Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Veg.itecture #37

About time to purge the bursting folders of Vegetated Architecture projects that have been zooming through the blogosphere lately. As well a few resources, include this [cringe] DIY Guide to Green and Living Roofs as well as good overview post on the 'Arbortectural' via Design Under Sky. Overall, a wide range of types and scales - along with an interesting article via World Landscape Architect - and China Daily - on the goal in Shanghai of adding 100,000 sq/m of green roof annually (and recently hitting 95k sq. m recently)... that's a lot for those of you keeping track at home (over 1 million square feet).

On to the projects, starting at Arch Daily, Joanopolis House by Una Arquitetos offers some very thick building planes which hold a variety of vegetation, as seen in the images below:

:: images via Arch Daily

I especially like this retained earth/infinity pool detail along one side:

:: image via Arch Daily

Via Dwell, a lovely green roof in Vista Hermosa, the new urban park in LA:

:: image via Dwell

Back to the Olympics and Beijing a little, via Inhabitat some respite from the Bird's Nest - the (coincidence?) LEED Gold Olympic Village with a variety of green rooftops... strange no one talked about the 'green-ness' of the village... in all of the coverage (or at least the 20 hours or so I watched) or even a damn street tree anywhere in Beijing for that matter. This is cool, it would've been nice to actually see it...

:: image via Inhabitat

Not quite the rave reviews for the Chelsea Barracks... maybe it's the color of the rendering?

:: image via BDonline

A smaller scale project in Costa Rica by B-Green, with a modest green roof (the little tufted gables are a nice touch):

:: image via WAN

A less green (for now) modern version atop a new Seattle house (via Jetson Green), Alley House by developer Cascade Built... that makes me, sigh, wonder why that much money and attention on a house doesn't warrant an extra couple hundred dollars worth of sedum...

:: image via Jetson Green

And a little tuft of greenery atop a less- modest structure, Doon Street Tower by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.

:: image via WAN
And for those of you eagerly awaiting like myself, I did get my hot little hands on the new Patrick Blanc book - 'The Vertical Garden' coming out soon from WW Norton (who were nice enough to send me a review copy). Look for a review sooner, (depending on my desire to haul it around on vacation- it's large) or not... But trust me, you will NOT be disappointed. If you have an inkling of desire to learn about this concept, you will want to own this book - so pre-order it now.

Missing Something?

A post via anArchitecture... made me think a bit about our fair profession and it's place in the grand scheme of the world. Via the site and post 'The Architectural Practice, Part I' - this graphic:

:: image via anArchitecture

And the text: "Architectural practices are a project based businesses: Changing teams create unique, tailor-made products or services (e.g. a building). A project is characterized by a network of different groups or companies (sometimes referred as 'stakeholders') like clients, designers, model makers, engineers, etc - temporary working together. Although people change from project to project their collaboration is based on trust. ... Consequently, architectural practice's success is based on past achievement: their project portfolio and their (business) network."

Obviously you see where my rant is going... missing a stakeholder at this particular table? Yes, landscape architecture can still be marginalized... but an interesting discussion - and some parsing (i.e. splitting hairs between stakeholders and participants).... check out round two of this on anArchitecture as well in 'The Architectural Practice, Part II'... which has a laundry list of participants... oh, but landscape architect has been switched with landscape designer... ah, so close... rant continues...

A good parallel discussion on Land8Lounge revisits the perennial topic of 'Who are we?' and more aptly 'Why can't we be called something other than Landscape Architect(ure)?'... is worth checking out as well. Lively discussion all around :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sky Vegetables

Have you noticed sometimes how you have to spend a good amount of time squeezing the smallest bits of information out of some sites...? I'm not sure how this is. One example of this is the site for Sky Vegetables, and the companion blog site which seems nigh impossible to extract even the slightest bit of useful info... due to it's new-ness and flashness... although some gleanings that made it worth the trip...

:: image via Sky Vegetables

There is one nice flash overview showing some components of integrated rooftop strategies, such as wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, composting, greenhouses, and solar panels, with some brief description of each.

:: screen shots via Sky Vegetables

A nice element on the blog side, was some photos of Eli Zabar's rooftop greenhouses in NYC, which are renowned for being one of the best productive roofs in the country. From Sky Rooftop: "...Eli Zabar deserves the revenues and the bragging rights; he provides organic produce that is fresher and more local than perhaps any grocery store in New York. I was surprised to find out that Zabar’s actually operates two rooftop greenhouses. In addition to the rooftop of his grocery store, The Vinegar Factory, he has a rooftop greenhouse on his warehouse across the street. The greenhouses grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. This includes raspberries, strawberries, a variety of greens and herbs, tomatoes, peppers and even dates. A big kudos to Eli for his vision and progressive thinking, proving fresh produce from the roof can be sold commercially and for a profit."

:: images via Sky Rooftop

Another interesting side trip led me to Dr. Job Ebenezer, who is the innovator behind the 'wading pool' garden - featured on local project here in Portland at the Rocket. Ebenezer experimented with Wading pools atop the Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Chicago as a model for urban agriculture. And this was 15 years ago... so this stuff ain't new. Ebenezer also discusses gardening with feed sacks, and used tires... you name it. This rooftop pioneer doesn't show up on any of the latest articles on urban rooftop ag...

:: image via Container Gardens

From Container Gardens: "Dr. Ebenezer set about to prove the feasibility of growing vegetables in plastic wading pools. The demonstration garden has proved to be highly successful. In 1997, gardeners harvested 984 pounds of vegetables from 38 pools in an area measuring 1,625 square feet. One pool alone yielded an average of 22.5 pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini and a variety of greens. This is equivalent to about 26,800 pounds. per acre, which far exceeds that of commercial yields in the state of Wisconsin and even the national 1996 average yields."

:: image via
Sky Rooftop

Another pic showing Ebenezer in situ, who focuses this work on technology transfer for feeding the poor through a non-profit group... All this, somehow makes the Rocket, just a little bit less cool... :)

Digging in with SO-IL

This one caught my attention today by combining the love of urban agriculture and rooftop gardening in one visually stimulating package. Spotted via Dezeen: "Brooklyn architects Solid Objectives - Idenburg Liu (SO-IL) have designed a rooftop landscape of allotments to showcase green roof technologies on an industrial building in Queens, New York City."

:: images via Dezeen

The work was commissioned by green roof manufacturer, Garden City Roofs. A little more detail from Dezeen: "Roofs are underused in New York City. Garden City Roofs, a startup company headed by Beth Lieberman, caters to a growing need for technical expertise and access to green roof systems. Garden City Roofs is converting the unused roof of a large industrial building into a showroom and knowledge-center for green roof systems. SO-IL has been asked to evaluate access, layout the roof systems and hard-scapes and design a sales- and learning center on the roof."

:: images via Dezeen

A favorite image of mine, evoking some of the swoopy artistry of a Thomas Church sketch from the 1950's replete with egg-like sun...

:: image via Dezeen

It's interesting to see the 'object' that appears on the roof... The reason? Not sure. The purpose. Um, use the word Truncated Octohedron? Turns out it's a "...structure will be a showcase of materials that are either completely biodegradable or recyclable."

:: images via Dezeen

More like architects that couldn't resist the urge to plop some structure on top of a structure in order to give it resonance as a 'project'. You'll see the hexagonal patterns applied on the farming production surface as well, which work well for nested spaces with interior pathways - a good garden layout. Probably the least successful part of all of this is the bad acronymic name, which I first thought was just random, then realized spelled an elongated SO-IL... uh, ok... well cool project anyway. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I did on my Summer Vacation...

Summer is a great time to think - specifically in Oregon where August and September are typically the prime season and weather for outdoor activity, as well as conducive to the more cerebral... so what have I been doing? Well primarily watching the Beijing Olympics, working too much and too long, finishing a Fellowship application that (knock on wood) will lead to a good amount of travel related to green walls, preparing for a class that I am co-teaching in the fall at Portland State University - and generally enjoying summer. Thus a little lull in blogging. I have been keeping up with the other blogs entries - which seem to slow as well during summer (with some exceptions) - and will pick up again soon (or in September, post-Labor Day vacation) with some catchup!

:: Early Version of Olympic Forest Park - image via Garden Visit

The end of summer has also offered the opportunity for the less cerebral - going to some perennial favorite late summer activities - namely that of the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby. Half hipster hangout - half excuse to drink PBR in the park - it's one of those anti-corporate Portland events that makes the city so unique and fun (read: the anti-flugtag) Below is not a shot from '08, but a favorite from a few years back below - guess you can never escape the office:

:: Office Cubicle - image via Portland Ground

Another diversion this week was a trip up to Auburn, Washington (in the vicinity of Seattle) to go see the Radiohead show in support of the fabulous album In Rainbows. The verdict: show=amazing; venue=so/so; parking and traffic=hellish. We were back in the lawn and rain and it was still amazing - but the photos were a bit abstract - so I found a nice one of something up front - that showed the band and the eco-friendly LED lighting:

:: image via Flickr - atease

While Radiohead attempts to present tours with a green agenda, the location of the White River Amphitheater was dubious in many regards... namely being pretty much car only access. We parked in the free lot - and upon finishing the show at 11:30ish, didn't actually leave the venue until 1:30 - so imagine if you will conservatively 5000 cars idling and creeping around in a concentrated space for about 2 hours - lets imagine . No wonder people were getting a little testy. Here's the scene in a more serene photo.

:: image via Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce

The experience of collectively Flugtag, Soapbox Derby, and Radiohead made me start to think about the viability of large-events - both from a social and environmental perspective. I'm definitely a fan of live-music, but there is definitely as scale issue regarding what is acceptable to appreciate a concert or venue. A small bar is great - but how many of your favorite (undiscovered) bands will be found there? So in the age of mega-concerts, festivals with 100k people in attendance, or even a large-scale event in downtown (obama visit?, flugtag?) is it realistic within the fabric of our cities and outlying areas to accomodate - in a meaningful way. Throw in security issues - such as those faced in Beijing or upcoming in 2012 in London - in multiple venues in an international spotlight - and the logisitics become mind-boggling.

While the grand-scale issues of traffic can't be solved simply at a venue like the White River Amphitheatre, the small-scale designs of parking, traffic, and overflow parking were abyssmal. This led to gridlock that was totally unnecessary and avoidable. As we inhabit, temporarily, these spaces for events - what role does design play in these processes... definitely something that fits into the transportation dynamics and evolutionary adaptation necessary from a Landscape Urbanist perspective... thoughts?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

China's Urban Forest

Via Bustler, an amazing competition winner at the New Urban Streetscape in Beijing, sponsored by New World China Land Limited. Entitled 'Urban Forest' and anchored by SITE New York along with Chinese firm WaHa Studio.

:: image via Bustler

Bustler offers some extensive text, so definitely check out the link and the description. Some highlights: "It is our team’s view that one of the main values of horizontal surfaces in the cityscape is to use streets, parks, plazas and gardens as means of mediation between neighborhoods, building heights, economic levels and territorial functions."

:: image via Bustler

Continuing: "In designing the New World public space, the SITE/WaHa “Urban Forest” concept has been influenced by an observation that the existing site is roughly shaped like a growing tree, with a crown of extended branches. It can also be seen as similar to a river, with many tributaries, or linked to the cardiovascular system of a human body."

:: image via Bustler

More: "The main features of this concept – an evolution from plaza to architecture, inside and outside treated as simultaneous events, dense forest areas in the cityscape and an infinitely flexible paving design – are readily applicable to other parts of the city."

:: images via Bustler

My favorite quote from the entry, via Bustler: "In summary, the horizontal surfaces and mounded configurations of the Urban Forest establish a universal (but also site-specific) concept - including a tree branch • river tributaries • vascular system • Chinese calligraphy • regional landscape imagery - for Beijing’s New World center. This iconography is expressed vertically and horizontally, physically and symbolically, experientially and ecologically."

To which we can all say, huh?

Or perhaps, can we throw another metaphor into that mix maybe? Either way, I really like the concept, although a bit heavy-handed - or maybe a chance to use my favorite new saying 'ham fisted'. Anyway, my biggest rant is the flat black and white graphics. The idea is great, but gets lost in the scribbly and frankly amateurish illustration... while sometimes a very powerful and evocative... are just patently bad. Landscape can be done well in black and white - but is for the most part - much, much better in color. Or if you're going to do black and white - at least do it simply and well.

Good to see that good concept beats good graphics - but would be better to see both.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NYC Rooftops

A photo stream from Bill Badrick (a local architect/illustrator whose cartoony drawings of visionary bridges in Portland has been featured on L+U a few times) entitled Rich People Rooftops NYC... some nice stuff here. Enjoy... and thanks for the link Bill.

:: images via Flickr - jwilly

Water Power

It was interesting, in some research for a project at work, I looked up the cost of water in Portland to calculate the additional cost of irrigation for expanded landscape area on a rooftop. The idea was that we needed to factor in the additional cost of 20000 gallons of water to be used for irrigation for a season... which to my surprise, came to around $500 per year (total commercial cost)... a pittance for that quantity and quality of water found here in Portland.

Changing gears a bit from the economics of this resource... let's take the idea of our waterways and think of them as a very, renewable resource... not for regenerating water via the hydrological cycle - but, say for generating energy. From the small, medium, large, and perhaps citywide... there are options. First, a small-scale version of an aerating fountain - with a range of potential options on site scale:

:: image via Sunmotor

A pair by Inhabitat... Solar Lily and Floatovoltaics - offers some expanded possibilities for water-borne electrical generation... think of the oceans... wave generation on the bottom, wind and solar on top... and all that square floating footage... First the Far Niente winery from Napa - with floating solar panels on pontoons.

:: images via Inhabitat

A more poetic (and adaptable perhaps) version - from the International Design Awards and designer Peter Richardson: "In cities all over the world there are disused water ways, canals and rivers.Often they become the focus for regeneration and for most people offer an improved quality of life and environment. Our project proposes to stimulate river activity and change by proposing that the surface is used to harness the power of Solar energy on a large scale. The energy created can be easily transformed and exported to the grid and will reduce the carbon footprint of the city. The idea references large lilypads that are optimised for efficient photosynthesis, so the design is inspired by nature. They can be moved and dismantled and are simply tethered to the river bed, integrated motors can rotate the discs so their orientation to the sun is maximised throughout the day. "

:: images via International Design Awards

The inspiration...

:: images via International Design Awards

Perhaps this can expand beyond this scale, to a citywide iconography, similar to the floating Maple Leaf by West 8 in Toronto... see it as solar, it definitely works. Think about the dual purpose floating icon and solar generator for every town...

:: images via Eikongraphia