American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Site Selection: The mosaic of sites chosen for prototype application impacts nearly every kind of urban space in South Boston.
Urban Forests Measures: Students considered five North American cities in terms of policies and practices: who plants? Who pays? Who maintains the urban forest? How do these conditions index to area and population? Toronto is the clear frontrunner.
Urban Forests Measures: Data for New York are extensive and revealing. Based on a survery of 600,000 treesm we can understand species performance, age/quality factors, operations/cost parameters, benefit to property values, environmental gains, carbon sequestration, and energy savings.
South Boston Evolution: South Boston demonstrates typical conditions present in North American cities: traditional fabric, varied densities, made land, marginalized sites, decaying infrastructure, and latent- in this case hyperactive- development potential on the horizon.
South Boston History + Current Conditions: Vast impervious surfaces and undervalued industrial and transportation infrastructure demand new prototypes for sustainable vegetative strategies.
Methodologies Quantitative Analysis: Students employed frameworks rooted in practical, numeric analysis. Here the problems of neighborhoods with extremely narrow streets and dramatically insufficient vegetative cover are measured.
Methodologies Phenomological Analysis: Several students focused on human comfort in the urban environment as the primary performance indicator and design tool.
Methodologies Qualitative Analysis: South Boston's primary collector route exhibits varied historical and contemporary conditions; assessments and solutions for greening require subjective, qualitative, and overlapping strategies.



Half a Million Trees: Prototyping Sites and Systems for Sustainable Cities
Jessica Canfield, Student ASLA, Sarah Carrier, Student ASLA, Christopher Dorr, Student ASLA, Theodore Hoerr, Student ASLA, Yun Hye Hwang, Student ASLA, Filio Illiopoulou, Student ASLA, Mi Jim Koh, Student ASLA, Dana Malas, Student ASLA, Simón Martínez, Student ASLA, Elizabeth Randall, Student ASLA, Emma Thomas, Student ASLA and Sarah Van Sanden, Student ASLA
Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Faculty Advisors: Gary R. Hilderbrand, FASLA; Kristin Frederickson, Associate ASLA

"The resulting information was useful and informative for other urban settings.
The idea of looking at the site as a means and message is excellent. Working with different site typologies then finding ways of articulating their forms using planting was ingenious."

— 2008 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement:

This project—one studio, twelve students—evaluated current practices and proposed new strategies for promoting and sustaining urban forest cover. The studio positioned design inquiry as active research—no single site, no commanding aesthetic—where students uncovered and assembled new knowledge on landscape architecture’s role in shaping authentic urban sustainability: literally, how we green the city and keep it that way. The students have devised unique research models for use by practitioners, academics, resource managers, agencies, and environmental activists.

Project Narrative:

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s administration has planted half a million trees since 1989. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged one million for New York by 2030, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino plans to increase his city’s canopy cover by 20% by 2020. Mayors in cities across North America are recognizing the stark decline in urban tree cover over the past 30 years. They are prioritizing canopy restoration in response to the climatic and socio-economic challenges of the contemporary city. But how do they do it? Are these ambitions merely well-intentioned gestures, or are they backed by truly sustainable measures?

This studio addressed current practices of sustainable urban forestry, and their potential
trajectory, in a time of urgent discussion about climate change and environmental justice. The decline of our urban forest cover can be addressed as a series of fundamental
design problems: how we grow trees, how we place them in the ground, how long we expect them to thrive, how we use the space where they grow, and how we manage these decisions as a sustainable, common cultural asset. With the help of experts
in production growing, soils building, arboriculture, urban social programming, and governance, the studio confronted these questions with the goal of devising new strategies and applying them to myriad urban conditions in South Boston—as prototypical
of urban conditions there and elsewhere. The research outcomes and design proposals are being published as the foundation for a multi-year project on sustainable
planting practices.

The 13-week studio proceeded through the following agenda:
1. Cities Research: New York, Chicago, Toronto, Baltimore, Boston
2. Precedents Research: Growing practices in traditional and contemporary European projects
3. South Boston Research: Evolution, land characteristics, spatial data, video surveillance
4. Topical Research: Grow/install, canopy/root zone, moisture retention, eco- system services
5. Schematic Prototypes: Invention and innovation
6. Site Selection: Testing and iteration
7. Applied Prototypes: Exportable lessons

This project achieved significant outcomes for landscape architecture’s role in guiding urban forestry to a more central place in urban life and city structure. Students carry with them a commitment to knowledge-based participation in urban sustainability along both practical and theoretical lines. Specific outcomes include the following:

Compilation of critical, comparative data on urban forestry conditions and practices
Development of methodologies for assessing urban forest conditions, including:

Quantitative analyses
Phenomenalogical readings
Qualitative assessments
Operational analyses
Application of telescopic studies that relate local actions to regional or metropolitan conditions
Development of reuse prototypes
Reconfiguration studies aiming towards innovation in practices and planning
Extension of the typical palette involved in greening, including emergent communities and vines

The results of the studio will be published in book form, and distributed to libraries, agencies, and advocacy groups, through the support of a grant from a private philan¬thropy, the Frog Pond Foundation.



Methodologies Operational Analysis: Space constraints for urban infrastructures contribute to significant tree loss. This research examined the result of overhead utilities crowding the canopy zone and the often untenable costs of below-grade replacement.
Telescopic Hydro-Networks: A century-old urban drainage system and vanes expanses of impervious surface require conceptual and physical re-negotiation at telescoping intervals: large scale cleansing and recharging as well as small-scale absorption and filtering.
Telescopic Compost: Regional to Local: Compost, an essential ingredient in horticultural soils and a byproduct of urban life, can be seen as currency in a recycling nutrient exchange system on regional and local scales.
Reconfiguring Sites and Systems: Marginal sites along major infrastructure corridors support significant plots of managed urban forestry, geared to age rotation in short-term and long-term duration/development cycles.
Reconfiguring Sites and Systems: In a 45-acre neighborhood, the application of specific insertion techniques- borrowed vacant space, redesigned sidewalks and verges- could increase canopy cover from a meager 129 trees to a total of 320.
Revising Practices + Perceptions: Measures to improve microclimate and human comfort become quantifiable, verifiable zoning requirements.
Extending the Palette: While the current value for "urban wilds" is high in many communities, sustainability and health ecosystem values could be dramatically increased through practical, economical management cycles and newly programmed human uses.
Extending the Palette: The adventitious habits of climbing vines-requiring minimal soil/moisture/nutrient inputs- are utilized for moisture retention and cooling in constrained neighborhoods.
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