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Archive for the ‘Gristmill’ Category

Brian Rose’s website, the subject of yesterday’s post, also features his photos of the Berlin Wall and its environs before, during, and after its fall. He writes about the experience of place in Berlin, and for anyone whose knowledge of the Wall is limited (mine was derived mainly from watching Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire and Faraway So Close — wonderful movies, in which the Wall is a character, but not the main character in them), Mr. Rose’s chronicle, called The Lost Border; Photographs of The Iron Curtain is well worth exploring. Don’t miss it, in fact — it’s an affecting series that depicts and describes how the Wall and the zone around it informed, and in ways continues to inform — the national consciousness of the once-divided and now unified Germany.

Photo by Svenwerk on Flickr

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Last week a friend mentioned seeing a yellow-flowering shrub on the VFW Parkway in Boston. It reminded me of the show of Hamamelis that used to appear outside of the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library back in the early 80s; when I first saw it (this was a few years before I became a landscape architect and learned what Hamamelis was) I thought a bank of Forsythia was blooming in February.

Saturday I was in Cambridge, and drove down a street that used to be on my route home from work at CRJA. As I turned the corner, this sight greeted me.

This street runs roughly east-west, and with buildings on both sides gets a slice of sun in the middle of the day. The sycamore maples further along the street add a bit of dappled shade to that slice, too. These Witch Hazels don’t seem to mind. And they have the room they need to spread and fill out their characteristic fountain habits.

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Every month Landscape Architecture Magazine arrives in the mailbox, and some months I look through it quickly for pieces that catch my eye. Other months it has to go on the stack of periodicals next to my desk until I can pick it up on a slow day.

The 2009 series on field sketching was a dandy one, and I found myself pulling out each of those articles to save. One of my favorite things to do is to look at process art — the work that shows you the inside of someone’s mind — so I dawdled over these issues. It was inspiring to look at different sketching styles and to read each landscape architect’s approach to the materials, subjects, conditions, and opportunities of sketching.

The January 2009 issue of the magazine, which I only just recently read, had a fine piece on designing for the winter landscape. What struck me about this piece was its tying design to maintenance. Anyone who has designed a place that gets regular snowfall knows the challenges of dealing with the need to move snow, of coping with ice, and of accommodating the freeze-thaw cycles of every winter. This article, written by Adam Regn Arvidsen, outlined some fairly commonplace tactics for designing in northern climates: including a basic inventory of a site’s winter maintenance needs, considering what happens to grout when it is exposed to moisture and cold, paying attention to pavement textures and slopes in areas where ice might accumulate.

The bit that most appealed, though, was the sidebar called “Quick Tips from Winter-Savvy Landscape Architects”. Arvidsen distilled suggestions from landscape architects in Vermont, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, and Maine into a useful tip sheet, with ideas about communicating with winter maintenance crews about design intent, using darker paving materials that will heat up and help melt snow, and avoiding evergreen plantings that might hang over cars or walkways, as the shade they make can encourage ice to form. (I’m always inclined to plant shrubs and trees fairly far back from pavement that’s going to get plowed, and instead use tough, blocky herbaceous plants, like peonies or hosta, that can hack getting snow dumped on them.)

These things all make sense, and as nuts-and-bolty as they are, consideration of this sort of practicality can lead to the kind of project detailing that lends ease and comfort and an air of gracious inevitability to a designed landscape.

Photo from Flickr, courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

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Sweep


‘Balnahard Bay, Colonsay’ by Bryan Dickinson 1 September 2009
“Noticed the lines that the Marram grass was drawing in the wind…. Rain shower just as we were finishing, had to run for cover.”

Piggybacking on your post, Toby, here’s another image from the same V & A exhibit; maybe two photos will compel even more people to look at this link.

I’m reminded by this image of the lesson to make sure that an element in plan has a three-dimensional reason for being.

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I just got a rough cut today of the video, shot last summer, of the moving of a very large (about 14″ caliper, 30′ height) London Plane Tree in Wellesley, MA. It’s taken a while to edit several hours of footage down to a half an hour, but it’s about done, and in the next few weeks I hope to have added commentary. This video is from the project run by Matt Foti’s crew, aided by Mike Furgal, and it showcases the techniques used in air-tool transplanting. I hope to be able to preview the rough cut at New England Grows, and have the final version completed by the end of February; if there’s enough interest in the landscape architecture, architecture, or arboriculture communities I’ll sell copies. Stay tuned.

The first of five 12-14' caliper London Plane trees being excavated with air tools and transplanted bare root in August 2009.

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Cranberry bogs in Plymouth County, MA during harvest season.

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The Massachusetts Arborists Association has a new volunteer initiative starting in 2010. They aim to build on the traditional Arbor Day celebration by instituting a statewide volunteer service day on that day, which falls on April 30, 2010.

To get the ball rolling, the MAA is inviting anyone to identify potential tree care projects in their own communities, and then to post those project ideas on the Arbor Day link at www.MassArbor.org. They hope to get ideas from all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns by January 15. From that list, MAA members and member companies will choose projects for their own Arbor Day of Service volunteer effort.

This is a great way for landscape architects to elect projects and for professional arborists to make a contribution, both for the civic good, and for cities and towns to reap the benefits of a concerted professional effort. Safety pruning, tree planting, hazard tree removal, ornamental pruning — a community you drive through daily may have the project that’s perfect for your company to tackle on Arbor Day. To submit a project for Arbor Day of Service consideration by the MAA arborists, visit www.MassArbor.org by January 15, and click on Arbor Day.

Arbor Day is a great way to get all generations involved in plant care.

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This article, appearing in today’s New York Times, describes the clever business run by a currently out-of-work landscape architect. Scott Martin, a California native, rents living Christmas trees to Los Angelenos wanting the presence, fragrance, and vitality of a living tree without having to find a home for it after the holidays.

The trees rent for 2-3 weeks at a time. Martin delivers them and picks them up after their work is done, and they spend the rest of the year on rented industrial property. If a client especially likes the tree they get, they can request to have that tree tagged with their name and to rent it again the following year.

It’s not a bad model: the trees live, the renters enjoy them, the landscape architect makes people happy, promotes a living product, and makes a profit. And once the economy picks up, it may well be that Martin can sell the sized-out trees for planting on designed sites.

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Say you’re a growing country club in a nicely-treed community, and you need to enlarge your parking lot. And perhaps you want to lower its grade. The lot has some mature oak trees in it, and they add a certain je ne sais quoi to the scene, so you decide to save the trees by keeping the grade as is around the base of their trunks. You retain the roots and soil with a mortared stone wall. Voila!



Good idea – but woops! The minimum standard for root preservation is to keep 10 inches of root mass diameter per caliper inch of tree. For these trees, that would spell at least 360-inch diameter root masses. Because the trees are so close together, their roots overlap significantly — but still, 360 inches is thirty feet of diameter. This 18-footish enclosure takes a tad too much root; the country club will almost certainly be watching these trees decline and die over the next few years (and they may well drop dead branches onto the parking lot, or cars in it, in the process).

The idea of saving a mature tree is a good one, as long as the tree’s actual requirements for continued healthy life are met. Now that we have the tools to see how large a tree’s root mass really is, it’s much easier to see how big the unimpeded area around it has to be for the tree to survive happily and thrive.

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I mentioned my last post, Landscape by Landscape Architects, in the LinkedIn ASLA and BSLA group discussions, and got some great responses to the observation that the AIA, in this difficult economy, is aiming to position architects as the best professionals to do the infrastructure projects being funded by the economic stimulus. Several suggested that all professional players — LAs, architects, engineers — should be at the table, and that integration among the professions will result in the most effective solutions. Another raised the important point that we live in a free market economy, and that those best qualified, and most adept at showcasing their qualifications, will be those chosen in the free market to do the projects. Still another member commented that LAs need to advocate not just for our qualifications to do the work, but also for the landscapes themselves once they have been designed and installed, as their maintenance requirements are unique and perpetual.

(I just checked those discussion boards, and find that this topic on both boards has been moved to the Jobs section — I’m trying to get them switched back to Discussions, but for now if you check LinkedIn, take a look in Jobs on both the ASLA and BSLA sites. The topic is Architects and Landscape Architecture.)

So — as I say, thoughtful and thought-provoking responses, and clearly this is a topic lots of people have thought about. A couple of people referred also to the William Hamilton piece in the same issue of The Architect’s Newspaper, which discusses the need for the preservation of designed landscapes.

And really, it was reading this feature article, in addition to the editorial that got me thinking about the stance of the AIA and the architectural profession towards landscape architecture. Not the gist of Hamilton’s article, with which it’s hard to disagree, but for his language. In the entire discussion, he uses each of the terms ‘landscape architecture’ and ‘landscape architect’ exactly once. ‘Landscape’, and ‘landscape design’ stand in for landscape architecture through the whole piece. I’m wondering if the decision to do this came from the editors or from Hamilton himself — however it came about it seemed peculiar.

Maybe I’m being persnickety. Language does matter, though. What would an article about architectural preservation look like if it was written without the use of the words ‘architecture’ or ‘architect’? We would be reading sentences like “Enduring building design, like that by master designers like Paul Rudolph and Pierre Koenig, has the power to move societies…”, or “Craig Hartman, the respected SOM designer leading the project, has acknowledge the historical significance of the building…”. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?

And that’s why reading this whole piece, with its curious skirting of ‘landscape architect’ and ‘landscape architecture’ felt weird. Though the deans of twentieth century LA were mentioned, none was given the title ‘landscape architect’, and the profession itself was mentioned only that one time, in reference to its obscurity. I don’t think I’m living in a parallel universe to the real world, but this piece made me wonder.

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