July 22, 2018

Revamp of Springfield Park before adding new greenspace


Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted said every city should have a large park for “unbending of the faculties.” A potential reality now for Springfield residents.

Notable urban parks across the country offering respite from the hustle and bustle of the city include Law’s massive Central Park in New York City (843 acres), Savannah’s Forsythe Park (30 acres), and Boston’s Common (40 acres). If you can look beyond the decaying infrastructure and prison-like fences that keep residents out, then you’ll discover Jacksonville has a space that was once worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with some of the country’s most revered urban recreational grounds.

Confederate Park and playground, H.J. Klutho Park, W.W. Schell Park, and McPherson Park combine to form 37 acres of green space forming the border between Downtown and Springfield. A look into the area’s history suggests that this was Jacksonville’s true, great urban park.

Historic markers and history books are quick to mention that it was the site of the 24th Annual National Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, but this urban park’s history is much more culturally diverse and important to the development of the city than that limited mention.

What evolved into the city’s premier public grounds dates back to 1878, when 5.5 acres of land was acquired, establishing Waterworks Park. At the height of the Gilded Era, it was here where the Sub-Tropical Exposition was developed to lure tourists to Florida. When the enormous exhibition hall opened its doors to the public on January 12, 1888, guests included President Grover Cleveland, Frederick Douglass, and railroad magnate Henry Plant. A yellow fever outbreak hampered the hall’s ability to draw tourists, leading to a more functional use; the construction of waterworks pump house buildings that in 2003 were supposed to become the central features of a JEA Waterworks laboratory, museum and visitors center complex.


Council reveals Albert Square potential


Indicative proposals to pedestrianise and enlarge Manchester’s Albert Square as part of the £330m of works at the Town Hall have been unveiled by the city council.

The outline plans would see the square enlarged by around 20% to significantly enhance its role as an events space.

The ideas for Albert Square were set out as part of a presentation given to July’s full Manchester City Council meeting, detailing progress on the project.

Planit-IE is the landscape architect.

The proposals for the square, which will be subject to full consultation at the design stage, would involve limiting traffic access to only the Princess Street side and extending the square’s pedestrianised areas. According to the council, traffic surveys have shown that fewer than 3,000 vehicles a day use the route. Taxi and bus stops would also be repositioned, subject to consultation.

The design of the reconfigured square will also enhance its safety, security and accessibility, removing the need for the current concrete barrier around it.

The square, with its grade one-listed memorial to Prince Albert, predates the Town Hall and work on its construction started in 1863, five years before construction began on the town hall.

Cllr Bernard Priest, lead member for the Our Town Hall project, said: “We are making significant progress on this ambitious project to safeguard, refurbish and partially restore the iconic Town Hall building while enhancing its surroundings.

“Albert Square is a much-loved public space where Mancunians and visitors come together for a huge range of cultural and civic events. It is, in many ways, the heart of Manchester. These proposals will see it take its place among the very finest international public squares.”

The Our Town Hall project will see the grade one-listed Manchester Town Hall building repaired, refurbished and partially restored over the next seven years.

The building, currently closed to enable works to progress, is due to re-open in 2024.

Tropical recreation area set to cool central Singapore


Students from the Institute of Landscape Architecture are planning some natural ways to cool the heat-afflicted metropolis of Singapore. Their testing ground is a disused railway line reclaimed by nature and converted into a tropical recreation area.

The midday heat in Singapore is merciless. The sun over this tropical metropolis doesn’t shine, it burns. That’s why the city has air-conditioned underpasses that connect metro stations to shopping centres and office buildings, creating kilometres of interconnected tunnels that give its 5.6 million inhabitants at least some temporary respite from the adverse climate. This Wednesday lunchtime, ETH Professor of Landscape Architecture Christophe Girot, four teaching assistants and 14 students have sought shelter beneath the broad tin roof of the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown. One of Singapore’s countless down-to-earth food markets, it serves a wealth of delicious meals that combine the influences of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine – the dominant cultures of the former British Crown colony.

Tucking into a spicy noodle soup and Chinese dumplings, Girot explains why he brought his students to Singapore: “Most of them have never been to Asia, so it’s hard for them to understand what life in a tropical metropolis is like – it’s something physical you have to experience in the flesh.” He hopes this experience will help his students gain a better understanding of the growing problem of urban heat islands (UHIs). Heat is increasingly posing health and energy challenges in big cities throughout the tropical belt, from Jakarta and Manila to Bangkok and Singapore.In Singapore, temperatures in central, heavily built-up areas such as Orchard Road sometimes exceed those in surrounding rural areas by up to 7 °C.

The city is heated not just by its tropical climate, but also by the continuous injection of anthropogenic heat from car exhausts, industry and fossil fuel power stations, as well as waste heat from hundreds of thousands of air conditioning units. Other UHI drivers include densely packed building complexes that are not optimised for wind, as well as dark surfaces such as tarmac roads and building facades that store heat instead of reflecting the sun’s rays.

Green spaces to cool the city

Girot’s colleagues at the Future Cities Laboratory – an urban research group at the Singapore-ETH Centre – are hoping to break the vicious cycle of self-heating cities. As part of the large-scale project Cooling Singapore (see box), they are working together with partner universities to develop a roadmap by the middle of this year that will offer measures designed to cool the city down.

The Bachelor’s and Master’s students who Girot has brought to Singapore as part of his three-month seminar Singapore hot, Singapore cool are here to help with that project. The testing ground is a 24-kilometre-long green space known as the Rail Corridor, a disused railway line that stretches from Malaysia in the far north of the island down to the port in the south. It was built at the turn of the century under British colonial rule. In 1918, the British handed over ownership to Malaysia, which ceased operating the line in 2011. Everything that was easy enough to remove was taken back to Malaysia, including the rails, signals and signs. What remained was a largely undeveloped green space, a corridor that nature has gradually reclaimed. Today, one million people live within a one-kilometre radius of the Rail Corridor – a space that offers tremendous potential for the city-state.

“The value of urban green spaces has been rising for years,” says Girot. “Not just for decorative purposes like before, but because they are increasingly taking on key functions.” Researchers have shown that green areas contribute to a more comfortable climate in urban environments. What’s more, targeted landscape architecture interventions can unlock further potential benefits such as using wind and water to cool the environment. “Urban planning in the 21st century is increasingly about landscape planning,” insists Girot, an award-winning landscape architect. “It will play a key role in giving cities a more liveable climate in the future.”


Merrick Denton-Thompson passes torch to Adam White at LI Presidents’ Reception


On 4 July 2018, the Landscape Institute welcomed its new president, Adam White, and thanked outgoing president Merrick Denton-Thompson OBE for his leadership and support.

On behalf of the Institute, the LI’s Head of External Affairs Poppy Smith thanked Merrick ‘for his time, energy, enthusiasm and wisdom, not just for the past two years, but a long time before that’.

Over 250 guests packed into the heart of the recently restored Garden Museum in Lambeth, London. The event was sponsored by CED Stone with Hillers Trees and Palmstead Nurseries generously turning the venue into a wild forest for the evening, filling the Nave with ten 6-metre high birch, field maple and small-leaved lime trees, and 300 wild garden perennial plants.

Adam believes time in nature is not a luxury, but in fact essential to a healthy society. As modern lives shift indoors, these ideas and answers are more urgent than ever. “We evolved in nature,” Adam said, “so it’s strange we are so disconnected from it. Everybody needs a good dose of Vitamin N once in a while if we are going to tackle ‘nature deficit disorder’ and ‘indooritis’.”

It was a fitting welcome for Adam White PLI, who hopes his presidency will promote the science behind what poets and philosophers have known for decades: place matters. He is keen to see the profession work to uncover and celebrate the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain.

Adam refers to nature deficit disorder in many of his presentations. Author Richard Louv defines it as: “What happens when people, particularly children, spend little or no time outside in natural environments, resulting in physical and mental problems, including anxiety and distraction.”

Those that know Adam will be aware how passionate he is about people, place and nature. He worked for the environmental charity Groundwork for 12 years as a principal landscape architect, and chaired Groundwork’s Federation of Landscape Architects Committee, at the time the largest employer of landscape architects in the UK.

In 2008 Adam and fellow landscape architect Andrée Davies established Davies White Ltd Landscape Architects. Throughout his career, Adam’s mission has been to reconnect communities with nature.

International Garden Festival in Quebec opens 19th edition


For its 19th edition, the International Garden Festival is having some fun. The Festival continues its exploration of play with Playsages II – Go Outside and Play! Landscape architects, architects, artists and designers from across Canada and around the world responded to our call for proposals to imagine creative spaces to showcase in Quebec.

Seven new projects offer imaginative spaces where families can congregate and play together all summer. Jump into a canoe to traverse a pond. Choose your own column for a photo op. Leap skyward above the walls of a corn maze. Ascend the vertical cliffs of a metallic Percé Rock. Take a spin on a forested carrousel. Caress the samara of the iconic maple. Visitors can even make their own garden by assembling a lean-to of colourful sticks. Go outside and play – and have some fun!y responding to people’s growing distance and alienation from the natural world with a defiant invitation to re-think outdoor spaces. Go Outside and Play! is a call to action.

People spend less time outdoors and when outside they often observe the natural world with an electronic device in their hands. Most mask the sounds of the surrounding environment with ear buds. Distancing themselves from experiencing nature by cocooning themselves in isolation. How can people make change happen? These new installations will join the six playsages created for 2017 edition of the Festival to offer a vast playground of designed spaces.