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Panoramic Views of Urbanism



Panoramic Views of Urbanism

Panoramic Views of Urbanism



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  • 1. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009How will our future urban landscapescompare to the landscapes of today?Landscape urbanism aims to transform theway that our urban environments lookand function. It is a new approach todesigning and planning that involvesmultiple disciples working togetherto help solve our worlds most pressingissues. www.newsday.com Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes Wali Memon1 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 2. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009Introduction: The suffix ism has been used for centuries to describe religious concepts, politicalmovements, prejudice or bias, and numerous philosophies and theories. In the 1990s, anew theory (and likewise a new ism) emerged as a result of the wasteful land practices ofsuburban sprawl (Saffron, 2007). Landscape urbanism is an interdisciplinary and holisticapproach to urban development which seeks solutions to the problems created from ourbuilt environments (Weller, 2006). Proponents, such as Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean atHarvard Universitys Graduate School of Design, describe landscape urbanism as, "[dealing]with the variety of issues that are connected with the urban condition. It’s the way in whichour cities are changing in response to global changes” (Hempel, 2008). One basic principlebehind landscape urbanism is collaboration. Planners, designers, economists and ecologistsmust work together rather than individually to create a more successful urban landscape.Landscape urbanists must also concentrate on the organization of human activities withinthe natural landscape. As the worlds population continues to become more urbanized,landscape urbanism strives to improve our built environment with some patience,persistence, and a vision for the long term.What is landscape? What is urbanism? Traditionally, landscape was defined as, "the art of organizing horizontal surface"says Stan Allen, Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. Allen now seeslandscape as a model for modern urbanism. Landscape urbanism is, "uniquely capable ofresponding to temporal change, transformation, adaptation, and succession," says Charles2 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 3. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009Waldheim. It is an emerging and prevailing practice that includes on the "leftover" or voidspace located in and around urban areas.KEY ISSUES WITH LANDSCAPE URBANISM: Although landscape urbanism seems ideal in theory, many changes must beimplemented for it to become a success. First, we must recognize that our builtenvironment is in need of a complete makeover. For decades, short-term thinking andnarcissism have dug us into a deep hole and we are trying to desperately climb our way outto this day. Professionals must put aside their personal ambitions and think in terms of thefuture rather than short-term gains. But how does this change happen? It largely involvespatience and selecting the right team of professionals. Collaboration between planners,ecologists, and designers is an essential tool for the success of any development. This willbe frequently mentioned throughout the essay. Also worth mentioning are the clashes thatcan leave potential groundbreaking projects at a standstill. Clearly stating the projectsobjectives and selecting an educated team will help lead to future successes in thelandscape urbanism field.The built environment: There is no denying that our contemporary buildings produce a lot of unnecessarywaste and an excessive amount of carbon emissions. Fontenergy, a consulting firm locatedin the United Kingdom, found that buildings are responsible for nearly half of all UKscarbon dioxide emissions (Fontenergy, 2007). The United Nations International Panel onClimate Change has also stated that, "the built environment offers the largest potential forsignificantly reducing global emissions" (King, 2008). Simple techniques such as passive3 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 4. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009solar design and energy efficient standards along with better use of renewable energytechnologies can help minimize the environmental impacts for our future landscapes. Change is not easy. It is often difficult and time consuming to alter what has"worked" in the past. For landscape urbanism to succeed, our built environments must beheld to higher standards than are currently in place. The Energy InformationAdministration forecasts growth in building energy consumption by 34 percent in the next20 years (ScienceDirect, 2007). Professionals have an important role to fulfill over the nextfew decades to recreate how our built environments look and function. If they are unwillingto part from old habits, landscape urbanism will never succeed beyond just a few scatteredprojects.Form following finesse: In her 1996 publication Postmodern Urbanism, Nan Ellin critiques architects forengaging in "archi-speak." Postmodern urbanism is viewed by some as being narcissistic,with many professionals acting in their own self interest to achieve fame and fortuneinstead of solving some of societys most pressing issues. (Ellin, 2007) This critique of"form following finesse" rejects postmodern projects as, "being progressive and insteadillustrates them as making cities less affordable and less accessible to middle class citizens"(Ellin, 2007). Landscape urbanism counteracts the personal ambitions of some bydiversifying the concentration of power to a team of collaborators. Selecting the right teammembers is the most critical part of any landscape urbanism development.4 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 5. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009Education: Professionals who are selected to develop a particular site must first learn about thesites history. If a brownfield or drosscape is being developed then planners, ecologists anddesigners must first learn what land use existed before the "waste". Likewise toprofessionals, a landscapes occupants must also be educated about the project at hand. If aresidential community is designed to be net zero energy then the occupants need to learnhow to live a net zero energy lifestyle. This again comes back to the most important aspectof any planning process; selecting the right team. It is imperative that professionals be froma variety of backgrounds and disciplines as groupthink can be the downfall of any plannedproject.Collaboration; The new role of the designer: Traditionally, an architect or urban designer was king of the equation when it cameto developing an urban landscape. The idea behind landscape urbanism is that there is nolead role. Instead, each professional has an equal share in the success (or failure) of aproject. Teamwork and collaboration between planners, ecologists, economists, anddesigners are essential components of landscape urbanism and this idea will be a focalpoint of the essay. Not surprisingly, some designers feel threatened and choose not toparticipate in some of these emerging projects. Despite their role change, many designersare participating and this cooperation has led to some outstanding results (see Parc de laVillette and Koolhaas/OMA mentioned later in the essay). In general, landscape urbanism projects can cause two outcomes. First, a project canbe successful and each person will benefit equally. Second, a project can fail and everybody,5 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 6. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009together, accepts an equal part of the blame. Equal is the operative term. A paradigm shifthas occurred surrounding our built environments and this has created an egalitarian modelunlike anything seen in the past.Landscape urbanism and the dimension of time: Time is a crucial component of landscape urbanism. All landscapes take time tomature and it is a common occurrence for landscape projects to seem unfinished orunimportant immediately upon completion. The success of a landscape project is oftenunknown for the at least 5, 10, or even 20 years later. Immediate recognition musttherefore not be expected. If it is fame someone is looking for, landscape urbanism is notthe field to achieve it in. The dimension of time associated with landscape urbanismdiscourages many professionals from involving themselves in such projects.LIVING IN AN URBANIZED WORLD: Recent demographic trends show that the worlds population is becoming moreurbanized each year. According Jianguo Wu, the total world population living in urbanareas now exceeds 50 percent for first time in human history. More surprisingly is thatcities, although comprising just 2 percent of earths land area, produce 78 percent of theworlds carbon emissions and are responsible for 60 percent of residential water use and76 percent of the wood used for industrial purposes (Wu, 2008). Fighting urbanization isno longer an option as this trend has progressed beyond any one person, business, orgovernment organization. How, then, can we best utilize the limited landscape that ourmodern cities have available?6 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 7. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009Drosscape: In general, landscape architects see contemporary North American cities as havingan abundance of "dross," or wasted landscape. In 2005, "[There were] more than 600,000abandoned and contaminated sites… identified within U.S. cities [alone]", says Alan Berger,associate professor at MIT. One reason for this is urban sprawl. The second reason is theabandonment of land after economic and industrial processes have ceased (Berger, 2006). In 1995, Lars Lerup divided the urban world into two parts; 1. stim, the deliberate, developed urban areas, and 2. dross, the polluted and unprofitable voids that planners gave up on (Newscientist.com, 2006). These drosscapes (large tracts of abused land on the peripheries of cities and beyond),have been contaminated by industrial sites, mineral workings, garbage dumps, andpolluted river banks (Berger, 2006). Critiques have been directed toward architects andurban designers for paying little attention to these neglected plots of land. Landscape urbanism concentrates on the development of these drosscapes, as theyare still very much a part of our contemporary cities. It is naïve to think that urbanenvironments can thrive without producing waste. Urbanists must therefore, "integrateinevitable dross into more flexible aesthetic and design strategies" (Berger, 2006). Bergeralso argues that growth cannot happen without waste and that, "Waste landscape is anindicator of healthy urban growth." Creative and unique approaches must therefore be7 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 8. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009formulated by planners, ecologists, and designers to deal with this void space located inand around our highly populated landscapes.THE SUCCESS OF LANDSCAPE URBANSIM: The success of landscape urbanism depends on many factors. In addition toovercoming the key issues previously mentioned, a successful urban landscape is enduring,adaptive, and transformative in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. Resilience,sustainability, and adaptive capacity are imperative strategies to utilize when developingour future built environments. Numerous other considerations will be mentioned underthe subheading, "landscape urbanism formula."Sustainability: In 1987, The United Nations General Assembly defined sustainability as, "meetingthe needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meettheir own needs" (U.N. General Assembly, 1987). Professionals from all over the globeagree that the worlds space is not limitless. In order to meet the needs of our increasingpopulation and retain a high quality of life, our built environments must be planned,designed, and built more sustainably. How does this relate to landscape urbanism? Charles Waldheim, editor of The Landscape Urbanism Reader, describes landscapeurbanism as highlighting the leftover void spaces in modern cities and transforming theminto potential commons. Many of the "unseen" areas in a city, also called residual terrainvagues, are found in between buildings and likewise in places that otherwise go overlooked(Waldheim, 2006).Transforming these terrain vagues into thriving public spaces, or other8 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 9. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009types of urban "landscape" is a slow process that involves years of collaboration. Tocultivate this new urban form, landscape urbanism concentrates on self renewal, a keyattribute of sustainability. Resilience and adaptive capacity are the lifeblood of a successfulbuilt environment. Landscape urbanism, in essence is building sustainably and shouldtherefore be incorporated into our planning and designing practices.Always consider the scale: The world is undeniably interrelated. Small decisions affect large decisions, thelargest species depend on tiniest microorganisms, and humans rely on other humans. Inthe past, architects and urban designers rarely took into account the effect a developmentwould have on its surroundings. Will species be forced out of their centuries-old habit? Willrental rates increase and affect those living a few blocks away? How will the soil quality beaffected and what about air pollution? Some of these questions deal with small scale issues(soil, topography, zoning). Large scale issues such as ebffects to a nearby watershed,neighborhood, political system and social system must also be considered. Landscapeecologists become extremely important during this stage of the development process asenvironmental issues will most certainly arise. Economists must also express theiropinions as they will differ greatly from the opinions of ecologists. For landscape urbanismto work effectively, a great deal of thought must go into every decision that is made. Allsides must also be willing to compromise or else the project will never even get pastplanning phase.What is the landscape urbanism formula?9 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 10. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009 All cities are unique in their own way. People, landscapes, economies, histories, andclimates differ in each location and make creating a standardized landscape urbanismformula impossible. Instead of focusing on a single definitive strategy for all urban areas,landscape urbanism notes how individual places are unique and considers the localecological (and other) processes of the past, present and future. The success of landscape urbanism relies heavily on creativity and the criticalthinking of everybody involved (the stakeholders, decision makers, and professionals). Thefollowing recommendations—as well as what has been previously mentioned—should betaken into consideration for any new landscape project. It is, however, imperative thateverything described be adapted site-specific. 1. Talk with the community and stakeholders. Learn how the community functions; what are its best attributes vs. what needs changing? What would the community members like to see improved, but also what should remain the same? What was it like in the past? A landscape architecture student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst thoughtfully mentioned using senior citizens as part of the information- gathering process. These folks have lived in the community longest, know its history, and may offer the best future strategies and solutions to current problems. 2. Be creative. Emphasize small-scale, experimental approaches that are considered "safe-to-fail." "Given the importance of multiple perspectives at various ecosystem scales… [an appropriate first step], "toward a flexible, adaptive, and responsive design, planning or management is to use a diversity of approaches" (Lister, 1996).10 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 11. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009 3. Consider alternatives. Creativity spawns new projects and new ways of thinking. The best land use for a particular site might not yet be proposed. Brainstorm elements and structures that can serve multiple purposes. For example, permaculture uses the attributes of many plant species to create a system in which everything plays multiple roles. 4. Durable, long-lasting, adaptable structures with minimal maintenance. Maintenance is vital to the preservation of any built environment or landscape. Self renewal is also a desirable characteristic and a key attribute of sustainability. Consider how a project will respond to change, especially in weather patterns. Climate change is real and it is occurring at a rapid pace. Projects that address this issue will be most successful in long-term.PARC DE LA VILLETTE: Landscape has only recently emerged as the most relevant medium through whichto construct a meaningful and viable public realm in North American cities (Waldheim,2006). One of the first projects to allow landscape "to operate as a model for urbanprocess" was not produced in North America but rather in Europe" (Waldheim, 2006). In1982, a competition was held to transform a 125-acre site, once home to Pariss largestslaughterhouse, into a postmodern urban park unlike any other. Parc de la Villette, blendedurban infrastructure with public activities to create a landscape that interacted with thecity around it. Bernard Tschumi received the commission for Parc de la Villette just barelyedging out the Office of Metropolican Architecture and Rem Koolhaas. Both entries werehighly influential and led to further design competitions in other parts of the world.11 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 12. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009 Parc de la Villette, Paris, France © Nouveaux loisirs-Guide Gallimard, illustration M. Hubault et Th. Giac"An unknowable range of future uses" In his most notable work "Delirious New York," Rem Koolhaas described prominentlandscapes as having an "indeterminate and unknowable range of future uses over time"(Waldheim, 2006). "It is safe to predict that during the life of the park, the program will undergo constant change and adjustment. The more the park works,12 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 13. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009 the more it will be in a perpetual state of revision …. The underlying principle of programmatic indeterminacy as a basis of the formal concept allows any shift, modification, replacement, or substitutions to occur without damaging the initial hypothesis." (Koolhaas, 1978)In 1999, Koolhaas/OMA submitted the winning design scheme for Downsview Park locatedin Toronto, Ontario. For years he has been a leader in the landscape urbanism field and waseven listed in Time Magazines top 100 Most Influential People of 2008 (source). Hisinfluence on urban landscapes is undeniable and will be seen by many generations to come.CONCLUSIONS: Planners, ecologists, and designers argue that landscape, as opposed to architecture,is more capable of organizing urban cities and environments. Charles Waldheim describeslandscape urbanism as, "a lens through which to see and describe the contemporary city"(Waldheim, 2006). It took years of faulty designs and unplanned consequences toaccelerate the landscape urbanism movement to where it is today. Waldheim and Cornerare among the many theorists and practitioners who have jump started this emergingpractice. As new projects appear and older projects evolve, the world will begin to see whata team of visionaries can achieve through simple corroboration. Over time, landscapeurbanism projects will begin to emulate natural systems without the customaryintervention by designers. For years, planning our urban environments has been done one buildings at a time.This strategy is truly shortsighted and is need of a massive paradigm shift. To efficiently13 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 14. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009design our future urban centers, we must now think of cities in terms of a landscape ofinfrastructure and systems. Landscape urbanism operates in the spaces between buildings,infrastructural systems and natural ecologies. These "unseen," residual terrain vaguesrequire patience and slow growth in cultivating a new urban form. To be successful, it mustfocus on reducing waste and consumption while integrating resilience and adaptivecapacity into its numerous functions. The organization of human activities in the natural landscape is another integralpiece of landscape urbanism (Shane, 2003). Urbanization has transformed many naturallandscapes and contributed significantly to biodiversity loss and deterioration ofecosystem services (Wu, 2008). Instead of trying to halt this trend we must instead acceptit and create systems that work harmoniously with nature. We have the knowledge andcapabilities to do all of this. Now, it is about selecting the right team of professionals thatcan make more of these projects flourish.14 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 15. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 200915 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 16. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009References:Berger, Alan. "Drosscape" in the Landscape Urbanism Reader. Alan Berger, Ed. 2006.Princeton Univ. Press. NY. Pp 197-217Congress for the New Urbanism. Charter of the New Urbanism. In: The Urban DesignReader. M Larice and E MacDonald, Eds. 2007. Routledge, NY. Pp. 308-311Ellin, Nan. "Themes of Postmodernism" in: The Urban Design Reader. M. Larice and E.MacDonald, Eds. 2007. Routledge, NY. Pp. 204-214.Hempel, Carlene. 2008. The Boston Globe. New Harvard dean has designs on our future.May 8, 2008. Lexis Nexis Academic. February 22, 2009.King, Paul. 2008. The Built Environment Offers the Potential for Significantly ReducingGlobal Emissions. The London Times. April 16, 2008. Lexis Nexis Academic. February 26,2009.Long Island and New York City news. http://www.newsday.com/classified/jobs/ny-jobs-greenjobs,0,7190857.photogallery?index=15. March 4, 2009.Nouveaux loisirs-Guide Gallimard, illustration M. Hubault et Th. Giac. http://www.cite-sciences.fr/francais/ala_cite/villette/site.htm. March 4, 2009.Saffron, Inga. 2007. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Architects Visit their Foes Citadel. May 18,2007. Lexis Nexis Academic. February 23, 2009.Shane, Grahame. 2003. Harvard Design Magazine. The Emergence of "Landscape Urbanism"Reflections on Stalking Detroit. Fall 2003/Winter 2004, Number 19. February 26, 2009.United Nations General Assembly. 1987. Report of the World Commission on Environmentand Development. December 11, 1987. http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/42/ares42-187.htm16 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com
  • 17. Landscape Urbanism: Transforming our Future Urban Landscapes November 14, 2009Waldheim, Charles. "Landscape as Urbanism" in the Landscape Urbanism Reader. CharlesWaldheim, Ed. 2006. Princeton Univ. Press. NY. Pp 37-51Wilson, Nick. 2007. Business Day, South Africa. Trend to Mixed Use Part of the LocalLandscape. November 12, 2008. Lexis Nexis Academic. February 22, 2009.Wu, Jinguo. 2008. Towards a Landscape Ecology of Cities: Beyond Buildings, Trees andUrban Forests" in M.M. Carreiro et al. Eds. Ecology, Planning and Management of UrbanForests: International Perspectives. Springer, NY. Pp. 10-25.17 Wali Memon | http://walimemon.com | wali.memon@gmail.com