Monday, July 11, 2011

The Future is Shaped by Landscape Architects

Landscape architecture is not just about creating pretty gardens and back yards. Landscape architects are taking a leading role in shaping cities along with architects and urban planners.

Landscape architects are shaping the future by reclaiming abandoned urban spaces and transforming them into new public spaces. Rather than looking only at natural environments and deciding how to reshape them, landscape architects are also being asked to help reclaim abandoned waterfronts, collapsing factories, and neglected river systems.

The High Line in lower Manhattan is a good example of an urban renewal project done by landscape architects. It was an unused elevated train line once used to transport goods that has now been converted into an elevated city park. The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980.

The High Line is now an elevated linear park with plantings and viewpoints along the route. It is located on Manhattan's West Side and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. Section 1 opened to the public on June 9, 2009 from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street and Section 2 opened June 8, 2011 between West 20th and West 30th Streets.

Lesson Idea: Landscape Architecture is a 4D spatial design field. Even though students will do planning using 2D drawings and 3D models they must learn to think spatially like architects and landscape architects.

Ideation: Have students identify areas in their communities that involve landscape architecture. Also identify areas that could be improved by being redesigned by landscape architects. Study other landscape architecture projects like the High Line and many others in cities around the world. Learn about Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture. Have students select a problem area in their community that could be improved with better landscape design.

Visualization: Do lots of sketches to explore possible solutions to the landscape architecture challenge selected. Put the sketches up for everyone to see and build off of each other's ideas. What will need to be included in any successful solution? Safety? Cost? Maintenance? Aesthetics? Innovation?

Prototyping: Start building quick models of possible solutions. Which ones are starting to show some promise? Build a scale model of the site and possible design solutions. Show changes in elevation levels and include human figures to indicate scale and usage.

Presentation: Show the model to others and make a presentation explaining the features of the design solution - what problems it solves and why it is important. Who are the decision makers and stakeholders that should be included?

Click on the heading above to learn more about the High Line.

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