30 January 2012

Topo maps

Here are some more unusual USGS topo quad maps.  The first is of Venice, LA - effectively the last town on the Mississippi River before the delta and the Gulf.  The high point on the map is the levee, along the South side of the river.  It looks like there are 2 contour lines, and the bottom of the map says they are 5 foot contours, so the levee would be a little higher than 10 feet above see level.  The rest of the maps has nearly no contour lines anywhere.  Flat, flat flat.

The second map is from an adjacent quad but has no contour lines.  Instead of labeling the contour interval at the bottom, there is simply a note that says "Entire Area Below 5 Feet".  And, in the corner you'll notice that there is no legend for roads, either.  But they still made the map. The USGS didn't say, "Oh there isn't muc land there" or "there is absolutely no topography there".  They made the maps.  And I bet these maps get used too.

Be careful, the linked images are quite large.  But if you want to go back to the source, you can head over to Libre Map to get all of the topos for Louisiana.

Don't you think that cities look like...

Cats or seastars or hands?  Strange Maps found someone thought so.

28 January 2012

Chair Design Competition

The Battery Park movable chair design competition has been announced.

Brick quote

“If you think of a brick, for instance, and you consult the orders, you consider the nature of a brick. This is natural. You say to brick, ‘What do you want brick?’ And the brick says to you . . .”

—Louis I. Kahn

27 January 2012

Coping with a changing world

HBR posted an interesting column by Bill Taylor, "Are You Learning as Fast as the World Is Changing?"
You're not going to learn faster (or deeper) than everyone else if you seek inspiration from the same sources as everyone else. Educators know that we learn the most when we encounter people, experiences, and ideas that are the least like us. And yet, we spend most of our time with people and in places that are the most like us — our old colleagues, our familiar offices, our reassuring neighborhoods. If you want to learn faster, look and live more broadly.
What are you doing to expand your sphere?

26 January 2012

2012 Summer Design Scholars

Deadline approaching!

Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company is accepting applications for its class of 2012 Summer Design Scholars. This is a juried selection, open to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, and interior design.

We hope you will distribute this link to your students, friends and school acquaintances. The submission deadline is Monday, FEBRUARY 20. Selection will be made by March 15. If you are not the person who should receive this information, we would appreciate your assistance in getting it into the right hands. You can learn more about our program (and applicants can apply) at this link:


This is the 10th year of the program, and our scholars have reported their experiences to be rewarding and life-changing. Scholars, including international students, have come from the Savannah College of Art + Design, McGill, Universidad de Monterrey, UPenn, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Tulane, Virginia Tech, UVA, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, and Hampton University. Several Summer Scholar “alumni” have accepted full-time positions with our firm.

If you have other questions, please contact Nick Vlattas, nvlattas@hewv.com
or 757-321-9608.

The Emerging Ecological Paradigm of Agriculture and Scholarship

Hear Executive Dean Goodman Give Special Lecture on January 31

As one of the foremost authorities on agriculture, agricultural research, sustainability, the environment and related topics, Executive Dean Bob Goodman is called upon frequently to address diverse groups at various venues. Those of us close to home will have the pleasure of hearing him on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, at 11 a.m. in the Alampi Room of the Marine and Coastal Sciences Building on the G.H. Cook Campus. Dean Goodman and Associate Dean Xenia Morin will team up to present "The Emerging Ecological Paradigm of Agriculture and Scholarship."

25 January 2012

Live Blog: JeanMarie Hartman on Water/Land Interaction

"Land Water Interactions and Collaborations"
Recent explorations undertaken while on sabbatical from teaching
Dr. JeanMarie Hartman

  • a time of reflection
  • a time of re-grouping
  • a time for quiet contemplation
  • a time for manic productivity
Ecological literacy - processes vs. structures

University of Akron group called Syanpse
Worked out of the Bath Nature Preserve

View Larger Map

Began with a study of moving water at Bath - how did the streams flow?  What did they do?  What were they like?

Looked at environmental art - Ed Burtynsky, Chris Jordan, Natalie Jeremijenko, Andy Golsdworthy

Working with the University of Akron, in Ohio, they turned the Folk Hall parking lot into a 2 day watershed event

Erosion and Fractures
Adding water to clay
Resulting in the Ground Water exhibition
Landforms and tiles

Finding the way through

How can we make this happen more often?  How can we foster more of these relationships?

DVRPC: A great place for internships

I am getting a lot more questions about internships these days and, when I see a good one, I try to post it and tag it with "jobs". 

One place that regularly advertises internships is the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.  So check the DVRPC internship page frequently. They currently have one posted called Environmental Planning Urban Forestry which could be great for planners, designers, and landscape industry students.

24 January 2012

Manalapan Planning Board meeting

I have been told that there is a Manalapan Planning Board meeting this Thursday night.  I gather that it might be a continuation of some of the Ray Catena case.  Before you go you might want to call the Planning & Zoning Department at (732) 446-8350 just to make sure that the meeting is really happening and that you know where you are going.

Dr. Stuart Pimm "Biodiversity: the most beautiful carbon"

Thursday, January 26, 2012 4:00 PM
Alampi Room, IMCS Building

EcoGSA Eminent Ecologist Seminar:
Dr. Stuart Pimm "Biodiversity: the most beautiful carbon".

Dr. Pimm is committed to the study of biological diversity. He has written over 200 scientific papers. His latest research covers many topics on species extinctions and he is committed to creating an interface between science and policy.

21 January 2012

Land Water Interactions and Collaborations

Landscape Architecture Common Lecture series
Dr. Jean Marie Hartman
"Land Water Interactions and Collaborations"
Wednesday, January 25
4:00 pm in CDL 110

"Much of what is visible in the landscape is the result of water acting over time, and in various ways, on the materials that compose the environment. Yet, the roles of water (in processes such as erosion, plant growth, soil formation, micro-climate variations) remain invisible. For many years, Hartman’s work has studied the roles of water in the landscape through direct scientific inquiry. During her recent sabbatical, she began a series of inquiries that combine scientific information with artistic experimentation in collaboration with several artists. This lecture will present a series of illustrative vignettes of projects and results related to making the roles of water in the landscape more visible, and thereby more understandable. Each distinct vignette provides insight into how collaboration between artists and scientists can re-phrase and represent knowledge."

Internships: Apply immediately

National Park Service Designing the Parks Internships

The National Park Service (NPS) is contemplating creating several paid student internships for graduate, undergraduate, and high school students designed to complement the innovative Designing the Parks initiative. The National Park Service is a founding partner of Designing the Parks, which is a public-private partnership to promote the importance of well-designed public parks in contemporary society. The initiative provides a forum for collegial, interdisciplinary discussion through workshops, competitions, and pilot projects that aims to build a common foundation of design principles for guiding 21st century public park planning and design. (see www.designingtheparks.org for background and more information)

The purpose of the internships is to assist the NPS and its partners further refine six guiding principles, while building a diverse base of young, prospective design and planning professionals knowledgeable of the design, planning, and preservation work of the National Park Service.

(details after the jump)

The fall in review

A quick check of visitors statistics show that from September 1st to December 1st one of my old blogs got much of the site's traffic. A post called Hiking Manhattan, Part 1 from 2008 was suddenly very popular. In October it accounted for a quarter of all of the traffic on the blog.  When I looked it over, I saw that it was just photos from from that year's hike tip-to-tip of Manhattan. But I was puzzled how search engines and visitors might get so excited since it has very little text.  At least I was puzzled until I saw two of the photos.  Can you spot them?

Here is a graph of traffic for Sept, Oct, Nov showing the sudden popularity and then unpopularity of this entry.  The absolute highest peak was October 14th when it got over 400 hits.

20 January 2012

Internship for geomatics and planning students?

An 8-10 week internship for an eligible student interested in natural resource management and coral reef ecosystems to work in a NRCS field office serving the watershed conservation needs of local land users primarily on agricultural lands.  In Hawaii!
7th Annual Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia Memorial Coral Reef Conservation Summer Internship

Opening Date: January 18, 2012
Closing Date: February 29, 2012

(more details after the jump)

Immigrant support in NJ

Mapping of immigrant issues has become a regular feature now with PBS and the NYTimes getting involved.  At RIIM we are not immune from this trendy trend.  The map below shows groups that have self-identified as immigrant organizations as well as a larger group of community-based organizations.

View Larger Map

I know this is hard to use when it is so small.  But you can drop the legend if you need to.  Plus, if the census data backdrop is not helpful for you, there is a larger map with population change as the backdrop and  a larger map of the same data that you can access with streets and aerial photography.

Plants internship in Delaware

Delaware's Mt. Cuba Center is a well-known gardens that has multiple "12-week summer internships are designed for college undergraduate and graduate students majoring in horticulture, landscape architecture, related plant science fields, or ecology, and who are interested in getting hands-on training and academic instruction in naturalistic garden design and native plants."

Apply by March 1st.

19 January 2012

Spring 2012 Speaker Series

Mark your calendars now, the Spring 2012 Speaker Series looks great.

1.18.12 Sunil Bald

1.25.12 Jean Marie Hartman
Land_Water Collaborations

2.8.12 Ron Henderson
Routine Maintenance

2.15.12 Joyce Hsiang & Bimal Mendes
Territorial Practices

2.22.12 Alan Brake
Death & Life of Great American Landscapes

2.29.12 Dawn Wright
Esri's New Ocean Science and Ocean GeoDesign Initiative

3.23.12 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
In Conversation

4.11.12 Julie Bargmann
D.I.R.T. Studio

4.18.12 Kim Mathews & Signe Nielson
Landscape Representation_Concept to Construction

Get out!

Hutcheson Memorial Forest Tour
Sunday, January 22nd at 2:00 p.m.

Tour Leader: Rick Lathrop
“Winter Ecology at Hutcheson Memorial Forest.”

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 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 Gardener’s Nook Nursery. 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.

18 January 2012

Get ready for summer

It is not too early to think about summer internships...

California Earthquake Center

The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) is headquartered at
the University of Southern California. Founded in 1991, SCEC has a
mission to gather new information about earthquakes in Southern
California, integrate this information into a comprehensive and
predictive understanding of earthquake phenomena, and communicate this
understanding to end-users and the general public in order to increase
earthquake awareness, reduce economic losses, and save lives. SCEC is
funded by the National Science foundation and the United States
Geological Survey.

There are 2 SCEC summer internship programs offered to undergraduate
students who are interested in earth sciences and/or its related
fields (Geography/GIS, Computer Science, Civil Engineering, etc.):

UseIT (Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology)

Work as a team to develop technical tools for scientists, educators,
and policy makers to communicate important concepts about earthquakes,
faults, seismic hazard mitigation, and earthquake risk reduction.

Term & Location: Summer 2012 (8 weeks - 6/11 to 8/3) at the University
of Southern California

SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience)

Conduct primary field, laboratory, and/or theoretical research under
the supervision of leading scientists in the fields of geophysics,
earthquake geology, seismology, tectonics, and geodesy.

Term & Location: Summer 2012, (~10weeks - Dates determined with
mentor) at various SCEC institutions

Applications are being accepted now! To apply, visit:


Priority consideration deadline is Monday, February 27, 2012. Stipend: $5000

Please note that applicants for UseIT and SURE must be continuing
undergraduate students through the Fall of 2012 and must be either a
US Citizen or US Permanent Resident. For example if you are graduating
in August 2012 you are not eligible for the program.

To learn more about the specific programs, please visit

Questions? Contact us at: internships@scec.org

First day eye candy

A little visual seasoning to make the first day of Geomatics just a little more flavorful.

From the NJ DEP Map Contest.


Which neighborhood do you want?

Urban neighborhoods are a tough thing to make right.  It can be hard to attract businesses if the mix doesn't seem right.  But, many neighborhoods find that if they become popular and successful, they have to worry about their success backfiring and having the very things that made it interesting get replaced by blander alternatives.

Leave it to The Onion to analyze the situation and highlight the real problems.  One of the fake quotes sums up the fatigue of living in a real place burdened with real relationships: "It would be such a relief to walk in somewhere and have some disinterested college-age kid take my order without even making eye contact."

17 January 2012

Here is a News21 video about artist Matt Moore using time-lapse video photography to document (or memorialize) the crops on his family's farm as development moves in.

Lost in Sprawl from News21 Berkeley 2011 on Vimeo.

Studio Sumo Lecture on Typecasting

Wednesday, January 18 at 4:00 pm
Cook-Douglass Lecture Hall, Room 110
 Sunil Bald, co-principle in Studio Sumo

The talk will examine how SUMO identifies, maps, translates, and materializes the social, physical, and cultural forces that shape the built environment into a body of architectural work that embraces a multi-layered and heterogeneous understanding of "context."

La Segrera

In 2007 I taught a studio in Barcelona, Spain during which the students designed new developments that would cover up an old train yard while preserving a nearby Calatrava bridge.  At the time there were plans for a Frank Gehry building on the site.  Now a design competition has been run to design the same site, La Segrera.  The winning team was Team Camí Comtal (AldayJover, RCR and West 8) which created a plan for an urban hub at this central spot what will become a 4 km long green corridor.

16 January 2012

Annoying buzzeword and catchphrases

Black Walnut Dispatch, a blog about gardening and nature, has posted their list of the Top Ten Most Annoying Garden Buzzwords and Catchphrases of 2011.  I don't that I agree with that many of them, but that is the point of a list like this.

13 January 2012

Budget cuts hurt biodiversity research

A painful reminder that quality databases and access to them aren't free.

Cognitive science leads to more metaphorical trees

The NY Times had a feature this past weekend looking at the trend in architecture that is leading to more built structures that resemble trees.  After describing several impressive projects, the author writes, "How many designers are clued in to the ongoing cognitive revolution and its potential for the built environment is unclear."  Based on the recent work I have seen, the answer appears to be "not many".

12 January 2012

More landscape architects on TV

Tonight there will be one more (fake) landscape architect on TV.  Rob Schneider starts as "Rob" in the new sitcom, "Rob".  Rob is a landscape architect with mild-OCD, but his mom displays the classic stereotyped understanding of landscape architecture saying, “I just wish sometimes you people wouldn’t use a leaf blower; it’s so noisy.”  Not sure that low-brow comedy was the type of publicity that the ASLA was looking for, but the reviews suggest that it might not last too long.

NJ ASLA is coming - Are you going?

11 January 2012

Parking lots

Micahel Kimmelman had an extensive piece on parking lots in the NY Times. Online it came with a slideshow of parking lots that was a nice distraction. But I was baffled by the range used in estimating the available parking as "105 million and maybe as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States." That's a big difference.

Here is Renzo Piano's parking for Fiat in Turin:

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And the parking lot at DIA: Beacon got a nod too:

View Larger Map

10 January 2012

A different connection between GIS and immigration

After 20 years in the US local GIS consultant, Atanas Entchev, was detained last fall for 65 days over what sounds like a fairly technical bureaucratic detail.  After 2 or 3 years working on RIIM I shouldn't be surprised by stories like this, but it seems like there are so many of them near us these days.

06 January 2012

What makes one map better than others?

Seth Stevenson at Slate singles out David Imus’ “The Essential Geography of the United States of America” as America's best wall map. But his explanation of the cartography and design helps the reader understand fully what makes this map so outstanding.  It is a nice high-profile piece for design.

02 January 2012

Governor of Maryland starts the new year with a plan

Despite what the Washington Post characterized as "vehement opposition," Maryland's governor has used an executive order to create the state's first long-term plan for smart growthAccording to the Post, opponents described this end run around the legislature as war on rural Maryland and "the height of arrogance."  As a sign of the times, the governor denied a) this being part of a UN plan, b) an alien-implanted chip steering his behavior, and c) taking this as a directive from the recently deceased Kim Jong Il.

Since his 2nd term began in 2011, he still appears to have some time to joust with the legislature as they try to undo or alter this decision.  But it can be hard to implement a long-term plan like this if it really turns out to be widely unpopular.