19 July 2018

The light of Luis Barragán

Pritzer-winning architect Luis Barragán was a master of seemingly simple forms that manipulated space in beautifully subtle ways. Daily Dose of Architecture presents at a few fascinating examples of how he used color to shape the light that infused those spaces. Any excuse to look at photos of his work should be worth your click.

13 July 2018

Deer-resistant plants

The Internet is filled with lists of plants that deer don't like. Two that stood out were the list from Almanac.com and the list of deer-resistant plants from Rutgers' NJAES.

Of course, there is a big difference between deer-repellent and deer-resistant.

20 June 2018

Domino Park

A new park has opened in Brooklyn, in the shadow (literally) of the Williamsburg Bridge. The new Domino Park is built on the remnants of the old Domino Sugar factory. The waterfront park has gantry cranes, steel beams, rusty walls, and syrup tanks that reference the site's past life. The NY Times recently reviewed the pretty amazing playground. The good folks at Untapped have taken a tour that reveals some interesting features.

If you can't visit in person, then this video might give you a taste.

31 May 2018

Notes from DLA 2018 1

At the Digital Landscape Architecture meeting at Wienhenstephan-Triesdorf, Penn State's Kelleann Foster gave a great keynote lecture. As a good keynote does, it covered lots of ground, which I will not try to summarize. But along the way she referenced some other interesting resources:

Carlo Ratti's idea that designers (especially geodesigners) are 'mutagens'.

APA's Metrics for Healthy Planning Communities


HBR Issue on Design Thinking
Diana Budds' 7 urban design trends

07 May 2018

Another sign of summer

Interchanges is back, providing a daily dose of Interstate highway engineering and design.

All photography generously paid for by the USDA National Agricultural Imagery Program.

01 May 2018

Old news

While talking about eminent domain in class, we skipped over New Jersey's most famous case: Donald Trump v. Vera Coking.

In 1998 the NY Times shared a short news piece stating that Donald Trump had failed in his five year effort to force a woman out of her home for a limo parking park.

Despite reported offers of over a million dollars, Vera Coking wanted to hold on to her boarding house and fought for that right. Eminent domain is a government power, and Trump's casino was a private interest, so he relied on Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) for the condemnation. An advocacy group called the Institute for Justice wrote about this extraordinary situation:
Unlike most developers, Donald Trump doesn’t have to negotiate with a private owner when he wants to buy a piece of property because a governmental agency-the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority or CRDA-will get it for him at a fraction of the market value, even if the current owner refuses to sell. Here is how the process works.
Unsurprisingly, the issue came up again during the 2016 campaign when Ted Cruz used it in a campaign ad where one kids condemned another kid's doll house.
The Coking house was photodocumented by HABS in 1991:

30 April 2018

A little something

Scarfo, R. A. 1986. "Stewardship in the 20th century," Landscape Architectural Review, 7: 2, 13-15.

Scarfo, R. A. 1988. "Stewardship and the Profession of Landscape Architecture," Landscape Journal, 7 (1988): 1, 60-68.

27 April 2018

Entry level LA job

Design Workshop is seeking an entry-level design and planning professional in their Houston office with 0-3 years of experience in a design firm. This position is available in September. For more information, please contact Caroline Heivly, HR Generalist. To apply, please visit: careers-designworkshop.icims.com.

26 April 2018

Tabasco Sauce vs. Coastal Erosion

When I saw the headline "Tabasco Sauce Is in a Battle For Its Very Survival" I had to click through, since I've been to Avery Island where still they make Edmund McIlhenny's unique hot sauce.  I had suspected that it was going to be a story about trade wars or an unexpected increase in the cost of vinegar. Instead, it was a story about coastal erosion.

After the usual background about hurricanes and Louisiana losing several football fields of land every day, the article suggests that a new strategy is underway. Tabasco is putting together a team of landowners to fight against coastal erosion:
 “We were competing against each other for these multi million dollar coastal restoration projects to go on our own property,” Moertl explains. “So we came up with the idea of forming an alliance. Let’s erase our property boundaries, and let’s work together, pool our resources and our expertise, and see if we can’t go after this with a more regional approach.”
“The property boundaries are artificial,” says Osborn. “If your neighbor’s land starts eroding, so will yours.”
The story is absolutely worth a full read.

And if you ever get down there, tour the factory and the "island". The place should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


25 April 2018

Top 25 Supreme Court cases for planners

Wisconsin APA posted a list of the Top 25 Supreme Court cases for planners (as suggested by one person).  As a fun twist, they marked the 6 cases on that list in which the American Planning Association filed amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs.

24 April 2018

Industry 4.0 and GNSS

While it isn't news that GIScience has become a big industry, it may be a surprise how big the industries inside it are. Geospatial World reports that the GNSS and Positioning market will be over $280 billion in 2020.

As they point out, Global Navigation Satellite System has grown beyond GPS to become a ubiquitous technology. Rapid innovation is a driver of this sector. "In this era of 4th Industrial Revolution (industry 4.0), the new technologies have a crucial role to play in expanding the GNSS and Positioning market."

23 April 2018

States 10,000 years from now

The NYTimes made a graphic of each state as it would appear 10,000 years from now, with substantial sea-level rise.

Presenting it as a quiz makes it fun. But it is really quite serious, especially when you think about the loss of cultural landmarks that could have lasted that long.

03 April 2018

A threat to GPS

Should the FCC let a company use more of the commercial spectrum to support broadband wireless communications even if it potentially compromises GPS? With over 5 billion GPS receivers in use around the world, it is a big issue. Last year that question emerged as Ligado sought permission despite initial opposition. Now an engineering panel has found that indeed it would be a conflict. Remember that your autonomous car or the airplane you are on rely on strong GPS signals, so this isn't just about hikers.

Keep an eye on this one.

28 March 2018

A new Census question

The US Census Bureau is being asked by the current administration to add a question about citizenship for the 2020 Census. ABC News reports on it saying,
Not since 1950 has the census collected citizenship data from the whole population, rather than just a population sample, says the Congressional Research Service. The decision to restore the question after decades prompted an immediate lawsuit from California — already tangling with Washington over immigration — and moves by other states with large immigrant populations to engage in a legal fight.

CityLab treats it as a planning issue, since it is used to allocate Federal funds for lots of programs. But, as they point out, this is not strictly an administrative issue:
There is, however, a legislative check on changes to the census. Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution lists “the actual Enumeration” as a responsibility of Congress. Representative Grace Meng of New York has already said that she will introduce legislation to block the citizenship question.

“Congress should immediately convene hearings to do what the Commerce Department failed to do—truly evaluate the impact that the citizenship questions will have in terms of depressing minority and immigrant community participation,” Clarke said.
I can't find the language, but was told that every new question requires a vote from Congress. That would be an interesting twist, if true.

27 March 2018

Suitability Analysis

[Broken link fixed]
Here is a repost of the old handwritten Suitability Analysis notes from when Steve Strom used these techniques in his studio. This four page set of Suitability Analysis notes is online as a PDF. His description of weighted analysis lacks a graphic, so I created a digital version of both some of his graphics and a new Weight and Rate graphic that should help you work through it all as you look ahead to our next exam:

To be clear, each grid shows the very same piece of land but being rated for a different issue (soils, slope, vegetation). Presumably that is fairly objective. But each individual criterion is then weighted based on relative importance. In this case, Slope has rather subjectively been weighted as 5 times more important that Vegetation. If you click on my graphic it will enlarge and be more readable.

17 March 2018

eGov - Washington County, OR

I was digging around for some materials to use in class this weekend and found myself back at an old favorite website. It was the official site for Washington County, Oregon. Nearly 20 years after first visiting them, I found the site to still be one of the best examples of local government online. It has both user friendly and detailed materials, allowing visitors to pick what they need.

Just as an example, it presents GIS-related materials as:
  • carefully developed cartographic products (maps),
  • interactive online maps and materials, and
  • downloadable GIS data.
 Dig around, check it out. (Or dig around in Independence, MO, another fascinating example)

09 March 2018

Puerto Rican forest damage map

The NY Times took a fascinating look at research in PR that is investigating the nature and extent of Hurricane Maria's damage to the island's forests. The article includes an amazing map from Columbia U that shows where the damage occurred. In the east is cluster of high damage in El Yunque National Forest. But there is widespread damage all over. The research estimates that as many as 31 million trees were destroyed or severely damaged.

There is more than just the great map. The article goes into detail about how the researchers are ground truthing Landsat imagery to better understand their data. And they begin to speculate on what long-term changes might look like in that forest.

08 March 2018

More Census details

A Rutgers Ph.D. student got a piece published on Huffington Post that says "Black Latinos Are Almost Invisible In The Census. We Can Fix That."

She builds both on her doctoral research project as well as personal experiences. The pull quote of the article is:
"Latino is not a race, it is an ethnicity. Ethnicity describes a person’s culture, language, heritage and geography. Race, on the other hand, is about how others see us. And although most social scientists agree that race is a social construct, they also contend that it does matter; our experiences are undeniably shaped by our race."
 How many more questions have this sort of complexity built into them?

05 March 2018

Geodesign in the news

Forbes has posted a feature on Geodesign today. It is an interesting indicator of how broadly the topic appeals to the general public and the private sector. The examples, while short, demonstrate variety in Geodesign as they range from utility networks, to Chinese sponge cities, to German Autobahn.

01 March 2018

Census update

As a update to an earlier post about the US Census:

25 February 2018

Slope Maps

Here is a basic slope map.
If you discard much of the information, you might get something like this one of some ski slopes.
Since a slope map doesn't show much by itself, here is a way to combine it with something else.

21 February 2018

Closing the Gateway?

The Gateway Project has been seen as possibly the single most important transportation project in the US. But a recent Federal Transit Administration review scored it lower than expected. Coupled with the new administration's Infrastructure Plan, it has people wondering how the project will move forward. It also has some questioning the scoring process:

"In case it wasn't clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway, by having his Federal Transit Administration vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding," said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in a press release.
PlaNetizen offers a pretty good overview of the current situation.  Railway Age writes that the rating of Medium-Low is the second worst possible on the FTA scale and threatens the ability of the 2 neighboring states to get the necessary loans.

13 February 2018

2020 Census woes

The Washington Post recently ran a headline that said The 2020 Census is in deep trouble. And, explained the opinion piece, the stakes could be high:
It is already woefully underfunded, understaffed, underappreciated and behind schedule. But it will determine, in a major way, the future of our political parties, if not our democracy.
The nominee to run the 2020 Census has just been withdrawn.

Recently, more than 160 mayors sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confronting him with the realities of the situation. Citylab reports that the letter raises serious concerns while pointing out that the census is a constitutionally mandated activity that has been proudly undertaken since 1790. Of course, in the dynamic landscape of this administration, there are questions regarding whether Ross will still be around in 2020.

If we wait long, it will simply be too late to fix it. It takes years for Bureau to staff up and build the necessary infrastructure for the decennial census. What can be done? Should states intervene? Or will lawsuits by groups like the NAACP help?  Keep watching.

(In the meantime, explore TIGERweb)

12 February 2018

Lincoln memorials

Vox is celebrating Lincoln's birthday by posting images of many of the failed proposals for the Lincoln Memorial. Had they built Pope's memorial on Meridian Hill, the whole city would be different.

"To hold its own with this monument, a Lincoln Memorial first must possess this vital quality of bigness and of dignity." - John Russell Pope

Architecture of the Olympics

ArchDaily posted a nice introduction to the $100 million stadium that will only be used 4 times. (mapped)

06 February 2018

Mayan LiDAR application

LiDAR is already established as an incredibly useful tool. But National Geographic shows a new application for it. In a remote jungle in Guatemala, LiDAR helped produce a detailed map of an ancient civilization. Jumping past the details, one researcher described the project's impact this way:
“After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”
 Be sure to click over and look at the imagery. Really amazing stuff.

02 February 2018

Mapping the toxic landscape

There are lots of tools out there to help map out the Toxic Release Inventory, but here are a few favorites:

01 February 2018

Park promotion profile

Our Common Lecturer this week, Claire Agre of West 8, mentioned that New Yorker ran a piece on their founder, Adriaan Gueze. While the 2016 piece focuses on NYC's Governor's Island, it expands to a great profile of the dutch designer.

The article closes with some great quotes that sum up the spirit of West 8's approach:

It isn’t just children who need opportunities to run free. New York Harbor offered Geuze a grand borrowed landscape, and a ferry ride that sets this park off from all the others in the city. “There’s no doubt that mass culture has a hundred-per-cent success in making the world programmed,” he told me. “Everything is branded, everything has a name, has a function that you have paid for. That makes a very relevant question for our generation of designers. If we are interfering in public space, should we be part of that, or should we offer a sort of antidote?” His answer, in this spot, is clear: “Maybe we should make an environment where everyone can enjoy the lightness, and you can play.”
Go back and read.

29 January 2018

USGS Topo maps online

In class today we will be talking about ways to access the free USGS topographic quads for NJ online.

It is amazing to me to think how much the use of these has changed aver the years even though the maps themselves have changed so little. For those that are new to the maps, I am sharing some different scenes from around New Jersey that may be of interest. Just click on each and they'll expand.

A special thanks goes out to Mike Siegel and the Rutgers Cartography Lab.  This is a great resource for students and for pros.  A national resource is the Libre Map Project, but it is a bit harder for first time users.

Good for health, bad for security?

 GPS company Strava publishes something called the Global Heat Map which shows where people are using GPS-enabled fitness devices and engaged in other activities. The NYTimes reports that aside from showing where people work out, it also shows (possibly) where there are secret military bases.

23 January 2018

Maps as art

If your GIS assignments are looking a little dull, maybe Topi can help inspire you to achieve something more creative.

Topi Tjukanov is a Helsinki-based GIS/Cartographer who does amazing things with public data. His gallery online includes an elegant map of the optimal route from the geographic center of the US to every county in the US. Another map he created illustrates the differences between driving, biking, and walking to the outer edges in his hometown.

21 January 2018

Caught Mapping

PlaNetizen had a great Friday Eye Candy on hand-drawn maps that included this classic film, Caught Mapping. It presents a fairly auto-centric view of mapping, but is a fun step back in time.


20 January 2018

Municipal Planning Board meetings

All of the students in my Environmental Planning class will be attending a Municipal Planning Board meeting.

The first step is to find a date and place that works for you. One way to do this is to visit the official web site for a city/township/borough in New Jersey and find the official schedule for the planning board meetings.

A few others will simply post a notice that they meet one some repeating pattern, like the 3rd Tuesday of every month. Whichever you choose, I encourage you to call before you go, simply to be sure the meeting isn't postponed or cancelled.

19 January 2018

Great job opportunity

The 3-d geospatial startup of Envelope is looking for help. They are located in the amazing Woolworth building in NYC. If you don't know them, you should:
Envelope is a software company, spun out of a longtime collaboration between award-winning SHoP Architects, and the Director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab. Our 3D urban mapping platform integrates proprietary geospatial datasets, sophisticated algorithms, and iterative scenario analysis. We enable real estate professionals to visualize opportunity and make faster, smarter, and more discreet investment decisions. 
 They are looking for a zoning specialist, 3d engineer and a Senior Product Designer.

Saving the coast, 25,000 acres at a time

Unwilling to leave the land for development, a couple in California donated $165 million to The Nature Conservancy to ensure that a critically important piece of the coastline is preserved. National Geographic has a couple photos and reports that:
The land was once the Bixby Ranch, then later became the Cojo Jalama Ranches, a privately owned piece of coastal property that the LA Times once called "the last perfect place."
 James Fallows offers a lengthy piece in The Atlantic. Knowing the the donors, he got a personal sense of what this meant to them:
Much as the Rockefellers’ example is remembered now—or Carnegie’s with his libraries, or the Mellons’ and Fricks’ with their museums—the Dangermonds hope that in their smaller-scale way they can set an example others can refer to. “We would love to have 100 Dangermond Reserves,” he said. “But I’m not Carnegie. We’re not in the oil business. We can’t do this by ourselves. We’re telling the story to set an example of what others could do.”

18 January 2018

Traffic fatalities

Curbed reports on a study that found that the US has unusually high rates of traffic fatalities compared to peer nations.

“The United States is one of the richest countries in the world, yet we have a very poor record of road safety,” says Welle. “The U.S. has nearly triple the fatalities of countries like Sweden or the Netherlands.”

The article points out that some states have already taken steps towards these International standards. By contrast, others seem to promote danger:

“If you go on city streets, especially in the U.S. suburbs, these roads are what people call dangerous by design,” she says. “And often, the level of forgiveness of speeding here, of allowing people to go 10 miles over the limit, can mean the difference between survival and death.”
Remember, these are not accidents, they are fatalities. It is a matter of health and safety, not just convenience.

17 January 2018

"Widespread" everywhere

The CDC has weekly updates on the spread of the H3N2 flu. Just like dessert, they save the maps for last so flip down to them.

By itself, this maps is intimidating. But if you go back and see past years, you'll realize how terrifying this really is.