27 February 2014

Community mapping in the news

Dr. Im is in the news again, this time for a very popular pothole mapping effort.

One of the continuing issues in crowdsourcing is how unpredictable the crowd response can be. I mean I can offer a crass pop psychology explanation of why this one has taken off (everyday experience, slow government response, appearance of accessibility) relative to something like wildlife or sewer outfalls. But we still see some fairly similar efforts wallowing with just a few data contributions. I wish we had a better sense of the motivating factors so that when we need to work on something important, but admittedly less sexy, we could better know how to improve the odds of success without a marketing staff of 20.

Remembering Peter Rona

The integrative nature of my work inserts me into projects with a wide variety of scientists and other academics. After all, we need expertise on soils and cultural landscapes, hydrology and plant science. So many different parts of the university seem

Still, as a deep sea scientist, Peter Rona seems like he might be working in a space that I wouldn't interact with. But a casual conversation with him 10 years ago led to one of his students taking a geomatics class. His project mapping the depths of Hudson Canyon was great because it pushed me into new analysis questions while helping him see new aspects of his own research. Since then, Rona's Engineering Geophysics program has given me a chance to remain connected to this remarkably different perspective on space and landscapes.

Peter Rona was a remarkable scientist and I am still amazed to see the breadth of the work that made up his life work. Pretty amazing. Dr. Rona will be greatly missed on the Cook Campus.

21 February 2014

Win a trip to Europe and help the planet

Check out the student entry category in the NASA's World Wind Europa Challenge in which competitors try to develop applications to better the world. Last year's winners are online and included some amazing applications meant to improve the planet. Proposals have to be in by May 31st.

20 February 2014

Save our soils

A quick link to the Resource of the Day which is the Web Soil Survey. Enjoy.

Losing another old tree

It is hard to imagine what could be causing the gradual decline of this 300 year old bur oak...except for the road they built that covers its roots and pushes up against the trunk.

Context quote

"Always design a thing by considering it in its next context-a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment in a city plan."

- Eliel Saarinen.

16 February 2014

On the role of professors today

"SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates," writes Nicholas Kristof in today's NY Times

He goes on saying first that "The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant." Ouch.

15 February 2014

Climate Science Meets Music: Listen to the Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

Climate Science Meets Music: Listen to the Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

Tuesday, 18 February 2014,  4:00 PM
Lower Dodge Gallery the Zimmerli Art Museum.
Reception follows seminar

Marco Tedesco, City College of New York, and
Jonathan Perl, Sonic Arts Center, City College.

Drs. Tedesco and Perl discuss their collaborative approach to climate research and music. Tedesco explains his fieldwork in Greenland studying surface processes of snow and ice. Perl discusses his process of sonification (translating climatological data into musical scores). Check out a feature about this collaboration here: http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=13-P13-00034&segmentID=7

This even is part of the Seminar series Polar Perspectives on Art and Science  sponsored by: Zimmerli Arts Museum, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Department of Geography, Rutgers Climate Institute, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Institute for Women and Art, Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs

13 February 2014

On the passing of the Father of GIS

GISUser.com is reporting that Roger Tomlinson, the Father of GIS, has passed away. He is credited with giving us the name, GIS, for this world-changing technology. For this historic figure, his honors were many as shown in his lengthy UCGIS Fellows bio.

In an interview with Ben and Sue Niemann, you can find nice summary of an amazing career (part 1 and part 2). What did he say was the key to his success? "Serendipity!"  In 1961 he took plane ride where, simply by chance, his seatmate turned out to be the guy with whom he could innovate key steps forward. The amazing thing is how much he had to create from scratch and hom much computing work was undertaken with extraordinarily limited computing resources. He told the Niemanns:

“I had very little knowledge about actual computer capacity. In those days nobody in government did. The only computer programmers were in private companies and I needed to talk to these people, to ask if my ideas were possible. My input was system design; their input was knowledge about computers. It became a productive relationship, and it happened at the time when transistors were allowing computers to be information processors rather than only calculating engines. So there was a convergence of ideas, needs, skills, and technology that set the stage for the development of GIS.”
He went on with innovative coding, building hardware (including inventing a 48x48 drum scanner) and ultimately building an institution. In 1967 he made an amazing video showing the world the power of GIS. Data for Decision Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 is a must watch for serious GIS students.

Esri Canada posted a nice statement on Tomlinson. The GIS Lounge has an article as well.

The big papers haven't posted obituaries yet, but they will. When you think about the pervasive nature of GIS, there are few innovators whose work has touched more people than Tomlinson. Even those living without access to technology are having the landscapes around them cataloged, analyzed, and changed with Tomlinson's brainchild.

Thanks Roger.

Just crazy

From Kent we get a painful reminder of how much people value land, even just an extra 12 inches of it.

Some videos for a snowy day

Jamie Lerner on the greening of Curitiba
"I would like to say, if we want to have a sustainable world we have to work with everything what's said, but don't forget the cities and the children. I'm working in a museum and also a multi-use city, because you cannot have empty places during 18 hours a day. You should have always a structure of living and working together. Try to understand the sectors in the city that could play different roles during the 24 hours."

Michael Pawlyn on using nature's genius as inspiration for design
"Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, "If you want to build a flotilla of ships, you don't sit around talking about carpentry. No, you need to set people's souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant shores." And that's what we need to do, so let's be positive, and let's make progress with what could be the most exciting period of innovation we've ever seen."

Kate Orff's Oyster-tecture
"We need new tools and new approaches. Similarly, the idea of architecture as this sort of object in the field, devoid of context, is really not the -- excuse me, it's fairly blatant -- is really not the approach that we need to take. So we need new stories, new heroes and new tools."

Jeff Speck on more walkable cities
"So on the one hand, a city saves money for its residents by being more walkable and more bikeable, but on the other hand, it also is the cool kind of city that people want to be in these days. So the best economic strategy you can have as a city is not the old way of trying to attract corporations and trying to have a biotech cluster or a medical cluster, or an aerospace cluster, but to become a place where people want to be. And millennials, certainly, these engines of entrepreneurship, 64 percent of whom decide first where they want to live, then they move there, then they look for a job, they will come to your city."
Majora Carter's Greening the Ghetto
"We have no excuse in this country. I'm sorry. But the bottom line is: their people-first agenda was not meant to penalize those who could actually afford cars, but rather to provide opportunities for all Bogatanos to participate in the city's resurgence. That development should not come at the expense of the majority of the population is still considered a radical idea here in the US. But Bogota's example has the power to change that."

Janine Benyus on Biomimcry
"And we are in a long, long line of organisms to come to this planet and ask ourselves, "How can we live here gracefully over the long haul?" How can we do what life has learned to do? Which is to create conditions conducive to life. Now in order to do this, the design challenge of our century, I think, we need a way to remind ourselves of those geniuses, and to somehow meet them again."

12 February 2014

Anita Bakshi Liveblog

Anita Bakshi
Is green always good? Landscapes of division and silence
(Note: as a live blog on a politically contested territory, I want to apologize in advance for notes that misconstrue Dr. Bakshi's comments with provocative links and comments that are probably unintentional)

In early 20th Century Jerusalem, Charles Robert Ashbee proposed eliminating some of the historic structures to create more enhanced views and green space. In part, this plan was based on his hope to return the city to what he called “the most perfect, medieval enceinte in existence.”

The area has areas called Mewat land, seen as unclaimed. But even village lands are contested, since the land outside of a village wall is seen as essential by the Palestinian village but available or unused by Israel.

Another type of land in these areas is the Peace Forest which is examined more closely in a documentary film called The Village Under the Forest.

Proposals for national parks become contentious for a variety of reasons. One of the examples was the City of David property which can be linked with a larger network of similar lands.

Our sense of connection and movement through connected lands is very different in our region than it is in Israel and Palestine. As such, evaluations of proposals (like the proposed Mount of Olives National Park) have to be considered from different perspectives than just those with which we might approach the situation.

Even neighborhoods, like Walaja, become contested territory.

Landscape as heritage
Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Yad Vashem

09 February 2014

Lecture - Anita Bakshi

Rutgers University Landscape Architecture Common Lecture February 12, 2014 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Cook/Douglass Lecture Hall, Room 110, Cook Campus Dr. Anita Bakshi completed her PhD in Architecture at the University of Cambridge, and is currently working as a Researcher with the Conflict in Cities Research Programme. Her PhD research on Cyprus focused on urban memory in the divided capital of Nicoisa – exploring personal memories and imaginings
related to Nicosia’s walled city center and the Buffer Zone, an uninhabited no-man’s land, that 
divides it. She received her BA degree in architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She has worked in architectural design firms in Berkeley, Chicago, and Istanbul as well as researched architectural heritage in Berlin and Cappadocia, Turkey. Current research interests include memory and history in divided cities, the design of memorial structures, the politicization of heritage, mapping and visual research methodologies for complex urban environments, and the overlap between urban spatial practices and issues of social and economic justice.

A change in NYC parks managment?

The new mayor of New York City is about to shake things up at City Parks. Could it include the relationship with the park conservancies? Looking ahead at the possible directions this could go, the NY Times writes, "The grandest parks, the royal courts of Central Park, the High Line, the Battery and Prospect Park, are in the hands of privately held conservancies."

One voice they quote suggested a radical departure, "At a round-table discussion held during Mayor de Blasio’s transition, State Senator Daniel L. Squadron spoke of his proposal that the wealthiest conservancies tithe 20 percent of the dollars they raised. This money, perhaps $15 million annually, would go the less well-endowed parks." 

Read the article (which fills in the topic in more detail) and then watch what de Blasio does.This could be interesting.

07 February 2014

MoMA's garden

MoMA wants to open up its garden to more people. It has a special wall/gate that can flip open and let masses stream in from 54th Street. In a recent NY Times article, Michael Van Valkenburgh was quoted as saying, “It’s a ludicrous idea,” said the landscape architect Michael R. Van Valkenburgh. “They fail to understand what’s brilliant about the garden and what makes it great — this cloistered isolation.”

The issue received a great deal of attention  last week at a meeting hosted by the Architectural League. The meeting featured some of the museum's leaders and architect Liz Diller, beginning with presentations of the vision for the future but then featured a rather energetic discussion/debate, all of which is now available on video.

Taking walkability seriously

John Lavey and Jennifer Hill have posted a good piece that explores walkability as a actionable idea. The new term seems interesting and useful, but what does it mean? They test the idea against places, proximity and physical access as a means of demonstrating how the idea plays out (or fails to) in different settings.

Read it now. They promise a second part soon.

05 February 2014

Upcoming meetings

Some students are looking for municipal planning board meetings to attend, here are a few to choose from (there are many, many more):

Edison Township
February 19th
March 17th

North Brunswick
Planning Board meetings are normally held on the 2nd Tuesdays of the month for Public meetings 7:30 PM at Municipal Building. 

East Brunswick
March 5th
April 2nd

The snow has cancelled a few this month that might get rescheduled in late February. CAll before you go.

03 February 2014

Snows of winter past

Students stuck on campus for snow days sometimes struggle, wanting to do some creative and feeling trapped. If you are still struggling to fill your time with the current snow, you might consider what some other designers have tried. A few years ago our students made the most of snowballs and coloring. Beautiful, right?

A Buffalo professor was trying to use snow to resculpt visitor experiences to an Olmsted park. The video below shows you more.

Snow days area great time for temporal creative expression. What are you going to do during the next one?