Landscape Strategies For Informal Settlements: Creating Armatures to Shape Urban Form

What are the best strategies to deal with informal settlements and the growing populations of urban poor? Previous research on post-informal settlements focused on retroactive strategies that upgrade existing conditions akin to a “small scale urban acupuncture.” Yet little emphasis has been given to pre-emptive strategies that address future growth. Landscape urbanism as an urban strategy, advocates for flexibility, continual re-arrangement, and flux:it thus has a strong potential for improving the lives of the urban poor through a nuanced understanding of how informal areas adapt and grow. The following is an interview with David Gouverneur, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Landscape Architecture program, who has devoted his research to the study of landscape armatures as pre-emptive systems for the upgrading of the informal city. His insights provide a better idea of what these armatures are, how they perform, and how they can contribute to furthering the post-informal landscape urbanism discourse.

Leo Robleto Costante (LRC): In an increasingly urbanized world, why is it important to study landscape within the context of informal settlements? 

David Gouverneur (DG): The gap between the developed and the developing world is widening and the disparities are clearly manifested in the places in which people live and how these sites perform. In Asia, Africa and Latin America almost a billion people—one sixth of the world population and one third of urban dwellers—live in informal settlements, unplanned environments constructed by their own residents. According to the United Nations Human Settlements Program, it is expected that by 2030 this number will double. These staggering figures demand innovative approaches for dealing with this new scale of territorial occupation if we want to narrow down the disparities and therefore ameliorate social tension, resentment and violence, in a globalized world.

Different international organizations and authors have written extensively about the consequences of such demographic explosion and the nature of informal occupation, but little has been done in terms of envisioning how to deal effectively with the consequences of these demographic pressures and how to foster the growth of the predominantly informal city. This is the reason why I became interested in researching this topic and what motivated me to develop the notion of “Informal Armatures.”

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Informal armatures promote an ecology of relations (natural and social) which make the system resilient, focusing on aspects that the community cannot address on their own. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: Designing Jackson Hill Bridge, The Next Pedestrian Bridge For Buffalo Bayou in Houston

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What does it take to create a new link within an existing community? For SWA’s Houston designers, they have been hard at work for more than the past decade in creating a city-wide green system of Bayous and pedestrian trails for environmental—as well as social—good. And now, the famed Buffalo Bayou is getting another pedestrian bridge. In addition to creating ways to mitigate the wet landscape of this urban area, the park features a series of five bridges that cross the Bayou and connect neighborhoods together. The first pedestrian bridge over Buffalo Bayou was built at the Hobby Convention Center back in 2005 as part of the Buffalo Bayou Promenade. The Rosemont Bridge was built next in 2009 and opened in 2010 to great success.

Today, we spoke with Tim Peterson, Kevin Shanley, Josh Lock, and Scott McCready as they take us behind-the-scenes of the next bridge as it goes up between the Houston Heights and Montrose neighborhoods in Houston.

What’s the name of this next bridge and where is it located? 

The Jackson Hill Bridge spans Buffalo Bayou just west of Waugh Drive. Construction is slated to be finished by Fall 2013 and the bridge will be open to the public at that time.

How big is it? Continue reading

Now Open: Composite Landscapes at the Gardner Museum

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On Thursday, June 27th, the Gardner Museum in Boston opened it’s latest exhibit: Composite Landscapes: Photomontage and Landscape Architecture, hosted in the Hostetter Gallery. With contributions from Richard Weller, James Corner, Yves Brunier, Gary Hilderbrand, Adriaan Geuze and many, many more, the exhibit focuses on landscape architecture’s use of photomontage as one of our key representational forms.

These composite views reveal practices of photomontage depicting the conceptual, experiential, and temporal dimensions of landscape. The first exhibition of its kind in North America, Composite Landscapes illustrates the analog origins of a method now rendered ubiquitous through digital means. In revisiting the composite landscape view as a cultural form, Composite Landscapes illuminates the contemporary status of the photographically constructed image for the design disciplines, and beyond.”

How is it that designers render ideas and show them to clients? What are the best tools for communication, visualization, and imagination? Andrea Hansen, assistant curator, shared a few previews of the exhibit’s pieces with Landscape Urbanism:

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Yves Brunier. Museumpark Rotterdam. Three men and a dog walking (1989-1993) Continue reading

Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure. Latest Issue Now Published!

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Image credit: “Delving deep: a ganat system in an Iranian desert tunnels deep into the mountain profile,” from The Humanity of Infrastructure by Dane Carlson. NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data from NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.

We are excited to announce the launch of the latest issue of the Landscape Urbanism Journal – Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure! Crafted by Editors-in-Chief Stephanie Carlisle and Nicholas Pevzner of the the newly-named Scenario Journal, Issue 4 looks at the pressing questions of how infrastructure of the next century will be imagined and built. As the co-editors write,

“Infrastructure underlies and shapes urban growth, yet for the most part exists outside the realm of design discussions, tucked below ground or hiding in plain sight. Long fascinated with complex, dynamic powerful systems, designers are finally turning their attention to the potential of infrastructure as fertile conceptual territory.With the pressing issues of climate change, financial malaise, unemployment and failures of governance, it is clear that the old approach to infrastructure — heroic but expensive, brittle, and difficult to maintain — will not be possible for too much longer. How do we ensure that the urgent conversation about the design and conception of infrastructure is a multidisciplinary project? How do we move beyond the buzzwords of green infrastructure, soft systems, and eco-engineering, in order to create a landscape infrastructure that is robust enough for the challenging times ahead?”

These questions framed the past six months of research and work by Stephanie Carlisle and Nicholas Pevzner in the latest issue of the Landscape Urbanism Journal, Scenario 4: Rethinking Infrastructure. Continue reading

New Book Releases in Landscape: ‘Landprints’ and ‘Garden, Park, Community, Farm.’

Two gorgeous full-color hardback books just crossed the desk of Landscape Urbanism and we can’t wait to share them with you. The first, Landprints: The Landscape Designs of Bernard Trainor celebrates the work of Australian-born landscape designer Bernard Trainor, whose large-scale gardens, airy hilltops and gorgeous hillsides focus on “simple, understated frames to rugged natural panoramas.” While a book only captures the visual aesthetic of the landscape (and as with any photograph, can’t fully capture the sensory essence of being within a landscape) –the photographic work by Jason Liske captures the raw aesthetic beauty of the space and the timeless nature of the designs. The book makes us want to jump in a car and take a slow road trip just to experience each of these places.

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Video: “Why Not? Conversations With the Stewards and Designers of the Golden Gate National Parks”

In the last post, we asked what it took to create a national park on the scale of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. In a joint effort by The Cultural Landscape Foundation and a multitude of volunteers and contributors, a 30-minute documentary explores these questions. Take a look:

Conversations with the Stewards and Designers of the Golden Gate National Parks

Decades of Park Advocacy: Behind San Francisco’s Presidio and Golden Gate National Parks

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What does it take to create nationally-recognized landscapes like the Presidio and the Golden Gate National Parks in San Francisco, CA? The answer is more than just one designer, planner, steward, or advocate–and a lot longer than a decade. On April 4th, the Cultural Landscape Foundation honored the “exceptional number of Bay Area stewards and designers” that have played pivotal roles in creating and shaping this landscape over many decades, including three key leadership organizations: The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, The Presidio Trust, and The National Park Service.

Here are some of the photographs of the Presidio and Golden Gate National Recreation Areas, documented by SWA Group’s Principal Photographer, Tom Fox:

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Compostmodern 13: Resilience, March 22-23 in San Francisco

Resilience - Compostmodern 2013What does it mean for design to improve society and the environment? This weekend’s Compostmodern: Resilience conference in San Francisco brings together designers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and architects to talk about design’s role in creating a more resilient world.

The list of speakers includes David McConville, Cheryl Dahle, Adam Werbach, Alex Gilliam, Terry Irwin, John Bielenberg and many more–and the conversation topics and short-form presentations will include discussions of resilience, design, innovation, composting, social change, and living in a connected world. What does it mean to design with systems thinking and social responsibility at the top of mind? How do recycling, composting, and social change fit together? What can we learn from modeling living systems as inspirations for complex design? Why do most products create so much waste? How can we learn from the patterns of the universe to design strategies that effectively address complex problems?

Join Landscape Urbanism at the event this Friday and Saturday, and watch for our blogging coverage of the event.

More information: Compostmodern 13: Resilience.

>> Also check out the Conversations on Resilience Design happening before the conference on Wednesday, March 20th at Hot Studio in San Francisco:  “Conversations with Ezio Manzini and John Thackara.” 

 

“Fuzzy Math” Call For Essays: How Do We Actually Measure Cities?

Parking Lot In Las VegasWhat is the language of measuring cities, landscapes, or human behaviors? Urban Omnibus put forth a call for essays on “Fuzzy Math,” inviting writers “to infuse the quantitative language that pervades environmental understanding with narrative, theory, history, or humor.”

Beyond the metrics we already use to measure our cities, what are we missing? What ways can we quantify and measure actions, behaviors, politics, engagement, economics, and life in a city? What unseen dimensions and spatial parameters are critical for well-being (or quirkiness) within a city?

“Meanwhile, the cost of some of what we consume in cities – like real estate – is reflected in its price structure, yet a lot of it – like parking, parks, or pollution – is not. Even if the environmental benefits of urban density are starting to be understood, an accepted calculus of a city’s externalities remains far from precise, subsumed in a metaphorical language of carbon footprints or numerical valuations like LEED.”

“So let’s put it in personal terms. How do you measure your behavior: In rent? In square feet? The number of laps run around the park? MetroCard swipes? Brand of lightbulb? The distance food travels to end up on your plate? What are urban public goods – drinking water, open space, public access television, fireworks displays – worth to you?”

Deadline: Friday, March 22nd, 5:00PM EST.
See the call for submissions at Urban Omnibus.

Edge Operations or Logistics in the Woods

How isolated was Henry David Thoreau’s romantic withdrawal at Walden? In a visual series created by designer and cartographer Meg Studer on The Distopians, she explores (“re-surveys”) these territories. Building off of Walden or Life in the Woods, this series works outward—from woodlots to fireplaces, from adjacent rails to major markets—to re-construct the domestic consumption patterns, international trade, and nascent infrastructural entanglements of Thoreau’s environment.

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These initial diagrams combine Thoreau’s recounting of 1846/47 ice harvests at Walden with commercial records and policy documents, mapping the regional industry and its rail-based network of extraction, storage and glocal consumption. Continue reading