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Time and Landscape Performance

1patinaExamples of change to landscape details over time. Image: S. Colwill
Have you ever visited a park or public space that you saw pictured in a glossy publication, just to discover that it didn’t quite live up to the photos? Simon Colwill at the Technical University of Berlin is working to increase the knowledge of the myriad factors that contribute to the aging, patination, and decay of built landscapes over time. Colwill’s work recognizes that while aging can create positive changes in a landscape, the machinations of time can also chip away at the effectiveness and usefulness of an otherwise well-designed landscape and be detrimental to its performance.
 
colwill_benchChange to a wooden bench in full shade under a canopy tree over 7 years. Above, left: year of completion. Above, right: 1 year after completion. Bottom, left: 7 years after completion. Bottom, right: detail of 7 years after completion. Image: S. Colwill
Colwill captured an astounding 80,000 photos in public spaces in Berlin between 2008 and 2017 of projects dating from 1990 to 2015, documenting changes in landscape details such as steps, paths, seating, and walls. This meticulous, year-by-year method of collecting data has targeted the primary agents of landscape transformation over time which are:
 
  • Site and contextual factors such as the degree of exposure, topography and aspect, soil mechanics, and influences from surrounding elements such as traffic, buildings and especially vegetation.
  • Design and detailing factors that come from designers’ handling of the materials, including geometry and form, suitability of materials and construction methods, and ease of maintenance and repair.
  • Material-specific factors that require in-depth knowledge of each material such as quality, durability, and surface protection.
  • Implementation factors such as workmanship, site supervision, construction technique, and conformance with construction standards.
  • Effects of environmental processes and weathering such as climatic agents, temperature, humidity, wind, atmospheric contaminants, surface soiling, biological agents, and spontaneous vegetation growth.
  • Impacts of user actions such as overuse, misuse, and underuse.
  • Maintenance and repair factors including the frequency, quality, and intensity of repair—lack of maintenance or incorrect maintenance is one of the primary contributors to accelerated deterioration.
  • Force majeure such as flooding, fires, storms, riots, and natural disasters.
Through the use of the extensive photographic database and case studies, Colwill’s research, funded by the DFG/German Research Foundation, will develop methods for monitoring built landscapes over time, identifying key causes of change, developing optimization strategies and methods for forecasting change, and, crucially, disseminating the research findings to practitioners.
 
3patina1Examples of surface material changes. a. and b.) Deposits of airborne sediments on concrete wall—year 1 vs. year 10. c.) Biological growth on wooden deck—year 17. d.) Biological growth limited to riser due to reduced trampling and maintenance—year 1 vs. year 7. Image: S. Colwill
Of course, extensive knowledge exists within the profession and among landscape architecture firms about the effects of time on materials and built projects, but the profession often lacks both research to back it up and institutional memory of such critical information, as evidenced in the occasional rapid deterioration and/or failure of some newly-built projects. Colwill’s work represents yet another chain in the critical link between research and practice that is essential for projects to perform to their full potential. Practitioners must be able to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and other unique characteristics of each material and be able to forecast material performance over time—and Colwill’s research is attempting to create the tools to enable that.
 
To strengthen the level of feedback between academia and practice, Colwill has stressed the importance of his students in research. Students that participate benefit from a sort of ‘reality check’ on their perceptions of built landscape which were initially formed by ostensibly perfect projects portrayed in landscape architecture publications – students have a chance to understand that creating lasting landscapes isn’t as effortless as it seems. Ultimately, Colwill’s research seeks to contribute to a feedback loop for the profession, avoiding the repetition of failures and, eventually, ensuring that initial investments in projects are honored with an optimal and useful life in which they live up to their performance objectives. While it would be unrealistic to expect every built project to maintain the glowing quality of promotional photos throughout its life cycle, Colwill’s research demonstrates another step in the direction of true “research and development” in landscape architecture. Colwill’s contribution to understanding how our spaces change over time is advancing understanding of landscape performance and helping to bridge the critical connection between research and practice.
 

Works cited:

Colwill, Simon. “Time, Design and Construction: Learning from Change to Built Landscapes Over Time.” In Bridging the Gap. Rapperswil, Switzerland: ECLAS Conference Proceedings, 2016.
Colwill, Simon. “Time, Patination and Decay. In Creation/Reaction.” University of Greenwich, London UK: ECLAS Conference Proceedings, 2017. 
Colwill, Simon. “Von Alterungsprozessen lernen”, (German, French) Anthos no. 3 (May 2016):31-33.
Kirkwood, Niall. The Art of Landscape Detail. Fundamentals, Practices, and Case Studies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 1999.

Transforming the Discussion at the 2018 CELA Conference

cela-2018-logo

The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is looking forward to the upcoming Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Conference March 21-24 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. The conference is always a great opportunity to catch up with faculty and students from universities across the United States and Canada, as well as representatives from further abroad, including Australia, New Zealand, China, and Korea. The presentations and discussions are an insightful window into new research and trends in pedagogy.

LAF staff will present during two Concurrent Sessions, give updates at the CELA Administrators Meetings, and host informal meet-ups for current and past Case Study Investigation (CSI) participants and Landscape Performance Education Grant recipients. The conference features over 250 presentation and panel sessions, including a number from LAF program participants and grant recipients, speaking about their experience, findings, and further research.

Research from LAF’s various landscape performance initiatives will be part of five sessions:

 

Economic Benefits: Metrics and Methods for Landscape Performance Assessment

Concurrent Session 1, Thurs, 3/22, 9:30-10:50am (First presentation)

Bo Yang, University of Arizona
Zhen Wang, Huazhong University of Science & Technology
Shujuan Li, University of Arizona
Chris Binder, Utah State University

 

Teaching Landscape Performance: Strategies and Lessons Learned

Concurrent Session 3, Thurs, 3/22, 2:20-3:40pm

Megan Barnes, Landscape Architecture Foundation
Ellen Burke, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
Kenneth Brooks, Arizona State University
Phillip Zawarus, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Kelly Curl, Colorado State University

 

Assessing Learning Landscape Performance   

Concurrent Session 4, Thurs, 3/22, 3:50-5:20pm (Second presentation)

Rebekah VanWieren, Montana State University
Joseph J. Ragsdale, California Polytechnic State University
Kirk Dimond, University of Arizona

 

Presentations Based on Research Conducted During LAF’s 2016 and 2017 CSI Program

Concurrent Session 5, Fri, 3/23, 9-10:20am

Post-Occupancy Evaluation of the Landscape Environments in a Primary Care Clinic: The Environmental and Social Performances
Shan Jiang and Sofija Kaljevic, West Virginia University
Kirsten Staloch, HGA Architects and Engineers

Evaluating the Landscape Performance of Railroad Park, Birmingham, AL
Charlene LeBleu, Ryan Bowen, and Britton Garrett, Auburn University

Landscape Performance Research: Findings from Harvest Community, Wayne Ferguson Plaza, and The Shops at Park Lane in North Texas
Taner R. Ozdil, Riza Pradhan, Ravija Munshi, and Ali Khoshkar, University of Texas at Arlington

Improving Environmental Performance Evaluation of Landscapes: Lessons Learned from the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Landscape Performance Series
Hong Wu and Clarissa Ferreira Albrecht da Silveira, Penn State University

 

Ubiquitous Landscape Monitoring: Fitting the Landscape with Sensor Technology for Continuous Monitoring and Data Collection

Concurrent Session 7, Sat, 3/24, 10:30-11:50am

Christopher Ellis, University of Maryland
Heather Whitlow, Landscape Architecture Foundation
Ming-Han Li, Texas A&M University
Lee Skabelund, Kansas State University

 

In addition, LAF’s 2013 National Olmsted Scholar Leann Andrews and 2016 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist Jorge (Coco) Alarcón will present their ongoing research, which was supported in part by the Olmsted Scholar financial awards:

A New Model Integrating Landscape Architecture within Global Health: A Case Study with an Informal Community in the Peruvian Amazon

Concurrent Session 2 - Thurs, 3/22, 11:00am - 12:20pm (Final presentation)

Leann Andrews, University of Washington
Jorge Alarcón, Informal Urban Communities Initiative

2017 Landscape Performance Education Grant Recipients Announced

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To help university landscape architecture programs integrate landscape performance into their curriculum, LAF’s Landscape Performance Education Grants allow select university faculty to develop and test new approaches for standard courses. Their teaching materials and reflections are then shared through the Resources for Educators section of LAF’s LandscapePerformance.org.

Landscape performance is part of the the revised LAAB Accreditation Standards, which take effect starting with landscape architecture programs scheduled for accreditation reviews this fall. Students must learn necessary skills to predict outcomes, assess alternatives, defend design proposals, and evaluate environmental, social, and economic performance of landscape projects.

Over the last four years, LAF has awarded a total of $50,000 in Landscape Performance Education Grants to university faculty. The $2,500 grant recipients for the Fall 2017 semester/term are:

  • Kelly Curl, Colorado State University
    Designed Landscapes – Theory and Criticism (BLA Seminar)
    This discussion-focused seminar will introduce students in their final year to landscape theory with a focus on integrating performance. Students will study the Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs and Benefits Toolkit. This is the only seminar course that allows students to be fully engaged in readings, writings, and discussions on designed and built landscapes. Students will also learn to measure campus landscapes with the physical tools needed to evaluate performance.
  • Catherine De Almeida, University of Nebraska 
    Materiality in Landscape Architecture (BLA Seminar)
    This course, the first of three courses in a construction sequence, introduces sophomores to AutoCAD and detailing as well as the materials and assemblies used in landscape architecture with a focus on material lifecycles and performance capabilities. Students will be exposed to the larger implications of their material choices and design decisions by viewing materials through the lens of lifecycle analysis and performance. This seminar will use illustrated lectures, readings, class discussions, model-making, assignments, field trips, analysis, computer drafting, design development, experimentation, and evaluation to explore materials with a performance lens.
  • JeanMarie Hartman, Rutgers University
    Advanced Plants (MLA Lecture and Lab/Studio)
    This lecture and studio combination course focuses on plant ecology, plant identification and planting design. Beginning with a landscape performance framework, the course will implement an active learning model, requiring students to collect plant specimens for identification, sample areas for biodiversity, and take soil samples. Rain gardens will be used during plant identification and planting design segments to measure ecological, economic, public health, social, and aesthetic performance. Visits to greenhouses and campus gardens will be used to evaluate the many ways in which plants interact with their environment.
  • Phillip Zawarus, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    Landscape Arch Design III (BLA Studio)
    This 4th-year studio course will focus on the context of the Las Vegas Valley and its unique challenges. Students will examine the global, regional, and local scale of environmental systems, analyze master plans and green infrastructure guidelines for developments adjacent to valley water networks, and conduct comprehensive analysis, synthesis, programming, and design for landscape performance. Through parametric modeling and GIS mapping, students will assess the performance of existing conditions within the Las Vegas valley in order to outline green infrastructure guidelines for the water network.

International Conference on Landscape Architecture Education

cela-sign2LAF's Barbara Deutsch, Heather Whitlow, and student volunteer extraordinaire Shuyi Yan

Two LAF staff members spent an incredible four days at the CELA/CLAEC International Conference on Landscape Architecture Education May 26-29 in Beijing. With the theme of “Bridging,” this conference is the first time that annual meetings of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) and the Education Committee of the Chinese Society of Landscape Architecture (CLAEC) have been held jointly.

During the opening ceremony, LAF CEO Barbara Deutsch presented the New Landscape Declaration and participated in a  panel discussion with the conference co-hosts:

  • Katya Crawford, President, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA), Professor, University of New Mexico
  • Jie Hu, Vice President, Tsinghua Urban Planning and Design Institute
  • Xiong Li, Professor and Vice-president, Beijing Forestry University, Secretary General of Chinese Steering Committee of Master of Landscape Architecture Education, Secretary General of Education Committee of Chinese Society of Landscape Architecture
  • Rui Yang, Professor and Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Chair of Chinese Steering Committee of Landscape Architecture Education
  • Kongjian Yu, Professor, Chair of Academic Committee of College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Peking University

The panel was co-moderated by Xiaodi Zheng, Secretary General of 2017 CELA/CLAEC and Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture at Tsinghua University.

cela-panelPanelists discuss the New Landscape Declaration during the opening plenary.

LAF also hosted a pre-conference workshop on landscape performance and presented The New Landscape Declaration documentary during the conference Film Track. The Landscape Performance Track included 24 concurrent sessions, with several discussing research conducted through LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program or grant partnerships.

All-in-all, the conference was a great opportunity for knowledge-sharing, a marvelous cultural exchange, and a wonderful chance to reconnect with faculty and students from the U.S., China, and elsewhere. Many thanks to CELA, conference organizer Xiaodi Zheng, our Chinese university hosts, and the many student volunteers who took care of us, especially Shuyi Yan of Beijing Forestry University.

Engaging Students with the New Landscape Declaration

LAF’s New Landscape Declaration is a new vision and 21st century call to action for landscape architecture to make its vital contribution in solving the defining issues of our time. The Declaration, along with the Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future that gave rise to it, serve to guide, challenge, and inspire — aims befitting to an academic environment.

To help university faculty and landscape architecture departments engage with this initiative, we’ve complied a list of resources and ideas to incorporate the themes into their programs and coursework:

  • Post the New Landscape Declaration in a prominent place in your department or website. (PDF versions in English and 17 other languages are available.)
  • Screen the 20-minute Summit documentary for a class or event and facilitate a post-film discussion. (The film is closed-captioned to support less-than-ideal sound systems and non-native English speakers.)
  • Assign students to explore the Summit declarations (in videos or essay form) and report out on their favorites or write their own declaration.
  • Use the New Landscape Declaration as a tool to communicate the value and values of the landscape architecture to allied disciplines and administrators in your university.
  • Respond to the Declaration by sharing your thoughts and ideas for action with LAF, within your department, or as an editorial. We encourage and look forward to continued discourse on the future of the profession and what needs to be done.

M. Elen Deming (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Richard Hawks (SUNY-ESF), and Ken Yocum (University of Washington) have graciously shared the materials and assignments that they developed to include the Declaration in courses taught during the 2016-2017 academic year. We hope that these sample teaching materials spur other educators to take advantage of this powerful set of resources to provoke and inspire the next generation of landscape architects.

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5/24 UPDATE: You can see the video product of Professor Elen Deming’s “Declaration of Values in Landscape Architecture” project here.