Entering into the field of landscape architecture, one must love to learn, since it is an inherent part of a discipline that pulls from an array of knowledge bases, including ecology, art, history, sociology, architecture…the list goes on. Fortunately, there is no shortage in the Austin community of places to supplement your education:
- The Contemporary Austin Art School
The Contemporary Austin is an art museum that has locations both downtown and on the lake on the west side of Austin. The Art School offers adult classes in the spring and summer for many fine arts topics, including drawing, painting and photography.
- The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Part of the UT School of Architecture, the Wildflower Center is located south of Slaughter Lane in Austin. Here, you can take a variety of classes from nature-loving experts, such as watercoloring, plant identification and botanical illustration. They have single-day workshops as well as courses offered in multi-week sessions. Refer to their calendar, as events happen daily, and remember that UT students, faculty and staff get free admission to the Center!
- The University of Texas at Austin Informal Classes
If you want to learn Adobe software, interior design, native plant gardening or anything in between, Informal Classes offers an array of non-credit programming to compliment your semesters. Each course is different in its time requirements, location and fees, so be sure to browse the catalog to find your course.
Source: The Contemporary Austin, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin Informal Classes
The Plant Resources Center (PRC) at The University of Texas at Austin is hidden in plain sight: it occupies eight floors of the iconic UT Tower with over one million plant specimens. These specimens belong to both the University of Texas Herbarium (TEX), which was started in the 1890s, and the Lundell Herbarium (LL), the formerly private collection of Cyrus Lundell, which was added to the PRC in the 1970s-80s.
An herbarium is a library of dried plants. The specimens, collected from Texas, Mexico and other parts of the world, are dehydrated and pressed onto cardstock and labeled with their relevant information, including date collected and species name. These specimens provide a snapshot of a particular species’ morphology and taxonomy at a particular time and place on Earth. Many of UT’s specimens are unique in the world.
You can access the PRC online through a searchable database, or visit the collection in person.
The PRC and associated herbaria are located in the Main Building, Room 127. Hours are 8-11:30 am and 12:30-5 pm Monday-Friday. Please call in advance at 512-471-5904.
Sources: UT Department of Integrative Biology and JSTOR Global Plants
Part of the online research and academic platform JSTOR, the Global Plants database allows access to nearly three million images dedicated to plants. Containing digitized plant specimens, paintings, photographs, diaries and other materials from universities, herbaria and private collectors around the world, Global Plants is a resource for anyone conducting botanical-related research or design. Whether you’re interested in the history of a plant, its uses in human culture, or its morphological characteristics, Global Plants provides a searchable database for you to access primary sources related to your query. You must have access to JSTOR, either through the University of Texas Libraries or through your own subscription to be able to use the Global Plants database.
One of the partners and contributors to the Global Plants database is The Plant Resources Center at The University of Texas at Austin, which will be featured later this week on Deep Focus.
Source: JSTOR and Global Plants
Image Credit: Thomas Riedelscheimer/Magnolia Pictures via NYTimes
In a follow-up to their 2001 documentary “Rivers and Tides,” artist Andy Goldsworthy and director Thomas Riedelsheimer again investigate and explore natural processes and humans’ place within them. The resulting film, “Leaning into the Wind,” showcases Goldsworthy’s fascination with time and its effect on his art. As a land artist, Goldsworthy operates at the scale of the landscape and uses media from his surroundings, such as stones and leaves, to create his works.
The film was an Official Selection of the San Francisco Film Festival, where it premiered in 2017. It is currently showing at the Austin Film Society through April 19, 2018. Tickets and showtimes can be found here.
Sources: Leaningintothewind.com, Austin Film Society
April is World Landscape Architecture Month. Each year, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) celebrates the profession of landscape architecture through direct outreach to the public. The goal is to strengthen the everyday recognition of the designed spaces that surround us. This outreach includes a robust social media campaign, largely driven by Instagram and Tagboard.
This year, the ASLA Instagram account will feature one student ASLA chapter per day. Follow along to see how other schools are training the next generation of design thinkers and leaders. The University of Texas at Austin’s graduate Landscape Architecture program will be showcased on Monday, April 16.
In the coming weeks, Deep Focus will be highlighting landscape architecture resources at The University of Texas, in the Austin community, and beyond.
Photographer Reuben Wu has been using adapted drones to light-paint in natural environments, creating beautiful and otherworldly landscapes. His image series “Lux Noctis” transform natural landscapes into images that evoke ideas of extraterrestrial exploration and science fiction. Wu’s photos endeavor to explore unknown and hidden places and present them as if they were a memory of a foreign place.
Wu uses drones to create light trails around rock formations and to provide supplementary light from above. The long exposure images are ethereal, colorful, and otherworldly. His other work similarly blends landscape, futurism and architecture.
Source: Colossal and Rueben Wu
The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years, bifurcating the city into West and East Berlin respectively. Demolition of the wall began in 1990, and 28 years later, an exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018 will be exploring the question of what happens to the built environment when physical divides are torn down. The exhibition, titled “Unbuilding Walls,” will showcase 28 examples—one example for each year the Berlin Wall divided Berlin—of historic and contemporary walls, barriers and fences and their effect on or reaction to the landscape.
In 2012, astronaut André Kuipers documented one example of the wall’s divide still evident from space: the color difference in the street lights of and west and east sides of the city is clearly perceptible.
Source: Topos Magazine and the Washington Post.
Many homes in Baltimore are being demolished due to high vacancy rates. Ecologist Chris Swann uses the empty lots to plant wildflowers. Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press.
As urbanism pervades the world, open spaces and the biodiversity they provide are beginning to dwindle. Curtailing sprawl is often touted as an answer to protecting biodiversity outside the city, but Chris Swann wants to also protect the biodiversity within the existing urban context.
Swann—an ecologist and professor from the University of Maryland—studies what plant species work best for ecosystems in urban spaces and, in a recent experiment, he sprinkled wildflower seeds across vacant lots. He is specifically looking for plants that can survive in the soil of recently demolished homes in Baltimore, where vacancies are on the rise. Though the lots are only “temporary prairies” because they will likely be redeveloped soon, Swann hopes the boost in plant life will reduce runoff and attract other organisms. Swann’s project is uniquely scientific; not many have studied what works to restore balance to a city’s ecosystem. Other cities have begun utilizing small plots of land for gardens or mini parks, despite the lack of research surrounding what they should be planting.
Yet, all green spaces are not created equal. Providing more green space in an urban landscape can not only pose an ecological challenge but also economic and equity challenges. Property values increase near parks and open spaces, oftentimes inducing a development surge that brings a risk of gentrification. Laying the groundwork for a fully furnished park is a costly endeavor for the city; the City of Minneapolis cited the cost of a park as $481,333. In contrast, one of the cheapest types of wildflower seeds costs just $231 per acre.
Swann’s experiment to seed wildflowers in vacant lots will not only help answer the question, “what do we plant” but also “can we afford it?” If wildflowers grow well in infertile soil, they could become a means for urban biodiversity that is more economical and thus, more equitable. Creating prairies in vacant lots could prove a small step towards creating a better habitat for all creatures residing in urban contexts.
Sources: CityLab, City of Minneapolis, Holland Wildflower Farm, University of California at Berkeley
Photographer Tom Blachford’s series ‘Nihon Noir’ calls to mind futurism, science-fiction, film noir and yes, the 1982 cult classic film Blade Runner. Blachford was inspired by the Metabolism movement era architecture in Japan, and his images showcase its unique intersection of architecture and infrastructure.
Metabolism was a post-war movement brought to the international stage during the 1960 Tokyo World Design Conference. The designers behind the movement organized their vision into a manifesto entitled Metabolism: The Proposals for New Urbanism, which described a design ethos focused on meshing mega-structures with organic shapes. The most prolific member of the movement, Kenzo Tange, worked as a designer, architect, and urban planner until his death in 2005.
The images Blachford created were designed to showcase a neon futurism, and the buildings he featured were chosen because they combined brutalism and the principles of organic growth—the essence of this post war architectural movement. “Though these buildings are from the past,” he said, “they appear as if they have appeared from the distant future. My intention is for the viewer to ask not ‘where’ they were taken but ‘when.”
Home to both young families and criminal gang members, Nørrebro is a diverse neighborhood. Its park—Folkets Park—has been contested for decades. As a response, Danish artist Kenneth Balfelt organized a project with architects and landscape architects to improve the park, prioritizing community engagement.
Nørrebro is a densely populated neighborhood with a longstanding mistrust of local officials. When a fire destroyed a building in the neighborhood resulting in an open lot adjacent to a factory, people moved into the the factory and Folkets Park and Folkets Hus were established. Folkets Hus quickly became a community house hosting theater groups, parties, music events, and political debates. The city repeatedly attempted to demolish Folkets Hus, but in the 1990s the building finally receive official approval.
Balfelt worked with all members of the community, asking them, “What their analysis of the park and the situation was, and what they needed from the space.” While most specialists argue that well lit pathways are more safe, Balfelt listened to community members who found dark areas of the park to feel more private and secure. Balfelt argued with the city to include zone lighting to accommodate well lit areas of the park and dark zones in the park. Balfelt enlisted young members of the community to help build and paint the playground equipment for the children. Tensions with gangs in the area have increased over the years, and a shooting occurred in the park last year, pushing officials to temporarily close Folkets Hus. Given the current climate, the park has prospered since the renovation.
Source: Next City
Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas in the 1970s. Since then, Marfa has come to be known as a pilgrimage site for those interested in contemporary or minimalist art on view at Judd’s Chinati Foundation.
Artist Robert Irwin recently completed his contribution to the Chinati Foundation’s permanent collection. Irwin worked with the Chinati Foundation and the San Antonio-based architectural firm Ford, Powell & Carson for 16 years to create an architectural monument to light and space, receiving a 2017 design award from the Texas Society of Architects.
The building, a perfectly symmetrical ‘U’ shape, sits on the foundation of the ruins of a 1919 army barracks building. The artist, architects and the Chinati Foundation had hoped to accommodate Robert Irwin’s vision within the walls of the original structure, but ultimately its reinforced concrete walls proved too inflexible and unstable. Instead, Irwin’s building references the ruins that were once on site, and eye-level windows, sheer scrims, and polished interior surfaces allow the changing desert light to act as a material itself.
Source: Texas Architect Magazine and Artnet.
One of the largest undertakings of its kind, Conservation International plans to plant 73 million trees in the Amazon. This short-term project—called Muvuca, a Portuguese word describing many people in a small place—will restore 70,000 acres of tropical rain forest. A large quantity of seeds of various species are being planted allowing natural selection to demonstrate which species are most suited to survive. Ending deforestation could allow for the absorption of 37 percent of carbon emissions.