No Longer Misunderstood Landscape Architects Enjoy Renaissance
...and tell them to fill in the edges of it. Now the attitude is much more mutual respect from the initiation. [The designs] relate to the natural environment in a more meaningful way.”
One of the newest – and highest-profile – examples of such a partnership is the recently completed High Line project in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. Designed by New York-based landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the High Line is a nearly $200 million public park built 30 ft above ground on a long-dormant railway that runs along Manhattan’s west side. The initial phase of the High Line opened in early June with subsequent phases expected to open starting in 2010.
“Landscape architects have been playing a bigger role because [open space] is seen not as an amenity but a requirement for urban living,” says Michael Samuelian, an architect with the New York-based Related Co., who are integrating a large public space component in their redevelopment of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.
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Drake attributes the intrinsic knack of landscape architects for collaboration to the different education and perspectives many of them have coming into the field – she recalls having students ranging from English majors to biologists – and even a chef – in her classes. Jack Carman, president of Medford, N.J.-based Design for Generations, started his career with a degree in childhood psychology. Roderick Cameron, president of the Connecticut chapter of the ASLA, was the PeaceCorp volunteer in Afghanistan, after first getting a degree in psychology and Twisler was once an editor in medical publishing. And Signe Nielsen, founding principal of the 30-year-old New York powerhouse Mathews Nielsen, was a ballerina.
As part of their general study, landscape architects are exposed to several disciplines: site design, historic preservation, urban planning, site security, water management, horticulture, and environmental sciences.
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“We’re schooled in an interdisciplinary approach, no question, and the jobs that come out the best are the ones that come out from cooperation between architects and engineers,” says Sam Melilla, founder of the 30-year-old Manasquan, N.J.-based Melillo + Bauer Associates.
The industry has been getting more attention since the recent embrace of sustainable design. “Sustainability is our call to arms, our badge of honor,” says Jane Cooke, executive director of the N.Y. ASLA. “We’ve been sustainable since 1899.”
More and more “regular,” non-park building projects now incorporate not just “landscaping” for aesthetic purposes, but also green roof design and water management to prevent flooding, reduce sewer-to-water contamination, and recycle storm water for irrigation. These elements help projects obtain LEED points, all while lowering maintenance costs, and are therefore here to stay.
“The sustainability and green building movements have magnified the importance of having a landscape architect – a steward of the land – as an integral part of the planning and design process,” says Dave Lustberg, director of urban design and landscape for Newwork, a development consultant in New Jersey.
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A large drive in both the scope of work and the role landscape architects play on projects has been the city’s reclamation of unused space, particularly the waterfronts. The 550-acre Hudson River Park (the largest in Manhattan after Central Park) has been quickly going uptown along what was just a decade ago Manhattan’s decrepit and unused west shore, with little access to the Hudson waterfront. Started in 1999 and scheduled to be 80-percent completed by the end of the year, the greens space will stretch from Battery Park to W 59th Street. The city brought on different landscape architects for the several segments of the park, including Sasaki Associates, Mathews Nielsen, Abel Bainnson Butz, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and a Richard Dattner Architects/Miceli Kulik Williams Joint Venture. The park includes what is already one of the city’s favorite dedicated bike paths, as well as sport fields, playgrounds, and reclaimed piers already being used for concerts and movies.
Another such project is the redevelopment of Governor’s Island. The current plans call for a new 40-acre park, a 2.2-mile waterfront promenade, and restoration of 33 acres if historic landscapes; overall, the island will have more than 100 acres of public green space when completed,
The project brought several U.S. architecture firms – Rogers Marvel Architects, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, and Urban Design+ – and Britain-based Arup under the helm of...