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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.

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Entries in Landscape Architecture (45)

Friday
Mar052010

Mycroremediation | How Fungi Can Restore Our Habitats

[Electron Micrograph showing the 'internet' of mycelium]

Discussing fungi isn't the first thing that comes to my mind for facilitating stimulating conversation. Although we did discover it's potential as city planners, but in a conversation with one of the Whole Systems Design team the other day, I was directed to the works of Paul Stamets, and completely blown away.

Stamets is a Mycologist, and his research into the fungi Mycelium is creating exciting advancements in bio-remediation, pest control, vaccinations and even energy.

[Paul Stamets and giant fungi]

Mycelium, as Stamets says in his 2008 TED talk are the ultimate soil builders. The mother of trees. We are more closely related to fungi then any other kingdom. They are external neurological membranes, and this microbial universe gives rise to a plurality of other organisms. It is earth's natural internet, highly branched with alternative paths that cling to soil, decomposing matter and creating stability. In fact, if you've seen Avatar, this makes me think of the "connection of all things" they spoke of might of been a form of mycelium.

It was this mycelium that 1.3 billion years ago, chemically broke down rocks to create the first soils on earth, forming the foundation for life. 65 million years ago the asteroid hit, fungi survived, which doesn't need light, uses radiation, and because of this characteristic, Stamets suggests this is a strong reason to believe fungi and life exist on other planets.

But what I found to be one of the most compelling characteristics of mycelium is it's capabilities of bio-remediation, or as Stamets has coined "Mycroremediation."  I'll spare extreme scientific detail, mostly because I have trouble wrapping my head around it, but experiments have shown mycelium has the ability to breakdown hydrocarbons, transforming them down into carbohydrates. Taking a pile of oil saturated soil infused with the spores, it quickly began to breakdown the pollutants, spawning mushrooms. Insects were soon attracted and laid eggs, spawned, birds fed on insects and brought in seeds, eventually creating a habitat out of toxic waste.

[Home to the mycelium, Stamets hopes to restore old growth forests using his Life Box]

This has vast bio-remedial possibilities. Using burlap sacks stuffed with wind blown debris and mycelium we can create natural filtration corridors downstream from industrial waste zones. Take them to a brownfield site, and rapidly transform the soil to allow for urban agriculture or park development.

[Using bags of waste and injected mycelium, you place upstream from industrial waste zones to bio-filtrate pollutants]

Another fascinating creation of Stamets, in relation to ecological restoration, is the "Life Box." With combination of mycelium, soil, water, mycorrhizal spores, and tree seeds, all contained in a cardboard box, the hope is that old growth forests can be regenerated across the world, while also putting cardboard to good use.

[The Life Box]

Stamets envisions a future interactive zip code system using google earth to track carbon being sequestered by the dispersal of the Life Box, a way to visually track it's success and activate communal involvement. It can also be used for vegetables, as he as done with a delivery system for places like Darfur, a sort of springloaded garden kit for utilization in disaster stuck areas.

Mycelium's use in pest control in and energy are discussed in greater detail in his TED video, but my main interest is it's proven success in soil building and bio-remediation, a topic I'm sure that we'll continue to discuss here at DUS.

Friday
Mar052010

Would Her Perfection Withstand the Provocation of Nature?

[Forested Guggenheim. Image via West 8]

I find that there are few Landscape Architecture studios practicing on the cusp of boundries. So, those that are advancing and changing the profession (or at least in my humble opinion) I try to shed light on them here at DUS. West 8, is an office few would argue as a beacon for LA's to seek the extraordinary.

A new conceptual projects addresses Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim, asking: "Would her perfection withstand the provocation of nature?" From West 8's site:

Since its opening in 1959, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Guggenheim building has served as an inspiration for invention, challenging artists and architects to react to its eccentric, organic design. The central void of the rotunda has elicited many unique responses over the years, which have been manifested in both site-specific solo shows and memorable exhibition designs. For the building’s 50th anniversary, the Guggenheim Museum invited West 8 and a variety of artists, architects, and designers to imagine their dream interventions in the space for the exhibition.

West 8's submittal is based on the assertion that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum is the ultimate prototype of the sublime in modern architecture. Genuinely iconic, it is a harmonious resolution of material, geometry and space with performance and context. When completed it immediately became sterile, victimized by its own perfection: a sacred virgin in perpetuity. Would her perfection withstand the provocation of nature? Or is this perfection derived from her dialogue with the neutral Manhattan grid?

It is inevitable that the building should be confronted with the raw, chaotic vitality of nature. Will she keep her beauty, enhancing visitor’s experiences? This can be tested by importing a forest, a 1:1 scale mockup, consisting of two key elements: a mossy fern meadow stretching from the base to the top of the rotunda - a linear interior park, and 100 upended logs the height of the atrium. Visitors may respond appreciatively to light qualities, lovely fragrances and tactilities, or they may be critical: ‘Were the logs sustainably harvested? Will plants do well in such an environment?’ Until now, it appears that maximum adaptation has been be defined by curators’ efforts to minimize the impact of installations. Will the Guggenheim remain a sleeping beauty in a glass box, where nature cannot touch her?

'Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum' was organized by Nancy Spector, Chief Curator, and David van der Leer, Assistant Curator for Architecture and Design. The exhibition will feature renderings of these visionary projects in a salon-style installation that will emphasize the rich and diverse range of the proposals received. Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum will be on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from February 12 to April 28, 2010.

Thursday
Feb252010

Ludic Guerrilla Gardening Drone Warfare

{The weapon of future Landscape Architects, seed bombs deployed by man-operated drone}

Amidst two seemingly unrelated activities of gaming and guerilla gardening comes a new video game titled Seeds of Revolution (found via @eatingbark). The games allow you to virtually green empty spaces in the urban realm while avoiding restrictive authorities, without the real-life fear of detection and municipal punishment.

This is a cute game and at the very least provides attention to guerrilla gardening efforts, but with recent advancements in augmented reality and virtual gaming, I can't help but imagine that a new style of drone based urban landscape replenishment isn't a far off possibility.

{Future Landscape Architects at Battle Command. On yet another urban sortie on abandoned space.}

Take the recent Parrot AR.Drone, an iphone controlled machine, equiped with cameras allowing you to interact with other players. We had mentioned previously that this might replace sight visits, sending the drone instead to record information. But what if we were able to equip this drone with seed bombing capabilities? At your base of operations equiped with real-time city maps of abandoned spaces, which were created by research such as the Local Codes project. You send out the drone in an all out attack on city dead zones.

The Landscape Architect becomes a virtual Urban Commando, environmentally "tagging" their territory, the designer's identity unknown until their calling card is revealed through their signature plant growth. Competition ensues between architects battling for bragging rights to the most planted areas.

A new actual game of similar spatial combatancy is Greed Corp. A game described as:

finding the delicate balance between harvesting the land for resources and preserving it to stay alive. Will you defend your territory or sacrifice it to keep it out of enemy hands? Manage the finite available resources to build your army and use the collapsing terrain to your advantage. Destroy your enemies, or destroy the very land they stand on, before they do it to you.

{The drone in action, target acquired, ready to fire.}

This interaction of mapping and potential robotic deployment reveals possible scenerios for future practice of urban design and landscape. The idea is an evolvement of games like The SIMs, adding the excitement of real results and the danger of bypassing city codes.

Thursday
Feb182010

Architecture for Humanity to Host Landscape Architecture Competition for famous Surf Spot

Architecture for Humanity has just announced a Landscape Architecture competition for unobtrusive access to one of the most famous surfing spot in the US. Informations here. Bjarke Ingels in the jury.

http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/competitions/trestles

Access to Trestles, one of North America’s most celebrated waves, is under threat due to safety and environmental concerns. Currently, over 100,000 people each year follow informal trails through wetlands and over active train tracks to gain access to the surf breaks at Trestles. These impromptu manmade paths present a safety hazard with passing trains and threaten the fragile ecosystem of Trestles.

In response, a coalition of concerned groups organized by the volunteer non-profit organization Architecture for Humanity, are launching “Safe Trestles,” an open-to-all, two-stage design competition to create a safe pathway to serve surfers, the local coastal community and day visitors to San Onofre State Beach. This coalition is looking for cohesive designs that eliminate the danger of crossing active train tracks, help to restore wetlands that have been damaged by the present path, preserve and improve vistas, and offer education about the history of the site and the beach marsh environment. The new path should ensure continued access to the resources by all members of our community and adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

While placing no limitations on the originality or imaginativeness of design ideas, we are looking for tangible low-impact solutions that can actually be built at a future date. Ideally, the winning entry will be sensitive to the remote and undisturbed nature of the area—providing safe access without compromising the pristine environment and views of this rare example of natural Southern California coast.

Entry is $20 and there are two categories; Pro for teams of professionals designers/environmental scientists/landscape architect and Amateur for the rest of us. The competition jury currently includes pro surfers, local community members, world renowned architect Bjarke Ingels, Urban planner and recent Colbert Report interviewee Mitchell Joachim and co-founder of the Omidyar Network and avid surfer Pam Omidyar.

Thursday
Feb182010

Links in the Landscape Realm

{Project Image by Wen Ying Teh}

I've read some recent great posts on the interwebs and originally intended to expand upon them in a few DUS posts, but time has been limited as of late. Below are a few quick summaries and links of recommended reading:

The Dead Sea Works | Mammoth

If Mammoth isn't in your RSS feed then quickly remedy that. Architect authors Rob Holmes and Stephen Becker have and continue to produce several expansive posts of the landscape infrastructure persuasion.

The conveyor belt, at 18 kilometers the third longest in the world (at least at the time of its design), was planned to create a more efficient means for Dead Sea Works company to convey over a million tons of potash each year from the extraction site (400 meters above sea level) to the Dead Sea Works’ main factory on the banks of the Dead Sea (400 meters below sea level). The plan for a conveyor belt was established, but due to it's intended path(which would span the entire South Judean Desert Nature Reserve) was opposed by Israel’s Nature Reserves Authority, unless, a Landscape Architect was employed to design the conveyor belt.

Israeli landscape architect Shlomo Aronson was selected by Dead Sea Works for the job. The main objective, minimum impact to the desert ecology. More....

The Gardens of the Delta National Park | Delta National Park

An aerial summary of some of the various gardens of the DNP, and as they may soon become a open to the public, a comparison on the transition of French gardens, hunting grounds began as royal enclaves, but ultimately became beloved public parks. More....

An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry | Wen Ying Teh | dpr-barcelona

Born from from three week trip following Darwin's southern voyage to the Galapagos Islands and South America, 2009 President's Medal Student award winner Weng Ying Teh mutually includes salt mining, flamingo habitats, and tourism into what Teh calls a "symbiotic designed ecology; a pink wonderland, built from colored bacteria and salt crystallization, dissolving and reshaping itself with seasonal and evaporative cycles. The building becomes an ecosystem in itself, completely embedded in the context that surrounds it." More....

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