01/08/2016 by Jared Green

Impulse / Image © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

In winter in the northern hemisphere, night falls early. Way up north in Montreal, Canada, the sun leaves the sky at 4.30. To deal with the onset of winter doldrums, Montreal started Luminothérapie or “Light Therapy,” an innovative public art event that brings light, music, and fun to the streets. In the Place Des Festivals, the feature attraction of this year’s Luminothérapie is Impulse by landscape architecture firm Lateral Office, CS Design, and EGP Group, which features 30 giant, light-filled seesaws, backed by wall-projected video art. It’s a temporary “illuminated playground” for kids and adults.

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise


Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Sitting on the ends of the seesaws and kicking off starts the LED light show and sounds. The intensity of the seesawing is reflected by the intensity of the light and tonality of the sounds the structures give off. So the seesaws’ light and sound will differ from player to player. The organizers told Dezeen, “Impulse is an urban installation that renews itself for every different audience. Each person becomes, while on the seesaws, the player of a novel instrument.”

In the same district, nine wall-projected video and sound art pieces are running simultaneously. The pieces show angular architectural forms, pieces of video games, or, simply, bright bands of color, transforming building facades into new nighttime experiences.

Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon

Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon

Chantal Rossi, Ville de Montréal Associate Councillor Culture, Heritage and Design, told ArchDaily: “Every year, we are eager to give Montrealers a new creative winter experience. Luminothérapie’s public installations transform our relationship with the city, beautify it, and give it a wonderful, friendly touch. Luminothérapie also keeps Montreal shining bright around the world as a hub of interactive art.”


DOCTOR’S ORDERS: Go to the Park

by Liz Camuti

Pediatricians in Washington, D.C. are prescribing their patients a new type of medicine: parks. Presenting on the success of DC Park RX, a new community health initiative, at a conference organized by Casey Trees, Dr. Robert Zarr, the founder and director of the program, said that many doctors have started to recognize the positive impact nature has on many health conditions. “Nature clearly shows an effect on your health in terms of prevention. So you may not have a diagnosis yet, but if you’re headed that way, you can certainly turn that around by spending more time outside,” Zarr said.

DC Park RX created a searchable online database of parks, identifying 350 green spaces in the district. Every park gets a one-page summary that makes it simple for both healthcare providers and patients to find a nearby park. “If a child was obese and really liked to play basketball, a doctor can very quickly go through the parks in the database in about 5 seconds, find a park with basketball courts, and print it out for them with directions for how to get there. They get the information to them right then and there,” Zarr said. Doctors are able to integrate the database right into their workflow with patients’ charts, just as they would any other prescription.

Unity Health Care pediatrician María Rueda-González shows a patient a park near her home / The Washington Post by Kate Patterson

Unity Health Care pediatrician María Rueda-González shows a patient a park near her home / Kate Patterson, The Washington Post.

According to The Washington Post, it is hard to say how many people are currently using the public database, but at “Unity Health Care, which serves 100,000 District residents, 180 providers with access to the system have made 720 prescriptions.” Zarr said that preliminary data indicates that children who have been prescribed time in the park are getting an additional 22 minutes per week of physical activity, and are spending 6 more days per year at a park for at least 30 minutes, results he finds encouraging for such a small program. Continue reading “DOCTOR’S ORDERS: Go to the Park”



01/20/2016 by Jared Green

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Four design teams have been announced as finalists in the competition to remake Pershing Square Park in downtown Los Angeles. Pershing Square Renew, the public-private partnership behind the revamp, has whittled the finalists down from 54 entries and 10 semi-finalist teams. According to Dezeen, Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, said: “the world-class firms selected by our jury represent a huge range. They include global stars and local unknowns.”

The 5-acre park has seen many iterations over its nearly 150 year history; the latest was created in 1994 by Mexican architect and landscape architect Ricardo Legorreta and American landscape architect Laurie Olin, FASLA. Development on a new park is expected to begin later this year.

Here’s a brief overview of the four finalists, who largely present concepts rather than actual designs at this stage:

Globetrotters: This proposal, developed by European firm Agence TER and local Los Angeles firm SALT Landscape Architects, calls for “folding down the walls and edges of the existing park to reconnect Pershing Square with its immediate surrounding context, creating a seamless flow between, through, and across the city” (see image above). The design concept features a “smart canopy,” a “wind garden” for children, a “scent garden,” and a day and nighttime farmer’s market.

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher & Partners



PARKLIFE: Another Tech Chapter for San Francisco’s Historic South Park


San Francisco’s South Park has long been considered the heart of the city’s tech revolution. When the federal government passed the Telecommunications Act in 1996, freaks and geeks spilled out of long-forgotten Internet startups to celebrate in South of Market’s 550-foot-long oval green space. Now, a redesign of the park by San Francisco–based Fletcher Studio proves a model for bringing together landscape and digital design.

Dating back to the 1850s, South Park was developed as a private green encircled by residences following an archetypical English design. Although lore says that a windmill pumped water to the surrounding houses, with the exception of the oval curb, none of the original structure remains. Fletcher Studio’s scheme features winding paths, seating, and a custom play structure that honors the British origin story. “The design is a meander, a recreation of the picturesque which started in England,” said designer David Fletcher. “It’s about moving through the space and creating framed views.”

The South Park Improvement Association, a neighborhood nonprofit organization led by architect Toby Levy, developed a short list of designers and raised funds to commission Fletcher Studio to develop a master plan. Initial designs led to community meetings and discussions with the city, eventually resulting in funding from the San Francisco Parks Alliance and a million dollar San Francisco Recreation and Parks bond allocation in 2012. The total cost of construction is estimated at $2.8 million. Groundbreaking took place in early November and construction is expected to finish summer 2016. Continue reading “PARKLIFE: Another Tech Chapter for San Francisco’s Historic South Park”


Klyde Warren Park Wins Open Space Award

Klyde Warren Park Wins Open Space Award

10/22/2014 by Jared Green


Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas, won the Urban Land Institute’s 2014 Open Space Award, which recognizes “public spaces that have socially and economically enriched and revitalized their communities.” Completed in 2012 by landscape architecture firm The Office of James Burnett (OJB), the 5-acre park is a green roof, decking over the sunken Woodall Rogers Freeway. As the highway was submerged, a new living, breathing space was made possible. The park now connects the city’s downtown cultural district with the mixed-use neighborhoods to the north, helping car-centric Dallas become a healthier, more walkable place.

According to OJB, the park brings it all. There is a “flexible, pedestrian-oriented design, offering a mix of active and passive spaces.” Spaces are either grand or intimate. In the grand category, there is a sweeping pedestrian promenade with botanical garden and great lawn, with fountain and performance pavilion. Smaller spaces include a children’s park, reading room, games area, and dog park.



These spaces enable all kinds of activities, ranging from “yoga classes and lectures to outdoor concerts and film screenings.” James Burnett, FASLA, said: “Great cities have great parks, and Klyde Warren Park has quickly become the new heart of downtown Dallas.”


The park also incorporates sustainable design elements. The landscape itself has a “continuous canopy of Pond Cypress,” and much of the design is characterized by the “use of native tree and plant species,” which are all kept alive through the Texan summer through a water reclamation and purification system. There is a high-efficiency lighting system throughout, featuring solar-powered light poles. The buildings, which have been certified LEED Gold, use geothermal energy for temperature control.

M. Leanne Lachman, Chair of the ULI Global Awards for Excellence Jury, said: “Klyde Warren is not only successful in fixing an urban fracture that isolated development and challenged the existing potential for the area; it also demonstrates that a long-term vision and commitment are critical to foster a sense of place and community, with lasting positive rippling effects.”


Introducing the Landscape Architect’s Guide to Portland, Oregon

10/07/2014 by The Dirt Contributor


Portland, Oregon, is more than a trendy place to visit—it has long been ahead of the curve on urban design and sustainability, thanks to smart leadership and a willingness to experiment and innovate. The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Portland, a project by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), explains Portland’s cutting-edge approach to sustainable urban design.

The guide provides both Portlanders and the millions of tourists who visit Portland annually a deeper understanding of why Portland is one of the most livable and sustainable cities in the world. The guide is also meant to educate city leaders, urban planners, and designers across the U.S. and around the globe.

According to Mark A. Focht, FASLA, president of ASLA and first deputy commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Portland’s landscape architects have played a crucial role in making the city a better place to live. Their contributions trace back to the early 20th century, when the Olmsted Brothers laid out many of the critical urban plans and park system, and continue with today’s generation of landscape architects, who are creating waterfront parks, beloved urban plazas, and cutting-edge bicycle infrastructure.

“Portland’s designed landscapes are integral to its urban fabric,” says Focht. “Landscape architects have long played a major role in designing the city’s public realm, and the key spaces between buildings that serve as the connective tissue for communities. These spaces include parks, plazas, streets, and transportation infrastructure.”

Topical tours offer both printable bike maps and Google maps. The guide also includes tours by district. People will be able to view the guide on their smartphones, tablets or desktop computers.

The website was created by ASLA in partnership with its Oregon Chapter and 11 local landscape architects, who are designers of our public realm and leaders in sustainable design.

The guides are:

Brian Bainnson, ASLA, Quatrefoil Inc.
Bennett Burns, ASLA, independent landscape architect
Mike Faha, ASLA, GreenWorks, PC
Kenneth Helphand, FASLA, University of Oregon
Rachel Hill, ASLA, AECOM
Lloyd Lindley, FASLA, independent landscape architect
Carol Mayer-Reed, FASLA, Mayer/Reed Inc.
Jeff Schnabel, ASLA, Portland State University
Jean Senechal Biggs, ASLA, Portland Bureau of Transportation
Rebecca Wahlstrom, ASLA, Olson Engineering Inc.
Robin Wilcox, ASLA, Alta Planning + Design

The guide is organized by the facets of the sustainable city, with sections on:

  • The Built Environment – how building and landscape work together to enhance sustainability.
  • Food – how the city’s local food system works, from urban farms to “food cart pods.”
  • Energy – how Portland has among the highest renewable energy use in the U.S.
  • “Grand Parks” – how the original Olmstedian park system is still key to livability.
  • Health – how parks are designed for users with all kinds of disabilities, even Alzheimer’s.
  • “People Spaces” – how the city creates a sense of civic pride through its plazas.
  • Social Equity – how the city helps the homeless and addresses the impacts of gentrification.
  • Transportation – how Portland created one of the best-integrated, most people-friendly transportation systems.
  • Waste – how the city achieved one of the highest recycling rates in the country.
  • Water – how it led the country on green infrastructure.
  • Wildlife – how its park system also serves other species.

This is the third in a series of guides focused on sustainable American cities. The first, The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Washington, D.C., was launched in 2012, and The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston, was launched in 2013. They have been viewed more than 150,000 times to date.


Remaking (Some Of) San Diego

Makers Quarter is an experiment in bottom-up planning.


San Diego’s latest megaproject, Makers Quarter, is downtown redevelopment with a twist. Like developers elsewhere, the team of Lankford & Associates, Hensel Phelps, and HP Investors hopes to lure young professionals to the city’s East Village with a dense mix of residential, retail, and creative/tech office space. But while the group has sketched out a retail strategy as well as a block-by-block program with designers like Gensler, Skyport Studio, BNIM, JWDA, and Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects, they are relying on an experiment in bottom-up urban planning to fill in the gaps. That experiment is SILO, a 25,000-square-foot temporary event space on a former dirt auto-repair lot.

“In the past there were a lot of efforts by our Redevelopment Agency to stitch together the community’s voice, but through more traditional means,” said Stacey Pennington, lead planner for Makers Quarter. “What’s different here is that we’re utilizing some of the raw space to—in a very experiential and immersive way—understand what the community likes.”

SILO launched last September, when Makers Quarter teamed up with the San Diego Film Festival for a debut of films. Since then, the space—a fenced-in, dirt-floored rectangular lot punctuated by a silo—has hosted a variety of events, including plays and art shows, and the team has commissioned several murals and street art installations. “Part of the SILO experiment is to activate the neighborhood, which before was just an on/off ramp to the freeway,” explained Pennington, who says that more than 10,000 people have participated in activities over the past year.

The Makers Quarter team will draw on SILO’s successes to fine-tune their master plan and program a permanent public plaza. “The other layers, in terms of what we’ve learned, will intersect on each block as we transition into full development,” said Pennington.

As for the rest of the neighborhood, which the team will develop over the next 5-13 years at an estimated cost of $900 million, the aesthetic will draw on the area’s history as a warehouse district. Renderings show mid- and high-rise mixed-use buildings clad in brick, stone, and metal, with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor spaces, including terraces and sidewalk seating areas.

The developers plan to preserve the Coliseum boxing club as an anchor, and will retain historic facades when possible. “In terms of new build, we want to express that texture, character, and honesty in a very modern and functional way,” said Pennington. “There’s an absolute interest in authentic story lines. Instead of just interspersing random development, it’s coming to life in different ways on each block.”

Downtown San Diego’s demographic has evolved significantly in recent years, said Pennington, tilting toward the young and well educated. “It’s not just about building attractive places to work and live,” said Pennington, “but to really create an environment where you get the spontaneity, the ideas, and the collaboration that come from just being located in the same area. I think that’s something many cities got right 100 years ago—we’re trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Anna Bergren Miller