Sunday, May 26, 2013

Farming and Landscape Architecture

Balloons Over Cappadocia
I have always thought there to be a link between farming and Landscape Architecture; both fields (pun...not intended) focus on reshaping land to better serve the end function.  Just as we would visit a site to find the best location for a building, a farmer must decide how to best parcel his land out for growing and grazing, and how to alternate plots over time.  Both of the analysis are conducted with a heavy basis on natural features, such as sunlight, rainfall, and topography.

With grocery stores on every corner and convenience stores on every block, the connection to our food (myself included) becomes distant at best.  We get hungry, we buy a bag of chips, or an apple.  We get thirsty, we buy a bottle of water, or a soda.  Supporting local farmers, and food co-op's are becoming more and more popular.  However, for the most part we rely on someone else for all of the food we consume.  What if you didn't have that option?  What if you lived in an area with extremely challenging geography, limited finances, no vehicle, and only small markets to serve immediate needs?  While hiking in Central Turkey we saw exactly what you could do.

We recently visited Cappadocia in Turkey (Kapadokya in Turkish and pronounced the way that is spelled).  This is a region in the Asian part of the country and is quite isolated from some of the more populated areas in Turkey.  There are several towns that make up this region but we stayed in Göreme.  Göreme is in the center of the 'Lunar Landscape' that has made Cappadocia so famous to tourists.  Volcanic cones dot the arid landscape, some of which served as homes and churches thousands of years ago.  People in the area still live in carved out homes inside the soft rock, but most of the cones (also known as Fairy Chimneys) lie empty.

Volcanic Cone Diagram
Volcanic Cones with Doorway in the Middle
Volcanic Cone in Foreground Abandoned Cave Homes Beyond
 As we explored the surreal landscape we found a family farming on a decent sized parcel of land.  All work was being done with hand tools and the women walked the field in bare feet.  I noticed the land was very moist but could not see a source of water!  Some of the plants were being harvested while others were being planted, and there were many plants at various stages of growth throughout the plot of land.  I didn't want to linger and stare while they worked, so we moved on to where we could look on from higher ground.  From the higher location all of the simple details about this farm became clearer.  

Water Shaped Valleys
Stone Cliffs in Pigeon Valley
 These people were truly living off of the land.  There was no car, and no driveway to the basic cave dwelling where they appeared to live, and the plot of land they were farming was a simple marvel in itself.  They had selected a parcel of land nestled between high walls of the soft white stone.  The soil appeared to be very fertile in this area due to it's color and the quantity of produce being harvested and currently growing.  

I could also see how they managed to transport water to all of the planted area.  The area slopes slightly from higher to lower ground moving away from their dwelling and they have created terraces along this slope.  They have formed a reservoir at the high end of this slope to collect water that falls from the stone cliffs above.  The water is then moved (by hand) along a long trench around the entire planted plot.  Smaller channels branch off of this outer trench and feed the individual planted furrows.  Some larger shade trees have been left to protect the growing plants from the harsh sun.  I have put together a few sketches below to better illustrate all of this.

Blue: Reservoir//Yellow Arrows: Large Perimeter Trench//
Blue Arrows: Small Feeder Trenches
Terraced Farm Section
The next day we checked an item off our bucket list and took a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.  It was a fantastic way to see a lot more of Göreme.  As we drifted high above the ground I saw more and more farm plots similar to the one I had seen between the cliffs the day before.  As we flew past I had a much better appreciation for not only the work that goes into each one of these farms, but all of the work that goes into putting food on my plate every day.
Farm Nestled in a Few Cones
(Could the Cones Act as a Dam for Water to Help Irrigate?)
Farms from 1,500' Feet

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Napoli, Italy: The Ancient Streets of Pompeii

Ruins in the Forum with Mount Vesuvius in the Background

Pompeii is the ancient city that perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  The eruption buried the city in volcanic ash preserving many of the buildings and even human bodies below it.  You may remember seeing pictures of Pompeii or pictures of the plaster casts of bodies found during excavations from history classes growing up.  I definitely remembered this and was very much looking forward to the visit.

The ruins of Pompeii were different from the other ruins we have visited on our trip due to just how much of the city was preserved.  Entire building walls are still standing and the old streets are intact just as they were during the days when the city was inhabited.  

In current streetscape design we try to focus on pedestrian access while still accommodating vehicular traffic.  While walking through the ancient streets our guide shared some things with us that showed old ways of pedestrian focused design.  

For instance, the streets used to flood with storm water as well as dirty water dumped into the streets by the people living and working there.  Due to the high level of water in the streets, stepping stone crosswalks approximately 12" high were installed to allow people to cross the streets while not having to step into the filthy water.  Another element that is an old example of something we have refined and continue to use today is the curbs lining the streets.  Although the curbs are extremely high and the sidewalks are quite narrow it is still an early example of separating pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  On the main street they installed white lava rock in the joints of the large cobblestones to reflect the moonlight and help guide those using the street.

Raised Stone Crosswalk and Cobble Street
Close-Up of the Crosswalk Stones
Narrow Side Streets with Large Curbs
Wider Main Street with Wider Sidewalk
Cobblestone Streets with White 'Reflector' Stones
One last item that is something we strive to do on many projects these days is the use of native materials.  This is evident in much of the early construction, but for the purposes of this blog I want to highlight the use of large volcanic rock as the street cobbles, and the large blocks of volcanic rock used as the curbs and sidewalks.  In those days access to foreign materials was much more rare than today, therefore obtaining local materials for construction wasn't just a desire it was a necessity!

Volcanic Rock Curb
(The Holes were for Tying Up One's Horse in the Street)
Design standards for streetscapes have come a long ways since these days.  Although there are no tree pits or bike lanes it is unique to see early examples of design elements we continue to use today.

Messina, Italy: Off Street Parking?

Dome and Bell of Tempio Votivo di Cristo Re
Today we visited Messina, the smaller port town in Sicily.  We started out the way we typically do in a new place, in search of cappuccino and espresso (or depending on the time of day a cocktail).  As we walked deeper into the town past the souvenir stores selling Limencello and 'Godfather' t-shirts I was soon faced with a question.  'Why the heck am I having to wind my way around parked cars...ON THE SIDEWALK?'  It seemed to me this is simply how the local drivers interpret parking.  Never mind the 4" curb and the fact that the side walk is for, I don't know, walking.  It may be that there is simply no other possible way to accommodate a growing number of vehicles here.  Hailing from a place that will ticket you if you are parked on the wrong side of the street on certain days of the week, I was shocked that this was acceptable.

Curbs Don't Mean a Thing
With Narrow Sidewalks Cars Make the Route Impassable
Smaller Cars Allow People Like This
to Sneak Into the Tightest of Spaces
Just Nosin' On In
We also found out rather quickly that just because a light to cross the street at a crosswalk may be green does not mean the drivers will stop.  Even the crosswalk signs (seen below) indicate the best way to cross is by running (apparently while holding a briefcase and pulling along a girl wearing pigtails who is holding a dust pan).  It was a very interesting contrast after visiting many places on our trip with significant emphasis on the pedestrian traffic.

Crosswalk (or run...)

 Messina is a really charming Sicilian town by the sea, just mind the vehicles!

Kusadasi, Turkey: Setur Marina and the Extreme 'Green Roof'

Kusadasi,  pronounced Kooshadasee, is a small port town on the southwest side of Turkey.  We arrived early in the morning and had booked a shore excursion to the ancient city of Ephesus for part of our time at port here.  We typically do not purchase shore excursions through the cruise line as they tend to be very over priced.  However, limited time at this port plus the distance to the ancient city and a special reduced rate pushed us to book this excursion.  

The Library at Ephesus
Ephesus was incredible and we learned a lot,  but the focus of the entry comes from further investigation of something that caught my eye as we passed by in our bus headed to Ephesus.  

As we rode in the bus past the shore I noticed a walkway that started flush with the sidewalk along the street and quickly angled upwards out towards the sea.  It was flanked with planting beds and I was instantly drawn in.   I leaned over to my wife and told her that we should check it out when we got back from Ephesus.  She, of course, was overjoyed at the idea of checking out yet another pier/ sidewalk/ park thing all in the name of Landscape Architecture.  She is a great sport about me being a tree nerd, what can I say, she's a catch.

After we returned from the ancient city we started out in search of this mysterious sidewalk!  As we approached, I noticed right away that the reason the sidewalk sloped upwards away from the sidewalk along the street so quickly was to accommodate the restaurants underneath!  As we got closer I thought it was a pier with restaurants below and the pier above heading out towards the water.  When we finally arrived at the base of the sidewalk that angled up, the full scope of the area became clear.  This wasn't a pier and it wasn't an elevated sidewalk.  At the very least this was a promenade, but it felt more like a park.   Maybe it's a 'Promenark' or a 'Parkenade,' whatever it it is it gives the term 'Green Roof' new meaning!  I asked a gentleman who was working in one of the planting beds for the name of the area and he told me it was called 'Setur Marina.'  This was fitting seeing as this elevated park winded around the...marina.  It was a really unique display of Landscape Architecture synthesized with architecture and engineering.  As a Landscape Architect I can almost hear the hundreds of conversations to coordinate the design and construction.  The Structural Engineer talking to the Architect about column sizes, and both the Architect and the Engineer talking to the Landscape Architect about what areas can support what type of loads to enable proper design of the park.  Then of course the Landscape Architect pushing back requesting slightly larger columns to support more plants!
Small Beach in Front of the Shops and Restaurants
With the Rooftop Promenade Above
Approaching the Green Promenade
Heading Up...
Approximate 8' Width Stone Tile Walk
Lined by Geometric Plant Beds
The Angular Planting Beds become Curvilinear as the
Path Bends by the Sea
Setur Marina Worker Tilling a Bed
Geometric Shapes of Various Materials
are Introduced Into the Path
(From this angle you kind of forget this is all part of a roof...)
Open Pedestrian Area
(Roof Top Promenade May Be Seen at the Left)
Open Pedestrian Area
(Roof Top Promenade May Be Seen in the Rear of the Picture)
This was a great example of coordinated design and construction.  Every project we work on takes intense amounts of work in each field as well as equal amounts of coordination between design disciplines!  I am of course aware that there may have actually been no 'Landscape Architect' as we know it on this project but someone with a knowledge of site design and plants was definitely involved.  Without proper coordination from start to finish, this place may not have become the beautiful park that it is!

Santorini, Greece: Life on the Edge

No Snow Here, Just Beautiful Santorini
Snow capped mountains.  Cruising into Santorini, that's what it looks like: short rugged mountains covered in snow.  As you get closer and closer you can see the outline of the the pure white buildings and the signature blue domes of the Greek Orthodox Churches.  It is truly breathtaking, but not quite as amazing as the view from the top.  

After walking up the 600+ stairs from the port to Fira Town at the top of the cliff, we decided that when we come back we will pay the four euro each to take the cable car from the port.  This isn't because it is a
long walk and not something we could physically handle again.  It is because the entire way you are dodging donkeys...and everything that comes out of donkeys.  Nothing quite like a 30 minute climb through that smell to wake you up.
Eyore and a Few of His Closest Relatives Cascading Down the Steps

The View...'nuff said

The climb could not have been more worth it.  The stark white contrast of the buildings against the brown cliffs, blue domes, shutters and doors is beautiful.  The view of the other islands is amazing.  We made our way to Oia, another town on the island, that was even more beautiful.  This is where the quintessential  white building and blue dome pictures of Santorini are taken.  I was immediately struck by the beauty of these towns, however as a Landscape Architect I have so many questions.

The town is set on the top of a cliff and has been built actually constructing from the top down the side of the cliff.  Talk about a feat of engineering!   I can only imagine the amount of reinforcement that must go into tying the buildings back into the cliffs.  Additionally, not only is the town built on a clifftop, but it is actually the edge of a gigantic volcano caldera that erupted thousands of years ago.  As nature is completely unpredictable, this seems like risky business to those who originally settled here.  

Built: From the Top Down
View From the Top...Down
Stone and Concrete Retaining Wall
I am also amazed at the amount of site grading that must have had to go into the construction.  Although a typical grading plan as we know it probably doesn't exist for construction of this town, I would love to see it in all of it's complexity.   For example, finished floor elevation of one dwelling would have to equal the elevation of a second floor stair landing of another.  In another area, one ramp would have to tie into another staircase leading to the entrance of a restaurant.  And so on and so on.  
Stairs, Ramps, and Walls, Oh My!
The buildings in many locations have been carved into the side of the cliff.  There was one building currently under construction and at this point in the process was a series of caves with the cut rock still resting in the base of the cave.  At this point the construction process there is more cave than building giving it a very primitive appearance.  Even the finished buildings painted in pure white come across as simple but elegant.  This selection of basic materials and color helps to create a place that appears simply beautiful while underneath it all is beautifully complex.

The Building Under Construction is at the Center of the Image
This Gives you an Overall Idea of the Complexity of Oia
There is no doubt in my mind that we will return here...sooner rather than later.

Corfu, Greece: The Greek French Riviera

Our Magnificent Cruise Ship...
Seriously though someone should tell this guy
that the water goes on the outside of the boat.
After cruising for a full day and a half we made it to our first port of call, Corfu, Greece and the port of Kerkira.  We walked from the port through the streets making our way into the narrow alleys and shop-lined streets of the 'old town.'  
Narrow Streets in the Old Town

 We met a woman in one of the shops who was eager to talk.  She was born in England and had relocated to Corfu about 13 years ago.  She began to tell us all about her life, maybe a little bit more than necessary, but as I said, she was eager to talk.  She told us about her divorce, and about her three children and where they lived, how old they were, and what they did.  One was a model in Thailand, one lived in England and I can't remember the profession, and one son was a Landscape Architect in Australia.  Normally I would be suspicious about such a claim, like the exchange was more like a sales tactic and she was just trying to find common ground before trying to get me to make a purchase. However, this was an unsolicited conversation from her about her life. It's a small world!

Anyway, she gave us some tips about what to see and where to go and what to do.  She directed us to the main street in town that was near the esplanade and the old fort.  Before we left the store she told us that the main street area was known as the 'Greek French Riviera,' and when we arrived it was very clear why!

It was a beautiful wide street lined on one side by stores and restaurants, and on the other was the esplanade with the Mediterranean Sea beyond it.  The street itself was wide and incredibly clean.  It was predominantly for pedestrian use with only a few vehicles thrown into the mix.  Smooth 12 inch stone tiles were selected as the material for the street surface.  Above the first floor of the restaurants and shops the buildings appeared to be primarily residential.  Many of the buildings were clearly influenced by French style down to the small balconies and the color of the paint.  As these entries are supposed to be Landscape Architecture at a Glance I will wrap this up and let the photos tell the rest of the story.  

The Wide Main Street Looking Back into Corfu
Main Street Looking Out Towards the Sea
The Pedestrian Area
An Old Fountain at the End of the Esplanade
Residential Buildings as We Walk Closer to the Sea
The View at the End of the Main Street