Square or Park?

This week the International Landscape Architecture Festival kicks off in Melbourne Australia. The theme of the conference is The Square and The Park. The festival curators see it as a contentious issue between these two landscape typologies which dominate our cities that haven’t changed in the past hundred years.

Klyde Warren Park – Office of James Burnett  | (Image Credit: Thomas McConnell)

Many cities across the world are grappling with the decision of whether they create a square or a park. Which one does the community need? What will be best in the long term for the city? Many parks and squares have been resilient to our ever-changing cities, providing open space for citizens but they offer different benefits.

SQUARES
Perceived by the public as a civic space with hard surfaces one or more open sides as a forecourt to a major building (Trafalgar Square in front of The National Gallery) or closed central plaza with active edges of retail, restaurants and a church or town hall (Piazza San Marco).

Kungsbacka Square – White arkitekter (Image Credit: Per Kårehed)
Grote Markt – OMGEVING (Image Credit: Hannelore Veelaert, OMGEVING)

There are many squares across the world from the small squares in Italy and town squares of the USA (often under 1000 square metres/10,000 square feet) to the large squares of Moscow, Beijing, Madrid which are often in the hundreds of thousands of square metres (millions of square feet). They serve a variety of purposes from central squares, markets squares with a few hundred people up to parade squares with thousands of people. Squares are gathering spaces that are often in a highly urban context with large areas of hardscape that also for a multitude of program and placemaking. Although they can also be very stifling in summer and cold in winter. Squares are often seen as places of activity and commerce allowing for various groups to gather and congregate to shop, dine, people watch and enjoy the life of the city.

The Piece Hall – Gillespies (Image Credit: Paul White)
Victoria Square – Hansen Partnership (Image Credit: Andrew Lloyd)

PARKS
Parks are often seen as soft spaces that create green lungs for the city offering an urban forest with large expanses of planting and grass for the public to seek respite from the hustle and bustle and heat of the city. A place that can be passive and allow people to relax, but also engage in various activities (active and passive sports) that often could be seen to be out of place in a square (or often banned in the square).

Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park – LANDPROCESS | (Image courtesy of LANDPROCESS)
ZilArt Park – !melk| (Images courtesy of !melk)

SQUARE OR PARK
The conundrum that city planners, urban designers and the public often faces is do we need a square or a park? This question has become more fraught and tenuous as the density of cities has increased at the same time that open space and the urban forest have been lost.  

Leicester Square City Quarter – Burns + Nice | (Image Credit Burns + Nice)

The answer is not always clear as cities endeavour to strike a balance between civic and environmental needs of the community. The most important element is understanding the site context to determine the best use of the place. Often in highly urban environments, a central park may not be the answer due to the micro-climate (orientation, shading, scale, available space) whereas a plaza may be more suited due to the ability to create a multiuse area with active building edges. Whereas, an open plot in medium-density family housing lends itself to a park with a variety of uses and able to serve a wider demographic.

Cities have also recently built hybrids typologies with a park in a square or square in a park that incorporates hard and soft spaces (a periphery or central green or a square with a small area of green) which allow for a variety of passive and active programming. These squares also integrate water sensitive urban design such as Water Square which allows for water retention and storage during rain events.   

Water Square – De Urbanisten | Image Credit: De Urbanisten
Yagan Square – ASPECT Studios (Image Credit: Peter Bennetts)
Berczy Park – Claude Cormier + associés | (image Credit: Industryous Photography)

Having a discourse about these hybrid spaces is often hard as they are not often clearly called a park or square with squares called parks and parks are called squares. In the end, is it of consequence? or is it all academic and the true value of the space is that a successful space is created that suits the community needs who have taken ownership of space and enjoy to the full.

Warrior Square Gardens | (Photograph Copyright: Colin Philp)
Warrior Square Gardens | (Photograph Copyright: Colin Philp)
Dilworth Park | (Image Credit | James Ewing / OTTO)
Dilworth Park | (Image Credit | OLIN / Sahar Coston Hardy )

The key is to design a successful central place for the community is to ensure that it responds to the context of the surrounding environment and provides a place for the community to thrive. Any park, square or hybrid must be resilient and allow for repurposing for future uses and communities with little rework and expenditure.

First published on World Landscape Architecture

Can a new form of landscape architectural practice be achieved?

landscape architectural practice

Recently, I reviewed Overgrown by Julian Raxworthy, in which he calls on landscape architects to create a new form of practice that learns from gardening and “optimizes the exciting properties of plants through changing the way landscape architects work” which he is calling “the viridic”. Raxworthy provides a series of positions “for reformulation of landscape-architectural practice that combines the landscape architect and gardener” including:

  • breaking the split between human and plant
  • recognising that the nature of a plant is to grow and that the result of the design happens after planting over seasons, years, and decades.
  • landscape design should learn from maintenance techniques of gardening and tailor plans to suit.
  • the role of the garden is a learning environment and testing ground.
  • the nature of “the viridic” is iterative.
  • leaving the office and our plans & simulations to learn from gardening and gardeners.

Through reading Overgrown and Cleveland’s Landscape Architecture I began to consider whether a new form of landscape architectural practice can be achieved? Can we move beyond our prejudices to embrace and learn from gardening? Can we design without falling back onto plans and specifications or can they be reformulated into more flexible documents to achieve the design through site design?

There are numerous examples of garden designers and landscape architects such as Olmsted, Guilfoyle, Repton, Mueller, Brown, worked with plans and gardeners in the field to create, sculpt, position, and evolve their designs. Of course, we as contemporary landscape architects cannot spend hours, days, weeks, on-site to achieve the design outcome we desire; however, we can use some of the ideas and methods to enhance our design process from concept to ongoing maintenance.

read the full editorial on World Landscape Architecture

Should landscape architects have minimum fees?

This blog post caused some interesting discussion but less about the topic and more about the act of discussing minimum fees. Depending on the which country you are located and the legal frameworks and legislation around fees it is advised that you seek legal advice prior to undertaking any discussion public or private. My preferred alternative is for the profession to concentrate on promoting landscape architecture and the value you bring clients, the public.

Excerpt from the blog post

Providing a minimum fee scale may provide some comfort that we are “all playing on a level playing field” but it may only work for short period of time as eventually some landscape architects will charge less than the minimum due to a lack of work or working for smaller profit margins due to smaller firm size or outsourcing work. This would lead to landscape architecture or government organisations having to enforce the minimum fee regulations which in turn would create administration and costs that many organisations are not willing to bear. The alternative is for organisations and firms to work towards promoting the profession and the value it brings rather than policing the infighting over minimum fees. We all need to get more involved in providing more education and promotion to the public and clients about the value of landscape architecture and in turn, this will enable us to charge fees that are commiserable with the services we provide.

DISCLAIMER: This post is for educational purposes only. The content is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest. It’s not intended to be comprehensive, nor to constitute advice. You should always obtain legal or other professional advice, appropriate to your own circumstances, before acting or relying on any of that content. This advice is general in nature.

Read the full article at my landscape architecture blog – World Landscape Architecture

Microplastic pollution in soils is out of control

We have recently seen an increasing number of news stories about plastic pollution, an ocean full of plastic bags, scenes of a diver in Bali surrounded by floating plastic, however, a recent study [1] has found that terrestrial microplastics could be between 4 and 23 times greater than that found in the ocean and it may be that agricultural soils alone might store more microplastics than oceanic basins. The study cites research that finds that most plastics are prone to disintegrate rather than decompose especially those that are biodegradable and these are found as microplastics (less than 5mm) and these, in turn, continue to disintegrate into nano plastics (less than 0.1 μm). The problem is growing and microplastic pollution could be so widespread that it could create a baseline shift of physiological and ecosystem processes of terrestrial species.

Read the full post at World Landscape Architecture

Launching the WLA Awards

I recently just launched the WLA Awards, in its second year. The first year was a learning curve and I hope that the coming awards will be as successful as the 2017 Awards. I am lucky that I have again have jurors who willing to volunteer to spend hours pouring over pdf files to score, comment.

I had a conversation with a few people at ASLA in Los Angeles recently and it was interesting that many said that their needed to be more awards to acknowledge the work of landscape architects. It reinforced my resolve to continue the WLA Awards as long as I can and promote the profession of landscape architecture to a broader audience.

I created the awards to allow for landscape architects across the world be honoured by their peers. I always hope to get jurors from different nations, backgrounds and experience. It allows for different views to be expressed and also for not one country or type of landscape project to win.

I also changed the award categories this year to include two scales for Built Award category – Small and Large. This change allows for the smaller projects to get recognition, I have had interesting conversations that big projects always seem to win the awards, so this year I set out to try and balance that problem.

Also I removed the Research & Communication category as it  received about quarter the entries of other categories and seem to be not acknowledged by academia(this is a common problem which I may write about at another time) and organisations as most entries were from design firms or individuals.

The next few months will be slightly stressful, seeing if firms will enter and organising the submissions for jurors, the chasing up and then the final announcement and ordering the awards. I feel for those who are in ASLA, AILA, Landscape Institute, who organise numerous categories and entries and then the final ceremony. I have thought of having a ceremony but it is hard to find a venue that would encourage winners to attend as they are spread across the world, let alone the cost of hold a ceremony.

I am looking forward to judging the Editor’s Award. It is always fun to look at the submissions and shortlist my own and then select one at the end. It could be seen as arrogant but after 10 years of curating this blog, I thought that I could have one indulgence. Hope you enter. Find out more at WLA Awards.

Design regulations against terrorism – a catalyst for change

Over the last year there have been several terrorist incidents that have seen the loss of life in our cities and due to this acts we have seen governments have turned to security experts, police departments and intelligence experts to offer advice on how to make cities safer. This is a continuation of the ever increasing change in the way we live our lives over the last few decades as we have secured airports, train stations, bus stations, border crossings and tourist attractions.

Due to recent events the Australian government has sort advice from security experts and recently, the Prime Minister of Australia launched the Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism. A document which seeks to “…assist owners and operators to increase the safety, protection and resilience of crowded places across Australia.”. This strategy is similar to the Crowded Places Guidance recently published by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office(UK) and the FEMA – Site and Urban Design for Security.

 

Read the full post at World Landscape Architecture

What are the stages of a Landscape Architecture project?

Landscape architecture design projects differ in scale and complexity, however they are separated into various stages to allow for ease of management. Due to the variation in project types the staging of landscape architecture projects requires a flexible approach to project management. The project stages often follow a similar pattern however, they may be shortened or not undertaken due to various factors including scale, complexity, client requirements, budget and so on.

I hope to assist those interested in landscape architecture by providing general information about the stages of design projects. The stage names and terminology may differ from country to country and region to region but there is a common process of managing a project through stages.

Before, the landscape architect gets to the exciting part of designing the project there are few stages that often occur prior to putting pen to paper. The client has contacted you and agree to provide a fee or proposal for landscape architecture services.

Read the more of my post at World Landscape Architecture

Australia`s Parliament House is about to get ring fenced


Just before the Houses of Parliament broke for the Christmas holiday they approved to increase security (or perimeter security enhancements as its known security jargon) at Parliament House by surrounding the roof and their lawns with 2.6 metre, 1.5 metre and 1.2 metre high fences at various intervals [pdf] which has drawn great ire from Australian architects including Glenn Murcutt and Australian Institute of Architects.

Why is there such outcry over increasing security at the centre of government in Australia? The design for Parliament House which was won by “Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp and imagined Parliament House that symbolically rose out of the landscape and could not be built on top of the hill as this would symbolise government imposed on the people…it was important that [it] be seen as extending an invitation to all citizens. The grand lawns of Parliament House allowed the public to be able to freely access and walk over the Houses of Parliament.” [1]. This grand idea that won the design competition provides an insight into the values of Australia, its cities, communities and people and is the main reason why so many architects and the public are voicing their opposition to the fence, whether in newspapers, blogs or on social media.

Read more at World Landscape Architecture