programs in design, architecture, landscape architecture, and city, regional, or urban planning. The legislation would improve the ability of engineers, architects, landscape architects, and planners to cooperate on the incorporation of advanced energy technologies during the design and construction of buildings.

During the last Congress, ASLA worked with Congressman McCaul to include "landscape architecture" in a similar bill that unanimously passed the House of Representatives. After learning how landscape architectural techniques, including sustainable site planning and development, contribute to the high performance of buildings, Congressman McCaul offered an amendment to include landscape architecture in the bill. Fortunately, the version recently introduced by Congressman McCaul does include language regarding landscape architects.

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology.
I'll even try to add a widget for tracking this.

They're taking over!

From The Big Picture.

05 March 2009

Burnham's plan turns 100

Daniel Burnham's Plan for Chicago is turning 100. The New Yorker explores what is means. Some people want to celebrate with a memorial, some don't like the current proposal. Others want a new plan. I'm sure there'll be more in the coming weeks and months.

04 March 2009

Post-sprawl Las Vegas?

An interesting look at what is next for Las Vegas. To help figure it out, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is pushing for an inventory of the exurban ghettos. In reality there is no plan, just confusion.
The apartment vacancy rate is 16 percent, while for homes it is 4.7 percent, according to a recent Forbes report. Schwer thinks the Forbes’ apartment data is overstated, but still, with population flat or declining, it’s clear the construction industry will lie dormant for years.

But there’s a hopeful upside, as noted by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, the Las Vegas Democrat: Without the constant banging of hammer on nail, Southern Nevada can use the silence to think about what it wants to be. “Because of the downturn, the foreclosures, yes it’s a crisis, but it’s created an opportunity for us to rethink what our city is and what it can be for everyone.”

Corridor, Core and More

The Chattooga River Conservation Plan includes a look at Core, Corridor and Restoration Area Principles. The squeeze in some 'edge effects' too. It is a good place to begin when you are looking for an example of an application of these ecological issues.

Digital Madison

Here is a little more on the Sketch-Up/Google Earth modeling of Madison, NJ.

03 March 2009

Common Lecture: Simulate, then Make

This upcoming Wednesday 3/4 we will be honored to welcome
Richard Garber, Department of Architecture NJIT & GRO Architects NYC
Simulate, then Make

The lecture Simulate, Then Make will examine the trajectory and impact of digital tools on the architectural design process and suggest a paradigm shift from conventional design practices has occurred. Four recent projects by GRO Architects, including the re:Construction installation project and a prototype for high-performance urban infill housing will be presented to support this hypothesis.

Richard Garber is an Assistant Professor at the New Jersey School of Architecture, where he teaches design studios and directs the school's FABLAB. His work involves the use of computer simulation and computer numerically controlled (CNC) hardware in the generation of innovative design, construction and assembly solutions. In 2007 his practice, GRO Architects, won the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's re:Construction competition. The resulting work, Best Pedestrian Route, was fabricated at NJSOA's FABLAB and stood as a temporary structure at the corner of Broadway and John Street in Lower Manhattan through 2008. In February 2008, he won an AIA Merit Award for these efforts; and in May 2008 he received a NY Designs Award from the Architectural League of New York. He was also the Emerging Architect Visiting Assistant Professor at Barnard College in 2007 with Nicole Robertson. May 2009 will see the US the release of his book (Architectural Design) "Closing the Gap: Information Models in Contemporary Design Practice" published by John Wiley & Sons. Prior to coming to NJIT he was a project manager at SHoP Architects in New York, where he worked on the firm's 2000 winning PS1 entry, Dunescape; and Han Gil Sa Publishing Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. He was also a project designer at Greg Lynn FORM in Venice, CA, where he worked on the Presbyterian Church of New York. His writing and design work has been published in the New York Times, the Star Ledger, The Architect's Newspaper, Azure, Art News, Metropolis, and Architectural Record. He holds architecture degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University.


Time: 4:00-5:15 PM
Location: <http://maps.rutgers.edu/building.aspx?1079> Cook Douglass Lecture Hall 110.

March Madness

It is that time of year. The college basketball season is reaching the point where it infects people who are usually immune to sports.

To celebrate, the NY Times' A. O. Scott made a video review of Hoosiers, the greatest basketball movie ever. And that led me to read Janet Maslin's original review when it came out. It is a pretty fun way to mark the changes of the seasons, and Places and Spaces will also help host a NCAA bracket tourney, so keep your eyes open.

02 March 2009

Ecological Urbanism

Harvard is hosting a meeting on Ecological Urbanism and it sounds fascinating. The conference is being headlined by Homi Bhabha and Rem Koolhaas. The program seems long on designers and planners and short on environmental scientists ecologists, but there are notable exceptions like Richard T. T. Forman. Solutions are going to be integrative, so they require a diverse group:
The conference will bring together design practitioners and theorists, economists, engineers, environmental scientists, politicians and public health specialists, with the goal of reaching a more robust understanding of ecological urbanism and what it might be in the future.
Like so much of the new sustainability and green design, the science has to be sound. Presumably that means finding a way to increase the scientific dialogue without losing the richness of the design solutions.

3d Sketch-up version

According to CNN you can now become an Eagle scout by using Sketch-up. More specifically, one guy in nearby Madison, NJ is training other folks so they can collectively make a digital model of their entire town to drop into Google Earth.

01 March 2009

First exam for EnvPlan postponed

In light of the complicated and unpredictable weather coming tomorrow, I have decided to go ahead and postpone the first exam for 11:372:231 Fundamentals of Environmental Planning from Monday to Thursday (March 5). One station says nearly a foot is expected, so you should anticipate bus delays, nasty driving conditions, and good sledding.

Please note: I will NOT cancel Monday's class unless Rutgers officially closes. Check here for official campus status. We will go ahead with Lecture 4/Chapter 4, which will be on the Second Exam.

Here is what the NWS says to expect:

Get ready.


Since our book didn't go into much of a discussion of flash floding, I went into it a little more in class. One of the resources I used was a hydrograph. If you didn't get it the first time, you might check out this link from the BBC.

Desert View Tri-Villages area

A peek at a landscape (described in The Living Landscape, Chapter 3) that'll look different than ours.

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Seminar: Machinic ecologies: rethinking urban nature

The Geography Colloquium Series is pleased to present:
"Machinic ecologies: rethinking urban nature."

Bruce Braun
Department of Geography
Institute for Global Studies
University of Minnesota

Friday March 6
2:00 pm
B267 Lucy Stone Hall

Refreshments will be served and reception will follow.