April 2008 Newsletter
Living Systems: Innovative Materials and Technologies for Landscape Architecture
by Liat Margolis and Alexander Robinson, Birkhauser Publishing, Basel, Switzerland, 2007

Living Systems presents a fresh look at landscape systems through a descriptive and illustrative categorization of innovative materials and technologies. This look emanates out of material and technology performance criteria from the perspective of natural systems, such as exchange, flow, metabolism, and growth. The authors challenge conventional case study methods of landscape architecture through a survey of built and non-built projects from the perspective of emerging sustainability models and cutting-edge material use. A consistent theme throughout the piece is the need for the landscape architect to come to a project with a sense for its infrastructure and performance, while maintaining a role in the overall design aesthetic of a project.

The book provides a paradigm for thinking about landscape systems and landscape materials through a focus on issues of ecological process and the various interventions that the projects propose. After describing these categories, the authors delve into a survey of some of the technologies and products that can be cross-referenced to the projects as a way to provide readers with an understanding of the means and methods used to achieve the various project case studies. These are a useful review of the old and new and range from use of traditional materials such as porous concrete and asphalt to more modern materials such as photocatalytic cement, a medium that effectively reduces airborne pollutants while maintaining the typical function of cement.

In the end, this is a book that evokes ideas that are relevant to contemporary architecture and landscape architecture. It is also solid in its survey of non-built projects as a method of pushing various theories. These include vertical landscapes as well as build projects that feature applicable materials and technologies for designers to consider right now.

Patrick Curran, ASLA, is a Landscape Architect for SWA Group in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at pcurran@swagroup.com.


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