She started out by saying she never meant to be a landscape architect. Her uncles, cousins, father, son, husband are all architects; it’s like a congenital disease. She planned to go into fine arts but then she encountered earthworks and so smitten wanted to explore that. One thing led to another…
What is the landscape? We think of it in pastoral terms. We think of it in terms of purist erasure — Landscape is the world without us humans in it. It’s the remainder of leftover areas we don’t ruin. Or it’s when we make nice walking gardens. Trees, birdies, clean rivers and chilly hills.
But the landscape is a bigger circle encompassing every environment we’re in — the highways, the parking lots, the service areas, the sidewalks, the towers, the open pit mines. They are still the landscape. And we spent, statistically, 7 times more of our time on highways than in parks. It is what we create that then creates positive feedback loops in health, social lives, economics and environment. On some level we know that non-commercial space, like time off, pays for itself in a way. NYC’s Central Park brings $623 million/acre to the city because people want to see the park. It wouldn’t make economic sense to parcel any of its green space into any kind of “development”.
In a project she did in Toronto, Yorkville Park, having the park and public space has increased property values around it and increased the amount of shopping done because people want to be there. The green space takes its cue from the Victorian era houses and makes a collector’s box as if the landscape were each in cubicle of Canadian shield ecology. At the same time she remarked, it is better to do something that some hate and some like than something that people don’t care about because if people are blasé it won’t be maintained. If a project is taken to heart by some people, then it will be integrated into lives. For example, Grand Canal Square in Dublin, Ireland was a plaza to go in front of a waterfront performing arts centre. Even in Ireland’s economic downturn, the area was not effected economically because it served people’s needs for a space that worked.
She adds curves and colors to the built environment and green it but does so with a sense of whimsy that is considered from a design point rather than just random play such as in Ireland’s square which plays with colors and geometric shapes that mark outdoor areas.
Public spaces, whether commuter suburbs, or mixed use street plaza life govern the rules we employ against each other. Cultural change, she contends, happen in public space, not when we are sequestered and ghettoized.
She tries to tie in the project to its context. She talked about “creating a “there” there” as Stein put it. In a project going up in China she used sight lines to shape how people walked to see the model homes. The construction of the new homes was blocked from view by a wall with a vista with a cutout to see the distant hills. Along the path there are trees planted and metal sculptures that evoke Chinese lanterns and provide shade. The walk to the model home is so popular the developer has decided to keep it as a park.
Her commission in X’ian, China is a fascinating walled garden where none of the walls are parallel, most dead-end in the maze. You are always under the canopy of willows and approach them but never see the base of any trunks until the end. The end of each wall is mirrored.
Another project for a tower in Abu Dhabi was to make a green roof. The hitch was typical. The architects did their work and left and then it handed over to handscape architects but the design load of the building didn’t consider the possibility of a green roof. Her solution was to give dimension with mounds of greenery and water trickle feature along the seating, but the green are all panels that at thin planting on a foam core to give shape without weight.
Also in Abu Dhabi was a beach with special demands. People want to be separated by gender so males can’t access women and children, and so the immigrant labour can’t access the employer class. As well the beach front is tucked in between the ocean and a freeway because infrastructure for transport was designed first and leisure and daily life second.
In Jakarta, her firm is working on Pluit City. Jakarta has a lot of problems in the sense of it sinking worse than Venice. In Jakarta they’ve emptied their aquifers and have to catch rain water to supply local water needs. The project reclaims land, builds seawalls, replants mangroves which were all cut down which should help stabilize the coastline and regrow the fishery.
She’s doing multi-family housing in Japan with a funky stone form of fish among bamboo.
In this interview she talks about renewing mines,
We worked in Winslow, New Jersey, on a clay quarry that had been a dump for 30 cars. It was a degraded and socially dangerous site. With the client, and an ecologist, we regenerated it so now it’s an informal nature conservancy. Now, people want to know if they can buy the land to develop it into housing (no). But the point is, that now, there is a whole new set of possibilities for the site and the town.
They resculpted the 500 acres creating ponds, mixing in wood chip with clay so it could grow. It went from being a waste area to an area that migrating flocks use on their flight path. It is now trees and local species have moved back in. There are 11,000 clay quarries in New Jersey but it takes will and desire.
Martha Schwartz (of Martha Schwartz Partners of London, UK and her firm, Martha Schwartz, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachussetts with projects in over 20 countries) was the speaker on November 4, 2013 at the National Gallery of Canada.
She has received a couple pages worth of highly regarded awards and prizes including the Cooper-Hewitt Museum National Design Award for her body of work in Landscape Architecture, Women in Design Award for Excellence, Boston Society of Architects, 2005, an honorary fellowship from RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), and several design awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, including residencies, tenure and an honorary degree.
But more importantly for this she was one of the most articulate of speakers the series has had and she organized the lecture into the half of principles of why landscape matters and then details of a few projects. And she did so with smatterings of humour, and with loads of enthusiasm and inspiration.
I was wishing through the talk that Mayor Jim Watson should have been there. He would have enjoyed her ideas, spirit and talk. Perhaps he was there. It is open to the public and a full room.
Quote: “You have beautiful, living and inanimate materials, and one can create something that has cultural resonance. The narrative or idea can be about anything. All great art is, essentially, a very personal statement or inquiry. A built landscape is not required to look or mimic nature. If we are creating it, like any other cultural art form, it can be what we wish it to be. There’s no law that says it has to look like nature. What if all the books or movies or plays were about one subject matter or were dictated by the government? It would be stopping the evolution of culture. Without realizing it, people have very clear notions of what a landscape should be, while we’re much more open about what a building can be because we know it’s a cultural artifact.” ~ Martha Schwartz [via]
P.S. The Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism present forum lectures irregularly through the regular university year.
Nov 18th will be the next lecture. It is by David Leatherbarrow of the University of Pennsylvania. He does research on history and theory of architecture and the city. His books include: Books include: Topographical Stories, Surface Architecture (with Mohsen Mostafavi), Uncommon Ground, Roots of Architectural Invention, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time, and Masterpieces of Architectural Drawing.
Environment General On the Peace Path Ottawa Photos Thirteen Thursday
- Mer Bleu Bog is the remains of ancient rivers turned into peat moss, some 5 meters thick and accumulating for 8000 years.
- Search for peat moss and you turn up links on mining it! Here’s a beautiful thing. Let’s kill it and burn it. Didn’t we already learn that lesson in Ireland? It’s in a weird position of being protected ecosystem, until we raid its resources, much like Algonquin Park, trumpeted as wild and free, while being logged. Humans are weird.
Since 1971 with the Ramsar convention started in Iran and signed by 168 nations, there has been recognition of this area as one of a few (just over 2000) of the world’s unique unique wetlands.
- How amazing that timing was. A shutter-click later they had flown off from wherever they came from.
- The bird calls and lack of traffic sound percolating in, only wind in the grasses and trees made for a restful spot. It’s been too long since we were here last but you can’t get there by city bus, and it would make for an awfully long cycle. We tacked on the sidetrip to a car rental and took a wonderful break time.
- It takes a lot of space to breathe.
The 8600 acres conversation area has areas of sandbar islands (with chainlink around trees because there are beavers) and open water areas and open areas of bog that resemble the area in the James Bay Basin.
- It also has area houses with signs saying “Dump the Dump Now”. How close is the plan to put a regional dump near the conservation area?
Evidence of people in the information signs and walkway are more welcome than the air traffic. Surely there must be a way to make engines quiet and our impact less big.
- The larch is one of the few needle trees that is also deciduous
- The berries are changing in the shorter days but the sky was entirely blue. The last time we were at Mer Bleu just at the second last curve of the boardwalk, it clouded over suddenly and started to rain.
- That upper right corner picture is cotton grass again, in case you were wondering.
- Funny how some march over the boardwalk in a timed powerwalk as if they were in any mall and others chat in a church-voice hush, while others use their outdoor voice as if they were at a ballgame. But mostly, there are few people.
- I’m not sure what the plant on the left is. Dad taught me the one on the right is called Indian tobacco. No one else seems to use that name for it. It’s a variety of Curly Dock. Some species are native, some not. They are poisonous to sheep, cattle and chickens, but humans can digest them. “When compared to spinach, curly dock has “… 1/3 more protein, iron, calcium, potassium, beta carotene and phosphorus.” [source]
- As a little kid I collected it up when it turned browner than that fern above, darker than an old penny, and rolled it in maple leaves and smoked it. The smoke was sweet and amusing but I didn’t get the point I didn’t think.
- This was to be Wordless Wednesday but given all the words, maybe we’ll bump it to Thursday 13 instead.
. Cedars and pines thin out and redden to a degree over winter but the larch, or tamarack, goes completely bald.
Quote: ““Democracy is not just the right to vote, it is the right to live in dignity.” ― Naomi Klein
Ready, set? Time for 13 things.
- It’s funny when travelling with 2 changes of clothes, I always have something to wear but look at a closetful and I can say, I got nothin’. Working while travelling, I have things to read and write. Back home, there’s an infinitely long to-do list.
- Decision Paralysis has a cure: Start Somewhere.
Tracks. Must follow. It sinks quite a lot in the mire. It must be a big Heffalump.
Why Pooh, it’s you.
- (I knew that.)
- On a more serious note, we have some people doing truly useful things, such as Dr. Alberto Yanosky, executive director of BirdLife Partner Guyra Paraguay. He has won the 2013 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation.
Alberto Yanosky has been helping preserve natural habitats sine the 80s. He’s pictured here at a welcome to the Grassland tour organized by Public Pastures-Public Interest.
- He’s talking about what he’s learned with local people to Saskatchewan who are pressing the importance of keeping unbroken tracts of pasture ecology, and managing it with the help of ranchers.
- The issue at stake is that formerly publicly community owned pastures (larger than Prince Edward Island) is being transferred to the Federal and Provincial government with that possibly being sold to private citizens. The risk there is chopping up the continuity into tract houses. Like forests habitats, pastures work best in uninterrupted stretches, not as scattered islands. Here’s some info on Community Pasture System.
- You may have seen that our knowledge of grasslands is inching up. One diligent fellow has learned to translate some of prairie dog language which can convey some details of size, shape, species, speed and if human, if armed. (If we can get a bit of rodent speech, maybe human’s might not all be dullards.)Alumni Cadmus Delorme, Dr. Lynn Wells, Vice President Academic of First Nations University, Prairie Biologist and Professor Dr. Fidji Gendron, and Trevor Herriot (who has spent decades observing grassland birds and has a book on them.). They talked about the key importance of valuing the species of the grasslands.
There’s a fundraiser dinner tonight in Regina with Graeme Gibson and Margaret Atwood.
- There’ll be other noteable guests. Glenn Olson of the National Audubon Society, Rob Clay of BirdLife International, Dr. Alberto Yanosky, from Paraguay, Southern Cone initiative and BirdLife International and Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. And a media conference on Friday.
Here’s a few second video of a crayfish as zhe battles the whitecaps washing in at Lumsden Beach, Saskatchewan.
Noteable Quoteable: “Funny, how gentle people get with you once you’re dead.” ~ Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard
Our mint’s come back. [Wordless Wednesday]
Crocuses and poetry. Better post this photo quick since there’s a winter storm advisory on. [Nicole Brossard just won the 8th ever winner of the littérature francophone Benjamin Fondane]
Noteable Quoteable: “foliage of word for word/gentleness that evades meaning/plunge into the dark/with metronome”~ Nicole Brossard, p. 6 of Notebook of Roses and Civilization as translated by Robert Majzels and Erín Moure.
See more of Our World #84.
Noteable Quoteable: “The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.” ~ Aleister Crowley