News & Events

LAF News Blog

Stay up to date on LAF!

Subscribe to RSS Feed

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Illuminating the Intangible - Projects in Experimentation and Risk-taking

By Tera Hatfield, 2012 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

While preparing to apply to graduate school, I dog-eared well-worn works by Raymond Carver, T. S. Eliot, John McPhee, John Cage and Robert Smithson. Carver and McPhee illuminated intersections between obscure processes and marginalized places. Eliot, Cage, and Smithson introduced me to the poetics of entropy and the possibility of directed, open-ended designs that might serve as catalysts for future change. Much like the landscape architect, such artists grapple with communicating intangible processes and experiences, exploring new configurations and forms derived from underutilized and unseen conditions in language and the environment.

I believe the landscape is both a place of experimentation and risk-taking. Since being recognized as a National Olmsted Scholar Finalist, I’ve designed two projects that provided the opportunity for such experimentation. The projects book-ended my final year of graduate school, and fell on disparate sides of the design spectrum. (“Decoding the Tiber” is a highly conceptual competition entry, while the “Supershed” is a fully constructed dwelling.) However, both strive to visualize the unimagined, to interpret ecological and social changes via transformative landscape design.

hatfield01Last fall, I was the recipient of a fellowship to study the Tiber River. The Tiber, caged by 20-ft travertine embankments, is rejected as a social space by most Romans. My work was based on a competition to design a museum, traditionally a static entity, dedicated to the river, a system that is constantly in flux. The design specifically responds to a significant lack of environmental data on the Tiber and its heavily bounded site conditions. “Decoding the Tiber” situates post-industrial sites as data collection and decoding points, as well as newly productive space.

An urban river research center decodes the uncertain ecologies of the Tiber — a testing space for researchers to connect in the lab and on the water to provocatively engage the river and its urban narrative. This decoding is illustrated in designed stormwater data pools, their radical colors linked to water quality at other testing sites along the Tiber, changing temporally based on the health of the river. Opportunities for active physical exploration of the Tiber by Romans is a ways off; therefore, the design presents a digital iPhone application entitled “Tiber Decoder Ring” in which the dots and data between upstream and downstream are connected digitally (forecasts and real-time feeds). Users also have the ability to map their own intersections and investigations of the Tiber, graphically connecting users to their contextual surroundings.

This past spring, I participated in the award-winning Howard S. Wright Neighborhood Design/Build Studio taught by Professor Steve Badanes. The NBD team designed and built two tool sheds, a solar greenhouse and a community classroom space, that served the varied needs of the University of Washington Farm, Seattle Youth Garden Works and the Hardy Plant Society of Seattle. The project is located on the perimeter of the Union Bay Natural Area, a 74-acre center (and former county dump) dedicated to the study of urban agriculture, ecological restoration and sustainability.

hatfield02After an initial client meeting and feedback period, the integrated design process unfolded quickly with the decision to combine the varied client programs into a unified and cohesive structure in order to preserve space for outdoor education and habitat. This decision, in conjunction with a high degree of responsiveness to site conditions, became the foundation for the studio’s design strategy. With the nickname “Supershed,” the combined structure became the NBD studio’s most unique project to date, with a total area of 459 sf despite a budget of just under $11,000.

The design strategy utilizes a technically ambitious articulated king post truss system (and modular wall panels) that serve to address the client’s security and program needs while maximizing important site opportunities regarding light/sun exposure (solar greenhouse and daylit tool sheds), natural ventilation, rain (roof-water capture devices) and southern views of restored wetlands and Union Bay (classroom). All of the structure’s cladding is either salvaged from on-site materials (e.g., doors constructed from used concrete forms, twig fence organic material sourced from discarded university ground cuttings) or locally-sourced and donated, reclaimed cedar (for the classroom). The 12-week project was recently nominated for an AIA Student Award.

This spring, Tera Hatfield finished a clerkship with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and received her Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington. Her collaborative capstone project, focusing on entropic systems and mapping indeterminacy, was selected for the International Exhibition at the European Biennial of Landscape Architecture in Barcelona in September 2012. Upon completing a summer internship at ADX Portland as a fabrication assistant, Tera moved to Boston where she intends to find a position with a local design studio.

LAF Launches Planned Giving Website

LAF is pleased to provide our supporters with information on creative ways to invest in the work of the Foundation. Through planned giving, you, your loved ones, and LAF can all benefit.

LAF’s new planned giving website outlines opportunities to ensure that a livable planet is part of your legacy through this very special and important form of financial support. The website presents information and financially prudent options for making gifts of cash or other assets. For example, did you know that you can easily support LAF through gifts that pay you back?

In addition to providing this information, LAF is honored to recognize our planned giving donors through the LAF Legacy Society. Members of the LAF Legacy Society have expressed their commitment to our mission by naming LAF as the beneficiary of a planned gift. Such gifts might include a bequest, appreciated securities, gifts of real estate, gifts of life insurance and/or charitable income gifts, such as charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder unitrusts, charitable remainder annuity trusts. These Legacy Society members hope you will join them in supporting LAF through a planned gift. Planned gifts of all types and size are recognized in the LAF Legacy Society.

plannedgivingIllustration of how a bequest can benefit LAF, you, and your loved ones.

Planning your estate and legacy for future generations, including your charitable interests, takes careful evaluation. Consulting with the appropriate professionals can assist you. Discussing your charitable intentions with LAF and your financial advisors can lead to a much better result than going it alone and will ensure that your gift is used just as you wish.

Please let us know if you have already included the Landscape Architecture Foundation in your estate plan or if you are considering doing so. We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have. Development Manager Matt Alcide can be reached at malcide@lafoundation.org or 202-331-7070 x13.

LAF sincerely appreciates your generosity, and we thank you for considering this special form of giving.

The planned giving website is intended to provide general gift planning information. The Landscape Architecture Foundation is not qualified to provide specific legal, tax or investment advice, and the website should not be looked to or relied upon as a source for such advice. Consult with your own legal and financial advisors before making any gift.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Landscape-Oriented Zoning for Rosario, Argentina

By Fadi Masoud, 2012 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

masoud03The subdivision and transformation of agricultural lands to suburban decentralized developments is a symptomatic condition of the territorial edge of cities worldwide. By appropriating a micro-watershed landscape approach to the creation of subdivisions at the peripheral edges of cities, the hydrodynamic agrarian condition is envisioned to become the driver for a novel, resilient, and flexible landscape-oriented type of zoning and land use provision.

Recognizing the ineffectiveness of dated jurisdictional and normative planning tools in dealing with contemporary urbanization concerns, “landscape-oriented zoning” represents an alternative model for suburban developments on greenfields. With the micro-watershed as the unit of subdivision, landscape-oriented zoning promotes integrated and responsive built-form typologies as well as decentralized infrastructure on operative open space provisions.

As part of an option studio at Harvard Univeristy’s Graduate School of Design, I collaborated with Mariusz Klemens on a project to deal with the territorial front and agrarian front of the City of Rosario in Argentina. Bracketed by two small rivers marking the north and south limits of the city, the site for this project has been defined by the Urban Plan Rosario 2007-2017 as the New Strategic Territorial Front. The flatness of the Argentine Pampas, much like many greenfield zones in any expanding city, is subject to dated artificial and jurisdictional land use separation, zoning, and subdivision. This practice of parcelization of land for the building of new suburban subdivisions does not take into account the extreme hydrodynamics of these seemingly flat agricultural lands.

Our project uses the site’s existing micro-watersheds as a land subdivision mechanism and planning tool for these types of suburban fringes. Analysis showed that the current regional and local infrastructure does not respond to any of the existing environmental and social conditions. Its centralized configuration provides ineffective water and waste management, especially in high depravation zones. To address this, the project uses the natural drainage patterns to clearly demarcate micro-watersheds that run along and through the site. Rather than following a normative planning approach to land subdivision and land use, the project appropriated these flow lines as potential units for a landscape-driven zoning and parcelization regime.

masoud01

Since the site is currently not serviced by the centralized waste and water municipal network, the project proposed a new decentralized configuration of infrastructure by utilizing existing topographic and hydrologic conditions to allow for a new typology of fully adaptive and flexible built form and open space system.

masoud02Super-imposing this new micro-watershed-driven regime on top of a suitability zoning plan led to a type of a symbiotic land use zoning that protected the most arable land from development, and allowed for the most floodable areas to become points of collection and treatment. The integrated rapport between new land subdivision mechanisms, suitability land use designations, a decentralized wastewater infrastructure, and responsive and adaptable built form typologies creates the ingredients for novel forms and patterns of urbanization on the suburban edge.

Fadi Masoud was appointed as a Visiting Fellow (2012-13) at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design where he just completed his Post-Professional MLAII degee. Fadi will continue his design and research work on the cross-section of landscape and planning, especially in places of extreme hydrological regimes and transboundary conditions.

Exploring Performance Metrics: From Downtown Boston to the Italian Countryside

By Jennifer Salazar, PhD Candidate in Urban & Regional Planning and Victoria Chanse, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland

One of the many benefits of participating in the Case Study Investigation (CSI) program has been examining a variety of projects in order to develop metrics suitable for each one. As we’ve investigated and developed potential metrics, we’ve started to uncover some interesting lines of inquiry for theory and practice.

We’ve worked on three fascinating sites, each with a different design emphasis and unique landscape performance benefits. Some of the performance questions that we’ve tried to examine range from the social and economic dimensions (What is the value of green space in a dense urban area? What is the restorative benefit from views of greenery?) to the ecological (What benefits does a water feature in an urban plaza offer to birds?)

EDSA’s Castiglion del Bosco: Cultural Heritage and Tourism Benefits

csi-umd-vc1Jen and Victoria meet with Derek Gagne, Senior Associate at EDSA

The 45,000-acre Castiglion del Bosco in the Tuscany region of Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that operates as a hotel, winery, and private member club. To document performance, we needed to understand and develop cultural preservation and tourism benefits. The distance, language barriers, and the fact that this is a private estate posed a number of challenges, not least of which was to quantify the conservation and restoration of a historic landscape along with the preservation of regional cultural traditions (including design traditions) related to land use and management. For insight on this, we turned to a variety of different resources, including information from the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

Reed Hilderbrand’s Central Wharf Plaza: A Tree Canopy Oasis

csi-umd-vc2The 13,100-sf Central Wharf Plaza provides shade and a place to relax.

The Central Wharf Plaza offers a source of respite in a busy area of downtown Boston, Massachussetts. The tiny plaza’s 26 mixed-species oaks stand in marked contrast to the wide-open swath of nearly treeless parks that cover Boston’s infamous Big Dig. The plaza has been a major draw for downtown workers, student groups visiting the New England Aquarium, and tourists and commuters walking to nearby ferries. In evaluating performance, some of the challenges were trying to quantify carbon sequestration and determine the variety of social benefits such as sitting, pedestrian circulation, occupant experiences, and benefits from views of the trees. Some of these challenges also applied at our third case study site described below.

Sasaki’s The Avenue: New Approaches to Urban Sustainability

csi-umd-vc3Recording observations in The Avenue's central courtyard

This 2.6-acre site in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC is a model of transit-oriented development and beautiful, innovative stormwater management design. At a system scale, the project functions well in terms of stormwater collection, wide sidewalks for the high volume of pedestrians, and a beautiful courtyard space with an iconic water feature. At the scale of the plaza, are the more difficult-to-measure but important-to-consider landscape performance benefits. Sounds of the small fountain, cooler areas by the water, and green space provide a wonderful respite from the urban intensity of the adjacent university, hospital, and Metro station. The surprising number of small birds (not pigeons) also add to the experience of the small plaza.

CSI has been a great experience in terms of investigating and exploring which performance metrics are most measurable and useful to assessing a site. The collaboration between academic research and landscape architecture practice is invaluable — it was great to get out and measure how built projects are actually performing and to learn first-hand about the challenges firms face when implementing sustainable design practices.

Professor Victoria Chanse and student Research Assistant Jennifer Salazar are participating in LAF’s 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and working to quantify the landscape performance benefits at three diverse project sites.

CSI Case Study Research: A Tale of Two Cities

By Yi Luo, PhD Student in Urban and Regional Science, PLA, Texas A&M University

This summer our Case Study Investigation (CSI) research team at Texas A&M University documented the landscape performance qualities of four projects. Since two projects are in China and two are in the U.S., we call our study “A Tale of Two Cities”.

The two projects in China are Beijing Olympic Forest Park and Tangshan Nanhu Central Park. Beijing Olympic Forest Park is part of the Beijing Olympic Green and is the largest green public space that has ever been built in Beijing, while Tangshan Nanhu Central Park, located in Tangshan City in northesastern China, is a mine reclamation project that transformed a post-coal mining wasteland into urban recreational public space.

Flash Player Required

To view videos on the site, you will need to download Flash player, click here to download.

A one-minute video summary of the Texas A&M team's CSI research process.

In order to collect data, I flew to Beijing to work with the design firm Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI). While there, I introduced the Chinese designers to the Landscape Architecture Foundation, its mission, and the CSI program. I explained the outcomes and requirements for our CSI projects, showed them samples of previous studies, discussed what benefits could be measured and quantified, and assessed how to collect data within the timeline. Research Fellows Dr. Ming-Han Li and Professor Bruce Dvorak were involved through emails and conference calls. The designers in Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning and Design Institute were very interested in the CSI program and have been highly supportive, responding to our data requests and questions very quickly. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the two China projects. The experience has been unique and invaluable.

csi-tamu1Yi takes soil samples at Cross Creek Ranch.

The two projects in the U.S. are Cross Creek Ranch in Fulshear, Texas designed by SWA and Park Seventeen in Dallas, Texas designed by TBG. Cross Creek Ranch is a master planned residential community that maintains large areas of naturalized landscapes for ecological function, wastewater treatment and passive recreation, while Park Seventeen is a roof garden over a six floor parking garage providing both a visual and physical amenity for residents and office tenants. From these two projects I not only obtained deeper knowledge about ecological planning and roof gardens, but also learned new research methods, including soil and water sampling procedures, UHI mitigation measurement, and storwmater calculations. In addition, by engaging first-year MLA students in part of our onsite data collection process, I learned skills for combining research with class teaching.

I am very honored to be able to work on CSI projects, and this experience has been very rewarding and precious for my future teaching and research career.

Professors Ming-Han Li and Bruce Dvorak and student Research Assistants Yi Luo are participating in LAF’s 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and working to quantify the landscape performance benefits at four project sites in Texas and China.