This year’s annual CELA (Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture) conference was held in Los Angeles. CELA’s conferences focus on recent research and scholarship in all aspects of landscape architecture. Members of the academic community, as well as others, submit abstracts for peer review which, when accepted, are presented at the annual conferences. Ying Yu Hung’s abstract on Landscape Infrastructure was accepted and presented at this year’s conference.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the US needs an investment of $2.2 trillion over the next five years in order to bring the nation’s infrastructure to a satisfactory condition. These neglected structures need more than repairs; many require massive overhauls or completely new construction. The physical infrastructural system as we know it today— a system that is mono-functional, centralized, conceived in isolation and independent of the overall urban vision, has caused detriment to the city’s developing urban fabric, creating physical barriers to the communities nearby.
The aim of this paper is to reposition these antiquated and ill-conceived infrastructures within a new paradigm that is directly linked to their ability to provide multi-functional purposes. Three case studies will illustrate the imperatives of a more flexible and adaptable infrastructural system as the key towards a more sustainable future. The first example is the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas—a once neglected urban blight transformed into an ecologically diverse riparian corridor by SWA landscape architects. The project maintains its original function of sustaining heavy periodic flooding, while providing access for a variety of water-based recreation. In a related initiative, the Greenway Plan for New York City published in 1993 envisioned 350 miles of bikeways through the City that would create a continuous ribbon of “parks” as well as a healthful transportation alternative. Today, the City’s ongoing efforts in reconfiguring existing roads into separate dedicated bike and car lanes, has increased bike ridership and has transformed New York City into an inspiring model for urban living. Yet another case study explores the potentiality of a contingent infrastructural system whereby decommissioning strategies in Youngstown, Ohio, has lead to the consolidation of its current infrastructure (utilities, roads, bridges, etc.), to generate and identify new resources for future re-appropriation.
Today’s infrastructure is successional— akin to succession of ecosystems in nature, where modes of infrastructure may quickly become obsolete, redistributed, reinvented, and subjected to global geopolitical and economic forces. The uncertainty of today’s infrastructure necessitates the system to be designed for flexibility and adaptability, contingent upon the temporal needs of our complex urban society.
1. Charles Waldheim, Landscape Urbanism Reader, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006.
2. A Greenway Plan for New York City, New York City Department of City Planning, 1993.
3. Pierre Bélanger “Landscape As Infrastructure,” Landscape Journal, vol. 28, no. 1, 2009.