29 July 2010

Photo maps

If you poke around a little on the internet you'll  find that the photos people post on sites like Flickr are often cluster around some very busy, very popular spots. Sure there are lots of photos of the Statue of Liberty, but there are also plenty of pictures of storefronts on Fifth Avenue and only a few of W 158th.  Rather than map out the points, like Flickr, Eric Fischer decided to map the streets. Naturally, he posted his maps on Flickr.

h/t Cindy C

Fall Festival

This will fit well into the fall studio:

The Lord Stirling 1770s Festival

Colonial history lives at the Somerset County Park Commission's annual 1770s Festival when Lord Stirling's grand manor house and estate come to life in Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, NJ. Colonial craftspeople ply their trades and a Revolutionary War military detachment camp on the former estate lawns and conduct maneuvers. The event promotes historical and environmental education by familiarizing people with the rich local history of Basking Ridge, highlighting an unsung Revolutionary War hero, demonstrating the colonial heritage of New Jersey, and recreating a typical autumn afternoon in 1770. In 2006, the Lord Stirling 1770s Festival won the Cultural and History Commission of Somerset County History Award for Education. Period re-enactors attired in replicas of 1770s clothing participate in the festival demonstrating their trades and crafts (no crafts are sold). These crafts people make articles such as buttons, rifles, brooms, furniture, lace, stained glass, redware pottery, and powder horns. Other trades and crafts include a blacksmith, tinsmith, wool spinning, decoy carving, and colonial herbs. Children of all ages enjoy the hayrides, clay crafts using Stirling clay, stenciling, and toy making. Visitors may try on colonial costumes and have their photograph taken while restrained to the Somerset Gaoler's wooden stock. $4 per person suggested donation

Sunday, October 3, 2010
10:30am - 4:30pm

28 July 2010

A pretty Great Swamp and its watershed

Just a few miles south of Morristown is a bowl-shaped valley called the Great Swamp Watershed.  This fall our junior studio will be working with locals, particularly the Great Swamp Watershed Association, to investigate and envision alternative futures for these landscapes as part of the Regional Design Studio.  Within the context of North Jersey, it looks a little small. 

The unusual shape of the valley, and the severity of the hills surrounding it are important to the history of the valley.  After the Wisconsin glacier it was the site of the Glacial Lake Passaic and it is still easy to pick out on satellite images.  It was also hard to reach so has avoided highways and crossroads of any serious size, adding to its rural character.
Upon closer examination, you can see that the watershed is large enough to include the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  You can see that it also includes most of the Jockey Hollow NPS site.  And, the Passaic makes a complete U-turn to get back to its better-known urban environment.

The watershed includes parts of 10 different towns, which used to be represented on the 10 Towns Committee (and the Jersey Jetport Site Association).  In 2000, the total population  of the 10 towns was under 125,000.  While there have been teardowns, add-ons and new commercial sites, it doesn't seem likely that the 2010 census will show this as an area of significant growth relative to its neighbors.  The one town with the largest land area in the watershed is Harding Township, which has been working to retain its rural feel for decades.
Several of the remaining towns are very small and sit atop the ridges that constrict the valley and help keep it swampy.  The ridgetops have good views and create a special sense of character for the communities.

The location of the watershed places it on or near 2 major commuting highways - I-78 and I-287 - with additional service by NJ Transit.  The small towns with great access to Newark and New York include some prestigious, wealthy bedroom communities.  But, the Great Swamp itself remains a a little bit of a pain to get to, so the area's residents can feel safe in thinking that future development in the valley is less likely than in other parts of New Jersey. 

What is the true Great Swamp watershed like?  And what sort of future does it have?

A good year

The NJDA reports that in the ongoing struggle between man and Gypsy moth, this is a bad year for the moths.

Age friendly maps

New York City has some maps assessing different "age friendly" factors around the city.  Some, like the distance to ADA-accessible subway stations, reveal some interesting patterns in the outer boroughs.

26 July 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Park award

MVVs' Brooklyn Bridge Park was mentioned in the earlier post as being seen in a recent ad.  But we failed to acknowledge their notable win in the National Park Service's new Designing the Parks.  New Jerseyans may also want to peek at the PEEC.  ASLA's DIRT has the complete rundown

Levi's ad

So, is the new Walk Across America Levi's commercial the first major ad to use Brooklyn Bridge Park as a location?

24 July 2010

Prairie Crossing

Grist takes a closer look at Prairie Crossing, which is a sort of hybrid between a new urbanist community and an old farm town near the Illinois/Wisconsin border.

23 July 2010

HMF tour

Since the Hutcheson Memorial Forest is not open to the public on a daily basis, the Sunday tours are one of the best ways to see this specially protected site.  Here is the announcement for this weekend's tour if you are in the area:

Hutcheson Memorial Forest Tour
Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.
Tour Leader:
Dr. Peter Morin (Community Ecologist) Summer in the Forest: Plants, Insects, and Interactions.

The Hutcheson Memorial Forest (HMF) is a unique area consisting of one of the last uncut forests in the Mid-Atlantic States, along with the surrounding lands devoted to protection of the old forest and research into ecological interactions necessary to understand the forest. The tract is administered and protected by Rutgers University.

It is apparently the only uncut upland forest in the Piedmont of New Jersey, and appears on the National Park Service Register of Natural Landmarks.

Tours leave from the entrance of the woods on 2150 Amwell Road (Rt. 514) in Somerset. From New Brunswick, follow Hamilton Street west past JFK Blvd, Cedar Grove Lane and Elizabeth St.  HMF is on the left past The Gardeners Nook. The driveway is located just past the guardrail over the brook.

The trail may be muddy in places so come prepared.

The tour through the woods and fields takes between one and two hours.

Tours are free and reservations are not required for these guided tours
.** Groups of more than ten persons may not attend the guided tours. Such groups are invited to arrange special tours.

To make special arrangements please contact:
Land Manager, Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center,
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources,
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
New Brunswick
, NJ 08901
For more information and a complete tour schedule for 2010 visit:  http://rci.rutgers.edu/~hmforest/

**HMF is not open to the public on a daily basis.


22 July 2010

Moving graphics

WNYC has collected nearly 1700 responses of listeners describing their moves over the last 10 years.  Now they are releasing these as a giant database and giving listeners until August 22nd to make something of it.  Between our spatial skills and our graphic skills and our understanding of people, I would expect that some underemployed EP&D students or grads might be able to make quite a splash with this.

21 July 2010

1:1 mapping

This GPS Drawing from Warwick required 238 miles of walking.

Alexander Graham Bell Awards

The National Geographic Society announced that they would be recognizing 2 GIS pioneers with the Alexander Graham Bell Award: Jack Dangermond and Roger Tomlinson.  As a sign of how much they stand out, this award has only been given once before, in 1980.

19 July 2010

A new GeoDesign tool

Directions Magazine reports on a new GeoDesign Tool.

Map of secrets

It is easy to think that most intelligence work is just done in DC (or Montclair).  But the Washington Post has created a pretty fascinating map of what they called Top Secret America.  If you zoom in, you can see that Central New Jersey has a fair amount private contractors in the area.  NPR's The Takeaway had on Dana Priest to talk about the reporting associated with it.

A sustainability design challenge

An interesting challenge that is popping up more and more is the ability to elegantly integrate some of the less elegant elements of sustainability in the working landscapes of daily life.  One example of this was highlighted (indirectly) in the NY Times blog this week: solar panels.  The video shows one way people are starting to integrate them into parking lots, but the truth is that as panel prices drop there will be plenty of other interesting alternatives to solar farms that will create visual and aesthetic challenges for designers.

16 July 2010

Jan Gehl's Cities for People

Daily Dose of Achitecture has a nice post this morning highlighting the release of Danish architect Jan Gehl's new book, Cities for People.

ESRI UC 2010

While I am simmering in NJ, I am getting plenty of emails and calls from San Diego, site of the 2010 ESRI User Conference.  I think it is generally considered to be the largest GIS conference in the world.
None of it is as good as being there.

15 July 2010

MERC site in Salt River Bay

Yesterday's post offered a few thoughts about the larger context of the MERC site, but what I really wanted to do when I visited was see the site and its soil and its plants.  Down by the shore, where coastal erosion works its magic, you can see what some of the soils likes like.  Just a random mix of parent materials, perhaps stability would be a concern.

Parts of the coastline are fairly rough and hardened, creating a coastal environment with tidal pools and rock hopping.  And trash.

Inside the site are some old dirt roads,  This one gives a sense of how enclosed you quickly become as the plants are going about 10 or 15 feet high in some of the lower areas.  The vegetation looks impenetrable, and it seems like it too.  There is a reason people carry machetes in places like this.

The new entry to the site will be from the South.  Here, at the base of the central peninsula of the site you can see the entry that has been laid down.  At this point, it is still pretty high on the hill, and the road drops down, creating an instant effect of getting away from the ordinary world of St Croix.

From the bottom, looking up at the large hill on the site, you can see both the taller scrub down low and the grassy areas as you climb the hill.  This was pretty common around the site.

The flatter coastal areas on the site, transitioned pretty quickly from sea grape to other scrub.  Simlarly, the scrub pushed pretty close to the lagoon and salt pond before finally giving way to a thin but dense strip of mangroves.

14 July 2010

MERC Site - a wider view

It is easy to visit the Salt River Bay in St Croix and see it simply as a great place to park a sailboat, but there is more to it than that.

Seen from a distance, the proposed site for the Marine Education and Research Center is fairly isolated on a peninsula. Stepping back like this makes it seem farily simple, but there is a lot going on in this picture.  You can barely seem the remains of the ruins of the old hotel, even though it still had its tower at the time the photo was taken.

Zoomed out, the site looks pretty lush, but on site you see that the concrete materials from the old resort take up a pretty large area.  The NPS plans to reuse as much of the material as possible.

While the concrete makes an interesting transition along the shore, you can also imagine how this will look when cleaned up and can be used as a place to learn about coastal processes. But, while it looks like a natural beach, the old maps show clearly that this wasn't here a few decades ago. It has been a dynamic place.

Across the bay is the new orientation center for visitors (not yet completed) that towers over the Christopher Columbus Landing site.

The most important photo might this one which looks down from the current entrance to the site, across this scrubby slope, down to the bio-luminescent lagoon, and across to where the old hotel was. It seems likely that the new construction on the site would happen near where the photographer was standing and this would be a few that visiting public, local students, and marine researchers would encounter every day.

Where is the Lorax then you need him?

Who will speak for the trees?  Especially the centuries-year-old "massive oak" in Teaneck that may get cut down? According to the Record, the tree will.  Rabbi Price said, "After the tree spoke for itself, we felt we could not wait any longer to deal with this."

09 July 2010

“Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power and to withhold from them information, without which power is abused. A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”
- James Madison

LAF announces Olmsted Scholars

Congrats to Ed Krafcik!

Ed made the LAF's list of 2010 University Olmsted Scholars.  I would encourage current and propspective students to read several of the bios and consider how their activities and interests could continue to advance like these.

08 July 2010


While I haven't listened yet, local academic celebrities Frank and Deborah Popper make an appearance on NPR's On Point focusing on the Great Plains.  The whole thing seems to be sparked by Joel Kotkin's recent piece in Newsweek, "Why the Great Plains are Great Once Again."

Also on NPR, the Anecdotal Census of Middlesex County.

Build a Better Burb

A design competition is close to wrapping up out on Long Island.  Build a Better Burb has been juried and has three finalists for the public choice portion.  I would encourage our Juniors to study the gallery since the finalists represent a highly varied and imaginative approach to visioning a future for a specific area without getting very site specific.

06 July 2010


"Eighty percent of success is showing up."

- Woody Allen

(It is worth pointing out that the Internet is filled with other versions of this quote - 70%, 85%, 90% - and almost none of them mention when/where he said it.)
(Readers are discouraged from associating this quote with this morning's post.)

Looking for a few good teachers

Studio, construction, related areas.  Job description here.

05 July 2010

A new way to fight growth?

The state is moving close to a 2% cap on the growth of municipal budgets with a few special exceptions like capital improvements and pensions.  Since I am not privy to the details, I can only speculate.  But this seems like it makes it easier for towns to reinvest in crumbling infrastructure and community centers but harder to deal with population growth that will require more services, policemen and teachers.  That could disincentivize the generosity of planning boards that used to encourage growth as a way to improve ratables.  Am I missing something?

01 July 2010

Cool class: Landscape Studies

Landscape Architecture 101
Landscape Studies

11:550:101, Fall 2010, Department of Landscape Architecture, open to all majors, fulfills SEBS Arts and Humanities requirement

Dr. Wolfram Hoefer

Overview: Tools for Interpreting Place

“… a little acute observation of ordinary things like power lines, railroad rights-of-way, post office equipment, back roads and shopping districts, alleys and the interstate highway system, fences and revitalized main streets, even motels and highway interchanges opens up larger issues that invigorate the mind, that entice understanding, that flex mental muscle, that fit the explorer for further exploring. [It is] about awareness in ordinary surroundings…. awareness that builds into mindfulness, into the enduring pleasures of noticing and thinking about what one notices.”
(John R. Stilgoe, “Outside Lies Magic”, p. 18)

This broad-ranging course is an introduction to the idea of landscape as cultural phenomenon and the role of the term landscape as a representation of how society views the built world. The goal of this course is to:
  • Improve the student’s perception of the built and un-built environments.
  • Establish vocabularies to describe, and analytical frameworks to assess natural and cultural aspects of the environment.
  • Determine some of the forces and values that are shaping the landscape and determining its organization and order
  • Discover the relation between the idea of landscape and the physical object landscape.
  • Consider the role of the landscape in not only satisfying society's needs, but also in expressing society's aspirations.
  • Introduction of aspects of the historic, political, and economic context of landscape as cultural symbol

By orchestrating diverse resources (film, lectures, field trips, and general audience books by research scientists), this introductory class presents a variety of landscape interpretations in terms of natural processes and cultural history.

Several broad landscape categories provide a framework for looking at the landscape: local town; beach (wilderness—the moving beach); landscape infrastructure (water--dams and carrying capacity of the land); agriculture (ways of farming and the social and environmental impacts); carscape (the strip and the landscape of mobility); post-industrial landscapes (brownfields as elements of the public realm); city (people and parks).

History, video narrative, and scientific literature are presented to allow students to determine for themselves some of the forces shaping the landscape while considering its role in expressing society’s aspirations and satisfying society’s needs. Scientific readings and documentary films act as case studies and help to explain field trip observations. Films serve the secondary role of virtual field trips and provide cultural history background. Lectures will provide a historic and cultural context for the class discussions.

Readings, written responses, and class discussions will help the student to think differently about landscape in order to see landscape in a different way. Journal assignments are intended to provide a mechanism for recording thoughts and observations in an organized manner and provide a permanent record of individual experience that can be shared in class.

This course develops landscape observation skills; it also requires students to integrate their knowledge of science with visible landscape processes and uses. The ability to read one’s surroundings is an essential part of environmental literacy. The assignments are designed to give an introduction into methods of analysis and research in the humanities.