A study conducted by the University of Chicago found that lower income communities had the least opportunities for community-level physical activity, and they also displayed the highest rates of health problems like obesity and asthma. Landscape architects are helping to alleviate this though by teaming with city governments and designing spaces that are beneficial to the communities in which they are built while also adding beauty.
3. Bus Stops
Almost every urban center is home to buses and the usually ubiquitous, uncomfortable bus stop, but many cities are beginning to employ landscape architects to improve riders’ experiences by producing clever and functional designs for their bus stops. One example is the sculptural bus stops along Orlando, Florida’s International Drive.
These white, curvilinear, fiber reinforced polymer panels were designed by Water Geiger and are known as the “Cascade Series, " and are meant to help bring art to the public while also providing much-needed shade to bus riders. Other innovative designs include shelters that incorporate solar panels and green roofs, or more obvious designs like the stop on South East Avenue in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore, by Madrid-based artist collective Mmmm, where the structure is actually three 14-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide letters that spell “BUS."
4. Cycling routes
Cities like Copenhagen are leading the way in designing cycling routes that don’t compete with cars or pedestrians, and other cities are starting to follow their lead. Countries like the Netherlands have over 99 percent of their population riding bicycles for their daily commute and China has almost 500 million people commuting by bike.
Firms like DISSING + WEITLING and West 8 are aware of this trend and are truly changing the faces of cities with their thoughtful designs for cyclists and encouraging the next generation of designers to do the same because of their success.
5. Historic Preservation
This is the practice of identifying, documenting, and hopefully preserving historical landscapes. These include significant private estate gardens, national parks, and public spaces that are in danger of being altered or lost to development.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN) is leading the movement. Their mission to “advance knowledge, education, and skill in the art and science of landscape architecture as an instrument of service in public welfare" can be found in their yearly newsletter on the ASLA website. This PPN is doing this by compiling and maintaining a list of significant American landscapes, and many firms actually specialize in this niche.
6. Rooftop and Vertical Gardens
These magical gardens are not necessarily new, their history can be traced back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but it is only recently that landscape architects started studying their contribution to sustainability and holistic design. Known for their ability to lower energy costs and purify water, they also can add an outdoor space in overcrowded cities where space is limited. Patrick Blanc is probably the most famous vertical garden designer, and his works can be seen around the world.
Perhaps the biggest buzzword of the 21st century, sustainability is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources, " and it is attached to almost every noticeable design of the last 15 years. Most designers looking to be truly sustainable aim for LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, certified and the projects that achieve this are recognized as the best of the best. Also, it is only natural that sustainability would be a goal of most landscape architects since many consider themselves the stewards of the natural environment.
Each of the items listed above could be viewed as a natural progression for design professionals and hopefully they will all continue to develop and evolve and most importantly, stay a part of landscape architecture, and not meet the fate of most trends, and be replaced.
Article by Erin Tharp.
LAN's Writer of the Year 2014. Erin is a registered landscape architect and has a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is working for her own firm, Tharp Design.