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

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.

Landprints Book Cover Continue reading

Las Vegas and the Downtown Project: A Photo Tour

Last week, Tech Cocktail and the Downtown Project invited a small group of tech entrepreneurs, innovators, and city enthusiasts (like Landscape Urbanism) to take a look at the projects and grounds of the new Downtown Project area in Las Vegas. I also gave a quick 10-minute talk on questions about the future of cities (forthcoming), but in the meantime, here’s a visual assortment of photographs from both the city-at-large as well as the downtown areas, generally.

Greater Las Vegas: Residential Patterns (and Aerial Photographs)

Flying in from San Francisco, here’s a couple of photos of the cityscape from the airplane window:

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Looking towards the airport and the strip, offset in the background. One of the main visual characteristics of Las Vegas is the desert landscape and the mountains surrounding the flat, tan lands. Note the patchwork of development in the foreground and the scattered suburban developments. 

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Residential suburban housing is an easy pattern to pick up from an aerial view: organized, repetitive, single-colored rooftops.  Continue reading

Does It Matter What You Call It? Landscape Urbanism in ‘Scape 2012

“It doesn’t matter what you call it–the larger effort to engage landscape ideas and landscape thinking in broad discourse is what the larger disciplines of landscape, urbanism, planning and architecture need.”

Does the name Landscape Urbanism matter? Probably. In fact, it does–and the editors and writers behind this site have had numerous discussions about the use of the term “Landscape Urbanism,” capitalized, and “landscape urbanism”, lowercase, as well as the theoretical and pedagogical implications of the term’s rise to relevance over the last few decades. But as Jessica Bridger, an American landscape architect and critic points out in the latest issue of ‘Scape–and something I also very much agree with–while the dialogue about terminology is important, we also should pause that dialogue for a minute and consider that the larger effort to “engage landscape ideas, and landscape thinking, … in broad discourse,” is what our larger disciplines of landscape, urbanism, planning and architecture need.

This website and our online journal are the subject of review in the 2012 November issue of ‘Scape, out now. Ms Bridger writes: Continue reading

The Olympics Are Over… Now What?

“Just as Danny Boyle’s cinematic representation of England’s transition from a pastoral, farming nation to the leaders of the industrial revolution, London’s East End has been going through a transition of its own in preparation for the Olympic Games.”

Just as Danny Boyle’s cinematic representation of England’s transition from a pastoral, farming nation to the leaders of the industrial revolution, London’s East End has been going through a transition of its own in preparation for the Olympic Games. The next question that begs analysis, and dare I say it, the delightfully sarcastic judgment that so often begets British dialogue, is what happens next? When the athletes, officials, tourists, and hoards of security and soldiers leave the Games to patiently wait for the next spectacle of outstanding athletic feats, what is the next phase of Danny Boyle’s English dream?

The London Olympic Committee, for all intents and purposes, has done a fairly progressive job of planning for the temporary nature of the Olympics. Finally, after 30 previous Summer Games where the host cities have seemed to plan with the spectacle in mind, and then proceed with a wish and a prayer that somehow the sites will be used after the event, the planning committees have asked, “Hey, maybe we should figure out what to do with this stuff when the 14 days are over?” Continue reading