Monday, May 13, 2013

The asynchronous landscape

This morning I was looking at a plastic container full of fresh strawberries. I imagined the strawberries about a week from now. Unopened, ethylene gas had accumulated in the package. The strawberries went from ripe to beyond ripe. The white fuzz of fungi had exploded all throughout the container. Luckily, it didn't happen. But imagine if we could look from the present into the future or back into the past. With natural systems, which are always changing, this isn't so far-fetched.

What about our urban landscapes? What about the green spaces we build in them? Can we foresee how they will look in 50 years? In 100 years? When I take my students from the Boston architectural college to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston I ask them to visualize this asynchronous landscape. I ask them a somewhat provocative question. When Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned this space, did he look forward to the way plants would fill the space in the future? How much did Olmsted know about plant form? How much did he care about what way his built landscapes would appear a century later?

So when we design spaces or buildings or landscapes or urban habitations we need to think about the future. This isn't rocket science. It isn't some sort of astral projection. I think it requires a little common sense and the possibility of stepping back for a moment from our egoish grand plans. If we consider more than the productive snapshot of our immediate present, if we take a moment to imagine a past and visualize a future, maybe we can design built environments that grow into the future as they become more beautiful and more usable.





139 comments:

  1. The changing formations of the plants at the Arnold Arboretum due to growth, within a year on a small scale, and as centuries pass, on a larger scale affect the landscape that many people visit at the arboretum. The first way of thinking of urban ecology states, "we can think of urban ecology as the ecology of soils, bodies of water, plants, animals, and other organisms that live within and penetrate the built environment of the city." One can connect this way of thinking in the case of the changing landscape of the Arnold Arboretum. The relationships and interconnections among the numerous plants in the environment have a clear affect on the growth and development of it's surrounding organisms. The next way of thinking about urban ecology states, "Cities form their own ecologies, and this points to another way to consider urban ecology. For example, how do urban built environments affect ecological patterns within and beyond their borders? Here we may consider larger-scale phenomena like climate, weather, water quality, emissions, and regional land use." Again, we can use this level of thinking to analyze how large scale phenomena prevalent in our urban environment effect the growth and development of the plants living in the arboretum. The ecological patterns, within the city of Boston, such as weather, water quality, emissions, etc. definitely extend and affect the living organisms.

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  2. This post reminds me of both points #3 and #4. It touches on the idea that urban ecologies do change over time, and also on the idea that when we are building these structures in cities, which all play into that city's particular urban ecology, the functions and features of them must be considered

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  3. This was interesting, I haven't ever really thought about what something is going to look like in the future, other than when I was little and imagined the future to be something like that cartoon with flying cars. Now when I think about it, I imagine gray skies from pollution and tall sky scrapers. I believe that there will always be parks and open spaces; however, who really knows?

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  4. The idea that change occurs in a natural environment over time is demonstrated in #5, which states that "Cities are complex, diverse built environments that change over time. Just as we might consider the health of an ecosystem we can consider and plan for the health of an urban entity". This relates to this idea because it shows that we need to expect change based on whatever natural changes occur over time.

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  5. Like point 4 this post states that urban landscapes are always changing over time and developing in more modern ways. Because our world is changing everything that is put in to the structure of these cities must be carefully planned out because everything we do now affects us in the future.

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  6. This post reminds me of your fifth post because it is about nature's tendency to constantly change. It also touches upon the idea that nature is very powerful and it is therefore difficult if not impossible to successfully go against it. Like you stated in your post, for example, we must take landscapes, climate, etc. into account before we intervene and build a house, for example.

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  7. This post seems to correspond most with urban ecological frameworks #s 2 and 5. I think the connection to #5 is most obvious, as you discuss the change of landscapes over time being so drastically different from their original form. This responds to #2 in the way that you discuss regional land use at the Arnold Arboretum.

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  8. This post helps us to focus in on the idea of diverse environments and the concept that spaces change overtime. At this moment in time, we are unable to perceive a clear image of what the world will be like in the future. Without this knowledge, we have to do our best to plan out spaces to the best of our abilities. Places, such as the Arnold Arboretum need to be structured to adapt to changes overtime.

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  9. This post relates to framework #5 because of the idea of changing environments and spaces like you discussed in the arboretum. It is hard to predict how environments and the spaces nature take will change. Therefore it is difficult to plan these ideas.

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  10. This post has a lot in common with frameworks 1-4 because it talks about the relationship between urban climates and the natural systems within it over time. Both natural systems and cities are subject to change over time and natural phenomena. Framework 4 talks about the development of learning and as we learn more we are able to understand more about the urban ecology that we are a part of.

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  11. Looking towards the future can help any form of ecology. By looking in the future we can help develop the soil, people and the cities. By looking into the future we can create sustainable ecologies.

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  12. This article connects to point 3 because of the changes that occur in our environments over time. Whether a man-made structure or just nature, time will change the conditions of both. Natural occurrences are inevitable, just like the fungus on the strawberries.

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  13. This post relates to point 5, that cities develop and change over time. It's important to look ahead and determine what is best for a city long-term. If you look at maps of a city like New York, or even Boston, the city has gradually built up and undergone a lot of change. Change may be necessary in the survival of a city, but it may be interesting to think of ways to prevent the need for change and anticipate what needs to be done.

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  14. This post relates to the fifth framework which states that cities are complex, diverse built environments that change over time. It questions whether or not we can foresee how urban environments will look in 50 - 100 years? Becuase large urban environments are constantly changing it is difficult to envision them in the future.

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  15. This article reminds me of the points you make in point #5. The example of the strawberries, although strawberries aren't exactly what I think of when discussing ecological systems, represents change over time. Another example is the building of a city or even the arboretum, the changes that the land endures, and the complexity of the final product.

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  16. The second half of your last sentence really embodies what this post is about. "...if we take a moment to imagine a past and visualize a future, maybe we can design built environments that grow into the future as they become more beautiful and more usable." This relates to the fifth framework you posted in the lab document regarding the complexity/diversification of environments. Looking into the future and having the ability to intelligently hypothesize the condition of our environment and how we can impact it is crucial in maintaining a healthy and livable environment.

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  17. This post relates to #5 because you go into detail discussing the complexities of the urban city and green spaces. Over time they change and evolve recreating themselves to become more complex and diverse. A space that starts out one way can completely transform to become something totally different.

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  18. I think this post relate to point #4 because the combination of an urban environment along with green spaces accommodates so many different people. I really liked the point you made about the future and I think that innovating for the future has a lot to do with making spaces that work for everyone.

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  19. Isabel Vera

    I believe this article combines some of the early approaches to urban ecology, creating the fifth approach that dictates the complexity and diversity of city environments that are continuously changing over time. When I recollect the scene of the Arnold Arboretum, I remember the variety of organisms inhabiting that space: soil, water, animals in the plants and trees, and humans wandering in and out. When thinking about what goes into planning a space of buildings in a city or Frederick Law Olmsted designing the wildlife in the Arboretum and how that space might look in the future, I think about the interaction between city phenomena and nature and how this interaction inevitably creates change over time.

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  20. This post relates to the ecological framework #5 because it suggests that we are capable of building a healthier environment but this requires us to look in the future. It also requires an extensive understanding of the environment we have now and the impact we have on the changes that occur daily in the environment in order to plan for a healthier city. It is essential to see what should stay the same and what should be improved in order to partially control what happens around us.

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  21. This post corresponds to point number five and how cities are constantly changing and evolving. This can prove to be problematic because longevity is always a goal when planning/building cities and predicting how the landscape and city will change over time is a tough task to overcome.

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  22. In this post you discuss the need for us to consider the future environment and plan accordingly as well as maybe tone back our exploitation of the current one. In posts 2 and 3, you talk about how humanity as a whole has a profound effect on the ecological state of said environment, and vice versa. We have to be conscious of the effect that our actions have on the future state of the environment and ensure that later generations inherit a thriving Earth.

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  23. This post resembles point five because it is the idea of thinking how an object, or landscape changes over time. I never thought about how BU will look or be like when I'm older but, it was interesting to see my friends parents reactions when I tell them about the new buildings. But, now that I think about it, i do wonder what BU will be like when I'm older. I have thought about the difficulty and the process of getting into the school in the future, but not the building or what alumni will be famous and create value to the school. It is very interesting.

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  24. This article adheres to point 5 in which it is described that cities are used to accommodate human needs and that the interactions between humans and the ecosystem are everchanging and complex. We can use these ecosystems to our advantage if we plan for the future in a positive manner or we can not do any planning and see the possible faults in the understanding of this relationship.

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  25. This post is most related to points 4 and 5, which describes the complex and unique ecological phenomena that is developed in cities. As urban spaces become more complex and as these spaces evolve and expand into what was once untouched nature, it is not hard to imagine that our environment will continue to change. If we are not careful, this change will happen for the worst. As we deal with the current effects of poor planning for our green environment and attempt to reverse these effects, we can learn and plan for future projects. With our technology today, we can only benefit from proper planning for developing and expanding cities.

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  26. This article deals with the fifth point. It shows how time allows for change within an environment. It can be had to protect the outcome of a situation (say a green area in boston) when the situation deals with natural things. Nature has a mind of its own.

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  27. I think this article can be related to point 2 because it is important to take into considerations how actions inside the city can effect the surrounding environment in the future. It is important for people to start taking green initiatives to make sure the environment sees minimal damage as a result of our building efforts today.

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  28. This post relates to framework number 5 because it says that environments change over time just like you mention in the post about the arboretum changing. Like framework 5 mentions also these changes make planning very difficult, which I agree with and you mention the post talking about how we do not know how things will look years from now.

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  29. This post relates to #5 because it tells us that we need to expect change over time in an environment. We need to plan how to expect these kinds of changes for a better urban environment in the future.

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  30. The post most relates to point 3 because the article describes ecology progressing over time. Like planned green spaces, we need to plan our urban environment in a mutually beneficial way for the environment and ourselves.

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  31. I definitely think urban landscapes and urban plant life are strategically planned. However, I think it's more difficult to control how plant life is going to turnout in an urban environment. The way plants and greenery grow is variable making it harder to control and foresee the future. On the other hand an urban landscape is easier to foresee and plan.

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  32. I think of this post in relation to framework #5. All environments change over time and in order to sustain the environment when these changes occur, certain measures can be made to ensure it to be long-lasting. What is interesting to me is the fact that environments such as cities need human effort to be continued successfully, while natural environments (such as a rainforest) are themselves naturally sustainable.

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  33. I agree with the fact that one must "look into the future" when deciding to make changes to the surrounding environment. Like the 3rd framework, "cities experience time-related ecological phenomena". I remember reading an article about the tsunami in Japan a few years ago where they climbed onto a hill and discovered a huge rock with the words "do not build beyond this point." People in the past already knew that the area was prone to tsunamis, but it was because the people later on failed to "envision the future" that they suffered the consequences.

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  34. This post addresses framework #5 because it discusses how environments can change overtime. It talks about how natural systems are affected by phenomena such as climate change and natural disaster, and how these changes are inevitable no matter the precautions we take to prevent them. Change is necessary in order for environments and cities to grow, adapt, and become better.

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  35. This post relates well with framework number five. Cities are constantly changing over time and we need to prepare for those changes when altering the ecosystem.

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  36. I was reminded of posts 3, 4 and 5 when I read this article. It talks about envisioning how the world will look in the distant future. I thought about all the people who designed and built cities all over the world. Did they imagine that long after they were dead and gone that their cities would grow and take on a life of their own? In post 4, it is said that urban cities soon develop human ecologies. These humans help the city grow and progress by adding pieces of themselves to the city, like transportation systems and educational institutions. Post 5 talks about how urban cities change over time due to natural phenomena such as climate changes and natural disasters. These all can affect how a city fits into the future.

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  37. This post relates to framework five because of the complexity of cities and how they change over time. This article with the framework makes the point clear that we should take time now to think and understand these complex components to make the environment more resilient in the future so it can still serve the needs of the people.

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  38. This article discusses the importance of planning for future occurrences. Above all, this is important for purposes of sustainability. In order to ensure a specific location will sustain over time, both diversity and complexity must be in existence-- like a variety of plants in this specific circumstance.

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  39. This posts relates to how complex cities change over time. I remember when I was in Elementary school we had a book called "LA Then and Now" and as we studied the history of Los Angeles, we were able to view the pictures of what the places looked like one hundred years ago and how they look today. I am not sure whether or not those who designed the city envisioned it as it is today but it was interesting to see the changes and similarities throughout the years.

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  40. This article definitely relates to number 5. This article states how we need to think about the future when building cities. The 5th point deals with the complexity of cities and how they change over time.

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  41. This post relates to both #4 and #5. I believe this is because of the natural changes and phenomena that a setting may undergo. The changes can reflect both nature settings as well as an urban atmosphere. The article expresses being able to foresee the future changes that may eventually take place, which is an important idea when considering ecology and the changes that can happen in a variety of different settings.

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  42. This post exemplifies point numbers 2 and 5. How the environment affects the ecology of a city and how the city affects its environment. We need to consider both in order to move forward in a sustainable way. Both the environment and the city are changing in vast ways over time, and we need to plan the city in order that it benefits the environment, and use aspects of the environment to our advantage, but yet not TAKE advantage of them.

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  43. Cities (and all environments) build onto life but while they do these things they must preserve life as well. New things are fabulous, but old things are just as important. Because people are never going to stop building, there needs to be an understanding of the environment that they live in.

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  44. I find this article interesting, partially because of the metaphor of over ripe fruit and fungi, but also the fact of urban planning. I remember when I was a kid, and even now, my mom, a fifth grade science teacher, would put our left over dinner in the fridge, cover it, and leave it there for months. There would always be a little post it saying, "science project...not food! eat at your own risk" This is similar to urban planning, in a way that if we leave something alone too long, then a disease will grow. This is how i looked at it. The leftover dinner being a city. Because urban ecology has so many factors, if we dont address the problems that will inevetiably grow, fungus or in this case urban drainage , climate change, and other things will occur. because everything is connected in a city in either a indirect or direct way, and because the urban environment affects the environments outside the city, we must figure out away how to get rid of the fungus, and plan a new city. To build a new city, or help out an old one, I think we need to start by growing gardens, reusing what we have, and go on from there. its a long process but in 50 yrs, 100 yrs, it should pay off.

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  45. In reading this blog, I am reminded of the Urban Drainage post, and how the increased amount of paved surfaces has led in turn to an increase in water drainage issues – it’s a prime example of how something that started out as a design in convenience can over the years become a challenge. While there are some possible ways to lessen the problem (like increased green spaces), these solutions take time and concerted effort. I think it shows why it is so important to “step back” as you put it and take heed of how our present “innovations” or “convenience” driven designs and changes may impact the future. Had we been able to apply such a mindset when increasing the amount of paved spaces, we might have been able to foresee and avert some of the potential drainage problems that we now must contend with. Of course, one issue we face, just as did our predecessors, is the fact that even though we possess a great deal of knowledge and have far more access to information, we may not be able to fully grasp the exact problems future generations may face – our knowledge of the future is subject to limitations. I guess that is further impetus to focus on the need think about the greater scope of our actions in order to avert potential problems where we can – it definitely seems the best way to lessen (instead of compound) the environmental challenges that will inevitably arise in the future.

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  46. After reading the post, what struck me as new and different was that we should be thinking ahead about the landscape. We just to often think of the now and not of the different possibilities that may happen in the future. I see the world differently now when I look at construction being built or plants getting planted in public spaces to make the landscape around the buildings look nice. Landscaping is now for aesthetic reasons and not what is environmental beneficial. This relates to my own experience when I was driving down this road going towards the ice rink and I saw two houses across from each other, one house had already built a fountain in front of it and was a good size, the house across from it is currently building a fountain and is quite large, much bigger than the other house, so even when it comes to landscape a lot of people have egoish plans that does not benefit us, but for their own vanity. I think I would to this post that you should really think about what is beneficial now, is it also for the future?

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    1. Hi Tess-
      I find myself wondering which landscape artists and builders thought about what their creation would look like in the future and if they incorporated that into their design. Were they going for an immediate result or a landscape that would mature and change as humans changed.

      B

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    3. Landscape as art and history...so that's how that Art history major came about ;)

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  48. This article reminded me that all natural systems are constantly changing, (including ourselves). I do sometimes ponder on what I or my life will look like in the future and how much I have changed from the past, physically or otherwise. By looking at this landscape it is clear that it is properly “controlled” or manipulated, taken care of by people, so most likely if the people who take care of this piece of land and no natural disaster or environmental issue affects it, it can look the same in 10 years. However, because that’s the least likely case since environmental issues are constantly and rapidly affecting the landscape I guess we have the option of looking into the future with the information we have today and make sure to start cleaning up in order to keep this open space still open and not full of skyscrapers as well as clean and green.

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    1. Hi Dani,
      I also wondered what life was going to be like in the future. Then, the future arrived :).

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  49. What strikes me as new and different with this post is the concept of fully visualizing what landscapes will look like in the future, before we commit to any development or enhancement (or indeed, non- enhancement!) of it in the present. I think, if we choose to pause for a moment and consider the past, paying particular attention to its great legacies, we can make, or at least be inspired to make, better decisions in terms of planning what will eventually become superb sceneries for generations to come. Clearly, Olmstead took the time to do so, and because of his foresight, we now get to enjoy the fruits of his labors. In essence, we have been provided with a window to the past, in this present moment, which provides us with ample opportunity (along with no excuses!!), to mindfully prepare for the future. This post highlights that the enjoyment we receive from observing or being immersed in great landscapes cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, we have a duty to note each stamp of time, every etching and mark that has made our landscape what we now know it to be. Certainly, the information we receive from this process should be our go-to guide in terms of how to let our surroundings evolve. By paying attention to the landscape in such a manner, treating its visual cues as a map which provides directions to the correct destination, we will have the power to make them “more beautiful and more usable” - we just have to remember not to ignore or bypass what’s already right in front of us!

    This post resonates a lot with me, I have to say. Having worked in the construction industry for over 12 years, I consistently encountered design decisions which went against the grain of everything that would benefit the landscape, not to mention its inhabitants. This was due to many factors, for instance, financial constraints, site constraints, political constraints, time constraints etc. – which is more than disappointing as a lot of these issues could be rectified/eliminated throughout the initial/schematic stages of design. However, with the introduction of LEED, significant improvements have been made, as specific design criteria must be met before building is allowed to commence.

    I think if I was to go further into this topic, I would add both good and bad examples of green spaces within urban landscapes, in order to demonstrate how they might look in 50 or 100 years. The results of such a projection/comparison I think would be interesting and provide food for thought in terms of what our present actions actually mean for those who will inherit our work.

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    1. Emily,
      This is so true that we cannot take our landscapes for granted. I take this statement in direct and in philosophical terms. I treasure a lot these days as I have learned to appreciate so much more.

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  50. I never really thought of the current landscape being a product of past planning. Nevertheless, I wonder how our current landscape can be sustainable in the future. Because I live in Southern California, I can attest to how green this desert really is. I wonder if the landscape forefathers would have predicted that we would have such a shortage of water in California. Much of the desert landscape was converted to a man-made oasis and much of the plants found on the golf courses, homes and public spaces are non native to this area hence requiring a lot more water than native species.

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  51. I think that you drive home a great point here…we (speaking for myself and my neighbors, and probably the entire country) want things perfect, beautiful, just as we imagined them…and now. The concept of visualizing the future is valid and the correct way to plan for the future growth of the plant or landscape. Where we run into problems is we get a flat of XXXX (fill in the blank) and we plant them, rarely satisfied with the wait for them to fill in. We are a culture of cheap, fast, now – immediate satisfaction and don’t care what the instructions say it will grow out to become. My most recent experience with this was 7 years ago when planning my shrubs along a new walkway. I measured out the full grown size of the plants, from sea grass, to rhododendrons, a variety of perennials, etc. Once planted the walkway looked anemic – the instructions from my wife were clear…fix it.

    So I contemplated adding more of the various plantings and had an internal debate over this. My conclusion was to fill in the “dead space” with annuals for substance and color, each year reducing the number of fillers as the plantings expanded to their potential. The moral of the story for me was to not only visualize the future, but to remind myself of the patience required to see it through…it’s a journey, not a destination.

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    1. So you were here about 7 years before we were!!! Do you have before and after pictures?

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    2. Unfortunately no. But, I do go back and see it when I am in CT. Also, Google Earth shows how they are filling in!

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  52. Not to bring the divine into this but the first adage that popped into my head while I was reading this post was: "We make plans and God laughs."
    How that relates to this article is I couldn't help but succumb to this nagging feeling that there are so many wild cards & unforeseen events, both politically & financially, which affect the landscape. I want to be idealistic in my thinking that the best laid plans by urban planners will follow due course. It is important to project into the future possible scenarios since the entire landscape and those around it will become an evolving one upon completion. It makes sense to plan for an unrealized treeline in the landscape and how it might obstruct views or protect privacy. At the same time, there are always things out of any architect or urban planners’ control - like a promised "view" in a hotel that might soon be eclipsed by a towering luxury apartment building shooting up in its line of sight. This happened in San Francisco a few years ago. There was an uproar in my city when a slew of high-rise residential buildings were erected by a $100 million NY real estate developer. It turns out not everyone is wild about a rapidly changing city skyline. Whether its nostalgia, jealousy or anti-gentrification, politics due interrupt such designs and plans, like it or not. Ecologically & architecturally speaking, the changing landscape must be taken into consideration (especially the green parts), but there is a certain amount of control that must be relinquished. These types of financial & political controversies end up affecting landscapes all the time. There might be a heated debated happening this very moment at a city council meeting over an original plan & intent for a landscape now being threatened.

    Changing landscapes should ideally give, not take away. The controversy then becomes, give to whom and take away from whom? As long as planners & designers have integrity around a project, both ecologically & from a humanistic point of view, then they’ve done their job and the rest is out of their hands. Another thing I like about changing landscapes is the notion that we walk & live among many landscapes that were intended and planned for us by one, two or three generations before us. Were it not for their forethought we may not be enjoying this natural oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Therefore, we owe the same duty and gift to our children and their children.

    This post also whetted my appetite to grab some popcorn & watch “Back to the Future” again. Perfect illustration of changing landscapes.

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    1. Hi Carrie-
      Those familiar with the Southeast Expressway (an oxymoron if there ever was one) in Boston will immediately have a reference point to your post. There is a building near the Pine Street Inn that has a gigantic whale painted on the side facing the highway. It's been there for years and years. You drive by and there it always is. except all of a sudden, three new buildings (office or apartment, I'm not sure) have gone up in front of the 'whale building'. An interesting part of the Boston landscape was changed and I wonder if the owners/architects of the new buildings knew...or cared.

      Also on the Expressway were 'the gas tanks.' If you've lived here, you know what I man. There were two large gas storage tanks just off the highway. One had a beautiful painting on it by Corita Kent. At some point it was decided that only one gas tank was needed and the one with the painting was removed. But the painting, such a huge part of Boston's landscape, was painted on the remaining one and is still there. Different ways of preserving the landscape!
      Will try to post images on Twitter.

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    2. Hi Barbara - I'm not familiar with these neighborhood landmarks, but I definitely plan on visiting Boston over the next year as it's one place I haven't been that's at the top of my list! Maybe I will plan for next Tax Day in honor of the Boston Tea Party! :)

      With regard to the whale building & gas tank painting, I think that is always difficult for people and generations to lose artwork or something quirky. I remember being a kid and my Dad driving me through his old neighborhood reminiscing about old things that disappeared (his high school was shut down & abandoned for one.) Change is inevitable but I think it's a much harder pill to swallow when the powers-that-be have such a callous perspective around artwork, traditions & landscapes. Europe does a much better job of this. Since we're more an "adolescent" nation in the scheme of things, maybe we will someday value things that make our towns unique. I think there are many that do care, but it's often an uphill battle.

      Can you still see the whale in the alley? Maybe someone should open a seafood restaurant in that building and bring some honor back to Shamu so he's not forgotten! :)

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    3. Hi Carrie-

      You make a great point about the U.S. still being in its adolescent stages. Perhaps as we grow up, we'll come to realize the importance of landscape, functionality, and identity over $$$.

      B

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  53. It is a new thought for me to wonder how our landscape will change because I just can't foresee it changing much more than how we see it now. Will we live in the time of Buck Rogers or the Jetsons? Where everyone will be flying around and most of landscape will be artificial because we neglected the earth we live in that almost every died except us humans. I really hope not. As for Frederick Law Olmsted as a visionary, I am pretty sure that all designer have the future in mind because they want their ideas to last forever. By incorporating the future in your design, you may secure your design for an eternity like Leonardo da Vinci did with the Mona Lisa to mention one of his prolific creations.

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    1. Barb,
      I used to never care much for flowers because they don't last. Like that designer statement with the future in mind, flowers are transient, temporary and gone so quickly. There is no future for flowers.
      Somehow, I let it go, the future came and I realized my ideas changed and were not forever. I love flowers now. Maybe it's an old-lady thing ;). Heading out this weekend to get some irises to plant in the front yard.

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  54. Politics "do" interrupt such plans, yet they make taxpayers pay the dues. Spelling error must have been a Freudian slip. :)

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  55. I was mind-bogglingly surprised with a notion of design that lasts decades and generations and yet serves the original intention. The design that is perceived as if they were naturally created is nothing but work of genius. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of Frederick Law Olmsted until this article.

    I was so intrigued by his works like Central Park, Park system in Boston and other parks in Chicago and even landscapes in California; I had to read more about the genius who made all this happened. I thought he was a well-educated genius who always had success all his life. As a matter of fact, he was a man who carried a very similar MO with people like Churchill or Steve Jobs in recent years. They were the people who failed over and over again yet came out so distinctively as a successful individual and made a mark in human history. Olmsted’s triumphs were not just his ingenious thoughts alone, but rather having the love and care for the environment and the Mother Earth that we depend on. He was so adamant about the environment and nature, when he got a job at the Yosemite; he felt that that was his lifelong calling. Who does that these days?

    In these days, we frequently see landscapes that promote monetary benefits with an adverse effect on ecosystems. These ill-intended efforts bring not only destruction of the environment but also a failure as a human race. We are worse off than yesterday as more and more species of animals, insects and plants are distinct from this planet continuously because of mindless decisions.

    Understanding of the nature and love and respect for the nature with common sense can bring beautiful harmony and positive answers to our lives and our future generations.

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  56. The blog post shows an obvious point we do not look at when thinking about urban landscape. What will the urban landscape look like in a century? In our gardens, at best we foresee the next few years. If I plant this apple tree, I hope to get some apples soon. Other times, we plan flowers for the beauty of the coming season. I doubt the people in charge of urban landscaping foresee the landscape after a century. Having an effect on the future is a big responsibility. From now on, I think a little bit more before planting a plant. I would have added information regarding gardens that do foresee a century into the future to show what kind of thought goes into such a landscape.

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    1. Hi Shu-
      Can you think of any urban landscapes in Japan that have changed - maybe for the better, maybe for the worse?
      B

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    2. Hi Barbara,

      There are many urban landscapes in Japan that have changed for the better. The many parks and gardens throughout the major cities is a great example. The parks and gardens were set aside by the government, temples, shrines, and other organizations centuries ago. Since these lands were set aside, they were not developed during modernization. If these landscapes were not set aside, I can guarantee they would have houses and businesses built on top. Japan would have been a concrete jungle; even more than it is today in the cities.

      Shu

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    3. Hi Shu-
      Such great, historic examples!
      B

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  57. If only we could predict the future. You touch on some pretty interesting stuff here and I feel like a lot of people feel the same way, or at least express the need for some sort of common sense when it comes to planning. It always seems like those who are in charge—the decision makers—somehow lack the common sense that the rest of us are able to ascertain. Why? Is it because of their “egoish grand plans”, as you say? I think that has something to do with it. People—especially people who consider themselves “important”—don’t like to admit when they’re wrong and often have difficulty letting go of projects or ideas that they associate with on a personal level. A lack of foresight can be dangerous, and only time will tell whether we, as a species, can take on the persona of Prometheus, or perpetually look at things in hindsight like Epimetheus.

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    1. Hi Matt-
      I'm a little off topic, but we can bring it back around to landscape. Do "important" people care if they're wrong? Especially in regard to landscape? I grew up on what became the 14th worst Superfund site in the country with soil and water full of paint and pesticides and all of the chemicals that went with them. When it all hit the fan, the owners packed up and left the site deserted and contaminated and claimed bankruptcy.

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    2. It seems like too few of the "important" people care if they're wrong. With the example you provide about the place where you grew up it is pretty evident that those individuals didn't care about the landscape. They cared more about their financial interests and filing for bankruptcy. Were they ever required to do any sort of cleanup? I feel like the landscape only becomes a concern AFTER environmental emergencies or disasters occur, e.g Exxon-Valdez or the BP Gulf of Mexico thing.

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  58. Hey there professor Hammer,
    Coming from the UAE, I am glad that nature was given more importance than being preserved. I was reading a few articles of Dubai having a new 'Mall of the Worlds' and a novel museum filled with technology projected in the future. There was one article stating that there will be a tropical rainforest 'created' too. I preferred the rainforest more than these man made new additions in the city.

    These types of green spaces are a must, we humans need to be reminded of nature. In the future greener areas should not be meddled with. Habitat should be requested for the creatures that are in it. There has to be a mutual understanding of our situation and theirs.

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    1. Hi Rosh-
      When I think about Dubai, I think about how much of it is so new! Is there any historical preservation happening there?

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  59. As I read about the strawberries, I asked myself about the next step, after the ethylene fumes had accumulated in the container and fungi had proliferated. If the container is closed, I imagine that given enough time even the fungi would die in the closed container leaving us with a pile of organic material; a good fertilizer to lay the foundations for new life to grow once again. I thought a lot about the Earth as we know it in this scenario.
    The important thing is that we like strawberries and we are unwilling to stop consuming them, and therefor it is up to us with our technology to put them in the fridge; Or is technology simply a bandage to the inevitable fact that life will perish in this white and isolated container?

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  60. With the technology available to us today and with the other resources provided to us I do believe it is possible to "see the future" of our urban landscapes. With our society so big on being environmentally safe, and all about recycling and reusing buildings, it does give us a clear view of what our cities can look like in the future and what it looked like before. Another thing to take into consideration is the weather changes our planet is going through. If we track the changes in our weather and how it's affecting our natural resources. Plants are either going to flourish or dry up. I can tell you from what I've seen in Los Angeles! Because of the drought we are experiencing, there has been a lot of reconstruction of gardens and buildings that are "drought" friendly. There's also been a lot more of environmentally friendly power sources being built as well. I think this says a lot about our past and where our society is headed.

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    1. Calista,
      I can bet there is a lot of future planning where you are. Water is a precious resource and must be tightly regulated so it is used and utilized properly in an extended drought. What is interesting to note is how this will pan out over time. People get water first then industry. I wonder where plants (nature- the landscape) will fall in the priority of water?

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  61. Does anyone wait for the landscape to grow anymore? The thought running through my mind after reading this post is the popularity of the use of mature plants in landscaping. I don’t know if that was also the case in Olmsted’s 1860’s experience, but I have seen grounds crews installing mature trees in built landscapes from Portugal to Mexico. It’s quite impressive to see them being brought in by forklift and dropped into a gaping hole in the ground.
    However, one area that I thought was related but not mentioned is how time, demographics and the environment can affect the value real estate abutting these built landscapes. As I am sure many of my classmates did, my husband and I tried to imagine what different neighborhoods would look like with projected population growth, climate change and resource shortages, when purchasing our home. Several of our friends invested in run down areas that they expect to be gentrified in the coming years. We chose differently and bought a home in an upscale neighborhood with adjacent parks. Time will tell which option was the wisest investment!

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    1. It's a gamble - we never really know what will become popular and what just won't take off. there's a lot to be said for "instant tree." There's also a lot to be said for watching something grow!

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    2. You are right about "watching something grow". I love the tradition of planting a tree when a child is born. My mom chose a "crab apple" tree for me. It's beautiful, and it reminds me not to be crabby. It was nice to visit them and see "my" tree as evidence of the time rolling past. They've moved now though, so I haven't thought of that tree in years. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

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  62. Sorry, forgot to identify myself - it's Kayali Lenssen IS380!

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  63. I have never really thought about this type of planning. When you construct a landscaped space that is full of plants and trees that will continue to grow, you have to both envision how that space looks in the present and how that space will look in the future, obviously not wanting to sacrifice the aesthetic quality of either. That's got to be a difficult task. I've done a lot of construction and remodeling, but never with something as fluid as a landscape. I think the development of this field would be an interesting area for further learning. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Hi Jordan-
      Great observation that we need to look into the future and at least try to predict how the landscape change will affect what we build/create. Best of all, it has you wondering!
      B

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  64. I did not think about the fact that landscapes do change over time and that whatever we do to them in the present will affect them in the future. We construct, build and demolish on landscapes sometimes without thinking of the effect it will have for the next generation. This is similar to examples we see from years ago when civilization came to areas of the world where there was nothing but the original natural habitat. I was watching a movie the other day where they showed part of the Middle East and there was a whole city built in the middle of the dessert, complete with buildings, houses, skyscrapers etc. This makes me wonder of the effects this will have in the near future, because before, there was no way to survive in the dessert, and now seems just like any other way of living.

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  65. Hi Dr. Hammer,

    This post to me is about planning and responsibility. What are the long-terms effects of the landscapes we create? How do you create immediate beauty with a landscape and utilize natural aspects of the terrain while also allowing for future growth and expansion? This post made me think about the use of non-native plants that may be popular at the time, but would do long-term damage to the native ecosystem if added to the landscape. It’s also about sustainability and the inherent dangers of looking for a quick fix. Mother Nature finds a way and we need to plan and allow for that. When we force our needs on the landscape it causes waste and loss.

    Thanks,
    Allison

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    1. Allison,
      What an excellent point about native versus non-native species. I find this concerning when I go to the local nurseries and most of the plants I see are not native to where I live. One would think local business should support native species.

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  66. I have never really thought about this before. So much of what we like, plan or design is based on present feelings, style, and landscape. I guess landscapers have this vision when they recommend tree that will grow into a natural separation of property or flowers that will bloom to fill in the front of the house. When they construct a landscape design, this foresight is necessary for the plants and trees that will continue to expand. To that extent, we would also need to know how a particular plant would do in a region. Sure it looks nice now, but will it survive the winters of the Massachusetts? Would seem that anyone designing a landscape would require a vision of present and future. I’ve grown a new appreciation for my landscaper! This is a very interesting article, thank you for sharing.

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  67. Frederick Law Olmstead's works represented the conservation movement of the Nineteenth Century. Clearly, he had an idea natural landscapes are key to protecting nature's resources. When we design landscape in our own backyard on a lot of private land, our vision tend to be about what we want to see for the duration of our lifetime. Olmstead presupposes that landscape overtime will change due to human activities. Theoretically, his designs on public parks were aimed with the goal of surviving and outlasting infinite generations in changes of human behavior. Urban development and demands for real estate have continuously changed around venues such as Central Park in New York City. Yet, the landscape of the park itself continues to flourish on its own terms. Animals come and go as consistent as the seasons, trees and plants grow and perish on its own natural cycle, and various organisms settle into the permanent landscape and ecosystems.

    When strawberries grow into ripe fruits, we eat and savor them. When they disintegrate into mold and fungi, our instinct is to throw it out. The difference is we cannot discard nature at all and Olmstead realized this importance. Parks are essentially our reminder that nature cannot be discarded like spoiled fruit. If we eliminate nature, it is very unlikely we will recover it all. If we preserve it and leave it to its own devices, it will flourish in ways that goes beyond our imaginations. Such is the dualism of nature's vulnerability and resiliency.

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  68. Visualizing the future; what a wonderful concept. I have wondered, for years, why City, County and State governments have not been more thoughtful about how a desert landscape such as southern California would fare with overpopulation combined with our dry climate. More housing and commercial buildings continue to go up, more people flock to the area but we don’t have the water to sustain such a massive population. What will southern California look like in 50 to 100 years? Landscapes all over California have already gone through major change as water reservoirs have dried up and natural habitats have been destroyed. Lawns and fountains are being removed as homeowners look to drought resistant desert plants to take their places. As individuals, they are taking pre-emptive measures for continued drought conditions and very high water costs. Thinking outside of our immediate present and visualizing the future of a designed environment is critical for this area. Desalinization should be an item on their short list. My husband and I know that, based on the cost of living, overpopulation, crowded roads, high taxes and lack of water, our dream landscape is no longer southern California.

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    1. Hi Diane-
      The idea of desalinization interests me. I wonder how cost effective it would be if designed well. And what effect it would have in the oceans. I also wonder how many people consider things such as water shortages before packing up and moving from cold weather places to warm ones.

      Seems that the more we know, the more we ask!!!

      B

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  69. This post reminded me of my recent visit to Middlebury, VT. My husband and I took a short trip to revisit the areas I lived in when I first moved to US, Middlebury being the second. I spent many days and evenings of my early high school years walking around the small town with my sister, and the gorgeous campus of Middlebury College. I have not visited the town since my last visit in 2002, and I was severely disappointed by what I found. I honestly cannot remember it being so loud, and yet it now is filled with non-stop rumbling of trucks and cars, day and night. Route 7, one of the major routes in VT, runs through part of Middlebury. Route 23 and 125 are also major roads that connect to Route 7 through Middlebury. For some reason, there is additional traffic and congestion in once much quieter town. The most startling addition of all, however, was the Cross Street Bridge. My jaw did literally fall open when I saw it as I walked to the corner on that street, expecting a house to sit there by the edge of the river. The house was gone and now there was a major road with a huge bridge connecting downtown area to the sleepy nook of houses, which was once truly separated by the Otter Creek River.
    http://www.aspirebridge.com/magazine/2011Winter/Cross%20Street_Win11_web.pdf
    This article raves about how the bridge will help alleviate the traffic for residents and visitors completely dismissing, however, how the bridge has ruined a once peaceful nook of the town. Instead of focusing on leading the major traffic composed of heavy trucks away from the town and perhaps constructing a road ring around the city, instead the behemoths and large amount of through traffic rumbles through this quaint town. I felt betrayed by that bridge; it’s as if my memories of a happier Middlebury were tainted somehow. This is not the town that I loved 13 years ago, it has evolved but not in a necessarily better way. People build these structures without a thought to how it affects those around them, concentrating only on one problem and not seeking other solutions.

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    1. Hi Yuliya-

      I feel the same way when I go into my home town and find a Dunkin Donuts where my friend's house used to be! The landscape will always change, but your point about building a road around, instead of through the town is interesting. Preservation at the cost of longer travel and more fuel used and all that causes. Depends on who's running the show and how loudly and effectively residents make their wished known.
      B

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    2. Convenience is of more importance to people than peaceful surroundings, preservation of older towns and history. At least, it was quite evident as such in Middlebury.

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  70. The thought of future and past is quite interesting. There are plenty of advantages that come with planning for the future. The past and future relating to landscape is quite interesting to think about because you can see where the present has come from but there are endless possibilities for the future landscape. How will it change? How much will it change? Is there a possibility that it will stay very similar to what we see today? I often do this with life in general. The thought of what is yet to come is fun. The world is what I make of it. It will surely be an up and down journey but I am anxious to see what my future holds. I will try and plan the best future possible but things don't always go as planned. I will have to be more aware of the small changes. These small changes will surely effect other changes. There are all sorts of changes taking place on a daily basis that I am sure I take for granted or do not pay much attention to. Life is often a ripple effect.

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    1. Hi Aaron-

      Seeing how landscape planning and change relates to planning and change for the landscape of our lives. Nice! We're doing this with my son right now. The college he has chosen is close enough to commute. Does he live at school and come out with loans because room and board is very expensive, all in the name of "the college experience"? Or does he commute, graduate with no loans, and a clean slate free to move on to the next stage of his life unencumbered? And the view of the parent is different than the view of the student - just like real architects, city planners, and builders!

      B

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    2. Commute! haha. Loans...avoid avoid avoid if possible haha.

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  71. The newest idea presented in this essay is the concept that we should consider future possibilities when constructing the various landscapes of our lives. The relationship between predicting how mold will develop on fruit to the eventual progression of the Arnold Arboretum shows us that forward thinking can be implemented across various landscape platforms. This concept can be implemented into the educational landscape of this class as we look for ways to utilize the skills developed here in our upcoming classes as well as our professional lives. I would add to this discussion that Mr. Olmstead was a landscape architect who must have known that his vision and impact on the landscape of the Arnold Arboretum was merely a piece to a puzzle that would live on for generations. The many contributors who helped this project get off the ground would have likely inspired a humbling gratitude for the opportunity to participate in its development.

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    1. Hi Marcus-

      The website for the Arnold Arborteun (http://arboretum.harvard.edu/about/our-history/) explains that Harvard leased the land for the arboretum for 1.000 YEARS! Imagine the landscape changes!

      B

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  72. So often it is obvious, when looking at a building (especially apartment complexes it seems to me), that the architect and conservators did not think of how the building and space would look in the future. Usually, you can place a building to the decade it was built in, the style of both the architecture and the layout of the space (opened, closed, minimalist, etc.) speak to the tastes and trends of the time they were created. Typically, I would think of this as a characteristic inherent in the creation of any structure, however this short piece makes me question whether the creator of a space considers how “dated” his creation will look in just a matter of decades. Based on what I have witnessed, for the most part this desire to create a “timeless” structure is lacking. Can a space be created and maintained in a way that will allow it to grow and develop over time without losing its initial qualities? How would it be different from what we usually see? When it comes to outdoor landscapes and gardens, I think there is less variety over time that the space itself ages well, however so often the surrounding space of an outdoor landscape is developed in complete disregard for the original occupant, altering the character of the landscape negatively. I have seen this in the building of houses near a set of walking trails and the setup of a business park beside a playground. In both cases, the original open spaces lost their sense of quiet charm and became busy crossways, leaving the trails and park nearly always empty of their intended patrons.

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    1. Cat,
      I never thought of it this way but you are so correct! What would it take to build a timeless structure? I wonder if it would be so costly, in terms of materials and/or space and this is why we do not see apartments or condos constructed in this manner. I have lived in quite a few apartments and now that I think about this, they were all dated accordingly.

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    2. What seems contradictory to me is that I would imagine that a timeless structure would be a simply designed structure, which to my mind would be cheap. I'd like to question an architect on his thought on this.

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  73. Leticia Chevere/IS380 Week 5-#1:
    Reading the post reminded me of how what you today will affect tomorrow. The analogy of the strawberry and being able to see the result of exposure to the elements shows how important it is to know how to care for something properly to make sure it lasts. We cannot just create a landscape today without thinking of the impact years from now. We have to think about the increase in population, the housing need for this increased population and how that will impact the landscapes. Like you said, “it requires a little common sense” and insight. Today there are many parks in my neighborhood that had to be reduced to make way for expressways. These expressways now run next to or above the parks. I am sure that was not the intent, but we did not think far enough ahead to realize that those areas would be part of the thruway.

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    1. And how many of those expressways were obsolete before they were completed? One cool thing Boston did, although not necessarily well, was to bring the highway under the city and plant grass and trees where the highway used to be. Green space has increased. but we dig a bunch of tunnels into a city built on landfill...not a fan of driving through!

      B

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    2. Hi Barbara, to my knowledge I don't think any of the expressways are obsolete and are still in use today. What I do find are obsolete are the train lines that were built and are no longer in use. Essentially we are hiding the "ugliness" under the green space which is smart but I'm not a fan of driving through them either!

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  74. The idea of considering nature from a future point of view seems very asynchronous to the mindset of the average American. It’s just not part of the culture – rather, the corporate-industrial machine tends to view nature in terms of commodities which can be turned into money. What you are suggesting is that we should actually RESPECT nature for its own sake and for the sake of future generations?? This is how Native Americans have always viewed nature, and it enabled them to have a mutually beneficial give and take with nature – they holistically understood that all of nature is connected, and that it has a future which must be nurtured in the present day so that their offspring could benefit. I love the idea of thinking about nature in these terms, because pillaging nature is not sustainable in the long run.

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  75. When the first European settlers came to California, they planted eucalyptus trees because they were fast growing, smelled good, and probably because they enjoyed the beautiful gray-blue tones of the trees against the golden grasses. The newcomers had little information about the natural environment that they settled. They did not anticipate that the oil from the trees was highly flammable and that California’s hills are shaped by wild fires every year. They did not consider that the great height and shallow root system of the trees would be hazardous in the coastal winds. Today when you move into well-established neighborhoods around my home, you will find the asynchronous nature of the landscape. I would like to believe that when Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned the arboretum that he included not only growth of the plants, but the anticipation of what was to come in his plans. As a man who understood plants and trees, he would have lay his path with not just the genus classifications but their root system in mind. Meaning, he gave the plants room to grow over the years and fill the space provided to them. Despite having adopted the fixed organization system of Bentham and Hooker, where evolution and/ or change was not taken into consideration, the arboretum is experienced immediately rather than over an evolutionary timeframe. Therefore, the anticipation of change is still very relevant to the design of the landscape because nature does not need to be ordered in any particular way; it can be classified and reclassified, lost, forgotten, hybridized, and altered by humans. The changes that we prescribe onto nature do not constrict or prevent the natural changes that occur over centuries. And it would seem that the arboretum was more than just a way for us to enjoy something beautiful, but a very natural and human attempt to order the world that we see around us.

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  76. What strikes me most significantly is the set of questions about Frederick Law Olmsted, which led me to research on his works like the Central Park in New York, in addition to the Arnold Arboretum, among many others. His egalitarian ideas work as operating principles in almost all his designs, injecting social values in his works.

    I see the world differently after reading this post that focuses on forward planning, and connecting it to aquifers that the other post discussed. I asked myself if there was any factor that early designers like Olmsted may have missed in their visions. I could only think of garbage, being the number one contaminant of groundwater. Given the endlessly growing density of people per square mile, the use of synthetic materials, and the increasing rate of consumption, garbage and sewerage systems have become the nightmare of city officials and urban planners. Good that some societies are committed to recycling.

    From my own experiences, our companies create a ten year plan to determine the five year plan, which in turn determines the one year plan -- not the other way around. I could understand and commiserate with incumbent local government officials and urban planning and design professionals in trying to create a new blueprint for the future while managing the infrastructural mistakes of the past.

    What I may perhaps add to this post is to put in the equation in the design of landscapes, buildings and other habitats more heavily on the single specie that is most responsible for the environment: humans, being the most significant agent of geologic change. We paved surfaces all over the country, altered rivers, increased cloud cover, dug and moved many mountains to mine. We tripled erosion rates with our agriculture and deforestation, and increased release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and methane from our cattle: all raising global temperatures, changing climates, and causing global sea levels to rise.

    Given these realities that emerged in the past 200 years -- the period the Earth has been vastly exploited -- the designers of landscapes and ecology would have to be multi-disciplined in their expertise, with humanities ranking high in the list of their competencies. Because, as Dr. Hammer emphasizes that we should think of the future as we design new landscapes, buildings and environments, he is really asking us to think of ourselves as humans being the manipulators of the Earth, and re-evaluate the measures of values with which we sculpt the future ahead of us. He is saying through these posts that as we plan for the future, which is the combination of effects of our present acts, we must confront the values that drive our thinking and create our lives today -- right now, right where ever we are.

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    1. Hi Mel-

      The way your company works - long range to short range - is fascinating. I bet it eliminates several of the unknown variables in the short term since the short term has, in essence, already happened as the long term is planned first.

      You remind me of a book I'm reading written by Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka. They discuss the way the Bible states that man essentially takes over the earth is not meant to be a statement of ownership and conquest, but rather one of stewardship and care.

      B

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    2. That is great. I was just having a conversation how from Genisis men are to "rule" the earth. Some see that as we have complete dominion of it for out need and wants..without repercussions. Today it seems that people are turning to be stewards or our precious planet and trying to take care of it so it will be here for future generations.

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  78. Great post about landscape for the here and now, as well as the future! I love the correlation between the decaying strawberries and the evolution of our built landscape. As I read the article, I felt a heightened awareness on how we make decisions about our surroundings, sometimes without reflecting on previous work or thinking about the changes that will occur over time and reshape our vision. Often times I catch myself visiting old cities and neighborhoods on vacation thinking about how wonderful it must have been to live in such beautiful lush places, without thinking about what it looked like when it was first built. Recently I was watching a show on the Vikings and there was a distressed table, and I thought how beautifully rustic the whole thing was. I often question myself, thinking it’s weathered and rustic now, but at some point it was new and looked very different. I wonder what the opinions of the time would say about old Europe or Scandinavia now. It would be interesting to see what Olmsted’s thoughts would be if he were able to see his beautiful parks now? Would he know that his trailblazing ideas about conservation and activism shaped Yosemite National Park and the Mariposa Grove? Would he be proud to have set the standard of excellence in public parks? As designers continue to develop our urban spaces, it is especially important to build up on the excellence of the past, learn from the past mistakes, and look well into the future to make the right decisions to build beautiful and timeless spaces that only getter better as they age.

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    1. Hi Miranda-

      Your point on learning from the past is a good one, and often missed. You also make me think of the landscape of aesthetic taste. How do some landscapes that are affected by humans develop beautifully and others turn into concrete wastelands or drought ravaged crisis areas? Is that cultural? Is it artistic? Financial?

      B

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    2. I think it is probably a little of all three you mention. I think about Detroit, once a vibrant center of technology and manufacturing, now pure blight. Many of the beautiful buildings built by companies that once employed thousands are now desolate and deserted. When I think about downtown Fresno, I see both cultural issues and financial. We have abandoned our downtown center in favor of urban sprawl. The wealthy went north away from the original city center, leaving behind vacant buildings and old architecture that was not being kept up. Despite the many attempts to revitalize the downtown area, we still struggle and have not made nearly enough progress. Recently the city passed to re-open the downtown pedestrian mall to traffic again. It was a long and tough battle to get the re-opening passed because many did not want to destroy the history of the pedestrian mall even though it was no longer a functioning and thriving landscape. It is sad when our planning and our attempts to build a beautiful landscape fail, and for some it is very difficult to recover from when they no longer suit the needs of the community. Thanks for the thoughtful question!

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  79. Landscape designers definitely need to be more cognizant of how their designs will play out over time! All over my town are huge trees that were twigs when they were planted next to sidewalks 30 years ago. Now we face either having to take the trees down or re-do or move sidewalks.

    In suburban areas people are so impatient with the landscape - they don't like having to wait through the process of their landscape filling out. This is not such a large problem on individual lots but within parks and along public streets, it is an enormous problem.

    As society continues to build and grow these lessons should be taken to heart - look at landscapes that caused problems over time, find out what should be done differently, and do that.

    I would go further and say we really should encourage planting only native species to an area, or at least things that go along with the landscape. Part of the problem in California is the reliance on water for landscaping uses. If people were used to not having acres of lush lawns, or planting perennials or annuals that aren't designed to flourish in a desert... we wouldn't have as large of a problem.

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  80. This article makes me think about so many residential landscapes that fail over time. Builders and landscape architects often times fall short of the mark in their designs as they do not account for plant maturity and life span. We recently moved into a home where the landscape was beyond repair and n most cases had to be replaced. Evergreens were dying add those that survived were bowed away from the house trying to reach the sun. As the pin oak trees in the parkway matured, they began to block the light for many of the other plants. Four types of climbing ground cover was planted and choking out many of the shrubs. There was substantial over-crowding not to mention a lack of good light for most of the plans to grow. There are many factors that go into a landscape plan but the most important should be maturity and lifespan of the plantings.
    It is not much different than children really, when you think about it, we should spend much time planning for their future, how they will survive as adults, not just focus on the present.

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    1. Hi Carolyn-

      All excellent points! So what was your solution to the overcrowded landscape in your new home?

      B

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  81. The way that we design buildings and architectural platforms into the landscapes is a very important subject. People seem to enjoy their surroundings when they buy a home, apartment, or rent office space. Is this all at the cost of disturbing the ecosystem in the process? For instance, when farmland is destroyed to build a neighborhood, the landscape changes dramatically. The animals pay the price of having to relocate, for those first couple of weeks, skunks are abundant because they are out at night and now have nowhere to go. The same seems to be true of coyotes. Knowing this first hand, several dogs were sprayed by skunks and you can hear the coyotes howling when a new neighborhood went up behind my parents’ house in upstate New York when a developer built on the farmland just off their backyard. People particularly love to live near water, yet may not take into account the landslides that may happen due to the earth shifting, which of course is a natural process. Some things just need to be left alone to preserve the beauty of the actual landscape I think. People seem to mold the future by forging the land, but sometimes the past is still present which is nice. In order to visualize the future, we need to accept what has already been there and make sure we preserve what we can.

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  82. Landscapes absolutely change over time; exposure to the elements; man made impacts & intrusions, all effect the constant motion of change.

    The question posed in your blog has more to do with intent - does a landscaper who chooses to build or improve a garden, or design and construct a park know or consider what things will look like in the distant future?

    I think you have to have a sense of the future in considering landscapes and such things. Having said that though a great example of a lack of vision is the Palm Tree in California. The Palm Tree is not native to California, and 100 years pasted their original plantings in Southern California, a debate is brewing over what to do with them when they die off. So, at the time, they were a symbol of a “desert oasis,” but now represent a significant cost to the City of Los Angeles.

    http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/history/la-as-subject/a-brief-history-of-palm-trees-in-southern-california.html

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  83. I love this article about how landscapes change over time. Because I live in such a populated city I often think about what this city will look like in the not so distant future. I sometimes have the opportunity to look at old photos of the areas I live and work in and I am sometimes amazed by how much change has taken place over 10, 20 and 50 years.

    In New York we are booming with tourists which constantly creates a need for new attractions, housing options, restaurants, and much more. In New York it seems like the only place to go is up.

    Beyond tourism needs, thousands of people move to NYC each year which creates a high demand for permanent housing options. One plan that has become popular in the city is the 200sq apartment plan, which states people should be able to live in a space that is the size of two standard parking spaces or smaller. I originally thought this was crazy, but yet I found myself being one of the thousands, with 649 neighbors in the same building and finding 175sq ft. to be a luxury.

    The question is where do we go from here? Will we ever run out of space? and is the lack of space causing a lack of peace and tranquility. I have to remind myself everyday to stop and just look up, to remember that beyond the skyscrapers there are clouds and when you come up from the little cities underground where we travel, work and shop there is fresh air.

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  84. This is such an interesting post. In fact, throughout the course of this project, one of the things I learned about landscapes is that they are always changing. This concept, along with “movements in the landscape”, force you to consider the past, present and future while looking into any landscape. Once that happens, we are able to learn from past experiences, and plan better for the future.

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  85. Most of us can only see in the present. To imagine the future can by a difficult and farfetched task. I imagine my friends and family planting gardens and plants around their homes. I do not recall a time that they ever planted something based on what it might look like in the future. This relates to my own experiences when I planted a palm tree about 20 year ago. I planted it to close to the side walk, not thinking about the way it would grow. The palm tree grew not only up, but out, and little by little cracked the side walk. Same thing with hedges. If you drive around town, you will notice many residents planting their hedges either too close to their homes or too close to the side walk. It looks great now, but will surely cause them problems in the future which will ultimately lead to the plants demise. If we plan with a bit foresight and common sense, then we can all live a long and “fruitful” life.

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  86. I am sure most landscape architects think about the future in their design. The interesting part is that when it comes to nature; nature is not predictable. It makes me think of my backyard patio. The original owners put down black plastic and tan bark to have an easy maintainable around their patio. Nature has found a way to poke through the plastic and tan bark to reveal all different kinds of weeds, wild flowers and even a rose bush. The owners intended for a sterile landscape, but nature wanted color and lots of green. I think it would be interesting to compare sketches of a proposed landscape and the actual landscape that grew over time.

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  87. I find that after reading this post, I reflect upon that I see the world differently that I believe now as a society we are more aware of our impact with what plants we use in urban environments. Throughout history man brought seeds and/or plants to environments not exposed to the plant and unaware of the impact the plants presence to the new climate would have on the future. Now, when planning landscapes, we are more aware of what the plant needs to survive, which climate suits that plant best and what impact the plant will have.
    I recall living in Nevada and the difficulties we had as homeowners in choosing an ideal landscape for our yard and the environment. In the spirit of saving water and zero-scaping, I witnessed home owners removing all traces of habitations and replaced with concrete and maybe a potted plant. The landscape changed from greens to greys.
    We adapt to what we need now and very few of us take into consideration that long term affect our actions have
    --PattyS (MET IS 380)

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  88. I feel this article I can really relate to ....especially these days in California. People are making 'drought' gardens. New architecture and buildings are using recycled water for needs. School parks are putting in artificial turf. Even at the Giants game park they use recycled water. Unfortunately, we are living our future in someways. It is great that we have National Parks , Animal reserves etc that have to be left alone. Frank Loyd Wright did his architecture to blend in and work with the environment it was in to be a part of it.

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  89. Embarrassed to say, I have experienced the white fuzzed strawberries one too many times. The kids love buying them but somehow were always forget about them.

    The article was very enlightening in terms of the future of landscapes. It is interesting to realize that we never think about how the landscape will take a face of its own over time. Depending on climate and a multiple of different factors, the landscape will transform many times over time. After reading the article, I looked at the landscapes around me and thought about how they will change over time. Even during the time I have lived here changes have happened. New buildings constructed, shrubs removed, trees added – all within a few years. In 100 years or even 50, these landscapes will be completely new. It would be interesting to see how one certain landscape has changed over a period of time. One I have seen pictures of recently is Dubai – from 1990 to 2012!

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  90. This post was interesting for me to read because when I walk around Boston and Somerville I wonder how people who lived in the past and those who will be around in the future would look at the buildings that we have now. Will they look at them like we look at and admire some of the older buildings around us? Or will they just notice these big sky scrapers that all look the same?
    I think the some of the buildings being built currently all look the same. I haven't really noticed imaginative designs. It is interesting to me because when I walk around the city the buildings that stand out to me are the ones who look different from all of the rest. I wish more people who design buildings would be a bit more adventurous.
    I wonder what your thoughts are on the psychological effects of boring buildings on the citizens that live in urban areas such as New York. This post reminded me of an article I read online and it caused me to go look it up. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. A part of the article states:
    “The holy grail in urban design is to produce some kind of novelty or change every few seconds,” Ellard said. “Otherwise, we become cognitively disengaged.” The Whole Foods may have gentrified the neighborhood with more high-quality organic groceries, but the building itself stifled people. Its architecture blah-ness made their minds and bodies go meh.

    And studies show that feeling meh can be more than a passing nuisance. For instance, psychologists Colleen Merrifield and James Danckert’s work suggests that even small doses of boredom can generate stress."

    I wonder if this is taken into account when people design buildings in urban landscapes? Here is the link to the article in case you are interested: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/04/the-psychological-cost-of-boring-buildings.html

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  91. I have also experienced food getting over ripe. Like many others sometimes its to be too late to consume and ends up in the waste basket. I usually feel bad about it. Since its actually my fault for not eating it. But, I do see the world slightly differently after reading this post since you talk about the state of the plant before and after. Many parks are designed to work with the environment. I believe the designer has some idea that trees and bushes will grow over time. Many people will come to appreciate their work for years to come. I’ve come across the name Fredrick Law Olmsted before when I did some research about the designer involved with beautifying in town next door of Brookline. Unlike most of Boston, there is a different feel when crossing into that town from Boston and see all the tree lined streets. Designed landscapes and natural landscapes of course are related. Part of the design is aesthetic and the other is function. If I were to dig deeper, I’d probably want to know how to balance the two since everyone’s values are different.

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  92. Liked your post. I agree we have to look forward but I think planners and developers have salaries that are contingent upon efficiency and maybe profit so they are less likely to worry about the future repercussions :( I think Fredrick Law probably envisioned all the green growing in. When parks are built they are assumed to be in the process of growing right? If I was to look further into this I would love to know how they come up with the designs and what is it really based on? Does the location of the state effect the design?

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  93. This post was thought provoking. I always consider the current building style in our suburbs. We no longer build so that buildings will last. Nothing like our ancestors did. Buildings that would stand the test of time. Living so close to Washington DC it is easy to see the difference in quick construction and buildings that were made to last. What will we leave behind? Well thought out infrastructure? Wider roads, little stacked (seemingly collapsible) houses to fulfill the ever increasing need of housing in a booming and ever developing suburb? The houses itself will not last longer than 40 years to only be demolished and rebuilt to more modern standards. How much different will it be in 50 or a 100 years?

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  94. This post made me think about my current residence. It is much older than most buildings around me. During the recent hurricane season, unlike most people in my area I was the only one that felt safe and secure. I often wonder why planners and designers just all the sudden stop building long-lasting construction. I understand that is all about profit and revenue. However, to me it sounds completely bizarre that the newer buildings are not built to last. The comparison with the strawberries and our current landscape had me thinking. I never thought about it like that before. I wonder if the planners and designers from recent projects had a look into the future and had seen all their properties destroyed in a matter of seconds would it matter to them? Would they dedicate more time and effort, even if it meant for a smaller profit? I mean, isn’t their actually work and performance supposed to mean more?

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  95. Could we apply your same questions to city planning? At what point do city planners take into account future growth? How many times have we witnessed the expansion of freeways and ask ourselves, "what where they thinking?" Like Professor Sam said, "it's not rocket science."

    But sometimes change is like a pendulum-swinging back and forth between extremes. The drought that California has been experiencing has made a huge impact on landscapes - saying goodbye to annuals and perennials most landscape gardens now include natives & drought tolerant plants. But what happens when we get serious amounts of rain? What about Northern California, today? Will yesterday's drought tolerant gardens function under the current conditions or...? How can we find a balance between function and design, today and tomorrow?




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  96. In this post it presents that although we are not fortune tellers, we should be able to take a look into the foreseeable future and think more about the footprint we are leaving today for the environment 50 or 100 years from now. For instance, where I live below sea level on sinking ground, technology was not as profound then as it is now, but just thinking about the impact maybe we wouldn’t be in such a fret about the ground sinking 4mm per year and then having to come up with a better system to pump water back underground.

    Ashley Wallace

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  97. I am starting to realize the connections between course content and it’s actually really exciting. With this article, thinking about eventual growth and expansion pushes us to think about the actions we take in our landscape and the eventual consequences (planned or unplanned). I realize now that we need to be more observant of our landscape around us. We need to use our findings to think critically about how the landscape affects us and use those findings to think about how we can plan for the future.

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  98. This may seem silly, but it reminds me of the Betta Fish Plants I created for a class project for my daughter's elementary school science class. I had a lily plant growing in a vase with only spring water and a Betta fish. My plant survived for years, but the Betta fish was replaced a few times. It was a beautiful representation of a harmonious relationship between plants and animals and their adaptation to an environment. On a bigger scale, providing an environment where plants, animals, and humans don't compete for food and water, but each work in tandem to benefit the lives of each other. The rainforests are a perfect example of symbiotic relationships until humans intervened. The Amazon covers on 4% of the earth's surface. The rainforests release water vapor into the air and circulate water around the globe. It helps provide a balance of carbon and oxygen for our planet. It also provides 20% of the earth's oxygen. Our past lack of understanding of the importance of the rainforest, combined with the need for land for food production to feed the 30+ million people living in the region has damaged the ecological balance of our planet, not just the region. I believe our awareness of the world's ecology is the most important issue we face. Can you tell I'm very passionate about our natural world?
    This article is a great read and provided facts for my post.
    https://www.pachamama.org/blog/flying-rivers-of-the-amazon-rainforest-a-critical-rain-generator-for-the-planet

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  99. This post made me think of the city my dad used to live in, Reston, VA. It was a planned urban development, meaning everything from the parking width if the streets to the "green space" was engineered to a "t"... but it was engineered with human comfort and convenience rather than mindful planning of the ecosystem as a whole. There are four artificial lakes, and several small parks and gardens in between buildings. Courtyards, so to speak, replace any natural grass space. They are manicured, fertilized, and perfect in appearance, but as a native of a suburb of Massachusetts, it had the appearance of a zoo exhibit. It was made intentionally to look natural, but it was too flat, too neat. The lines were too straight. It was as though the development were designed to exhibit humans in their element of shopping with ease and they could park near all major shops, and drive quickly down wide, flat roads to get to their shelters. Even the houses looked artificial. The homes were cookie cutter, brick, and square. They were vastly different from the brick homes in Boston, Cambridge, or any of the suburbs heading toward Western Mass that I find familiar. While the city had mastered convenience and manicured beauty, it did not feel authentic.

    In sharp contrast, the city of Boston was built over centuries, around landscape, and into landscape. In the cities outside, such as Cambridge, Arlington, or Somerville, trees lean almost against many homes. Branches overhang rooftops and press against windows. Perhaps the homes were built without much consideration for the sapling that would one day grow into a towering oak, but landscape was still allowed to exist. The city streets curve around in dense neighborhoods, forcing commuters to yield to the homes the were built without destroying the many large trees and hills and small ponds that scatter the area.

    Newer cities, such as Reston, seem to confuse engineering and modernization with destruction of the existing landscape. With the tools available to design cities, it may be more cost effective to plow through what exists, but perhaps humankind and nature could exist together more successfully if we were all forced to yield to what held its roots far before we did.

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  100. Unfortunately, many of the architectural ways we've built upon our world have been done on the whim of man. If you look at different periods in history, for example the Baroque period, you will see huge, ornate churches and lots of ornamentation, which obviously used a large amount of natural resources, especially stone. But then there's also the type of organic architecture that Frank Lloyd Wright became celebrated for, and while his designs were based on the objective of harmony between the outside and inside, they still impacted the resources and wilderness on which they were built. For the past decade or so, there's been a lot of emphasis on "green living" and trying to preserve as much natural resources as we can, but really, that's only a small part of the battle that our planet faces. It took trillions of years for our landscapes to grow, yet we're now seeing how quickly they can be abolished, so long-term planning and having the ability to think ahead on the behalf of future generations is becoming more and more crucial if we want them to be able to enjoy our world just as humans have for so long.

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  101. Before reading this post I had an understanding that adding green spaces into urban landscapes was a healthy decision. However, this post has led me into a different direction. My shortsightedness was around the urban landscape being built up around these green spaces. It created a question that made me see the world differently: why don’t we create massive green spaces that also incorporate all urban landscapes? Instead of earmarking just a small plot of land in a city and building around –why can’t we build into the surrounding landscape? I’ve experienced many different natural and urban landscapes across the globe and some countries, like Costa Rica, are attempting to morph the two together. However, we must face reality: humans will continue to flourish and need places to live and work. There is a tiny chance that growth and construction will halt, so I agree with the overall tone of this post that we need to be “landscape-aware” when building and expanding. Additionally, creating a green space is different than allowing one to occur naturally. As stated in the post, did Frederick Law Olmsted take into account the natural plants and trees in the area when contrasting his green space? Or was he influenced by his own opinions and likes?

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