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

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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.