Our studio is invested in exploring diverse and emergent landscape typologies which serve both as aesthetic experiences in the cityscape and also function as integral components of a radical green urban infrastructure.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met Breuer
This year, we had another opportunity to work with the Swiss landscape architecture firm, Vogt Landscape Architects, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art at The Met Breuer. The first phase of our collaboration has already been installed in the sunken garden the Brutalist architectural masterpiece on Madison Avenue, formerly home to the Whitney Museum of American Art, and will be completed this spring. One hundred forty Populus tremuloides, quaking aspen, have been planted with a ground cover of Vaccinium angustifolium, lowbush blueberry, partridge berry and moss.
The sunken garden of The Met Breuer is envisioned as a diorama, an ex-situ vignette of nature elsewhere. Vogt’s concept draws on two distinct forest typologies: the eastern forests of the Adirondacks and the colonies of quaking aspen that notably populate the western states and Canada. The landscape team selected quaking aspen, as the most widely distributed tree in North America and for its distinctive habit of forming dense thickets. To capture the spirit of a naturally occurring grove, the young aspen have been planted closely. The tree’s quick rate of growth will allow visitors a chance to experience the dynamic nature of this pioneer species, as the trunks extend upwards from the sunken courtyard to street level along Madison Avenue.
After exploring many concepts for the understory of the Populus, Vaccinium angustifolium was selected to represent the ground condition of eastern woods, where it is often found as an expansive mat. For the installation, Future Green Studio explored a new application of planting for the office in the use of blueberry sod, 3” thick pieces of layered roots and stems – a mainstay of landscaping in New England, and especially Maine, often used for erosion control and on the edges of natural areas. Lowbush blueberry is a ubiquitous, rhizomatous colonizer of open ground, found in sunny locations as well as in considerably shady aspects in moist to droughty soils. The deciduous shrub has a dramatic fall color, forming crimson carpets along the forest floor, rarely taller than a foot. In winter, plants are easily identified by their green and red twigs, followed by small urn-shaped flowers in the spring. A bronze flush of new leaves emerge after flowering and fruits appear midsummer. The planar condition of the blueberry mat will heighten the experience of the vertical aspen, as will the color blocks of autumnal foliage, red on the ground, yellow above.
As part of an ongoing street design project, Future Green Studio is exploring the rich history of the street as an integral part of public life. In dense urban centers, where new parkland is difficult to assemble and finance, streets play an increasingly important role in the civic realm. Thoroughfares carry the pulse of everyday life; through small design interventions, they can be transformed into vibrant, universally accessible public spaces.
Precedents, such as the Rambla in Barcelona and Broadway in New York City, demonstrate that a carefully designed street is not merely a means of circulation, but a destination in itself. We’ve evaluated the circulation, adjacent uses, design features, and maintenance structure of successful great streets around the world. We are applying this research to our designs for two proposed streets in Washington DC: Neal Place adjacent to the Gallaudet University campus and Half Street leading to the Nationals baseball stadium. We are drawing on the history of transportation planning in DC, beginning with the L’Enfant plan, which established a grid crossed diagonally with grand avenues punctuated with public plazas. The design challenge in Half Street will be creating a curbless environment that feels safe, supports the adjacent retail, and accommodates the large crowd that gathers on game days. The design team is currently exploring several methods of directing and slowing vehicular traffic, integrating stormwater management, employing resilient vegetation, and organizing fixed and temporary program.
LA CENTRAL GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE GRANT
Future Green Studio is pursuing a Green Infrastructure Grant through the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for La Central, a proposed 5-acre mixed-use affordable housing development in the Bronx. Located in one of NYC’s planned priority CSO areas, La Central addresses the city’s larger goal of reducing combined sewer overflow that pollutes the city’s waterways by managing the stormwater on-site, thereby preventing it from entering the East River’s combined sewer outfalls.
Across the site, rainwater is collected from all the building roofs and courtyards and stored in a smart tank, which feeds the irrigation system for the lower level green roofs and the at-grade courtyard. The design, which features multiple intensive green roofs, a GrowNYC roof top farm, and an allee of trees, manages over 92,000 gallons of stormwater, capturing more than the first inch of rain that falls on the site and surpassing standards established by the DEP. In addition to managing stormwater, the project’s green areas are a respite for residents, provide food to the community, and act as an educational resource. If selected, the DEP will aid in funding the design and construction of La Central’s green infrastructure system.
La Central is both a destination for shoppers and locals, and a series of enhanced through routes for neighbors and commuters. On passing through the landscaped courtyard and along the sidewalks and streets, pedestrians and vehicles experience a series of spaces for relaxing and playing, woven into the circulation of the city.
The streetscape at La Central integrates bio-retention swales as a productive storm water element, playing up the importance of water management and natural processes. Native plantings are utilized throughout the street tree planters. Benches, bicycle racks, and street trees line La Central softening both the architecture and scale.
At the heart of the development, the courtyard is anchored by two plazas and consists of pergolas and benches, an interactive play surface and lawn areas for lounging. The plazas are highlighted by a tree canopy that brings the scale of the development down to the human. Integrated LED lights and misters activate the plazas adding an ephemeral touch.
The residential rooftop garden similarly combines both active and passive recreation space with planted mounds, lounges, and pergolas while the extensive green roofs have simple footpaths weaving in and out of natural plantings.
Future Green is partnering with The Hudson Companies, Related Retail, ELH/TKC, LLC, Common Ground HDFC and Comunilife, Inc. on this project.
SoHo Art Walk: Delving into a historical landscape
At Future Green Studio, viewing the city through diverse lenses is critical to our active engagement and the enrichment of our design sensibilities. Research into the historical layers of our city and the overlooked art references which we walk past and live alongside, provide glimpses into a NYC’s cultural past and clues to how artists have historically interacted with our city. Earlier this spring, the FGS design team had the privilege of taking a guided ‘Art Walk’ tour through SoHo, a New York neighborhood steeped in the complex layers of land use, occupation, art and architecture - many times hiding in plain sight.
The SoHo Art Walk showcased incredible art works on the street such as the carved sidewalks by sculptor Ken ‘Rock’ Hiratsuka, unassuming “Subway Map Floating” by Francoise Schein, magnificent cast iron buildings that were former warehouse spaces later occupied by artists such as Donald Judd and Gordon Matta-Clark and gallery visits to incredible installations by land artist Walter de Maria. A dive into SoHo’s historical narrative reveals the reoccupation of an industrial wasteland by artists in the 60s, 70s and 80s that catalyzed SoHo to be a hub of our contemporary counterculture. Relics of its past life however, are still ever-present, revealed through its material, stylistic and spatial repertoire.
Future Green team visits Glover Perennials
The FGS design team took a field trip to Glover Perennials, a wholesale grower on Long Island, as part of the firm’s technical review day. As a landscape architecture and urban ecology practice, we believe it is imperative to study, investigate and push boundaries through detailed understanding of plants. The day included interaction and a tour of the nursery with owner, Jim Glover, who graciously shared his expansive reservoir of botanical knowledge- giving insights into trends and changing cultures of planting in addition to explanations on ecological relevance of species. Such visits are critical to experimenting and expanding our botanical knowledge base, as well as in bridging the gap between the design, operation and performance of a landscape.
Post-industrial landscape and adaptive re-use at Empire Stores
At Future Green, we are actively delving into the realm of adaptive re-use through our project at Empire Stores - a former coffee warehouse at the North edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, strategically situated between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The two warehouses built in 1869 and 1885, consist of historical elements such as “coffee chutes and hoisting wheels”, the original mechanism for the movement and packaging of coffee that was used throughout the building. We are collaborating with Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) to add a rich historical layer to the project, giving it additional meaning while creating a synergy between the landscape, the building and the re-use of this former industrial site. Our aim, in addition to bringing a unique public space to Brooklyn Bridge Park, has been to retain and reinforce the legacy of the site and the building of Empire Stores.
Our landscape intervention seeks to capture the ethos of a site - not by recreating a past era in a nostalgic way but by uncovering the historical traces and revealing their potential to poetically connect to the modern city dweller. The design draws on the history and context to bring the processes, materiality, abandoned growth and formal typology to the public front. The publically accessible rooftop park includes blackened steel planters with wood benches made from salvaged timbers from the building’s interior. The wood slats of the bench are engraved with historical references of products once stored in the building – like coffee and other exotic wares.
Additionally, we engaged the site context and studied the edge condition of the East River. The rocky shoreline provided a strong analog to the buildings stout nature and historical resiliency. The rip rap of the river edge provided a formal language for the design of the benches and planters that form the basis of spatial organization, movement and experience on the roof.
We also aim to expose the evocative wild spontaneous nature of planting at Empire Stores, an experience only brought by the result of neglect and time, further tying into the historical narrative of the project. At Future Green, we are constantly looking to investigate spontaneous urban plants at derelict sites, vacant lots or at post-industrial sites. The post-industrial landscapes of New York are under reformation and we find it necessary not to romanticize, but evoke the history of a site through a reinterpretation of its landscape.
Future Green Studio Field Trip to The Zucker Natural Exploration Area
Future Green Studio met with Christian Zimmerman, Vice President of the Prospect Park Alliance in early fall at the Zucker Natural Exploration Area to delve into the emerging realm of natural play and exploration. Zimmerman spearheaded the effort to repurpose over 500 trees that fell during super-storm Sandy in the park to create a unique “playground” located in the original Olmstead & Vaux children’s playground area of Prospect Park. The area nestled in the woods of the park beckons us to rethink the idea of play and its associated risks for both parent and child.
Tree trunks have been beautifully carved and repurposed as benches, thrones, stepping stumps, stools, tunnels, gateways, water channels and much more to pique the imagination of all who visit - adults and children alike. The unexpected anthropomorphic qualities of upside down trees bring the exploration area a whole new dimension. These elements sit within the woodsy context of the park with mulch, sand and gravel; not a single piece of safety equipment or surface is in sight.
An insightful lecture at FGS by Kate Papacosma, landscape historian currently at the New School, brought historical depth and context to the evolution of play and playgrounds - covering ground from the romantic and progressive eras to present day. Today, a momentous shift can be seen away from the standardized, mass produced and safety coded playgrounds that historically developed from the mid to late 20th century. The idea of play is under reconsideration where looser, flexible elements that allow ownership, imagination and intuitive thinking are permeating the space of the previously prescribed, plastic, sterile playground. From the development of “free play” through the concept of imagination play to the current more sensorial and tactile ‘nature play’, children are being encouraged to take ownership of their play spaces to interact with natural materials and textures.
Our research interest of such exploration areas that transcend the boundaries of safety and sterile playgrounds has been channeled in our recent project at the rooftop of Brooklyn Children’s Museum, giving the museum a unique setting for natural play. We hope to communicate the benefits of exploration and natural play through the museum’s new roof due to open spring 2015 to further this practice and re-think the idea of landscape, play and the role of the designers who still operate within the realm of standardizations and codes.
Future Green Studio conducts summer walks at the edges of the city in search for Spontaneous Urban Plants
Last week, Future Green Studio ventured to the edges of the city to catalog spontaneous urban plants for the continually growing weed value matrix and map found at www.spontaneousurbanplants.com. Sites included the shores of the post-industrial Newtown Creek, the declining fantastical Coney Island, Jersey City’s urban center, and the disturbed site of Breezy Point, which was severely damaged by super storm Sandy in 2012.
This research aims to engage the general public in discourse surrounding spontaneous vegetation and encourages anyone to participate in documenting weeds around the city in order to foster a better understanding of the ecological impacts that weeds can have on the environment. By providing ecological information and elevating the aesthetic of the weed through Instagram photography, we can introduce the public to a higher level of appreciation for our surrounding urban environment and the benefits of the often overlooked and unwanted weed.
Using environmental aesthetics and ecology principles to value weeds in urban environments
Future Green Studio continues to research Spontaneous Urban Plants with Pratt research fellow Marcel Negret. The weed value matrix, which stems from David Seiter’s project in the Gowanus and the D3 Natural systems competition last year, establishes a framework that integrates cultural and performative significance in urban environments.
The ongoing research by Future Green Studio integrates principles from urban ecology and environmental aesthetics, allowing for an unbiased debate on Wild Urban Plants. From an ecological perspective it is crucial to understand plant characteristics, their interaction with the environment, and equally considering both the services and disservices they provide. (Del Tredici 2010 - McPherson 2012) Large cities, culturally diverse and rich, are constantly shifting with complexities unmatched by other environments; anthropogenic emissions and the continual disturbance of the earth’s surface with the constant renewal of the built environment are reason enough for us to reconsider the role of the weed in these disturbed, and to most other plants, uninhabitable sites.
Environmental aesthetics of engagement (also known as the non-cognitive position) beckons appreciators to immerse themselves in the natural environment and to reduce to as small a degree as possible the distance between themselves and the natural world (Carlson, 2012). Other authors have described the use of aesthetics of engagement as a tool to appreciate urban environments. Artists and writers such as André Breton, The Situationists and its founder Guy Debord and Robert Smithson executed multiple excursions in an attempt to understand landscape aesthetics through a unique perspective (Careri 2002). At Future Green we have been developing a similarly phenomenological approach to the environment by inviting members of the public to interact with the weeds by traversing the urban environment on foot and documenting their findings through social media application Instagram. This allows us to consider the aesthetic value of the environment from the individual’s perspective through immediate and hands-on experience.
We will be launching the Spontaneous Urban Plants (www.spontaneousurbanplants.org) website in May. Through innovative mapping technology and data extraction, it will highlight the SUP’s ecological, cultural, and aesthetic values. Join us and help us expand our inventory on Instagram by tagging your photos with #spontaneousurbanplants.
Weed Cuttings in Washington D.C.
Our Profiles of Spontaneous Urban Plants research project has been working its way into our built work. In August of 2012, Future Green Studio took a field trip to Washington, D.C. to document the beautifully unruly, overgrown condition found at the Atlantic Plumbing site. While on site, we indexed over 35 different species of native and non-native plants. Many of these plants are both drought and flood resistant while requiring minimal energy and resources to maintain, making them especially well-suited to cope with the shifting global temperatures and extreme weather events of a warming planet. Some of the found species were incorporated into the Atlantic Plumbing planting palette, reframing “weeds” as things of purpose and beauty. Plants such as Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), Aster (Symphyotrichum) and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) have been incorporated into design elements like window boxes and a façade scale trellis.
This past spring we took a second trip to the site to harvest cuttings and seeds from the plants specified in our palette. Armed with a backpack full of Ziploc bags, a utility knife and a bottle of water, we took cuttings from Campsis radicans, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, and Hedera helix. We also collected seeds from the Campsis and several grasses including Sorghastrum nutans. We have had mixed success with the cuttings, but those that survived have been producing new shoots and are going strong. Research will continue in the spring when we attempt to sprout the seeds. Ultimately, we hope to return cuttings and seedlings to the transformed Atlantic Plumbing site – providing vegetal continuity from the site’s past into the future.
Future Green Studio continue research on Spontaneous Urban Plants and develop an interactive inventory on Instagram, showing location, existing conditions and highlighting the S.U.P.’s ecological, cultural, and aesthetic values. Join us to develop the inventory on Instagram by tagging your photos with #spontaneousurbanplants.
Future Green Studio has teamed up with Pratt Institute PSPD graduate student Leonel Lima Ponce to facilitate and further Ponce’s research and development of a sustainable infrastructure project in favela Pica-Pau. Pica-Pau sits north of the polluted Iraja River. During storms the main street in the community is often flooded with sewage partially due to the combined sewer system. Pooling of sewage in the narrow alleys provides a breeding ground for diseases and what little fresh water there is, the community distrusts. Drastic changes in elevation in the northern part of the site creates “areas of risk” characterized by informal water and sewerage infrastructure, open sewers, and eroding hillsides. Leonel Ponce worked with NGO Catalytic Communities and the Pica Pau community to establish the critical areas on site, potential risks and possible solutions through a program of participatory workshops.
In late March, 2013, a transect walk of favela Pica-Pau was guided by a small group of residents. In it, a series of maps were drawn to document community perspectives of infrastructural deficits in real time, using universal iconography that could be easily understood by all. Gathered data was then charted in a matrix by infrastructure type and geographical zone, in order to understand community priorities. The walk induced interest from observing residents, who later had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion through a visioning workshop.
On Tuesday 21st May, FGS hosted a design charrette with Rupal Sanghvi from HealthXDesign and environmental engineers Eric Rothstein and Ian Lipsky from EDesign Dynamics alongside Leonel Lima Ponce to discuss some of the key health and infrastructural issues in the Pica-Pau community. Leonel Lima Ponce presented his previous work in participatory infrastructure planning, which generated some of the ideas for a more pointed future design workshop. FGS envisage this project as a great opportunity to take more agency in creating green infrastructure by facilitating a collaboration at the confluence of Science, design and policy.
To have an eidetic memory is to possess the ability to recall memories with extreme precision, not just a visual memory but an all-encompassing multi-sensory experience. This affects a rare number of people. Our daily saturation of visual material only separates us further from those that possess an eidetic memory. In response to this, we are developing unique multi-sensory interventions in an attempt to encode memories that are more encompassing, closer to that of the eidetic.
Our first exploration is the modular concrete paver, found all over the city and insignificant in visual appeal. Through specialist surface treatment we have emphasized the material’s properties by expressing its responsiveness to moisture. It reveals patterns in response to the moisture content in the atmosphere, heightening the senses of the passer-by; in turn imprinting the moment on their mind.
Pratt Institute Graduate Program in Environmental Systems Management: Productive + Performative Landscapes
With all of the available roof space and vacant lots in New York City estimated to equal thirteen Central Parks in area, the potential to
transform our cities from grey to green is immense. Our studio is
invested in exploring diverse and emergent landscape typologies which
not only serve as aesthetic backgrounds to the cityscape, but also
function as integral components of a radical green urban
As a lens for understanding how different typologies function, we find
particular utility in classification by its performative and/or
productive contribution. Performative typologies can be characterized
by their capacity to retain (e.g. storage of rainwater for gradual and
subsequent release) or to remediate (e.g. decontamination of soil).
Productive typologies have the ability to yield consumptive goods
(e.g. food) or generate energy (e.g. solar or wind).
This is the principal organizing framework for a course being taught
by FGS principal/founder David Seiter this coming spring at Pratt.
Through a patchwork of productive and performative landscape
typologies – such as the ecological green roof, the street tree
orchard, and the urban micro farm – new paradigms are being
created for urban public space that are not limited to the
prototypical landscapes of the park or garden.
The course draws upon the studio’s own research interests in
Performative-retain : green roofs, brown roofs, green cloaks, street
bioswales, vertical living walls/structures