Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gardening Misfortunes

After a recent summer vacation, I returned home to find my incredibly lovely tomato plants stripped of their life- more than half of the leaves gone, and in their place, horrible, disgusting, nightmare-invoking horn worms.

-Ok- a bit of a lie - my tomatoes were never all that lovely. In fact, after preparing the soil, planting more than 7 specimens (and killing half of them…I should have been a bit more skeptical of the name “Mr. Stripey”), daily watering, fertilizing, weeding, and shading as needed, the plants never emerged from the “give ‘em some time and they’ll look nice, I promise” stage. I would venture to say that my entire harvest amounted to a large handful at best.

And as for my selection of peppers (red, purple, green, orange- you name it, I bought it)…every single edible piece promptly rotted on the stem. In a moment of gardening fury, I tore those plants out of the ground and let the earth return to its natural state: weeds, glorious weeds! At least my garden patches are now in harmony with the rest of the yard.

Notes for next years’ endeavors:

Tomatoes: no
Peppers: no
Horn Worms: no
Produce grown by someone else at reasonable prices: oh yes


Endangered Species Act at Risk of Being Gutted

A new threat to the Endangered Species Act is looming, as the Bush/Cheney administration seeks to strip this 30-year-old protective legislation. As announced earlier this week, the new proposal would “severely limit scientific review by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service of projects that could harm imperiled wildlife.” (Defenders of Wildlife)

The plan will also drastically limit the ability of these agencies to consider how greenhouse gas emissions from projects like highways, dams, mines, oil or gas drilling and practically any other activity would effect polar bears, wolverines, and other wildlife. Under this new plan, the independent agency that is proposing an activity regulates itself; leaving no checks and balances for ensuring wildlife and the environment are protected. This lack of independent review will most likely work in the favor of the organizations seeking to perform the activity, especially since most have no biologist or other qualified staff to make an environmental assessment.

“Even worse, the new regulations would impose a brief 60-day review period for agencies, making it even less likely that anyone involved in the process will have the time or expertise to fully evaluate the potential harmful effects of a given project on sensitive wildlife or the habitat it needs to survive.” (Defenders of Wildlife)

These changes to the Endangered Species Act are set to take effect in less than 30 days and Americans have only until Sept 15th to comment for the record. What’s more, changes will not have to be passed by Congress.

If this disturbs you as much as it does me, please visit send a message to the Department of the Interior.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Hey Parking Dayers -

Be sure to register by SEPT 1st. so you can get on the official Tucson ParkingDay Map.

-Brent (in lieu of Amy who got blog-shy)

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 National Park(ing) Day

This year Tucson is participating in National (Park)ing Day on Friday, Sept. 19th, and it's our chance to turn a piece of asphalt into a small park for the day. We have the opportunity to create a tiny, temporary refuge on our campus that can inspire others and potentially teach people about landscape architecture. We would like to know your interest in participating in the event, so please e-mail Kim at or leave a comment on the blog post if you would like to participate. If others would like to get involved, we can set up a meeting to share ideas the week we return to school. Thanks!

Lawn Nation

This is a cool exhibit underway at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum in Chicago.It is an outdoor and indoor display of art and design statements about the American Lawn. Needless to say, the show is not a proponent of the lawn, but it does give a pointed insight into how dedicated and embedded lawns are in our culture. Check out the webpage for more info. Below are some of my pictures from the show and pictures available online at the Nature Museum's webpage.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Demise of our Field?

I recently came across an Apocalyptic Landscape Architecture Manifesto. You may already be familiar with its contents, as it was written several years ago by the folks at Iowa State University. I'd love to read what other people think.

-Daniel Bradshaw

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sustainably Exclusive?

Here's an interesting condo ad in Chicago highlighting the new market, and marketing, for green development. Can exclusive AND sustainable really coexist?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Bronx: Woe or "Whoa!"?

To many New Yorkers who have not lived in or frequently visited the Bronx, the worst of the city's five boroughs in terms of crime, poverty and living conditions, is by far the Bronx. Many people might say "that's too bad" when I admit that's where I was born and spent a better part of my childhood. As a child, you aren't always aware of how good or bad of a situation you're in, but as you mature and learn about the world you begin to realize just what the reality of your situation is. Growing up, I knew where I lived wasn't exactly the nicest of places and it certainly wasn't anything like the glitz and glamour of Manhattan, as seen most often on television. With that realization in mind, I still knew where I lived was special, even if no one else did. This summer I was able to go back 'home' and revisit a place that has left a wonderful imprint in my heart and mind.

I grew up within walking distance of the New York Botanical Gardens (and the Bronx Zoo) and spent many summer afternoons there with my mother and father, picnicking, bike riding and pretending that I was walking through some enchanted garden. As a child, much of my experience with nature was obtained through time spent there and I realize now, over twenty years later, that spending time there is likely what caused me to fall in love with nature and beautiful landscapes. I suppose in a way I owe my pursuit of a degree in landscape architecture to having that garden so near to my home.

Life in the Bronx is on one hand difficult for a child; one has to deal with a fair amount of violence, drugs, peer pressure and sadness. On the other hand, though, if a child is lucky enough they get to experience the positive sides of the Bronx that many people take for granted or simply aren't aware of. The following are some facts and figures from either BOEDC (Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation) or the Bronx County Historical Society to help you learn a bit more about this forsaken borough:

* The Bronx has high residential buying power, drawing top business chain stores(K-mart, JC Penney, Home Depot, Old Navy, Modell's, Barnes & Nobel) to neighborhoods
* The Bronx has 11 interstate highways, parkways and expressways
* The Bronx has over 10 bridges - Tri-boro Bridge, Willis Avenue Bridge, MadisonAvenue Bridge, Third Avenue Bridge, Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, 149 st Bridge, Macomb's Dam Bridge, Washington Bridge, University Heights Bridge and Broadway Bridge
* The Bronx has waterfront access to three major rivers - East River, Harlem River, and Hudson River
* The Bronx has over 8 colleges & universities - Fordham University, Lehman College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, College of Mt. Saint Vincent, Mercy College, SUNY Maritime College and Manhattan College
* The Bronx has 1 beach - Orchard Beach
* The Bronx has the only high school (Bronx High School of Science) with an almamater to more Nobel Prize laureates than any other high school in the U.S
* The Bronx has over 60 landmarks and historic districts (one of which is the Botanical Garden)
* The Bronx is responsible for the cultural introduction of rap, salsa, and break-dancing
* The Bronx consists of 43 square miles, 24% of which is parkland
* The Bronx has recreational activities like horseback riding, golfing, sailing, fishing, private tennis courts, swimming and more throughout Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay Park and City Island
* The Bronx has the largest Metropolitan Wildlife Park in the U.S., (The Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Park) with 265 acres of land and over 4,000 animals
* The Bronx has its own hiking and biking routes called the Bronx Greenway
* The Bronx has its own arts ensemble (Bronx Arts Ensemble), its own opera company (The Bronx Opera Company), and its own symphony (Bronx Symphony)
* The Bronx is the only borough with the word "The" placed before it ("The Bronx" originated from the name of "The Bronx River," which received its name from an early European settler named Jonas Bronck)

Revisiting the Botanical Gardens with my mother and niece this summer after a year of studying landscape architecture has made me that much more grateful and proud of being from the borough with the bad rap. Although our favorite spot to picnic has since been replaced by a vegetable demo garden and the price for admission has moved from a voluntary donation of any amount to $6 for Grounds Only Admission or $20 for an All-Garden Pass, the NYBG is still a fantastic place for visitors of all ages.

"The Garden also offers a sweeping 250-acre landscape, 50 curated display gardens, an expansive 50-acre native forest, and a wealth of programs, exhibitions, and activities for visitors to enjoy. The grounds display masterpieces, some dating to the 1840s, by many of the nation's most accomplished architects and designers, both past and contemporary. The Botanical Garden's innovative programs, unparalleled resources, and talented staff are rivaled by few and exceeded by none" (NYBD Website). The garden is currently featuring a set of works by artist Henry Spencer Moore whose abstract works are displayed around the world. His subject matter is often a reclining woman, a mother and child, or a relationship in nature and typically make reference to the landscape and flowing hills of the countryside. His pieces tend to be quite large in comparison to the human scale and are meant to be viewed from all angles with nature as a constant backdrop.

Next time you're in New York on vacation (does anyone actually do that?), please be sure to venture off of the typical tourist path of Manhattan; visit the Bronx and stop by the NYBG- you'll be glad you did. (By the way, the main entrance of the Bronx Zoo also happens to be right across the street from the garden so you can treat yourself to a twofer.)
New York Botanical Gardens Website:
-Olivia Alicea

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The New York City Waterfalls: Sight for sore eyes or eyesore?

Many of us have heard of the New York City Waterfalls project; however, I was curious to see it for myself and observe those visiting the falls since I'd heard mixed reviews regarding the project. From some I heard fantastic things regarding the projects' ability to bring vitality and life to the New York City waterfront, which until recently, has been somewhat neglected and underutilized. However, from others I'd heard criticism regarding the falls' "unappealing structure" as each waterfall is built from a very basic construction material found all over New York City: scaffolding.

After visiting each of the falls myself and viewing them from opposite sides of the East River (which in actuality is a straight, not a river), I have to strongly disagree with the naysayers. A little bit of research and careful observation might help these individuals appreciate the waterfalls for what they are - interesting pieces of public art built to inspire and intrigue. In regards to the structure of the falls, the scaffolding represents the backbone of what has been used to build New York for the last one hundred years. They are a testament to the city itself and should be viewed as such. As a landscape architecture student (and naturally an advocate), I had the distinct pleasure of pointing out these details to some of the people who previously regarded the waterfalls as ugly. To my surprise, those that had made these claims had yet to visit the falls but had only heard about them! How rewarding it was to show them images from my visit and have them become suddenly excited to visit for themselves.

Whatever your personal opinion of the falls, one visit to any of the four quickly tells you a great deal. From teenage couples sitting on benches, observing the falls, to joggers running along the "river's" edge; for many the falls are an interesting addition to the city's landscape and they make the New York waterfront far more interesting than it has been in the past. It's my sincere hope that projects like these continue, bringing excitement and interest to a city that sometimes needs just a little help in showing its beauty.

The New York City Waterfalls by artist Olafur Eliasson are comprised of four man-made falls ranging in height from 90 - 120 feet tall and are situated along the shorelines of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Governor's Island. The project is an example of temporary public art, commissioned by the non-profit organization Public Art Fund. For some information regarding Olafur Eliasson and the New York City Waterfalls, visit

-Olivia Alicea

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chicago's Lighter Notes: A Scourge of Urban Bunnies?

While previous notes from Chicago have been a bit more serious, I had to send along a lighter side about Chicago's urban bunny population. And no, I am not talking about Mr. Hefner's Playboy bunnies, I am talking about real life Sylvilagus floridanus, or as more commonly known - rabbits!

It is fascinating to live in a city and realize that I have seen more bunnies than rats in my two and half months here. Sure, you expect them in the suburbs, but I see probably one bunny a week in the mornings on my walk to the"el", and have seen them a couple of places in downtown. Below are photos from Lurie Garden and my neighborhood of my new urban wildlife friends, and some links to other people talking about the phenomenon.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


"A revetment, or facing, protects an embankment against erosion. Revetment materials range from stone, concrete, and mixed rubble to dead trees and specialty fabrics known as revetment mattresses. Shoreline revetments may be used to check erosion on lakes and along coastlines. Stream revetments, also called riprap revetments, stabilize banks by reducing slumping and deflecting the channel away from the bank or slowing the stream’s velocity against it. On small streams, tree revetments -- cut trees laid against the bank -- offer a biological alternative to the once common D-Day-style rubble pile of broken concrete."

Words are taken from: Home Ground; Language from an American Landscape by Barry Lopez & Debra Gwartney

Chicago: Urban Farming

Chicago is actively supporting urban agriculture initiatives, from farmer's markets throughout the city to actual urban growing operations. Farmer's markets take place in almost every neighborhood in the city, and there are independent markets such as Green City Market (of Top Chef fame) that also operate in the city. In addition, both public and privately supported initiatives are exploring food production in the city.
Here are some images of two different urban farm projects. One is "City Farm,"and the other is a rooftop organic garden at my office, Conservation Design Forum.
City Farm is an urban farming initiative by an environmental non-profit in Chicago known as The Resource Center. Its goal is to provide local jobs and affordable, healthy produce for disadvantaged residents. It currently straddles Cabrini Green (a notorious area for failed public housing initiatives, although a new, much improved project opened adjacent to City Farm)and the Gold Coast (one of Chicago's elite neighborhoods). Ongoing gentrification will likely push it out of the community to another vacant lot somewhere, but it is booming right now and receives volunteer labor from all over the city. People willingly give up sat. mornings to help grow food in the city. I bought a cucumber, garlic and some peppers during my visit, and they were delicious and cheap. More info can be learned at and at
The other project is at the firm I am working for this summer. They installed green roofs on their offices in 2004 with the help of an EPA grant. After various vegetation initiatives, they decided to use the more intensive roof space to experiment with organic agriculture on rooftops. This summer we have harvested carrots, assorted tomato varieties, various greens, peppers, radishes and cucumbers. While not the same yield compared to traditional methods, it is amazing how well they have all done in only 8 - 12" of soil, and how good the produce has been.
-Brent Jacobsen

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Urban Nature: Notes from Chicago

So, this is a bit of a long post, but I had to set the stage for subsequent posts from Chicago. Here is a first set of images from photos I have taken this summer exploring the City of Chicago, and pondering its attempts to become a "New" city. A lecture I saw by Dr. Sally Chappell from DePaul University brought to light an interesting lens for the City of Chicago. She spoke of Chicago as a city enriched by the interplay of architecture and landscape architecture throughout its history. What I found most interesting was an idea she introduced of Chicago as a city building off a progressive design history to create a new paradigm for urban existence in the 21st century. Through its public programming, municipal policies, and major design projects, Chicago is weaving art, architecture, and ecology into an urban fabric that not only addresses issues of sustainability, but fosters a greater sense of community,civic identity, and urban culture.

Here are four sets of images from one of Chicago's best examples of this new philosophy: Millennium Park. It blends world-class art, architecture, and landscape architecture into a diverse space that welcomes people from all over the city, and integrates these works of art into the daily fabric of their lives. People relax in the Lurie Garden, which introduces an image of native ecology into the heart of downtown. Tourists and residents alike flock to "the Bean", an iconic work of sculpture that also becomes a dramatic backdrop for artistic and theatrical performances. Families spend a summer evening together underneath Pritzker Pavilion during free, classic concerts, while people also rise early on Saturday mornings to participate in free yoga classes underneath canopy. (Of note about the pavilion is just how popular the concerts are.They are packed, with people sitting on steps and standing along walls just to be able to participate in a symphony performance. Not surprisingly, since starting the series in Millennium Park, the Chicago Symphony has seen a 25% increase in membership.) And Crown Fountain creates an interesting interactive display of Chicago's diversity that is also probably the best people space in the city. It is packed all summer long with joyous kids and smiling parents from all over Chicago, and the mood is infectious for anyone who walks by.

More images will follow of other parts of the city, but I definitely think these images ask us as landscape architects what we can do to involve other disciplines in our work to design spaces that are not only beautiful works of art, but backdrops to the daily lives of people. Not only can it create richer, layered public spaces, but it also holds a potential to revitalize urban areas into vibrant communities. Thoughts?
-Brent Jacobsen

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Landscape Lingo

Our first regular feature: Landscape Lingo. In an attempt to re-unite us with our roots, we will investigate landscape-related words that are slipping into the abyss of unused langauge.

First Up: Acequia

"Acequias, or irrigation ditches, are found throughout the American Southwest. The word comes from the Arabic al-saqiya, which means, 'water conduit' (not necessarily for irrigation). The Moors, who occupied Spain for nearly 800 years, until 1492, were deeply versed in survival techniques from the North American deserts and introduced methods for water management to the Iberian Peninsula. In the sixteenth century, Spanish colonists to the arid Southwest brought with them a sophisticated understanding of irrigation systems, which in some areas merged with equally elaborate systems devised by pre-Columbian cultures, such as the Hohokam of central Arizona. Settlements throughout the Southwest benefited from this knowledge."

Words are taken from: Home Ground; Language from an American Landscape by Barry Lopez & Debra Gwartney

Friday, August 1, 2008

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