Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pedestrian Friendly Streetscape in Santa Cruz

Greetings one last time from Quito! Our flight leaves at 9 this evening from Quito to Lima, and we will be spending the next few days in Miraflores on the coast of Peru.

I wanted to write another post that I hoped to write prior to getting sick, and this one is all about Landscape Architecture.

As a Landscape Architect, and my wife will attest to this, when I travel I notice things that others may not. For instance at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), the very touristy location of the equator dividing the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, I took note that there was a lot of curbing separating lawn from the street, or sidewalks, but behind this curb was planted a row of flowers, a nice and simple touch.

Flowers Behind the Curb
Mitad del Mundo
So when we were in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island I was immediately taken by the impressive streetscape improvements to the main streets in town. Puerto Ayora is the most developed and populated of the towns in the Galapagos, and is a major jumping off point for dive cruises, and day trips to the other islands. The town boasts a population of 12,000 people and tourists are everywhere! It was my favorite place in the Galapagos, that we visited, aside from everything below water!

The mayor of Puerto Ayora is allotted a certain amount of money each year for various projects and if he doesn't use, he loses it. He decided to construct some pretty awesome streetscape improvements to give back to the residence and visitors of the town.

I was able to (crudely) recreate a plan and section to denote what the extent of the proposed improvements was to be.

Puerto Ayora Streetscape                                     

As this project was currently under construction there were several posters of renderings illustrating the before and after. As the group from the boat walked around the town looking for dinner one night it was neat to give them an idea of what landscape architecture actually is!


There were also parts of the project that had been finished and I was able to get some pictures of these areas. I was very impressed at the craftsmanship, and was a little jealous we couldn't have a little more of this type of thing in Buffalo. However, due to snow and other hinderances a streetscape of this exact design may not be best suited for Buffalo. In Puerto Ayora, it works just fine!

Left Side of Improvements
(Left to right: Sidewalk, Bike Lane, Curb/ Planters, Vehicular Travel, Pull Off, Sidewalk)
Right Side of Improvements
(Left to right: Sidewalk, Bike Lane, Curb/ Planters, Vehicular Travel, Pull Off, Sidewalk)

Looking Back at the Start of the Improvements
I took note of a few interesting construction practices. I noticed that they used several base courses, and their lowest base course is volcanic rock which is readily accesible to them. I was curious if there was a NYS DOT Item number for that, as well as a documented compressive strength. Ha! It was also impossible not to notice that the entire construction site was not blocked off except to vehicular traffic. This means that locals and tourists alike were walking through the limits of work right as the workers were cutting and laying pavers, spreading and compacting the base course and demolishing the existing streets. Not only was this a little dangerous, but if I was working there, this would drive me nuts!!

It was very cool to see a project of this type being constructed right in front of us as we walked through town. What do you think?

See you in Peru!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Galapagos and Garbage?!

Backing up a little to our entrance into the Galapagos.  I, as I believe most, had the idea that all areas inhabited or not within the Galapagos would be clean, beautiful, and pretty close to perfect.  Although this is the case in a lot of the National Park many areas where people are living are plagued by waste.  It appears as though tourists are more educated and have more respect for the fragility and beauty of the islands than those who live there.  For instance on our 2nd day on San Cristobal we saw discarded beer bottles along the waterfront promenade and a baby sea lion walked right through them.  It was a heart wrenching site.  In addition local men seated near a restaurant where we ate one day opened beer after beer and threw the bottle caps into the street, extremely sad.  I can't stand seeing people litter, and in a place as pristine and unique as the Galapagos, this disgusts me even more.

While in San Cristobal, we had a decent amount of rain.  These rain storms really showed the extent of the garbage and the impact on the adjacent coast and wildlife.  As the storm systems in the islands are not equipped to treat stormwater before runoff meets the ocean, any and all waste that is on the streets and sidewalks finds it way into the storm structures into the pipes, and consequently right into the ocean.  It is extremely sad to see sea lions, turtle and crabs wading around through muddied water filled with debris.  As sea lions are incredibly playful, when they see things floating in the water they automatically assume it is a toy. This can prove harmful when this item is a paintbrush that has fallen off of a boat, or as in the picture below a colorful shopping bag that has become stuck around the sea lions neck.

Shopping Bag Stuck around Sea Lion

On our dive trip the crew told us they had a 'surprise' for us one day.  This turned out to be an hour stop for us on the nastiest beach near the Coast Guard station while the boat refueled.  We arrived to the beach via two dinghy's and the people in the first dinghy literally pulled a sea lion free from a giant plastic sheet that was floating in the water.  There were several sea lions on the beach and a couple in the water, so despite the fact that there was as much garbage floating in the water as you would find in a Wal-Mart dumpster we were all about snorkeling with the sea lions (possible source of ear infection?).  You can get an idea of the garbage from the pictures below, but to see it in person is truly sad.

Sea Lion in Garbage Laden Water
Sea Lion and Garbage on the Beach
In closing, if more, or better yet all, of the local people could be better educated of the fragility of the ecosystem they live amidst the security of this pristine place would be much better off.

Doctors and Hospitals in Quito

Greetings from Quito, Ecuador.  I apologize to those that have been keeping up with my blog for the length of time since my last post.  However after 6 types of medicine, a local remedy (Te de Coca, tea from the leaves of the cocaine plant), a visit to a local doctor, a visit to the local hospital, and $140 later I believe I am (finally) on the mend.  I developed some ear issues while diving that quickly escalated to extreme pain.  I was able to take Amoxicillin in the Galapagos and that helped significantly.  Upon arrival in Quito, slight pain in my ears returned accompanied by an unrelenting headache, and extreme fatigue.  I assumed it was the extreme change in altitude but went to the doctor just to be safe.  I was told that I still had an infection and my Eustachian tubes were inflamed   I paid him 20$ cash and walked out with a script for 2 medications.  I began taking the medicine immediately, but after another day and a half of increasing severity of the pain I decided to hit up the local hospital.  You know some people collect shot glasses from their travels, and others t-shirts.  Me, I go for medicine and local medical clinic visits.  I have a feeling most of you would be quite surprised about the facilities in an Ecuadorian hospital.  The doctors and nurses care greatly although they are limited in english, and the facilities are clean modern.  The son of the owner of our current hostel accompanied us and was very helpful in relaying symptoms en Espagnol to the 2 nurses and 2 doctors that checked on me.  They determined that my infection was still bad and the medicine I had been given thus far was insufficient to combat my issues.  SOOO, the remedy?  The nurse, a grown woman, told me she was going to have to give me 2 my butt.  Do you remember that all you 6 year old selves out there, shots in your butt?  I have to emphasize the grown woman/ nurse thing because she giggled and acted almost embarrassed in having to do this.  Heck, I did not care a single bit.  You can do whatever you want if it is gonna make me feel better.  So about 20 minutes after the shots they brought me 3 types of pills and a bill for...$106.83 (this is my total bill for about a 2 hour hospital visit, 2 shots, and the 3 types of medicine).  I believe I would be looking at least a grand in the states...with insurance.  So there you have it, a detailed account of my past few days in Quito.  We have done a little sight seeing, but it is hard to enjoy it while your head is throbbing.  Hopefully things will be totally better now, and my blogging can return to its semi-educational, semi-satirical manner.  Ciao.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back to the 'Grind'

Hola chicas y chicos. It has been awhile, and the trip has been amazing thus far.  Upon arrival in the Galapagos we had two nights in San Cristobal, the aforementioned (amazing) live aboard to Darwin, Wolf, and Bartolomei Islands, one night in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, 3 nights on gorgeous and quiet Isabella Island, and 1 last day and night on Santa Cruz. Tomorrow we take a taxi to the small port on the north side of Santa Cruz before boarding a small ferry to cross the Itabaca Channel to Baltra Island board the bus and fly to Quito. Needless to say we have been covering some ground and used almost every mode of public transport available. I have been mentally compiling a couple of blog posts and hope to share them with you soon.  Tomorrow as we move from literally sea level to 2 miles above sea level I will have some downtime to acclimatize!  Until then I will leave with a couple of photos of friends we have made along the way.
A Couple of Our Seal Friends
San Cristobal Island
Frigate Bird Hitching a Ride
Aboard the Humboldt
Friendly Neighborhood Green Sea Turtle
Isabella Island

Pair of Tortuga Bay Marine Iguanas
Santa Cruz Island

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Landscape Architect in Ecuador-Spanish, Playgrounds and Interior "Design"

Guayaquil, Ecuador
Hola from South America. Today has been a fairly low key day as our delayed flight got us into Guayaquil around 12:30. We found our accommodations to be less than desirable (read: pretty terrible), however what do you expect for 20 beans a night. At least there was AC. Its hot down here. Our room is directly adjacent to the on ramp for a motorway and this led to an increase in noise as morning came. The 'piece de resistance' was the influx of noxious exhaust fumes being pumped into the room as the morning hours wore on. I love the smell of fossil fuels in the morning!

We spent our day wandering around the Malecon 2000 ( which is a very impressive (and long) riverfront park. It has small restaurants, many water features, small ponds, manicured and natural gardens, and tall overlooks that you can climb to check out the water and the city. There are two playgrounds along the Malecon and needless to say Ecuadorians do not share our same affection for playground fall surfacing or safety regulations in general. To this end, can anyone see anything that could possibly go wrong in the picture below.
There is No Ecuadorian Equivalent of OSHA...Just Sayin'
Pea Gravel Fall Surfacing for the Playground

Angled Planting Beds
Malecon 2000 from Tower Platform
Cerro del Carmen
In addition we walked inland a bit to explore the city further and climbed up to see the Cerro del Carmen. This plaza sits atop a small foothill overlooking Guayaquil and the 30' tall statue of Christ keeps a watchful eye on the city folk.  After a long day of walking and sitting, and eating and walking, and sitting some more, we reluctantly made our way back to our room for showers and prep for tomorrows early flight to the Galapagos. Andrea took the first of what was to be 2 cold showers.  I looked around the room to soak in the beauty of the situation. Brown 'rag roll' painted walls with painted cracks to make it look ?older and ? more ?worn down in here? (yes the ? were intentional it was my brain not computing). There was a puke green 'rag rolled' wall as an accent. An 18" Samsung CRT Television hung from a steel bar protruding from the aforementioned brown wall. What a site! That brings us to the bathroom. A toilet, sink and shower within about 5 square feet. The sink was the size of about half of a large water melon, and there was something odd about the shower. I noticed 3 wires extending from the wall into the shower head. Now I may be no electrician, but I do believe that people try not to combine electricity and water. No such concern here. These wires provided power to, what I am guessing, is a mini heating element within the shower head. Whatever the case may be, as I adjusted the shower head to prevent 90% of the water from shooting out of the side of this thing I got zapped, arm numbingly zapped not once, but 4 times. Good grief. Here is to a good night sleep and off to the Galapagos in the morning. Adios.

Tiny Sink
Electric Showerhead?!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Miami-Version 2.0-Parkin' n Divin'

South Pointe Park Promenade
I found myself with a little bit of time this evening and since it was an excellent day, I decided I had to share.  Today was a balanced diet of relaxation, design inspiration, and underwater exploration.  We met up with a friend for dinner last night from the days when we lived in Miami.  It was a nice evening of catching up and good food.  He highly recommended visiting South Pointe Park at the very southern end of Miami Beach.  We were able to leave a little early this morning and check this place out prior to our dives.  I believe this place just jumped up on my list of favorite places in South Beach.  It-is-gorgeous.  I did a bit of research and found out that it is product of Hargreaves and Associates, and their expertise is evident in the all of the details throughout the park.  There are unique views to the port and the city in the distance, the waterfront promenade is gorgeous and complete with handicap accessible ramps to enable closer access to the water for all users.  Although most of Florida is quite flat there is significant berming within the park to allow activity at different elevations in the park, and the berms themselves serve to separate different use areas.  The park is even outfitted with a playground, sprayground, wood pier and sundeck accessible by a long winding walk, or concrete and earthen stairs.  The park is really something to see.  If I lived in South Beach, I would run here on a daily basis.  Check out the few pics I have posted below of the park.  I have also included a few of our underwater pics from our 2 dives today.  It was great to be underwater and test out all of our new gear prior to the Galapagos...NEXT WEEK!

ADA Accesible Walk
The berm separates another walk and the playground.
A flippin' Sundeck.
View to the Ocean from the Berm

Open Green Space
Promenade-Miami in the Distance
Now for a few dive pics!
Fan Coral on the Sunken Barge
I'm On My Level
Leo-Guardian of the Memorial Garden
Wifey at Neptune Memorial Reef
We will probably be back...



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Miami- I Like the Nightlife Baby...

Collins Ave (The Clevelander- my first SoBe experience in 2004)
Miami, what a city!  It seems so alive and as 'the night man cometh' the activity grows exponentially!  We landed yesterday and took the Express bus to our accommodation (courtesy of  This was the first time we walked any bit of distance with our full pack on.  It went well, for both of us!  We spent the day getting settled and relaxing on the beach.  After nightfall we decided to explore a place that we enjoyed when we lived in Miami 'back in the day,'  Lincoln Road (  A hot spot for activity, Lincoln Road has it all: restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, art galleries, and of course the local 7 Eleven.  This is a dedicated pedestrian thoroughfare and people use this space 24-7.  The restaurants face the pedestrian promenade and present interesting opportunities to the waiters trying to dodge oncoming traffic to reach their tables (located in the center of the 'road').  People flock to this place for all of its eateries and shops, and as the night falls the place come to life, literally.  You can even see several 'living statue' performances here.  There are several water features and even a central lawn area of artificial turf that parents and children alike find themselves enjoying!  Although I would be hard pressed to live here again, I do enjoy the occasional visit.  South Beach and its surroundings have a lot to offer for everyone.

Lincoln Road Sculptural Element

Lincoln Road Water Feature 

'Playtime' -Artificial Turf Common Space ( can be done)

Ghost Elvis, 'Cause Why Not?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bridges and Pocket Parks in NYC

Hello from Long Island!  We have been graciously hosted by our good friends Kevin and Emily for the past 2 days.  It has been a quick trip in the Big Apple, but we have seen a bunch.  Today we spent a bit of time in D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).  This place is just a great example of New York's ability to capitalize on places that could easily be left vacant.  In a narrow strip of land along the East River between the bases of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges lies Brooklyn Bridge Park (  This park is complete with a pedestrian promenade, small sections of lawn, planted berms, a carousel, and views of the East River and Manhattan.  Even on a cold Sunday this area was being used by many people.  This is one small park of the many that make up the NYC Parks System.  I highly recommend a visit on your next trip to New York.

Beneath the Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan in the Distance
Planted Berms Manhattan Bridge Behind
Park Panorama

Saturday, February 2, 2013

This Is It. Don't Get Scared Now.

And so begins the travels of a Landscape Architect and His Passport...and his wife...and their bags. See you later snowy Buffalo.

Oh Snap!  Bags and Boarding Passes!