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Landscape and Inscape
Monday, 28 March 2011
More Coffee
Topic: Cyborg self - networked city

In a Starbucks in Newark – or maybe it is FremontCalifornia: not that the cities don’t have their own character, but you can’t tell if this Starbucks is on this side or that of the municipal boundary…

In Newark the buses carry advertisements for McDonalds in Hindi.  The stores have signs in Vietnamese.  This Starbucks however does not have signage in any language other than English, but the sound track is completely different than the sound track played in San Francisco or Mill Valley, and I don’t recognize the language.

Just finished a productive meeting with a client, and sitting in my truck, what is my next move?  Next thing I need to do is finish-edit and send off proposals to two other clients.  I could do that from anywhere, I don’t need to go back to Marin to do that.  Nothing programmed for this evening either, so no reason to go to San Francisco. 

So I am not constrained by place.  I am constrained by time.  The sooner the proposals go out the better, and preferably during the business day.  Although what constitutes the “business day” is also loosing meaning.  My client of this morning, a senior official of her organization, wryly observed that her 24-hour X 7-day schedule means that I could communicate with her at any time and she would be likely to get it and respond.  And the next seat over is a middle-aged guy sound asleep in a sofa chair with his computer (off) on his lap.  Snoring audibly.  For him it is the middle of the night.  He wakes only to mumble a response to a call on his smartphone, then he goes back to sleep.

Where we are not grounded by place, nor by time, what secures our sense of being?  Starbucks and other “coffee” shops, I am coming to believe, are not the “third place” – between workplace and home.  They are instead both workplace and home.  At my favourite Starbucks in San Francisco – the 24-hour shop in Laurel Village – a couple of months ago, sitting next to a younger guy I’ve seen there a few times: he showed me his work, putting colour to the Marvel comics for the line drawings penned by the author-artists.  These are not simple illustrations.  He has no office or studio.  Starbuck is his office and studio.  He probably doesn’t sleep there though, as the fellow in the next seat over, getting louder and louder, and now somewhat irritating.

Where we are not grounded by place, nor by time, what secures our sense of being?  There was a time when journalists were journalists because they were part of an organization that delivered news content in a world where content required an elaborate content creation organization, as Clay Shirky points out (2008 Here Comes Everybody).  Today news organizations have less and less tenure over news creation and delivery but journalists are still around because they can write well and provide incisive analysis.  Similarly, in such a world a place is a place, that is, anywhere is actually somewhere, because it has intrinsic character or features.  In other words, it is a “sacred” space, where “sacred” means set off from the daily use-spaces that we frequent.

This is one of the reasons, I am coming to believe, that there appears to be almost a mushrooming in interest in and creation of urban farms / urban intensive agriculture / “permaculture”.  An urban farm is somewhere, of course, and usually surrounded by the dense fabric of the city.  As often as not an urban farm is created ex nihilo from abandoned residential or industrial land.  So the farm is in great contrast to the surrounding built landscape – it is a sacred space in this sense: it is noticeably set off from the rest of city. 

The nineteenth century public parks created in North America embodying the romantic landscape image of private English landscape gardens were specifically designed to improve the character of the working class population and to provide a place to re-create oneself.  They were set off and designed in contrast to the industrial age city – a city of dirt or cobbled streets, horses and horse-sh, the air thick with smoke from coal fires, dense clouds of wires on poles, and according to David Henkin hundreds of billboards yammering at you and handbills floating at arms level (1998 City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces).  Urban farms are the spiritual or at least thematic descendants today of nineteenth century public parks, as a place of respite from the city, where one can "recreate" oneself and refresh …  Urban farms are also usually community institutions, run by and for communities, so they also embody place in this way: they manifest in one place a host of personal and extended relationships, and are sacred for this reason as well.


Posted by geoffreykatz at 8:09 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2011 8:24 PM PDT
Monday, 24 January 2011
Coffee Anyone?
Topic: Cyborg self - networked city

Coffee shops in the USA and Canada are a publicly-accessible distributed network of multipurpose spaces for meetings, entertainment, or work.   

You can meet to discuss business transactions with clients and associates, review the current class assignment, or chew over family affairs.  You can view a movie, surf the net, and watch the va-et-vient of people dashing in to buy beverages and more, including pre-dawn polished business people, 10am locals, casually dressed, and harried parents at 4pm.  Many bring their portable office environment in the form of their laptop, or perhaps iPad too at this point, and get a good four hours of work done before rushing off somewhere.   

A coffee shop is a comfortable space.  Should Starbucks, Piets, or all the local coffee shops charge by the hour for use of the space, instead of for the coffee?  What are they really selling?  It isn’t coffee, exactly.   Starbucks knows this: they are consciously creating the “third place”. 

Bill Mitchell points out (in ME++, MIT Press 2003) that   As continuous fields of presence are overlaid on architectural and urban space, the ancient distinction between settlers and nomads… is eroding in subtle but important ways.  In the emerging wireless era, our buildings and urban environments need fewer specialized spaces built around sites of accumulation and resource availability and more versatile, hospitable, accommodating spaces that simply attract occupation and can serve diverse purposes as required.  A café table can serve as a library reading room.  A quiet place under a tree can become a design studio.  A subway car can become a place for watching movies...” 

“Now, spatially dispersed yet coordinated, fluid collections of wirelessly interconnecting individuals – perhaps assembled, from the beginning, in cyberspace rather than at any physical location – are becoming a crucial fact of urban life.”  

"For architects, continuous fields of presence and the destabilization of person-to-place relationships demand some radical rethinking of the fundamentals.  The standard procedure of twentieth-century modernism was to start by distinguishing and separating functions – the better to optimize spaces for particular functions and to announce those functions visually… At an urban scale, housing areas were to be distinguished from industrial and commercial zones.  At building scale, there were to be specialized spaces, with associated equipment, for the activities that were to be accommodated.  And the physical fabric of a building was to be articulated functionally – for example, by separating the supporting and enclosing functions of a wall by substituting columns for support and a nonbearing curtain wall for enclosure.  But this strategy makes little sense when wireless electronic devices can support many different activities an a single location or the same activity at many different locations, and when running different software can radically alter the functions provided by a device without changing its format all.  Time division multiplexing of activities is starting to look smarter than space division.” p 159-162


Although a coffee shop may be an archetype of flexible space, many activities are still dependent on specialized equipment, specialized supply of energy, availability of resources, or topography and other specific character of the landscape, and therefore are still very place and program-based.  Examples: steel mill, surgery operating room, quarry, harbour.  Even for these, however, the specific location and configuration of programmed spaces for such activities is more flexible than might have been in the past because transportation and communications technology permit flexibility in site selection – yet as an investment is made in one site, the specific locus of the activities becomes fixed at that site. 


As an example, the very high tech and very high security Santa Clara Crime Lab for which I was landscape Project Manager 2003-7 required a location in Santa Clara County, California.  Three alternative sites within the county offering different opportunities were considered.  When a site was chosen, we worked closely with the design architect to consider alternative site dispositions for the building, and subsequently alternative building-site configurations to express but control public access, regulate secure parking, incorporate fortresslike security devices, not to mention achieve LEED certification.  At each stage more and more investment in the specific site was made.


Posted by geoffreykatz at 12:15 AM PST
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2011 8:18 PM PDT
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Integrity and Love

Yesterday, August 10, at Yoshi's San Francisco, Clarence B Jones said: Lawyers, even good lawyers, are a dime a dozen.  The difference is

·        Integrity – watch that you don’t get corrupted and lose your path to do the things you are committed and passionate to do

·        Love – you do the things you do because you love the people you are working with and for.

Well that was all inspiring.

Jones is the former advisor to Martin Luther King Jr.  Helped write the "I have a dream" speech.


Posted by geoffreykatz at 7:35 PM PDT
Sunday, 30 May 2010

Think about this next time you are at a social dance, group meditation, religious service, class, party, or back at work!

What if 6 people show up?  If 60?

"Groups form to achieve a common goal – to affect change, to create something. It might be a car, it might be a report, it might simply be creating a good time. In order to create, people provide input. As input occurs, the members of the group build “social capital” – the currency of a social relationship.

Business is social at heart.  It therefore finds itself in a dizzying set of social economies, trading in different types of social capital, managing these economies. A successful business must develop an appreciation of what groups value, how to best facilitate value creation, and how to broadcast that value."


Posted by geoffreykatz at 3:06 AM PDT
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Heritage Rose Tennessee Valley Redux
Topic: Tennessee Valley Heritage Rose



At long last the heritage rose in Tennessee Valley has bloomed, has not been eaten by a deer, and I was there with a camera.  Here are pics.  Very powerful and lush fragrance.  Overall about 3cm / little over an inch. 


Posted by geoffreykatz at 4:35 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 March 2011 11:38 PM PST
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
More from class no3

As an alternative, the documents of LEED or another green building rating/standards system might be convenient.  Use one of the checklists in the discussion with the owner.  Be sure that everyone signs off on what was agreed.  Here is a look at this option http://www.njasla.org/sustainable.htm.

Maybe "environmentally responsible design" is not a service that your firm offers?  Should you include a note in your contract with your client, the architect, that reflects this?

NB, this isn’t a legal opinion, just a reflection of the discussion in class.

Posted by geoffreykatz at 1:12 AM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 April 2010 1:14 AM PDT
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Incorporating "green" landscape in design contracts
Topic: green landscape design

Last week the course I’m instructing at UC Berkeley Extension focused on the regulatory and legal framework for doing green building.  This is an important context when carrying out a project’s sustainable design / green building requirements.

Landscape architects often subcontract with an architect to provide design services to a project owner or proponent.  The 2007 AIA contract document between architect and owner (or project proponent) now contains wording that makes sustainable design / green building a contractual obligation.  http://www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aias076840.pdf.  How does this contractual obligation between the architect and the architect’s client flow down to the subcontracting landscape architect?  Would the landscape architect need to provide these same services to the client?   

Article 3.2.3 of the contract document reads as follows:

§ 3.2.3 The Architect shall present its preliminary evaluation to the Owner and shall discuss with the Owner alternative approaches to design and construction of the Project, including the feasibility of incorporating environmentally responsible design approaches. The Architect shall reach an understanding with the Owner regarding the requirements of the Project.

Article of that document reads as follows:

§ – The Architect shall consider environmentally responsible design alternatives, such as material choices and building orientation, together with other considerations based upon program and aesthetics, in developing a design for the project that is consistent with the Owner’s program, schedule and budget for the Cost of the Work.  The Owner may obtain other environmentally responsible design services under Article 4.  

Note that this language is not referring to a published green building rating/standards system such as the USGBC’s LEED, nor does it necessarily refer to any environmental or building code regulation. 

Let’s say that these provisions do flow down to the landscape architect.  How to meet this obligation?

As a landscape architect you might be providing “green” services such as stormwater management using on-site infiltration, habitat conservation design, water efficient irrigation, and so on for the project; you might discuss various approaches and alternatives with the owner and reach agreement with the owner, under the general direction of the architect.  If you document this discussion and agreement, perhaps with a description of the options, notes about decisions taken, and an exchange of emails among you, owner, and architect, would you then be covering these requirements?


Posted by geoffreykatz at 10:23 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 March 2011 11:35 PM PST
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
LEED for Landscape Architects: Shaping a Sustainable Landscape

Teaching a course at the University of California, Berkeley Extension.  Here is the description. 

"The Leadership in Environment and Energy Design program (LEED) is one of the most widely recognized systems for gauging sustainable development. You examine the application and meaning of sustainable practices in landscape architecture in this course, with emphasis on this and other emerging systems. You learn to identify opportunities for sustainable landscape design and apply a range of design and construction practices within the context of the LEED system. You focus on LEED documentation in this course."


Posted by geoffreykatz at 9:13 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 11 April 2010 10:05 PM PDT
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Wolves and Dogs

Crawled the Mission District of San Francisco in the annual Litquake Litcrawl last night.  http://www.litquake.org/.  Heard words from five poets, three authors, and one singer-songwriter.  Remarkable that even the adlib commentary between spoken works from some of these people was like a literary composition.


One of the remarkable people I had the good fortune to meet this evening was Dorothy Hearst, author of Promise of the Wolves http://www.dorothyhearst.com/.  In a brief conversation we advanced the idea that dogs are the dogs that, historically anyway, we love to love, and that wolves are the dogs that we love to hate.  Later checking Wikipedia I discover that recent genetic research seems to indicate that dogs and wolves are in fact the same species, and archaeologists seem to believe that dogs that dogs diverged from wolves between 15,000 and 35,000 years ago. 


Dorothy is not of course the first author to throw herself to the wolves.  Farley Mowat http://bit.ly/2xvXee , the most-read author of my adolescent years (other than Gerald Durrell), gave us a romp through the intimate lives of tundra wolves in the Kivalliq area of Nunavut, Canada in Never Cry Wolf.  Mowat describes the sociability of wolves.  Interesting that the cultural matrix of the local Ihalmiut developed a model of wolf-caribou ecological interdependence.  As Mowat put it, quoting one of his hosts, “The wolves depend on the caribou, but the wolves keep the caribou populations healthy” – because the wolves consistently target the diseased and infirm (any healthy caribou could outrun a wolf).  Compare this to the European mythical structure in which the forest, the habitat of the woodland European wolf, was perceived to be dangerous and bewildering, and the wolf itself as a denizen of the forest feared and dangerous.  The word “forest” comes from the latin “foris” meaning “outside”. 

Perhaps more familiar to many readers are the works of Jack London whose mirror image books White Fang recounts the acculturation of a wolf by a San Franciscan and Call of the Wild recounts the feralization of a domestic dog.

Posted by geoffreykatz at 10:09 PM PDT
Sunday, 27 September 2009
Tennessee Valley
Topic: Tennessee Valley Heritage Rose

This is Tennessee Valley, Marin County, California.  Located north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area http://www.nps.gov/goga/index.htm.  So called after the name of a coastal steamship that ran aground and broke up on the beach in the mid-1800s.

Here is a wide-angle composite view looking from east on the left to west on the right.  Tennessee Beach is on the right.  This is a favorite walk for San Franciscans on a sunny weekend because the path has low elevation and the trailhead is easy to get to from the city. 

Location of the heritage rose is off to the left, near the bottom of the road (actually not visible in this view).

Posted by geoffreykatz at 3:55 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 March 2011 11:37 PM PST

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