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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.

Shining a Spotlight on Landscape Performance in the Great Plains

By Hannah LoPresto and Brandon Zambrano, BLA Candidates, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

csi2018-unl-hanafan-530pxUndergraduate researcher Brandon Zambrano observes Tom Hanafan’s vegetation and bioretention capabilities during a May site visit.

Participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation program has been an incredibly informative experience for our research team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We have just completed our second year as undergraduates in the landscape architecture program and are excited to continue learning about landscape performance as Research Assistants under the guidance of Research Fellow Assistant Professor Catherine De Almeida. We are eager to shine a spotlight on the landscape performance of two Great Plains projects: P Street Corridor by Design Workshop, a revitalized downtown streetscape in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park by Sasaki, a waterfront redevelopment in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Working on the post-occupancy study of both parks has been extremely beneficial in understanding how reclaiming underutilized sites can create high-performing landscapes.

Over the course of our study, we’ve discovered many commonalities between the P Street Corridor and Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park. With both sites located in the Great Plains, participating in the Case Study Investigation program has given us the opportunity to provide recognition and visibility to innovative constructed projects in a region that typically goes unrecognized. Both are public projects in urban settings with primary goals of transforming formerly unpleasant, underused spaces to grant increased public access. Along with public access, stormwater management strategies are essential aspects of both projects. P Street focuses on runoff capture and reduced irrigation cost for roadside bioswales. Tom Hanafan focuses on opportunities to preserve and restore riparian forest in a floodplain to withstand an immense, 500-year storm event. 

Although we’ve observed many commonalities between these two projects, each has numerous unique aspects of its own. With P Street located adjacent to the university, our research team was already familiar with the site, having visited and passed through on countless occasions. However, much of what we learned about the P Street project was beyond what we had experienced on site. P Street’s redesign was undertaken by a remote design firm and then passed to a local Lincoln firm for construction administration. This gave us the opportunity to understand the working relationship between a remote design firm and a local firm, revealing the trade-offs that come with this approach. The P Street project was also unique in the amount of recorded baseline data. Our team was pleasantly surprised to learn how extensive the design firm’s baseline data collection was, covering aspects such as user perception, impervious surfaces, and property values. While developing the master plan, the design firm implemented a community engagement process that provided excellent baseline data for our research team to develop our assessment of the project’s social benefits. Our team has been able to replicate the design firm’s pre-project survey (with a few additions of our own) to collect post-occupancy data in order to make a direct comparison of user perception before and after the corridor redesign.

blog-postpstreethannah1-226px-gwxAn inventory of P Street’s site elements, such as limestone benches, signposts and bioswales, is recorded by undergraduate researcher Hannah LoPresto.

Unlike P Street’s renovated streetscape, our study of Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park is focused on the reclamation of the Missouri River floodplain for native ecological riparian communities and human access to the river. Some key elements that illustrate this are the revitalization of the riparian forest with native trees along the northern and southern areas surrounding the park’s open space, and a native meadow mix planted along the Army Corps of Engineers’ levee-turned-amphitheater. In conversations with our firm liaison, we were surprised to learn about the pre-existing conditions of the site and how the landscape had been previously deteriorated due to ATV use and invasive species that affected the riparian forest’s growth. Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park converted a landscape of misuse to a friendly, highly accessible public park. Our team was also surprised to find out that the 2011 Missouri Flood happened during construction of the park. Even though this caused a significant delay, the firm managed to gather data from the occurrence and interpret it into qualitative diagrams in order to show the client how Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park proposed grading changes that would withstand a 500-year storm event. The design team turned something negative like the 2011 Missouri Flood, analyzed it, and interpreted it positively into the design of the site. We plan to further quantify the quality of the park in our user surveys.

As our research team nears the final stretch of the Case Study Investigation program, we look forward to collecting, documenting, and analyzing our data for these two Great Plains projects. We are especially excited to experiment with a few specific techniques such as on-site percolation tests, surveying users on-site, and mapping economic change in the surrounding areas. Learning from these data collection techniques and communicating with our firm partners and municipal clients has given us an incredible opportunity to grow as landscape architecture students and experience the growing necessity of using landscape performance to quantify the sustainable benefits of landscape architecture.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Assistants Hannah LoPresto and Brandon Zambrano and Research Fellow Catherine De Almeida are participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which supports academic research teams to study the environmental, economic, and social performance of exemplary landscape projects.

Landscape Performance for a Pop-Up Space

By Naomi Wong Hemme, Master of Architecture Candidate, Morgan State University 

key-image--530pxSandlot in the spring, image by Naomi Wong Hemme

Sitting on a former industrial site in Baltimore, Maryland’s Inner Harbor is Sandlot, an interim pop-up installation and outdoor space designed by Mahan Rykiel Associates that serves as a local eatery and a waterfront destination where friends and families gather to relax and play. It is also the project I am studying as part of LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program.

As an architecture student interested in how a legacy urban space can be activated to benefit surrounding communities, I jumped at the opportunity to study, from an interdisciplinary perspective, how small-scale and temporary urban landscape interventions such as Sandlot play a role in improving quality of life: how architecture and landscape architecture practitioners apply the principles of tactical urbanism to collaborate and create a socially inclusive, dynamic, and fun urban space.

Having recently relocated to Baltimore for my graduate studies, I am constantly learning about the city’s social fabric and the role the built environment plays. Prior to embarking on this project, I knew very little about the site, which allowed me to consider its landscape performance without any preconception. During my initial visits to the site, I was drawn by the simplicity of its design elements - how a built environment can be transformed using ordinary materials such as locally-sourced, recycled shipping containers and pallets, sand, as well as indigenous vegetation. Around me were small groups of friends enjoying happy-hour drinks and comfort food, couples relaxing on the urban beachfront with their dogs, and a few others getting competitive on the beach volleyball court.

While the focus of our research team has been analyzing and documenting the environmental, social, and economic impacts of Sandlot on the communities in Baltimore, we recognize that the temporal (a 7-year operation period) nature of the project lends itself to priorities and corresponding solutions that may be different from those of more permanent installations. This recognition has served as our guiding principle as we identified our project’s performance benefits and how they could be quantified and measured.

On a personal level, participating in the CSI program certainly has greatly enriched my academic experience. In addition to working with a researcher who is both seasoned in and passionate about transforming urban space, I have learned so much from the program’s well-established case study framework and research tools (I will definitely “borrow” some to assess my future designs). I am also grateful for the support and insight from our LAF partners as we navigate the case study process.

We are conducting our investigation using data from our collaborators as well as our own data, observational studies, and informal on-site survey results. Once the data is analyzed, we hope to compare the results with some of the alternate, conventional solutions to show the extent of the project’s landscape performance against its design goals. Because Sandlot is a seasonal installation (the site operates between May and October), we will be conducting the bulk of our fieldwork throughout June into early July - over a cold beverage and some crab corn fritters, no less!

The Morgan State Research Assistant Naomi Wong Hemme and Research Fellow Pavlina Ilieva are participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which supports academic research teams to study the environmental, economic, and social performance of exemplary landscape projects. Upon completion, case studies are available through LAF’s Landscape Performance Series.

Using Drones as a Landscape Performance Assessment Tool

By Rachael Shields, MLA Candidate, University of Georgia

Our University of Georgia (UGA) team is participating in the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and includes professors Alfie Vick, Brian Orland, and Jon Calabria and me. We are studying Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and the University of Georgia’s Science Learning Center. The landscape architect for both projects was HDR’s Atlanta office.

Drones are currently a hot commodity in the world of package delivery or air strikes, but they are just beginning to take off in the design field (pun intended). Drones became part of our CSI research process when the need arose for high quality post-construction aerial images because online map imagery sources were not up-to-date. Collecting aerial imagery and video are increasingly common uses for drone technology in the design and planning professions. During the process of acquiring imagery, our team realized there were many fascinating advantages in using a drone — beyond the conventional uses.

uga-drone-530wThe drone our UGA research team used, prior to flight

The drone we used allowed us to collect data we never would have been able to otherwise. For this portion of the project we brought in Roger Lowe, a professor in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, who is a specialist in spatial information technology and has a remote pilot certificate, also known as a “drone license.” In order to fly over UGA’s Science Learning Center, we first had to get flight clearance. Before flying, Roger made sure to check the weather and to become aware of any hazards that might affect the flight like powerlines, trees, and structures. He also knew to keep the craft at a maximum of two hundred feet above ground level. While imagery with a lot of people using the landscape would be great, drone flights over people are not permitted.

After flying, the imagery data were transferred to Agisoft PhotoScan, software that processes the images and produces data that can be opened in ArcGIS. For our research purposes, we captured a terrain file to show the topography of the site. PhotoScan also produced an orthomosaic, a seamless aerial formed from a group of orthoimages. Third, through the use of laser light reflected from terrain, structures, and vegetation, the drone is able to capture lidar data in the form of x,y,z measurements. This produces a point cloud that allows 3D analysis.

uga-sciencelearningcenter-dem-530wDrone-captured digital elevation model of the Science Learning Center

 

uga-sciencelearningcenter-aerial-530wDrone-captured aerial image of the Science Learning Center

The exciting potential we began to notice with this kind of technology is longitudinal monitoring. Future classes at UGA could track changes in the Science Learning Center’s landscape over time. For example, imagery can track the change in the area of shade cover, the effectiveness of the stormwater management methods on site, or even map changes due to erosion. Additional analyses with ArcMap, Grass GIS, and HydroCAD would provide cutting-edge landscape performance evaluation tools not seen in traditional methods.

In conclusion, drones have the capacity to provide a whole new landscape performance toolset. Drone technology is new to us, and we hope to include some of the unique aspects of drone data analysis as we continue to document our projects as Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs. So far, we have learned that drones have great possibilities, the extent of which, we are still trying to understand.

Research Assistant Rachael Shields and Research Fellows Jon Calabria, Brian Orland, and Alfred Vick are participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which supports academic research teams to study the environmental, social, and economic performance of exemplary landscape projects. 

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