Listening to the Birds

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The overlapping beautiful songs of birds in Malibu over the constant drone of traffic makes for an interesting musical composition between nature and humans.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: Linda Daley Photo: Linda Daley

I appreciate seeing the world from the slower pace of a leisurely walk. These walks are marked with random stops, to enjoy the proverbial smell of the roses, alongside other sensory experiences. On a recent stroll through Legacy Park in Malibu, I stopped often to watch – and listen – to the diverse species of wildlife residing in this man-made habitat. The birds, in particular, put on quite a show as captured in the audio clip below:

I closed my eyes to listen to the birds more attentively and could distinguish their individual calls. What were they communicating to each other? At moments, their songs reached a crescendo over the white noise of nearby Pacific Coast Highway and faded back as a plane flew low over the park. I was surprised by the sounds I captured, listening repeatedly to nature and the city in harmony.

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Living with Urban Carnivores

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: National Park Service via LA's Loneliest Lion. Photo: National Park Service via LA’s Loneliest Lion.

P22, aka The Griffith Park Mountain Lion, is Los Angeles’ most famous monitored predator. He made the news recently when he wandered out of the hills of Griffith Park and into the basement of someone’s home. Thankfully, P22 came out of the basement on its own and returned to the hills, but the story reminds us that urban carnivores are present right in our backyard.

A few days after P22 became front page news, I attended a lecture about how a growing population of coyotes live among millions of people in Chicago. Professor Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University presented some of the findings from a study of Chicago’s coyote population which he and a team of researchers began in 2000. Gehrt refers to coyotes as “ghost dogs.”

“Coyotes were not part of the urban fauna of Chicago…their success in…

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The Santa Monica Airport Park: Where Design Brings People, Plants, and Puppies Together

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We think of landscape architecture as finished design, but as noted here most projects are “grown into”, requiring trees and plants to mature into their intended spaces.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, restroom and concession facilities, a playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking. Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Newly constructed landscapes need time to mature. With some exceptions, landscape projects typically have budgets that do not allow for the installation of many, if any, large-sized trees or specimen plants and, hence, younger nursery stock is used. Landscape architects are challenged to design with consideration of a project’s aesthetic and functional value immediately upon construction and the long term consequences of time and maintenance practices.

After an appropriate time, we often return to our completed projects to see for ourselves how they have held up. As landscape architects we’re pleased when a design achieves its intended goals, but equally pleased when we discover the landscape re-invented, functioning in a somewhat different way to better serve…

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The Essence of Place

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When someone says “landscape”, what memories or images does it evoke? I think of youthful days/daze under a canopy of oak trees winding through Porter Ranch chaparral, alongside more recent memories of all the roadtrips along the California coast.

Here’s a short think piece about what the word “landscape” means to a landscape architect who was shaped by more urban memories.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

South Park Streetscape in Downtown Los AngelesInspiration Park in Los Angeles; AHBE Landscape Architects

Landscape.

The word is ubiquitous, yet has layers of meaning. Said out loud in isolation, landscape will trigger images of remembered places, moods, or emotions based on our own histories. My landscape memories are defined by an urban upbringing and a life spent within the urban core of major cities. The word does not conjure visions of agriculture fields, river deltas, or forests. I respond instead with everyday scenes of bustling sidewalks and “pocket” spaces tucked between high-rise buildings.

Plan view the SouthPark Streetscape in Downtown Los Angeles A plan view of the South Park Development and Streetscape in Downtown Los Angeles, showing the private spaces tucked between three condos; AHBE Landscape Architects

Our relationship with outdoor spaces, whether natural or designed, is based not on our past experiences alone but evolves over time with us. In the transformation of a site to “place,” we must start by listening to the…

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AHBE Lab / Friday Five for April 10, 2015

How Sustainability Should Begin Today

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Too often “sustainability” is conceived as a concept rather an executable daily practice…something to mark down on the calendar for tomorrow when we should all be working to making changes today. Soon we might not have the option, so better to begin on our own terms.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: Topographic Map by TBWA Istanbul. Photo: Topographic Map by TBWA Istanbul.

Several years ago my family decided that sustainability should begin with us. Thus we started reducing our household water, waste, and energy consumption. The transformation was not immediate despite our commitment. Although the people who lived around us seemed equally concerned about environmental issues, I remember nervously awaiting my neighbors’ reactions when we removed our front lawn. In the few years since, my drought tolerant front garden is among several in my area. The traditional lawn, however, is still prevalent in the neighborhood; so we can do much more as a community.

On April 1st, Governor Brown issued an executive order mandating a 25% reduction, from 2013 levels, in California’s water consumption. A frenzy of news reports and opinions followed the Governor’s announcement, accompanied by many eye-opening images showing the record lows of our lake and snowpack levels, the depletion of…

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The Topography of the California Drought

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A surprisingly beautiful topographic view only revealed because the California drought has emptied what was once a vast body of water 80 miles north of California.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

April is officially World Landscape Architecture Month. All month AHBE LAB will be exploring and celebrating the many facets of our profession, specifically the topics, ideas, and themes which influence our work as landscape architects, both locally and globally.

Photo: Calvin Abe/AHBE Landscape Architects Photo: Calvin Abe/AHBE Landscape Architects

This photograph captured while flying over Lake Casitas, a man-made lake located about 80 mile north of Los Angeles, illustrates an interesting landscape pattern formed by the ongoing California drought. As the water level drops in the lake – at its max Lake Casitas offers a capacity of 254,000 acre ft. – we begin to see how vegetation is associated through its topography. The varying layers of vegetation is due to the mositure content of the soil, topographic elevations, and the physical soil composition. This demonstrates how nature builds an ecology that is interdependent on multiple levels.

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