by Cortney Kirk, Michael D’Angelo, and Meghan Marchie
The request to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists over drivers has seen a dramatic upswing towards the end of 2013. One of Copley Wolff Design Group’s mixed-use projects in downtown Boston was just approved to proceed with zero on-site parking spaces for a 175-unit condo development. CWDG’s involvement in several Boston projects embraces streetscape improvements such as dedicated bike lanes with bike parking and ample pedestrian-friendly walkways with places for pedestrians to gather and relax. Several influential national and city agencies released comprehensive design guides in 2013 that look beyond the car when it comes to urban design. The National Association of City Transportation Officials published The Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide, as well as The Boston Transportation Department’s Boston Complete Streets in 2013. These new design guides will ask 2014 projects to closely assess if designing for cars is necessary.
Pop-up parks are another demonstration of the urban desire to reconnect with the pedestrian. These small-scale parks provide engaging public spaces without the long-term planning and construction that is required for a more permanent park. The nature of a temporary design allows for a greater degree of creativity, resulting in space design that tends to assert a more contemporary edge. Ranging from parklets (public green spaces that occupy one or two curbside parking spaces) to entire streetscapes, pop-up parks provide urban dwellers an opportunity to engage the street in a more playful manner.
Solar-powered furniture is starting to make an appearance in streetscape and public park design. With our increasing reliance on cell phones, tablets, ebooks, etc., designers have begun to accommodate these technologies with outdoor furniture that double as charging stations. Combining form and function, these public modern seating opportunities use solar panels to convert sunlight to usable energy that is stored in onboard batteries. A new prototype of solar-powered seating, developed at the MIT Media Lab, is currently found in Boston’s North End Park along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Along with charging capabilities, these seats are imbedded with “social lights” that shift color depending on user usage.
A new approach to green roofing has appeared in blue roof technology, an approach that is centered on the slowing and storing of storm-water by using various kinds of flow controls that regulate, block, or store water. A blue roof can temporarily collect or harvest water for non-potable uses on site. The runoff can also be diverted and reused for landscape irrigation. This trend is also moving towards disaster relief, with blue roof systems having the ability to treat harvested water, allowing it to be used for drinking purposes in the event that the water supply becomes contaminated. This form of sustainable technology has already been implemented in cities like New York and Toronto.
Green roof open spaces for businesses and residents have become a prerequisite for increased lease values and competition for tenants. Social and business programming requires a variety of scales and amenities from fountains and pools to play areas, fire pits, grills, TV’s, and outdoor kitchens. In addition, rooftop agriculture has begun to take place on institutional and community buildings as the availability of urban land becomes increasingly scarce. Roof plantings have the ability to manage storm water runoff, as well as decrease the urban heat island effect. Rooftop gardens also contribute to LEED certification of any project.
The popularity of living walls in colder climates is increasing as monitoring technology becomes more integrated with these green structures. Maintenance companies can remotely monitor a living wall’s ph. levels, moisture content, and disease to determine if irrigation, fertilizer, or pesticides are needed. These on site systems can pinpoint any area on the living wall and distribute appropriate amounts of water or nutrients to the affected zone. Regardless of this new monitoring technology, landscape architects and living wall designers need to be cognizant of the many factors that go into plant selection for these shallow-rooted vertical gardens.
Therapeutic gardens are a reinvention of “healing gardens” that are more contemplative oases for patients and elders. Therapeutic gardens and trails take the patient outside to continue their rehabilitation and extend the mission of the facility to the out of doors.
Cortney Kirk, ASLA, LEED AP is Landscape Architect at Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston.
Michael D’Angelo, LEED AP BD+C is a Landscape Architect at Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston.
Meghan Marchie is a Landscape Designer atCopley Wolff Design Group in Boston.