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Design Under Sky discusses landscape architecture, the utilitarian but leaning towards the conceptual, thinking on modern occurrences and peripheral boundaries.  

DUS is the blog and personal design studio of Adam E. Anderson, a designer based out of the East Coast, currently a Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design, and a designer at Landworks Studio.

For design inquires, feel free to contact me below.

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December 2011
January 2011
June 2010
November 2009
September 2009


The Last Frontier

[Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, AK]

June has always been a tough month for me to post, to be honest, given the weather, I'd rather be in the landscape then writing about it. I've been frequently taking several mile hikes deep in the woods, often trying to visualize how it existed before man. I also spent some time in and around Juneau Alaska, kayaking Auke Bay and becoming acquainted with Mendenhall Glacier. A beautiful part of the US but certainly not a land for the faint of heart.

Hope to get a few posts up shortly, thanks for sticking around.



The Best Symbol of Peace Might Better Be the Garden than the Dove

Coming across a project entitled "The Vegetable Garden House" from the Italian collective in the 1970's calling themselves"Group 9999," the concept and ideals of the garden are manifested in a way that beholds it as a religious icon, or an altar, maybe.

Our project must be understood, therefore, as the model of a real object, which must find its place in the home. It is an eco-survival device, to be reproduced on a global scale. It is itself a habitable and consumable place in accordance with the principles of the recycling of resources. Intentionally, it makes use of very simple elements: a garden, water and an air bed.

[through this project] Man is in direct contact with nature: he follows its growth and development; [...]. He establishes a symbiotic relationship.

[...] If technology keeps on destroying nature, the possibility of having contact with the vegetable kingdom in its integral cycle will assume even greater significance. The vegetable garden will become the sacred place of a new religion.

Essentially what they are describing is the role many landscape architects have played for decades. The garden as a retreat from the "horrors" of urban plight. But perhaps a bit of a pessimistic outlook, as the only sanctuary in the future to experience "nature" within the city and even beyond would be personalised gardens.

While portrayed as a radical notion, Garrett Eckbo, Thomas Church, and James Rose among others were already expanding the idea of the garden, and blurring the lines of interior/exterior space. And one of the most important intentions of landscape architecture, is to bring what Group 9999 discusses as man's inherent mental and physical need for nature to the city confines. We should not have to choose between life in the city or the countryside: both are essential, but today it is nature, beleaguered in the country, too scarce in the city that has become precious.


Originally directed to me through @ethel_baraona




[A Picturesque landscape garden by Thomas Hearne, 1795] Recently reading David Gissen's Subnature, in which a small chapter discusses the social and architectural attributes of weeds, we began to think of what it is to be a weed, which in our own socially defined context, is simply a plant out of place, a human construct, a defect of our perception, and what is its potential function in landscape architecture.

Weeds are often synonymous with "nature." When we see a space left unmanicured and taken over by weeds we refer to it as nature, or wildness taking over. When unintentional seen as a nuisance, but in "nature" a part of the natural system. A nostalgia for wilderness comes easy once it no longer poses a threat. And in the 19th century romanticism of the natural began when the English countryside had been so thoroughly dominated, every acre cleared of trees and bisected by hedgerows, that the idea of a wild landscape acquired a strong appeal, perhaps for the first time in European history.

The weed gives the likes of Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau and generations of American naturalists with a favorite trope—for unfettered wildness, for the beauty of the unimproved landscape, and of course, when in quotes, for the ignorance of those fellow countrymen who fail to perceive nature as acutely and sympathetically as they do.

But are weeds as wild as we think they are? It would seem that the weed, in actuality has evolved in a way in which it benefits the most from the land in which man has already disturbed. In his plowed gardens, in the cracks of sidewalks, in any area intended for a cultivated plant, lies the preferred habitats for weeds.

Frank Lloyd Wright once wrote:

The wielder of the hoe would wonder why weeds couldn't be studied, possibilities found and then possibly cultivated. The "crop" eliminated....Tobacco was a weed once....And tomatoes were once thought by Europeans to be poison....Nearly everything was a weed once upon a time....What vitality these weeds had! Pulsey for instance, Chess (velvet weed), Pigweed....Would the weeds become feeble, if they were cultivated, and "crops" become as vigorous as "weeds" if able to flourish on their own? What of such science and art?


Wright is speaking of this notion of the weed as a human construct, and in fact many of the plants we consider wild weeds today are not actually "wild" but non-native species brought by the first settlers.

Its hard to think of it, but the Indians lived so lightly on the land, that there were few man "improved" areas for weed species to flourish. Many of the weeds we know of today were brought over deliberately: the colonists prized dandelion as a salad green, and used plantain (which is millet) to make bread. The seeds of other weeds, though, came by accident—in forage, in the earth used as shipboard ballast, even in pant cuffs and cracked boot soles.

If you consider the spread of weeds as an artifact of man, then it challenges their presumptuous role as a natural phenomenon, or in urban settings, as reverting back to nature.

What if we were to reverse the roles of certain weeds and plants? Like Wright mentioned, would the plants we so diligently hold dominion over flourish like weeds, and certain weeds act as cultivated plants? What if rather then discerning between weed or plant we designed to allow for a flexible, "natural" takeover of spaces?

[Image by R&Sie(n), Paris, 2008-2009 / I'm Lost In Paris, view of the ferns around the house.]

As found in Subnature, and discussed on UrbanTick, the experimental architecture studio R&Sie(n) questions the way nature and molecular nature of cities interact. Stating: "Nature is unpredictable so that it cannot be easily domesticated." But I might add, if nature was to be somehow isolated from man, then its processes in a whole system sense would be rather predictable. Its unpredictability only shown with our intentions of it as a datum.

In the case of the housing project I’m Lost in Paris, the principle is clear: ferns will grow up thanks to the installation of hydroponic system that will feed them. The house will probably disappear and provoke fear to the neighbors.

This house functions as the principle of plants: it is unpredictable, if not to say, self-organizational. It aims at demonstrating that building as well as plants is capable of being changed in response to local or global stresses.

[City on Fire/City in Bloom, by West 8, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 2007]

In another landscape project, West 8 transforms potted flowers into something containing weedlike images. In a memorial to the bombing of Rotterdam West 8 designed a image of flames out of flowers appearing to consume its surroundings.

In these works, R&Sie(n), and West 8 celebrate the idea of plants as colonizers of space, as unwanted and out of place, in other words, as the "weed," discovering ways to use architecture to bring plants into forms in which they might not belong.



Global Islands Database

[Screenshot of the GID mapping protected areas and islands]

The Global Island Database aims to enhance the participation and role of islands in international decision-making through identifying and bringing together existing sources of data and information relevant to island systems, and presenting new analyses to aid resource managers and decision-making at the island, national, regional, and global level.

The GID also aims to develop linkages, partnerships and collaborations with the wide array of organisations involved in island conservation and decision-making to ensure that the database is up-to-date and relevant, and so it provides a platform for communication and networking.

The GID quickly allows you to map things such as sea turtle migrations, the islands themselves, protected areas, diseased/healthy coral regions, etc. A beautiful mapping effort that allows us to view so many interacting environmental events.


Safe Trestles Finalists Announced

[Image by kola+kle]

The somewhat controversial competition to provide safe access to the legendary surf spot Trestles beach has come to a close with the announcement of five finalists. As predicted, the winning entry solutions range from the architectural to the ecologically focused. But overall, we were impressed with the entries. Here are the five selected finalists:

Easy*Safe*Dry [pic above]

By: kola+kle

The shortest distance between two points is a line. This entry uses this approach to create a simplified solution for beach access. The elevated wood walk and direct shot to the beach is low impact and wetland friendly, I think this entry fails to address the unique 'experience' of the beach journey that is so important to the local surf scene.


[Image by Joshua Beck, Tom Reiner] The Wave 7012

By Joshua Beck, Tom Reiner

The Wave is a beautifully drawn structure intended to be seamlessly integrated into the landscape. Another strong architectural design that compliments the landscape by not disrupting it. The flow of the form adds visual interest to the beach journey.


[Image by E. Tsirintani, G. García, J. Gamboa and M.P. Seixas] Unveiling the Natural

By E. Tsirintani, G. García, J. Gamboa and M.P. Seixas

This entry aims to "not hide the reality of the place, but it only wants to face it through a lineal natural form tool." Another wood structure that is more intensely focused on integrating into the landscape. Vertical wood extentions from the walk orient views.


[Image by Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects] The Natural Scheme

By Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects

Not quite as glamorous in imagery, The Natural Scheme entry however presents one of the more applicable solutions, and one that addressed local surfer's concerns about the project. The entry, coming from Architects, is heavily plant focused.


[Image by Ken Smith Landscape Architect]

The Long Trail

By Ken Smith Landscape Architect

If this project were to ever be built, this might be the most viable solution. Ken Smith uses existing desire lines to influence paths and evenly considers and addresses the issues influencing the project.


See all the competition and winning entry details at the Safe Trestles Competition site.



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