Interview with John Bela, Founder of Park(ing) Day

THE DIRT

bela_blog
John Bela, ASLA, is a founding principal at Rebar. He is an urban designer and landscape architect focused on public space design. As Rebar, Bela created Park(ing) Day, The Panhandle Bandshell, The Civic Center Victory Garden, Parkcycle Swarm, and other projects. Bela teaches at the California College of Arts in San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley. This interview was conducted at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston

What is the adaptive metropolis, the title of a conference you recently co-curated at UC Berkeley? Does this already exist, or is this an ideal to aspire to?

It’s an ideal to aspire to. The conference, which is organized by UC Berkeley and Rebar, looked at emerging practices in built environment disciplines, such as open source design and public participation, new tools and instruments, new design approaches for flexible urbanism, and then some new ways of funding urban…

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Where Landscape Architects Love to Work, Part 1

The Field

Seattle, WA - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category image: Timothy Hursley Seattle, WA – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category
image: Timothy Hursley

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members about their favorite cities and regions for practicing landscape architecture. Not surprisingly, there was no single answer that dominated the responses, which reflected the regional diversity of those who took the survey—the largest segment of respondents hailed from the West (30%), with roughly 20% each from the East, South, and Midwest, and 6% of respondents practice internationally. Responses were similarly distributed, and though the answers themselves might not have been surprising, the reasons why certain areas are popular places to work are still enlightening, and it might be food for thought should you find yourself considering a move.

There were many shared characteristics among the top choices, including:

  • Variety and number of opportunities available
  • Level of growth…

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City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure, Part I

The Field

Alewife Reservation image: MWH Global Alewife Reservation
image: MWH Global

Many of you may know The Trust for Public Land (TPL) as an organization devoted to the protection and support of the places people care about and the creation of “close-to-home parks” — particularly in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. Through its Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), TPL also explores the many issues that affect the success of urban areas’ park systems. CCPE’s most recent publication, City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure, looks at the many ways that parks can help with the control of urban stormwater.

Using case studies, data tables, and interviews with national experts, the report explores both new and existing parks, including in-depth studies of water-smart parks in Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York, and Shoreline, Washington. The following is the first installment of a two-part series excerpted from the…

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Bats and Urban Ecology

AHBE LAB

My brother-in-law visited me recently. During his stay he excitedly told me about spotting several bat boxes in my neighborhood. Although my initial reaction was, “Bat what?”, I was quickly intrigued about learning whether the bats I’d noticed flitting about my tiny backyard were an urban anomaly or not.

Monrovia Bat Box_2Bat Box – photo by Christina Lynch.

While some people shudder at the mention of bats, these flying mammals fill several ecological roles. In addition to dispersing seeds and pollinating fruit trees and flowers, bats play an important role in controlling insect populations. Primarily insectivores, bats have the ability to consume more than 600 mosquitos in an hour!

Like many species, bats worldwide aren’t fairing well in response to rapidly expanding urban environments. Habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, diminishing prey, limited access to water, light pollution, and echolocation disruption are some examples of how urban areas can disrupt bats’ ability to forage…

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What’s Next: Career Paths for Emerging Landscape Architects

THE DIRT

Work and Days Symposium Participants / Katie Black and Colin Curley Work and Days Symposium Participants / Katie Black and Colin Curley

This time of year design students everywhere are asking themselves, “What’s next?” Whether weighing summer options or searching for a job post-graduation, the closing of the spring semester is  a critical moment filled with the excitement and apprehension of choosing the right path. While students can draw on many traditional sources for advice, a recent symposium at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design sought to offer a deeper forum, not just about careers, but rather on “what the role of the designer is, can, and should be in the twenty-first century.”

The Work & Days symposium mined the broader field of landscape architecture, assembling 17 panelists who represent the “realistic breadth of jobs available to emerging landscape designers.” Career paths range from start-ups to large firms, publishing, conservation, interdisciplinary work, industrial and structural engineering, socially-oriented practice, and academia…

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America’s First Wetland Restoration: A Fen Called Fen

AHBE LAB

Back Bay Fens. Creative Commons photo by Andrea MonariBack Bay Fens. Creative Commons photo by Andrea Monari

In the spirit of World Landscape Architecture Month it seems only appropriate I share a post about Frederick Law Olmstead, a towering figure in our field. To expand a bit upon Dima’s post referencing Frederick Law Olmstead’s visionary foresight, I believe he was definitely a visionary designer for his work on Boston’s Back Bay Fens. Known most famously as one of the designers of Central Park, Olmstead was also the landscape architect behind America’s first wetland restoration.

Once a tidal marsh fed by the Charles River, this Boston’s Back Bay Fens was polluted by the locals who dumped waste directly into the fragile ecosystem. At high tide, the wetland would overflow. However, at low tide “offensive exudations arose from the mud”, as Olmstead noted himself.

In the Back Bay Fens, Boston, Mass. Via Boston Public LibraryIn the Back Bay Fens, Boston, Mass. Via Boston Public Library

Understanding the harsh, yet ecologically sensitive and complex…

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The Future of Suburbia

THE DIRT

Rendering of Possible Future Suburbs/Source: Center for Advanced Urbanism, MIT Rendering of Possible Future Suburbs / Center for Advanced Urbanism, MIT

Almost 70 percent of Americans live in a suburban environment, according to Alan Berger, professor of landscape architecture and co-director of the Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) at MIT, who kicked-off a recent conference there on the Future of Suburbia. United Nations estimates show about 1 in 8 on Earth now live in a dense mega-city, a city with more than 10 million people, which means that 7 out of 8 live in another kind of environment, likely suburban. For Berger, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the majority of people don’t live in dense urban areas and most likely won’t far into the future. Trends suggest cities are increasingly becoming the place only for the “super-rich and very poor.” The two-day conference at MIT, part of a multi-year research project at the CAU, aimed to generate…

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GOT THE JOB

Landscape Architecture Magazine

Bedit_LAMJan16Office Three firms talk about who they’ll hire next and why.

From the January 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

A recent uptick in hiring has new grads and emerging professionals looking ahead. We asked principals of three different firms who are hiring what they’re looking for in a candidate.

Rhodeside & Harwell (Alexandria, Virginia)

What kind of role are you hiring for? What level of experience are you seeking?

Elliot Rhodeside, FASLA: Since we have a mature office with strong leaders who will lead the firm after the founders retire, we have been focusing on hiring

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D.C. Plans for Preservation Amid Population Explosion

THE DIRT

O Street Market, before redevelopment / Wikipedia O Street Market, before / Wikipedia

O Street Market, rendering of post-redevelopment / City Market at O O Street Market, after / City Market at O

How does a historic, monumental city with a defined border and building-height limit accommodate the influx of another 150,000 people over the next two decades? For District Mayor Muriel Bowser and planning director Erik Shaw, who spoke at an event at the Howard Theater, a major part of the answer is adaptive reuse, which involves transforming a building or site into some new use it wasn’t originally designed for. This approach enables cities to preserve some of the original character and feel of a place while updating it for contemporary realities.

Washington, D.C. has gained in population since 2000, when it hit a low-point of 572,000. The city now has 658,000 residents. Since 2000, there has been 150 million square feet of new development, much of it in the city’s 46 historic districts, to accommodate…

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