Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

October 17, 2019 by  
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When Wendy Morgan accepted a friend’s invitation to go see Elda Behm’s garden in the 1990s, she had no idea she would become entangled in a project for the next 25 years. “Elda popped her head around the garage and that was the beginning of it,” Morgan says with a laugh. “She was a saleswoman.” The Port of Seattle was planning its third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport . Behm’s home and garden were in the way, so the port slated them for demolition, but Behm wasn’t giving up her garden without a fight. By the end of the decade, her charisma and love of her plants would entice Morgan and 200 other volunteers to move Behm’s entire garden. As Morgan and her dog Snooks show my tour group around the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden , we see the rich community partnership that has grown up around the original effort to recycle a garden into a new space. Five local flower societies have started gardens within Highline, and many individuals pay $40 per year for a community garden plot. Some people include the garden in their daily dog walk, and hundreds turn out for the annual summer time ice cream social. The garden’s beginnings Elda Gothke Behm was born in 1913 and raised on a farm near Wenatchee, Washington. She became a certified landscape designer in 1953 and moved to Burien, near SeaTac, in 1954. “Elda never met a plant she didn’t like,” Morgan reminisces as we wander through the Elda Behm Paradise Garden section of Highline. Plants flourished under her care — enough so that the Burien City Council and the City of SeaTac (yes, there’s a city as well as an airport with that name) agreed to develop 11 acres in North SeaTac Park into a public garden, starting with relocating Behm’s plants to save them from runway three. The Highline Botanical Garden Foundation was incorporated to oversee the garden. Volunteers worked with the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac from late 1999 into the spring of 2000 to move plants, trees and shrubs from Behm’s home into a holding area while gardeners prepared the soil. Behm favored native species, especially rhododendrons. The port supplied cranes and trucks to hoist conifers and other trees into their new home. The garden is planted on former residential land that the port had claimed in the 1950s, demolishing houses for a buffer zone around runway two. Morgan, who promotes interactive tours by asking questions and urging visitors to guess the answers, wants to know what we think they found when they started digging. “Water heaters!” she tells us triumphantly after we guess wrong a few times. Buried appliances had been left behind, which had to be cleared out. But some trees and shrubs had survived from the long ago houses, so those are incorporated in the garden today. Behm didn’t quietly slide into the background once her garden was moved. “She stayed on the board even in her nineties,” Morgan recalls. “She never gave up leadership.” Morgan remembers lots of arguments Behm had with the board over features she wanted added to the garden. Her last project was a shade garden featuring ferns, hostas, hellebores and her special favorite black trilliums. Behm died in 2008 at the age of 94. The Japanese garden While the thought of transplanting one entire garden is astonishing enough, in 2005 Highline relocated a second garden. The Seike family came from Japan , settling in Des Moines, Washington around 1920. The three sons all studied horticulture and helped run the family-owned Des Moines Nursery. They were forced into an internment camp during World War Two. Unlike most Japanese families, the Seikes were lucky in that a German-American family tended their plants during their internment and returned their property intact after the war. However, a much greater wartime loss befell them: their second son, Toll, died while fighting in France. Later, in conjunction with the 1962 Seattle World Fair, they hired a gardener to come from Hiroshima and build an authentic Japanese garden in Toll’s honor. Fast forward to 2004. Again, the Port of Seattle wanted more property. This time, the Seike family nursery was on the chopping block. The city of SeaTac found funding to move the miniature mountain and waterfall garden to Highline. Now generations who were born long after World War Two can sit by the pond and contemplate this family’s suffering and perseverance. The garden today Highline covers 11 acres today, with half developed and half still just dreams in gardeners’ heads. In addition to grants, donations and bequests, Highline raises money at its annual plant sales. Volunteer coordinator and gardener Jolly Eitelberg propagates the plants in the garden’s greenhouse. The garden is an extremely peaceful place, despite being so close to planes landing and taking off. Many out of town visitors with long layovers find their way to Highline, Morgan says, as it’s one of the closest attractions to the airport. But the airport has one unexpected effect on the garden — Highline can’t put koi in its ponds, because koi attract herons , which could get sucked into jet engines. Morgan is especially proud of the victory garden, modeled after those who tended to the home front during World War Two, when fresh vegetables supplemented ration cards. Highline donates green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables grow in the victory garden to the Tukwila Food Bank. Morgan is a big believer in sharing food. She even takes our group into her plot in the community garden and offers us parsley, cucumbers and tomatoes. “Where do you think we get most of our volunteers?” she asks, a twinkle in her eye. “Most of our volunteers run red lights. And then when the judge says that will be 500 dollars they say they don’t have that kind of money.” They choose working in the garden as their community service so they can get outside, she says. Some like it so much they stay. After 25 years, the garden still inspires Morgan, who loves to share its message with visitors. To her, Highline is a triumph over what looked like insurmountable odds for Behm’s beautiful garden. She repeats herself several times over the course of our tour, driving her point home: “If you have something in your life that you think should be preserved or kept somehow, you can. If you gather people around you and keep pushing.” Images via Inhabitat

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Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

October 17, 2019 by  
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Modern homes come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems that architects are opting to take a simpler route these days when it comes to creating amazing designs. Case in point is the beautiful BL House by Mas Fernandez Architectos . Located in a coastal area in Chile’s Valparaíso region, the gorgeous home was built using prefabricated and modular materials, then topped with an eye-catching, origami-inspired metal roof. Tucked into a hilly landscape covered with trees and vegetation, the almost 2,000-square-foot home was designed to embrace its idyllic, quiet setting. Using the surrounding nature as inspiration , the team at Mas Fernandez used simple, cost-effective materials to create a design that would offer the homeowners a peaceful respite away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica The single-level home is gently nestled into the topography of the land in order to minimize impact. Using concrete pillars, part of the home is elevated over a gentle slop. The home is topped with a fun, origami-inspired aluminum roof that gives off the impression that it is about to take flight at any moment. The roof juts out over the home’s frame, shading the interior from harsh sunlight during the hot summer months. The roof also has two triangular cutouts that allow for natural light to filter into the two interior courtyards. The house was built using prefabricated materials that allowed the architects to keep construction costs down and minimize construction time. The project is clad in a dramatic, dark pine cladding with some walls made of glass panels. The five-bedroom home features an open-concept living, dining and kitchen area that is filled with simple, rustic decor reminiscent of a contemporary cabin. Massive, floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide a seamless connection between the outdoors and indoors. Additionally, the walls and ceilings are lined with native treated pinewood, adding warmth to the atmosphere. For outdoor space, the home has an enviable, open-air deck with plenty of space for seating and dining. + Mas Fernandez Arquitectos Via Dezeen Images via Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

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Architects use simple, low-cost and efficient materials to create spectacular home with ‘flying roof’ in Chile

Rural, modular home in Mexico allows for a wide variety of configurations

August 30, 2019 by  
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Mexico City- and Berlin-based Zeller & Moye has unveiled a unique modular home that allows for multiple horizontal and vertical configurations through its lifespan. Not only is Casa Hilo a flexible, low-cost, modular construction, but it is also a model for sustainable rural home design in that its materials (including locally made adobe) were chosen to create a strong thermal mass to withstand Mexico’s harsh summer climate. According to the architects, the Casa Hilo project was designed as a housing prototype for building family homes in rural areas with warm climates. Located in Apan, Mexico, the 970-square-foot abode is made up of four distinct blocks comprising two bedrooms, one kitchen/dining room and a bathroom. Related: Experimental timber prototype champions sustainable modular housing for the masses Whereas conventional homes normally consist of one large volume, this modular design sees various blocks that can be interconnected according to personal needs. The initial design is a horizontal, single-story home, but it could easily be configured into multi-story arrangements down the road in order to make room for additional family members. In a horizontal arrangement, the rooms have all been connected so that each room is a separate space with its own front door and roof terrace. Joined at the corners, the layout enables the house to embrace the landscape. Each “box” has its separate green space or garden, which becomes an integral part of the entire home. In addition to its remarkable flexibility, the project also boasts a strong sustainable profile . The boxes are framed with concrete and then filled with locally made adobe blocks. The natural materials provide thermal mass to the home, a feature that reduces energy loss and keeps the interiors at a comfortable temperature year-round. The windows and doors are made of bamboo lattice shades, which allow for natural light and ventilation to flow into the interior living spaces. Additionally, they pull double-duty as shade-providing pergolas to create pleasant areas for socializing outside the home. + Zeller & Moye Via ArchDaily Photography by Jaime Navarro and drawings by Zeller & Moye

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Rural, modular home in Mexico allows for a wide variety of configurations

Vertical forest buildings designed by Stefano Boeri set to center new Cairo Administrative district

August 22, 2019 by  
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In a world of high population growth, it’s increasingly difficult to find adequate housing as green space is diminishing throughout most urban areas. But when Cairo began developing a new administrative capital area, architects and designers jumped into the planning with vertical forest block buildings. Italian architect Stefano Boeri collaborated with Egyptian designer Shimaa Shalash as a local partner, as well as landscape agronomist Laura Gatti to create three, seven-story buildings including a hotel and two apartment blocks. Set in the desert about 30 miles outside Cairo, the buildings will be unique with the incorporation of garden terraces throughout. The design creates the appearance of a living building, with plants cascading down all sides. Related: Egypt’s new Science City International – an oasis of knowledge in the desert Each building will measure 30 meters both in height and width for eye-catching square features in the center of town.  Beyond the shape, the trio of buildings will host an estimated 350 trees and more than 14,000 shrubs and perennials belonging to 100 different species. This remarkable goal represents one third of the total number of living plants in the whole Greater Cairo area. The total green area will cover 3600 sq.m, matching the building footprint. Types of plants will vary to offer visual appeal as the seasons change. As with all trees and plants, the air should be cleaner around the vertical forest with the studio estimating an absorption of 7 tons of carbon dioxide and release of 8 tons of oxygen each year. Not to mention, the buildings will provide their own energy and the greenery will add insulating features. Egyption property developer MISR Italia Properties is building the project, with the vertical concept forest being the first that Boeri has brought to Africa. Previously, he designed building forests in Albania, the Netherlands and even conceptual models for Mars. Architect Stefano Boeri and partner and project director of the office, architect Francesca Cesa Bianchi presented the project and the vision of a ‘ Greener Cairo ‘ at il Cairo last July and construction is set to begin 2020 with finishing touches scheduled for 2022. According to Stefano Boeri and Francesca Cesa Bianchi: “Cairo can become the first Northern-African metropolis to face the big challenge of climate change and of the ecological reconversion”. + STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI Images via STEFANO BOERI ARCHITETTI

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Vertical forest buildings designed by Stefano Boeri set to center new Cairo Administrative district

A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

May 16, 2019 by  
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London-based design studio WallaceLiu has given the residents of the southwestern Chinese city Chongqing a new “livable street” to enjoy. The firm was recently tasked with converting a half-mile long, 65-foot-wide highway into a  serene linear urban park , now named Yannan Avenue Park. The green space comes complete with an open-air promenade lined with ample lounge areas, playgrounds and a series of vibrantly colored canopies that light up the area with playful pops of color. The city of Chongqing has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, and as such, the city has been developing at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the city’s green space has been quietly disappearing to make way for new property developments — until now. Thanks to the WallaceLiu team, local residents now have a new linear park that has something for just about everyone. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan According to the architects, the inspiration behind the design was to reclaim some of the city’s urban space for the residents, replacing asphalt with greenery and a welcoming public space to enjoy fresh air. The firm said, “We imagined the entire highway to be transformed into a walkable and playful place, where the elements of a highway-dominated urban landscape — curbstone, road markings, traffic signage, pedestrian fences, hedge boundaries and limited pedestrian crossings — would be replaced by a characterful and vibrant open promenade.” Lined with shade trees, seasonal shrubs and flowers, the serene walkway includes several “nooks” that were designed to encourage neighborhood interaction. Ample benches and seating are located throughout the park, with most configured as sociable places that foster conversation. Additionally, there are more than a few spaces for children in the linear park , including a rock-climbing wall. To add a sense of whimsy to the design, the firm installed six colorful canopies that provide respite from the searing summer heat as well as reflect colorful plays of light onto the landscape. + WallaceLiu Images via WallaceLiu

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

May 16, 2019 by  
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An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs. The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb , the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside. Related: Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay. The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection . After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants. The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing. In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature. + Phoenix Earthship Images via Earthship Media

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

OMA unveils designs for zigzagging residential towers in Brooklyn

March 13, 2019 by  
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OMA’s New York office has unveiled striking designs for the Greenpoint Landing mixed-use towers—two dramatically stepped buildings that appear to be two jagged halves of a whole. Designed to frame views of Greenpoint and vistas of Manhattan beyond, the project is “a ziggurat and its inverse…carefully calibrated to one another,” says OMA Partner Jason Long. Greenpoint Landing, which is expected to break ground in August of this year, is located in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood of Greenpoint in between Long Island City in the north and Williamsburg in the south. Envisioned as the catalyst for revitalizing Greenpoint’s post-industrial waterfront edge, Greenpoint Landing will expand the public waterfront esplanade and add 2.5 acres of continuous open space along the shoreline as well as 8,600 square feet of ground-floor retail. The complex will include a seven-story building plinth with two towers above that will also bring a total of 745 units of housing, 30 percent of which will be affordable. “Like two dancers, the towers simultaneously lean into and away from one another,” the architecture firm says of the project’s eye-catching design. “The taller tower widens toward the east as it rises, maximizing views and creating a dramatic face to the neighborhood and beyond. Its partner steps back from the waterfront to create a series of large terraces, widening toward the ground and the new waterfront park to the North. A ziggurat and its inverse, the pair are intimately linked by the void between them.” Related: Amsterdam is transforming a prison into a green energy-generating neighborhood To further connect the building with its surroundings, the architects will add two levels of waterfront-facing green space and terraces framed with common spaces and amenities. The facade will be lined with large windows and precast concrete panels with carved angled faces that react dynamically to the sun’s path throughout the day. A bridge housing pool and fitness programs will link the two towers together and provide panoramic views of the waterfront and Manhattan skyline. + OMA Images via OMA

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Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

March 5, 2019 by  
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has breathed new life and purpose into the Chihilsitoon Garden, a historic cultural destination in Kabul, Afghanistan that was in ruins for nearly three decades. Founded in the 19th century, the Chihilsitoon Garden had once housed visiting dignitaries such as U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, but suffered looting and damage during the internecine conflict of the early 1990s. Now restored to its former glory, the Chihilsitoon Garden marks the largest rehabilitation project carried out to date by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has completed over 140 restoration and landscaping projects across Afghanistan since 2002. Spanning an area of nearly 31 acres, the Chihilsitoon Garden is laid out along a longitudinal spine centered on a historic formal axial garden , which is surrounded by informal landscapes ranging from open lawns to densely planted areas. The restoration project reinforced the axial relationship with the restoration of existing open-air spaces, such as family picnic areas, an outdoor amphitheater and a historic formal promenade that includes the original marble fountains. A new recreational zone includes cricket batting areas, volleyball fields and two mini-football pitches as well as an indoor facility with changing rooms and showers. New buildings totaling over 100,000 square feet were also added to the grounds. The contemporary buildings take inspiration from traditional designs and typologies, including the use of rammed earth as an earthquake-resistant structural material. Related: Barefoot solar movement empowers, employs and illuminates in Afghanistan “Found to have been used in parts of Afghanistan as far back as the 2nd century A.D., rammed earth structures are highly suitable to the climatic and ecological environment in the region,” the agency explained an a project statement. “Due to the workability of rammed earth, a range of architectural designs was explored for the various facilities. Reinforced with bamboo trees, steel re-bar and concrete frame structures, buildings constructed with rammed earth were designed to withstand moderate earthquakes.” The 15.1 million-euro  restoration project began in early 2015 and was completed in the middle of 2018. The newly formed independent “Kabul Historic Gardens Trust” will manage the garden. + Aga Khan Trust for Culture Via ArchDaily Images by Simon Norfolk via AKTC

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Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

This Australian property was redesigned with a sustainable, lush garden

February 11, 2019 by  
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The Shoreham House in Victoria, Australia was designed in the early 2000’s, but was in need of an update to the overall structure and gardens. The new architects wanted to update the home with sustainability in mind while respecting the original designers and builders. According to Tim Spicer Architects, “The renovation and addition needed a sensitive, well considered approach to create unity between the old and the new, without the obvious signature of new Architects. The design intent was to update what was already a beautiful house, yet make it feel like it had been built at the same time.” The new landscape takes full advantage of the lush surroundings, something that went slightly overlooked in the original design. It utilizes a deep water bore to provide water to the gardens, rather than using the local town water to irrigate. The 50-meter bore has the power to provide the landscape with 20,000 liters of water in a day. In addition to the sustainable garden, the architects also replaced the old halogen lighting in the house with new LED lighting, which is more energy efficient and longer-lasting. The new hot water system is solar-powered, and the windows have new Low-E coating which works to minimize the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light without losing visibility. They also installed new eco-friendly high R-value insulation and a new ducted combustion fireplace to make the structure more energy efficient overall. Related: A midcentury warehouse becomes a vibrant office for creatives Designers faced the difficult task of connecting the new guest wing to the master area without compromising privacy. As a result, they created a whole new staircase leading from the dining room and past the master staircase. The project was a challenging feat for the builders who used hand tools to blast through the bedrock under the house in order to construct the second staircase. To connect the master and newly-designed guest wings, the architects created a glazed bridge walkway, make-shifting a courtyard garden area with new meandering paths and green spaces. The house now has new large windows and glazed doors that allow for beautiful, sweeping views of the gardens from the inside. In the original house, the master area deck already had views of the ocean . With the intent of making the view more accessible to guests, the architects installed a “slow stair” between the master deck and ground floor courtyard. Via Archdaily Images via Tim Spicer Architects

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This Australian property was redesigned with a sustainable, lush garden

A new study reveals that urban green spaces may be an antidote to depression

July 23, 2018 by  
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A recent study shows that symptoms of depression can be reduced for people who have access to green spaces. Researchers in Philadelphia transformed vacant lots in the city into green spaces and found that adults living near these newly planted areas reported decreased feelings of depression, with the biggest impact occurring in low-income neighborhoods. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine teamed up with members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to transform and observe 541 randomly selected vacant lots in Philadelphia. Eugenia South, assistant professor and co-author of the study , said Philadelphia’s littered lots were an ideal environment to set-up their groundwork. “There’s probably 40,000 of them in the city” she told NPR , “but they’re concentrated in certain sections of the city, and those areas tend to be in poorer neighborhoods.” According to the study, lower socioeconomic conditions have already been proven to distress mental health states. Related: Virtual reality helps scientists plot the ideal urban green space The researchers separated the lots into three groups: a control group of lots where nothing was altered, a set of lots that was cleaned up of litter, and a group of lots where everything, including existing vegetation, was removed and replanted with new trees and grass. “We found a significant reduction in the amount of people who were feeling depressed ” South said. Her team used a psychological distress scale to ask people how they felt, including senses of hopelessness, restlessness and worthlessness, as well as measuring heart rates, a leading indicator of stress, of residents walking past the lots. Low-income neighborhoods showed as high as a 27.5 percent reduction in depression rates. South said, “In the areas that had been greened, I found that people had reduced heart rates when they walked past those spaces.” While previous research has cross-studied the beneficial effects of green spaces on mental health, experts, such as Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch from the University of California, Berkeley, are regarding this experiment as “innovative.” Morello-Frosch said that previous studies were observational in nature and failed to provide concrete statistical results as this study has offered. Morello-Frosch, who was not involved with the analysis, said, “To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly alleviating a treatment to see what you see.” Parallel research has identified indicators of crime-reduction and increased community interaction, showing that green spaces are a low-cost answer to improving many facets of a community’s well-being, now including mental health. +  JAMA Network Open Via NPR Before and After images via Eugenia South and Bernadette Hohl/JAMA Network Open

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