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ROOT w w w. r o o t - l a n d .

o r g
Faculty Advisors Editors E d i t o r i a l Te a m Production Advisor Production Managers Magazine Layout Conceptual Design Photo Editor Cover Design Cover Art W e b s i t e Te a m PR Managers

Ann Komara and Michael Leccese Bryan Ganno and Amanda Jeter Anthony Marshall , Patsy Shaffer and Brian Stuhr Doug Ekstrand Kourtnie Rae Harris and Sera Sibley Patsy Shaffer and Sera Sibley

From the Editors: The idea for R O O T began as a conversation among classmates in the fall of 2007, driving back from a studio site visit to the marble ruins near the Crystal River in western Colorado. Inspired by landscape writing in publications like Pages Paysages, R O O T made its debut in the summer of 2009 with the inaugural Unexpected Landscapes issue. Resourceful Obstacles marks my last turn as editor while introducing Bryan Ganno as the continuing editor. This issue takes inspiration from a visit by former ASLA president Angela Dye who encouraged students and practitioners to advocate for change in Colorados restrictive first in time-first in right water law. Dyes call to action sparked an investigation into the obstacles that landscape architects face in theory and practice. Amanda Jeter, R O O T Founder and Editor 2009-2010 Sergio Villanueva Preston Erin Devine Peter Chivers and Sergio Villanueva Preston Peter Chivers Please share, recycle or up-cycle this publication. Peter Chivers and Kent Martin Copyright 2010 R O O T. Nothing shown may be reproduced in any form Katie McKain and Jenna Perstlinger without obtaining the permission of R O O T and its contributors. Bryan Ganno, R O O T Editor 2010-2011

thank you to the American Society of Landscape Architects Student Chapter of University of Colorado Denver for their financial contribution; Clarke Fine
of American Web for time, support and paper; Don Gustafson of Print Matters for his hard work and excellent laughter; Mudo Printing for quality printing and the faculty of UCD for their continued advice, support and financial backing. A special thank you to Doug Ekstrand for time and energy beyond what we could reasonably request. To all the voices and eyes that went into the process of creating ROOT2 - it is only with a group of focused contributors that the magazine finds itself in print. To all who continue to challenge and inspire new discourse within the field of landscape architecture. To all who imagine and design with the goal of creating places that promote adaptability and quality of life. To all with the ingenuity to find resources within obstacles. And finally, to all of you who have picked up our magazine and who will engage the words that follow. ROOT v 2 |

INTRODUCTION Michael Leccese

theory & practice

THE INFRASTRUCTURAL ERA Garden in the Machine Kathleen Kambic

LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT IN DENVER Controlling S t o r m wa t e r a t t h e S o u r c e t o N a t u ra l l y R e d u c e D e s t r u c t i ve R u n o f f Katie McKain

innovative design

CAPTURING THE CAMANCHA Designing Fog Collection Te c h n o l o g y i n t h e A t a c a m a D e s e r t Ben Bookout

THE BLUEHOUSE A Conceptual Design to Cleanse Poll u t e d Wa t e r a n d Pr o d u c e Fo o d i n R e s o u r c e - R a va g e d L o c a l e s Anthony Marshall

voices from the field

BROADENING THE DEFINITION OF DESIGN An Interview w i t h Pa u l L a n d e r Deryn Goodwin

ANNE WHISTON SPIRN Reflections on the Social Cons c i e n c e o f L a n d s c a p e A r c h i t e c t u r e Patsy Shaffer

place over time

RIVERSIDE CEMETERY The Death (& Revival) of Histo r i c P l a c e Bryan Ganno

THE POWER OF PLANT AESTHETICS Self-Sown Garde n s , N a t u ra l i s t i c P l a n t i n g a n d t h e H i g h L i n e Amanda Jeter

LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE Reconnecting the Bayou t o t h e L owe r N i n t h Wa r d , N ew O r l e a n s Sera Sibley

| contents

Michael Leccese has written many newspaper and magazine articles on design, planning and real estate and contributed to numerous books and planning reports as well. He served stints as editor of Historic Preservation News and Landscape Architecture magazine. In 1995 he founded Fountainhead Communications to work with architects, developers and landscape architects, and in 2005 he became executive director of the 1,000-member Urban Land Institute (ULI) Colorado. With Ann Komara, he taught Design Communications at UCD this year.

[Many educated persons] simply ignore explanations and opinions that are not phrased in terms of the privileged discourse of academia or professionalism At best they treat translation as a dumbing down to please a client or to entertain a popular audiencerather than as a creative or demanding opportunity. -Gwendolyn Wright, professor, the Graduate S chool of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University.

Landscape architects and designers in general notoriously fear writing. Many seem convinced they are right-brained creative people who should leave that leftbrained rational stuff to, well, their CPA.
When they do write they often cloak thought in jargon, the lingua franca of academia and design, and target of the critiques from professors Limerick and Wright. In spring 2010 a seminar of seven graduate landscape architecture students and one department chair braved their fears through a new class called Design Communications. They are Bryan Ganno,

Amanda Jeter, Ann Komara (department chair), Katie McKain, Anthony Marshall, Patsy Shaffer, Sera Sibley and Bonnie Vogt. They devoted themselves to an unsung cause among writers on design and planning: clarity. Design Communications posed, if not an attack, at least an alternative to the excesses of academic writing. The classs professor (me) often wondered what he was doing in the front of the room. Why trust a guy who spent half his career in common journalism (and much of the rest in marketing) to teach students how to produce Serious Academic Prose? I offer a few possible answers. Good writing is clear thinking inked, whether you are explaining the Fibonacci sequence, posting on Facebook, drafting an owners manual or essaying for The New York Review of Books. Heres a test: If you cant explain it clearly, you probably lack a good or fully formed idea or do not yet understand the concept you seek to illuminate. Good writing persuades, educates, engages and entertains. In the design fields, this is personified by Pattern Language author and architect Christopher Alexander. In this biblical work, he etched words so clearly you could design a house just by reading and not even glancing at the illustrations. And, by the way, he changed the course of architectural thought and practice. Many key figures in our profession have penned notable works. A wandering journalist and author in

Graduate school implants in many people the belief that there are terrible penalties to be paid for writing clearly, especially writing clearly in ways that challenge established thinking in the field. -Patricia Nelson Limerick, University of Colorado history professor and faculty director, Center of the American West, from Dancing with Professors

RO OT a n d t h e A r t of Influence
Michael Leccese

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his early career, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., thundered against slavery, and then practically invented both the city park and national park systems. Ian McHargs Design With Nature sold 200,000 copies and swayed national environmental legislation. Meanwhile McHarg altered the face of landscape architecture and advised four presidents. Lawrence Halprins elegant book, Cities, catalogued their virtues at a time when urban was considered an epithet unless paired with renewal. A showman of a speaker, he would inaugurate his own parks by leading hippie brigades of waders into his celebrated fountains. (This is a free park, man!) When a firm wins a proposal or sees a project approved because audiences (clients, the public) actually understood and were persuaded by its messagethat too is good writing. Good writing is excellent research compressed into sedimentary layers by long, hard thought. Almost no one, not even a fiction writer, sits down and produces from some secret well of creativity. That is the formula for crippling writers block. If you are blocked, perhaps you have nothing to say because you have not done enough research or employed your senses to experience what is in front of you. Why else write? Words can outlast even landscapes. In Denver, Skyline Park has been maimed, and the 16th Street Mall may be compromised. But thousands continue to read Halprins Cities and Laurie Olins sketchbook journals.

If people and practitioners influence, so do magazines and journals. In 1904 McClures magazine took on John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil in a muckraking series. This immeasurably helped Teddy Roosevelt shatter the corporate monopoly system. The Barcelona magazine Pel & Ploma produced only 15 issues. But one contained an article that launched the career of 20-year-old Pablo Picasso. In the 1960s New York magazine and Rolling Stone forged new literary stylesthe New Journalism of Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompsons Gonzo, an outlaw cousin from just outside Aspen. Magazines may prove to be the print survivors of the digital tidal wave - especially specialized annual journals like R O O T . Their tactile appeal cannot easily be replaced by bytes or replicated on an iPad. R O O T benefits from its engagement with pressing issues that interest many outside the profession. These include drought, water pollution, social equity, population pressures, natural disaster and, in Bryan Gannos exploration of Riverside Cemetery, a taste of the afterlife. R O O T took a brave - that word again - start in 2009 and expands its scope dramatically in 2010. UCD faculty and students foresee national distribution. My hope: Someday students will be lured to UCDs Department of Landscape Architecture to write, a skill that will be seen as indispensible as drawing.

Thank you Ann Komara and the Department of Landscape Architecture for inviting me to help teach this course and to the students for starting R O O T . We also thank our wonderful guest lecturers Andy Boian (writing and delivering speeches), Mary Voelz Chandler (criticism), Doug Ekstrand (graphic design), Clarke Fine (publishing), Patrick Doyle (final paper jury), David Hill (final paper jury), Patricia Nelson Limerick (academic writing), Kathleen McCormick (editing), Ken Schroeppel (web sites and blogging), Stuart Steers (grant writing) and Bart Taylor (publishing).

| introduction

No work can be conceived independently of the human and natural processes that form its context. -William Shermani

Infrastructure is traditionally considered purposefully designed systems that enable some type of exchange, whether it be ideas, goods or money.
Subways, water pipes, power lines and sidewalks are examples of traditional infrastructure that promote city growth. But landscape systems are a part of the

TH E I N F R AST R U CTURAL ER A Garden in the Machine

Kathleen Kambic

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PREVIOUS Venice, Italy. Gradual workings of water on traditional infrastructural elements illustrate how time and natural processes alter the urban realm. Photo by Alissa Ujie-Diamond 2006.

urban matrix as well, and as such, they constitute infrastructure. Landscape systems contribute to the success of cities by fostering human health and happiness; sunlight, fresh air and clean water all contribute to the physical and mental well-being of people. Urban landscape is often considered the in-between or the leftover spaces of cities, where landscape systems are broken down or work in isolation. Urban landscape doesnt present itself as a cohesive system until one realizes that each vacant lot, pocket park or public square is connected by the movement of water, wind patterns, animal migrations, etc. These often invisible infrastructural systems frame our occupation of, and work within, the urban realm. Landscapes have not been traditionally defined as infrastructure, but as places indicative of a set of relationships (Jackson 1984, 3-8). Landscape represented what humans were not - wild, untamed, uncultured. It was something to be consumed, conquered and controlled. Landscapes are commonly manipulated by us to suit us; modern agriculture and the botanic garden are two of many examples of this. Such projects are often large scale and strictly determine the function of landscape infrastructure within their boundaries. Humans change soil profiles, modify topography and manipulate drainage patterns to make landscapes more efficient for human uses, suppressing landscape functions.

The original relationship humans constructed with nature, first framed by religion, politics and science, can now be framed by sensory experience. This takes the privileged position that humans maintain outside of nature and deconstructs it. The landscape stops being a backdrop and becomes active in the process

crevices, permeates surfaces, collects at low points, evaporates - all notable actions modern city planning labors to control. Water moves through the city as a part of the water cycle, from tops of buildings to subsurface transportation tunnels regardless of what we design to prevent it. The landscape matrix of the city is permeated by rain, pipes and humidity, all conveying and transferring water from place to place. This metaphor of landscape as threshold is already exploited by people - traveling in elevators to skyscraper tops, descending to the subway. Water literally mediates the urban surface as humans do urban structures. Alternatively, water can be a threshold, as a volume or edge. As the mythic River Styx or the Blue Lake, water is seen as the threshold between life and death. The River Styx of ancient Greece flows and is moved across, like a thickened barrier, while the Blue Lake of the Tewa operates as a door through which people came to live in this world, like a limit. Some recent projects have similarly exploited the barrier/edge/threshold idea but have been unfortunately considered one-offs. Diller and Scofidios Blur building is a volumetric threshold, where it is difficult to determine where exactly the building begins or ends while the middle is evident.ii Tadao Andos Church on the Water frames a pond behind the altar as if to imply an infinity between the worshiper and the worshipped.iii Whether as the actor crossing the threshold or acting as the threshold itself, water both mythically and physically defines realms of occupation.

Water shapes the earth around us. It literally forms the landscape through presence and absence...

of city building - as landscape infrastructure. Instead of consuming landscape visually and literally, sensory and temporal experience reconnects us to nature in leftover places of the city, i.e. alleys, vertical surfaces, roofs. Landscape as infrastructure becomes a means for knowing the city and world through multi-sensory and spatial tactics, where we can use systems of drainage or plant regimes as partners in a design dialogue about occupation, place, time and making to enrich the urban experience. Spatial and material characteristics of threshold, time and scale are key factors for reinventing the urban landscape, especially in the design of water infrastructure. Threshold The material landscape infrastructure can best utilize to foster new conceptions of the city is water. Water, which literally undermines and underlies our works of city building, has been dismissed from considerations of sustenance and survival as a species within the urban realm. It fills

| theory & practice

Time Water shapes the earth around us. It literally forms the landscape through presence and absence - as a gorge, a river delta, a massive waterfall. The primordial function of finding its level dominates; as icebergs, rain or fog, it moves with gravity. It marks all that it touches, through erosion or deposition. These actions are violent, whether you live in a floodplain or on a mountain. Gravity acting on water is never about a gentle touch. The constant tearing away or aggregation of material through the movement of water changes boundaries, earth forms and plant communities. Water movement over time leaves traces of past occupation, a history of the natural. Over time, the way we see water shaping the earth shifts. Its sound, smell and taste uncovers memories and forms perceptions. The feel of water on our skin can be both life affirming and terror filled, depending on if one wants to be in that water. Flooding was once a gift from the gods in ancient Egypt where geometry was first developed to re-mark agricultural plots after the annual Nile flood. The fertile waters left the fields and the people rejuvenated. In modern Cairo, divorced from the land, the construction of the Aswan Dam precipitated the end of this vast natural cycle. Water has defined realms of occupation through its presence or absence elsewhere too: at the Alhambra, the step wells of Rajasthan, Shanghai and Venice (Duhigg 2010). But with changing cultural standards, the simultaneous occupation of people and water in these places has diminished. Our temporal connection to water has

slowly eroded. Now, our connections to water happen in backyard pools, oversized bathtubs and local spas, completely divorced from the natural cycle of water. Scale Water operates across all scales. Water follows rules which are not affected by the system it operates within. Drainage systems repeat riffle and pool structures from backyard gardens to the Mississippi River. Water overflows a childs pool similarly to breaching a levee. It floods a bathroom the same as a city. Water is by no means restricted to the large scale for its additive and subtractive processes to be evident. In the last 100 years, the United States has built and then systematically ignored thousands of miles of stormwater and sewer piping. On average a water pipe breaks every two minutes somewhere in the contiguous 48 states, a daily problem in larger U.S. cities (Powell 2010, 43). Presently, water issues are tackled from an engineering perspective where what we build must withstand natural and man-made problems.iv The engineering perspective wants to garner more federal dollars to create defensible water control, in effect separating water further from the landscape. If instead we allow for change, modification and response according to the needs of the place as well as primary human needs, major water disasters may be better prevented. For instance, Fargo, North Dakota might not flood if the massive system of downstream levees on the Mississippi River were designed to allow for flexible water control.

If instead of choosing to build massive and expensive infrastructural pipe systems above and below ground, we started creating infrastructure at the scale of a person, the efficacy of the water cycle could increase. Decentralizing and deconstructing water infrastructure into human scale projects can specifically address recreational, drinking, cleaning, agricultural, industry and other needs in situ. Infrastructural costs would decrease as each incremental water system disconnected itself from the urban whole and addressed only the urban proximity. Operating massive infrastructural systems is not economically or physically feasible any longer in many places, is foolhardy in others and impossible in yet others. If we can take any lessons from New Orleans, Nashville and Fargo, one would be that massive infrastructure tends to cause problems as big as the solutions supposedly provided. A New Age of Infrastructure Water is the defining and regulating element in the landscape with which we manipulate the ground to suit our needs. It is also the element with which we can reestablish our relationship with nature, shifting from one of open hostility to one of mutual benefit. Small water interventions inserted into the city to negotiate shifting realities of season and need is one solution to problems of pollution and availability. Incremental deconstruction of traditional infrastructure reengages landscape architecture in the historic manipulation of site construction and disengages the engineering fields from predetermined outcomes. The city becomes more

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random and yet more site specific.v Site considerations move to the forefront of design decisions. Experience of the city is more meaningful.

RIGHT The 1888 Silver Lake ditch of Boulder, CO was the areas final ditch to be built. It was constructed high above Boulder Creek in order to divert water across the rugged foothills to new residential developments in North Boulder. In 1955 the failing wooden flumes built into the canyon cliffs were replaced with steel pipe and rock-anchored bolts. Today the 835 ft irrigation ditch continues to source water primarily from just below the Arapahoe Glacier in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, providing shareholders such as the City of Boulder Foothills Community Park and historic Longs Gardens with the water to sustain their landscapes for most of the year. Photo by Patsy Shaffer 2010.

Two recent classes at the University of Colorado Boulder have pursued understanding of particular cultural systems dealing with water and the physical implementation of accretive solutions for water infiltration, detoxification and control. The first class, HydroLogic, explored the far reaching effects of water upon the development of human settlement, industry and cultural production. Water Measure taught in the spring semester of 2010, looked at reasons we manipulate water systems and methods to insert water infrastructure into cities in experiential and effective ways. Establishing some ground rules first about nature, landscape and design, the classes endeavored to produce work which valued site context as a complex framework within which water It was posited that all surfaces, all things can be regarded as a part of landscape systems, to the point that places are palimpsests of human and natural actions in the past. The interventions proposed did not attempt to erase these traces but instead embraced those marks and revealed the latent possibilities of the existing places. Interventions ranged from interactive water collection and filtration systems to complex realignment of water movement to promote infiltration and conservation. Placing these interventions on the Boulder campus engaged the university community in ways that tested preconceived notions of the value of

water and its place in urban situations. Often, the places chosen by the students were sites out of mind, commonly ignored places one might pass by daily. Two examples of this are 1. a green roof bus stop and 2. a bioswale garden at a major pedestrian intersection. Each project endeavored to reveal the process of water moving through the site to engage people but were clearly interstitial sites that were not treated as valuable landscape components. Mapping studies and watershed calculations framed the specific conditions the urbanized landscape struggled to address. Then, critical designs tested whether the observed problems could be retrofitted to improve watershed function and human use. These insertions into existing places allow the passing of time to be noted, people to interact with a natural system and re-enabled the functions of the water cycle. Continuing work on material possibilities and spatial characteristics of small-scale urban retrofits are part of on-going research efforts (Berger 2006, 44-45). human activity. Large-scale water infrastructure does Conclusion Urban reinvestment and densification starts with water design. All moments in the city become opportunities to reinvest and reinforce natural systems that support ecological function, which in turn supports incredible damage to places both near to and far from (in place and time) the dam, reservoir or flood control project at which it is aimed, as well as creating no-mans

| theory & practice

BELOW An exposed pipe in the Asian Tropics renovation at the Denver Zoo. Photo by Jeramy Boik 2010.

lands where occupation is difficult or impossible. Like a biological organism, the urbanized landscape is an open system, whose planned complexity always entails unplanned dross The challenge for designers is thus not to achieve a drossless urbanization, but to integrate inevitable dross into more flexible aesthetic and design strategies (Berger 2006, 44-45). By scaling down the infrastructural interventions in the city, we can minimize wasted space and maximize user experience. Water is not just a resource, a right or a commodity. Humans must reevaluate how we want to utilize nature, instead of subsuming its products, in order to capitalize on its processes. This design research on water and landscape infrastructure is participatory in the ongoing narrative of landscape, available to human history but not suppressed by it. [T]he idea of nature contains an extraordinary amount of human history. What is often being argued, it seems to me, in the idea of nature is the idea of man; and this not only generally, or in ultimate ways, but the idea of man in society, indeed the ideas of kinds of societies (Williams 1980, 70-71). Now we have better methods, more information and new perspectives on how water supports city building through its flexibility and simple laws, nourishes both physical and emotional needs and re-engages nature in the on-going project of humanity.


Technology: Water Supply (2007), 23-31; and Stan Allen, Infrastructural Urbanism, in Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998).

William Sherman, Engaging the Field, in Site Matters: Design

Concepts, Histories, and Strategies, ed. by Carol J. Burns and Andrea Kahn (New York: Taylor and Francis Books, Inc., 2006), 313.

For further information on these and other projects developed in the

Philip Jodidio, Blur Building: Expo .02, Architecture Now! (2002): 3,

two seminars and their effects on student design perspectives, please contact the author.

170. This building was constructed for Swiss Expo 2002 located at Lake Neuchatel in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland.

Francesco Dal Co, Tadao Ando: Complete Works (London: Phaidon

REFERENCES Berger, Alan, Coda: Urban Landscape is a Natural Thing to Waste, in Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 44-45. Duhigg, Charles, Saving U.S. Water and Sewer Systems Would Be Costly, The New York Times, March 14, 2010, U.S. Section, Toxic Waters series. Jackson, John Brinkerhoff, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (Connecticut: Yale University, 1984), 3-8. Powell, Anne Elizabeth, The Infrastructure Roundtables: Seeking Solutions to an American Crisis, Civil Engineering: The Magazine of the American Society of Civil Engineers, April 2010, 43. Williams, Raymond, Ideas of Nature, in Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980), 70-71.

Press Ltd., 1994), 282-287. The Church on the Water is located in Tomamu, east of the city of Sapporo on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Kenneth Frampton, Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an

Architecture of Resistance, in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture=, ed. Hal Foster (Washington: Bay Press, 1983), 17-34. Despite the critical importance of topography and light, the primary principle of architectural autonomy resides in the tectonic rather than the scenographic p. 30. Also note the sixth section entitled The Visual Versus the Tactile p. 31.

Raymond Williams, Ideas of Nature, in Problems in Materialism and

Culture (London: Verso, 1980); Denis Cosgrove, The Idea of Landscape, in Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984); S.M. Karterakis, The Hydrologic Cycle: A complex History with Continuing Pedagogical Implications, Water Science &

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BELOW Pervious vs. impervious surfaces: Parking lot L, Auraria campus, University of Colorado Denver. Despite higher maintenance needs, permeable pavers are a low cost and more effective stormwater alternative to impervious paving. Photo by Katie McKain 2010.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Sustainable Cities Institute estimate stormwater runoff is responsible for 70 percent of all water pollution in lakes, rivers and creeks
( Sustainable Cities Institute 2010). Urban runoff frequently contains litter, oil, chemicals, toxic metals, bacteria and excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. When developers use conventional methods such as impervious surfaces, stormwater is often left uncontrolled. Designers treat runoff in this

situation as an obstacle to get around due to its many negative effects on the landscape, including reduced water quality, erosion and lack of groundwater recharge. The emergence of Low Impact Development (LID) and effective stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs), the integral drivers in the LID process, are changing designers perceptions of stormwater from a constraint into an opportunity for designing with natural processes. LID eliminates the negative connotation of stormwater associated with conventional practices because it is a new holistic development method that encourages stormwater to be incorporated into site designs using the natural process of infiltration. This reduces both the volume of runoff and the harsh environmental effects of uncontrolled runoff. With our country trying to accommodate inevitable growth, stormwater BMPs will be important for environmental, social and economic stability for generations to come. This article: Promotes the importance and need for LID Examines which BMPs are effective for consideration in design Reflects on current municipality methods providing ideas for furthering the presence of stormwater BMPs at public and private levels


Katie McKain

Controlling Stormwater at the Source to Naturally Reduce Destructive Runoff

| theory & practice

C O N V E N T I O N A L D E V E LO P M E N T SYST E M S Conventional stormwater systems treat precipitation as a waste product, directing it into storm drains and pipes and pouring it into receiving waters. Conventional development systems also cause undesirable effects in the landscape, such as reducing the water table and overall water quality, as well as forcing erosion, sedimentation and flooding issues. As the impervious surfaces that characterize urban sprawl development increase (roads, parking lots, driveways and roofs replace meadows and forests) rain can no longer seep into the ground to replenish our aquifers, forcing a lack of groundwater recharge. Groundwater recharge is a natural hydrologic process where surface water infiltrates downward into groundwater to maintain the water table level. The infiltration process filters runoff naturally through vegetation and soils. Not only do conventional systems prevent groundwater recharge, they also cause significant stress to waterways and affect water quality. When the natural process doesnt happen, runoff spreads over impervious surfaces and gathers pollutants which wash into lakes, rivers and streams, contaminating the water. There is a negative financial connotation also: building impervious surfaces and concrete curb and gutter systems is expensive. Curbs and gutters and the associated underground storm sewers frequently cost as much as $36 per linear foot, which is roughly twice the cost of a grass swale. When curbs and gutters can be eliminated, the cost savings and positive effects on the environment can be considerable. W H AT I S L O W I M PA C T D E V E L O P M E N T ? The ultimate destination of water after rainfall is divided into three categories as displayed in the chart to the right.i There is a dramatic difference between water movement on natural areas versus urban impervious environments. The negative effects associated with unnaturally high runoff volumes from conventional methods of development have initiated the emergence of LID. The Low Impact Development Center, Inc. is a nonprofit organization in Beltsville, Maryland dedicated to the promotion of LID. The center defines LID as a new, comprehensive land planning and engineering design approach with a goal of maintaining and enhancing the pre-development hydrologic regime of urban and developing watersheds natural environment urban environment
(75-100% impervious)

ground absorption 50% 15%

(evaporation & transpiration)

evapotranspiration 40% 30%

runoff 10% 55%

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OPPOSITE Low Impact Development Case Study | Parking Lot K, The University of Colorado Denver, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and the Auraria Higher Education Center combined efforts to convert Parking Lot K on the Auraria Campus into a stormwater test site. The functioning parking lot is also a rainwater collection research station where engineering students and faculty study the effects of stormwater quality and quantity. Over the next five years students will test a variety of porous pavements, infiltration basins, vegetation beds, and detention basins to promote on-site runoff reduction. BMPs are not only being tested at this site but at many sites across the country. We now have effectiveness rates for BMPs and can compare costs to choose the most efficient BMP for a site. Investigations for discovering new creative methods and new engineering materials will be an ongoing process. Photo By Katie McKain 2010.

(Low Impact Development 2010). LID promotes the integration of stormwater management into site and building designs, controlling stormwater at the source before it collects and deposits harmful pollutants. Another crucial component is to minimize impervious areas and have buffer zones between them. Allowing for infiltration and daylighting of runoff to the surface will control stormwater at the source. Development of LID principles began with the introduction of bioretention technology in Prince Georges County, Maryland, in the mid-1980s (Urban Design Tools 2010). LID was pioneered to help Prince Georges County address the growing economic and environmental limitations of conventional stormwater management practices, such as water quality concerns. A D VA N TA G E S T O U S I N G L O W I M PA C T D E V E LO P M E N T 1. Improve Water Quality Many BMP techniques involve bioretention, a process which uses the chemical, biological and physical properties of plants, microbes and soils to improve water quality. Hyperaccumulators are unique plants with natural abilities to degrade, bioaccumulate or render harmless contaminants in soil, water and air. There are many species of hyperaccumulators: barley (Hordeum vulgare), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) are common types and counter aluminum, mercury and

lead respectively. Bioretention techniques include adsorption, absorption, volatilization, decomposition, phytoremediation and bioremediation. 2. Increase Ground Water Recharge General water infiltration is important for groundwater recharge (replenishing the water table). Unsatisfactory groundwater recharge is becoming a serious concern as cities continue to develop land with impervious surfaces (see table below).ii loss of potential groundwater recharge each year Seattle Boston Atlanta 10.5 to 24.5 billion gallons 44 to 102 billion gallons 56.9 to 132.8 billion gallons

far from its place of origin, depleting waterways of their natural processes. The sewer system is not only diminishing groundwater supplies but is also causing significant stress to the waterways and affecting water quality. When contaminated water runs off into rivers and water bodies, it poisons the water and aquatic life, and the majority of it evaporates, never making it into the groundwater recharge cycle. Some runoff actually leaks into sewage systems of fading infrastructure. new development within 1982-1997 141,000 acres 403,000 acres 609,000 acres population growth 1980-2000 32% 12% 46%

As the statistics are directly proportional, it is not surprising Atlanta earned a number one ranking in both loss of potential groundwater recharge and acres of new development. These extremely high numbers should take the population increase into account also, but Seattle managed much lower numbers across the board despite having a relatively high population increase to correspond; perhaps this is due to their advances in stormwater management. When water is sent to a treatment facility instead of infiltrating to the groundwater, it is often taken

When there is not ample ground water recharge, the water table is lowered and negatively affects all facets of nature, including the drinking water supply. BMPs aim to promote infiltration to satisfy the necessary ground water recharge. 3. Reduce Erosion, Flooding, Sedimentation, Water Temperature LID practices reduce rates, volumes and temperatures of stormwater. By reducing volume

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RIGHT Conventional rooftop drainage directs runoff directly to the storm sewer. Alley in Downtown Denver off 15th St between Larimer and Lawrence Streets. Photo by Katie McKain 2010.

and rates of runoff, phenomenon occurrences such as erosion, flooding and sedimentation will also decrease. Pollutants increase the faster and farther runoff travels on impervious surfaces, and the increase in speed causes runoff to warm up before depositing them into lakes and streams and adversely affecting aquatic life. Interupting impervious surfaces with permeable alternatives is the best way to decrease flow rate and volume of runoff. Aesthetically, providing green space and visual attractions in a usually less appealing area, such as a parking lot, is always a benefit to consider. TYPES OF BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES Designing with LID principles and incorporating BMPs into site designs are responsible and affordable ways of incorporating the land and its natural processes into development. The EPA defines a BMP as a technique, measure or structural control that is used for a given set of conditions to manage the quantity and improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the most cost-effective manner (Stormwater Authority: Best Management Practices 2010). There are many types of stormwater BMPs to consider for a design. A site analysis should be performed to note the size of the area and the amount of water the system needs to accommodate. Each BMP has its own pros and cons and is site dependent. In many cases, BMPs are cheaper alternatives to curb and gutter systems. The following are some basic types of effective and efficient stormwater BMPs.

1. Bioretention Swales Bioretention swales, also known as bioswales and vegetated swales, are long, narrow landscaped channels which cleanse runoff using bioretention techniques as well as infiltrate water and act as a conveyance system. Vegetation in the swale must be flood tolerant, erosion resistant, close growing and have good pollution removal efficiencies, much as hyperaccumulators do. A gentle slope is used within a swale to move water through it slowly enough for the plants to respond. Swales can be wet, riparian areas or they can be dry areas only to be wet during large storms. Dry swales are most common in Colorado. Irrigating a swale isnt a good practice except for during the establishment period of two to three years. Grassy swales, similar to vegetated swales in their design and activity, are landscaped solely with a mixture of grasses. The major difference is maintenance and form: the grasses can be mowed regularly as a buffer strip, be mowed occasionally depending on aesthetic and stormwater filtering requirements or be left to grow tall. Swales are inexpensive compared to traditional curb and gutter techniques, and although maintenance is an increased concern, a swale is still less costly and provides more benefits. Studies have estimated the initial cost for a swale ranges between $5 and $10 per square foot. The maintenance cost for a 900 square foot vegetated swale is estimated at $200 per year. The Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Aurora, Colorado incorporates a variety of advanced efficiency technologies which includes a functioning bioswale in

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the parking lot. Palmer Elementary School and Marrama Elementary School, both in Denver, were designed in 2009 with bioswales. Although these specific swales need to be under drained for the safety of the children, the majority of the sites stormwater drains into them, and they are not only functioning as an effective BMP but are an asset to the education of students. The schools were designed as part of the Learning Landscapes program at the University of Colorado Denver, which encourages outdoor learning, social interaction and community stewardship in the students. 2. Rain Gardens / Infiltration Basins Collectors of runoff water, rain gardens are meant to be a short-term dry detention area. Infiltration practices are highly recommended in Colorado and other arid climates to recharge the ground water. Typically small areas, rain gardens usually only collect about two to three percent of total site drainage. Rain gardens (usually grasses) should be planted to minimize erosion and provide some plant and soil filtering functions, but the main function of a rain garden is to allow the stormwater to infiltrate into the ground and recharge the stormwater reserve. These gardens are sited close to the source of the runoff, and different from swales, rain gardens do not convey the water to a specific place; they promote infiltration in a smaller contained area. It is important to position a rain garden close to the runoff source. The water table should be at least five feet below the basin at its peak. If runoff into

a rain garden travels a long distance and picks up excess pollutants and sediments, infiltration may not cleanse it enough. This will result in contaminated ground water or clogged systems. In addition, the type of soil needed to accommodate proper infiltration of half an inch to three inches per hour is an extremely important design pretreatment. The soil should have no greater than 20 percent clay content, and less than 40 percent silt/clay content. Although vegetation within infiltration basins is encouraged for optimal filtering, basins can also have layers of sand and rocks in a type of soakage trench, without vegetation. Infiltration basins are cost-effective practices because little infrastructure is needed when constructing them. One study done by the Southwest Region Planning Commission estimated the total construction cost at about $2 per cubic foot of storage for a quarter-acre basin. An infiltration basin filters water at a minimal level, therefore water quality is a concern for the area, considering a BMP with more filtering purposes would help prevent ground water contamination. 3. Detention Ponds Detention Ponds are larger, less particular versions of infiltration basins, designed to temporarily hold large amounts of storm runoff. This BMP is common in Colorados arid climate because they handle the short but strong storms efficiently. These ponds have a forebay to allow particles and pollutants to settle

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and be treated while preventing them from clogging the entire pond. Generally, detention basins can be used with almost all soils, but the outlet where runoff enters the detention area needs to be large, or it can clog with sediment. With that in mind, the pond should be a minimum of ten acres, making it a difficult BMP to implement in urban settings. Unlike retention ponds, which are always wet, detention ponds by definition dry up and infiltrate relatively fast. Some pollutant filtering is accomplished with this system; in addition, dry ponds can help to meet flood control and sometimes channel protection objectives in a watershed. On the basis of cost per area, detention ponds are the least expensive and most common stormwater management practice. There are numerous detention ponds in the Denver area, such as the Grant Ranch Residential Development in Littleton, which protects Bow Mar Lake under the Grant Ranch Stormwater-Quality Management Program. 4. Planter Boxes Planter boxes are structural landscaped reservoirs designed to catch water, filter it and then promote infiltration to ground water. Different from a bioswale, a planter box doesnt convey water, and is situated in a significantly smaller, more structured environment. Due to the configuration, a planter box will usually require an overflow valve and is most effective when a filter fabric is used within the base. Planters may be used to help fulfill site specific landscaping requirements in addition to handling stormwater constructively and are most

commonly seen adjacent to parking lots and streets. Sand filters that use sand layering to remove pollutants are also options available for planter boxes, but are generally unvegetated.

has a 20,000 square foot green roof. There is also a successful green roof on the parking garage of REIs flagship store in Denver at 1416 Platte Street. 6. Buffer Strips

5. Green Roofs A green roof, also called an eco-roof, is a vegetated roof system consisting of lightweight soil and plants adapted to survive the areas climate. A very efficient BMP, green roofs intercept rainwater directly at the source preventing most of the water from becoming runoff. Since the rainwater is used by the vegetation, a major advantage to a green roof is its ability to decrease the volume of runoff, thus mitigating flow rates, flooding, erosion and sedimentation. Green roofs promote infiltration for the advantage of the vegetation on the roof but not the water table. Additionally, green roofs provide wildlife habitat and attract birds. A green roof also provides energy-saving benefits to the building, including increased roof insulation, mitigating building and roof temperatures and possibly doubling the roofs lifespan. There are two types of green roofs, intensive and extensive. Intensive green roofs promote human interaction where people are encouraged to connect with plant life through paths and gathering areas, whereas extensive green roofs contain only vegetation. A green roof is a relatively high cost BMP up front but has energy-saving returns that are worthwhile down the road. In Denver, the EPAs newly built Region 8 office

A buffer strip located adjacent to waterways provides a physical barrier for protection from development. An adjacent strip of vegetation will help filter out pollutants before they can enter the waterway. A buffer will also reduce the flow rate and volume of runoff to mitigate flooding, erosion and sedimentation of the channel. The temperature of runoff increases as it picks up speed traveling over impervious surfaces. If abnormally heated water moves directly into a body of water it negatively affects aquatic life, reiterating the importance to slow the flow rate with an intercepting buffer strip. Buffer zones adjacent to waterways will not have infiltration features since the water table will be so close to the surface. Strips can be any variety of vegetation, from a simple grassy strip to a forest area. Buffer strips can be an aesthetically pleasing way to define the floodplain or to use adjacent to impervious surfaces such as parking lots while providing wildlife habitat and a location for snow storage. The flexibility of the strips keeps the costs minimal. A grassed buffer strip adjacent to a parking lot can be seen at Wendys at Ridgeview Commercial Center in Colorado Springs.

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BELOW The Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Aurora, CO incorporates a variety of advanced efficiency technologies which includes a functioning bioswale in the parking lot. Vegetation in bioretention swales must be flood tolerant, erosion resistant, close growing and have good pollution removal efficiencies. Photo by Katie McKain 2010.

7. Tree Plantings One of the most underutilized BMPs, tree plantings are effective at mitigating stormwater in urban settings due to their ability to absorb large amounts of water while occupying minimal surface area. Trees provide shade and habitat, which helps reduce the heat island effect. Trees are also an important factor in cleansing and filtering the air. The branches and leaves of trees help to soften rainfall speed, reducing stormwater flow rates and decreasing erosion. Trees also help aid the view shed, break up the impervious landscape, provide small but essential green spaces, linking walkways and trails and reduce the visual dominance of cars. Property owners in Denver are responsible for the care and maintenance of their street trees (Denver Tree Laws and Regulations 2010).

8. Permeable Paving Although permeable paving doesnt have all the benefits of most other systems, it is the alternative to impervious paving, where runoff hits its peak damage point. Permeable paving allows for water to percolate through cracks in pavers and infiltrate directly to the soil, preventing runoff from occurring. Permeable paving is one of the easiest ways to reduce runoff. Examples of permeable paving include paving blocks of numerous shapes and sizes, plastic grids which allow grass growth between the plastic, pervious concrete and pervious asphalt. The numerous different types of permeable paving materials provide flexibility in choosing the most appropriate system for the usage. In arid climates like Colorado, permeable paving systems work better than mortared paving systems due to the intermittent freeze-thaw cycles. Although needing more maintenance, permeable pavers are a low cost and

more natural alternative to impervious paving. Around Denver there are many sites where installed porous pavements are being monitored for effectiveness. Pervious asphalt and concrete are fairly new technologies (designed to infiltrate stormwater runoff instead of shedding it off the surface) that try to maintain the smooth and durable features that asphalt and concrete provide. The Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (UDFCD) is currently monitoring pervious concrete at a test site in Lakewood (Lakewood City Shops maintenance building at 850 Parfet Street). Many other pervious concrete examples exist but are not being monitored, such as Safeway at 14th and Krameria Streets in Denver and the Wal-Mart at I-70 and Tower Road in Aurora (Urban Drainage and Flood Control District 2008). Both porous asphalt and permeable concrete paving blocks are being monitored and tested at the Denver Wastewater Management Building located at 2000 West 3rd Avenue. S T O R M W AT E R A U T H O R I T Y P R O C E S S The EPA furnishes federal regulations on stormwater management. States can then choose to personalize their own stormwater policies, which are to be mirrored after the federal program or follow the EPA regulations and keep the EPA responsible for administering the states stormwater management plan. The Stormwater Authority gathers state stormwater information into one place. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for

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administering Colorados stormwater management plan. Colorado has an immense amount of stormwater resources including published documents, forums and a knowledgeable taskforce. There are many affiliated companies and public agencies, some nonprofit, that dedicate time to the promotion of LID in Denver. These include but are not limited to the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, the Colorado Association for Stormwater and Floodplain Managers, the Colorado Stormwater Council and the Cherry Creek Stewardship Partners. The Clean Water Act of 1972 aims to reduce pollutant discharges into waterways, finance wastewater treatment facilities and manage polluted runoff. The Clean Water Act authorized the EPA to implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program in 1972, which later included a permit program in 1990. The NPDES program requires Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) to apply for permits with regulations based on their population size. MS4s are publicly owned or operated stormwater infrastructure (which is not part of wastewater treatment), such as curbs, culverts and pipes. Common owners and operators of MS4s include cities, towns and public institutions. The permits hold the MS4s responsible for establishing a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP), which meets six minimum measures to educate residents and control discharges.iii Although the NPDES program requires stormwater to be treated to the maximum extent practical, the standard for a SWMP is not set high to encourage the largest participation possible. In addition, infrastructure built before the law was set was grandfathered in, and many existing storm drains are not compliant with SWMP standards, meaning many drains lead runoff directly into a waterway. In Colorado, there are no numeric requirements for stormwater pollutant removal established at this time. To help fund the SWMP, Denver implemented an annual storm drainage service charge in January 1981. An earlier attempt in 1974 failed due to an apparent lack of public knowledge regarding the need for the charge. Denver currently uses a rate table with multipliers ranging from $0.37 to $1.17 per 100 square feet of impervious area, and the rate is determined by the ratio of impervious area to total area (American Public Works Association 1981). Many other cities across the country, such as Billings, Montana and Tacoma, Washington have ADDITIONAL INCENTIVES FOR INCORPORATING LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT In addition to credit opportunities to offset monthly or yearly stormwater fees and decrease MS4 infrastructure requirements, there are other ways to promote LID. Incorporating stormwater treatment into parking areas and landscaped zones will reduce required detention volume on the site. This allows for an increase in building area and the potential for further profitability for an LID educated developer. There is liability associated with altering original hydrology patterns, and since LID techniques are meant to mimic predevelopment hydrology there is a reduced adopted a similar concept while also using a variety of other techniques to calculate the charge. Today, even more progressive ways of thinking are emerging.

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OPPOSITE Green roofs like this one have become a resident-initiated practice in Sandy, Oregon in response to a municipal Stormwater Management Incentive Program. A small community of 5,800 people located 21 miles southeast of Portland, Sandy set the bar high not only with the launch of a monthly stormwater management fee, but they also have initiated a stormwater management incentive credit program to encourage the use of BMPs. Property owners are awarded credits based on the BMPs implemented, and the end result is a discounted monthly charge in addition to all the benefits of controlling runoff at the source. The town believes if the amount of runoff that enters their stormwater system infrastructure could be reduced so would their overall costs. This concept of attacking stormwater at the source not only mitigates infrastructure costs but also is the best way to prevent nonpoint source pollution. According to the EPA, many states report nonpoint source pollution as the leading cause of water quality problems. The town of Sandy encourages property owners to reduce runoff by decreasing impervious surfaces. While the city acknowledges it may be impractical to eliminate all impervious surfaces, it offers credits for the re-directing of runoff into vegetated areas on site, therefore reducing the effect of impervious surfaces. Locally, at Denver International Airport flow diversion techniques intercept 80 percent of the glycol used in airplane de-icing and prevent it from entering Barr Lake, the local receiving water body. MS4 administrators do control public stormwater pollution, but the responsibility of water quality should not solely be left to public officials. In addition, it is also up to private citizens to change their methods of handling stormwater. Incorporating public and private sectors into stormwater management systems, as Sandy does effectively, allows for optimum impacts throughout the entire MS4. Photo by Patsy Shaffer 2010.

potential liability for the developer. Properly designed landscaped zones which are fed with stormwater reduce requirements for irrigation and lower building operation costs. Perhaps in the future, agencies can promote LID in the private sector by offering density bonuses to developers who incorporate LID principles. This idea is similar to the density bonus offered to developers in downtown Denver if they incorporate public spaces in their designs. To frost the cake, many of the BMPs that can be incorporated into LID are already available and can be built at a lower cost than conventional systems. CONCLUSION The harsh effects of uncontrolled runoff have made it necessary to change the conventional building methods we are so accustomed to in order to protect the natural processes that ultimately govern the land. LID stormwater management methods, with focus on handling stormwater at the source, will be important to incorporate for the environmental, social and economic stability of the worlds future. Research is showing positive results using LID to design for stormwater management at the source rather than ignoring it. With

such affirmative outcomes emerging from creative low cost design ideas, LID has transformed conventional perceptions of stormwater as an obstacle, and it can now be viewed as an opportunity to give back to the land. Rather than designing around stormwater we can now embrace it by utilizing LID.


6. Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations.

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Quality Facts, http:// REFERENCES American Public Works Association. Urban Stormwater Management Special Report No. 49. Chicago, Illinois, 1981. Denver Tree Laws and Regulations. Parks and Recreation (2010) tabid/432237/Default.aspx (accessed May 1, 2010). City and County of Denver. Water Quality Management Plan. http:// (accessed May 1, 2010). City of Sandy. Stormwater Management Incentive Program. http://{A9D3CDDE-3BA042DE-BE30-4E321A155AA8} (accessed May 1, 2010). Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers. Low Impact Development Photo Base. (accessed May19, 2010).


Smart Growth America, Paving Our Way to Water Shortages:

How Sprawl Aggravates the Effects of Drought, http://www. (accessed May19, 2010).

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Pollutant Discharge

Elimination System: April 2003 stormwater/pdf/R8%20Small%20MS4%20Permit%20Fact% 20Sheet.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010). The six minimum measures are: 1. Public Education and Outreach on Storm Water Impacts; 2. Public Involvement/Participation; 3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination; 4. Construction Site Storm Water Runoff Control; 5. Post-Construction Storm Water Management in New Development and Redevelopment; and

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BELOW Conventional parking lot drains allow parking lot pollutants to travel directly into rivers. Parking lot L, Auraria Campus, University of Colorado Denver. Photo by Katie McKain 2010.

committee/LID-Summary.htm (accessed May 1, 2010). DeLaria, Michelle. Low Impact Development as a Stormwater Management Technique. http://www.npscolorado. com/LowImpactDevelopment.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010). Denver International Airport. Aircraft Deicing Fluid Collection and Treatment. community/enviro/systemGuide.asp (accessed May 1, 2010). Denver Tree Laws and Regulations. Parks and Recreation. City and County of Denver. ForestryandTrees/ForestryRegulations/tabid/432237/Default. aspx (accessed May 1, 2010). Geosyntec Consultants and Wright Water Engineers, Inc., Analysis of Treatment System Performance: International Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Database, Summary%20June%202008.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010).

Nonpoint Source Colorado. Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and Practices. reducingstormwatercosts.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010). Stormwater Authority: Best Management Practices. http:// (accessed May 1, 2010). Sustainable Cities Institute. Stormwater Management. http// (accessed May 1, 2010). U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Costs and Benefits of Stormwater BMPS. usw_d.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010). U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Denver, Colorado: Region 8 Office. denver-hq.htm (accessed May 1, 2010). U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Storm Water Technology Fact Sheet: Bioretention.

Jojola, Katie. Engineering Faculty, Students Seek Solution to Stormwater Pollution. University of Colorado Denver. http:// SUMMER09/Pages/stormwater.aspx (accessed May 1, 2010). Kula, Deborah, P.E. and Piatt Kemper, Jill, P.E. Interview-City of Aurora, Colorado: Water Resources Division, Water Quality and Environmental Programs. Low Impact Development Center. Sustainable Design and Water Quality Research. http://www.lowimpactdevelopment. org/ (accessed May 1, 2010).

owm/mtb/biortn.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010). U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. What is nonpoint source pollution? (accessed May 1, 2010). Urban Design Tools. Introduction to LID. (accessed May 1, 2010). Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. Urban Storm Drainage Criteria Manual. pdf/critmanual/UDFCD%20Criteria%20Manual%20Vol%20 1,%202%20&%203.pdf (accessed May 1, 2010).

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BELOW Experimental fog collectors at Alto Patache: These are double the size of a Standard Fog Collector (SFC) but use the same principles of construction . TOP RIGHT Collection pipe: Collected water droplets are gravity-fed to the pipe as it descends to a connected storage tank. All photos by Ben Bookout 2008, unless otherwise noted.

In the far north of Chile lies the Atacama Desert, part of the greater Atacama Sechura ecoregion that covers a 1,300 mile stretch of Peru and Chile.
The Atacama Desert receives an average of two millimeters of precipitation annually, and during the last 100 years the regions largest city Iquique has not received a single drop of precipitation 60 percent of the time (Cereceda 2005). There seems to be little chance that life can survive in this moonscape environment. Yet, amongst the rocks at higher elevations, life seems to find a way to survive. Chaarcillo (Lyciunm leiostemum), Sosa (Nolana sedifolia) and Pingo Pingo

(Ephedra breana) are just some of the plants that etch out an existence along with lichens and beetles in the harsh desert. They do not survive on scarce precipitation but on a continual cycle of fog called the camanchaca, which blows in off the Pacific Ocean. By grouping together around the rocks and increasing their collective surface area these species are able to create small oases. Because parts of the Atacama are inhospitable, this concentrates human populations to costal areas or small river valleys that flow from the Andes Mountains. In an attempt to make life in the desert less difficult, humans have adapted the use of natural plant processes for their own survival through fog collection. Similar to lichens that use the rocks surface area and plants that use their leaf surfaces, the practice of fog collection uses relatively simple technology. Sheets of polymer-based fabrics suspended between two anchors harvest the small water droplets in the incoming fog. These droplets gravity feed to a piece of pipe cut in half so it resembles a small trough. The water collects there and is again gravity fed to a holding tank nearby. At the Universidad Catlica de Chile test site, Alto Patache,

Designing Fog Collection Technology in the Atacama Desert
Ben Bookout

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BELOW Specifications for a Standard Fog Collector. Robert S. Shemenauer 1994.

these collectors are placed facing the southwest where the camanchaca comes every afternoon carrying varying amounts of water depending on the season. Spring and winter historically yield the most; autumn and summer the least (Cerecede 2002). The cost for a Standard Fog Collector (SFC) is $100 U.S. The water collection can average from one to three hundred liters per square meter of polypropylene material depending on weather conditions (Schemenauer 1994). Fog collectors at Alto Patache average around eight liters per square meter per day. The excitement surrounding fog collection in the Atacama Desert is twofold. The first is the technical challenges of harvesting water in a harsh desert environment and the resourceful ability to take advantage of an untapped water supply. The second is the innovative design of the fog collection device itself and its aesthetic repercussions for landscape architecture. Tr i p t o P a t a c h e / U S M F o g C o l l e c t o r s Universidad Catlica de Chile offers a class each spring called Paisaje Xerofito (Xeric Landscape) with the intent of designing new, prosperous futures at its research facility, Alto Patache. Each class visits the test site and groups create master plans and design interventions. In October 2008 our Paisaje Xerofito class took a trip to Alto Patache to observe, analyze, sketch and gather ideas for an eventual master plan and proposal. Professor Rodrigo Prez De Arce picked us up on the side of a highway lined with salt from the nearby mine. The crusty white salt bound to North America gave the

impression of snow but the heat, desolation and silence of the place made you reconsider. As Rodrigo pushed the overloaded truck up steep slopes and around corkscrew curves, we held our breath and clenched our fists. Having taught the class for the past five years, navigating the small truck around drop-off cliffs to the camp site seemed to be just another day at the office for our professor. Upon arriving at Alto Patache base camp, the first thing we noticed was the sculpture park of fog collector interpretations installed by Universidad Tcnica Federico Santa Mara based in Iquique. The installation stands alone in the desert as if waiting to be discovered. It offers no protection and seems to suffer the same feelings of loneliness and exposure that typify the Atacama Desert. One feels so vulnerable in such a landscape with little protection from the sun and wind, save a few boulders. It leaves most wondering how anything can survive in such an environment. There is not much difference in looking at images from Mars and those of the Atacama Desert. Along with learning about the intentions of research at Alto Patache, we learned about the fog collection process, its potentials for plant growth and potable water. We also learned about the plant communities that survive on water droplets from the camanchaca. Constanza Caceres, Sarah Kutz, Isidora Larrain, Thibaut Villiers-Moriame and I made group observations of the area we would eventually use for our master plan at Alto Patache.

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BELOW LEFT The view from Alto Patache toward the southwest where the Camanchaca clouds originate. The Pan American highway runs along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. This photo is taken from an altitude of 800 meters above sea level where the fog contacts the tops of these coastal mountains every afternoon. RIGHT Plan view for Camping Oasis Bajo Niebla.

Our Design: Camping Oasis Bajo Niebla Using our experience in the desert and building on previous ideas, we decided to plan a recreation area between Alto Patache and Bajo Patache located on the hillside just above the ocean. Through a system of interlocking gabion walls, the project will protect users and plant life from the Atacama wind and sun, analogous to the way people have survived for centuries in deserts. Locating the gardens between Alto Patache and Bajo Patache allows for greater access from the Pan American highway that follows the coast as well as access to the beach. The locations other advantage is it can be irrigated by a gravity system from Alto Patache, where we located all fog collection devices to supply the project with water. We based consumption on an average of 30 liters per day per user with an average of 150 users per day and 500 liters daily for plant irrigation for a total of 5,000 liters daily use. Then we had to consider seasonal fluctuations of water supply. Thus we used a worst-case scenario in February where fog collectors receive an average of two liters per square meter of material to calculate the installation of 52 fog collectors. Installing for the lowest flow from fog collectors at Alto Patache will allow for a surplus of water the rest of the year which can be gravity fed to nearby settlements. For example, high flow is in September when it is estimated the fog collectors can accumulate 18 liters per square

meter. Consequently, our project can function on just six fog collectors in Septemberthe rest becomes surplus water for export. The design group decided to celebrate this small surplus amount of water in such a desolate place. The irrigation system has a main collection tank at the top of the gabion wall system. This tank is fixed with a float allowing a valve to be turned on automatically when the tank is full. The tank would fill as fog collectors worked in Alto Patache and water can be gravity fed to the holding tank below. Excess water would then flow down the main canal at various moments and be collected in the lower holding tank for export. Potable water tap systems and drip irrigation would also be supplied from the main tank and dispersed throughout the site.

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LEFT View from above Camping Oasis Bajo Niebla with access to adjoining Pan American Highway and Pacific Ocean. LEFT BELOW Sculpture park by third year architecture students from Universidad Tcnica Federico Santa Mara (Profesors Ciro Najle and Jorge Godoy with collaboration from Pablo Barra, Csar Gonzlez y Carlos Castro). The park was named Tardonaturalezas, Jardn de Niebla, or Garden of Fog and was constructed in a very desolate area. Specific project goals were to capture the camanchaca, allowing endemic species to take root near the fog collectors and to accumulate water for use by nearby settlements (Alumnos expusieron proyectos realizados en Desierto de Atacama 2009). These elegant interpretations of a simple SFC demonstrate the design and ecological potential of fog collectors at Alto Patache. With time we may see entire plant communities taking hold around these sculptures while water harvesting for consumption remains within reach. RIGHT BELOW Fogcollecting sculpture at the Alto Patache research site, designed using a combination of solid and perforated stainless steel tiles. The structure gains its shape from a series of metal ribs on the inside of the structure. The studio for this work took place during the first semester of 2008 (February - July). Photo by Universidad Tcnica Federico Santa Mara.

The gabion rooms would have distinct uses such as camping and picnicking, as well as designated garden space. Rooms that offer a function are fixed with water taps. This water is then filltered through small gray water gardens, and along with water from the solar showers, it is collected in the gray water holding tank for export to the impoverished, nearby town of Chanabaya that currently imports water by truck. Water could be further separated into potable and non-potable sources with more infrastructure. Garden rooms use native plants found at Alto Patache, and by using gabions we hoped the walls would create their own ecology and begin to encourage plant and lichen environments similar to the process at Alto Patache.

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CENTER Upright sculptures at the Alto Patache research site. RIGHT Night rendering of strategically placed solar lights at camp Bajo Patache.

There is also a plentiful supply of large cobble near the beach, providing ready stone to form the gabion walls. Bamboo rods would be spread across the tops of some rooms for shade while the materials for wooden paths would be imported. Conclusions The practice of fog collection in the Atacama Desert offers unusual design opportunities. The ability of this simple technology to alter the environment in the desert to create more irriguous microclimates has wide-ranging implications. More must be learned to understand the most efficient means to use this technology. The team has just scratched the surface of design possibilities for fog collectors and the water they accumulate. Universidad Catlica de Chile is committed to implementing a design intervention at Alto Patache, and with further academic studies by various universities we may see a thriving desert oasis come from thin air, one that enhances local ecologies and local economies.
NOTES All renderings are from the group studio work of Ben Bookout, Constanza Caceres, Sarah Kutz, Isidora Larrain and Thibaut Villiers-Moriame 2008. Desert of Chile. Instituto de Geografa, Pontificia Universidad Catlica de Chile. (accessed October 19, 2009). Schemenauer, Robert S. A Proposed Standard Fog Collector for Use in REFERENCES Cereceda, Pilar, Pablo Osses, Horacio Larrain, Martn Faras, M. Lagos, R. Pinto and R. S. Schemenauer. Radiation, Advective and Orographic Fogin Tarapac Region, Chile. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Fog and Fog Collection, eds. Schemenauer, R.S. and H. Puxbaum, 2001, 457-459. Cereceda, Pilar, Raquel Pinto, Hoacio Larrain, Pablo Osses, Martn Faras. Geographical Description of Three Fog Ecosystems in the Atacama Coastal High-Elevation Regions. Journal of Applied Meteorology 33, (1994): 1313-1322. Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria. Alumnos expusieron proyectos realizados en Desierto de Atacama. (accessed October 19, 2009). World Wildlife Fund. Atacama-Sechura Desserts. about_our_earth/ecoregions/atacama_sechura_deserts.cfm (accessed May 26, 2010).

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The Bluehouse was second year LA student Anthony Marshalls conceptual answer to LA Design Studio3, also referred to as The Impossible Studio. By linking two or more bluehouses, contaminants are removed prior to crop irrigation, thereby eliminating the threat of tainted food products. This is accomplished through the use of phytoremediating flora such as sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) which are able to extract and metabolize heavy metals, releasing purified water that can be utilized for food production. Additional design opportunities may be realized through the exposure of this process: underground water movement has the potential to be brought to the surface temporarily before connecting with the next structure.

As the sun glints off the pitched glass roof above, I twist a ripe tomato off its emerald vine.
Tipping my hat to a neighbor as he bites into a similar crimson sphere but a few rows past, the overwhelming reality of time floods all thoughts. Harvest season has arrived. The time when patient friends and strangers join to reconnect, reflect and of course, feast. Upon studying the brilliant red colors of a tomato in hand, my eyes soon begin to drift. In all four directions stand tall, clear walls inviting the suns powerful light and warmth inside. Above, light gleams through a layer of flowing water, trapped between two panes of thickened glass, casting rippling shadows in all directions. The water overhead prompts curiosity what purpose does it serve above? I follow the liquid from the roofs peak, down its angled sides where it meets

the walls and watch it disappear into small pipes and reappear at my feet below. Immediately after released onto the soil, the water vanishes again, fading into the soils pores and pulled back up by the roots of an awaiting plant. Expanding its leaves as if taking in a deep breath, the plant stretches skyward, and my eyes follow. Sharpening my focus, beads of water become visible as they build upon the underside of the ceiling and slide down like the water that flowed between the glass panes before. From here, tiny water droplets slip down into what appears to be a small gutter. Gravity moves the liquid alongside the wall until allowing it to escape to the outer world. Out in the late summer sun, people gather. I stretch my hand outward and twist counterclockwise an awaiting tap. Releasing the liquid and filling my glass with water drawn from a large barrel, I catch up with once unknown individuals that have become like-minded friends. Beyond the jovial faces a similar structure comes into view. Appearing as a greenhouse, this building also contains the unique flowing water within its roof. Rooted within it stand bashful sunflowers, craning their heads to the west to gather the last hours of daylight. Pipes enter and leave the building, diving below the grounds surface and shooting to the roof above where flowing water emerges. What becomes clear is the connection of flow between the days participants water, buildings, plants and residents. Water continues to enter and leave each building, ultimately consumed by those who quench the days thirst. As I finish my glass of water, the questions

A Conceptual Design to Cleanse Polluted Water and Produce Food in Resource-Ravaged Locales
Anthony Marshall


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linger. Where can all of this water come from? This dry region of the earth is rarely greeted by rain. No wells are near to bring water from the underground to the surface. Residents avoid the river below as it cumbersomely cuts back and forth across the landscape, carrying with it toxins and runoff from polluting sources upstream. Only water found miles away is potable. But piecing the surroundings together, the realization sets in. This toxic river provides the very water used to grow the tomatoes that rest in the bucket below. Polluted rivers, lakes and streams are growing so common in discovery that our minds grow numb to such shocking news. As nations around the globe undergo rapid development and strive to maintain heightened levels of prosperity, our natural resources endure

increased levels of stress, pushing environmental systems to the verge of collapse. The most startling impact can be felt in our freshwater systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water quality assessments show 40 percent of streams and 45 percent of lakes do not pass quality standards (U.S. EPA 2000). In China, nearly 70 percent of all freshwater resources are polluted, as a result 300 million rural Chinese residents lack access to clean water (Plafker 2005). Heavily reliant upon freshwater for ecosystem health and human consumption, we must search for new methods to reverse these trends. Conventional methods focus less on prevention and are far too reactionary. Wastewater treatment plants work around

the clock, consuming vast amounts of energy to remove heavy metals, pathogens and various toxins. These systems require tedious maintenance, substantial monetary support and the warm effluent released offsets riparian habitat downstream. However, until preventive measures supercede reactionary ones, our reversal attempts shall continue. To adequately address our global water crisis and supply of potable water, we need dynamic, inexpensive and localized systems that can be used in widespread parts of the world. Furthermore, we need to expose the treatment process to communities, reconnecting ourselves to the influences we make downstream. The question of how remains. One alternative grew to conceptual fruition during an urban agriculture studio at the University

| innovative design

of Colorado Denver. According to graduate-level landscape architecture instructors Austin Allen and John Lanterman, the studio focuses on design issues that appear impossible, forcing students to expand their approach beyond common methods and push conventional norms. Attempting to produce localized food systems within the context of an arid climate and limited water supply played into this framework. With an elevation of 5,732 feet and nestled in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the village of Eldorado Springs brings forth multiple challenges as our given site. Here, long stretching plains from the east collide with dynamic montane conditions of the west, bringing drastic differences of topography, climate and ecology. Here, South Boulder Creek emerges from its mountainous headwaters and meanders eastward through Eldorado Canyon State Park, divides the adjacent town, slices expansive brittle prairie and merges with its main stem on the eastern side of Boulder. It is here where clear skies make way for the sun to scorch this eastern slope over 300 days a year, prompting water to defy gravity and evaporate skyward, drying the earths surface and leaving the ground in a constant state of thirst. Intense heat, drought and unpredictable winter snowfalls that melt and drain east create a fragile landscape of wavering scarcity. Introducing food systems heavily reliant upon water sources surfaced as an initial challenge. However, climate and adverse weather conditions are only half the story when it comes to water scarcity. Water is not simply a free-flowing natural element. It is held back to fill void spaces in the land; it is rechanneled to serve places slightly off its natural course, and most importantly it is owned. Colorado water law implies the Prior Appropriation Doctrine. Most commonly described as first in time, first in right, this policy, following a court decree, grants persons who first claim beneficial use of a water source seniority over any subsequent permit that is awarded. When water flows decline, those permits that fall junior to older permits cannot remove any volume until adequate flows rebound, ensuring the senior water right is satisfied. In other words, the older the permit dates, the better the chance of access. Some major Colorado waterways have water rights dating back to the 1850s, and some of these rivers and streams have been termed over appropriated, or unable to satisfy a senior right most or all times of the year (Colorado Division of Water Resources 2010). To obtain a permit now involves the economic obstacle of purchasing rights from those who hold permits a costly endeavor. If the majority of water is spoken for, how is it possible for new housing developments to emerge each year? How are water needs met for domestic use? In short, some water is taken from underground sources. This action can still have setbacks as ground and surface water are intricately linked. Returning groundwater to its aquifer, typically through soil

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CENTER Within a relatively small plot of 15x20, plants with a high water demand such as corn (Zea mays), can produce the recommended daily intake of water for 53 persons per year.

fashion. This water can be controlled and quantified. To obtain a consumptive use permit proves difficult, almost impossible. Nonconsumptive use permits are far easier to acquire. Herein lies the challenge to promote agriculture for a community with an unobtainable water right. Seems impossible. Perhaps there exists a method to overcome such a constraint. Perhaps the ability to release the consumed water back in liquid form could solve this problem. If plants are known to release water, then getting this vapor to condense back into liquid form on site, by definition, would be a nonconsumptive use. What conditions provoke water vapor to condense? The answer involves temperature. Cold air cannot hold as many water molecules in comparison to warm air. As evaporated water ascends into the upper atmosphere, it encounters a much colder environment. percolation, is likely to be enforced. What differentiates domestic use from agricultural use is the notion of phase change. Water that is provided to agriculture is considered a consumptive use, as water will be consumed by plants as a liquid and released as a vapor when they breathe a term known as transpiration. Adding the water released by plants to the water evaporating from the soil is collectively known as evapotranspiration. This water must complete the hydrologic cycle before being available again for use. Domestic use such as bathing, brushing ones teeth, washing dishes is considered a nonconsumptive use as water enters in liquid form and leaves in the same This is the basic understanding of cloud formation. The cold air forces the molecules to stick to one another, gain mass and fall in the form of rain or snow. Down on the ground we can see this with a cold beverage on a hot summer day. Invisible water molecules cool and condense on the outside of the cold glass, loosening our grip and keeping the drink coaster economy alive. In order to sidestep water policy and promote irrigation of crops as nonconsumptive, the designed system will need to essentially bring the cold sky down to the ground. Immediately following evapotranspiration, a cooled structure overhead must be in place to promote condensation. This occurs

all throughout the world inside greenhouses. In the morning, beads of water can be found clinging to the ceiling as the cold night air cools the roof. The ability to collect this water and return it to its source is crucial to the designs success. The source of water in this case is South Boulder Creek, adjacent to a dry prairie landscape. With the process of condensation in mind, ensuring a constant temperature throughout daylight hours must be maintained to induce condensate formation from the flora growing below. Using water to cool a roof structure not only allows for the pumped water to become multifunctional but also more reliable given its ability to hold temperatures more steadily than air. Water began to flow. Ideas began to flow. Once dew point temperatures were found, a roof temperature of 50 degrees F proved appropriate. When the water from South Boulder Creek is warmer than 50 degrees F, pumping it underground approximately four feet below the surface will cool it to the required temperature. To make certain, pipe layout needs to be in a horizontally coiled manner, allowing adequate contact time with the cooled subsurface environment. From here the water can be forced to a roof, flow parallel across its apex and release by means of a perforated pipeline. Capping the opposite end provides only one way out through the sides similar to simple drip irrigation systems used on ground. Once released, the water will move down through a 60 degree peaked roof between two panes of thickened glass. With constant flow, the roof will cool to 50

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degrees F. As the water reaches the juncture of ceiling and sidewall, small gutters will direct the water into a single pipe. This will take place on both sides of the greenhouse-like structure. From here, the option arises to either direct the water down to where crops are planted or allow the water to exit if saturation needs are met. After soil has reached appropriate saturation levels for the growing crop, a simple valve will redirect the excess water back toward the creek. This can be accomplished by means of overland flow to create a riparian zone or through a conduit to ensure all remaining water returns to the source as liquid. Now the plants do their part. Removing water from the soil, the plants pull out nutrients as the water flows up their stems, opening stomata in their leaves to release water as vapor. The vapor rises until contacting the ceiling where it cools, condenses, gains mass and slides down the inside pane down to the wall. The same gutter installation can direct this water back to the creek. The system meets the goal of nonconsumptive use since liquid water enters and liquid water returns. But is there opportunity to further the systems benefits? If the water source is not of irrigation quality, can plants be chosen to adjust for various conditions? Yes. As our understanding of natural systems becomes explored to greater lengths, we can begin to observe plants as living filters. From grade school we learn they

consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen. When plants clean soil and water, we learn the process of phytoremediation. The ability of a living system such as this to cleanse water in diverse landscapes provides a unique opportunity. South Boulder Creek is much cleaner than many waterways found globally, therefore applying alternate methods to combat contaminated water sources is necessary to meet water and food demands elsewhere. For instance, bringing a polluted water source into a greenhouse for crop application would suggest the ripe red tomato in hand potentially contains the very toxins we should avoid. Herein lies the second daunting challenge. To overcome this hurdle, a deeper understanding of phytoremediation unlocks potential. plants such as Western Wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) have been found to degrade hydrocarbons. White Lupin (Lupinus albus) is known to remove arsenic and store the toxin within its root structure. Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea), Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), Hairy Golden Rod (Solidago hispida) and Violets (Viola spp.) are capable of extracting, storing and/or degrading metals such as copper, nickel and zinc (Puget Sound Action Team 2010). The list of species capable of cleansing our soil and water is continually growing and these observations allow for site-specific treatment. In regard to design, imagine a linked treatment system of multiple fluid structures, (or bluehouses as coined for the MLA studios final jury presentation) each engaging in a

specific role to purify water. Envision water pumped from a toxic river, making its way underground to cool, entering a bluehouse with planted phytoremediators, such as sunflowers. As contaminants are either degraded or removed, pure water releases from the sunflowers stomatic cells and condenses on the ceiling. From here the water is not returned to the river, but redirected to a secondary bluehouse where edible crops are being grown. Depending on the magnitude of toxicity, severity of hazards and the diversity of toxins present in the water source, multiple bluehouses can be linked, each with specific plant species that can treat each contaminant. The last bluehouse receiving the filtered water will be constructed for food production. Again, the notion of site specificity must be stressed. A water test will provide the dangers hidden within the water source. Turbidity, or the amount of suspended solids, will drive decisions to make use of sand filters. These large columns of sand, capable of filtering sediments, will remove soil-bound contaminants and ensure optimal transparency for solar penetration through the roof panes. No matter the constraints, designing with what ultimately become simple gestures of physics and botany can counteract the accumulation of toxins entering and exiting a bluehouse. What about evapotranspiration rates? How much breathing does each plant endure each growing season? According to the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network (COAGMET) More than 99.9 percent of the water used by an irrigated crop or turf is drawn through the roots and transpires through the

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BELOW Sited within a dry upland prairie ecosystem adjacent to South Boulder Creek, this conceptualized bluehouse intends to achieve the goals of water purification, food production, social interaction and riparian creation.

leaves. Only a small amount (0.1 percent) of the water taken up by plants is actually used to produce plant tissue (Puget Sound Action Team 2010). To investigate suggested output percentages one bluehouse could produce, a hypothetical space of 15 by 20 feet is used. Calculating this space of 300 sq.ft., planted with 200 stalks of Corn (Zea mays) and a water demand of 22 inches per growing season, 9,750 gallons of water will be applied and subsequently released. This equates to 53 servings of 64 ounces of drinkable water per day, per year from a space the size of an average living room. Copious amounts of water flow into the system and the same amount flows out. When the growing season terminates, the stalks dry and almost all water will be expelled. (See supplemental chart on pages 26-27). Whether the plant species in use are slow or heavy breathers, it is known that almost all of the water consumed is lost through cellular respiration. Valves that either water the soil media or release excess back to the source offer control over input and output. Collection of condensate might be a longer process for those plants transpiring at slower rates, but still this water can be collected and sent to the next system for further treatment and use over time. In terms of construction materials, the idea remains to simplify. Common four-inch diameter pipes can be used to move water from a river to the bluehouse. Solar-powered pumps can efficiently provide energy for removing water from the river and to force water up to the roof peak. Small gutters, standard drip irrigation

lines and common rain barrels can be used to collect flowing water, irrigate crops and store the collected condensate respectively. Polymethyl methacrylate (Plexiglass ) of various thickness will be pieced together to construct the hollow roof and the sidewalls of the building. Soil media will vary depending on conditions on site. Therefore, soil testing should be conducted to address porosity and overall media health prior to construction. This system is contingent on understanding local conditions. Thorough analysis is a must. However, the process of water treatment and food production share a simplistic approach. We are capable of expanding our

conventional methods by turning attention toward our natural surroundings. Reading the ladscape that we rely upon provides clues into ecosystem health and opportunities to imitate for human experience. Exposing this knowledge brings others to live more consciously, connecting the dots between human needs and environmental consequence. Implementing systems like the one described can cleanse water derived from polluted water sources, educate and unite communities through a visual, hands-on, transparent process and ultimately provide safe drinking water and food resources simultaneously on site.


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BELOW Graphic novel illustration by 2010 MLA graduate Kourtnie Harris. Part of a group entry with Stephan Hall and Amanda Jeter for the Van Alen Institutes Manhatta 2409 Competition. The project ELEMENTAL EXCHANGE proposes a future urban identity of intensified bonds between cultural + natural elements through adaptive design. The quotes are from Walt Whitmans Leaves of Grass. For more information on this project please visit

With these thoughts in mind and a hefty bucket of produce, the days questions become less intimidating to answer. Exiting the bluehouse, it is time to return home. Looking skyward once more, sunlight penetrates the flowing water and casts the days final shadows from above, making the motionless plants below appear to sway against one another. I shake hands with friends outside as we begin to part ways, anxious to slice into todays findings and prepare fresh summer meals. The sun fades beyond the horizon and the cool night air sinks into the landscape. The once limited access to water and food becomes a thought of the past.

NOTES All drawings and charts are by the author. Plafker, Ted. 16 Dec. 2005. China, Parched and Polluted, Puts a Price on Water. The New York Times Web. May 2010. http://www.nytimes. REFERENCES Colorado Division of Water Resources, Office of the State Engineer. History of Water Rights in Colorado. Denver, CO. Web. May 2010. http:// (accessed April 1, 2010). McCutcheon. 2003. LID Technical Guidance Manual for Puget Sound: Sampling of Plant Species Studied for Phytoremediation. Web. May 2010 (accessed April 1, 2010). com/2005/12/16/business/worldbusiness/16iht-rdevchin.html (accessed April 1, 2010). U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Aug. 2002. Water Quality Conditions in the United States: A Profile from the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory Web. May 2010. factsheet.pdf (accessed April 1, 2010).

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Paul Lander, LEED AP, is an Instructor in the Department of Geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Principal of the Dakota Ridge Partnership, specializing in urban ecology, specifically urban water systems. He has been active in conservation for 28 years, with program experience in energy, land and water conservation with the City of Boulder, City of Longmont, South Suburban Parks and Recreation District- Littleton, County of Boulder, Trust for Public Land-Seattle, State of Washington Scenic Rivers Program and Minnesota Energy Agency. Dr. Lander was the first Executive Director of the Colorado WaterWise Council, and for 16 years directed the award-winning water conservation program for the city of Boulder. He is a member of the AWWA WaterWiser editorial committee, the advisory board of Oregons Lane Community College Water Conservation Technician Program and the water conservation committee of the American Society of Landscape Architects. He received a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder, M.L.A. in Landscape Architecture & Planning from the University of Washington and B.A. in Environmental Conservation from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Photo courtesy Paul Lander. This text has been excerpted from the University of Colorado, College of Architecture and Plannings Weekly News on November 6, 2009 announcing his lecture Rainfall and Landscape: A Contested Commons The lecture was conducted on Monday, November 9, before which I sat down with Lander to discuss his philosophy on landscape architecture as it relates to water conservation. - D.Goodwin

beyond the oft-quoted excuse that larger environmental and regional issues are simply not my problem.

the ability to think abstractly, to represent possibilities creatively and to consider the visual and ecological impacts of critical decisions. It is true that landscape architects are, in many ways, artists and dreamers. But we are also equipped with a palette of practical skills. Our guidance could be infinitely valuable in responsibly shaping the physical, environmental and aesthetic qualities of our communities. Lander uses Australia as a case in point, where the existing water supply is far too low to support future growth. Perth, for example, has a current population of 1.7 million that is growing by 3 percent annually; however, the amount of water flowing into storage has dropped by 65 percent in the last ten years. Moreover, according to Land & Water Australia a statutory research and development corporation within the Australian

[D]esign should be understood as a way to approach problems, said the energetic and passionate Paul Lander,
a Colorado landscape architect, geographer and political advocate for sustainable water practices. Packing what seemed to be at least 100 words into every minute spent with me, he insisted that landscape architects have to move beyond project-based thinking,

Instead, he argued, design provides a unique set of tools for addressing these issues that cant be solved by engineers alone. It provides the groundwork for successful policies and education. It stimulates the publics imagination as they go about creating the future of their physical and social environments. With this in mind, Lander offered three broad-scale recommendations on how landscape architects can change the way they think and practice: 1. Our visual and graphic skills can help communities dream up new directions to take, new avenues to pursue, which is an endeavor too often left to more policy-minded planners. Even beyond G.I.S., SketchUp and two- and three-dimensional renderings, we have


An Interview with Water Expert Paul Lander
Deryn Goodwin


| voices from the field

Government systemic changes in groundwater tables have left terrestrial ecosystems at great risk. Additional research is being conducted to better understand these linkages between water allocation, surface and groundwater, and water-dependent ecosystems. However, in such dire circumstances, planners and designers must create alternative futures for their communities. Among other possible solutions, Lander indicated that Australia is taking a serious look at additional desalinization plants. There is one in Perth that supplies 20 percent of its daily water. Are there other approaches to sustainable water use that can be coupled with the development of alternative water sources? How can we as landscape architects design other solutions to water shortages in our own communities? 2. If we look beyond our habitual client-focused, site-based approaches, we can discover more collaborative, sustainable and cost-effective solutions to shared problems. Lander cited ways in which neighboring landowners can collectively adopt more cost-effective and sustainable approaches to stormwater management. Typically, a developer is required to account for 100 percent of the rainwater that has the potential to fall on a particular site and to ensure that no less water reaches its respective watershed. Such requirements are so shortsighted, however, that in effect, when the predicted amount of

water does not fall on that site or when evaporation, transpiration and other natural processes are not accounted for more water is delivered downstream than normal ecological systems could allow. As a result, not only does water get apportioned unevenly across a particular geography, but side effects like flooding, erosion, sedimentation and habitat destruction complicate the problem. However, collaboration among a handful of neighboring landowners and design approaches that embrace stormwater originating beyond the boundaries of a given site could prompt incremental changes in regulations. Lander referenced an online community of water conservationists that highlights some of the most successful efforts of this kind. See http:// for more information. 3. If we were to seek out design projects for largescale, high-profile civic spaces, we could effectively educate a broader audience than the one client group landscape architects typically address at a time. In a similar fashion, Elizabeth Meyer, a respected theorist and landscape architecture professor at the University of Virginia, proposes a landscape aesthetic that educates those who experience a site. Only then, she asserts, only once individuals fully understand and care about the impact they themselves have on the environment only then can sustainability truly be achieved (Meyer 2008). When asked his opinion on Meyers manifesto, Lander agreed with her assertion.

He went on to suggest, however, that ecological restoration projects are only beautiful and educational to those who understand the processes already. He argued that we also need interactive and engaging designs that go further in connecting visitors to their environments and to water - and he has seen very limited progress in that direction. While strategies like carefully zoning water use for large urban parks according to specific-use patterns can substantially reduce water consumption, Lander would like to see more design-based solutions that arouse visitors curiosity. One of the underlying questions seemed to be: How can landscape architects move beyond interpretive signage as means for educating visitors on water issues? Design offers the groundwork for policy and education, Lander maintained, but he was mum on how specifically we as designers might go about achieving that end result. I suppose in some ways he was taunting our creative sides to come up with the answers. Throughout our interview, Lander stressed the serious need for education and advocacy on water issues, specifically in the arid west. In fact, leading ASLAs Professional Practice Network (PPN) on Water Conservation, he insisted that landscape architects should be front and center in water advocacy efforts in their communities and he sees a great need for that here in Colorado. As with any political issue, he noted that keeping regulatory systems up to date with shifting cultural values and environmental conditions can amount to a full-time job. But in his experience as both

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Flows speculates on the natural alterations of landforms over time by way of geomorphic and hydrologic processes. Through experimentation with a garden hose and a sandbox model the results of dynamic upstream water conditions reveal erosive formations as evidence of the relationship of river behavior with existing geology. The work is suggestive of large-scale site potentials as channels migrate and gradually change the alluvial architecture of a landscape over time. The site explored through this drawing was a recently abandoned gravel mining pit in Longmont CO, adjacent to the Saint Vrain River. Student work by Patsy Shaffer as part of LA Design Studio 1, Fall 2009.

a landscape architect and an advocate for sustainable water policies and practices, he feels strongly that design provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. To begin, he suggests checking out his newly-formed Water Conservation PPN: There are a number of resources there, including two book recommendations: Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman and Water Follies by Robert Glennon. Most importantly, he says in a letter to the PPN membership, Whatever you do, please send us your ideas. Lander can be reached at

REFERENCES Goodwin, Deryn Ruth. Interview with Water Expert Paul Lander, Ph.D. (November 9, 2009). Land and Water Australia. Canberra. (accessed October 14, 2009). Meyer, Elizabeth. Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance: A Manifesto in Three Parts. Journal of Landscape Architecture (2008): 6-23. Sullivan, Michael. Australia Turns to Desalination Amid Water Shortage. National Public Radio. php?storyId=11134967 (accessed November 8, 2009). University of Colorado Denver, College of Architecture and Planning. Weekly News. (November 6, 2009).


| voices from the field

Dressed in a high collared, shibori shirt of indigo blue, Anne Whiston Spirn sits in a small conference room of UCDs Landscape Architecture Department.
The noted writer and scholar has come to address students and faculty about her insightful work, The Language of Landscape (Yale University Press 1998) and to discuss her most recent publication, Daring to Look: Dorothea Langes Photographs and Reports from the Field (University of Chicago Press 2008). Spirns demeanor is reserved, yet eager to engage and share all that she has experienced. We soon learn that she has spent the last few days touring the dryland farming fields of Kit Carson County and meeting with Colorado water managers, as well as the engineering firm involved with Denvers Commons Park, Wright Water Engineering. Spirn reminds us of the migration of people from Colorado to the Northwest during the Dust Bowl where large-scale federal irrigation projects promised a future of productive farming. An accomplished author, professor, photographer and landscape architect, Spirn has developed a rich career based on her love of art, nature and people. She has used her time in practice and academia to inform a lifetime of research, resulting in a celebrated collection of articles, books and planning projects. Her first book, The Granite Garden: Urban Design and Human Nature (Basic Books 1984), earned the American Society of Landscape Architects Presidents Award. Articles such as Vacant Land: A Resource for Reshaping Urban Neighborhoods (1991) and The Poetics of City and Nature (1988) have further developed a nature-based urban design approach, fusing ecology and landscape with an intimate understanding of people and their communities. Spirns clear and poetic writing style

Patsy Shaffer

Reflections on the Social Conscience of Landscape Architecture

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OPPOSITE TOP House and Grove. Near Ault, Colorado. March 1989. From Spirns forthcoming book, The Eye Is a Door: Photography and the Art of Visual Thinking. BELOW LEFT Daring to Look (University of Chicago Press, 2008) won the 2009 Great Place Book Award from by the Environmental Design Research Association and the 2009 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies. BELOW RIGHT Prior to lecturing at UC-Denver, Spirn spent three days in the field with Ken Wright of Wright Water Engineering and water lawyer Ruth Wright to learn about Colorado water law and practice. Among the experts with whom they met was George Varra, District 3 Water Commissioner, seen here with Spirn in the Cache La Poudre watershed. Photo by Ken Wright.

speaks of landscape aesthetics, social conscience and long-term thinking in a way that promotes landscape architecture as an integrated planning movement. Weaved through the many mediums of Spirns work, from writing and research to photography and teaching, are telling landscapes that are inspired creations of both natural and human collaborations. Photography has long been a t o o l
of discoveryi

Gallery in British Columbia, Canada (2005), Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY (2000, 2004) and Harvard Universitys Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, MA (2006-2007). Her color images primarily focus on capturing the pairing of natural processes with traces of human life without utilizing people as subject. Spirn explains, T h r o u g h
photography, I try to discover what is there, hidden and real, to understand why and how things come about and to imagine what they might become. I want to inspire others to see the extraordinary in the everyday, to pause and look deeply at the surface of things, and also beyond that surface to the stories landscapes tell

What I havent expected from meeting Spirn is the pure storytelling quality of her presentation. Her gift of capturing the essence about people through their words gives us the ability to remember them too, without ever having met them. Daring to Look also paints a picture of the individuals who manage the reservoirs and irrigation ditches of today, like Allen Brown, ditch rider for the Owyhee Irrigation District in eastern Oregon. She details for us her conversation with Brown and his familys resilience, It takes three generations to make a go of it... he said. Im standing on two generations shoulders (Spirn 2008, 288). Later that evening, Spirn addressed a standing room only crowd of students and faculty of UCDs College of Architecture and Planning. She read for an hour from The Language of Landscape, a text now included as required reading in many graduate landscape architecture programs:
Landscape is loud with dialogues, with story lines that connect a place and its dwellers. The shape and structure of a tree record an

for Spirns research and visual exploration, supplementing conceptual drawing and the vivid poetic language of her writings. Through the cameras lens, she discovers new and changing relationships within landscapes and between people and their environments. Spirns work has been exhibited on numerous occasions, including at the Kamloops

(Spirn & White 2003).

Spirns most recent publication, Daring to Look, documents the life-struggle and vigilance of Dust Bowl refugees in the rural landscapes of Oregon, Washington and California, as well as North Carolina. She retraces the steps of photographer Dorothea Langes prolific 1939 documentation of the Farm Security Administrations programs as part of the New Deal. The book is a collection of Langes photographs and field notes, accompanied by Spirns essays and contemporary photographs of some of the same landscapes. The title is inspired by a comment Lange made later in her career: No country has ever closely scrutinized itself visually. I know what we could make of it if people only thought we could dare look at ourselves. Like Lange, Spirns journey through these forlorn landscapes that were the source of hope and heartbreak for a displaced population, is one of discovery and visual thinking through photography.


| voices from the field

evolutionary dialogue between species and environment: eucalypt trees turn their edge to bright sun, deciduous leaves that fall off during seasonal heat or cold. Each species has a characteristic form from which individuals deviate, as true of human body shape as of trees. A coherence of human vernacular landscapes emerges from dialogues between builders and place, fine-tuned over time. They tell of a congruence between snowfall and roof pitch, between seasonal sun angles and roof overhang, wind direction and hedgerows, cultivation practices and dimensions of fields, family structure and patterns of settlement. Dialogues make up the context of individual, group, and place. The context of life is a woven fabric of dialogues, enduring and ephemeral.

always inserting a human role within that context (NPR 2008). Her hopeful attitudes about our relationship with the environment have been a force for viewing humanity and nature as inseparable. Spirns first book, The Granite Garden, uncovered the workings of nature in the city and shed light on how this information may be used to create a more holistic, integrated approach to city building. Prior to this research, little had been done to analyze the vast amounts of information relating urban infrastructure problems to planning practices that ignored the natural forces of local ecology. After the books initial release, Richard Bender, then Dean of UC Berkeleys College of Environmental Design wrote in a NY Times Book Review how Spirn shows us that urban life can be set in a garden. Spirn demonstrates that the tools and techniques that are available to us now are much more powerful than those that formed the basis of the 19thcenturys explosion of public works. By recognizing that the best of these new tools may be the soft techniques of ecology, rather than the hardware and

heavy construction that have dominated our approach to public works, it is possible to work within nature in urban areas to enhance human life (Bender 1984). While this approach is common practice today, many cities are still bandaging the infrastructure design problems of the 19th century. Action and Reflection Born in 1947, Spirn grew up among the deciduous forests of northwestern Connecticut, eastern Massachusetts and suburban Cincinnati, Ohio. She credits her father as being a prominent mentor, admiring his ability to synthesize material from all of the five different disciplines in which he has degrees. Spirn describes this influence:
It never occurred to me that you couldnt cross boundaries. I thought you could always change your field at any point in your life

Her voice, firm, her writing, a how-to narrative disguised in rhythmic verse. With each line and projected photograph, Spirn describes to the audience an interpretation of the landscape that begins with the roots of a tree and bridges a connection to the West Philadelphia Landscape Project that became her touchstone, in the underserved neighborhoods of West Philadelphias Mill Creek. She speaks of a visual literacy of landscape that is as essential to informed design as it is to a childs understanding of the streets where they live. Through Spirns work we understand the artful skill of precise communication about landscape. Spirn points out to us the connotations that are attached to certain words and how they assume values that influence attitudes about nature. She chooses to use the word landscape in place of nature as a way of

(Spirn 2003). This view would serve her

well in her career, allowing her to knit an art background with science, research and social service.

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LEFT The Mill Creek Sewer under construction at 47th and Haverford, 1883. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department Historical Collection.

After earning an undergraduate degree in art history from Harvard while pursuing her own drawing and photography, Spirn changed her course of study to landscape architecture. As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, she encountered Department Chair Ian McHargs book Design with Nature that described a field of study bridging art with science and utilizing ecology as a foundation for the planning of new development. Spirn was hooked. The social justice movement of the 1970s was a force that shaped Spirns views of the environment:
Prior to the environmental justice movement, environment was something for everyoneit was a h e a l t h a n d s a f e t y i s s u e , she explained.

McHargs groundbreaking work utilized natural processes as a foundation for the design of new communities, Spirn asked herself, W h y
cant we apply these ecological principles to the city as well?

subsidence and, ultimately, to vacant lands along the line of the sewer on the buried floodplain. The citys poor planning and neglect in addressing this problem, along with economic disinvestment, led to an increasingly racially segregated, low-income community. By 1990, the formerly racially integrated neighborhood was primarily African-American, and the area became a patchwork of vacant lots. Sulzberger Middle School is on the buried floodplain and, by 1990, was surrounded by vacant lots. Today the rain has ended in Philly but the heavy grey clouds and oppressive humidity remain as the sound of rushing water resonates from the sewers. The noise might be louder if some of that water wasnt being detained by one of Philadelphias newest stormwater strategies, the watershed garden. These earth depressions have been dug out at low points within community gardens and vacant lots. Such strategies support wetland plantings such as sedges, cattails and ferns while reducing the volume of water that reaches the storm sewer. As Chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Pennsylvania (19862000), Spirn applied her research to the Mill Creek Neighborhood, correlating the vacant urban lots of West Philadelphia with buried floodplains. This research was applied to studios where students were able to develop a database of spatial information about the neighborhood that would later inform design alternatives for stormwater management. Through these efforts, the project has grown to become an archetype for the ecological renovation of spaces on vacant lands as a means of regenerating urban neighborhoods and promoting community

The Granite Garden became the fruit of the research formulated to answer this question. At the time, Spirn was also mindful of her fellow students career paths. She witnessed many of them spending years
struggling to establish their own firms by taking commissions for design they did not want to be doing, like designing parking lots and bollards.

Spirn opted to follow in McHargs footsteps instead. By writing The Granite Garden with the general public as the audience, she was able to communicate her design ideas to potential clients. While the opportunities for work flooded in, a path of a c t i o n
and reflection

Both Boston

and Philadelphia suffered from similar infrastructure issues; combined sewer and stormwater systems produced hazardous and polluted living environments after severe rain events. Nineteenth century city building buried streams and their floodplains below impervious surfaces, ignoring the natural processes that existed in the landscape. Over the course of a century, the low-lying neighborhoods began to crumble, both literally and figuratively. House vacancies rose while the unsustainable infrastructure and building foundations sank (Bennett 2000, 69). Spirns thesis question became:
How do you integrate environmental restoration with an economically distressed community?

awaited. Spirn opted to pursue a career of research and teaching at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania (Spirn 2010). The Family of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project In 1987, Spirn launched an integrated planning effort of research, teaching and community service in the West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP). This project incorporated the University of Pennsylvanias new desire to focus on the greening of West Philadelphia with safety and ecological concerns for the Mill Creek watershed. Since the late 1800s, the brick-encased Mill Creek sewer would overflow into the Schuylkill River during heavy rain events, causing a health and safety dilemma. Homes were built on the buried floodplain, which led to

Spirn completed her Masters Degree in 1974 and spent five years with McHargs firm Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd (WMRT), primarily working on projects that she describes somewhat dismissively as e c o l o g i c a l l y
designed resort communities and new towns. well-



| voices from the field

development. The venture eventually led to new Best Management Practices for stormwater infrastructure on city redevelopment projects. Over the last 23 years, the project has expanded exponentially, involving over 500 people, including Sulzberger Middle School teachers, community members, University of Pennsylvania students, Aspen Farms Community Garden organizers and the City of Philadelphia Water Department. The most recent success of the project occurred in 2009 when the City of Philadelphia developed a citywide green infrastructure program designed to reduce the combined stormwater and sewer overflows. While still being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the project is a $1.6 billion endeavor over the span of 20 years, estimating a reduction in stormwater runoff by 80 percent through the use of rain gardens, porous pavement, green roofs and additional tree plantings (Markham 2010).
H a v e y o u s e e n Yo u J u s t D o n t L e a v e F a m i l y on my website?

of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project from the point of view of the people involved in the project, including herself, Hayward Ford (president of Aspen Farms Community Garden) and one of her University of Pennsylvania students, John Widrick, whose design for Aspen Farms was chosen for construction. She speaks of the time dedicated to the project by each individual as experiential memories that were about more than building a gardenthese memories are about building relationships with the people involved and the success of the project as a result of those fruitful interactions.
Im not an armchair theoristfor me, ideas come out of the act of observing and engaging, not just through reading or abstract thinking. The West Philadelphia Landscape Project w a s m y l a b f o r T h e L a n g u a g e o f L a n d s c a p e . I wanted all people to be able to understand t h e i r e n v i r o n m e n t , n o t j u s t d e s i g n e r s (Spirn 2010).

i n o n e s n e i g h b o r h o o d . To f e e l b o t h a t h o m e i n a place and ashamed of it is harmful. It saps selfesteem and can engender a sense of guilt and resignation. Without an understanding of how the neighborhood came to be, many believed that the poor conditions were the fault of those who lived there, a product of either incompetence or lack of care. Once they had the skill to read the landscapes history, they began to see their home in a more positive light and came to appreciate the effort and vision that places like Aspen Farms represent

(Spirn 2005, 413).

While Spirn continues to direct the WPLP, she speaks of how difficult it was to leave the day-to-day operations of the project after deciding to move to Boston to teach at MIT:
The West Philadelphia Landscape Project became very personal,

Spirn says. Her father, an economist, incorporated mathematics into the curriculum. He helped the students of Sulzberger Middle School write a business

Spirn pursued this goal through the cooperative development of programs with Mill Creeks Sulzberger Middle School. Curricula included urban watersheds, local history and social studies, math and economics. By teaching children how to read their own landscapes, Spirn was able to inform parents of local health and safety concerns. The children soon became adept at understanding the hazards of having cracked and sinking foundations and envisioning solutions.
Te n y e a r s a g o , I t h o u g h t t h a t t h e w o r s t effect of landscape illiteracy was to produce environmental injustice in the form of physical hazards to health and safety. There is an even greater injustice than inequitable exposure to harsh conditions: the internalization of shame

Spirn asks. She is referring to a

six-minute digital film on her site which tells the story

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OPPOSITE LEFT The West Philadelphia Landscape Project Web site, which launched in winter 1996, is a forum for research, teaching, and community development and an archive of the WPLP database, reports, teaching materials, student work and news stories. Both images from BELOW The redesign and reconstruction of Aspen Farm Community Garden in 1988-89 was a collaboration between the gardeners, students and faculty from the University of Pennsylvanias Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning,

plan for a miniature golf course to raise income for the neighborhood. And her son, Sam, worked as a research assistant and webmaster for the project site, teaching the kids web authoring.
T h e p r o j e c t , Spirn says, w a s more than just research


(Spirn 2010).

ephemeral ones, and to imagine how to join the conversation. Like literacy, urban planning and design are cultural practices that can serve either to perpetuate the inequities of existing social structures or to enable and promote democratic change

To p l a n p r u d e n t l y i s t o t r a n s f o r m p r o b l e m s into opportunities and liabilities into resources, a n d t o i n t e r v e n e a t a n a p p r o p r i a t e s c a l e . To design wisely is to read ongoing dialogues in a place, to distinguish enduring stories from

(Spirn 2010).

On the Future of Landscape Architecture It is Spirns stories about the people she has worked with over the years that provide us with a telling impact of her work. The larger lesson is the underlying ethics of a life spent investigating and reflecting on the value of human design for the enhanced understanding of nature. Spirn offers no predictions for the field of landscape architecture but offers up a compelling view of what the field has the potential to become:
The strength of landscape architecture is that we bridge design and planning We are the profession that acts in the world, in the landscape, and that also has grounding in both natural and cultural processesthe world is in desperate need of professionals with these

(Spirn 2005, 413).

NOTES Editors note: All quotations by Ann Whiston Spirn are italicized. REFERENCES Bennett, Paul. Landscape Organism: The West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Landscape Architecture Magazine 90 (2000): 66-71, 82. Bender, Richard. Making the Metropolis Green. The New York Times Book Review. January 22, 1984. Leach, Susan Lewelyn. A Look at Landscape Puzzles. Christian Science Monitor , html (accesssed June 8, 2006). Markham, Derek, Philadelphias Stormwater System Overhaul. http:// (accessed May 14, 2010). NPR Interview with Anne Spirn. All Things Considered: Daring to Look: Dorothea Langes Photographs and Reports from the Field. June 30, 2008. Platt, Harold L. Book Review: The Granite Garden. Technology and Culture 27. (1986): 332-334. Shaffer, Patsy and William Rawlings. Interview with Anne Whiston Sprin. (April 19, 2010). Spirn, Anne Whiston. The Granite Garden. New York. Basic Books, 1984. Spirn, Anne Whiston with Daniel Marcucci. Models of Success: Landscape Improvement and Community Development. A Publication of the West Philadelphia Landscape Plan. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, 1991. Spirn, Anne Whiston with Robert Cheetham. The West Philadelphia Digital Database: An Atlas and Guide. Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, 1996. newfront/book/pdf/phil_digi_data.pdf (accessed April 24, 2010). Spirn, Anne Whiston. The Language of Landscape. New Haven. Yale University Press, 1998. Spirn, Anne Whiston. Restoring Mill Creek: Landscape Literacy, Environmental Justice and City Planning and Design. Landscape Research 30 no. 3 (July 2005), newfront/2005/SpirnMillCreek2005.pdf Spirn, Anne Whiston. Daring to Look: Dorothea Langes Photographs and Reports from the Field. Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 2008. Spirn, Anne Whiston. Anne Whiston Sprin. www.annewhistonspirn. com (accessed April 2, 2010). Spirn, Anne Whiston with Laura Muthler White. Tensions of Change: A Conversation with Anne Whiston Spirn. (accessed April 12, 2010). Spirn, Anne Whiston. Daring To Look: Dorthea Langes Phtographs & Reports from the Field. (accessed April 14, 2010). West Philadelphia Landscape Project. www/wplp/index.html (accessed May 20, 2010). Zaltzberg, Keith. Profile: The West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Green Urbanism and Ecological Infrastructure greenurb/2006/kzaltzberg/index.html (accessed May 6, 2010).


| voices from the field

LEFT An angel with a broken arm and rust-stained cheek adorns the top of Richard Whitsitts grave marker. Whitsitt (b. 1830, d. 1881) was a director of the Colorado City Town Company, which founded Denver City on August 12, 1859. Photo by Bryan Ganno March 2010. BELOW Locator map of Riverside Cemetery

There is little sound save for the magpies song. It echoes softly as the bird who sings it perches atop a dead stump a prominent remnant of a once mature Elm that thrived in its place and stretched more than 60 feet overhead.
It is but one of many such blemishes that pepper Riverside Cemeterys expanse a sea of ornate tombstones cast out among dead and dying foliage. Riverside Cemetery, a 77acre span located two miles north of Denvers

downtown and nestled between East Brighton Boulevard and the South Platte River, is an alien space among the otherwise industrial stretch. Dating back to 1876, it houses over 67,000 former citizens, is Denvers oldest operating cemetery and in 1994 was designated a National Historic District. This landmark, once known for its lush park-like design as much as its pioneer inhabitants, has been in a rapid state of decay for many years. Each passing year sees more tree stumps, less ground cover and a continually approaching dusty haze in the distance. But how can this trend of decline end and a culturally significant landscape be returned to former glories without access to the one thing that made it flourish? In 1981 Riverside Cemetery lost its free water rights, which dated back to 1879. A state employee identified a paperwork discrepancy which revealed legal water rights belonged to local florist and nursery

The Death (& Revival) of Historic Place
Bryan Ganno
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RIGHT Harvey Lowries plan view of original Riverside design. Image courtesy of US Department of Interior Nationl Park Service. BELOW The Burlington & Colorado Railroad tracks are the first to greet Riversides visitors prior to entering the cemetery, while the backdrop is encompassed by three refinery smokestacks. Photo by Bryan Ganno March 2010.

owner Marion Elliott, his cousins and a woman who owned adjacent farm land (Student 2007, 24). Appeals reaching the Colorado Supreme Court were upheld, and Riverside then began a yearly contract with Denver Water Company. This lasted until 2003 when Fairmount Cemetery Company which purchased Riverside in 1900 stated it could no longer afford the monthly dues, which topped $1,500. Shortly thereafter, the water was turned off. To turn it back on would be costly. In addition, Riverside Cemeterys irrigation system was stolen around 2002, and the cemetery lacks a water hookup (Kass 2009). A 2009 Denver Magazine article titled The Cemetery is Dying stated that a one-time tap fee to buy into Denver Water for lower-priced, recycled water could cost a little over $450,000. Denver Water then estimates it would take 20 million gallons to water 77 acres of less-thirsty native plants [an option to redesign the existing landscape]. The yearly bill would almost reach $18,000... Riversides water needs are similar to a moderately sized subdivision or a nine-hole, par-three golf course. To counteract the fact there is no money to pay for water coupled with an average annual rainfall of about 15.4 inches, which could barely fill a Kool-Aid jug, it seems a multitude of creative responses working in concert would provide the greatest potential to succeed. Fairmount Cemetery Company has begun work on an answer. Native plantings low on water use and evolved to the high-altitude grasslands ecosystem of the eastern slope will extend water capacities

further and allow for consumption to be focused on specific areas, not saturated across all 77 acres. Test plots have been in motion since summer 2008, and these native grass and wildflower mixes may provide a glimpse into Riversides future.i However, the test plots current conditions are weak. The grasses are sparse and the weeds are plenty. It is not possible to expect native plants to outgrow invasive weeds. Compared to native species, weeds are heartier, faster growing and spread like brush fire. To establish prominence across the landscape, a strategic, costly maintenance plan would need to be implemented. And, native plants, at least in a swath this large, would require watering and massive amounts of weed plucking for the first three to five years to have a chance at full establishment. There is no doubt a naturalistic prairie setting is in Riversides future, but creating it is a lot more difficult and expensive than people may realize even with donated seed. Other options do exist. In addition to a myriad of plantings, the city may need to eventually step in. But there are issues with this approach as well. Economic times are less than booming, and its a nearly impossible sell to increase residents taxes for a place many dont know exists. Also, Riverside straddles two counties Denver and Adams. Neither seems to be jumping at the opportunity to take over. The red tape involved in procuring a weed whacker is typically thicker than a brick wall when dealing with multiple city jurisdictions.


| place over time

LEFT Denvers downtown skyline, which is 2 miles south of Riverside Cemetery, can be seen in the background - past the tombstones, weeds and trees. BELOW Remnant tree stumps are abundant throughout the cemetery. Photos by Bryan Ganno June 2010.

only the interred individuals but also the ecologies present. Riverside needs greater visibility and introducing future leaders to it has merit. Could this garner money in some fashion? Potentially. The green burial movement is another option, which places emphasis on maintaining a natural environment. It seeks to curb costs and maximize space and profits by utilizing eco-friendly burials, void of embalming and metal or hardwood caskets. They are also devoid of elaborate tombstones, the It is not out of the question to turn Riverside into something akin to a museum, which would garner state funds. This has been done in the past Civil War battle sites are among them. Tying Riverside into the South Platte River trail could potentially have value as well. Hugh Graham, president of the non-profit Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery, discussed a natural history and educational component the cemetery could utilize as well as the potential to establish a working precedence for similarly plagued landscapes. He said, Riverside has the opportunity to serve as a touchstone or sounding board for these types of landscapes. History is rich at Riverside and its proximity could also be advantageous. A boardwalk meandering from a re-envisioned Riverside as a native prairie down through a riparian ecosystem and meeting the South Platte River and corresponding trail system is ripe with ecological intricacies that could be exposed to the passersby. Placards detailing the wildlife and habitat have educational value. At the least, elementary through high school classes could make Riverside a field trip destination to learn about not notion of which seems adverse to the cemeterys original principles. But they require little money and no additional upkeep. This would once again give people the choice to be buried at Riverside and could potentially boost the endowment enough to turn the water back on in a minimized capacity (McGhee 2008). There are currently 14 cemeteries in the U.S. utilizing this burial approach, according to the Centre for Natural Burials. Prairie Wilderness Cemetery, a burgeoning green burial ground in Denver (which is still seeking space) would be the first Colorado cemetery to embrace the practices. Their mission seeks to establish a low cost, low impact cemetery with natural landscaping and restore a prairie wilderness ecosystem (Prairie Wilderness Cemeteries). Currently, a massive project along the South Platte River is underway. It is called the River North Greenway Master Plan, which stretches from Prospect neighborhood adjacent Coors Field to Riversides northern edge. The plan calls to resuscitate the area in much the same way Lower

Downtown has reconfigured the blighted space it had become. Such an undertaking requires time, and Riverside is somewhat of an afterthought in the grand scheme. Potential outcomes listed in the plan are desirable recreation facilities, [a] botanic garden, [or a] history museum. Interestingly, the Denver Botanic Gardens themselves were once a cemetery. Riverside Cemetery, plotted by landscape designer and civil engineer Harvey Lowrie, was not always that way. Yes, prior to its inception, Riverside was likely a sprawling golden prairie, devoid of bluegrass and towering trees. It was, however, shaped into a grassy expanse with shaded comfort among meandering carriage routes. Riversides founders, among them Dr. John H. Morrison, realized the cemetery had potential beyond traditional interment; they saw value in the living as an active participant of the place.ii After all, history stretches vast distances on a single breath. To invite leisure into a space typically devoted to grief and remembrance can only breed understanding and

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RIGHT As the Burlington and Colorado Railroad extends along Riversides eastern boundary, the horizon to the north morphs into a second set of refineries. Photo by Bryan Ganno March 2010.

knowledge. Those who live on will inevitably read about those who came before, and this intersecting relationship has provided Riverside with a cultural importance throughout history and into modern times. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters shaped this city and state; arent they worth knowing about? These days though, Riverside is a solitary experience. Few frequent the place. Immediate views display sandstone and granite molded into crosses, anchors, harps, scrolls and angels, which are awash with names such as Evans, Elbert, Morrison, Drake and Zang. The first two have 14,000 foot Colorado peaks

barley fields of the mid-1800s, the Riverside Cemetery Association covered the grounds in bluegrass and white lawn clover (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Two on-site nurseries grew about 3,500 trees, a multitude of shrubs, vibrant flowers and climbing vegetation to be transplanted to the grounds or sold to patrons (Student 2006, 25). According to a March 29, 1879 Rocky Mountain News article, a 16,000 gallon tank was emptied twice a day during summer to irrigate the outdoor grounds. The plants, grounds and greenhouses (including 70 flower beds, about 500 feet of flower

borders, 450 graves with flowers planted around them, and 142 iron, terra-cotta, or rustic wood vases containing flowers), mostly water hogs, were also fed by a 540 foot artesian well that supplied 418,000 gallons of water every 24 hours (Student 2006, 25-26). Thats roughly two-thirds of the water volume in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. However, this water reliance at the time was not a concern. The cemetery was sited specifically with regard for its proximity less than 300 feet to the South Platte River. To fulfill watering needs, Riverside Cemetery Association sunk wells into the river bottom

named after them. Pioneers, politicians, war heroes as well as an untold number of unknown masses are all subterranean residents.iv There are over 67,000 stories at Riverside Cemetery. Few landscapes can reach those bounds. The names depict a story, and the tombstones suggest a love left behind. One such tombstone that of Marion G. White, who was born in 1857 and died in 1907 summarizes simply what so many feel after a loved one has passed. Love is a short word that says so very much. City Councilwoman Judy Montero, who presides over District 9 (encompassing Denver Countys portion of Riverside), believes in the cemeterys significance. When asked about the importance of saving the cemetery, she said, The art alone is one huge reason to preserve this lovely, historic area. However, the primary reason is to respect the families who have loved ones laid to rest there. To achieve its distinct appearance adjacent a riparian zone and among the winter wheat, corn and


| place over time

additional funding, the water can never be turned back on and the above ground residents, anchored to shriveling roots, will continue to decay at a much faster clip than their subsurface counterparts. It must be stated though that Fairmount Cemetery Company is a business. According to a 2009 Denver Magazine article, [Kelly] Briggs [president of Fairmount Cemetery Company] expects Riverside to lose more than $100,000 this year with the Fairmount company making up the difference (Kass 2009). This difference is primarily made up through burials at Fairmount Cemetery, which currently range from $5,733.68 for simplicity single burial packages to $11,803.84 for prestige single plots (Fairmount Cemetery). An unfortunate fact of business is that profitable ventures endure while those that lose do not. and conveyed the grounds lifeblood through 2,000 feet of pipe utilizing steam-powered pumps. Even with access to water over the subsequent 100 years, Riverside was not free of problems. Four years after Riversides inception, in 1890, the 280-acre Fairmount Cemetery, located at the modern intersection of Alameda Avenue and Quebec Street, opened its doors. Within one year, the number of interments declined from 2,169 in 1890 to 1,259 in 1891 (Student 2007, 26). This decline was partly attributed to the new cemetery and partly attributed to the difficulty in crossing the Burlington & Colorado railroad tracks which spurred the construction of slaughterhouses, smelters and other industry (Student 2007, 26-27). These compounded facts seem to have been the impetus for Riversides merger with Fairmount. Riverside became a by-product of the industrial wasteland that feverishly crowded in around it during the first half of the 1900s and by the 1950s was commonly used as storage for bodies awaiting autopsy (Student 2007, 26). Industry blanketed Riverside and left a ravaged, grime-slicked remnant in its wake, but it was not the only factor to play into Riversides decline. In the 1970s, Elm beetle infestation required

However, cemeteries are emotional landscapes. Fairmount Cemetery is maintained in this vein. Its website describes the surroundings as such. It states, The peaceful, well maintained 280 acres offer families of any religion or walks of life a dignified surrounding in which to honor the lives of loved ones. Cemeteries deal in memory, in life and in death. This fact alone beckons involvement and response from community members and politicians alike. In 2007, the Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery (FHRC) was founded in response to the dust choked weeds and the lifeless trees that had long ago stopped stretching toward the sun. A non-profit, volunteer group of roughly 75 community members and presided over by Graham, a local designer, the FHRC is dedicated to increasing awareness and promoting preservation of

extensive removal of trees at Riverside (Student 2007, 26). Today Riverside exists on a $2.1 million endowment. This provides for about $62,000 per year, which covers two caretakers annual pay and minimal upkeep. Plots are no longer for sale, although open land still exists. The last burial site was sold in 2005, but people who own plots can still choose Riverside as their final resting place. Whereas decline by locale association and natural selection took their toll in years past, today Riverside continues to perish for a different reason. Without

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OPPOSITE LEFT and RIGHT Colorado native grass and wildflower test plots exist throughout the cemetery. The photos to the right depict a few of the marked test plots. Most, however, are overrun by weeds and are often surrounded by cracked dry earth. Photos by Bryan Ganno June 2010.

Denvers oldest cemetery. Organized solely to ensure Riversides continued existence, the group is conducting research to support a long-term vision called Riverside 2020 (findings are not yet available). In addition, common duties include maintenance and prioritizing monuments for restoration. But Graham knows the increasingly difficult battle the cemetery faces, which has been exacerbated by the urban environments crushing grip upon it. Of its position in space, Graham says Riverside is on the other side of the tracks in the wrong side of town. With regard to the tracks, this literally is the case: The Burlington and Colorado Railroad was granted right-of-way access across the southeast corner of the cemetery grounds in December 1881 (Student 2006, 25). Sandwiched between East Brighton Blvd. and the cemetery and raised ten feet above the former and 15 feet above the latter, the broad mound halts views in but becomes the only view out, at least toward the east. As Riverside was modeled after Massachusetts Mount Auburn Cemetery to be experienced as a park, its new, prominent shoulder grown five years after its own formation hardly befits its idyll of sun-washed bluegrasses and statuesque shade trees. Extending outward from the cemeterys interior, in addition to the train tracks, gazes are greeted by smokestacks and decrepit chain link fences twisting over on themselves. With the exception of the South Platte River and its floodplain, industry engulfs Riverside, itself a precursor to any of the current incorporated surroundings. In an ironic sense, the very thing that has maligned Riverside over the years has been the thing that gave rise to it its location.

Riverside Cemetery may never again own a lush bluegrass skin, but its landscape will once again thrive. People will continue to visit and be affected by the place. And they may one day soon stand among golden grasses and native wildflowers as the magpies song drifts along the breeze. Landscapes such as Riverside should never die. As with memories, they are too important to lose.

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Morrison aided in establishing Colorado Seminary (now

University of Denver). On April 1, 1876 Morrison sold his sprawling 160acre ranch to Riverside Cemetery Association, and two months later, on June 1, Henry Walton became the redefined spaces first permanent resident. Morrison has the distinction of being the fifth resident.

Lester Drake was a founder of Black Hawk, CO, and his

grave marker is one of the most distinct at Riverside. A miniaturized, five-foot tall sandstone replica, it is supposedly an exact match to his Black Hawk cabin complete with a shovel and pick axe, which rest at an angle against the buildings front edge. Philip Zang, one of the largest stockholders of Vindicator Gold Mining Company in Cripple Creek, CO, was a brewer by trade. He owned Philip Zang & Company (formerly John Goods Rocky Mountain Brewery Denvers first established brewery), and the grounds are still accessible today. However, they now house Elitchs Six Flags and the Denver Childrens Museum.


| place over time

A dying tree stands branchless as a train rolls by. Photo by Bryan Ganno June 2010.


Nearly 25 percent of those buried at Riverside were

Hutchinson, Julie. Seeking a Lifeline for Historic Cemetery. Rocky Mountain News, February 7, 2009, Local News section. Kass, Jeff. The Cemetery is Dying. Denver Magazine, September 24, 2009. McGhee, Tom. Some Cemeteries Dig Green Burials. The Denver Post, August 26, 2008, Denver and the West section. Prairie Wilderness Cemeteries. http://www. (accessed May 11, 2010). Smiley, Jerome. History of Denver. Denver: Old Americana Publishing Company, 1901 (reprinted 1971). Student, Annette. Denvers Riverside Cemetery: Where History Lies. San Diego: CSN Books, 2006.

considered welfare cases because they were too poor to afford traditional burials. Riverside accepted these individuals over the years but did not catalog them or provide descriptive headstones. See Annette Student, Denvers Riverside Cemetery: Where History Lies (San Diego: CSN Books, 2006), 27.

Annette Student, Denvers Riverside Cemetery: Where

History Lies (San Diego: CSN Books, 2006), 30-32. (quoting an article by Olga Curtis, which was published in Denver Post Empire Magazine on November 22, 1970).

REFERENCES City and County of Denver. The River North Greenway Master Plan. City and County of Denver. documents/RINO.pdf (accessed April 30, 2010). Fairmount Mortuary & Cemetery. Fairmount Cemetery. Fairmount Cemetery. (accessed April 16, 2010). Friends of Historic Riverside Cemetery. Supporting Awareness and Preservation of Denvers Oldest Cemetery. http:// (accessed March 25, 2010).

The Centre for Natural Burial. Natural Burial in the U.S.A. The Centre for Natural Burial. (accessed May 11, 2010). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The South Platte River in Colorado. EPA 908-F-98-002 (1999): 7.

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BELOW Pioneer plant aesthetic captured by fine art photographer Joel Sternfeld 2000.

From the 1930s until the last train delivered three carloads of frozen turkeys in 1980, Manhattans High Line transported rail freight to warehouses and factories 30 feet above the citys busy industrial district.
Soon after the abandonment, wild seeds began to take root in the elevated rail ballast. The story of the High Lines 2009 rebirth as one of Manhattans most significant urban landscapes since Central Park originates with that abandoned, self-sown garden.

Self-Sown Gardens, Naturalistic Planting and the High Line
Amanda Jeter


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LEFT Historic High Line. Author unknown 1934.

the 70-year-old structure. In response, community members Joshua David and Robert Hammond formed the non-profit, Friends of the High Line, to preserve the elevated garden. Strategically using artist Joel Sternfelds color photographs that documented the High Lines spontaneous landscapes, the organization raised millions of dollars and announced a high-profile design competition. In October 2004, the landscape architecture firm of Field Operations and architecture firm of Diller Scofido + Renfro won the commission to turn the 22-block long structure into an official park that preserved the qualities of the pioneer garden. The first section of the High Line opened in 2009, and the second section, from 20th to 30th streets, is projected to open Despite popular belief that neglected spaces are an eyesore and limitation on redevelopment, the accidental aesthetic of the wild High Line made financial and regulatory change possible in one of the countrys most competitive cities. The story evolves with the High Lines reopening in 2009 and the new dynamic planting aesthetic that helped create one of the citys most popular and expensive parks. A pressing question engaging the power of both plant aesthetics is how can the initial transformation of abandoned infrastructure be maintained through space and time? The southern tip of the High Line rises above the corner of Gansevoort and Washington streets in the Meatpacking District and soars north to 20th Street and Tenth Avenue in Chelsea. At the Gansevoort entrance, the riveted black steel columns and girders are cut to expose a profile of the hybrid infrastructure: the repainted steel supports a cast-concrete platform topped by grey birch (Betula populifolia) rustling behind sleek glass fencing. Neutral concrete stairs and stainless steel railing ascend to tawny weathering steel planters. Just months after the parks 2009 summer opening, a visitor could see lush plantings of purple aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius Raydons Favorite) and violet fall crocus (Crocus pulchella) beaming amongst the powdery grey birch bark and verdant cool season grasses. In 1999 (encouraged by local property owners who claimed easements under the abandoned High Line) the city of New York announced plans to tear down in 2011. Famed Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf created the planting plan that included mossland, meadow, woodland and wetland communities inspired by the emergent aesthetic of the linear garden. The current High Line is celebrated, well-used and costlyThe New York Post reported the yearly High Line operations and maintenance budget to be $671,641 per acre. In comparison, Bryant Park costs $479,166 per acre, and the average New York City park costs $9,555 per acre to maintain. The High Line expenses include the operations of Friends of the Highline, which acts as conservancy charged with maintaining the park. Conservancies have helped maintain urban spaces including Central Park and Bryant Park, but according to Vice-President of Horticulture and Plant Operations,

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BELOW The textured concrete walking surface meanders through tall plantings in the Chelsea Thicket (Section 2, 20th to 30th strets). Design by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Courtesy of the City of New York. RIGHT Photo on the newly constructed Highline Park. Photo by Amanda Jeter 2009.

Patrick Cullina, Friends of the High Line is unique in that the conservancy took part in the initial conception and design of the park. He also adds that Friends of the High Line raises all of its own operating income (Cullina 2010). This scale of ongoing fundraising may be plausible in the affluent West Side of Manhattan, but could it be repeated in the poorer landscapes of New Yorks Lower East Side or Denvers Riverside Cemetery? Invaluable Pioneer Plants During the 1980s and 90s, tenacious perennial and annuals appropriated the High Line corridors to create a secret, marginal garden appreciated by intrepid urban explorers. Often, Manhattan residents adopted the space for art installations or their own garden project. Adjacent resident Patty Heffley tossed over water balloons filled with seeds in an attempt to start a garden on the High Line from her West 20th Street loft (Green 2009, 3). Photographs from Sternfeld and other artists reveal isolated landscapes hidden from the pedestrians below. Wispy grasses emerge from the rusted rail and ballast. Woodlands of gangly sumac converge where

the rail maneuvered between painted brick warehouses tagged by graffiti artists. Sternfelds photos show that the original High Line bloom list included five-inch tall colonies of grape hyacinth (Muscari racemosum) in the spring, fall clusters of purple aster and in winter a small pine tree wrapped in white Christmas lights. According to ecologist Richard Stalter, the original High Line landscape consisted of over 161 species of plants. Stalter performed an assessment of the High Line during early planning meetings and states that the largest plant families represented were Asteraceae, Poaceae and Rosacea, or plants in the aster, grass and rose families (Ulam 2009, 103). Rooting in a planting medium of less than a few inches, pioneer plants including little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) and purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) made a home on the abandoned railway with no irrigation (Darke 2007, 168-169).


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CENTER Gansevoort Slow Stair, corner of Gansevoort Street and Washinton Street, looking North. Photo by Iwan Baan 2009.

In the early 2000s the haunting aesthetic portrayed in Sternfelds photos became an integral part of saving the High Line from demolition. At one fundraising event fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg presented a $10 million challenge grant that was immediately met by rising socialite Lisa Marie Falcone. In addition to the massive fundraising efforts, New York City regulation had to be changed. From 2002 to 2005, the New York City Planning Department rezoned the industrial area around the High Line to be a mixed-use area with special design guidelines for adjacent development (Ulam 2009, 100). Titled the West Chelsea/High Line Rezoning Law, the regulation won the 2006 American Planning Associations Outstanding Planning Award. All this originating from a bewitching pioneer plant aesthetic. A Dynamic New Garden Compared to most of Manhattans sparse streetscapes, the new High Line is an abundant sky garden of over 40,000 grasses and perennials grown in an 18 to 36 deep growing medium. In The Sundance Channels High Line Stories, Piet Oudolf states that the design is a journey section by section and that he sees his work as process, how you start something that performsa performance in place. Lauded as one of the leading authorities in perennial plant design, Oudolf is often called gutsy for his strong focus on structure and form rather than a monotheistic color allegiance. He is also associated with the European

New Wave movement that promotes ecologically inspired garden design. In Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space, Oudolf and co-author Noel Kingsbury define naturalistic, ecological plant design as a series of principles: 1) use of plants with wild character, 2) natureinspired planting patterns, 3) pragmatic synthesis of native and non-native plants, 4) biodiversity, 5) ecologic fit to site and 6) dynamic, perennial plantings. Oudolf also looks for plants that have an elegance in their decay that adds to the psychological journey through the seasons. Field Operations founder and lead designer James Corner stated that Oudolf composes plants in a way where all 12 months are interesting (McGrane 2008, 1). This aesthetic is translated into the High Line maintenance regimes where seed heads and grasses are allowed to decay and persist through the winter before spring trimming. Oudolfs New Wave philosophy and the High Line pioneer plant aesthetic join forces in the new garden design. Working with Field Operations one year before the competition, Oudolf remembers that from the beginning we believed the planting design should have the same feeling of the wild garden (Oudolf 2010). No plants were salvaged, however, due to the toxic chemical pollution from leaking freight trains and lead paint. The new design became a metaphor for the original garden that differed in its intention and maintenance strategy. Oudolf states that 95 percent of the new plants are natives precisely chosen for their ability to grow well together

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BELOW Washington Grasslands, aerial view of the High Line over Little West 12th Street. Photo by Iwan Baan 2009. TOP Image showing the rustic reality of the highline before it was turned into a park. Photo by Joel Sternfeld 2000.

throughout their lifespan: American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) replaces Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an invasive. Inspired by the rail ballast, grey gravel mulch keeps weeds out and reduces irrigation needs. Linear cast-concrete planks taper into verdant planting beds to create a transition between urban and green infrastructure and allude back in time to the aesthetic of spontaneous vegetation emerging from the abandoned rails. Behind this new beauty lingers that costly maintenance regime$671,641 per acre. Graphics from Field Operations winning entry show the maintenance of the plantings decreasing over five years with biodiversity increasing. Thanks to Oudolfs design, plant maintenance regimes will decrease in intensity over time, but yearly costs that include 17 operations staff will remain. Due to popularity, items like crowd control consultants have become additional expenses. In the summer of 2009, roughly 20,000 people per day visited the park, and staff must limit the visitors to the 1,700 legal capacity set by the parks unique elevated location. With estimated operating costs to be $3.5 million to $4.5 million a year by 2011, Friends of the High Line proposed a High Line Improvement District (currently on hold due to community concerns) and concessions to help cover costs (Kovaleski 2009). In contrast to costs, the intense investment in the High Line has yielded profitable development for the community as evidenced by the flurry of new hotel, residential and museum

buildings designed by famous architects including Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban and Neil Denari - all empowered by a dynamic hybrid of garden and infrastructure.


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BELOW Image showing the rustic reality of the highline before it was turned into a park. Photo by Joel Sternfeld 2000.

Repetition and Resiliency If the rejuvenation of aging infrastructure and abandoned spaces are to be repeated and maintained over time, what can be learned from the High Line? Cullina, from Friends of the High Line, underlines the importance of framing value to engage interest, much like Sternfelds photographs framed a haunting narrative of the threatened High Line garden. Themes of community action, regulatory reform, alternative funding mechanisms and designs that integrate plant process and cultural adaptation emerge as well. In times of government austerity measures and shrinking budgets, non-profits like Friends of the High Line are becoming more essential to funding the maintenance of public space. While the new plantings are abundantly beautiful with seasonal bloom interest, the original plantings had a powerful appeal as a wild garden thriving in the density of Manhattan. Biotic and abiotic processes like wind and anonymous gardeners tended the abandoned High Line for little or no expense. In less affluent neighborhoods, the growth processes of the wild High Line could inform designs that cost less to maintain while still providing a garden experience. Communities and designers have much to learn from the resiliency of plants to grow, decay and re-emerge through obstacles of space and time.

REFERENCES Bowring, Jacky. Lament for a Lost Landscape. Landscape Architecture Magazine 99 (October 2009). Calder, Rich. Sky High Costs. New York Post, August 3, 2009, http:// (accessed May 15, 2010). Darke, Rick. The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc. , 2007. Green, Penelope (June 25, 2009) West Side Story Amid the Laundry. The New York Times, June 25, 2009, Section D. Friends of the High Line, Editor. Designing the High Line: Gansevoort Street to 30th Street. January 2008). The High Line. http:// / (accessed April 12, 2010). Jeter, Amanda. Interview with Piet Oudolf. (May 5, 2010). Jeter, Amanda. Interview with Patrick Cullina. (May 20, 2010).

Kovaleski, Serge F. With Success of High Line, Dual Rewards for Executive. The New York Times, August 25, 2009, http://www.nytimes. com/ (accessed May 15, 2010). McGrane, Sally. A Landscape in Winter, Dying Heroically. The New York Times, January 31, 2008, (accessed May 15, 2010). Oudolf, Piet and Noel Kingsbury. Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2005. The Sundance Channel. High Line Stores: James Corner and Piet Oudolf. (accessed on April 30, 2010). Ulam, Alex. Back on Track. Landscape Architecture 99, (2009): 90-109.

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A muddled mess of debris sits in the foreground of a photo from February 2006. Amidst this pile of cloth, cinder blocks and pieces of a place dissolved are multiple metal structures twisted and broken.
They look to have been fences and gates at one time and show evidence of wrought iron artistry. A

red truck points diagonally toward the ground, its bed sticking up like the tail feathers of an ostrich whose head is buried. Green grass peers out from under the piles that stretch beyond the truck in disintegrated mounds of rubble. Full-sized trees lie across the midground, their branches reaching barrenly up into the gray white sky. Through this screen a red industrial scale barge sits on solid ground, marking the place where a levee once held back the water of the Industrial Canal from the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood district of New Orleans, Louisiana. The image shows the neighborhoods devastated landscape four months after Dr. Austin Allen, Professor of Landscape Architecture at University of Colorado Denver (UCD), arrived to document the situation and find ways to direct the resources of the university to rebuilding the neighborhood. Though one of the first to arrive, many others followed to represent institutions and universities offering service and ideas. His take was unique in that he focused all his immediate attention on listening to the community without offering immediate

solutions. His work, with the joined efforts of UCD faculty and students, ultimately led to the creation of a simple platform. The platform project evolved out of multiple semesters of landscape architecture design studios, years of research and extensive community discussion. Through this extended process came the realization that reconnecting the neighborhood to the Bayou Bienvenue wetland was a top priority. Identified as a prime location for wetland restoration that could help manage stormwater for all of New Orleans, the Bayou also offered an opportunity for perspective away from the difficult work of recreating homes amidst the destruction left by Katrinas wake. The platforms success can be measured by the degree to which it has been and continues to be fully accepted and utilized by the neighborhood. Outside of this embrace, it serves to host prestigious guests who stand on the wooden planks to experience the unique perspective offered while they explore discussion about wetland restoration and/or how to help rebuild

LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE Reconnecting the Bayou to the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans
Sera Sibley
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PREVIOUS The original platform structure as seen from the neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward. LEFT Railroad tracks at base of platform. BELOW Panoramic view of the Bayou Bienvenue taken from the platform. Photos by Brian Stuhr April 2008.

to the community. The structure is made of wood planks that stretch out parallel to the wetland expanse that had so far been isolated from view and immediate experience. Connected to the structure is a stairway that drops down over a 15-foot steel piling wall. This wall acts as a levee put in by the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Betsy flooded the neighborhood in 1965. The stairs drop into a mostly abandoned strip of land that houses a low-use railway. A packed dirt pathway offers passage across the tracks along Florida Street to the mouth of Caffin Street - a core artery of the neighborhood. In 2009 Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman for the White House council on Environmental Quality visited the platform. As she stood and spoke to a small crowd, President Obama addressed people blocks away at Martin Luther King, Jr. school. Their combined visit the Lower Ninth Ward. The platform has burned, been rebuilt and is now claimed by so many that the credit due to the original builders is somewhat lost. The built design of the platform was finally realized in January 2008. The design, though structurally simple, came from the complexity of many minds particularly those who followed Dr. Allens lead in listening closely marks an important moment for discussion of wetland restoration and for national attention to the extreme difficulties that continue to inundate the Lower Ninth Ward. This local and national attention has been directly supported by the platform. The creation of a place for study, conversation and an expansive view offers

a perspective that was unavailable to the many not willing or able to climb the 15 foot wall and wade into the swampy waters. Now the viewpoint is offered equally to local residents, students and visitors from other areas. As reconnection on a local scale increases, the national discussion intensifies. Nancy Sutleys visit led to a press release from the White House identifying the Bayou Bienvenue as a project that integrates sustainability with mitigation measures and will restore approximately 10,000 acres of critical cypress wetlands using wetland assimilation of wastewater effluent. These words directly reflect extensive research coming from such institutions as Louisiana State University, University of Wisconsin and the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans. Studies have shown that wetland restoration will be an important step in creating stormwater management that could increase safety for all of New Orleans. The platform itself offers an established nexus for these groups to conduct research, in turn increasing interaction and exposure of this work to the neighborhood residents. Though these

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Both photos by Brian Stuhr 2008. MIDDLE The destroyed neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward in February 2005. In the background is the barge that was parked in the Industrial Canal and broke through the levee after Hurricane Katrina brought heavy rain and rising water. Photo by Ya King Masani February 2006.

connections are ultimately of proximity, they show how important the access over the levee is to the many that could be affected by restoration efforts. John Taylor is one such person. A local, life-long resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, lovingly referred to as swamp man, Taylor offers a unique knowledge base and acts now as an informal interpreter at the platform. In an intriguing photo from 2009, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America stands in full religious dress, the wooden shade structure of the rebuilt platform rising above his head. Reaching to a pleasant handshake is the extended, tattooed arm of Taylor (link here). This interaction reflects one example of many that are part of connecting local intelligence and lore to larger networks. The adoption of the structure and its happenings by Taylor is a powerful indicator of the neighborhoods embrace. Further evidence of this appears in how quickly the structure was rebuilt after a fire (started by the burning ember of a discarded

cigarette in a plastic garbage can) burned a 25-foot hole in the platforms center. The fire happened on a Friday night in 2009. By Monday morning the rebuilding process was underway. With the help of the Make It Right Foundation, the community not only recreated the platform, they added a shade structure and a lower level access to the Bayou. The word from Dr. Allen and other involved students and faculty members who have visited in the last few years is that the platform is now a destination place for those who continue the struggle to rebuild and live in the Lower Ninth Ward.

When it comes down to it, helping the neighborhood through their devastation is where the project started. The embrace of the platform by the people of the Lower Ninth Ward that they have painted the structure, brought garbage cans and mowed a path to its steps all in the midst of the complete rebuilding of their own homes is true evidence of a project that has served its greatest purpose.

NOTES Thank you to Dr. Austin Allen, Jeramy Boik, Lori Catalano, Charlie Chase and Brian Stuhr for the interviews that created this article.

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There are some places that cling to life through decay. They exist, not as they once did, but rather in a suspended state where neglect and time has displaced their former purpose. These spaces include, but are not limited to, those in contest, areas lacking a communicative presence, interstitial go-betweens, post-industrial landscapes and post-crisis places removed from prominence in favor of the grandiose, the highly visible or the acutely popular. These stretches are peppered throughout the urban landscape and beyond, are quite likely undesirable and assuredly have untapped potential. We call on students and professionals alike to participate in ROOT3 . Submissions are requested to address the above topic or to fill ROOT departments including: book reviews, landscape critiques, thesis research, scholarly papers, travel projects, design work, photo-essays or interviews. All submittals will be reviewed by the ROOT editorial staff and faculty advisors. Deadline for submissions is January 14, 2011.


For information on submitting, please visit or email

In places of ruin, that are forgotten and abandoned by human interaction, an exchange begins to take place. It is an exchange of energy, and of culture and nature, where the controlling hand of a human is removed and the latent potential of the earth is realized. In this vein, this rendering exhibits the very essence of this poetic and delicate exchange. - Erin Devine, Studio I, Fall 2009 Landscape Architecture


There are some places that cling to life through decay. They exist, not as they once did, but rather in a suspended state where neglect and time has displaced their former purpose. These spaces include, but are not limited to, those in contest, areas lacking a communicative presence, interstitial go-betweens, post-industrial landscapes and post-crisis places removed from prominence in favor of the grandiose, the highly visible or the acutely popular. These stretches are peppered throughout the urban landscape and beyond, are quite likely undesirable and assuredly have untapped potential. We call on students and professionals alike to participate in ROOT3 . Submissions are requested to address the above topic or to fill ROOT departments including: book reviews, landscape critiques, thesis research, scholarly papers, travel projects, design work, photo-essays or interviews. All submittals will be reviewed by the ROOT editorial staff and faculty advisors. Deadline for submissions is January 14, 2011. For information on submitting, please visit or email

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