Over the last few years there has been a significant increase in general interest as well as critical discourse within architectural circles about infrastructure.  Although some of it may be a kind of austerity or pragmatism during a flagging economic era, one would hope that this shift embracing performance based design is a positive move forward from an aesthetic based upon shapes, signs and symbols.  There’s a lot of thinking and writing about it and with good reason.  From the success of the High Line, shovel ready economic stimulus projects,  flooding and levees on the Misssissippi,  sexy bridges, and the burgeoning influence of green infrastructure, infrastructure is the set of  fundamental systems that allow us to function as a society, a body politic. As designers it seems as though we have been distracted by the shiny baubles for too long.

Three upcoming events in Seattle that touch on infrastructure in month of May:

Throughout May, Stokely Towles performs, “Life in the Gutter” at Seattle Center on Fridays at 7pm and Saturdays at 1pm. From the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs website….Towles weaves interviews, observations and historical research together with images and props to talk about runoff in a humorous and illuminating fashion, revealing the world of drainage and stormwater and the people who manage its flow.

On May 9th, Mia Lehrer will present a talk entitled “Calibrating Infrastructure through Landscape Architecture” UW Architecture Hall at 6:30.  From the UW website…Lehrer will discuss the transformation of urban infrastructure and its reintegration into the community fabric shifting emphasis from single-purpose land use to multi-use, multi-benefit land planning.  I worked with Mia about 10 years ago and her vision to re-imagine the Los Angeles River as a dynamic open space, habitat and integral part of the city is really commendable.  I look forward to hearing her speak about the river as well as some of the other more recent work.

And thirdly in a tangental relationship to infrastructure is an exhibition hosted by AIA Seattle called “EXPERIMENTING IN PUBLIC SPACE: New Technologies & Making in Seattle’s Landscape Architecture”, which utilizes Rich Haag’s Gas Works Park as a starting point, for which the High Line and other post industrial public open spaces owe a huge debt.  A teaser from the AIA Seattle website…This collection offers glimpses of the ways in which Seattle’s community of landscape architects have pushed the boundaries of practice to experiment in new technologies in landscape architecture as they address the multiple layers of public space. It features the various roles that landscape architects play in working with public spaces, particularly those that are suspect such as toxic post industrial sites. The opening reception is May 10th between 4:30 and 6:30 at AIA Seattle.


About jim gerlach

A seasoned landscape architect living and working on beautiful Vashon Island.
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