Archive for October, 2016

It is not every day that your team receives a national award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. But, today was that day and I feel very proud and honored. I am also very contemplative and reflective. These feelings are not only for the recognition of our work and the great comradery amongst our team; they encompass a deeper sense of honor for belonging to a larger profession of extremely intelligent, dedicated, creative and committed individuals.img_8727

 

Landscape architects are a group of people that care deeply about our earth and finding ways to remediate the tremendous damage our environment has endured. Our solutions look not only at the ecological impacts but also the social factors of environmental justice and even beyond that to re-establishing our lost spiritual connection to the natural elements and the mythological creatures that represent and live in nature.

 

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Landscape Architecture Foundation Declaration. A group of landscape architects, including Ian McHarg, originally wrote the declaration as a desperate response to the environmental atrocities of the time. Fifty years later, leaders in the field of landscape architecture gathered to update that declaration with a new 21st century vision. It is a beautifully crafted one-page call to action for landscape architects in this age of complex environmental and cultural challenges. It is a document that fully resonates with my design manifesto. Its existence reveals how much we need this to unite us, rather than separate us in competition. We are a small group of like-minded individuals with a common goal; the time is now and we must work together to make significant policy changes if we want a good life on this earth for future generations.

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img_8709img_8675img_8635This year, the ASLA conference was in New Orleans, Louisiana. Unlike previous conference locations, I felt very connected to New Orleans. Perhaps the power of being in such a magical place played a big role; the majestic Mississippi, incredible architecture, fantastic music, amazing food, warm and welcoming locals make it easy to feel connected and fall in love with the Crescent City. Mysticism is all around; it evaporates from the bayou and hangs out in the inescapable humidity, there is no option but to embrace and celebrate it. People mob and vandalize cemetery tombs to get the blessings of the voodoo priestess; play music in the streets that move you to unknown depths, celebrate Halloween with a very unique parade filled with dancing sirens, monsters and Elvis’; and create the most elaborate Halloween home displays I have ever seen. Spirit is so alive in New Orleans.

fullsizerender-1I knew New Orleans was a good place for contemplation, on my dreams that have come true, when I found a pearl in my oyster. The dream of having a landscape architecture firm with some of my best friends where we get to play and be creative and design gardens for children and bees together; the dream of presenting my ideas about places for grievance in the public right away and celebrating and honoring death, bringing spirit to our every day life; the dream of being recognized by our colleagues with an award for the work we are doing to take the parks and nature to under represented communities that need it most.

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The BASE team converged at New Orleans for the conference, where we stayed at a wonderful and super funky crooked house in the Garden District. The house had the feeling of our beloved Pink House in West Berkeley (where BASE operated for over three years) bringing an element of comfort and nostalgia. Almost a year ago, Andreas left the Bay Area and moved to Portland. I miss him a lot and being able to spend this time with him in New Orleans was a beautiful gift. Together, we attended a presentation by Peter Walker and William Johnson. Pete was our neighbor at the Pink House; he was also the man who inspired and encouraged me to become a landscape architect. Fifteen years ago, when I first met Pete, I knew nothing about landscape architecture or who he was. He was incredibly generous with his time and took me out for lunch, he was also kind and extremely patient with me, and gave me great advice: become a landscape architect!. By example, he taught me a great lesson, always make time to people interested in the profession, teach and be a mentor. I will never forget that.

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The key note presentation was a conversation between Pete and Bill sharing stories of how they met at Harvard School of Design, how they worked together throughout the years even as they lived in different states, how they always called each other for projects and creative advice. Pete ended the presentation with the dedication of his book “Peter Walker and Partners: Landscape Architecture-Defining the Craft” to Bill, his classmate, teacher, friend, and partner. I could not help but get teary-eyed and feel my heart sing with joy sitting next to Andreas, my classmate, teacher, friend, and partner. I know this is only the beginning of a long journey. I feel inspired by our profession and committed to always do the best work I can do, to stay involved and connected with other landscape architects, to keep learning, especially from the plants, and to share what I know and inspire the next generation. I feel honored to be a landscape architect and to have mother earth as my boss, like my dear professor Chip Sullivan says.

Life is beautiful and full of magic!

 

 

by Julia Prince

Since its inception, the activists behind The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard have had to demonstrate the popularity of and acclaim for their vision among the sf-beautiful-logo-300
community in order to gain permitting, funds, and support– a process typical of any public project. Last night, however, at SF Beautiful’s 45th Annual Beautification Awards, the community spoke for itself to honor the achievements of the first median’s garden on Dolores Street; the inaugural segment of the Pollinator Boulevard to come to fruition. With the second median already underway, the project aims to transform the entire street in following years from a corridor of thirsty turf to one of
captivating gardens and teeming pollinator habitat, a challenging but attainable goal that will require the continuous engagement of the community.

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45th SF Beautification Awards at the Marines Memorial Club

SF Beautiful is the humble and tireless group behind numerous, critical milestones that have both preserved the character of and promoted propitious development within our beloved city. As said in their mission statement, for over 60 years, SF Beautiful, “…has been instrumental in creating and delivering community-centered design and public benefits.” Some of their successes include, “Saving San Francisco’s cable car system…Launching the first citywide tree planting program…Capping the number of billboards in the city…Legalizing sidewalk seating…[and] Creating developer and business tax set asides to fund public art & greening.” Every year, SF Beautiful, “honors San Francisco’s stewards and placemakers” that contribute to keeping the city beautiful, inviting the public to both take part in nominations and attend the event.

This year’s event was held at the classic and elegant Marine’s Memorial Club, where a diverse group of inspiring visionaries filled the exquisite Crystal Lounge. Tickets were
extremely affordable and well worth the poignantly moving experience that took place. The tables of refreshments were almost as impressive as the discourse among the intriguing array of attendees preceding the awards ceremony. It was truly humbling to be in a room of such golden-gate-nomineesprogressive, passionate, change-makers. There were representatives from every, unique neighborhood of San Francisco celebrating what appears to be a fabulously pervasive fabric of organizing and activism enveloping the metropolis. At a time when negativity has seemed to siege “the news” of San Francisco and criticisms of its development patterns are often more common than commendations, remembering what makes this place great and shedding light on the multitude of community-driven projects that have been materializing all across our foggy hills this year was nothing short of tear-jerking. I will admit it; I cried. Even more of a joy than winning an award was simply being in the presence of and learning about the accomplishments of this constructive, bright, effective group of people.

But, winning the award was pretty exciting too (and did I mention we got to arrive in a limousine?) SF Beautiful recognizes nominees within a number of categories, such
as placemaking, grassroots action, converting under-utilized space, bringing nature to the city, and creating neighborhood character. This year, in a pool of remarkable competition, The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard came out on top winning the Golden Gate Award for advancing the, “…union of nature and the built environment.” It was a powerful moment standing in front of the room, adorned in bedazzled bee brooches, accepting the award with Patricia Algara, Founder of With Honey in the Heart, Principal of BASE Landscape Architecture and leading force behind the Pollinator Boulevard, Natalie Martel, landscape architect with BASE, Andrew Sundling, cofounder of With Honey in the Heart, and Chad Beecher, resident of 38 Dolores Street and whom we refer to as “the garden angel” for all he does in stewarding the first median on a daily basis.

From left: Presenter, Patricia, Chad, Natalie, Andrew, Julia

From left: Jared Press, Interim Director of Build:Public, Patricia, Chad, Natalie, Andrew, Julia

The closing remarks made by SF Beautiful Board Member and longtime leader, Bob Friese, left the audience with a precious piece of guidance; to get young people involved in keeping San Francisco as the city we know and love. He declared the undeniable fortune many in the room had met with economic growth in the Bay Area over recent decades, but made the astute observation that the development resulting from such gains is endangering the very reasons many of us came to this city from elsewhere in the first place; because it has a charm and character that can only be found here. And as more young people populate our neighborhoods from other cities, states, and countries, in search of the very same prosperity an older generation looked for and found, it is important to remind them what San Francisco is really about and nurture this great city’s spirit in the face of impending change. The purpose of SF Beautiful is not to deny development, but embrace it, and bring different stakeholders together to guide its trajectory for the good of all San Franciscans.

Dolores Street captured by Cezar from Chad's apartment before the event. SF is beautiful!

Dolores Street captured by Cesar from Chad’s apartment before the event. SF is beautiful!

I see much the same purpose in the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard. As a 25 year-old, one year resident of this city, I have often felt like part of the problem. However, it is through the Pollinator Boulevard and participatory projects like those celebrated last night that people like me are welcomed, even as newcomers, to be part of the solutions that have been work-in-progresses of SF Beautiful and its community partners since 1947. I would love to see more young adults, newbies like myself, the employees of Google, Facebook, Salesforce, the engineers, designers, the tradespeople, the bartenders, artists, and activists, all populating our workdays on the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard and filling the Crystal Lounge at next year’s SF Beautification Awards. Because if I have learned anything in my short time in this beautiful city, it is no matter who you are, if you find yourself here, you are part of this– you are responsible for upholding a collective identity around a truly great place– and that takes all kinds.

Aside from just my own sentimental sentiments, the makers of The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard are beyond proud to be inducted into this extraordinary group of change-makers. We are excited for all that the many connections made last night have to bring: opportunities for collaboration, seeking and giving support, and growth toward a brighter future for San Francisco. I will leave you with what Patricia said with simple eloquence while we were around the dinner table, celebrating our success, last night– “Life is beautiful.”

And lastly, if you did not see this in our most recent blog entry, please check out the following video of the second median sheet mulching day which showcases our stellar volunteers and how the neighborhood is encouraging the continued work of the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard. Also, a big thanks to Peter, one of the volunteers featured in this video, for nominating the Pollinator Boulevard for the SF Beautiful Golden Gate Award. Thank you, Peter!

Written by Julia Prince

A pollinator at work in the first median.

A pollinator at work in the first median.

This past Saturday, October 1st, the Pollinator Boulevard opened its wings a little wider as we finished mulching the second median on Dolores Street. With the first median at the intersection of Market Street already completed and in full bloom, transforming the second median from dried out turf to a flourishing garden puts us one step closer to our goal; creating a continuous band of pollinator habitat down the medians of historic, Dolores Street.

The fruits of our labor; a bee transporting red pollen.

The fruits of our labor; a bee transporting red pollen.

Why, you ask? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard, allow me to explain. This is the passion project of BASE and Patricia’s nonprofit, With Honey in the Heart, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of pollinators and increasing their habitat. The vision of Patricia and the community which has materialized around and embraced the project is multifaceted: to beautify the street that is starved for color and life, to create habitat for the pollinators we need and love, to give nature a place in the city, to educate the public about ecology, to bring the community together over common goals, and to give the neighborhood a sense of identity to be proud of.

Sheet mulching day volunteers.

Sheet mulching day volunteers.

We were able to get our hands in the dirt once the Department of Public Works approved the plan for the second median, the local community contributed to the final design, Prado Group payed for the turf removal and Whole Foods Market and Bayview Green Waste offered to donate the necessary materials for the task. To pull together enough people for the job, we drew from the network of volunteers that has surfaced in support of the Pollinator Boulevard. It was great to see some friendly faces, welcome newcomers, and deepen the connections that have been born from this project. We are proud to establish common ground for local stakeholders invested in the health, beauty, and ecology of the neighborhood to meet, share ideas, and impact their community.

A beautiful day to sheet mulch!

A beautiful day to sheet mulch!

After tearing out the existing turf, sheet mulching is the second step in installing the newest garden. It is also a necessary step in establishing a fruitful, organic, landscape. Often times, when gardeners are transforming an unproductive, weedy, area into a new design, they will apply chemicals to eradicate weeds and additional chemicals to build nutrients in the soil. Sheet mulching is a permaculture technique that both builds rich soil and eliminates weeds without the need for chemicals that have harmful effects on the environment. Layers of nitrogen and carbon rich materials are spread over the ground, breaking down naturally over time, proliferating organic matter in the soil, and suppressing weeds.  Making sure weeds are at bay before installing a new garden is vital at a site like this where the existing turf has been laying its seed in the soil for decades.

Spreading cardboard.

Spreading cardboard.

To make this step of the installation process possible, Whole Foods Market provided recycled cardboard and refreshments for the workday while Bayview Green Waste donated two truck-loads of mulch. At 10 am on Saturday, once our people and materials were all in one place, the first item on the agenda was to lay down cardboard. It helps to think of sheet mulch like a layer cake.

The cardboard is the substance and it is necessary both in choking out weeds and feeding carbon to the soil through decomposition. Once every inch of the median was covered in cardboard so no weeds stood a chance, the next task was to pick up our shovels, rakes, wheel barrels, and especially our stamina in order to evenly spread out the two heaping piles of nitrogen-rich mulch. This is the frosting. It took about 4 hours to finish the entire process, with time mixed in for chatting and snacking. Most volunteers came at the beginning and saw the entire task through, but we were happy to have people stop by and help out in whatever capacity they could.

Spreading out the mulch over the cardboard.

Spreading out the mulch over the cardboard.

What was really the cherry on top of our sheet mulch cake was the number of people walking or driving by on the street who stopped to commend the work we were doing. One local resident from around the corner stopped to tell us that, “I used to have to pollinate the tomatoes in my garden with a tiny, little paintbrush. Now I have bees!” It is clear that the first median has touched a lot of people whether they enjoy the way it looks or they have noticed the abundance of pollinators now populating their once abandoned gardens. Check out the video below and you will find, the consensus is pretty simple; the Pollinator Boulevard is filling a need in the neighborhood and residents have a defined stake in its success.

 

After a productive day of expanding pollinator habitat, everyone was exhausted, but we will have plenty of time to recuperate until plants are ready to go in the ground. Sheet mulching requires time for decomposition and the thorough eradication of weeds before new plants can be positioned in the landscape, thus our next work party is scheduled for the Spring. This will be the final step of installation where the garden will truly come to life. We will keep you posted!

Stay tuned for a planting day work party this Spring. We would love your help!

Stay tuned for a planting day work party this Spring. We would love your help!