Sunday, September 11, 2011

Begin the Begin Again

Well, it's only been about 9-months since my last blog post.  This is my attempt at beginning to make regular posts again.

My first post to this blog was about landscape architects' role in designing Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park in Montana.  I figured I'd revisit the road for my new first time.

This video can't even approach what driving this road is like.  For starters, though the running time is close to 30 minutes, the video only covers about 1/3 of the road.  This was filmed from a car as it headed east on GTTSR from near "The Loop" to Logan Pass.  Traveling west on this same section would be a completely different experience.  And nothing can make up for peripheral vision.  Remember that.  In any case, enjoy:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Buckminster Fuller Sighting at Burning Man Festival

Domed structures have apparently taken off at Black Rock City. Why haven't they entered the mainstream? Check out this article.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Does This Mean? Anyone?

On a trip to Philadelphia, PA this summer I saw this brass plaque embedded in a sidewalk. I really have no idea what it means. Any ideas?

Philadelphia Community Garden

On a trip to Philadelphia, PA this summer we spotted a community garden near our hotel. We were staying at a hotel outside of town, near the airport. Every day we would ride the hotel shuttle about a mile or so to the nearest train station, where we would catch the train headed into downtown. On the way back to the hotel one day, I decided that I would walk from the train station to the hotel so that I could check out the garden. Well, let's just say that this community garden was not exactly in a community. The area was largely industrial...typical of areas surrounding airports. Very wide roads. Not very pedestrian oriented. People with plots in this garden most likely have to drive to get there.

And the garden was surrounded by a 10 ft high chain-link fence. It was kind of tough to climb, but I got in.

While there, I met some old guys that said they had had their plots for over 20 years. They said that the majority of their food comes from their gardens. Many of the initial plots had been subdivided into smaller plots.

Most people probably wouldn't find the gardens to be too aesthetically pleasing, but I really enjoyed looking around. Lots of ingenuity going on. Sheds, greenhouses, cold frames, and other structures built out of found materials...sometimes just junk. Below are some pictures from around the garden.

Rotting Sculptures

Where should we put the compost pile? Maybe behind the shed. Or behind this, or behind that. And what kind of bin should we use? Should it be surrounded by wire fencing, or made out of wood? Maybe we can put it in an elaborate barrel that is turned by a super complicated computer program and series of motors.

These are generally some of the things that people think when considering starting a compost pile.

It really can be much simpler. You don't need a container. And you really can put it right in the center of your garden where it can be seen and admired.

My friend, and former employer Allen developed a technique of building compost piles that requires no structure (other than the compostable material itself). And these piles are so aesthetically pleasing that they can be placed in highly visible areas. In fact, they really possess a sort of sculptural quality. We frequently placed them throughout gardens, as sort of art pieces that could be disassembled and used where they were needed the most. They always elicit questions and comments. They frequently become departure points for in-depth discussions.

Below are a few photos of these piles. These, unfortunately, are not in the middle of a garden, but in a utility area. The piles are constructed from bags of leaves that have been placed on the side of the road in nearby neighborhoods for the garbage men to pick up and haul to the county landfill. We simply liberate these bags prior to the garbage trucks arriving. Most piles contain an average of 300-400 bags of leaves. Our record is 717 bags. The pile was ridiculously huge, something like 18 ft in diameter by 12 ft high. We had to build a scaffolding to work on it. It was mildly amusing, but impractical.

Note: These piles do not contain any structural support apart from the material being composted. No, there is not any wire surrounding the piles.

In addition to the bags of leaves, all garden waste is put in the piles. Weeds, clippings, branches, etc. Some piles are built all at once. Some gradually grow as garden waste is generated. The below picture shows a newly constructed pile. The sides have not yet been shaped. Notice the cardboard. Anything that will rot gets put in the pile. The garbage truck almost never stops at this garden.

This pile is being slowly built as garden waste is being generated. Green (and orange) materials are placed on top. When this layer reaches about 6" in depth, a layer of leaves is placed on top of it. This cycle repeats until the pile is at a reasonable height. Then the sides are shaped and the pile develops a sculptural quality.

After about 4-6 months, the piles are fully composted and ready to be spread. Black gold!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bricolage Weirs

Below are some photos of a series of five weirs that I helped build about four years ago. The weirs were built in a city drainage ditch that bisects a four acre garden that I was helping develop. The water flowing through this ditch consists of stormwater from surrounding neighborhoods. We had previously reshaped portions of the ditch, creating a pond before the ditch left the property. Water from this pond is then used to supply various water features throughout the garden.

The weirs were built for several reasons. One, we were trying to reduce sedimentation within the pond. The five weirs provide stilling points where the sediments can fall out. Two, we were attempting to control the erosion taking place during frequent flash floods. Three, we were creating a cool water feature. Water is pumped from the pond via a 3" pipe to the point where the ditch enters the property, creating a constant, recirculating flow of water in what you could now call a creek. The flat surfaces of water, only interrupted on the low side of each weir, appear as a jagged mirror cutting through the property.

All weirs were constructed entirely from recycled materials. In fact, all of the bricks, concrete blocks, roofing tiles, etc came from the ditch itself. Apparently some previous visionary had decided to fill some low land along the banks of this ditch with construction debris. After flash floods, bricks could be seen strewn along the banks of the ditch. We simply picked them up and stashed them in a pile. That pile grew quite large. Any time we were working in the vicinity of the ditch (planting trees, etc) we would find bricks to add to the pile. The only elements of these weirs that did not come from the property itself are the concrete footings that we poured beneath each. Even the rebar that we used came from broken slabs of concrete that we removed from another portion of the property.

Just below the bridge (I built that too), is the last, and smallest, in the series of five weirs. When this weir doesn't have debris piled up behind it, a very thin sheet of water pours over its entire width. This is where the ditch begins widening into a pond.

Pumps push the water to the head of the ditch to allow a constant flow through the system of weirs. Things get more exciting when it rains. During periods of drought, this system doesn't continue to operate. No potable water is used.

We purposefully left many nooks and crannies in the weirs in order to plant plants and to allow others to colonize their surfaces. What you see here is Acorus graminueus, also called Sweet Flag. Other weirs have ferns and other moisture loving plants growing from their surfaces.

It doesn't take long before mosses are colonizing the moist surfaces.

These are truly bric(k)olage weirs. The use of materials looks a bit crazy, I'll admit. We wanted these to appear to have been built out of necessity by someone using whatever they had on hand. So that's what we did. Not only bricks, but roofing tiles, chimney tiles, concrete rubble, pavers, etc were used...whatever we had found in the ditch itself. The boulders that you see in the ditch near the weirs came from a house about a block away that was being demolished.