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Thread: Recommending resources: relationship between planners and landscape architects

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Recommending resources: relationship between planners and landscape architects

    I am doing a brownbag lunch within a few months discussing the interdependence of planning and landscape architecture within the built environment. This will be addressed to both students and faculty from both disciplines. I work in a private firm as a planner but I have a much heavier emphasis on landscape review and open space planning. I also work very closely with landscape architects.

    I think there is a direct relationship between the two fields. Though this presentation is addressed to an academic crowd, I am using real examples found within the professional world where the role of the planner, specifically the urban designer, and the landscape architect have both worked towards a finished project. I am not highlighting the administrative side of code-enforcement or review process found in planning (it will only be mentioned as a minor point).

    For example, I will be talking about the roles of urban designers and landscape designers/landscape architects within the site design process, the skills needed in both areas, the limitations of each field, and how these career paths can be fused into one (dual degree programs, etc.).

    Has anyone ever given any thought to this? I have a few samples taken from my firm (these were done before I started) but I am at a loss of how to construct talking points for this presentation. Any resources (i.e. books, people, etc.) would be a big help.

    Thanks-

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Landscape urbanism

    There are a number of designers that have been working to find a common ground among architects, planners, landscape architects and other urban designers. They call this movement "landscape urbanism" which primarily emphasizes a new way of conceiving of the urban context - not as figure/ground, for example, but as "landscape" in the broadest sense (including the built form, open space and the interstitial places that are found between). Landscape Urbanism tends to incorporate the passage of time heavily into the programming of projects and views the landscape as the medum through which multiple systems (especially modern infrastructure) pass and are imbedded. Projects are often phased, or present multiple potential future directions, depending on the course of local economic development and demand. It is process-focused (landscape as ever-evolving) and systemic in its approach (instead of individual lots, they see interactive systems) and tends to reject the traditionalist approach to landscape as a "pristine" or "untouched" oasis of wildness within the city (ala Olmstead). Instead, natural systems are simply part of the design and often take on a modernist (or at least obviously planned and managed) feel.

    Heady, I know, and this is a lot clearer than some of the theorists.

    Still, its a compelling course of inquiry, I think. I am just finishing "The Landscape Urbanism Reader" which is a bit redundant (its an edited collection of chapters written by different authors who tend to overlap one another a lot in their discussion). I believe there are other/better texts out there, though, and some which provide some good examples of how this new thought process/approach has the potential to address urban form in a new and intriguing way. Many of the examples cited tend to focus on brownfield sites such as Fresh Kills landfill or Parc de Vilette (mainly I think because of their scale and the idea that they represent blank slates) and some have never been built, only that the coneptualization is inspiring and innovative.

    Do a google search and see if you can find some materials. Sorry I won't be able to make the lunch - I'd never make it back to the office in time...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    In college I gave this a lot of thought because I had worked as, and was going to school for Landscape Architecture. Now, I am a planner in the public sector.

    I think that they should both be dependant on each other and work in a synergistic way to provide the best possible environment for the public.

    I would also toss Architects into the picture as well. The planner, LA, and Architect all have a role to play in the creation of places where people want to be.

    If this is going to be an academic based group, you might want to look into the past work of Frederick Law Olmsted, Henry Hobson Richardson, Andrew Jackson Downing, and Calvert Vaux, all of who contributed greatly to all three professions into an interdisciplinary paradigm.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I would also toss Architects into the picture as well. The planner, LA, and Architect all have a role to play in the creation of places where people want to be.
    In most cases, yes... But I've been in many incredible parks where architects held no sway. Also, if it's really "built" in any larger sense, add the engineers. I know...

    But, give the right planner a public works crew, and batten down the hatches!
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Practicing architects play an important role, but I think on much more micro level (at least that was the impression I got when I was an architecture student). Planners and landscape architects deal with more of the macro level, and in many ways, can dictate what architects can and cannot build.

    Olmstead and others are good traditional examples, I also think they are sometimes over-emphasized. I would like contemporary examples within the past decade to illustrate these talking points. Books by writers within the past 10 years would also be goo examples.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I also want to stress that I am looking for real world examples. How would landscape architects and urban planners design a development for Pulte homes, for instance. I am looking for less theoretical writings and more reference and how-to books.

    This is for students and faculty. However, my brown bag lunches are much much less academic and more profession-related in nature, partly because I don't think students are exposed to ample real-world scenarios while in school. Theory is important, but I want to stress the application of design principles (site impact analysis, a grading plan, conceptual land use plans, lot designs, sections, elevations, etc.).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian craines's avatar
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    I graduated from a landscape architectural program in the northwest where the emphasis was more on regional planning. My thesis was on the redevelopment of the Pullman Washington central buisness district. Upon graduating I move back to California (Orange County at the time) and begin working as a landscape architect. The work was very site specific and detailed. Soon I became licensed with the state. I now work in advanced planning with City Of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks. I get to deal with nothing but large scale ( City Scale) issues.

    The field of Landscape Archtiecture is broad and the training works well for both planning and site specific design.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    .......Any resources (i.e. books, people, etc.) would be a big help.
    Thanks-
    Try this link, Met over lunch one of their principals in HongKong.
    http://www.edaw.com/whatwedo/ourwork/deepPUD.aspx
    or this
    http://www.edaw.com/

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    EDAW is a good firm. I know one guy who worked for them. But what about EDAW should I be looking at? I would like to focus on examples within the United States where planners and landscape architects work together through site design.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    LA and the Urban Planner

    I went to school for Landscape Architecture. When I was done with all the choices of electives from column A and B I ended up with a certificate in Urban Planning.

    I was taking a mixed level course in my final year of college (mixed level meaning that there were undergrads and grads in the class). The professor had everyone get some basic drafting tools (of course I had all mine already) and we ended up with a class or two where we focused on putting onto paper everything we had learned thus far about urban design. Watching my fellow students (almost all were urban planning students) I realized that none of them really knew how to translate urban planning principals and theories into a design let along even use their newly purchased drafting tools. They just didn't have the drafting/drawing background and didn't have a good grasp of how to create good spaces.

    At the same time, my landscape classes were focusing that semester on urban planning and design and I was noticing that my classmates in that arena were not doing a great job of translating urban planning principals and theories into design. They could create good spaces but the basic premises of use placement and reading/translating Codes and associated requirements was lacking.

    I had a bit of an epiphany.

    I believe that every planning, landscape architecture and architecture student should be thoroughly cross-trained.

    I had this very same discussion with an architect with whom I am working and he had the same opinion.

    At Rutgers, LA students are required to take an intro to architecture class. I manged to get out of it by using some classes I had taken for a previous degree (but were not architecture classes). I believe that I did myself a bit of a disservice but I've since caught up somewhat.

    I was a planner for the City of Clearwater for about seven years and have been in the private sector for almost two (as a planner). I feel that my training and experience in planning makes me a better LA and vice versa.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Hey Tobinn, was Joe Hyland teaching the architecture class for LA students when you were there? I got my LA degree from Rutgers, and taking architecture was one of the classes I enjoyed the most. I would have liked to have stayed in school and gone on for an MArch, but I couldn't reconcile the idea of staying in school longer and getting into more debt!
    After working for several years in a gov LA office, I found I was getting bored with it, and I got a job with the planning office of an architecture firm. That didn't last long because I butted heads with the planners. Mainly it was one guy that a lot of people found difficult to work with. A lot of planners seem to suffer from "rubber pencil" syndrome, where they sketch things out quickly and sloppily and expect them to work and scale out when they don't. I like to have precise base information to work with, accurate surveys that have tons of data and elevations. Those guys seemed to think it was fine to draw plans on air photos at 600 scale or something, and then if it would turn out that the plan ended up drastically different after some actual site engineering was done, well, it was obviously the fault of the myopic and dull engineers. That was the attitude.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with the need to be cross-trained. Back in college, the only exposure we had towards urban design was designing a 100 acre pud in a farmfield on the other side of town. Unfortanately, all of the planning students except for me really had any grasp of design principles. They drew giant a giant grey square to represent a senior planning lot (no, not the footprint), an orange square to represent a townhome lot, and so one. Alot of them viewed the PUD requirements as pieces of the pie: as long as the open space, housing, commercial, and institution uses added up to 100 acres, that was all that counted.

    My group was set to do the same thing, until I pulled them aside and asked them: would you want to live in 3 acre senior housing square shaped building with no courtyards? I used my coursework in architecture to show them a realistic and useable shape for building footprints instead of just giant squares and rectangles, incorporating courtyards to let in more light, using setbacks, zero lot lines, variable setbacks for each townhome unit instead of one long rectangle, and so on.

    As a student and now a practicing land use planner/urban designer, I think that those planning students who do not have this coursework, do not fully grasp how different land uses work with each other, rather they look at what are the minimum/maximum requirements. This is subconciously reflected in how they interpret submitted designs by developers. As long as the design meets the PUD requirements established within the municipal code then it must be attractive in addition to being merely usable. Our fears of upsetting the developer and losing revenue are also strong factors that influence the review process. This is why I prefer working in the private sector or a developer. I would rather be the person designing the site and finding creative approaches to meeting the Ordinance requirements and the intent of any design guidelines for the client.

    On the otherhand, I have also reviewed a couple of hundred site and landscape plans, and I have noticed that many of the designers (who are usually landscape architects, architects, or engineers) do not know how to read an ordinance. But then there werent any courses in my planning program, either undergraduate or graduate, that taught that either II think de jure (by law) and de facto (by act) are two very important interpretations that planners must learn. In other words, you must understand (1) what the ordinance says and (2) how it is interpreted. in order to be successful with design within communities.

    I think that the relationship between planning, landscape architecture, and architecture is crucial. Planning and LA have a stronger relationship when it comes to the larger site plan, and architecture and LA and architecture and planning have a stronger relationship when it comes to the individual structures. Instead of just one or two courses, I would encourage planning students to take several courses including studios. IMO, land use law courses (which empahsize landmark decisions in the federal and state courts) are not as useful as land use courses focusing on state compiled statutes for non-planning students.

    Bottom line, I think too many students, faculty, and planning programs in general do not empahsize the interdependence of planning and lanadscape architecture. One or two classes, unless they are intensive workshops and studios, are not going to expose enough of the principals of each discipline to the student.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Time running out

    I have to give my presentation to my alma mater in one week on this topic

    Does anyone have any additional input on this topic? I might use landscape urbanism as a talking point (trying to stay away from heavy theoritical views, though). Any additional input would greatly be appreciated.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 14 Apr 2007 at 11:08 AM. Reason: mispelling

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Don't know if this helps...

    I think you defiantly need to emphasize the relationship of the planner, landscape architect and to an extent the architect is a critical one. We as planners need to realize that we are the visionaries, and we need to closely align ourselves with those that are responsible to realize that vision further down the line (this include landscape architects, engineers, and architects, etc.). This relationship was heavily emphasized at my college in our design program, and my firm continues to hammer this message in our multi-disciplinary firm.

    It really helps to have the ability to go over to our architects that sit directly across from me when i have a question regarding building envelopes, shadows, building design, etc. In a funny way our landscape architecture and planning group are tied to the hip at our firm as we are in the same "group". More and more projects that come through our office require collaboration together as the planners craft the vision on various community and urban plans, and the landscape architects have been involved the execution of that vision.

    As a planner i really shouldn’t have to worry about what tree provides the most shade, or what slope does the drainage basin have to be to utilize it as a dual-purpose parksite, but they have to be concerned about it if they are going to move forward with further developing a park site or developing gateway and entry monument features for our gateways that are proposed in specific plans, so rather than me write a whole bunch of policies that are in essence non-buildable, i consultant them to help me craft decent initial park designs, gateways, and language to help a landscape architect further along the production line better understand the overall vision of a plan.

    Recently my office completed a multi-disciplinary project that involved the planning group, landscape architects, and architects. This project knows as the lincoln gateway center has impressed not only the City as a good centerpiece of their downtown, but also the client as well. The basic vision of the plan was crafted by the planners, with the landscapers and architects honing in on that vision and refining it into a buildable project. You can find more info by visiting the City's website http://www.ci.lincoln.ca.us

    Of course no lecture can go so far without a planner really identifying what the hell he or she is planning. The last thing planners need to do is plop and land use down just because it "looks cool." and sadly many of our newer general plans in this state are doing just that, with no thought into how that thing may be designed in the future. For most planning students i recommend Kevin Lynch's Site planning third editionhttp://www.amazon.com/Site-Planning-...6791847&sr=8-1 as a good start to getting a grasp of design and get a feel for the cross-pollination of landscape architects and planners. Alas, i should probably give a shout out to the employer as i think we are a good example of collaboration between planners, the landscapers, architects and even those wacky engineers, and plus they do sign a check every few weeks


    http://www.rrmdesign.com/

    Good Luck!

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