It’s very much springtime, which means it’s time for patio hangouts, porch cocktails, backyard BBQs, and … AN’s Outdoor Spaces conference. The virtual May 6 event features speakers and panelists from top landscape architecture firms who will be discussing recent and current projects as well as some of the most pressing issues in the field today. Registration and more information can be found here.
In the meantime, check out these 10 leading landscape projects from the firms of our featured speakers:
Story Wiggins and Jenny Jones | Terremoto + Jesse Salazar | Salazar Landscaping
The owners of a mall in Culver City, California, next to the Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line were interested in developing a nearby plot of land beneath the elevated light rail tracks into a usable public space. TERREMOTO designed Platform Park, as the space (pictured at top) is now known, by embracing the tough site’s constraints. Plantings sit in raised beds above the poor-quality existing soil, and boulders are clustered around the railway’s concrete piers, as though the infrastructure were emerging from a natural rock formation. Appropriately for a site integrated into a regional transit network, the designers sourced most of the project’s materials from within 100 miles of the park, which opened last year.
Allen Compton | SALT
Los Angeles-based SALT principal Allen Compton will join OLIN’s Lucinda R. Sanders for a panel on “significant river-adjacent projects that address the deep cultural and ecological issues of each site: Focusing on the Origin Park, a 650+ acre reclamation site on the Ohio River and The Bowtie, a former railyard on the Los Angeles River. Addressing resilient restoration strategies and community-based approaches, each of these projects are transforming formerly degraded industrial land into vibrant, green open spaces with a program of conservation, education, and recreational opportunities.”
Thomas Woltz | Nelson Byrd Woltz
Among its many projects, including the landscape for the expansive plaza at Hudson Yards, Nelson Byrd Woltz will oversee the design of a landscape for a Shaker museum complex in upstate New York by Selldorf Architects. As shown in the renderings, the existing brick hotel will be connected to the new structure via a tri-level, glass-encased passageway. Spread across four floors and 30,000 square feet of space, the $18 million complex at 5 Austerlitz Street is set to include ample space for permanent and special exhibitions; community event space; a public reading room, and a climate-controlled conservation and storage facility, funded in part by a $550,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities announced last December.
Kate Tooke | Sasaki
The City of Boston is finally heeding 50 years of recommendations from countless undergrad architecture theses: fix the bricked-up prairie that surrounds Boston City Hall. Sasaki aims to create a “front yard” for public gatherings that scales down the 305,000-square-foot terraces into seven softer, more manageable mini-landscapes that can be used for events or leisure. Notably, the renovations will make the site’s 22-foot change in elevation more manageable for those who use mobility aids like wheelchairs.
For Sasaki principal Kate Tooke, the project presents a singular opportunity to reinvigorate Kallmann and McKinnell’s original design intentions, “to provide necessary upkeep to one of Boston’s most beloved civic spaces and to really focus on making it welcoming and accessible.”
For iconic civic spaces like Boston City Hall Plaza, maintenance and programming can be as central to the long-term vitality of a project as the design itself. According to Tooke, Sasaki collaborated extensively with the Boston Public Facilities Department and other agencies that will eventually take charge of the site’s upkeep and public programming: “We wanted to design spaces that can be easily cleaned up, reconfigured, and redeployed as something else, in a way that doesn’t cause any damage to the structure. That kind of thinking has been baked into all of the details.” Integrating that level of adaptability into a square that sits on top of some of the nation’s oldest operational train tunnels required several careful structural enhancements, all of which markedly improve the space’s capacity to host intensive events like concerts, political rallies, and protests, as well as ice skating and other recreational activities.
Michelle Delk | Snøhetta
The 240,000-square-foot Calgary Central Library opened its doors to the public in fall 2018, a joint project between Snøhetta and Canadian studio DIALOG. The crystallized, aluminum-and-fritted-glass facade of the building’s upper portion belies a warm wood interior, and the entire library rises over an active Light Rail Transit Line that runs from below ground and up to the street level.
Although faced with a difficult site, the design team chose to accentuate the necessary train tunnel at the Central Library’s northern corner. This is where the building’s curved sides join together to form a prominent “prow,” and where an inviting “living room” has been situated.
The facade is made up of scattered, rhombus and triangle-shaped panels and windows. The density of the panels has been modulated depending on the level of privacy and sunlight required for each area, and openings carve out views for the spaces that look out over the city. Those strategic cuts also allow curious pedestrians to look into the library, which Snøhetta hopes will entice community members inside.
Simon David | OSD
Nearly a full decade after it was first established in downtown Detroit, contemporary art gallery the Library Street Collective is gaining a larger, community-entrenched younger sibling in the form of a 2.5-acre public arts campus in the city’s East Village neighborhood. Anchored by The Shepherd, a 110-year-old Romanesque-style Catholic church that will be transformed from a house of worship into a multifaceted cultural hub and community space by Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary design studio Peterson Rich Office (PRO), the ambitious campus comes as part of a long-time effort by Library Street Collective co-founders Anthony and JJ Curis to become “more deeply rooted in the neighborhoods,” as Anthony Curis told AN.
A key feature of the reactivated grounds will be a sculpture garden dubbed the Charles McGee Legacy Park in honor of the late Detroit artist and educator. A towering and much-beloved figure of the Detroit art world whose career spanned more than seven decades, McGee will also be the subject of a posthumous retrospective at The Shepherd when it opens to the public. Developed in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, that show has been secured as the inaugural exhibition for the new space. Separate from that exhibition within Legacy Park, three large-scale interactive sculptures conceived by McGee for the campus shortly before his death will be on permanent display.
“The concept of the park started as more of a children’s playscape,” explained Curis. “Charles was really interested in this idea of finding a way where his work could communicate with a younger audience.” While the Legacy Park concept has since evolved have more of a multigenerational appeal, the original spirit of “play and creative discovery” will still be present within the garden.
While The Shepherd and its exhibition and community spaces will serve as the heart of the new East Village cultural campus, the largely underutilized church grounds and adjacent vacant lots on the block will also be transformed into a lushly planted swath of public green space designed by OSD, a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design studio.
Sarah Weidner Astheimer and Megan Born | James Corner Field Operations
New York City–based landscape architecture and urban design firm James Corner Field Operations recently shared further design details and a slew of new renderings of an ambitious plan set to transform the South Baltimore waterfront.
Dubbed Reimagine Middle Branch, the vision serves as a park-studded connective tissue that fuses together 19 different neighborhoods with each other while also providing dramatically improved public access to over 11 miles of waterfront along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. Many of South Baltimore’s predominately Black and brown South Baltimore communities have been historically cut off from the shoreline, and by establishing a formal network of recreational destinations—parks, pedestrian trails and bridges, fishing piers, playgrounds, and more—Reimagine Middle Branch activates the long-underutilized “backyard” of these neighborhoods.
Just south of Baltimore, JCFO is also one of five landscape architecture firms selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for The National Mall to shape the future of the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.
“The National Mall Tidal Basin embodies freedom, perseverance, and democratic values, and it is a place where people come together from around the country and around the world to celebrate these ideals,” said Katherine Malone-France, NTHP’s chief preservation officer, in a statement. “That is why we must bring our best innovation and ingenuity to meet the challenges it is facing.
DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, Reed Hilderbrand, and James Corner Field Operations are slated to join forces in order to maximize the Tidal Basin’s potential as a public space. The coalition exists within the National Mall Tidal Basin Ideas Lab, a forum for innovation and collaboration with regard to the future of the landscape.
Lucinda Sanders | OLIN
OLIN has been tapped to design a 400-acre park along the northern shore of the Ohio River in southern Indiana. Set within a swath of waterfront long occupied by landfill and industrial facilities, the future park will give local residents a much-needed connection with the river and its history, while boosting the area’s link to Louisville, Kentucky.
OLIN partner Lucinda Sanders said the plan, spearheaded by the River Heritage Conservancy, will tie into both sides of the Ohio River. In doing this, the park will serve 1.2 million residents within a 30-mile radius, including those living in the adjacent Indiana towns of Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany.
Nate Cormier and Katherine Harvey | RIOS
At the northern edge of Los Angeles’s Chinatown, interdisciplinary architecture firm RIOS has recently designed a sprawling mixed-use development within a narrow eight-acre property straddling the long edge of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The project, named Buena Vista, is the product of a joint venture between Lincoln Property Co. and S&R Partners with the goal of introducing retail, public open space, and nearly 1,000 apartment units (200 of which will be designated as affordable housing) to the Chinatown Metro-adjacent site.
Joseph Sutkowi | Waterfront Alliance
Within the New York metropolitan region, the utility of the fast-growing offshore wind farm industry extends beyond green energy and job creation: There are numerous avenues by which a working waterfront can also increase citywide resiliency and access to parkland. One group advocating this approach is the Waterfront Alliance, which, since its founding in 2007, has steadily assembled a broad regional coalition of over 1,100 organizations to realize this goal—ranging from the Billion Oyster Project and Riverkeeper to manufacturers and dry docks.
“People are often quite surprised to learn about how much maritime activity still goes on in the city and how much potential there is for growth,” said Waterfront Alliance vice president of programs Karen Imas, “and that interest brings growing attention to what the future of the working harbor will look like as a combination of shipping, ferries, potential renewable energy, and offshore wind, mixed-use industrial sites, and green infrastructure.”
In 2015, the Waterfront Alliance launched the inaugural iteration of the Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines (WEDG), a voluntary rating system and set of guidelines similar to LEED certification for projects located on the waterfront. “The idea is to change the way that designers and developers are looking at waterfront projects,” Imas said, “but also to encourage the city and the state to look at the permitting processes through a lens that can drive more innovation, ecology, and resilience for the waterfronts that we need today.”