Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

canada geese

What's mutually beneficial about having Canandian geese around? How good is goose poop for fertilizer? What was unattractive about the picture of the house with all the red/white flowers on the bank of the river? How about some "geese rods" like "lightening rods" that are just areas to attract geese? I like how you took a stand on "is hunting always a bad thing"? I actually don't know if I agree or not, but the point is that when you take a stand it makes for a good conversation. It makes lots of ideas come into my head and makes me want to ask you questions. I'd like to hear an example of when hunting really does help to help me understand.

windy cities: a study in community power and urban landscape

Why did you choose wind (farthest zoomed out context info)? What can be (is being) done to make wind turbines be perceived as beautiful additions to a landscape for residents to be proud of? What can we use to pinpoint exact locations for good wind harvesting given the current set of buildings in an urban environment? Turbines as art? Turbines as amusement rides or monuments (just brainstorming)? NOAA homeland security interactive wind maps are interesting (


I love the historical perspective on New Orleans. Why do you think Sanabel has so much planning work done when New Orleans for its size seems to have been neglected relatively? Since I don't know a lot about the background of flooding, I'd like to know if height above/below sea level is a nearly perfect predictor of flood risk. If not, then I wonder to myself who's keeping track of each acre of land and when it has been flooded in the past? There's local knowledge but it just seems hard to agregate en masse.Why do you call "greenspace" the new "four-letter word"?

wild fires

I'm glad you used Youtube as a video source. Some people might have wanted to avoid it because of "quality" or "professionalism" but I found the footage very real, especially the second one. I'd like to know more about the danger of surface fires as opposed to the crown fires. I never imagined any of the fires being surface as I only recall seeing crown in the media, and I've never seen a wild fire in person. How do we balance living minimally with having "wide roads for firefighter turnaround". Are homeowners required to be shown sanborn and natural disaster mapping?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

nov 5 - fertile soil for our mind-space on landscape

>Who are the authors? What is their purpose; what do you think they hoped to
accomplish? Who is the intended audience?

Hough wants us to see plants from a new, more ecological perspective.

In reading the measures for safety from Hough, it is striking how much alteration of the landscape is necessary for automobile/high-speed transportation.

>In what way(s) do the publications reflect the time in which they were

>Do the authors of these publications use the word "nature" explicitly or
implicitly? Do they ascribe values to the natural environment? If so, how
would you characterize them?

Hough talks a lot of natural processes. He says that forests regenerate continuously under natural conditions, which I guess implies that human intervention alters this process.

I think Hough implies a value on trees’ own innate nature when he describes the cultivated plant group. While he remains detached in diction, the observations he chooses to describe in relation to tree cultivation are reminiscent of female Chinese foot binding or Nazi Germany diversity reduction. It’s not that he says any of this directly, but after reading the many, varied, persistent, all-encompassing, and calculated ways in which we bind, strip, plan, and limit tree diversity, I get this feeling.

And, more generally:

>What is the significance of the perspective/information in the readings for
you as a designer, planner, or author? How can you imagine applying that

Page’s description of the battles in the late 1800’s between Olmstead & co. against citizens about the strategic cutting of trees is fascinating. What it shows to me is that there was a major lack of trust between the two parties, so much so that with the same goals they actively opposed each other. This reminds me that above all else, or perhaps below all else as a foundational beginning, you must establish trust with your clients/cohorts/neighbors.

In reading just now about the way plants are groomed to meet our crazy uniformity standards, I was inspired to take a new look at something happening in my own work. I am currently putting together a new set of sample projects for the software. The stats show a bias towards my own type of culture, male, American, adult. After reading about the way trees are fit into a tiny box, yet this happens behind the scenes through a process that isn’t apparent, it makes me think very carefully about the types of sample projects I’m selecting. What city planners choose to put on the streets sends a strong message to the people who walk by. Further, it dictates market forces that determine what people carry in their nurseries. In a way choosing the trees for a street is a very god-like activity. Not that I didn’t think of diversity in the first place when choosing projects for scratch, but this reading has rekindled my eagerness.

>As a non-scientist, it's not possible to be an expert in all areas of the
urban natural environment, so were you to use this type of information in
your practice, you might engage a consultant who is an expert in one or more
fields. How would you imagine interacting with such a consultant? How much
and what kind of things do you need to know to work effectively with a

You need to know what you’re looking for to talk to a consultant. For example, I need to know what kinds of processes I want to measure (wind, cars) before I ask a consultant how to measure them. Better yet, if I know exactly the type of substance I want to measure (force in the case of wind, and perhaps sulphur dioxide from combustion), then I can consult a more specialized expert who may not even see the high level purpose, but really knows the capability of the specialized equipment.

>Think also, about the kinds of issues, raised by these readings, that we
have not discussed fully in class. What are they?

Again, I’m inspired by Page’s writings on two groups with the same goals opposing each other’s actions. We don’t talk enough in class about long term solutions that rest most importantly on transforming mindset, community knowledge, and culture. The West Philly plan did take on this issue, though more through modeling the behavior than explicit mention. We should discuss in class what we see as the importance/unimportance of cultivating fertile soil for eco-landscape ideas to be able to take root. We need to discuss how to seed the soil with constructive ideas that are open enough to allow for individual creative co-solutions, but scaffolded enough to fight off the cultural tendency to fall back to a non-ecological non-process-sighted approach to viewing, dare I say touching, the landscape.

Page puts nature/trees and capitalism at odds with a directness and seriousness that I have never seen stated so overtly. The juxtaposition of capitalism/business and street-trees through a sustained discussion seems too silly to take seriously, but the image is haunting and undeniable – NY is a metaphor for money and speculation, and trees are the metaphor for mother nature.

Hough takes a viewpoint from far back by mentioning the evolution of trees for 100 million years. Since cars have only been popular for 100 years, it reminds me that we can rethink our infrastructure more than some would guess. Illich, who I’ve been reading, notes that high speed transportation only accomplishes its goal to a certain point. Once you get fast enough, you run into problems like traffick. Or you start building your cities so widely spread out as a result of being able to travel faster. So what once made your world smaller and brought it closer together also has the reverse effect of spreading your world out. At some point the original intent of automobile transportation can be negated. Inspired by the ecosystem of plants, we need look at our own processes as more of an ecosystem and evolution-nuveau.

Can I measure ozone, nitrogen oxide, or sulphur dioxide in the air at ground level… (or by kite)?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Courtyard Observations

Time Lapse Videos - 100 photos 1 minute apart
Higher quality:
Download Video - 30 fps (wmv)
Download Video - 4 fps (wmv)

You tube version of same thing:
Lower quality:

A footprint... a sign of humans in the courtyard

path trampled to tend to young tree. another sign of humans

The only bench has its back to the wild flowers to face a wall.

Lots of equipment to put out fires... scary

More scary stuff

This shadow from the flowers is formed by a reflection of the sun off of a south-facing glass wall. So the shadow actually points south at 1pm.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

>What information is there and how is it


Very interesting and valuable information about water and nature. It’s hard to even believe since I’ve never seen this kind of stuff.

>How valuable is the material to you as a designer or planner or


As a designer of a toolkit it gives me many ideas for what is measureable and observable in the environment so that I know what types of sensors to design and how they might be used.

>Could it be made more useful to you, and, if so, how?

>Compare the

>way the subject matter is presented here and in The Granite Garden. How can

>scientific information about the urban natural environment be presented in a

>way that is most useful to designers and planners and others who are not


Could be more accessible. Even with the same level of technical detail I would prefer a tiered approach to the introduction of material zooming out from a high level. In a way I could imagine Granite Garden as a bit of an “index” into other books like this, so that I could get the big picture quickly and dig deeper in certain places. In a way Granite Garden already is that, but the point is that this book could be organized less linearly. Even though it attempts to start out a chapter at a high level, it’s real purpose is to delineate all the cases of environmental water measurement, so it only goes big picture as an afterthought in my opinion. Simply put it’s not a narrative, and that’s what our minds are evolved and shaped to fit together with.

>Who are the authors? What is their purpose; what do you think they hoped to

>accomplish? Who is the intended audience?

The authors of “Water in Environmental Planning” are professors/researchers. To look at the pressures of academia, but drawing on the text too, their purpose could be a comprehensive analysis of hydrology and the earth’s water so as to impress students and colleagues and gain tenure or establish themselves as the experts, but not to integrate a social and historical aspects (sorry to them for being so harsh, I really should read more detailed before judging, but my judgment is fueled by seeing a lot of inaccessible books in my days). To quote them, they say that “We and our students have been hampered by the lack of an appropriate textbook.” They go on to say that there are textbooks for engineering hydrology but not environmental hydrology. So it could be considered as filling a textbook void in their eyes. A more positive view might include an intention to create a reference guide on the topic so that academics of all sorts can gain a deep and intimate knowledge to be shared and referenced to other audiences through other channels.

On the tree people website I saw some stuff that I didn’t connect with. But then I found a worksheet that seemed really practical and a good way to get people to start thinking. The “planbook”, for example, makes very poor use of html and web thinking in that to go through it you have to click “next” “next” “next” and can’t even skip to a certain page, among other problems.

>In what way(s) do the publications reflect the time in which they were


The time and the place. Written at least in part in San Francisco there was a huge environmental movement going on at that place, and reguardless of the place there was a lot of green thought hitting strong in the years leading up to the publication date.

According to the internet archive*/

the TREES website was published in 2000 and hasn’t changed much since then. This was early in the web so could explain the “next” style of the html.

>Do the authors of these publications use the word "nature" explicitly or

>implicitly? Do they ascribe values to the natural environment? If so, how

>would you characterize them?

The TREES website talks about natural cycles and how L.A. ignores nature’s forces which has an impact on livability and economics. I would say the values ascribed to the natural environment are more in terms of systems-level efficiency, although to study the topic for so long would certainly show a love and dedication.

I am really excited about how I can take the examples in “Water in Environmental Planning” and reformulate them on the micro-level to help me plan for individuals measuring their own hyperlocal environment. For example: measuring rainfall at different distances from a tree’s center rather than over miles. The apparatus can be similar, as sketched out on page 37 for “measurement of precipitation at a point”. It involves a collecting tube, a receiver a scale and a recording drum. Well the recording drum can be replaced by microelectronics in my sensors, and they can be much smaller collecting only over only a few square centimeters of area. There are lots of beautiful maps, such as the erosion map on page 525, that would be exciting to redo for hyperlocal areas such as a 10 ft. radius around someone’s favorite spot to sit. Beautiful graphs of “cumulative percentage frequency of annual precipitation in Baltimore…” could be redone on a local level and embedded in the landscape and experienced synesthetically through time rather than plotted on x-y on the page.