How a Landscape Architect Saves Water

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The most difficult part of transforming a lawn-based yard to a more sustainable and native variety is being patient. Unlike a single layer lawn, a drought tolerant garden requires some time for plants to settle in, mature, and eventually spread out to fill-in gaps once occupied by grass.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Our yard and lawn before we began the yard transformation for drought tolerance. Our yard and lawn before we began the yard transformation for drought tolerance.

When my husband and I – both of us landscape architects – purchased our home in Northeast Los Angeles in 2002, it came with a turf lawn with boxwood hedges and iceberg roses running along a white picket fence. Too provincial for our taste. But like the cobbler’s children who don’t have shoes, after buying the new house we were often too busy at work, and without the means, to transform our front yard into something more environmentally responsive and/or useful.

We did piecemeal landscaping in the front yard by pulling out the boxwood hedges and replacing them with New Zealand flax and Dodonea. Then two years ago we made the decision to turn off the irrigation system watering our front yard and purposely kill off the lawn. We also wanted a more substantial wood fence…

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Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

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If you’re an Angeleno and haven’t yet seen this BBC documentary following Reyner Banham, professor of architecture at University College London, as he tours 1970’s Los Angeles, you need to immediately or don’t pass GO.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles is a 1972 BBC Films production following architectural historian Reyner Banham as he tours the “four ecologies” of Los Angeles: Surfurbia (beach), Foothills (basin), The Plains of Id (foothills), and Autopia (freeways) by automobile.Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles is a 1972 BBC Films production following architectural historian Reyner Banham as he tours the “four ecologies” of Los Angeles: Surfurbia (beach), Foothills (basin), The Plains of Id (foothills), and Autopia (freeways) by automobile.

There’s a running meme on Curbed Los Angeles that keeps track of how The New York Times continually gets Los Angeles hilariously wrong – so much so, that Curbed actually made a bingo game out of it.

This reminds me of a charming (the smog…the freeways…the film stock!) BBC documentary from the early 1970s in which Reyner Banham, professor of architecture at University College London, visits our fair city and produces this travelogue of sorts – including a lunch with artist, Ed Ruscha. A companion piece to his seminal text Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, this video is as essential as the text itself in voicing what makes…

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Hollywood Ecology

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To boldly go where no one has gone before…or to the CSUN campus!

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

StarFleet-sanfranciscoI was sitting home one weekend and my wife and I were watching an old movie, Star Trek Into Darkness on Netflix. There was one segment of the movie when I noticed something that looked very familiar.

CSUN oviatt 01“That’s our project at California State University Northridge (CSUN). It’s the main campus quad in front of the Oviatt Library,” I remarked to my wife.

Of course the amazing CGI work altered the context so it felt as if we were in San Francisco, set in the future. She laughed and said, “You always know where movies are taken”. I explained that after driving cross country several times when I was in college I got to know the various natural ecologies, geologies, and buildings in urban centers. So when I see a tree, a forest, a mountain, or even a building, I can recognize where the movie was shot.

Another time while watching…

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Filling the Silence: The Community Process In Design

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Designers too often separate, if not completely exclude, the community it is supposedly hired to serve. This is a reminder allowing people to “fill the silence” is an important step in the process of formulating solutions which aren’t self-serving, but serving those who will long appreciate and use design in their daily lives far after the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

A community meeting for the Johnny Carson Park Revitalization project,  done in partnership with the City of Burbank. A community meeting for the Johnny Carson Park Revitalization project, done in partnership with the City of Burbank.

A significant portion of our work is the design of public spaces in urban settings. Hence, our design process for public projects often involves meeting with and getting input from the citizens of a community. After all, what would public space be without the public who will be using the space?

If our work is about transforming site into place, then community participation guides us in understanding the things the people in the community value, their concerns, and their desires for the space. The process is educational for us, as the project’s designers, and to community members, its users. We learn from each other about civic engagement and creating a landscape with cultural meaning.

Photo: Opening Day ribbon cutting celebration for Reflections Mini Park  in Carson, California. Photo: Opening Day ribbon cutting celebration for Reflections Mini Park in Carson, California.

We develop many skills in…

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The Buzz About Bees

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1 out of 3 of everything we eat is tied to our striped buzzing friends, bees! Some interesting facts about bees…

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: Linda Daley Photo: Linda Daley

The sustainability trend has spawned local production and do-it-yourself initiatives encouraging low-impact lifestyles and supporting local economies. We seem to have taken a step back in time with the rise of backyard chicken farmers, urban agriculture, and home-made products of everything from cheese to pickles. In certain areas, you can now even rent goats to mow your lawn!

Individuals’ interest in harvesting honey from their own beehives has been mainstream in the U.S. for some time. American beekeepers were the ones who first noticed a decline in honey bee populations. News about Colony Collapse Disorder seem to be everywhere these days. Why should this matter to us? Bees and other pollinating insects, such as Monarch butterflies, play an important role in ecosystems. We would not have food and flora without them.

Infographic: Angie's List. Infographic: Angie’s List.

Most of the attention is focused on the European honey bee species,

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Seeing Landscapes Between the Cracks

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I admire this perspective, where the cracks drawn across city sidewalks from a localized perspective become analogous to opportunities to reimagine the derelict sections of Los Angeles that fall between the cracks from a citywide view.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: Heejae Lee Photo: Heejae Lee

When I was young I would often travel along the familiar city sidewalks with my head down more often than up. “A bad habit”, as described by the oncoming pedestrians I’d occasionally bump into. But something about the cracks fissured along the weathered concrete and the occasional weeds that would pop out of these pockets captivated my attention. These sights were small treats along my travels.

Photo: Urban Green House/ Ecole Supérieure d'Art et de Design Photo: Urban Green House/ Ecole Supérieure d’Art et de Design

Although I do not bump into pedestrians as often now, I still catch myself looking at these relationships between the micro landscapes and the cracks within the city’s infrastructure while walking. I am not only fixated on the resilience of the landscape growing between the cracks, but also the ephemeral opportunities these cracks provide.

Photo: Heejae Lee Photo: Heejae Lee

As for myself, I observe the perpetual evolution of the city, the urban…

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AHBE Lab / Friday Five for May 15, 2015

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The most environmentally-friendly high school prank of all time: “As far as senior pranks go, this one from Ohio has to be one of the best, most environmentally conscious ones you will ever see.”

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo: PC Magazine Photo: PC Magazine

How an LA Nature Garden Stays Green During the Drought: “Over at the the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, staff is taking a high-tech approach to keeping its Nature Gardens lush without wasting precious resources.”

Clean Ride Mapper helps cyclists avoid polluted air, find quietest route to destination: Maria Hatzopoulou, assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University, has created a tool that not only looks up the shortest and fastest biking route, but also the quietest, the one with the least traffic, and offers the rider the cleanest air!

The most environmentally-friendly high school prank of all time: “As far as senior pranks go, this one from Ohio has to be one of the best, most environmentally conscious ones you will ever see.”

Arts-Based Education Will Power the Creative Economy: “Arts education, which is an investment in our future creative workforce, will become a crucial element…

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