Category Archives: Announcements

Introducing Hidden Hydrology

Regular readers of the blog know of my long-time passions of both Vegitecture and Hidden Hydrology, which both dovetail nicely into the larger themes of Landscape+Urbanism.  While the L+U blog has been relatively intermittent, I’ve been hard at work developing a new website and blog for the Hidden Hydrology project. The goal is to culminate the work in some form of publication, but regardless, it seemed time to focus on that element in it’s own.  I’m also giving a talk at the Washington ASLA conference in Spokane later this month (April 21), so excited to share more to a broader audience.  Simply put, the project is summarized as:

“Exploring lost rivers, buried creeks & disappeared streams. Connecting historic ecology + the modern metropolis.”

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Without going into too much detail that may be gained by going to the site itself, the project is broken down into four sections.  The first section gives a quick overview of hidden hydrology and links to some of my original inspirations, including Anne Whiston Spirn and David James Duncan, along with an early, evocative map of Portland, along with the amazing historical ecology around the book Mannahatta.

A bit longer summary gives some context for the endeavor:  “At the basic level, hidden hydrology is the buried, piped and disappeared waterways that flow under our urban areas.  Development has driven underground these surface streams that used to weave through our cities – and with them we’ve lost the connection to natural systems, and robust ecological habitat that urban waterways can provide.  Beyond just focusing on pure daylighting and restoration, the exploration, mapping, and study of hidden hydrology offers new ways to conceptualize a range of interventions that reconnect us to our history and offer glimpses of solutions for the future.  It’s a broader concept of ‘restoration’ that looks through lenses of art, landscape architecture, urban ecology, and planning to define ways to celebrate, connect and regenerate our places.”

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The second section are links to many of the resources available, including precedents, projects, and resources from around the globe.  While linking to the other pages, I’m also providing links to some of the posts, including a diverse mix from Rome to London, San Francisco to Lexington, Kentucky.  The range of projects isn’t limited to projects, but encompasses art, mapping, poetry, literature, dance, stream daylighting, films, community engagement, and history.

A couple of highlights, including the project “Ghost Arroyos” in San Francisco:

Or the cool mapping work of David Ramos in DC at Imaginary Terrain.

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The third is an ongoing exploration of themes in a more expanded format, the site is built aroud a blog that has delved into some of the resources, and projects, but also allows for some rumination and coverage of original project work.   Of the 25 or so posts to date, many have covered cities and projects, expanding to case studies and deeper investigations.   These include projects inspired by hidden hydrology (such as Town Branch Commons in Lexington, top below), as well as historical maps and photos referenced in a literary context (Iain Sinclair’s ‘Swimming to Heaven’), and more in depth historical ecological studies (San Francisco Estuary Institute) to show a few.

1854 — The Corporation of London workmen repairing the Fleet sewer, south of Fleet street under the direction of Mr. W. Haywood. The sewers carried 87,000,000 gallon of water daily in 1854. — Image by © CORBIS

The diversity is what surprised me, to different tendrils which weave beyond just mapping but into a multitude of subjects.  An early post on the site, is illustrative of this concept, and is still one of my favorites, focused on the novel by Ben H. Winters, Underground Airlines and it’s use of the hidden hydrology of Indianapolis to tell a futuristic narrative of modern day slavery.

An excerpt from the novel explains this in a bit more detail.

“I cleared the trailer park and passed a jumble of picnic benches and playground equipment and stepped carefully down the slope of the ravine and swung the heavy beam of my flashlight along the creek.  Now it was clear, with the water swollen by the rains, the direction the brown water was still flowing.  The black mouth in the base of the shallow hill was an entrance, not an exit.  This low little trickle of mud water was a kind of rivulet, a poor cousin of a creek, and this spot behind the motor court is where some long-ago engineer had diverted it.
The creek was called Pogue’s Run. I’d found it on the map. I’d looked up the story.  This small waterway was discovered at the turn of the century – the eighteenth turning into the nineteenth — discovered and named and recorded, penciled in on early maps, when the city was not yet a city — when it was a gathering of huts, a stopping place on the way to other places.  The small river was inconvenient for the city fathers and the grid they’d drawn.  So they did just as Mama Walker said: they ran it underground.”

Beyond the fringes of hidden hydrology include some diversion into the very cool Atlas of Oblique Maps, a fascinating set of historical climate maps from the 1850s, and the ever popular Fisk maps of the evolution of changes to the Mississippi River.

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The fourth, which is more of a long-term is projects, is still in nascent stage, but offers the potential to showcase original work around Hidden Hydrology, specifically in Portland and Seattle, but encompassing some other miscellany as well.  Currently it highlights some early presentations, as well as base-mapping of the Cadastral Survey for each city, the springboard for further analysis.

The Mississippi maps inspired me to use some of the documentations to animate the changing course of the river within the valley over the last 4000 years.  These more

 

There’s a ton of great information out there, yet it’s an area of study that seems relatively untapped and full of potential.  If you’d like to contribute, know of some great case studies, and have the bug for historical maps, and how these can inform ecological design today, give a shout.  In the interim, check out the site and follow @hiddenhydrology on Twitter.

And stay tuned for some more explorations here at L+U related to urban ecology and habitat, and more posts on some recent vegitecture, as I am working on some related projects and doing some more focused research in these realms.

 

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Fantasy Island

Excited to see the announcement of a new global design ideas competition from LA+ Journal, entitled Imagination.

“Paradisiacal, utopian, dystopian, heterotopian – islands hold an especially enigmatic and beguiling place in our geographical imagination. Existing in juxtaposition to what’s around them, islands are figures of otherness and difference. Differentiated from their contexts and as much myth as reality, islands have their own rules, their own stories, their own characters, their own ecologies, and their own forms.”

This design ideas competition asks you to create a new island. You can locate it anywhere in the world, program it any way you want, and give it any form you can imagine.  The jury consists of Richard Weller, James Corner, Marion Weiss, Matthew Gandy, Javier Arpa and Mark Kingwell, and prize pool is $10,000 plus feature publication in the special issue of LA+.

Banner image: Gilligan’s island blueprint map by Mark Bennett image via The Nesting Game

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Google Timelapse

The announcement Google Earth Timelapse has created a bit of a stir, with a number of videos exploring landscape change of natural and urban systems.  From their site:

“Timelapse is a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years. It is made from 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016, which are made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.”

I’m a bit disappointed with the resolution – as it is not able to zoom in to a district level at a scale that provides appropriate level of detail.  That may be surmountable by using Google Earth Engine and delving into the API and programming tools.

There’s also a series of Datasets that are available from the Google Earth Engine that would be interesting to explore also, including maps for aerial imagery, geophysical data, climate/weather and demographics.

I used the Timelapse Tour Editor to quickly make a few maps of Seattle and Portland – with an eye towards  For Seattle, I wanted to focus on the development of South Lake Union, where Amazon and other development has been most pronounced in the past decade or so.  It shows how much redevelopment has occurred there, as well as throughout the downtown core (mostly visible with white roofs).

These are better by clicking the title and viewing in full size, as the grain for urban areas is pretty bad. 

South Lake Union and Downtown Seattle

For Portland, I wanted to zoom in on the inner Southeast area, around Division Street, which was been subject to a fair amount of density in recent years.  The inability to zoom into that level of detail makes this a bit less instructive, but does show the level of development north of downtown, and across the river the ‘fingers’ of density on transit mixed-use streets (which is what provides for vibrant, walkable urban neighborhoods that make Portland, well… Portland.

Portland

Lots of fun exploration planned for this.

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Goal: 10 Years / 1000 posts

I don’t blog as much as I used to.  Long time readers will notice that I had a time where i would write almost daily, which at the time was pretty fun, and in the first 3-4 years, had a consistent readership of 10s of thousands of viewers per month.  The black and white and yellow scheme – above, was hosted on Blogspot, and achieved good notoriety, with some top blog lists, articles, republications, and really surprisingly, many people telling me they read it!

This was a time, as well, when there weren’t a lot of blogs, so it was good to position this in a particular time and place.  There are many more great sources of landscape architecture and urban dialogue, and my interests evolved where blogging was less important.  That said, I consume a lot less info on landscape architecture, and probably use Twitter to fill some of what the blog did in terms of saving snippets and other things for retrieval later. While I appreciated the readership and dialogue,  and continue to do so, the goal was always to write and reflect on what I’m personally interested in.

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So over the more recent years, I do a post occasionally, which are often book reviews or reflections on some writings on something I feel is worth exploring.  Less posts but more focused, not on the day to day, but more generally.   I switched to a new site a few years ago- which is now on WordPress and hosted on its own URL.  Ebbs and flows of blogging are OK, and as I mentioned, there’s a lot of ways of writing, learning, and growing.   Last year, for instance, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, so wrote a novel (which as you may guess, has elements of landscape and urbanism), and want to write more of those (and much better ones).

But with these ebbs and flows, the itch sometimes comes back.  Sometimes its the same itch to just write, other times its a different itch in a different place.  While some bloggers strive for more polished work (and many, many are much better writers than I) my blogging is often sparsely edited and often just my ‘notes’ on things.   The blog is a notebook and while there’s sometimes narrative elements, I don’t spend a lot of time mapping out what i want to write.  In some ways I’ve done shorter posts, other times delved deeper which maybe has some more structure, but not a lot of planning.  I’ve done that planning in writing for academic pursuits (which is a very different style of course), but there’s a middle ground of accessible, interesting, and rigorous writing that I want to focus on.

My goal now is to focus on writing more polished work in an accessible manner and publish in various other sources (books, magazines, other sites) – opinion, interesting things, history, culture, landscape and urbanism.  I want to write a book.  And maybe a novel or two as well.  Growing as a writer, as one would expect, involves writing, which I haven’t done as much of lately, while not in school and not blogging.  And like any skills, they are in constant need of exercise.  So I’m inspired to write more, and exercise those skills, so the blog is a natural place for some of this to happen.

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While I’ve been feeling this, I looked at my blog and noticed that first, I was coming close to my 10 year anniversary of when i started blogging (late 2007). And second, I had published, a bit over 900 posts in this time. Thus my reconnection with wanting to write more and this serendipitous goal is something to inspire me to achieve,  I have set a target to get to: 10 years and 1000 posts

Which i think is a respectable 100 posts per year and a decade of blogging.  So my goal in the next year or so is to write around 100 more posts.  I’m also going to try to write things in other places.  If you’re used to a post a month, this will be a few more than you’re used to, but trust me, you’re gonna like it.  After that, who knows…

VEGITECTURE REVISITED

On a related note, through some miracle of internet archiving, I managed to find the long-lost spin-off Vegitecture blog.  Lost story, but my account was hacked in 2010, which corrupted a number of websites such as my Terra Fluxus site as well as vegitecture.net, the latter of which i didn’t have backed up.  So although i searched around for remnants I thought it was lost forever.  Earlier this summaer, i stumbled upon the brilliant and somewhat frightening Wayback Machine, an internet archiving project that probably has a lot of information we never knew was actually being backed up.  I was able to piece together the entire collection that was published through 2009-2010, which totaled an additional 140 posts which includes thousands of images and over 50,000 words on vegetated architecture.  You can access these through the site, and I’m also in the process of compiling the best in some form of publication.

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Rebel Cities Pt. 1

David Harvey is somewhat of a urbanist hero, and after reading reams of his work in grad school studies, I was  really excited to nab a copy of this 2012 book ‘Rebel Cities’ online for free download in PDF format.  The subtitle of this book is ‘From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution’, and with that Harvey evokes the work of Henri Lefebvre and a wealth on interesting scholarship on the modern interpretation of public space, freedom, and how these related to the modern metropolis.

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In the Preface, Harvey mentions stumbling upon a poster from a group from Paris called The Ecologistes “…a radical neighborhood action movement dedicated to creating a more ecologically sensitive mode of city living, depicting an alternative vision for the city.”  This vision was:

“It was a wonderful ludic portrait of old Paris reanimated by a neighborhood life, with flowers on balconies, squares full of people and children, small stores and workshops open to the world, cafes galore, fountains flowing, people relishing the river bank, community gardens here and there…”

Utopian visions aside, the 1960s was a time of massive change for Paris (and the rest of the world), which was when Lefebvre published ‘The Right to the City’ with, as mentioned by Harvey, an eye towards creating ‘an alternative urban life that is less alienated, more meaningful and playful but, as always with Lefebvre, conflictual and dialectical, open to becoming, to encounters (both fearful and pleasurable), and to the perpetual pursuit of unknowable novelty.” (x)

Looking forward to digging in more.   Read it?  Haven’t but want to and create a bit of ongoing dialogue?  Something conflictual and dialectical?

Let me know.

Hidden Hydrology Redux

Last week, I had the honor recently of presenting at a conference with one of my idols of landscape architecture, Anne Whiston Spirn.  Aside from stimulating conversation, she presented the old and new of her work from The Granite Garden through her ongoing work on the Mill Creek Project in Philadelphia, i was reminded of the tenets of persistence and the need to not work behind the scenes, but to continue to strive outwardly to make ecologically driven, research based, green and livable cities.  As many know that is inspired in me through work with water and watersheds, but also storytelling and ways to make evident that which is lost or merely hidden.  That inspiration comes many sources, but very much from the work of Ms. Spirn.

To capture my work and continue it in some form – i transferred some posts from the early days of my firm back in 2010 that formed the foundation of an ongoing work that is gaining more momentum in recent weeks, and worthy of a dusting off.  Partially as the blog is an archive of work and things i want to capture and remember – partially it is an opportunity to rework and re-frame these issues in a new time with some new energy.  Some folks will have seen this before in various forms – to others this might be new.  Over the next few days, i will repost some of the inspirations, starting today with the introduction – followed by some origins gleaned from others through the readings and explorations.  In all, it the various threads of this perpetually wandering generalist may be coming together to form a web, and with luck and work, a tapestry.

Hidden Hydrology – Portland Series Introduction

Originally published on Terra Fluxus – 12/21/2010

In the next year, TERRA.fluxus will be initiating a multi-phase project to explore the Hidden Hydrology of the city of Portland as the main research activity for the near future.   I have been fascinated with this since my first glimpse of the Disappeared Streams map published by Metro (will get my hands on one soon and give a glimpse) and it’s eventual configuration into a 2006 ASLA Presentation on ‘Neighborsheds for Stormwater Management‘ as an preliminary exploration of the concept.  The particular Metro map highlighted ‘historic’ streams that had been buried and piped through development of the City of Portland over the course of the last 150 plus years, showing existing as blue and those ‘disappeared’ in red.  While many westside creeks still ran free, the entire eastside was vivid red, long covered by roads, industrial buildings, houses, parks, and more.   While the methodology on that particular map was suspect (relying more on topographic analysis than hydrological markers), there are plenty of sources for historic waterways in maps, photos, and on-site investigation.

Thus the focus of the project, utilizing multiple sources to gain a more complete understanding of the underlying hydrological history of the area, with an aim towards using this information both in traditional planning and design manners, but also as the touchstone for a series of speculative works.

Portland, of course, has always been, and still is, a river city.   We live around waterways and bridge lifts, and relying on water for our recreation and port traffic, as well as giving us the overall image of our city.  Tucked along the banks of the Willamette and its confluence with the Columbia,  the history of water mirrors the history of urbanization, from the initial settlement patterns and grids of the 1850s up to modern conditions.  The early, or ‘pre-development’ snapshot is best captured in this compilation map of the 1852 Cadastral Survey, which was created right after the incorporation of Portland as a city in 1851.  This map, and others (a great collection of which can be found at the Bureau of Environmental Services site), will play parts in analysis throughout the project.

You can spend hours looking at this map, and placing the vision of this early city compared to it’s eventual form.  While Portland’s rivers and streams are beautiful – they are also highly troubled, with dual issues of industrial pollution and combined sewer overflows working in tandem to create issues for native fish (and people), landing many of our major waterways on lists of the most polluted rivers.  The idea of hidden hydrology is evident not in the still visible (although they are intimately connected), but those ‘urban’ waterways that over the years have changed from open streams and creeks to become piped as ‘infrastructure systems’ to deal with expanding growth of the metropolis.   Thus we look at the slow erasure of natural topography and hydrology at work in a political sphere, and begin to see what remains of this palimpsest.

The most urban example is found in Tanner Creek, the historic downtown river that wound through downtown for over fifty years, remaining intact (in form if not in quality) through urbanization, as seen in this 1881 illustration looking at downtown towards the northeast.

The proximity of this creek to development (and the Tannery) led to pollution and sanitation issues downstream, so as with many urban creeks, a period of modernization happened, in this case the 1917 implementation of the Tanner Creek Sewer project.  This forever buried the main stem of this historic creek through the heart of downtown in brick vault sewer (many of which are still functioning, or have recently been replaced).


:: images via Bureau of Environmental Services

While the historic are interesting in their own right (and there are ample sources of material to digest so more to come on this), the interaction of the new and old is both dynamic and informative.  Moving to the Southeast Quadrant, we can isolate the more detailed Cadastral maps (the survey developed the township, section geometry used today, thus giving us the ability to overlay old and new with a measure of precision).  The coverage through the 1850s and 60s is quite extensive, and will be useful when reconciled with the existing GIS coordinate systems.  An inverted version of the original survey maps gives an indication of their density of information.  The study area will be in the upper right hand quadrant of this township scale map.

A series of maps utilize GIS layering along with historical mapping underlayment to create a modern ‘routing’ for a stream in the lower Taggart basin.  First a section of the historical map (1852) was analyzed for hydrologic features (river, stream, wetland, etc.) based on the map features present at the time of the survey.  These are accented to show their location for referencing to other maps.

The topography and street grid are overlaid to show the relationship of water features to current configurations.  The addition of hillshade allows for fine-tuning of hydrological features to match remnant topographic that has not been leveled or erased through development.

Following this, the combined ‘hybrid’ map is reconciled into a workable base that is accurate to the historical location of ‘urban streams’ as well as current urban form.  Additional layers are added, and the iterations of analyses are only limited by time and usefulness.  Groundwater, soils, historical aerial photos, vacant lands, floodplains, and vegetative cover are just a few that spring to mind from glancing at Metro’s stock of layers.   I am also already other gathering data for a planned comparison with BES Subwatersheds, which mirror directly the configuration of subsurface pipe infrastructure that replaced these open channels sometime in the last 100+ years.  While our technology allows us to perform feats unbelievable to the 19th century Portander in lifting, pumping, and moving materials, there is still an inherent consistency and efficiency of using gravity to move water and waste that still makes these historic systems relevant as blueprints for existing conditions.

The other idea is to use this information for potential projects and interventions – looking opportunistically at the relationship of these systems over time and space.   To kick of this aspect, the next phase of analysis for this area will also be to ‘ground-truth’ the map hybrids – through a series of documented urban explorations (in the spirit of the Center for Land Use Interpretation perhaps?), along with further refinement, historical research, and analysis throughout 2011.

Stay tuned for more info after the new year.

Water and Urban Resilience

The International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) announced an interesting opportunity to explore ”Water and Urban Resilience” through photography.

waterhjemmeside

A bit about the project:

We sense a large request for inspiration on how to deal with water-related issues from all over the world. Whether it´s lack of water, too much water or unclean water, all societies of today are dealing with the issue. In many places people are in fact struggling to secure the future.  Innovative urban-planners and architects integrate these facts in their work today. However, many organizations and institutions have had challenges spreading their innovative knowledge and methods for improving future solutions internationally.

The call for visual representations on projects or solutions in architecture and urban planning continues through the 7th of January 2014.

sort4-(4)_0Find out how to submit here, and get more information via the video below.

Portland | Seattle

Well, it’s finally here.  This month, starting early November, after 16+ years in Portland, I’m relocating to Seattle (which also explains my posting absence).  It’s a bittersweet moment, as i am attached to my adopted hometown (after fleeing the cold of North Dakota), but excited about opportunities in work and professional growth, as well as a change of scenery in my move the north.

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The reasons are manifold, but i’ve checked out of school (my ongoing PhD at Portland State) and have joined forces with a great Northwest firm Herrera.  It’s a great professional and personal opportunity to expand my horizons and truly practice landscape architecture infused with science and an interdisciplinary team approach.

Portland, OR skyline

I love Portland for many ways (it’s simplicity, beauty, and spirit of community; the food, the Timbers, the accessibility, the 1/2 degree of separation) and why I’m excited to leave – (the over-nostalgic commitment to the weird, the passive aggressive do-gooder one-upsmanship, ; the smallness; the show Portlandia).

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This was brought up recently in a HuffPost article “Love Letters: Portland” captured so beautifully the good and the grating of this fairest of large towns.  While most folks i know loved this tribute, i kind of felt it was so much self-delusion, much without knowing why i felt that way.  Again, it’s not without tears, but not without a bit of relief as well to move.

Seattle is a tough city to grasp, both geographically and in personality.  It’s bigger for sure – not just in population but in sprawling immensity and height.  While Portland has water running through it – Seattle is truly a town on the water – with visual and physical access at every corner.  Traffic is crappy, but their bus system and other transit options aren’t bad.  I’m curious to find out more – but this is far from many an unlivable metropolis – and pretty green both figuratively and literally.  And also, pretty weird itself.

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While i take a cue from Tiebout and vote with my feet in this move northward for economic opportunities, it is not without a little bit of sadness and a fair amount of trepidation.  That said, they are both relatively liberal cities in the Pacific Northwest with similar climates, politics, and people – so it’s not like moving to Mars.

There have been no shortage of city comparisons (i.e. NPR; Travel & Leisure; SunsetCNN; City Data; GeekWire; on food, livability, hipsters, and of course, soccer.  Take a quick read, there’s a lot of civic pride, with tons of vitriol and humor in between.  We live where we do, and move to other places for a variety of reasons.  If i had my choice I’d probably live in Mexico and write books, but the lack of independent wealth leaves me with needs for fruitful and fulfilling work, and quality of life, amongst all other criteria.   As with most things, rating cities is kind of a pointless exercise.

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But anyway, be prepared, not in a comparison of city v. city, but rather of a observational diary from time to time on the differences.  Maybe ranting, nostalgic, or pining… it will be interesting to note the differences

 

KERB Journal – Call for Submissions

One of my favorite journals is KERB, (especially one from a few years back) which is a student-run publication from RMIT.  Now it’s 21st year, the journal is looking for content for the latest issue.  From their call for submissions:

The current topic is ‘Peripheral Processes: Adapted Modes of Practice’ and will address the current issues unfolding within design discourse. We seek submissions documenting design projects and processes in the form of research, essays, sketches and diagrams, collage, prose, photography, film, digital animations or film, grassroots projects, folk and contemporary art and everything in between.

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For more info, check out their website or their Facebook page.

 

Beginnings

The newest addition to the Terra Fluxus brand is the reintroduction of the blog Landscape+Urbanism in a new format – tied to my firm but with a separate life that allows for exploration of topics in greater detail – making a bit of breathing room between the professional and the .  There will, however, be a strong connection between the built work (showcased on the TF website) and the more abstract thoughts and explorations (to be found here).

Strangely enough, I looked back and realized that i started the original L+U blog around the same time of year over five years ago, so obviously there’s an itch that needs to be scratched in late November as winter sets in.  This is not an attempt to recreate that blog – but rather an outlet for thinking on things landscape and urbanism – of which inevitably my brain works its way back to.  I’m also phasing out of involvement with THINK.urban, so needed a spot to write and reflect a bit.

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The other part of the blog is that it have a very strong connection to Portland as a subject and an inspiration, so photos, history, politics, and other activities.  My home place is the urban laboratory worthy of its name as innovation hub and catalyst for change, and there’s plenty of material just within our tight urban growth boundary to fill volumes.  It will alas be featured prominently.