Transformation

img_1036Since it’s inception over 10 years ago, the garden outside of our studio has grown and evolved with the firm. With recent interest in a redesign, the staff participated in a quick design exercise with no direction other than the idea of a new transformation of the space. When the ideas were pinned up, following a 15 minute sketch exercise, the almost unanimous theme was to create a functional work/social environment outdoors.  Functioning as a space to work, to eat, and even to hold charette and meetings, the next evolution of the garden at BMLA has begun.

 

BMLA PARK(ing) Day

PrintIn 2005, park advocates decided to bring attention to the lack of green space in San Francisco using a conventional metered parking space for a pop-up parklet. When you put change into a parking meter, you are essentially renting that space temporarily – so why not utilize that rented space for something besides a car?

And that is when Park(ing) Day began.  Each year, on the third Friday in September, cities from all around the country participate in the conversion of park-able space, to a temporary park, as a tool to bring public awareness to the need for more urban park space.

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BMLA took on the role of coordinating its own Park(ing) Day, choosing a site at the North Main Corona Metrolink Station to help promote public transit.  Aspiring to celebrate the event, advocating the profession of Landscape Architecture, and the concept of walkability, the staff will be on the North side of the tracks all day Friday, September 16th handing out coffee and donuts to early morning commuters in our own pop up park.  With the help of RCTC, City of Corona, and local suppliers, three asphalt parking stalls will be transformed into a temporary green, shaded, comfortable space to provide seating in a typically uninhabitable space.

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Wasted Opportunities with Asphalt

 

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By Brett Miller –

One of the most hindering regulations to the development of thriving, sustainable, walkable communities is the requirement of minimum parking standards.  These ordinances force businesses and residences to provide on-site parking, severely limiting the amount of activity, the livability, and more importantly the commerce and community that could be potentially taking place on that land.  There is a movement sweeping across the United States that is reducing, if not entirely eliminating, minimum parking requirements.

The development of these ordinances all began in the post World War II era: the car was king, the American suburban life with 2 cars in every garage was the dream — and with that came the asphalt.  As people spread, the connectivity of people and places depended on having an automobile and the ability of that automobile to consistently travel, and more importantly park, wherever the traveler desired.

As populations grew, we, especially those of us in Southern California, have seen what this type of development strategy has wrought.  Today, in the wake of environmental crises, city codes have begun to encourage green, sustainable policies — conservation of trees and green space, encouraging pervious surfacing, and protecting/treating water — while on the other hand they require absurdly arbitrary ordinances to cover the environment with asphalt.

One necessary first step is to begin the process of reducing these parking minimums, especially in downtown areas where higher densities and more walkable communities are encouraged.  The “City and Place” blog written by Craig Lewis offers a few first baby steps to move your community towards a change in reducing parking requirements.

  •  “Cut all of your existing standards in half. It still preserves a safety net of sorts for those who still believe in their necessity.”
  • “Eliminate standards for small buildings. The very best way to energize a vacant building is not to require more to re-occupy it, but less. Consider eliminating requirements for buildings that are less than 5000 square feet.”
  • “Eliminate parking standards in the downtown. In the downtown, parking should be treated like a utility just like water and power, and managed collectively. Most downtown’s are plagued with too much parking – no reason to further this urban erosion.”

A map has been created of towns and cities across the United States that can be seen on StrongTowns.org – showing their progress on the minimizing and removal of parking standards. As cities across the country step up by allowing innovation in their planning and development, they are creating a better quality of life for their citizens by starting to challenge old zoning codes.

Reaching out to the future of Landscape Architecture

By Melissa Palomo –

As a student in the architecture program at Santiago High School in Corona, I remember having a young professional who had recently graduated from Cal Poly Pomona speak to us. As she spoke about the Landscape Architecture program and showcased her work, I was intrigued and captivated by this profession of which I have never previously heard. Years later, I find myself in the same profession and working in this new and exciting field. It has been almost a year since receiving my bachelor’s degree and I felt it was time to pay it forward and encourage young minds in the way I once was.

I returned to my former high school and spoke in three classes. My former teacher, Mr. Brown, who is teaching his students Sketchup, Revit, CAD, SolidWorks, Green Building Design and MEP, has advanced his program greatly since I was in his class. There were several students who were intrigued with architecture and engineering, but were not familiar with Landscape Architecture. The underclassmen had 20 -30 students and the senior class had 8, with the girls outnumbered 1 to 5.  It was interesting to see the skill level between the classes. The key points I made to the students were:

  • What is Landscape Architecture and what does our work entail
  • Famous landscapes around the world
  • What working documents and drawings look like in the workforce

At the end of my presentation, I had the opportunity to talk to the students individually and look at their impressive work. I am confident that my visit will influence at least one student to enter into the field of Landscape Architecture, a career choice that is changing the world!

Concurso de Diseño III: Return to Nature

The three blue circles evolved into lakes – a representation of Lake Texcoco’s historical ecology.  My intent was to have a small island whose accessibility was dependent upon the height of the water. As opposed to having roads and man-made elements dictating the accessibility, I wanted to give a piece of Mexico City back to nature, letting it dictate the opportunities and constraints of the site.  From this point I began to look at the connections between the surrounding city and the site, establishing areas I thought would best suit the residential portion of the project, as well as what parts would best suit the commercial aspect of the project – with the “green lung” being the overwhelming majority of the site. I kept the residential areas around the exterior of the park with the majority of the commercial areas sitting along the edge of the lake. Once I had the zones arranged, I moved from trace to CAD and developed a zoning map using LandFX, and began experimenting with how the boundaries of these interacted with one another. There were a few times during this process that I had to step back scale-wise: I would get so focused on how I wanted a street to turn or a block to be arranged, and then realize that I needed to stay at 20,000 ft and not at 100 scale.

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I also ran into problems attempting to illustrate at a large scale- I wanted something more detailed than large swaths of color and had never designed a graphic at this scale.  After a few different attempts, the methodology I settled on was to take imagery from Google Earth (at the same scale as my base map) and simply clone brush in the respective areas into my illustration. When I got to the commercial areas, I wanted to show a little higher density/high rise, so I used the same technique and cropped out buildings to give the look of a developed tract along the lakes.

The next piece I wanted to feature on my board was centered on the concept of historical ecology – the three large lakes that flood to become one. Deciding to represent this with more diagrammatic imagery, I built a quick model in SketchUp reflecting the conditions of the different heights of the water and applied a few textures/trees/scale figures in Photoshop to reflect three different levels of the water.

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Arranging the board, I sat down to refine my concept statement to create the 300 word write up we were required to submit with the project. It read:

A ‘Return to Nature’ uses historical ecology as its design influence for Mexico City’s Green Lung. Hundreds of years ago, Tenochtitlan was built upon an island in the midst of Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico – the site of present day Mexico City. Lake Texcoco was, in fact, an accumulation of five lakes which flooded during rainy seasons, creating a large single lake in the Valley of Mexico. With ‘A Return to Nature’ the site of the airport would be given a chance to return to its historical ecology, changing with the weather and allowing the three lakes to flood into one during rainy seasons. With the design and implementation of this recreated ecosystem, the site would become a model for sustainable, efficient, and environmentally conscious living both in residential and commercial areas. Long, interconnecting parks, greenways, and trail systems reclaim the site – giving both residents and customers immediate access to this newly grown green lung.  Extending the sports-park to the north of the site into the green lung, and developing the residential areas to the outskirts of the park allows connectivity with the existing pieces of urban Mexico City – leaving the center of the lung to breathe. Juxtaposition to the water will create attractions for tourism, as well as commercial and educational opportunities – a chance to observe the beauty of Mexico Valley’s historical ecology firsthand, and witness its ‘Return to Nature.’

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I am always looking for new techniques, suggestions, and opportunities for design methodologies – using design competitions as a set of rules/guidelines to follow to develop a skill set that is not used on a day-to-day basis. If you or someone in your firm would like to open up a line of communication – or maybe even collaborate on a future competition, feel free to get in touch brett@bmla.net

Concurso de Diseño II – Back to Nature, Honoring History

I began with researching the project, searching for exactly what the judges were looking for; buzzwords, ideas, and even a few case studies that were provided. From my search, I inferred the following guidelines:

75% Metropolitan Park // “Green lung, flood control, water treatment, ecology”

15% Commercial // “Business center, hotels, tourism”

10% Residential // “Accessibility, density, efficiency, green areas”

As designers – I feel we have a tendency to jump straight into graphics.  Even at an early conceptual level – printing out some type of base, overlaying trace, and taking big fat markers – we start to develop circulation patterns, establish connectivity, and let forms happen based on the positive and negative space on the page. For this competition, I wanted to try something different. Using the information I gathered, I crafted my vision for this project before jumping into trace paper and hand drawings. This would be my starting point, my concept, and while I could tweak and revise this statement over the course of my design process, the intent of my design would be to:

Establish and improve main access and connectivity to existing Mexico City, designing a model for sustainable housing along the exterior of the site and blending the existing system into a natural ecosystem used for both education and recreation.

Below it in red ink I wrote “Giving a piece of Mexico City back to nature.

Going through the typical research, inventory, and analysis of the site and surrounding area – things like demographics, rainfall, geology – all seemed like more of a grind than inspiration for my design, so I decided to focus on an area that intrigued me: the history of Mexico City.

It is said that the first Aztecs settled in the Mexico Valley in the 1300’s – developing their civilization into an empire over the next 200 years and establishing their capital, Tenochtitlan, in the center of Lake Texcoco. Lake Texcoco was, in fact, an accumulation of major and minor lakes that would flood and create one large lake during the rainy seasons. The center of Tenochtitlan, or the ‘Zocalo,’ is the heart of present day Mexico City. And if you have ever seen an aerial shot of present day Mexico City, you can see that those lakes have vanished. I felt like I had found my inspiration.

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I amended my vision to include “…blending this system into a natural ecosystem inspired by the historical ecology of Lake Texcoco, used for both education and recreation.” Diving into a base-map with an overlay of trace, I began with 3 giant blue circles: these would be the foundation of the re-creation of Lake Texcoco’s historical ecology.

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Concurso de Diseño

By Brett Miller

A few months ago, I decided to look for a design competition – something that involved our profession and something that I felt passionate enough about that I would dedicate my time to pursuing. There are a few websites that promote and list current design competitions and while I managed to find a few that I was interested in, I decided to pursue Arquine’s Competition entitled: “Pulmon Metropolitano de Orinete” or ‘Eastern Metropolitan Green Lung.’

The project stated:

After the announcement of the construction of the new international airport for this city in Texcoco location, this competition is looking forward to generate different proposals for the [future] urban zone with the best potential in the country, a total of 746 hectares that could become the catalyst for development and growth of the eastern part of one of the most complex and populated cities of the world.04

The opportunity to create something on such a large scale (in opposition to the day to day detail that I experience with construction documentation), and the opportunity to create, essentially, a ‘Central Park’ of Mexico City were the hooks that ensnared me to pursue this project.

Over the next few weeks, leading up to the conclusion of the judging, I want to go over my design process of the project.