Archive for landscape

Savannah, Georgia

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Historic Architecture, Organic Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Drogo

Historic Architecture, Environmental Landscape, and Urban Social Art

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Savannah has the historic integrity of an ivy-league campus, yet for the poor as well as rich. Yes, it is very much the old pirate ‘Port Royal’ still, but in some ways it also surpasses the nobility of elite university campuses. Even the SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) campus is spread throughout the city, and SCAD classes are held in renovated industrial buildings, often with Richardsonian strength; so that liberal education is fully-integrated with the city. As far as competing with modern industrial metropolitan cities, Savannah has plenty of modern and post-modern architecture, and SCAD teaches cutting-edge technology; but it has no desire to be as massively impersonal as New York, or any other major city.

Savannah urban design is overwhelmingly utopian, despite there being dystopian flavors as well. The main streets force cars to either park or drive around the eleven park squares (circuses), while pedestrians can go straight through on sidewalks and bike lanes. It is easy to find any place in the formal city because there are no diagonal streets, one tall building in the middle (DeSoto Hotel), and a few tall buildings downtown parallel with the Savannah River. The downtown main-streets (River Street) on Saint Patrick’s Day are celebrated on par with Mardi-Gras. There are so many unique aspects to Savannah, from its very origins. The basic ‘Roman encampment’ grid urban layout is flavored by multiple circuses with vegetation. Live-oaks, palms, and crepe-myrtle trees are naturally hung with Spanish moss. From sandy soil hedges, herbs, flowers and grasses are also publicly grown for the enjoyment of all.

I will find out more about the city founders, besides Oglethorpe; specifically the Native American chief of the local Creek Indians, because he seems to deserve the same level of respect as the English founder, Oglethorpe. The British and Indians were friends, and one of the largest monuments in a prominent park is dedicated to the Indian Chief’s grave. Southern hospitality is less surface courtesy in Savannah, and more a part of its essence; in regards to integration of whites and blacks, international representation, multi-culturalism, and willingness to welcome even enemies (like General Sherman during the Civil War).

There are several ways to consider the social types that comprise the ‘daily population’ of Savannah. There are five basic social types; the rich residents (white blue-blood aristocracy and new-money millionaires), the poor working-class (merchant and service residents and workers), the street beggars (homeless, hustlers, artists), SCAD students (artists, professors, staff), and tourists (pedestrian, trolley, horse-buggy).

According to Dr. Hsu-Jen Huang (SCAD Architecture Professor), Savannah has been growing, even during the recession. In ten years, the city population and SCAD enrollment have doubled. Some buildings still fall between the cracks, but for every loss two more renovations or new constructs emerge. After the 1994 book Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah has continued to blossom as one of the best cities in the World. Many of its qualities were always inherent in the original urban design, and it continues to grow because of accepted differences.

From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, and beyond; Savannah embraces its strange stories. It has an other-worldly, old world, old town feel. Ghost tours are quite at home with the lamp-lights, cobblestone streets, brick walkways, and French ironwork balconies. It is in fact a small city; one which favors pedestrian traffic more than automobiles. The whole downtown is walkable, and locals often easily commute with bicycles as well (as I did for 3 years).

There are so many fun things to do there, it might be hard to know were to begin; if Savannah were not an immediately immersible, hospitable environment. The whole city is a memory garden, which literally blooms because of all the flowers. There are less flowers and leaves in the Winter, but Fall, Winter, and Spring are best weather-wise; as there is rarely snow, and Summers are often walls of heat and humidity (which it is known for even during Fall and Spring).

Architecturally Savannah is truly unique, with historic world and southern romantic blends. Town-houses often have the side-porch design, as with nearby Charleston, SC. The cast-iron railings and french dormers have that New Orleans feel. Parks and trees really do make a huge difference for traffic. Even while continuing to grow, Savannah is still one of the most colorful and pedestrian friendly cities in America. I can say after living there, the magic is real; including the variety of character personalities that the famous book alludes to.

Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil describes much of the architectural and social feel of the town. ‘Midnight’ the book has much more analysis of detail, while the film has literally has more visual images. I lived in three parts of town, and often passed by famous landmarks on daily commutes to classes. The main character’s house (Mercer Mansion) is on Bull Street along a square, towards the largest city park, Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park was my favorite park that I loved living on, because of the large open grass lawns, largest and most beautiful fountain, organic paths, and shady flora. There I was free to publicly practice Tai-Chi, hippy folk music, or jogging without much bother.

Most of this essay describes the utopian aspects of Savannah, but this paragraph should put some of the dystopian perspectives in context. The poor and the dead, out-number the rich and the living. Southern swamp-lands naturally have a salty entropic power that corrodes metals, moisture that promotes the decay of organic matter, and massive humidity that stifles productive activity, while encouraging roaches and gnats. The humane social ‘decadence’ of the town, allows for an ease of poverty. Kindness tolerates and sometimes falls prey to hustlers. Vandalism and theft are common crimes in Savannah, with the occasional mugging (typical of cities in general). Although crimes are committed by lower classes, the majority (which are poor) are respectful, lawful, and often generous. So you see despite the ‘scariness’, actual dangers are minimal for a city.

Savannah’s name appropriately indicates the climate heat, and the flat field look of the surrounding wetland marsh grasses. Old pirate maps referred to the lands inland along the River as ‘Savannah Land’. Google Street view is very impressive, with realism. It really helps get the feel for the freedom of moving through the town by photographic vista. In the 1990’s we were taking panoramic photos for architecture projects so it really feels appropriate. Day trips easily include the famous Bonaventure Cemetery, Oatland Island Wildlife Center, and Tybee Island Beach.

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SCOD Books

Posted in Book Reports, SCOD Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by Drogo

SCOD Thesis Books

S.C.O.D. 2000: Architecture Thesis

SCOD 2000: Architecture Thesis (Kindle Version)

SCOD 2000: Alternative Introduction (Abridged Nook Version)

SCOD 2010: Thesis Text

SCOD 2015:  Thesis Text (Progress without images)

SCOD Thesis 2000: Organic Community Dwelling (v15)

SCOD 2020:  Fallout (Novel)

SCOD Ecovillage  /  SCOD Land  /  SCOD World

SCOD BOG Peeps:  Beautiful Organic Garden People

Beautiful Organic Garden People:  BOG Peeps 2

Ten Conscientious Objections to War

Grass Root Words  (Annual SCODzine)
V1;   V2;   V3;   V4; ….

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SCOD logo

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Landscaping with Cut Branches

Posted in Organic Gardens, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2011 by Drogo

Cutting Branches, breaking them down, and reusing them!

How to prune trees and use the branches for landscape

Types of trees have different rates and patterns of growth. A pine tree, for example, prefers to retain a center trunk; while others like a maple tree are content to have several branches shooting off and up from a low trunk. For this article I will use a Crepe Mrytle tree cluster.

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Maintaining architecture and landscape often means removing trees or branches before or after they break and damage property, views, paths, people, etc…

Crepe Mrytle do not die in the Winter in the DC area (although they do in more Northern climates). They do lose their leaves though. They are one of the fastest growing trees in our climate, so they provide a good example of a renewable landscape resource. Most people only know them for their beauty.

Crepe Mrytle’s by a porch are destructive to the architecture. They need cutting because their leaves and seeds clog up the roof gutter (even with gutter guards) and downspout, causing water damage to the wooden porch. When it rains during the summer, the thick foliage tends to retain moisture against the porch, which flakes the paint and rots the wood much faster than leaving the porch exposed to let the wood air out, and the sun dry it.

For a more natural type of architecture, pruning is less necessary. But most modern houses do not want leaking roofs, moldy wood, or animals nests in the framework. Although every owner is different too!

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If cut before new Spring leaves come out, there will be no leaves to deal with. Leaves have a faster rate of decomposition and burn. After cutting the selected branches, it may be necessary to drag them from the original location as soon as possible to keep a path clear etc..

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After dragging the branches to a selective, collective location, you can work on them with least interference regarding the functionality of the property.

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Sometimes (as with these) small branches can be broken from the main branches by hand (and foot) if they are dry enough. Although often the branches will tend to bend and not crack off; so axes, machete, and clippers are needed.

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Begin breaking and cutting branches into smaller pieces that fit their next use; longer ones for fences, walls, structures, poles, etc… and shorter ones sized to fit into fireplaces or stoves.

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Already many of the small branches are removed and the body of the larger branches can be seen more clearly

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A pile of small branches or twigs begins to form, as the larger branches are rolled back and forth to strip away all lesser branches for a middle pile

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3 piles: Large branch poles, middle sized branch sticks, and small brush twigs from the outer-most young branches

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You can use branches for landscape structures, boundaries, and follies!

English Walnut and Crepe Mrytle Teewam

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0109131641aEagle Nest of random fallen or cut branches

 

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Palladian Bridge near Bath at Prior Park

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Historic Architecture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by Drogo

Palladian Bridge at Prior Park near Bath, England

This tribute to the Prior Park Bridge is dedicated to the memory of Architect Kip Stowell

This picturesque landscape architecture folly exists in at least 3 different locations in England. The original ‘Palladian Style’ Bridge is at Wilton [near Salisbury], put up in 1737 to the design of Lord Pembroke, the ‘Architect Earl’, and his assistant, Roger Morris. The second tribute to Palladio was built at Stowe in 1742. This was one near Bath was the last of the 3 built.

Organic Design by Frank Lloyd Wright

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Arts (Design & Performance), Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Individuals / Members / Monsters / Creative Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Drogo

Essay on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture

Taliesin

Fallingwater

Broadacre City

 

American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, borrowed the word ‘Organic’ from his mentor Louis Sullivan. Wright began expressing his own vision of how organic nature applies to design. He tried to define ‘Organic Architecture’ in words, but the truest expression will always be in his designs and how they relate to the landscape.

 

Taliesin East & West

Frank Lloyd Wright formed the Taliesin Fellowship dedicated to organic design, education, and spiritual theory and practice. It later evolved into the FLW Foundation, and Taliesin Architects continued after Wright’s death. Wright built two small Communities based on his designs and theories. Taliesin East was built first on 600 acres in Wisconsin. Then Taliesin West was built on 600 acres in Arizona. Both developments respected the landscape by leaving much of it natural, while fitting in artistic architecture using site features. Both remained in a constant state of evolution during Wright’s lifetime.

 

Fallingwater

Fallingwater was a unique residence designed by Wright which show-cases his Organic Architecture. The natural organic landscape meets his organic designs above a waterfall. I was awarded a student residency there in high school, and every day for weeks we went down to the cold waters of Bear Run to wake up and begin our sketches and studies. Inside the house, concrete rests on stone, and the woods are seen through generous windows. That house has more of a give and take between the architecture and the landscape (including the water) than most other modern buildings in the World.

 

Broadacre City

Broadacre City was designed to show how various types of buildings should be organized in urban planning, using Organic Architecture. The hypothetical City was 4 square miles and published first in his Disappearing City, 1932 and continued to evolve until his death in 1959. One important rule was that the tallest buildings (sky-scrapers) should have enough open space around them so their shadows do not fall upon other buildings. Another factor was giving most residents one acre to build their own houses based on Usonian models. It was an effort to take the new concept of suburbs to a Utopian extreme by furthering the concept of combining rural and urban while striving to keep the best of both. Broadacre decentralized urban design, and lay grid upon rural country; advocating that the desire for suburban life be fully granted. Mass transportation would still be available at stations, but freedom was maintained through the use of individual vehicles on the roads and in the air.

 

 

Thomas Jefferson’s Landscape Architecture

Posted in Arts (Design & Performance), Book Reports, Historic Architecture, Nature Studies, Organic Gardens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by Drogo

Essay on the Organic Design Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson

Interdisciplinary Concerns of a Colonial Landscape Architect:

Architecture, Agriculture, Botany, Horticulture, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Geology, Entomology, and Zoology

 

Ruins of architecture help to distinguish historic landscape architecture from organic terrain that may or may not have been influenced by human designs. Masonry is perhaps the most enduring milestone when it comes to lasting remnants of changes we have made to our landscape. Plants, animals, and soils are more organic and form-shifting. Organic elements of landscape designs change annually as their elements grow, die, or move.

 

Keeping a landscape design controlled even to the desired proportions is virtually impossible. Plants are almost always too small, too big, or in the wrong spot. Trees provide the most for us: shade, nuts, berries, shelter, shade, fuel, etc… but they are also capable of great destruction as well if trunks or branches fall upon animals or architecture.  An understanding of relative growth proportions in the environment can go a long way towards ease of maintenance.

 

Most Americans know Thomas Jefferson as a Founding Father first, and second as architect and politician; but few know of his feelings and designs towards Landscape. Landscape designers were called “Master Gardeners” or “Landscape Gardeners” back then. We know from his writings that his primary influences were English Gardens and Classical Architecture. He was well versed in contemporary French and English literature and philosophy, and experienced various landscapes during his travels.

 

Thomas Jefferson never fully accepted any one style or tradition. Although he was familiar with the Colonial mundane rectangular yard gardens, he was always innovating new hybrid ideas. Jefferson’s accumulated knowledge of surveying, architecture, climate, plants, and soil gave him tools beyond most other landscape gardeners. Jefferson’s approach to landscape design included both ornamental and utilitarian concepts regarding species, form, and layout.

 

As a child, Jefferson was home schooled in ancient literature and classical music. Learning also took place out-of-doors and so he came to love nature with infinite fascination. Jefferson developed his knowledge of the natural environment from first hand experience as well as books. In 1760 he attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, where he founded a secret burlesque society known as the “Flat Hats” with a group of friends.

 

Jefferson became a devotee of improving American design with an open mind to World designs, and the natural environment of each site. He believed in contour plowing, as designing with nature was beautiful and practical. As he began traveling he embraced Palladian Architecture. These influences are evident later in his home, Monticello, when we see the geometric architecture combined with organic landscaping.

 

According to his “Garden Book”, he was able to bud-graft cherry trees, and started planting at Monticello 2 years before be began building the house. During this time he was also practicing law (represented 68 cases). In his gardens he planted forwardest peas, midling peas, asparagus, strawberries, purple hyacinth, narcissus, carnations, Indian pink, marygold, globe amaranth, auricular, double balsam, tricolor, Dutch velvet, sensitives, cockscomb, Prince’s feather, lathyrus, lilac, Spanish broom, umbrella, laurel, almond trees, muscle plumb trees, and Cayenne pepper. Monticello means “small mountain”. He fit it upon a terraced hill with rectangular and serpentine designs. In his notes he showed plans for garden olitory, pleasure grounds, spirals, and curves. Both Monticello and University of Virginia have a “temple” with colonnades that embrace a courtyard. The Monticello courtyard is Egg shaped because of the paths and hill, although both cloisters are rectangular.

 

Some conclusions can be drawn about the study and practice of Thomas Jefferson’s landscape architecture. Nature is a contractor for landscape architecture, because plant production in landscape was like human production in buildings. Designs are judged by their “finished product”; so in landscape architecture, products include flowers, fruits, and vegetables. His preferred building block was brick, but he made exceptions for wood and earth. He built several pise’ (mud packed in wooden forms) with General John Cocke at Bremo plantation. Jefferson believed that log and chinking was better insulated than scantling (wood frame) and plank siding. He believed it was foolish to ignore foods that grow easily nearby. “Useful” was his most used word.

 

Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, and it was not until 1899 that Landscape Architecture was considered a profession by society. His only complete book “Notes on the State of Virginia” remains one of the most comprehensive observations of natural environmental conditions.

 

Reference: Thomas Jefferson Landscape Architect by Nichols and Griswold

 

SCOD Thesis 2000 Spiritual Phases

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Organic Agriculture & Horticulture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Drogo

music by Shepherdstown Band:  BRUHA