Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reflections on LAR 560: Final Assignment

Landscape Architecture, for me, is an illusive animal. It is a idyllic form of expression, a marriage of philosophies, and often nebulous in its form. Over the course of the semester I feel like it gained a certain level of merit where I had previously only known it in its base form. It metamorphosed into something more functional, more vibrant, and ultimately more challenging. After spending the last five years entrenched in the structural environment, it was transformative in terms of establishing a new foundation for learning and experimentation. I began investigating the built environment (and unbuilt, for that matter) in new and profound ways. The professional practice course aided me in seeing a more practical, methodical, and structured approach to a somewhat ambiguous profession. 

What exactly is Landscape Architecture? For me, it is dreams incarnate. It is a realm of possibility, where ideas can be implemented and cause a wide variety of changes to the environment. It is a paradoxical field in that we have the ability to greatly change and innovate a landscape but also must maintain its integrity. It encompasses more than the “landscape”-- the name is so far removed from its meaning that I feel it does not give the discipline due justice. Landscape Architecture has such a wide variety of forms, ranging from parks to city planning. It seems like an ineffective title for such a wonderful profession. I hope that someday we are able to redefine it somehow or, better yet, educate the public about how valuable and beautiful it is.

The contemporary landscape architecture professional is….:
1. Underestimated
2. Powerful
3. Innovative
4. Transformative
5. Responsible
6. Revolutionary
7. Creative
8. Ethical
9. Fearless
10. Extraordinary

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

TDDA Conference, Murfreesboro, TN (04.28.15)

I recently attended (and presented at) the TDDA Conference in Murfreesboro, TN for the Smart Communities Initiative. As I have very limited experience with development districts, it was eye-opening to see some of the initiatives, challenges, and practices that the development districts were working on and how advances in technology for storm water and infrastructural developments could have far-reaching potentials. Some of the initiatives they have been working on and planning were very interesting and informative in terms of articulating regional programs and implementing them into rural areas.

From a professional standpoint, the conferences I have attended for working with the SCI and my involvement in SCI programs has been incredibly beneficial. Meeting with local officials, professionals, and citizens has given me a chance to learn more about the region as a whole and build a network of people that have access to a wide variety of resources. The relationship has been mutually beneficial, as I feel more confident in the ability to help engage them with students and faculty and attempt to connect them to courses or ideas that may benefit their local programs.

The conference itself was more like a round-table discussion. Although we did not receive very many questions from the audience, I felt that the questions we did receive were valuable and thought-provoking. I am looking forward to working with the development districts in the coming years and feel this is an incredibly valuable experience to work with municipal partners and have to operate on both political and social levels in practice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creating Vibrant Cities: Talk with Gil Penalosa at the TN Bike Summit (04.24.15)

I was fortunate to be able to take part in some of the events of the Bike Summit this year and found Gil Penalosa’s speech both passionate and thought-provoking. His colorful use of language and real-world examples was well-received by the crowd and spoke of implementing positive change in communities and raising awareness about cyclists and pedestrians. He articulated several case studies and examples of data that fundamentally spoke to the lack of clarity about bicycle rights in an urban environment and outlined ways to alter this to be more inclusive and functional. He promoted the idea of making public spaces that could accommodate everyone (from age 8 to 80) and provided a wealth of information for how cities like Knoxville could benefit from very simple changes to how they design for cyclists.

As someone who once biked on streets in North Knoxville and downtown, I can testify that there was a lack of awareness and general annoyance with cyclists from those driving automobiles. I had several friends be seriously injured from bicycle accidents with drivers and have had things thrown at me from vehicles or have been yelled at. I am very excited about the implications of establishing a more open dialogue for discussion about how to improve this situation. As far as the environment is concerned, the improvements to public transit he mentioned and the many benefits of bicycles could be very transformative for a city like Knoxville.  I felt like his speaking engaged a wide variety of people and rallied the troops-- the passion he felt for revolution very clearly left all of us with a new sense of purpose and a great amount of information at our disposal. I hope to see some of his suggestions being utilized by the City of Knoxville, as I believe it will have far-reaching effects on our transportation and reliance on fuels in the future.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Kevin Burke, PLA + PM with Atlanta Beltline, Inc (04.22.15)

I really can’t express enough how enjoyable Burke’s conference with us was. He gave us an incredible amount of information, from his fledgling experiences in the profession to what he has learned as a result of a quite impressive career. His list of companies, from Innocenti to CRJA, all had a variety of projects that take a very unique and diverse skillset. I really enjoyed also what he had to say about his work on the Beltline and how he desired to work on projects like that which fundamentally change the fabric of an urban city. What struck me the most was his advice that he gave us near the end of the conference call.

Some highlights from this included:

“You really have no idea what you’re doing.”
“Seek out people who know more than you and learn from them (drop the ego).”
“Do not mimic-- you can learn from bad habits also.”
“Keep detailed records-- no detail is too small when you need to support a decision you made two years ago.”
“Make no little plans-- go big or go home.”
“What are they going to say? Yes, No, Maybe.”

And, most especially: “Be very careful of burning any bridges-- the person you may tick off today may be someone you need five years from now.”

I recently had a moral dilemma about this last statement, involving a classmate who is graduating this year. He is a very drive, headstrong individual who is incredibly talented but also a bit willful in terms of dealing with people on a social level. He posted publicly to his Facebook, basically saying that he was tired of being “polite” to “superficial classmates” that he would never see again and that now he was graduating and didn’t need any of them anymore. This really struck a chord with me when Burke mentioned to not burn bridges, as I felt that the classmate had burned a bridge with most of the students. While I have a lot of respect for him, I felt this was entirely unprofessional and wonder if, in five years, he will need the aid of one of these people that he burned a bridge with. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Stephen Stimson Associates (04.08.15)

This week we were able to take a look at Stephen Stimson Associates and learned about some of their projects. Although the talk itself didn’t particularly leave me with any burning questions, I found it very interesting that the firm had such a wide variety of scales and typologies for their projects. Whether it was a campus (Yale) or a residential project (such as Clyde Street), the projects all seemed to carry unique design strategies and investigations that outlined the complexities of landform and meeting a client’s unique needs.

As I am still relatively new to the profession, perusing their web site and seeing the amount of variety in their projects was comforting to me. Coming from a background in architecture, our scope of landscape design was very limited in terms of the projects we were exposed to. It is incredibly valuable to speak with these professionals and see so many applications of design principles in various mediums and forms. Some of my favorite projects (though not in the presentation mostly) include Savage Harbor, Arkell Art Center, and Harvard Science Center. I did very much enjoy his description of the process behind Cove House and how collaborative projects can become a lifeform unto themselves. As a person who is standing on the line between multiple disciplines, I am very open to collaborating with other groups in my work in the future. I hope to gain experience in multiple practices throughout the course of my career, as I feel there are definitely many things we can learn and contribute to multidisciplinary projects. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

LAR 560 Meeting with Drew Wensley of M+T (04.01.15)

This semester we have had the wonderful experience of working with Drew Wensley, Executive Vice President of Moriyama & Teshima. He began speaking with us from a professional practice standpoint while giving us a brief background into how he became fascinated with integrating built form into the landscape under the tutelage of Shimeya Misuno.

Some pearls of wisdom:
“When you’re job hunting, interview them as much as they are interviewing you.”
“Be a sponge. Be aware.”
“Understand a firm’s ethos-- Why do they do what they do and how did they start their practice?”
“Less information= Best information.”

He spoke to us at length about the challenges and opportunities present within the Wadi Hanifah Comprehensive Development Project in Saudi Arabia. The idea of restoring a 120 kilometer oasis is daunting, yet he fearlessly and passionately believed in the social and environmental impacts of the project and took great pains to work towards developing a sustainable future for the site.

From talking with us, I gained valuable insight into the professional world and complications one can face when working remotely. As he spoke at length about humanitarian efforts with his projects, I felt very inspired to somehow attempt to implement this form of work into my projects and future planning. The idea of doing something that is greater than yourself and has far-reaching impacts on the quality of life of people is far more important to me than anything I could do in my career singularly. I hope to take this inspiration and further develop humanitarian projects through the course of my career. Having such a distinguished person for our Governor’s Chair has been incredibly beneficial for us. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nina-Marie Lister lecture (03.30.15)-- “Ecological Design: Resilience Beyond Rhetoric”

This week we had the pleasure of hearing from Nina-Marie Lister as she informed us about the nature of resiliency in projective ecologies. Her work with Plandform is very interesting and although I have not read her book, I am looking forward to investigating her ideas further in the future. As she spoke about policy changes in response to natural disasters, such as flooding and other major environmental issues, resiliency was a paradigm shift in establishing a new set of design strategies to combat these major events.

I find the idea of a resilient and adaptable landscape very intriguing. Because we cannot entirely project significant change over a long period of time, we have to focus on the transformative capacity of the landforms and design them for diversity in the face of unpredictable circumstances. I completely agree with her argument that while science is fundamentally important to aid in this design process, we must look at other aspects of the environment from psychological and physiological standpoints. The dynamic ecosystem is one that is diverse and has the ability to adapt to these changing circumstances while maintaining a high quality of integration into the socio-ecological system it inhabits.

As I have a vested interest in scientific studies of biological ecosystems and remediation strategies, I feel Lister’s lecture offered a wide range of projects and concepts that will benefit us in our profession. Engineering resilience in landforms and finding ways to mitigate floodzones in a multimodal format that has longterm feasibility in forming an innovative and responsive system are of particular interest to me. I look forward to reading more about projective ecologies in her book!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

LAR 560 Washington DC Field Trip (03.26.15-03.29.15)

Although I have only visited Washington, DC a handful of times, it has always been a fascinating experience and holds both history and intrigue within its borders. As I begin a career in Landscape Architecture, the exposure to a variety of firms and projects aided in building a knowledge-base for me to begin working from. As we begin building our portfolios and structuring our careers, having this firsthand knowledge as well as feedback from professionals will greatly enhance our experiences in the real world and give us valuable knowledge of the types of firms in existence before we begin searching for occupations with them.

Coming back to DC after a few years, I was able to engage with the city and community in ways that I had not in prior years. Staying at an Airbnb in Alexandria (just an Uber drive away from the rest of the class) provided an interesting dynamic and allowed me to see more of the city from a new lens. As I had spent the last trip (an architecture field trip) focusing on the built environment, it was completely different to spend this trip looking at materials, details, and the landscape. It felt like we were operating at a more human scale as we rode the metro and went to places like the Navy Yard, where details were plentiful. 

Because this trip was so well-planned, we were treated to a plethora of firms and experiences that helped us to gauge the very different ideologies of LA firms. Of the firms we visited, each had its strengths and setbacks.  LandDesign seemed like a decent firm to work for, but I felt like they were a bit too reliant on 3D imaging. I felt like  GGN has a firm grasp on using multiple styles to translate ideas, especially when it came to modeling.  MVLA was impressive in their attention to detail and their hand-renderings. I really enjoyed their presentation on the
Disabled Veterans Memorial and felt the attention to detail and scale of their projects was monumental.

Of all of the firms, HOK actually stood out to me as a firm I would feel comfortable working for. I was impressed by their scale, the variety of projects they worked on, and the resources (such as the materials library) they had at their disposal. I really appreciate the idea of interdisciplinary firms that can give clients a one-stop shop (so to speak) for their needs. The building itself was unique and had been renovated in a very articulate way. I was a bit put off by the mostly female staff at first (and the architects being hidden in the basement), but the amount of experimentation and different modes of expression is certainly appealing.  Being someone who enjoys to travel, the international element of their business seemed very intriguing and I could see many benefits in working for a firm with multiple offices around the world. 

There were many highlights from the trip. I enjoyed exploring Georgetown and Alexandria. I had never been on U-Street or visited Chinatown so these were very exciting experiences in terms of texture. The city has a lavish amount of texture and color that seems to be underrepresented in media. The people were also incredibly friendly. It seemed like everywhere we went people were buying us drinks and filling us in on great things in the city. It was refreshing to be in a city that size and meet so many wonderful people. It made us feel very at home and there was a spirit of exploration that I hadn’t felt in previous visits. 

One of my favorite moments was when Julie Beckman spoke about designing the Pentagon Memorial (with Keith Kaseman.) Despite it being freezing cold that day, I was enamored with her descriptions of their process and the many opportunities and challenges they faced in designing such a prominent memorial. Watching visitors interact with the space was particularly interesting. I think it is a beautiful and meaningful project and the mood it created was both refined and proper.

Visiting ASLA was also a very unique experience. I have seen photos of their green roof in magazines before and found it particularly impressive. It was great to learn about the process in renovating the space and how challenging the climate was in reference to planting and maintaining the green roof. As a person with a background in media, it was also wonderful to hear about how the magazine began and details about their process. I found their aesthetic very interesting and look forward to seeing how the magazine and ASLA transform in the coming years. 

My favorite moment was visiting the Kogod Courtyard (GGN) of the National Portrait Gallery. My classmate and I spent hours just in the courtyard: drinking espresso, taking naps on large marble platforms,  analyzing the space, and watching people. It was a space I had visited before but never fully appreciated. The sound is dampened, the moving water has a comforting tone, and the quality of light changed throughout our time there quite beautifully. The scale of the project is mesmerizing, as well as the structure. It was a warm, bustling oasis in contrast to rather stoic galleries. We spent hours just trying to figure out what was muffling the sound (was it the floor?) and admiring how successful the space was for encompassing a large number of people.

The trip was successful. It really aided us in gaining new perspectives in the operation and maintaining of firms, different typologies, and how they handled day-to-day operations and administrative tasks.  The experiential qualities of the trip, however, were the main takeaways for me. There was a sense of camaraderie and purpose in the visit and I feel that for me personally it was a rewarding experience in furthering my education and knowledge of professional practices in the future. I spent way too much money at times, but the lessons we received on this trip were clearly invaluable.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Design, Bitches lecture (03.23.15)-- “The Comma is Everything”

The Comma really is everything.

Katherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph of Design, Bitches spoke with us about their work and design aesthetic. As a young almost-professional beginning my career, their work is striking, original, and similar to my design philosophy in terms of how I initiate process. The ideas that architecture is adaptable and derived from popular culture of the “everyday” make so much sense as design strategies. The concepts of accessibility to broad audiences, connecting us to everyday life and minute experiences, and generally engaging the public with their environment in a marriage of beauty and function were all central to their work and speak volumes of how philosophically they integrate pop culture and architecture in daily life.

“Without the comma, design is purely an adjective. Design becomes an address-- a challenge.”

They also brought up the idea of ego in design and how by challenging the constraints of architecture, they return the focus to design rather than the authors themselves. What I found most invigorating about their work was the use of layering, unique materials, colors, and textures, especially in their work from LA. Their work becomes a symbol of adaptation-- of taking the malleable urban context and shifting it playfully into an artful and engaging landscape, full of narrative and nature in context. Their work centers on perceptual play and connection to the human scale.  Neon, as an element of design, both invoked nostalgia and modernized the structures they presented in highly visual ways. It is my hope that as I continue in this profession, I may find a way to use some of these playful elements in designing parks or other public spaces that connect largely to the human scale.

Other useful thoughts included:

“The facade is a window to a street-- the existing facade can be a blank canvas but also a window the the past. Doors and windows are thresholds.” 

“The path is not always linear.”

On the idea of  a “neighborhood haunt”-- “We are interested creating something that becomes part of daily existence.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LAR560 Meeting with Herb Kupfer of the NPS/GSMNP (03.25.15)

I really didn’t know much about the National Park Service, so Kupfer’s information and down-to-earth enthusiasm was incredibly refreshing and educational. I really enjoyed hearing about his work in Denver and his work with the transportation division piqued my interest as well. As I have been on Newfound Gap Rd before when visiting the mountains, I found it very interesting to hear about the challenges they faced in implementing infrastructural changes while attempting to preserve existing structures along the Foothills Parkway.

Although the idea of working with federal road projects seemed daunting, the fact that the work was designed by consultants is interesting to me. The citizen-engagement aspects with public meetings and in-person awareness meetings are valuable tools, in my opinion, for doing such public-facing projects. I really found the concept of having to build ninety-two bridge segments in less than ideal circumstances incredibly compelling. Kupfer’s humor and openness about his experiences with the Federal Lands Transportation Program (and with “Bigfoot” especially) were very eye-opening. I feel like sometimes we as young, enterprising professionals forget about these types of programs because they are primarily more engineering-based. It was very enlightening to hear Kupfer talk about his LEED experience and how he used his skillset to shape his design process and to troubleshoot potential blunders that might have occurred had they consulted with someone who did not have an appreciation for historical structures or the knowledge of sustainable practices.

While I don’t know if I would ever have to desire to work on such projects, I find the work that the NPS does is very admirable and I imagine, very difficult, as well. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Workshop with Sara Dean (03.04.2015)

I had the privilege of being in Sara Dean's workshop, which focused on citizen engagement in crowdsourcing and using social media as a tool to instigate projected change. Sara had a wide variety of examples of how popular culture and social media, with the rise and transformation of digital technology, have become very useful platforms for social service and design.

Beginning with the automaton,  Sara crafted a unique narrative of potentially calibrating strategies engaged between reality and fantasy. Whether speaking of the fantastical wrestling melodramas or authentic applications of rapper T-Pain’s voice, using technology as a tool to engage the public in a systematic manner is fundamental to success. Citizen engagement apps for phones to help mark points of interest or inform about disaster relief, queries, databases for Oxford (such as public submissions of translations of ancient Greek scripts), and public submissions of less useful information (such as FOUND magazine) were all examples she gave of how we can use tools to engage with the public. She presented us with two citizen-based outreach projects “Global City, Sensor City” and an exhibit at the “2012 Detroit Design Festival”, which although very different, helped inform my partner Carissa and I in forming the process for our project.

The Internet itself is a system of constant iteration. We were tasked with crowdsourcing and decided to use Instagram and Twitter as a means to provide public information. We began @yourknox and #yourknox as an experiment in connecting the local public with upcoming events. I look forward in the coming months to see if it actually takes off as a crowdsourcing experiment, but so far it seemed to have spread virally in a matter of hours!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Helene Binet Lecture (03.09.15)-- “Composing space 24 Bartholomew Villas”

Helene Binet’s work is astounding and it was incredibly powerful. She asked us “What is the experience of space? How do we perceive space, how does it influence us, and what can we bring back to analog form?” These were powerful questions indeed and as she began to show us her work, from Liebskind to Zumthor, she brought light of the the darkness and challenged the role of the physical versus the sensory elements of design.

“We hear better in darkness (attributed to Aristotle)” was central to her argument that we create stories through our experiences and sensory perception. The idea that experience is personal and reflective of the spaces we inhabit within us was quite profound. As she showed us her studies of the physical and metaphysical presence of light and voids (of absence), the atmosphere generated  in these images and words was a large take-away for me. As a photographer myself, I often forget the many layers of existence and how passionate and transformative the subtleties of the landscape can be. The narrative we present through our designs holds equal importance to the functionality of the designs themselves and creates a sequence of mental and visual paths. The network of materiality and light can serve as a reference, a form of nostalgia, or fire new synapses and create new “universes” as a way of perceiving space.

“What is our role on Earth?” She spoke about the idea of dimension and building a dimension through graphic patterns in a parking lot or the desolate and reflective qualities of a barren desert. She spoke of Berlin: “The city is like the womb in which the building is born.”
Beautiful, tragic, and abstraction in memory. Our role here on Earth is simple: to articulate memory through creation. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

ET Index Livability Annual Report 2015 Meeting (03.06.2015)

This week I attended the East Tennessee Annual Report meeting. My first internship was for PlanET so it was interesting to see the livability report and how over the course of a year, so many unique projects had been occurring in the region. I think meetings like this are very important as they function both as a manner of citizen engagement but also serve to notify local government officials to real issues affecting the public and ways to sustainably combat environmental problems. The quality of data and available information about the infrastructure were incredibly powerful. Networking and speaking with local Chamber of Commerce members as well as the Mayor were particular highlights of the meeting for me.

Working for the Smart Communities Initiative, we are doing similar work from the background and it has been very valuable to be engaged with projects like this from the ground up. I can’t even begin to express how wonderful it has been to see projects potentially be implemented by the group I work for in rural cities and help to solve livability issues that cities are struggling with. I feel this experience has been an incredible opportunity and many of the skills I am learning now will greatly influence my life path and decisions I make in the professional realm of design. I hope to continue being involved in civic projects and combat community issues through my work in the future. Seeing what groups like PlanET have done for the community and how local officials are working towards a more sustainable future is so exciting and promising. The potential for change is there-- we just have to harness it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lecture with AREA Architecture (03.02.2015)

AREA Architecture (Glenn Wilcox and Anca Trandafirescu)  was established in 2003 and focuses on making things, using tools, and working through different platforms. They are innovative in developing unusual research strategies of assembly, construction and manufacturing. Their projects are very invested in the public realm and how we engage with it.

 Anca said that “Glenn built boxes during the day and she tore them up at night.” They met as undergraduates and began making projects before they even graduated. Their projects have a wide range of functions and forms but many, such as their “Protomoments,” deal with unstable objects that embrace failure.  These objects are not scaled version of known objects but rather innovative experimentations into the prototyping process and establishing new materials. Their work has a high emphasis on social interaction and modes of craft, yet conversely they write code to generate geometries in a digital medium (which seems the the oppose the ideologies of “craft” we were accustomed to in architectural studies.)

Although sometimes they practice separately, the end result of their combined talents and cumulative efforts is both beautiful and interactive. The idea of “laying ground” in the public realm, which is a process often replete with idiosyncrasies, seems to be articulated through flat-stock forms of material and laser-cutting in much of their recent work. The ideas of the module, of prototyping and generative complexity are inherent in their work and the meaning that they produce in their anthropological interest into the impact of digital technology in the public realm. I have found their work incredibly fascinating and inspiring for my work with tectonics this semester and hope that this enthusiasm is someday reflected in my work. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Bradley Cantrell (02.25.2015)

This week we spoke with Bradley Cantrell about his work with GSD and how he got into landscape architecture. His path was typical. As an undergrad he was a painter and computer scientist,  yet also very interested in horticulture and farming. He realized that there was a design side to environment and got his undergrad from university of Kentucky. Afterward, he went on to graduate school.

Conceptual underpinnings--- there was no way at the time to get digital illustration side to it, so he 
dove headfirst into a whole range of computation courses in 2000 at GSD. He also took courses at MIT and Harvard that dealt with computing, and ended up working for Hargreaves among others. He knew he wanted to teach and pushed himself to teach, so he came back to GSD to teach and lucked into tenure track position.

As I also would like to teach at some point in the future, I found his talk with us very inspirational.  He felt like part of the push has been in terms of landscape architecture and technology. He holds a firm belief that our profession, while wanting to engage technology, has love/hate relationship with it. I agree with him that it needs to be fostered more in profession and also have a b ig desire for profession to take technology “by the horns and guide it to move forward.” 

In terms of research, it has evolved a bit over the years, but his current research is in "responsive landscapes"--design visualization and digital workflows. The point of first book was to bridge this gap 2000-2007-- huge gap between idea that representation comes from physical analog tools (the way we draw)-- has been important to our profession as an aesthetic and an altruistic analog model.
The Process of using a drawing to represent how to construct something or our speculation about some landscape or future architecture has evolved over time. 

Some other highlights:
“While we are wanting to be cognizant of our place in the world, we also have to recognize the effects we have on it and work symbiotically with it. Technologically responsive and about understanding and mapping out ecological systems and about how as human beings we build structures in them.”

“Working methods: big issue with responsive technologies is developing models or abstractions of landscapes that allow us to act upon them. Building inventories of sites, analyzing them, and then acting upon that information. How might we build a model that is continually updating and evolving and how can we use that to create a relationship between landscape and representation?”

He also spoke at length about computational fluid dynamics and analog model of flow. James C. Scott-- “all of these technologies are all about controlling us. They all control us based on a narrowing of vision and to make decisions based on this narrow vision requires us to have a cynical view of our reality.”

I agree with him that selective reality is a conscious choice and serves as a model of our world. It is indeed a lens we build for ourselves-- extremely personal and subjective in terms of articulating our worldview (which is inherently distorted by our cognizant experiences. When he showed us the Mississippi basin model, it did seem to represent a very tangible and performance reduction of the essence of the basin and its functionality in a very distilled manner. As in the model with the alfalfa sprouts and with differentiating layers of strata, the combination of digital and analog models is a very significant leap in technology and resolving environmental issues through the interplay of science and technology.

Other highlights included:
“How do you see your work as a tool to be translated for someone who is wanting to use implementation for data to use safeties on the ground? If we cannot use tools to build and construct, we're not doing anything.”
“Telling a story that has different levels of honesty all the time--There's always a piece about it that is inherently a lie-- the key is that it isn't the central aspect of that illustration or that it is know that there is not a truth to it. The honesty comes from acknowledging the lie.”
“What do you want to express and get out of project by using drawings as a vehicle for expression?”

“Who are you following?” Great question. 

He told us that he gains a lot of inspiration from artists doing work from digital fabrication and developing autonomous art. As a former artist and someone who wears many hats artistically and scientifically, I can highly relate to this as an influencer of work and process in general.

Overall, I was enamored with his work. Although I highly doubt I will ever go to Harvard or engage in projects in such a highly-functioning way, I am extremely interested in the work he has been doing and will continue investigating it in the future. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MAde Studio Lecture (02.23.15)-- “Playing Lines”

This week we attended a lecture with MAde Studio (Maigret Arquero design Studio) and I was particularly impressed by their use of models and scientific studies into design strategies. Their work was dynamic and full of energy. Particular takeaways for me were with designing playground structures and using innovative technologies, with which they appeared to have great skill. In describing failures in wastewater treatment in the urban environment, they investigated solutions to a wide range of environmental problems through a mixture of research, model-making, and analog investigations in a digital format. The City of Ludington (which I had never heard of up until this point) was a good example of urbanization over time and resource adaptation.

Although perhaps more grand in scale than projects I have been working on, I felt I gained much inspiration from this lecture. In terms of research, from analyzing and inventorying, we as landscape architecture have to strategize planning not only for the current time but the FUTURE as well. We also have to analyze our sites based on the past. In this way, design is timeless. It is articulated through visual limitations and timeless space in ways that are often unseen and unspoken. By researching and investigating the richness of the big data present in the digital age, we as designers also have to learn how to read between the lines while stepping outside of prescribed boundaries. The articulation into charts and graphs can be visually stimulating and informative of the culture and context of a city, as we see in MAde’s scope of work.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Jason Hellendrung at Sasaki (02.11.15)

This week we spoke with Jason Hellendrung at SASAKI and learned about the City of Boston: Designing With Water project that he has been working on. He spoke to us about Hideo Sasaki, the principles and aesthetic of the firm, and how these principles were used in the process and implementation of their projects.

Most of our session was spent speaking about their partnership with the Boston Harbor Association and steps they took to use innovative strategies to combat flooding and initiative stormwater management through controlled design. The idea of engaging communities by allowing water to penetrate areas of waterfront and even buildings is not a new concept, but Sasaki’s investigations into this were both innovative and efficient. In investigating further into this project, the twelve case studies were rich with viable information that, when used constructively, could be outwardly beneficial in a wide range of projects to combat natural disasters and environmental changes over time.

There is a strong theme in our society now, especially with the ease of transmission of environmental data, to see environmental disaster as a catalyst for infrastructural change. By researching and identifying particular ways to use urban endurance strategies in adaptation, there can be a transformative quality to the landscape. As professionals, we are tasked with utilizing logical methods of design to help protect the livelihood of citizens while also preserving the productive ecologies of landforms and waterscapes.  Planning (whether in phases or process), resiliency strategies, and multifaceted solutions are all important steps in this process of preservation and investigation and can serve as benchmarks for greater community awareness and adaptability. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jenny Sabin lecture "Between Architecture & Science: Elasticity and Networks" (02.09.15)

Jenny Sabin spoke with us this week about her explorations into sculptural form and different architecture-based projects she has worked on. This presentation was very exciting and Sabin's use of unusual materials with the concept of the polymorph and differentiated knitting typologies were some of the main takeaways from the lecture. Her work for Nike as well as various universities set a standard for experimentation that I hope many of us can continue in future generations of architects and designers.

I felt her work was generally inspiring and her pioneering efforts made beautiful objects that pushed the boundaries of modern technology and provided spatial awareness in sensory ways which will likely inspire my work in the future. I really didn’t know very much about Sabin, but now that I have seen her work I feel greatly inspired by it and look forward to investigating other projects that she has worked on. Projects like Polymorph, eSkin, and myThread were incredibly explorations into creating new materials and finding innovative uses for common materials, such as zip ties. 

What I found most compelling about her work is that she unapologetically created a new style of thinking and creating. As a woman in architecture, it is a very competitive field that doesn’t always offer ample opportunities to distinguish one from the masses. The originality of her work was evidence that this is not always the case. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Jefre Manuel (STUDIO JEFRE) + Gage Couch (Cadence) 2.04.15

This week we had the pleasure of speaking with two very different firms and received some great information about the profession and how these groups themselves operate. Although I found the work of Cadence impressive, I was most eager to hear Jefre speak and found his presentation very intriguing and personally valuable as he seemed to have a life path that was quite varied (which I can relate to.) As a person who has faced obstacles with health, I can relate to his admission that because we don’t know how long we have in this life, we need to make every day count. 

When I was in the process of moving to Scotland, I had been looking into Graduate school at AA in London, so I found his input about the school and their methodologies to be of great interest. What won me over the most was his enthusiasm about the profession and his willingness to step outside the box. I feel like many professionals we speak with still maintain some degree of consistency in how they operate on a daily basis. Jefre seems to be all over the place both literally and figuratively (in a good way) and the amount of creativity and energy is reflected in the work he produces and the types of projects he goes after.

I have only entered a handful of competitions, but hearing him talk about competition-style production and advocacy for social issues was very compelling. As future architects, I feel like we have a responsibility to enhance the quality of life (whether locally or globally), so it was incredible to hear that someone in my age bracket has not only accomplished so much but is actively working to implement change in the world. 

When Gage spoke, I felt he had an abundance of great information. From an aesthetic standpoint, Cadence wasn’t necessarily a firm that I would probably want to work for because stylistically I don’t think I would be a good fit, but I felt his advice for upcoming professionals was very sound and logical. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Jane Amidon (01.28.15)

Jane Amidon is the professor and director of Northeastern's urban landscape program and I was really looking forward to her speaking with us. I imagine it is really difficult to speak to a faceless crowd articulately, yet Amidon had great clarity and wisdom in speaking with us about her profession and the challenges and opportunities in urban design and landscape architecture. What I found particularly fascinating was that as she dissected her own writings and explained what she felt was most significant, she also offered us very real applications to a more academic path than we had encountered in previous conferences with other professionals.

Something I find ironic is that many of those that do not intend to go into architecture often end up choosing a more academic route. It amazes me that so many people claim to have always known exactly what they wanted to do with their lives from a young age, yet I doubt that makes them any more capable of architects than those that do not know. In my own experience,  I never had any thought of being capable of going into architecture-- in fact, like Amidon, I had a diverse palette of interests, so it was difficult for me to focus on just one. As she described her path, I found it inspiring. There is still a rather wide gap in the existence of women in architecture and it is wonderful that someone like her is representative of how intelligent and resourceful a woman can be. 

In reading her work and browsing other articles, I find a high degree of brilliance present that is very impressive. Her awareness of our social and environmental issues-- the idea of these interdisciplinary sustainable cities-- are very intriguing viewpoints. 

ETNASLA Meeting with Xeripave (01.29.2015)

I attended an ETNASLA lunch-and-learn at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens. It was my first ASLA meeting so it was pretty exciting. We conducted the meeting minutes and then received a presentation from Xeripave, a company that makes pervious pavers. Although the presentation was very thorough, I had mixed feelings about the product itself and I’m not sure that it is something I would want to use in projects as a Landscape Architect, but I appreciated the idea of the product and the filtration potential of stormwater. They showed us examples, such as a alleyway in Chicago that their pavers were utilized in, and projects like that seemed to have higher feasibility and potential than some of the more expansive projects, such as parking lots. I do feel that over the next few years, they will be able to refine this project further and therefore have more opportunities to use more local materials.

The product itself is relatively new and although it has undergone extensive testing, I don’t know if it has been tested by time enough to prove its effectiveness. I and others also were not completely enthusiastic about the fact that the pavers are shipped from the Pacific Northwest, as we don’t seem to have an equivalent locally (which is just not feasibly as sustainable as it could be.) From an alternate perspective, the cost is expensive ($25 sq. ft.) but that includes installation. The low-maintenance aspect of the pavers is probably its strongest point-- they felt confident it would last up to twenty years and replacement would be extremely easy.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jason Young Lecture (01.26.15)-- "“skirmishes with the MacroPhenomenal”

For the first of many lectures this semester, we had the pleasure of listening to Jason Young, the Director of our School of Architecture, speak about macro-phenomena and  how we experience our environment from both the point of the object and in a manner of transcending what is physical and tangible. Jason’s enthusiasm for his subject matter infused an eloquence and transformative quality that gave us a sense of nostalgia. Whether in the form of a truck stop, a Home Depot, or even Nascar, he offered examples of how places are realms of experience. The illusory quality of the energy embodied in the object can be seen in the outward nostalgia we feel for objects, places, or other sensory elements. These can be translated into architecture in relatively minute ways or large ways, but the embodied structure is that of transcending classification.

In some ways, his speaking about Cabela’s as an outfitter and  the idealism of hunters who inhabit it translated to me in a way about an experience I had growing up. My mother was the manager of a fabric store and as a small child, it was a fascinating realm of dreams. I could make anything out of bolts of fabric if I wanted to-- the experience from being inside a store where there is a fundamental energy inherent within it symbolized to me a challenge and ultimately an end result or goal. There is an inherent idea in the object being transformative. But there is also a disconnect between point A and point B. The phenomenology of human experience perseveres even beyond the physical in forms of smell, touch, sight, and cognitive recognition. I find this fascinating and am curious how we can further translate individual experience and perception into architectural and landform designs in a way that can engage people with multiple experiences tailored to personal memory. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paul Sacaridiz lecture (1.22.15)

1.22.15 // Lecture
Paul Sacaridiz, presented by VADSCO
A+A 109, 7:30pm

Paul Sacaridiz is a very interesting individual with a passion for art and form. Influenced by the Colombian Exposition in Chicago and “Windmills of the World,” his evolution of sculptural style ranged from the ornamental to streamlined. He feels his art is a combination of the weird and obscure and the weird historical moments become underpinnings for his work and have served as an aesthetic strategy. His process was initially centered around large objects in abandoned fields, which became urban art forms that invited visitors to appreciate them in their sculptural form. His work is greatly influenced by the Plan of Chicago and oddly enough, Martha Stewart Magazine. 

His earlier work is centered on ornamentation and one of the unique projects was “Minor Ornament.” This art project created small-scale ornaments on regular houses and buildings and challenged the notion of traditional ornamentation (such as the plastic ornaments of Louis Sullivan’s idealism of the a city surrounded by ornaments helping to create a more democratic society.) Paul’s work resulted from putting two moments together in different ways.

The landscape of the form was very important to him and he began shooting small objects in a way that was monumental, in contrast to the Colombian Exposition causing large objects to look smaller. He began playing with scale and found inspiration in bakeware with forms like Jello molds. As his work progressed, he began moving towards looking at issues of sprawl and interconnected, closed systems of surrounding objects and wooden platforms (inspired by Utopian communities.)Exhibitions such as “Overthrown” showed ceramics being utilized in new ways. He thought much about sculptural logic, presence, form, and the way things are made. I feel he is successful in making objects pragmatic with elusive logic. There is a quality of beauty inherent in his designs that even as he moved towards digital fabrication, was still reflected in the fabricated pieces. They have a spirit that speaks for themselves. 

LAR 560 Conference Call with Nick Gilliland + Carmine Russo of NBBJ (1.21.15)

This week we spoke with Nick Gilliland and Carmine Russo of NBBJ. We spoke at length about the differences between landscape architecture and planning, as well as the growing awareness of the public in green design and how this has affected their work over the years.

It was interesting to hear about their individual journeys and choices they made that influenced the paths they took throughout their careers. While the idea of working for a 750-capacity firm sounded daunting, their work was incredibly impressive and I was most impressed with how organized and thorough their resource-base was. 

The use of social media (such as the nbbjX blog) in particular was very innovative and offered clients and those interested in the firm something beyond the normal discipline of architecture. Blog posts and interactive web design invite the user to investigate the professional and academic realms in a more informed way.
Their advice for job-seeking was particularly informative and helpful. The importance of clarity, crispness, narrative, process, and personality in being chosen by a firm like NBBJ seemed like very rational advice. Process especially seemed to be a great emphasis, which surprised me because many of my classmates that I have spoken to have strictly focused on the finished project and renderings and less on how they conceptually arrived at that point. Their advice to push the envelope on what good design is and isn’t was also greatly appreciated. They also mentioned that when they interview, they look for growth potential and the capability of adaptation, which was also helpful advice as we begin looking towards the interview process for the upcoming Career Day.

“There’s a fine line from showing everything on a project to showing the right things for a project.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The contemporary landscape architecture professional is:

1. Responsible
2. Moral
3. Intelligent
4. Engaged
5. Respectful
6. Innovative
7. Skilled
8. Conscious (environmentally, socially, etc.)
9. Honest
10. Experienced

Sunday, January 18, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Shawn Balon (01.14.15)

For Professional Practice this week, we spoke with Shawn Balon, PLA, ASLA and I was very impressed by his extensive work history and methods of approach to design and practices.  I found his messages and candid accounts to be very striking and effective in demonstrating practical applications of his history in the field and his commitment to involvement in bettering society as a whole through architecture and education. Being a life-long learner myself, I could connect with his concepts about the need for constant challenging yourself and ultimately expanding your worldview. 

There’s always a chance to go back, but you’re going to learn more by going forward,” Balon said when discussing decision-making and pathfinding when navigating new professions and opportunities. 

I felt it was an incredibly positive information session and he had a great deal of information for us about his life path and the profession. His genuine frankness about the decisions he made and how he arrived where he was today was both inspiring and transformative.

Some great takeaways from the meeting were his lists of common pitfalls and some sage advice that struck me as very wise and practical. 

His “Common Pitfalls as a New Professional:”
1) Ask a ton of questions, but you need to ask more. 

2) Prepare more. We often feel underprepared. 
3)  To not be frustrated with ones’ self for not knowing all of the programs. 
4) Don’t be bashful.
5) Don’t be afraid to challenge the ways that things have always been done.

One of the best takeaways, for me, was: “Take advantage of the moments that you have.He had this vibrant, infectious enthusiasm about the transitory state of life and finding your purpose.