Vertical Cities 2013: Everyone Harvests

How does a rapidly growing Asian city facing issues of sustainability and quality of life also address the region’s food production needs?

This was the exciting challenge that two interdisciplinary teams of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and city and regional planning graduate students from the College of Environmental Design took up as they developed and presented their proposals for the third Vertical Cities Asia International Competition in Singapore.

The exponential speed of urban development in Asia requires new thinking around sustainable high-density solutions that reduce the potentially devastating effects of urbanization on land, infrastructure, and the environment. Vertical Cities Asia, a 5-year program organized by the National University of Singapore (NUS), each year challenges teams from 10 schools around the world, including three from the U.S., to contribute to this endeavor with solutions that address a unique theme and location in Asia.

By 2050, it is anticipated that 80 percent of the world’s projected population of 9 billion will reside in urban centers. Food production is expected to increase by approximately 70 percent globally and nearly 100 percent in developing countries. This year’s theme, “Everyone Harvests,” challenged students to create innovative approaches to urban agriculture and food production in the context of Asia’s accelerating urbanism at a site about 17km west of the city centre of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Farmways
Farmways — Growing frames, parkways and boulevard Enlarge [+]

The Berkeley student teams — who participated as part of the studio course led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture and urban design, Renée Chow (who is also CED’s associate dean for undergraduate programs) — each selected an area of one square kilometer to house 100,000 people on no more than half of the land surface. Of the two teams of 15 students total, 14 traveled to Hanoi to research the project and two members from each team presented final proposals to the prestigious international jury in Singapore in July.

During their visit, students were awestruck by the transparency of the food system in the urban Hanoi environment. Food was commonly prepared, sold, and eaten on urban sidewalks, with agriculture production beginning just beyond the urban fringe. In an effort to bridge these divided realities and raise the prestige of the farmer, one team developed Farmways, which garnered an honorable mention from the competition judges. Via a three-dimensional framework of vertical farm parkways, Farmways integrates the urban and the agricultural with a closed-loop model of green market arcades, air purifiers, food forestry research laboratories, aquaponics, and clean energy cogeneration. Farmways works as an urban biofiltration system ensuring cleaner resources and healthier food production.

Farmways
Farmways — Active locavore street life Enlarge [+]

The second team’s Edge City proposal responded to the challenge by reconnecting fresh food production and consumption economies through a fingered interface at the edge of the urban boundary. Edge City confronts the notion that an urban edge should be defined by a highway and instead joins urban residents to the source of their food. Re-envisioning Hanoi’s outer ring highway, they created a dynamic corridor that includes production, storage, packaging, processing, and distribution, in so doing, better integrating the urban and the agricultural. The result is a vibrant place where people live and work along the urban edge, maintaining a close connection to fertile farmlands.

Edge City
Edge City — Spine section Enlarge [+]
Edge City
Edge City — School site participation Enlarge [+]

The Vertical Cities Competition stands out as a major opportunity for CED graduate students to gain a truly interdisciplinary experience at an international level. Working closely with fellow students from diverse disciplines gives participants a taste of their potential future where an understanding and appreciation of different urban design systems and tools, planning strategies, and multidisciplinary collaboration are essential in the creation of successful urban-scale developments.

Group photo of Vertical Cities CED student participants
Vertical Cities CED student participants.  FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Jennifer Siquiera, Monica Way, Michelle Gonzales, Minjae Ahn, Rebecca Sunter, Niknaz Aftahi;  BACK ROW: Daniel Prostak, Max Edwards, Gabriel Kaprielian, Luis Jaggy, Ned Reifenstein, Leo Zhou, Stephen Steward, Ben Golze (Missing: Anna Konotchick) Enlarge [+]

From the perspective of a teacher, designer and architect, for Renée Chow this ranked as one of her most rewarding studio experiences. “The students were totally motivated to see and deeply understand another place. They learned to collaborate which also transforms their views. They now feel that as designers they can make a difference.”

Student Teams

FARMWAYS Team

  • Niknaz Aftahi (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Minjae Ahn (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Max Edwards (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Luis Jaggy (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Gabriel Kaprielian (M.Arch/MCP) 2014 ATG
  • Daniel Prostak (MLA) 2014 ATG
  • Rebecca Sunter (MLA) 2014 ATG

EDGE CITY Team

  • Benjamin Golze (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Michelle Gonzalez (M.Arch)
  • Anna Konotchick (M.Arch/MCP) 2013 ATG
  • Ned Reifenstein (M.Urban Design) 2013 ATG
  • Jennifer Siqueira (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Stephen Stewart (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Monica Way (M.L.A.) 2014 ATG
  • Xin (Leo) Zhao (M.Arch) 2014 ATG

Celebrating 100 Years of Landscape at Berkeley

California is home to iconic places and canonical landscapes that draw people to the Golden State in search of the American dream. Some are wild or nearly so, like Yosemite, Death Valley, or stretches of the Pacific coast. Others are interspersed with urban settlement, such as oak woodlands of the Sierra foothills, or southern California’s coastal chaparral. Still others form the fabric of the state’s equally well-recognized cities and suburbs.

California’s designed landscapes are no less iconic. Making a radical break from earlier traditions, California’s early landscape architects powerfully shaped American lifestyle ideals that drew people to the state. Framed by wisteria, shingled bungalows offered the opportunity of home ownership. With their sleek patios and biomorphic swimming pools, mid-century modern houses defined the new indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Corporate campuses graced by serene minimalist landscapes attracted pioneering scientists and engineers. Public gardens and plazas, featuring California native plantings, created generous spaces for social interaction.

Beatrix Farrand sitting in her Reef Point Library
Beatrix Farrand sitting in her Reef Point Library. Throughout her professional career she divided her time between creative design and landscape design history. Enlarge [+]

One of the most influential intellectual hubs for this new landscape architecture was the University of California, Berkeley, which began offering degrees in landscape architecture in 1913. Berkeley’s alumni and faculty were leaders in the 20th century’s modernist landscape architecture movements, realized in projects ranging enormously by type and scale. Several were part of Telesis, the influential group of Bay Area progressive architects, landscape architects and city planners who argued for an integrated approach to environmental design.

Cover of Big Fun
An illustrated history of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design, written and illustrated by Charles “Chip” Sullivan. Enlarge [+]

In 1959, Berkeley’s landscape architecture faculty joined the new College of Environmental Design. Housed in Wurster Hall with lively and diverse architects and city and regional planners during the social and environmental movements of the 1960s and 70s, the department’s faculty and students highlighted social and cultural factors in landscape architecture, participatory public design and community-based landscape projects, and the nexus between larger-scale landscape design and ecology. The role of landscape architecture as a social design practice, on the one hand, and as a branch of environmental planning, on the other, was increasingly recognized. In 1997, the department officially became Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, dedicated to training students in the art of design, the science of ecology, and the pragmatics of planning practice.

Thomas Church as a landscape student learning surveying
Thomas Church as a landscape student learning surveying, 1922. Enlarge [+]

2013 marks the department’s centennial anniversary. This is cause for celebration, especially when those 100 years have such a rich record of creative accomplishment, design innovation, and social purpose. It is a history to be shared and rejoiced, as well as (in good academic fashion) interrogated and critiqued. The new book, Landscape at Berkeley: The First 100 Years, offers a retrospective on the remarkable history of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, through remembering the pioneering work of its faculty and students.

But a centennial celebration is also an opportunity to take pause, and thoughtfully consider prospects. No academic institution can rest on its laurels. So, what should an academic department, whose historical mission has been to rigorously train landscape architects and environmental planners and to pursue significant research, take as its central orientation for the future?

Robert Royston critiquing a student project
Distinguished alumnus Robert Royston was a lecturer in the department for a time and often participated in design reviews. Here he is critiquing a student project, c. 1964. Enlarge [+]

Berkeley’s department is addressing this question through deliberation, evolution, and radical moves. The faculty spent the 2012–13 year in discussions about strategic directions, while simultaneously building a new research center on resource-efficient communities, and recruiting extraordinary new faculty and students who will help propel the department toward its new goals. Their directions are ambitious, and spring from a recognition that climate change and the imperatives of urban sustainability, adaptation and resilience place their integrated approach to design and ecology at the center of planning for the future of cities and metropolitan regions.

Katelyn Walker presenting Masters Thesis
Katelyn Walker (MLA) presenting her 2013 Masters Thesis — Devil’s Postpile National Monument Campground and Day Use Area Restoration and Redesign Enlarge [+]

In particular, the department seeks to train landscape architects and environmental planners to master the arts, crafts, and sciences of landscape design and ecologically-based design. Students are increasingly expected to integrate their diverse talents to create landscapes that are at once aesthetically compelling and performative. But the department also intends to innovate in six key areas of research, teaching and service:

  • Urban landscape regeneration: The need to retrofit, reuse and restore obsolete or degraded urban landscapes is fundamental to urban sustainability. New methods of project delivery and construction based on new technologies, materials and sensors are critical for understanding the lifecycle, long-term maintenance, external costs, and values/services, of designed landscapes.
  • Landscape infrastructure: Landscape infrastructure, from block to regional scale, is increasingly recognized as a crucial approach to contending with extreme weather events involving flooding and storm surges. Designed estuaries and wetlands, stream embankments, urban infiltration networks and even barrier systems require an ever-stronger integration of ecology and design research.
  • Resource-efficient and healthy urban landscape design: Planning dense, walkable, mixed use urban places that minimize resource use, protect ecosystem services, promote health, and encourage walking and bicycling can reduce the urban ecological footprint. Creating such resource-efficient districts requires thoughtful analysis of density, innovative use of urban forest and green cover resources, strategies to integrate food production, and water/energy efficient street and open space design.
  • Social and environmental justice: Although concerns about justice are deeply embedded in department culture, climate change is apt to exacerbate the vulnerability of disadvantaged populations and increase risks associated with temperature and weather extremes and associated pollution problems. Redesigned urban landscapes as well as environmental hazard planning are important ways to address these heightened risks.
  • Designed landscape performance: The increasing use of landscape strategies to promote urban resilience and resource conservation implies the need to measure how they perform, in both social and ecosystem terms. This will require the development of new models and metrics to sense and track resource utilization, ecosystem service delivery, and social acceptance.
  • Collaborative practice: As urban governments, community organizations, and private firms around the world grapple with the implications of climate change, landscape architecture and environmental planning practitioners will play increasingly central roles — as members of large, multidisciplinary teams that work closely with local stakeholders. Collaborative practice and international collaboration will be central to the success of the field and its practitioners.

As dean of the College of Environmental Design, I am proud of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning’s first 100 years of achievements, inspired by its ambitious goals, and confident that we will witness even greater achievements in the century to come.

Students demonstrating
Students holding a demonstration against the Vietnam War in the courtyard of Wurster Hall, 1968 Enlarge [+]

Photos courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, University of California, Berkeley.

Bob Lalanne: Building Real Value for CED

As UC Berkeley and other universities across California struggle with the challenge of state disinvestment, Bob Lalanne (B.A. Architecture, 1978) sees new opportunities to create long-term value for the campus and is working hard to support that effort.

Bob not only has strong ties to UC Berkeley—both his parents attended the university and his two daughters are Berkeley students and members of the Cal women’s club lacrosse team—but also a tremendous appreciation for the skills he acquired as a CED student and Cal athlete. “The diversity, competition, opportunities, incubation of ideas—always questioning or asking why—the intellectual powerhouse of faculty across multiple disciplines was very special.”

Bob and Millicent Lalanne
Bob and Millicent Lalanne Enlarge [+]

As president of The Lalanne Group, a San Francisco-based real estate development company, this multi-disciplinary approach has been the foundation of his success as a developer of some of the Bay Area’s best-known real estate projects. A career spanning more than 30 years has fostered his passion for creating high-quality, mixed-use urban infill projects. He has developed over 1,000 housing units in the Bay Area, some of which are anchored by Falletti Foods, Safeway, and Whole Foods.

Bob’s desire to take the knowledge he gained at Cal and in his career to create lasting value for CED and the university led him to become involved in giving back almost 15 years ago. Realizing the revenue-generating opportunity Cal possesses in its significant non-academic real-estate holdings, Bob became chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation’s Finance and Administration Committee. He also currently chairs the Real Estate sub-committee which he created and is the first head of the College of Environmental Design (CED) Advisory Council. In 2010, Bob and his wife Millicent co-chaired CED’s 50th Anniversary Gala, reflecting their status as generous and longstanding benefactors of the college. In addition to CED, the couple created the Lalanne Family Scholarship for Men’s and Women’s Athletics at Cal and are Builders of Berkeley.

Continuing their commitment to CED, Bob and Millicent have recently made a generous pledge of $1 million, matched by the Hewlett Foundation, for the creation of the Robert J. and Millicent C. Lalanne Chair in Real Estate Development, Architecture and Urbanism. Acknowledging the historic role of the architect as master designer-builder now challenged with complex issues of finance, market economies, sustainability, smart growth, social and cultural transformation, and technological innovation, the Lalanne Chair will address the need for the broad perspective, interdisciplinary knowledge and leadership skills to solve these new urban development challenges.

CED Dean Jennifer Wolch praised the Lalannes’ many significant contributions. “We’re extremely grateful to Bob and Millicent for their generous pledge and incredible support of CED. Along with this gift, the time and talent that Bob has devoted to CED and Berkeley will create a truly lasting legacy.”

The creation of the Chair was inspired by Bob’s own experience—and that of his fellow developers, urban planners and architects—and his conviction that successful place-making demands a broad base of knowledge and the ability to collaborate in an array of fields including design, planning, real estate finance, building operations, public policy, economics, law, engineering, construction and social science.

The Lalanne Chair will serve as a bridge to the fields within the College of Environmental Design as well as other UC Berkeley schools and colleges, in particular the Haas School of Business and its real estate program, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the College of Engineering and the Berkeley School of Law.

Bob acknowledged the foundations of his achievements explaining, “At Berkeley you learned to be a self-starter, an advocate, to reach high, to make a difference all in the context of an extremely intellectual environment with great access to great minds. It was a privilege to be a part of it.”

Apples & Wages

Apples & Wages, an undergraduate urban planning studio project, presents a program to increase food security and employment in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco with a job-training program that offers skill development and employment experience in food preparation and distribution. Taught by Andrea Gaffney and Kimberly Suczynski Smith, the students Dylan Crary, Heather Do, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, and Christina Tanouye come from a wide range of disciplines including urban studies, business, architecture, and political economy.

Team Pride
Team Pride – Apples & Wages Student Team prepares for their final studio presentation. From right to left: Christina Tanouye, Rebecca Hui, Sandra Lee, Dylan Crary, Heather Do. Enlarge [+]

The Story from the Students

The final studio presentation of “Apples & Wages” came a long way from the scattering of ideas that developed at the beginning of spring semester. For the final studio project, our team tackled the broad assignment of creating an innovative economic development proposal for the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. The assignment asked us to propose a long-term plan and a short-term, immediate action in which to test our long-range plan.

Like many good planners, we started our project with extensive background research and numerous site visits. We scanned the study area for possible economic development opportunities that were not directly addressed in the planning studies that we had researched. The corner stores and street culture of the Tenderloin caught our attention as a significant economy, about which we wanted to learn more.

We recorded existing land uses in great detail, noting the businesses and organizations present in the neighborhood. We noticed a disparity in the pricing of fresh food at the corner stores, so we created a map and pricing index to reflect the community’s access to local sources of fresh food. We documented activities on the street and talked with long-time Tenderloin residents to better understand the needs and issues in the neighborhood. From census and planning research, we learned about the high unemployment rate within the working age population of the Tenderloin community. As part of our land use research, we noted Single Resident Occupancy Hotels (SRO’s) as the predominant housing type; there are no kitchens in SROs.

The site visits allowed us to think on our feet and helped us arrive at our idea to propose a job-training program that could also provide access to fresh, healthy food. The idea is surprisingly simple: we propose the creation of a central kitchen where fresh produce could be prepared into healthy meals through the jobs training program, and then sent throughout the Tenderloin on mobile food carts.

Throughout the development of our project, we looked at a variety of precedents and case studies to provide the proof-of-concept for our proposal. We found some excellent examples of programs and organizations at work in the Bay Area and California, from which we developed a kit of parts for our proposal. We also identified a series of funding opportunities and local organizations that might be interested in further developing our idea.

After the final studio presentation, our instructors encouraged us to present “Apples & Wages” to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and through this exposure, we took advantage of submitting our idea to San Francisco’s Online Ideas Competition for Food Security in the Tenderloin over the summer. Talk about good timing! The jury loved our proposal and we won an internship at the Hub, a social venture incubator space, where we will continue developing our project to turn “Apples & Wages” into a real program for the Tenderloin. Thinking back on all those late nights spent at Wurster Hall, we are tremendously excited to see how all our hard work will truly give back to the community.

Food Cart Placement Strategy
Food Cart Placement Strategy – Food carts are located and moved throughout the Tenderloin during the day to attract a variety of user from Market Street and within the neighborhood. Enlarge [+]
Development Program Structure
Development Program Structure – The program structure builds on basic literacy and math skills to develop professional food service and business management skills. Enlarge [+]
Fresh Food in the Tenderloin
Fresh Food in the Tenderloin – Field research showed that there was a scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Tenderloin district. Enlarge [+]
Leveraging Community Assets
Leveraging Community Assets – Building on existing community resources in the food justice and job training sectors the Apples & Wages program leverages existing resources to achieve their goals and objectives. Enlarge [+]
Opportunity Sites
Opportunity Sites – Through a site evaluation study of vacant property, proximity to community services and housing the team strategically placed (1) a central kitchen, and food carts on (2) Jones and Turk and (3) Eddy and Leavenworth. Enlarge [+]
Produce Cart on Jones + Turk
Produce Cart on Jones + Turk Enlarge [+]
Street Festival on Ellis between Jones + Taylor
Street Festival on Ellis between Jones + Taylor Enlarge [+]

John Wong: Making Cities Livable

Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace
Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace Enlarge [+]

Whether it’s designing a garden or the groundscape for one of the world’s tallest structures, for John Wong (B.A. Landscape Architecture, 1974) there are three things that characterize the role of landscape architecture: creating a space where people can interact, inspiring sustainable innovation and defining a sense of place.

As managing principal and chairman of SWA Group in Sausalito, John Wong is an internationally renowned landscape architect with an impressive portfolio of prominent and sustainable projects throughout the world, from new communities and cities to public plazas and gardens. He is most recently recognized for his expertise in designing the groundscapes for super-tall structures—an area that now comprises over half of his practice. In addition to creating the ground planes for the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Shanghai Tower, scheduled to complete in 2016, he is also currently working on designs for Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which will rise to an estimated 1000 meters in 2017.

Burj Khalifa aerial view
Burj Khalifa aerial view. Photo by David Gal, SWA GroupEnlarge [+]
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan Enlarge [+]

Designing for tall buildings poses a unique challenge: to connect an imposing structure with the existing fabric of the surrounding area to create an interactive environment that makes people’s lives better. Wong is a strong believer in the sustainable benefits of high density, multi-use tall buildings with habitable open areas. He views sustainability in both ecological and human terms and sees landscape architecture as the discipline that can have the most profound impact when it comes to solving one of today’s biggest problems—how to make cities more livable.

In his winning competition proposal for the Suzhou Industrial Park Central Business District, Wong highlights not only the beautiful natural location, but also the connection between ecological and social environments. The project is organized along a central urban axis, Suzhou Corridor, surrounded by five distinct rings of landscapes and pedestrian walkways that unify the landscape and the architecture while providing intimate encounters with the environment. The design links dispersed neighborhoods and creates a lively outdoor mall connecting commercial and residential developments.

John Wong, Managing Principal & Chairman, SWA Group
John Wong Enlarge [+]

Wong was attracted to the field of landscape architecture because of its holistic approach to solving today’s environmental and urban problems—connecting a variety of disciplines including architecture, engineering, urban planning and transportation with an understanding of natural systems. As landscape architects are called upon to bring ideas to life on a much larger and more complex scale, he feels this collaborative approach will become increasingly important. And as sustainability continues to demand innovation, this is where landscape architecture can have the greatest impact.

Wong’s design for Guthrie Green in Tulsa is a showcase for sustainable innovation. With the idea to create a beautiful “outdoor living room” to encourage rejuvenation of the emerging mixed-use neighborhood, SWA transformed a 2.7-acre truck loading facility into a vibrant community gathering space for artists, urban professionals, students, and visitors. SWA took advantage of the natural geothermal energy and abundant sun to create a high-performing system including photo-voltaic panels and a grid of 500-foot deep geothermal wells that help offset the park’s energy demands and provide heating and cooling for adjacent buildings.

As the 100th anniversary of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley approaches in 2013, Wong appreciates what he gained from his experience there and what he sees the college continuing to provide: a big picture, multi-disciplinary approach that opens the mind and brings a fuller understanding of the challenges and possibilities for the future. As a new Cal parent—his daughter is at the College of Natural Resources—he’s pleased that she’ll be exposed to these critical thinking skills that will be even more highly prized in the future.

Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma
Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma. Photo by Jonnu Singleton, SWA Group Enlarge [+]