Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Dozen of the Best of 2008

Well, in the spirit of the impending new year, it's time for a look back on the 300+ posts from Landscape+Urbanism to glean what was new, provocative, innovative, and just plain awe-inspiring. In my biased opinion, reading through the archives and downloads from the year - is that 2008 was definitely the year of Veg.itecture - both in visuals, technologies, and built works. So in this vein - a totally random and unscientific look the best of the best for Veg.itecture, Landscape and Urbanism that will continue to inspire into the new year.

1. Best Veg.itecture Project
Hands down, the most amazing project of the year was the California Academy of Sciences Building in San Francisco. Photogenic, innovative, and inspiring, this project blew everyone away, causing me to proclaim, in hyperbolic fashion, that Piano et.al. had reached the pinnacle of veg.itecture... and I still stand by this.

:: image via

2. Best Urban Agriculture Project (tie)
This is a tie between the practical and the visionary. First, these Agrotecture visions came from the Architecture Association of London (via Pruned), such as this airborne vineyard: "The audacious structure, the winery and the vineyard for red wine grapes are connected by a suspended transport network enabling the use of ground space for a public park. With a capacity to produce 10,000 bottles of red wine annually the project re-articulates private and public space blending productive infrastructure with quality areas to Londoners and tourists."

:: image via

And the tie comes from a radically different type of urban agriculture project, from What If, an architecture collective from the UK with a novel idea: "A formerly inaccessible and run-down plot of housing estate land has been transformed into a beautiful oasis of green. Seventy 1/2 tonne bags of soil have been arranged to form an allotment space. Within their individual plots, local residents are carefully tending a spectacular array of vegetables, salads, fruit and flowers. A new sense of community has emerged."

:: image via
What If

3. Best Living Wall
This one is via Balmori Associates for their design for the 'World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum', located in Yakutsk, Siberia. These interior living walls are made up of vegetation from the mosses and lichens that draped the Siberian tundra - and also regulate interior temperature and air quality.

:: image via Balmori Associates

4. Veg.itect of the Year
James Corner of Field Operations... big surprise?... Nope.:)

:: image via Metropolis

5. Best Book
While the new Patrick Blanc book was amazing, and I am constantly turning to Meg Calkins book on Sustainable Materials - my vote for best book of the year goes out to The Public Chance: New Urban Landscapes by a+t architecture publishers which offers solid and graphical analysis from a broad range of projects from around the world. Check it out - it's one that will continue to inspire (and it has since I've wrestled it back from my students from Fall term).

:: images via
a+t architecture publishers

6. Best Use of Materials
There were a ton of potential projects to choose from regarding inventive uses of materials, but in review, this project from Foster and Partners for the United Arab Emirates Shanghai Expo Pavilion utilizes patterns of Islamic art and culture as well as playing with color and light... as always - we shall have to see how it comes together in reality.

:: image via Atelier A+D

7. Best Magazine
I am pleasantly surprised to honor Metropolis Magazine with the best magazine of 2008, for a couple of divergent reasons. First, their expanded coverage of landscape architecture projects has been unprecedented, and will hopefully continue in 2009 with thoughtful and insightful features - not just blurbs about a range of projects. Second, the provocative Susan Szenasy's comments on landscape architecture have fueled some healthy and much needed debate internally - which makes us all better.

:: image via Metropolis

8. Best Blog
Spawned on March 09, 2008, Arch Daily seems like one of those blogs that has been around forever - and I'm constantly amazed by the amount and quality of imagery and posts from around the world. Plus this site is perhaps most low-key and informative in the trend towards vegetated architecture - showing built (yes, in the digital flesh) projects to show that yes, it is possible to do this stuff, and do it well.

:: image via
Arch Daily

9. Best Project Graphics
Coming via Pruned, this project from Marti Mas Rivera, of Universitat Politecnica De Catalunya, Barcelona, a rainwater harvesting project for the Arabic Fortress Hill of Baza in Andalucia. In the time of wicked computer graphics and the lost art of hand-drawing, these fusion-graphics restored my faith in the beauty of the minimal...

:: images via

10. Firm/Collective of the Year
My vote goes to a collective of Spanish designers that make up the group Urbanarbolismo - and are constantly producing great and inspiring work around the concepts of veg.itecture, landscape and urbanism - reconnecting the natural to the built environments. Plus, their site can be instantly translated into Spanish for those of us who's bi-lingual skills leave something to be desired.

:: La Torre I-214 refrigerada mediante bosque - image via

11. Best new resource
Land8Lounge is like Facebook for landscape professionals without all the annoying stuff I hate about Facebook. In addition to being a good social networking site, the L8L community provides opportunities for discussions of the profession, the ability to show and see new work, as well as the possibility of getting exposure to the world-wide professional community like never before.

:: images via

12. New Idea for 2009:
My vote for best new idea of the upcoming year isn't a static technology or implementation, but a re-alignment of design with nature that will illicit a vibrant and change-provoking dialogue for years to come. PHWREE Urbanism was coined by Dave Brown (minusa 'silent or lispy W') to become PHREE Urbanism - which stands for POST HUMANIST REWILDED ECO ETHICAL URBANISM... remember those words...

:: image via
Tomorrow's Thoughts Today

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