Landscape Architecture -Ecological Infrastructures
By Micah Moen
Laurie Olin: Sustainability with
a big or small “s” is a concept that’s been around
for a long time. We didn’t call it that in
earlier days. And it’s become very important
to a lot of people and it’s now on everybody’s radar.
But what does it mean? Well, it means many
different things. Ken Smith: A lot of people think
that it’s the green stuff, but in fact if you think
about sustainability, it’s a larger general concept
dealing with social issues and environmental, ecological
issues and economic issues. Thomas Woltz: I think a key part
of sustainability in landscape is responsiveness.
Responsiveness to not only the needs of the client,
to the program, but also to the needs or demands
of the ecology of the place that you’re working. Diana Balmori: For me it also means connectivity.
That means the fact that we have adopted and understand
that the world is an ecosystem and that we’re all connected
means that we have to act as if we’re all connected.
And in order to sustain our own life, we have to sustain
the life of the plants or of the rivers, of the air,
of the animals. It’s that connectivity
which is essential. Thomas Woltz: More and more
with changing climate globally, I think we’re finding that
landscapes have to not only tolerate
but actually embrace a regime of disturbance and become
resilient in the face of disturbance.
But we can’t really ignore the fact that inundation,
floods, drought, high winds, these things are going to have
an effect on our landscapes. Chris Reed: A great example
that’s very relevant right now is sea level rise.
How is it that cities can begin to remake themselves
or make themselves in ways that can accommodate
lower levels of water, higher levels of water, storm
surge inundation? Julie Bargmann: I think when you
don’t see landscape as this perfect snapshot
and a static thing, it gets to this whole issue
that’s become important in terms of this resiliency. Chris Reed: I’m thinking of a space that we designed
on Cape Cod. …It’s a site that’s along a
river that’s subject to tidal inundation.
There could potentially be multiple future
states for this project; sea level could rise, it could
inundate the site. The site could dry out
in certain ways. Radical wind shifts could begin
to really reshape how that site ecologically would
perform…. But by being able to respond to each of these
conditions we weren’t putting the town in the position of
having to defend one version of the park’s future from all
these other incursions, therefore lowering maintenance
and operations costs. This kind of thinking, which is
really informed by ecological research is something
that’s only now being brought into
public space design and even city design in fairly
significant ways. Julie Bargmann: It’s that
power of using landscape systems that are adaptive, you know,
that they’re malleable, they’re responsive, they just can respond… to the conditions.
And that’s…sustainability, in terms of just even
exposing those processes and allowing them to become part of
the built work. Mary Margaret Jones: And it
has to be social as well as environmental because
these changes involve people now.
You can no longer say we’re just in a world of environmental
planning, ecological planning that’s about the environment.
It all involves people now because it all
involves land use. Kathryn Gustafson: When you
build a piece that is really good for the public,
they understand that. They understand that
an effort has gone in. They understand when you build
something well for them, that you’re saying to them
I care about you. And I think that means they
start caring about it. Thus, it becomes more
sustainable. David Fletcher: Sustainable
design is, if you’re creating something
that people love. They will cherish it,
it’ll last. Laurie Olin: When we did Bryant
Park it was unsustainable, it was going downhill and
everybody hated it and nobody knew what to do with it.
Now after we redid it… people love it and they really take
care of it and it now generates enough
money for its own maintenance… producing things that people
value and desire and like, and want to be in, raises the
ability for them to take care of it. Ken Smith: Some part of design is actually defensive,
designing things that can sort of withstand abuse
at some level. And other parts of it are much
more kind of aspirational where you have to create
something that you hope will be beautiful enough or
loved enough that people will really want to take care of it.