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

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.

Landprints Book Cover Continue reading

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:

SF Presidio-Lands End-Tom Fox-6125 Continue reading