Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Urban design

Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and uses of safe public space. It has traditionally been regarded as a disciplinary subset of urban planning, landscape architecture, or architecture and in more recent times has been linked to emergent disciplines such as landscape urbanism. However, with its increasing prominence in the activities of these disciplines, it is better conceptualized as a design practice that operates at the intersection of all three, and requires a good understanding of a range of others besides, such as urban economics, political economy and social theory.
Urban design theory deals primarily with the design and management of public space (i.e. the 'public environment', 'public realm' or 'public domain'), and the way public places are experienced and used. Public space includes the totality of spaces used freely on a day-to-day basis by the general public, such as streets, plazas, parks and public infrastructure. Some aspects of privately owned spaces, such as building facades or domestic gardens, also contribute to public space and are therefore also considered by Urban design theory. Important writers on, and advocates for, urban design theory include Christopher Alexander, Michael E. Arth, Edmund Bacon, Peter Calthorpe, Gordon Cullen, Andres Duany, Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, Kevin Lynch, Roger Montgomery, Aldo Rossi, Colin Rowe, Robert Venturi, William H. Whyte, Bill Hillier, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
While the two fields are closely related, 'urban design' differs from 'urban planning' in its focus on physical improvement of the public environment, whereas the latter tends, in practice, to focus on the management of private development through planning schemes and other statutory development controls.
Public spaces are frequently subject to overlapping management responsibilities of multiple public agencies or authorities and the interests of nearby property owners, as well as the requirements of multiple and sometimes competing users. The design, construction and management of public spaces therefore typically demands consultation and negotiation across a variety of spheres. Urban designers rarely have the degree of artistic liberty or control sometimes offered in design professions such as architecture. It also typically requires interdisciplinary input with balanced representation of multiple fields including engineering, ecology, local history, and transport planning.
Much urban design work is undertaken by urban planners, landscape architects and architects but there are professionals who identify themselves specifically as urban designers. Many architecture, landscape and planning programs incorporate urban design theory and design subjects into their curricula and there are an increasing number of university programs offering degrees in urban design, usually at post-graduate level.
Urban design considers:
  • Urban structure – How a place is put together and how its parts relate to each other
  • Urban typology, density and sustainability - spatial types and morphologies related to intensity of use, consumption of resources and production and maintenance of viable communities
  • Accessibility – Providing for ease, safety and choice when moving to and through places
  • Legibility and wayfinding – Helping people to find their way around and understand how a place works
  • Animation – Designing places to stimulate public activity
  • Function and fit – Shaping places to support their varied intended uses
  • Complementary mixed uses – Locating activities to allow constructive interaction between them
  • Character and meaning – Recognizing and valuing the differences between one place and another
  • Order and incident – Balancing consistency and variety in the urban environment in the interests of appreciating both
  • Continuity and change – Locating people in time and place, including respect for heritage and support for contemporary culture
  • Civil society – Making places where people are free to encounter each other as civic equals, an important component in building social capital
Click here for more reading on Urban Design: Urban Design by Alex Krieger and William S. Saunders.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture deals with the design of outdoor as well as public spaces to achieve environmental, aesthetic, and behavioral outcomes. Landscape Architecture takes into consideration the social, ecological, and geological conditions of a space and then carefully accentuates or manipulates the space into a design that causes a desired outcome with those in or around the space. The scope of the profession includes urban design, site planning, City or urban planning, environmental restoration, parks and recreation planning; green infrastructure planning and provision, all at varying scales of design, planning and management. A practitioner in the field of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.

What Landscape architects do? (Source:

Landscape architecture encompasses the analysis, design, management, planning, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. Types of projects include:
  • Academic campuses
  • Conservation
  • Corporate and commercial
  • Gardens and arboreta
  • Historic preservation and restoration
  • Hospitality and resorts
  • Institutional
  • Interior landscapes
  • Land planning
  • Landscape art and earth sculpture
  • Monuments
  • Parks and recreation
  • Reclamation
  • Residential
  • Security design
  • Streetscapes and public spaces
  • Therapeutic gardens
  • Transportation corridors and facilities
  • Urban design
  • Water resources.
Landscape architects have advanced education and professional training and are licensed in Landscape Architecture in 49 states of the 50 states.

For an extensive history on Landscape Architecture and its cultural and architectural background: Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. It can be defined in biological terms as the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future.

With that being said; “nearly 80 percent of U.S. residents live in urban environments and such areas are continuing to grow. How and where urban development occurs can affect ecosystem quality and services, habitat protection, water resources, energy consumption, and indoor and outdoor air quality.”

The U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 declared as its goal a national policy to "create and maintain conditions under which [humans] and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."

Sustainability is being pushed so we can develop ways to reduce use of natural resources and improve indoor environments while reducing emissions from buildings of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants.

One of the leaders in this movement is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have developed programs and resources for helping states and local communities promote urban sustainability by supporting smart growth projects, green building and infrastructure design, energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings, and development of sustainability metrics for urban development.

Many companies are now pursuing the goal of sustainability realizing that protecting the environment makes good business sense. Many EPA programs have anticipated and contributed to advancing sustainability concepts, some of the most prominent of these programs are: EnergyStar and WaterSense.

There are many different ways in we each of us can contribute to living a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are some EPA sites with suggestions and tips on how you can contribute to sustainability in your roles as a consumer and citizen, and as a steward of the environment:
For more information about how you can help make a sustainable community: Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments by Mark Roseland.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Green Building

A sustainable building, or green building is an outcome of a design philosophy which focuses on increasing the efficiency of resource use — energy, water, and materials — while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment during the building's lifecycle, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal. Though green building is interpreted in many different ways, a common view is that they should be designed and operated to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:
  • Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources
  • Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity
  • Reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation
A similar concept to green building is natural building, which is usually on a smaller scale and tends to focus on the use of natural materials that are available locally. Other related topics include sustainable design, green architecture, and energy efficient buildings.
Green building brings together a vast array of practices and techniques to reduce and ultimately eliminate the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health. It often emphasizes taking advantage of renewable resources, e.g., using sunlight through passive solar, active solar, and photovoltaic techniques and using plants and trees through green roofs, rain gardens, and for reduction of rainwater run-off. Many other techniques, such as using packed gravel or permeable concrete instead of conventional concrete or asphalt to enhance replenishment of ground water, are used as well. Effective green buildings are more than just a random collection of environmental friendly technologies, however. They require careful, systemic attention to the full life cycle impacts of the resources embodied in the building and to the resource consumption and pollution emissions over the building's complete life cycle. Before focusing on materials and techniques, some believe that the first priority for green building is to reduce the building's demand on resources and energy, and recognize the direct relationship between a building's size and its demands.
On the aesthetic side of green architecture or sustainable design is the philosophy of designing a building that is in harmony with the natural features and resources surrounding the site. There are several key steps in designing sustainable buildings: specify 'green' building materials from local sources, reduce loads, optimize systems, and generate on-site renewable energy.


Building materials typically considered to be 'green' include rapidly renewable plant materials like bamboo (because bamboo grows quickly) and straw, lumber from forests certified to be sustainably managed, ecology blocks, dimension stone, recycled stone, recycled metal, and other products that are non-toxic, reusable, renewable, and/or recyclable (e.g. Trass, Linoleum, sheep wool, panels made from paper flakes, compressed earth block, adobe, baked earth, rammed earth, clay, vermiculite, flax linen, sisal, seagrass, cork, expanded clay grains, coconut, wood fibre plates, calcium sand stone, concrete (high and ultra high performance, roman self-healing concrete, etc.) The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) also suggests using recycled industrial goods, such as coal combustion products, foundry sand, and demolition debris in construction projects Polyurethane heavily reduces carbon emissions as well. Polyurethane blocks are being used instead of CMTs by companies like American Insulock. Polyurethane blocks provide more speed, less cost, and they are environmentally friendly.
Building materials should be extracted and manufactured locally to the building site to minimize the energy embedded in their transportation as well.
For more information about Green Building: Green Building A to Z: Understanding the Language of Green Building by Jeffy Yudelson.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Botanical Gardens

Botanical gardens primarily have been created to monitor, categorize, and document growth, and habits for scientific purposes. Botanists and horticulturalists tend and maintain the garden's vast library and herbarium of plants and plant material. Botanical gardens often also serve to entertain and educate the public, upon whom many depend for funding. Not all botanical gardens are open to the public: for example the Chelsea Physic Garden. According to the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, "Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education."

Starting in the 18th century, European botanical gardens sent plant-collecting expeditions to various parts of the world and published their findings. Voyages of exploration routinely included botanists for this purpose. Subsequent scientific work studied how these exotic plants might be adapted to grow in the garden's locale, how to classify them, and how to propagate rare or endangered species. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, near London, has continuously published journals and more recently catalogues and databases since this time.

For more reading on botanical gardens: Great Botanic Gardens of the World by Sara Oldfield.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

National Gardening Association

The National Gardening Association (NGA), founded in 1973, is a nonprofit leader in plant-based education. The NGA provides any with materials engineered to develop an appreciation for the benefits of gardening to a society.

The National Gardening Association's thought is that "plants have the power to change our lives. They enable the simple and therapeutic pleasure of working in one’s own garden. They play a basic role in providing clean air and serve as a nutritious basis for healthy living. And they are uniquely effective teaching tools." The National Gardening Association has been working for over 30 years to sustain and renew the connection between people, plants, and the environment through the principles taught in gardening.

The NGA's programs and initiatives seek to highlight the opportunities for plant-based education in schools, communities, and personal backyards throughout the United States. They strive to serve as a connection from people to gardening in five core fields:
  • Plant-based Education
  • Health and Wellness
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Community Development
  • Responsible Home Gardening
National Gardening Association's Core Fields of Emphasis
General Programs and Activities of the NGA
Web Sites
For more reading on Gardening with Children: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children. By Sharon Lovejoy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Allotment Garden

Allotment gardens are a type of community garden, however allotment gardens are highly concentrated in one place that can span up to several hundreds of land parcels. These parcels are assigned to individuals or families, and each parcel is cultivated individually, whereas, most community gardens are tended collectively by a group of people.

In allotment gardens a parcel for an individual size can range any where between 200 and 400 square meters, and most plots include sheds for tools and shelters. The land for allotment gardens is leased from the owner (whether they be private, public, or government,) to the individual(s), providing the land be used strictly for gardening. Gardeners pay a small membership fee to the associated owner, and like in all community gardens must abide by the rules governing use of the property.

Allotment gardens are most widely found throughout Europe and the Philippines and can be found often on the outer rim of larger cities and towns.

Purpose of Allotment Gardens:

"The Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux, a Luxembourg-based organization representing three million European allotment gardeners since 1926, describes the socio-cultural and economic functions of allotment gardens as follows:"
  • for the community a better quality of urban life through the reduction of noise, the binding of dust, the establishment of open green spaces in densely populated areas;
  • for the environment the conservation of biotopes and the creation of linked biotopes;
  • for families a meaningful leisure activity and the personal experience of sowing, growing, cultivating and harvesting healthy vegetables amidst high-rise buildings and the concrete jungle;
  • for children and adolescents a place to play, communicate and to discover nature and its wonders;
  • for working people relaxation from the stress of work;
  • for the unemployed the feeling of being useful and not excluded as well as a supply of fresh vegetables at minimum cost;
  • for immigrant families a possibility of communication and better integration in their host country;
  • for disabled persons a place enabling them to participate in social life, to establish contacts and overcome loneliness;
  • for senior citizens a place of communication with persons having the same interests as well as an opportunity of self-fulfillment during the period of retirement.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Zen Gardens

Zen GardenThe origin of Zen gardens are drawn back to the religion of Zen Buddhism. Zen gardens also know as Japanese rock gardens or "dry landscape" gardens were places inside of Zen temples of Meditation where the priests would go to both meditate and contemplate things of both the physical and spiritual nature.
The surroundings of a Japanese garden such as the buildings, tsukiyama (artificial hills), paths, terraces, and stone compositions determine its structure or framework. These gardens are constantly changing or are what would be called a living work of art, due to the fact that nature changes with the weather, climate, and seasons. Plants and trees are constantly pruned and sculpted to create a new experience for those experiencing it; hence, the phrase "A Japanese or Zen garden is never the same and never really finished."

A Zen Garden must be carefully maintained by those skilled in the art of training and pruning, or over time, it will lose the static effect the artists are trying to maintain.

All parts of the Zen Garden are symbolic of a greater feature in nature. The act of raking gravel into patterns recalls waves or rippling water, and helps the priests focus their concentration as they seek perfection in the lines of rocks. The patterns are not static though as they develop variations in patterns to create a greater experience. The stone arrangements represent mountains and other miniature elements portray natural water elements, rivers, waterfalls, and islands. Forest covered land is represented in the use of moss. The use of stone can also sometimes be used to symbolize boats, or even people as well.
The Sakuteiki "Creating a Garden", the most influential garden book for Japanese garden design outlines the art or act of "setting stones upright", ishi wo taten koto. When the Sakuteiki was written, the act of gardening was the placement of stones.

"Make sure that all the stones, right down to the front of the arrangement, are placed with their best sides showing. If a stone has an ugly-looking top you should place it so as to give prominence to its side. Even if this means it has to lean at a considerable angle, no one will notice. There should always be more horizontal than vertical stones. If there are 'running away' stones there must be 'chasing' stones. If there are 'leaning' stones, there must be 'supporting' stones."
"The influence of Zen on garden design was (probably) first described as such by Kuck in the early 20th century and disputed by Kuitert by the end of that century. What is not disputed is the fact that karesansui garden scenery was (and still is) inspired (or even based on) originally Chinese and later also Japanese, landscape paintings." -Wikipedia

Influential Zen Gardens:

One of the most well known Japanese rock gardens is the garden at Ryoan-ji in northwest Kyoto, Japan. Another well know Zen garden is: Suizenji Koen in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture Japan.

For more information on the art of the Japanese or Zen Gardens: The art of the Japanese GardenThe Art of the Japanese Garden by David Young, Michiko Young, Tan Hong Yew, or the most influential book on Zen Gardens: Sakuteiki: Visions of the Japanese Garden by Jiro Takei, and Marc P. Keane.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Planting Design

Throughout history planting design has adapted or mirrored the needs of the civilization in which it is used. It is an aspect of the history of gardening as well as the history of landscape architecture.

Planting design in ancient gardens was often medicinal plants mixed with fruits, and vegetables for food and flowers for decoration. Then starting with the Renaissance planting designs moved towards the the aesthetic view of the culture. The two styles which emerged during this period, were formal planting design and naturalistic planting design. These require a knowledge of the culture and ecological setting of the area, as well as a level of horticultural knowledge. The designs were predominantly geometrical (trying to gain some stability in the changing world around them,) and plants were used to form patterns.

Naturalistic planting design originated as early as 200 B.C. in the more eastern areas of the world, namely China, Japan, and India. In the West, the picturesque movement strongly influenced the arrangement of plants in informal groups. These arrangements fit into the landscape garden style.

Planting designs or planting plans now give specific instructions about; size and spacing of plants, plant species to be used, soil preparations needed, and plant maintenance. These plants aid landscape designers, contractors, as well as private owners to develop a design and keep a record of the planting that have been made. Often a planting strategy will be developed to keep track of the long term outlook for the design.

Fundamentals of Planting Design

Plants are the focus of a garden, and as such need to be the main focus of the garden; As opposed to the non-living materials that form the exterior landscape spaces, (i.e. stone, wood,and other hardscape materials.) Plants are extremely dynamic and being such any great design must consider the seasons in which the plants flower and produce fruit, their growth and lifespan, as well as when they reproduce and mature.

The types of plants we choose and how they are arranged must satisfy both the function and purpose of the garden. Planting design is used to harmonize and accent the elements, materials, and qualities of a site; and a good planting design creates the feeling of nature or makes each plant appear as if they belong. It also allows us to experience nature on different levels.

For more information on planting design, and its principles: Planting Design Illustrated by Gang Chen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mixed Use Development

Mixed-use development is the practice of allowing more than one type of use in a building or set of buildings. In planning zone terms, this can mean some combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, or other land uses.

Mixed-use development provides flexible, performance-based zoning standards. It allows residential uses integrated with commercial, employment, and civic uses in appropriate locations. Examples of this would be main streets, downtown areas, neighborhood centers, and other core places. Flexibility in the height of buildings, housing densities, lot coverages, yards being setback, landscaping, and other zoning provisions are all considered in mixed use developments. Where mixed-use development is permitted, codes should allow residential uses above or behind permitted commercial or civic uses, and the combination of compatible commercial uses (i.e. office, retail, entertainment, and services).

The idea behind Mixed use development is to also allow for small-scale commercial uses in residential neighborhoods thus allowing people to walk to nearby establishments for quick necessities, (i.e. a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, etc) rather than having to drive to the store.

Commercial development is constantly reinventing itself. After relocating in strip-malls, commercial development is now returning to America’s downtowns and main streets. These areas are experiencing a renaissance, as people seek more intimate and pedestrian-friendly shopping experiences. Suburban commercial centers and corridors, too, are being transformed. Some big box stores are evolving into mixed-use centers with entertainment uses, and malls are turning themselves “inside-out,” using storefronts that mimic traditional downtowns. Cities are converting brownfields into urban villages with housing, retail, entertainment, and civic uses, and e-commerce is spawning small businesses in old warehouses and along main streets. All of these innovations pose opportunities and challenges for managing growth in our communities.

Principles of Mixed Use Development:
  • Efficient Use of Land Resources- Efficiency means urban development is compact and uses only as much land as is necessary.
  • Full Utilization of Urban Services- Use existing service capacity where available, and make the most of our infrastructure investments. Where needed size new facilities to meet the needs of the population.
  • Mixed Use- Mixed-use development brings compatible land uses closer together.
  • Transportation Options- Walking, Bicycling, Public Transit, and Private Transit are all included in ones transit options making communities more friendly and unified.
  • Human–Scale Design- Smart design is attractive design that is pedestrian–friendly and appropriate to community character and history. The objective is to design buildings to a human scale for aesthetic appeal, pedestrian comfort, and compatibility with other land uses.
Some of the benefits of Mixed Use Development are:
  • Economic development
  • Revitalization of main streets, downtowns, and neighborhood centers (reverting back to the city beautiful movement)
  • Development of needed housing close to jobs and services; and the creation of jobs close to where people live
  • Transportation choices and connectivity
  • Walkable communities and transit-supportive development, causing a decrease in commuter congestion
  • Energy conservation
Mixed Use Development is intended to bring order, clarity and a pleasing harmony to the urban places within the city; renewing the character, and feeling of community.

For complete information on Mixed Use Development practices: Mixed-Use Development Handbook by Dean Schwanke

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged to regulate chemicals and protect human health by safeguarding the natural environment: air, water, and land. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when its establishment was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States. It is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The EPA is not a Cabinet agency, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank. Lisa P. Jackson is the current Administrator. The agency has approximately 18,000 full-time employees.

The Environmental Protection Agency or "EPA employs 18,000 people across the country, including their headquarters offices in Washington, DC, 10 regional offices, and more than a dozen labs. Their staff is highly educated and technically trained; more than half are engineers, scientists, and policy analysts. In addition, a large number of employees are legal, public affairs, financial, information management and computer specialists"

So what does the EPA Do?

The EPA leads the nation's environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. Their mission is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, the EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

On July 9, 1970, President Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the Environmental Protection Agency as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner, safer America.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Urbanism

New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning.

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards prominent before the rise of the automobile and encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to Regionalism and Environmentalism.

The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:

“We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”

New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.

Until the mid 20th century, cities were generally organized into and developed around mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. For most of human history this meant a city that was entirely walkable, although with the development of mass transit the reach of the city extended outward along transit lines, allowing for the growth of new pedestrian communities such as streetcar suburbs. But with the advent of cheap automobiles and favorable government policies, attention began to shift away from cities and towards ways of growth more focused on the needs of the car.

This new system of development, with its rigorous separation of uses, became known as "conventional suburban development" or pejoratively as urban sprawl, arose after World War II. The majority of U.S. citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last fifty years, and automobile use per capita has soared.

In 1991, the Local Government Commission, a private nonprofit group in Sacramento, California, invited architects Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stefanos Polyzoides, and Daniel Solomon to develop a set of community principles for land use planning. Named the Ahwahnee Principles (after Yosemite National Park's Ahwahnee Hotel), the commission presented the principles to about one hundred government officials in the fall of 1991, at its first Yosemite Conference for Local Elected Officials.

Calthorpe, Duany, Moule, Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, and Solomon founded the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism in 1993. The CNU has grown to more than 3,000 members, and is the leading international organization promoting new urbanist design principles. It holds annual Congresses in various U.S. cities.

New Urbanism is a broad movement that spans a number of different disciplines and geographic scales. And while the conventional approach to growth remains dominant, New Urbanist principles have become increasingly influential in the fields of planning, architecture, and public policy.

The principles of New Urbanism are:

1. Walkability

  • Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
  • Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
  • Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

2. Connectivity

  • Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
  • A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
  • High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

3. Mixed-Use & Diversity

  • A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
  • Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races

4. Mixed Housing-

  • A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity (Duplexes, Small Lots, Condos, Townhouses, etc)

5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

  • Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

  • Discernable center and edge
  • Public space at center
  • Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
  • Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
  • Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

7. Increased Density

  • More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
  • New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

8. Green Transportation

  • A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
  • Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

9. Sustainability

  • Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
  • Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
  • Energy efficiency
  • Less use of finite fuels
  • More local production
  • More walking, less driving

10. Quality of Life

  • Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.
Click here for more information about New Urbanism: The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community by Peter Katz.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Brownfields are abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use. Expansion or redevelopment of such a facility may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.

In the United States city planning jargon, Brownfield land (or simply a Brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up. Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, such as a Superfund site, does not fall under the Brownfield classification. Mothballed Brownfields are properties which the owners are not willing to transfer or put to productive reuse.

The term brownfields first came into use on June 28, 1992, at a U.S Congressional field hearing hosted by the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition. Also in 1992, the first detailed policy analysis of the issue was convened by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. The United States Environmental Protection Agency selected Cuyahoga County as its first Brownfield pilot project in September 1993.

Generally, Brownfield sites exist in a city's or town's industrial section, on locations with abandoned factories or commercial buildings, or other previously polluting operations. Small brownfields also may be found in many older residential neighborhoods. For example, many dry cleaning establishments or gas stations produced high levels of subsurface contaminants during prior operations, and the land they occupy might sit idle for decades as a Brownfield.

Some state governments restrict development of Brownfield sites to particular uses in order to minimize exposure to leftover contaminants on-site after the cleanup is completed; such properties are deed-restricted in their future usage. Some legally require that such areas are reused for housing or for new commercial use in order not to destroy further arable land. The redevelopment of Brownfield sites is a significant part of new urbanism. Some brownfields are left as green spaces for recreational uses.

For historical reasons, many Brownfield sites are close to important thoroughfares such as highways and rivers; their reclamation can therefore be a major asset to a city. An example of this is the Atlantic Station project in Atlanta, the largest Brownfield redevelopment in the United States. In Seattle, rusted remains of a gas factory were left in place to add character to Gas Works Park.

But one of the most well-known areas in the United States for Brownfield redevelopment is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has successfully converted numerous former steel mill sites into high-end residential, shopping and offices. Several examples of Brownfield redevelopment in Pittsburgh include the following:
  • The Waterfront in Homestead, Pennsylvania previously occupied by Carnegie Steel
  • Summerset at Frick Park in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood
  • Southside Works, a mixed-use development in the South Side neighborhood
  • Pittsburgh Technology Center in the Hazelwood (Pittsburgh) neighborhood
  • Washington’s Landing, a waterfront center for commerce, manufacturing, and housing in Herr's Island
For more information about Brownfield Regeneration: Sustainable Brownfield Regeneration: Liveable Places from Problem Spaces by Tim Dixon, Mike Raco, Philip Catney, and David N. Lerner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

American Horticultural Society

American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (The American Horticultural Society)The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is a nonprofit, membership-based organization that promotes excellence in American horticulture. It is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
Established in 1922, the AHS is one of the oldest national gardening organizations in the United States. Today's organization resulted from the merger of three gardening groups: the current namesake American Horticultural Society, the National Horticultural Society, and the American Horticultural Council.
In addition to publishing horticultural reference books, the American Horticultural Society publishes a bi-monthly magazine, The American Gardener, which is a member benefit. Other benefits of membership include participation in the annual seed exchange, discounted or free admission into participating botanic gardens and arboretums across the United States, and discounted admission into AHS events and programs.
The American Horticultural Society conducts various events annually, to educate and inspire gardeners. Each summer the AHS conducts the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium, which is a forum for educators, garden designers, community leaders, and children’s gardening advocates to network and collaborate on techniques and practices to engage children with the natural world. Numerous Garden Schools are also conducted annually, covering various topics from gardening with native plants to sustainable gardening.
Society headquarters are located at River Farm, overlooking the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. Annual events at River Farm include hosting an annual spring plant sale, educational lectures, and a gala fundraiser each fall. Education is further instilled in the Society’s internship program, which hires interns in editorial/communications, youth programs, website development and maintenance, and horticulture. The Horticultural and Corporate Partners programs join other allied organizations who help to support the Society’s vision of making a nation of gardeners.

For more reading on the practices of the American Horticultural Society: American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Christopher Brickell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community Gardens

City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in AmericaThe majority of Community Gardens are available for public use, and provide the community with green space. In addition to green space they are spaces of recreation, social gatherings, beautification, and education for the community. Community gardens are often managed and maintained by those who have a plot in the garden, rather than a hired staff. Dividing the garden into individual plots or tending the garden in a communal fashion, ensures that the garden is always cared for.

Some influential community gardens, are:
There are many different types of community gardens. Some resemble European "allotment" gardens, with plots where individuals or groups can grow vegetables and flowers. Others are devoted to creating ecological green space, growing flowers, educational purposes, or providing access to gardening to those who otherwise could not have a garden (i.e. the elderly, homeless, and or yardless.)

"The majority of community gardening programs are collections of individual garden plots. Frequently the plot sizes are between 3m × 3m (10'×10') and 6m × 6m (20'×20'). This is consistent with community gardens sponsored by public agencies such as Park and Recreation Districts, city departments, large non-profits, or a coalition of different entities and groups. Plot holders typically are asked to pay a modest fee each year and abide by a set of rules to maintain the gardens productivity. Work days, fundraisers, and social gatherings are often encouraged. "Community garden organizers typically say that "growing community" is as important as growing vegetables, or, as the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) puts it: 'In community gardening, 'community' comes first.'"

(The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is non-profit organization of volunteers, professionals and member-organizations working in support of community greening in rural and urban areas across Canada and the United States. ACGA and its member organizations work together to promote community food and ornamental gardening, preservation and management of open space, urban forestry, and integrated planning and management of developing urban and rural lands.)

"The European history of community gardening in the US dates back to the early 1700s, when Moravians created a community garden as part of the community of Bethabara, near modern Winston-Salem, North Carolina - a garden still active and open for visitors today! First Nations peoples also gardened with a community approach (Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden paints a picture of gardens among the Hidatsa), likely for generations before the arrival of waves of immigrants."

For more reading on Community Gardens: City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America. By Laura J. Lawson.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Horticulture is the study and science of plant cultivation. Horticulturists work and research in the fields of cultivation, plant propagation, plant breeding genetic engineering, and crop production. Horticulture involves trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, and turf. Horticulturists work to improve the quality, nutritional value, resistance to diseases insects and environmental conditions, and crop yield. Horticulture is the compound of the words horti, meaning grass, and the word culture (grass culture.)

Some of the earliest origins of horticulture lie in the transition of human communities from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary or semi-sedentary horticultural communities, where they would cultivate on a smaller scale a variety of crops in the immediate area of their dwellings or in specialized areas visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. The most widely know beginnings of horticulture are found in the Mesoamerican cultures, where they would use a method know as slash and burn or areas know as swiddens. The technique was to cultivate a plot of land and then after a few seasons they would abandon the site and cut down or burn the forests of a new area to cultivate that area.

For more reading on Horticulture: Principles of Horticulture 5th Edition. By C. R. Adams - K. M. Bamford - M. P. EarlyPrinciples of Horticulture, Fifth Edition

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

The Art of Landscape Architecture (American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series)The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association representing Landscape Architecture in the United States. At is beginning on January 4, 1899 ASLA started out with less than 15 members; They now have more than 18,000 members and 48 chapters, representing all 50 American states, US territories, and 68 countries around the world. The goals of the American Society of Landscape Architects were to "establish landscape architecture as a recognized profession in North America," "develop educational studies in landscape architecture," and "provide a voice of authority in the 'New Profession.'" Their current goals, which are: to raise awareness of the profession, and legislative advocacy on issues that matter most to the profession, including licensure, haven't deviated a bit from their origins.

The American Society of Landscape Architects works to increase the public’s awareness of and appreciation for the profession of landscape architecture. ASLA is an active advocate for the profession at the local, state and national levels on public policy issues including licensure, livable communities, sustainable design, surface transportation, the environment, historic preservation, small business issues, and more.

For more information or to become a member of ASLA visit

For some of the many American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series: The Art of Landscape Architecture by Samuel Parsons. Follow this link for a the entire list of books on the American Society of Landscape Architects Centennial Reprint Series.

Monday, September 7, 2009

US Forest Service

Forest ServiceThe US Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that watches over the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. These areas encompass 193 million acres of United States soil. The National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and the branch of Research and Development are all divisions of the US Forest Service.

In 1876, Congress created the office of Special Agent in the Department of Agriculture to assess the state of the forests in the United States. Appointed head of the office was Franklin B. Hough. And In 1881, the office was expanded into the, at that time, newly formed Division of Forestry. Some of the acts that were passed by the Forest Service were the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 which authorized the withdraw of land parcels from the public domain as forest reserves. This land was managed by the Department of the Interior. In 1901, the Division of Forestry was renamed the Bureau of Forestry. The Transfer Act of 1905 transferred the management of forest reserves from the General Land Office of the Interior Department to the Bureau of Forestry, now known as the US Forest Service. The first Chief Forester of the US Forest Service and Landscape Architect was Gifford Pinchot.There are now forests across the United States in his name.
Some of the federal legislation which affects the Forest Service includes:

For an extensive history of the United States Forest Service: The U.S. Forest Service: A HistoryThe U.S. Forest Service: A History by Harold K Steen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Landscape Connections Resource List

Landscape Connections Resource List

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Sustainability News

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.