Towards Simulating Site Ecosystem Services

Gave a talk at CELA2012 earlier today about my work developing ecosystem services modeling tools. I don’t often share my research here most of this work is still very much a work-in-progress, but I’m at a juncture where I’m seeking collaborators to move to this work forward. I’m also working on a journal article on this topic, so stay tuned for further developments.

(Also gave a talk on Z+ Pedagogy that can be found here [pdf] on

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Beth Meyer – CELA Keynote

[This post is my notes from CELA 2012 at the University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign blogged live - so pardon the rough grammar and 

Elizabeth Meyer, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia. Professor Meyer is one of the leading theorists in landscape architecture today. Meyer has lectured on four continents, and published essays on practice and theory of contemporary landscape design, notably “The Post-Earth Day Conundrum: Translating Environmental Values into Landscape Design” in Environmentalism in Landscape Architecture (Dumbarton Oaks 2001), “Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance,” in the European Journal of Landscape Architecture (Spring 2008), and “Slow Landscapes: A New Erotics of Sustainability,” featured in Harvard Design Magazine (Winter 2010). Meyer’s teaching and scholarly interests focus on three areas: modern landscape theory, contemporary practice of landscape criticism, and the idea of site interpretation. In 2011, Meyer was named one of the year’s “most admired educators” in the annual Design Intelligence rankings.

-CELA program [PDF]

Beyond Sustaining Beauty. Musing on a Manifesto

Published in raw form as a manifesto, it was not a very scholarly essay. Didn’t know what she was getting into. Republshed from JoLA in LAM – response was unexpected – tears of joy, shouts of disgust – so here are musings about unexamined assumptions. An intellectual and political work in process. Parts will be a new book shortly. Close readings of landscapes and immersion in cultural and ecological theory. Musings and reflection are of value for finding voice in non-academic work. Intended to provoke as much as persuade – so manifesto allowed challenge to status quo. Manifestos allow students to ground themselves into the theory.

The tenets of the manifesto:

  1. Sustaining culture through landscape
  2. Cultivating Hybrids: Language of Landscape
  3. Beyond Ecological Performance
  4. Natural Process Over Natural Form
  5. Hypernature: The Recognition of Art
  6. The Performance of Beauty
  7. Sustainable Design = Constructing Experiences
  8. Sustainable Beauty is Particular, Not Generic
  9. Sustainable Beauty is Dynamic, Not Static
  10. Enduring Beauty is Resilient and Regenerative
  11. Landscape Agency: From Experiences to Sustainable Praxis

Post-generative sites don’t engage entanglement such as  AMD Park, pictures of Tear Drop Park, Allegheny Riverfront Park, Royal Botanical Gardens (Australia). 10th point least substantiated, based on Ann Spirn and Dewey’s.


1. Beauty isn’t mailable – public taste is fixed, only pleasurable and insipid. Kantian disinterest. Ohlmstead’s Fens example. Barbeiri’s photos of interchanges, inspiring enrique

miralles. Fashion has changed over last 100 years and the idea of female beauty. Ugly is the origin of beauty – dissonant beauty can be seen in AMD Park.

Conchelieu (sp?), naturalization of plastic and plasticization of humanity. Plus conversation with John Beardsley – magical circumstantial. To the strangely familiar – between found and constructed nature. Inspired by photomontages of Hannah Hoch and Emmet Gowen’s photos.


Question of understanding beauty in relationship to aesthetics from folks not knowing post-modern writings of sublime, and stretching of categories into new forms.

Tangled forcefield of effects, rhythms and flows that make up the modern world. Aesthetics requires a pause, a duration – terry egleton: ‘whole of our sensate together.. rooted in the gaze and gut.’ Virginia Pastrel ‘ art of creating reactions without words… a force that generates… commonality’ into social aestherics ‘own intrinsic value’. Beauty is just one of many aesthetic experiences. Need to understand and name them and their agencies. Sarah Goldhargen’s ‘Park here’ in New Republic about Laurie Garden, Highline and ?


Aesthetics are beyond the immediate, the view or the glance. aesthetics are slow that mix cognition and perception. neuroscience of emphatic responses. delayed requires duration. it is what you know, not what you experience. Beauty is connected but not exhausted by appearance. Opening when beauty stirs the soul.  Andre Bearsten (sp?) on aesthetic intuition – feeling that supplement intuition – its own form of cognition. Neuroscience is backing up these 100 year old philosophy. marks of the creator (brush strokes) create empathy with the making of the art – so made things may provoke more response then the natural.

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Welcome to the Antropocene

“we are as gods, we might as well get good at it” – Stewart Brand

Welcome to the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

[This video is ] a 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.

The future starts now. The idea that we’re in the Anthropocene, goes back to an article by Paul Crutzen (with some heavy hitting co-authors) in 1995, which might as well be the start of the our calendar. The Ur idea of a geologic era shaped by human influence on the planet goes to Andrew Revkin who coined the term ‘Anthrocene’ in his 1992 book, but that didn’t stick. I’m all for shifting our calendar to mark the start of the great acceleration as 7 billion people all aspire to drive to the corner store, rather than marking the birth of a (perhaps) mythical person – even if we loose the ability to say ‘we’re living in the 21st century’. So when was Year One of the Anthropocene?

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Map of the Day – 1957 LA Freeway Masterplan

The freeways of Los Angeles often defy logic – like why the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) and the San Bernardino Freeways (Interstate 10) do not directly connect or align – but back in 1957 there was a master plan for paving the entire metropolis.

[click for larger image]

For better or for worse, most of these proposed routes never came to be or had vastly different alignments.

Via Nathan Master’s ‘Six Unusual Maps of Los Angeles’. The Freeway Map map is courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library & Archive. [Update 2/2016 – the first version of the map was created in 1947, updated in 1953, and then again in 1957 as shown here] Continue reading

Infrastructure Lifespan

How long our infrastructure will last. Via Mammoth (from the poster design for the GSD’s “Landscape Infrastructure” symposium by OPSYS/Alexandra Gauzza)

click image for larger version

“This chart visualizes the lifespans of equipment associated with waste, water, energy, and transportation systems across North America. As we approach — and pass — the breakdown point for many post-WWII urban infrastructures, important questions emerge. What and how should we rebuild? How do we build in the face of dynamic climates and coastal hazards? Should we design for permanence or for failure? Should we build stronger or weaker structures? Can natural systems be coupled with technological facilities? Cross-disciplinary action by ecologists, urbanists, historians, geographers, and engineers is necessary as we construct the next generation of public works projects for an era of unprecedented change and uncertain risk.”

See also

Loosing the silence

The NYtimes reports on how human noise is overwhelming natural sounds in the remotest places and the effort to document the baseline quiet of natural sounds before they are lost in the mechanical cacophony. The quest to map the quiet zones of the planet have been going on for the past decades and there was a recent special edition of Landscape Ecology dedicated to soundscape ecology.

From the NYTime’s article:

[Davyd] Betchkal’s stations capture exactly what we would hear if we could stand invisibly in the wilderness for a month. The recordings can reveal the sonic relationships that play out in our absence — and help us to modify our acoustic footprint. But our understanding of sound will always be limited by our perception of it. We will never experience the ultrasonic cries of insects, lizards or bats without distorting them.

Sounds recordings from Denali

…since 2006, when scientists at Denali began a decade-long effort to collect a month’s worth of acoustic data from more than 60 sites across the park — including a 14,000-foot-high spot on Mount McKinley — Betchkal and his colleagues have recorded only 36 complete days in which the sounds of an internal combustion engine of some sort were absent. Planes are the most common source. Once, in the course of 24 hours, a single recording station captured the buzzing of 78 low-altitude props — the kind used for sightseeing tours; other areas have logged daily averages as high as one sky- or street-traffic sound every 17 minutes. The loudest stretch of the year is summer, when hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Denali, embarking on helicopter or fixed-wing rides. Snowmobiles are popular with locals, and noise from the highway, the park road and daily passenger trains can travel for miles. That sort of human din, studies are beginning to suggest, is imperiling habitat — in Denali as well as wilderness areas around the world — as surely as a bulldozer or oil spill.

At the Grand Canyon (which is briefly mentioned in the NYT article), flight restrictions are now in place to preserve a modicum of tranquility without the buzzing of helicopters and planes over the entire canyon.

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Tactical Infrastructure – LA402L 2012 Final Projects

I’m pleased to share the final projects from LA402L Winter 2012, the tactical infrastructure studio at Cal Poly Pomona that explored the opportunities in the Northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Rico Molden, Carly McNeil, and Garret Reger’s The River That Could

The Urban Quilt of San Fernando Valley from Yorvin Moreno, Jonathan Alarcon, and Rene Orta

A New Vision for Hansen Dam from Karla Benitez, Kelly Espinoza, and Rey Rebolledo

Reconciled Ecology – San Fernando Road by E. Cortes, M. Okada, J.H. Wang

(to view this video you need to enter password: Infrascape Design)

Heizer’s Crane

A 700-ton crane is now being assembled to lift Michael Heizer’s 340-ton Levitated Mass rock into position at LACMA via the LATimes, while the 600-ton transporter is being disassembled. The pending lift (stay tuned for when) will be the next performance event (even if the rock only is raised up just a few inches) that should attract huge crowds – so what else is LACMA planning for that event?

Heizer will be on hand for the lift and oversee the final positioning of the rock according to LACMA spokeswoman Miranda Carroll. The description of how the area around the slot will be ‘ landscaped with granite that will make the plot look very similar to the Riverside quarry from which the rock was taken’ undermines the potential power of the piece to evoke the sublime and instead is on a slippery slope into kitsch along the lines of a zoo or an ecotainment store  (i.e. REI or Gander Mountain). I can only hope that the artist is able to create an evocative landscape worthy of the attention (both the positive and negative) that this piece is generating.

The sculpture is slated to open in June, so stay tuned.

Original Levitated Mass

via Observatoire du Land Art, here are the original drawings by Michael Heizer for Levitated Mass from 1969.

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, 1969 (detail). © Volker-H. Schneider / Marzona

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, 1969.  © Volker-H. Schneider / Marzona
(Based on Paper – Die Sammlung Marzona. Revolution der Kunst 1960-1975,  p.154)

Tactical Infrastructures Screening


• A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
• Implementation of local solutions to local planning challenges;
• Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
• Low-risk actions which hold the potential for high reward; and
• The development of social capital between citizens and the growth of collective organizational capacity among public, private, and non-profit institutions and their constituents

Project 2: Tactical Infrastructure     
As a process for city-making, tactical urbanism effectively addresses the convergence of three well-documented trends: shrinking municipal budgets, a generational shift to urban living, and the rapid exchange of ideas enabled by advances in information and communications technology.

The public is welcome at our final review and the screening of the student-generated videos for the project on Friday, March 9th, 3-6pm at Cal Poly Pomona, Building 7, Room 203.

LA402L’s Video 1: Eco-Technical Mapping of the Northeastern San Fernando Valley can be viewed here.