New San Francisco Planning Department Guidelines Make a Statement About San Franciscans

The San Francisco Planning Department released a revised list of 24 guidelines for site design, architecture, and public spaces. The list (below) is adorned with words that incite egalitarianism and deference. To name a few:

  • “harmonize”
  • “respect”
  • “integrate”
  • “protect”
  • “modulate”
  • sustainable

Is it possible that a city’s planning method, in itself, displays the collective opinion of the group of people living there? Can a city’s design principles create a physical and visual representation of the way its people govern and interact?

Find out for yourself and see how these guidelines are made by attending the 2nd community meeting for the “final draft of the proposed urban design guidelines” HERE on January 3rd at 6pm.

Here is the list of the new guidelines, and feel free to read more about it at 24 New Design Guidelines Hope to Establish Future Look of San Francisco

Establish Relationships and Logic

  • S1. Recognize and respond to urban patterns
  • A1. Express a clear organizing architectural idea
  • P1. Design public open spaces to connect with and complement the streetscape

Respond to Context:

  • S2. Harmonize relationships between buildings, streets, and open spaces
  • A2. Modulate buildings vertically and horizontally
  • P2. Locate and design open spaces to maximize physical comfort and visual access

Enhance Unique Neighborhoods:

  • S3. Recognize and enhance unique conditions
  • A3. Harmonize building designs with neighboring scale and materials
  • P3. Express neighborhood character in open space designs

Engage Larger Viewpoints and Systems:

  • S4. Create, protect, and support view corridors
  • A4. Design buildings from multiple vantage points
  • A5. Shape the roofs of buildings
  • P4. Support public transportation and bicycling

Design the Building Interface with the Public Realm:

  • S5. Create a defined and active streetwall
  • A6. Render building facades with texture and depth
  • A7. Coordinate building elements
  • P5. Design sidewalks to enhance the pedestrian experience

Use Program to Support the Urban Experience

  • S6. Organize uses to complement the public environment
  • A8. Design active building fronts
  • P6. Program public open spaces to encourage social activity, play, and rest

Support Sustainability:

  • S7. Integrate common open space and landscape with architecture
  • S8. Respect and exhibit natural systems and features architecture
  • A9. Employ sustainable principles and practices in building design
  • P7. Integrate sustainable practices into the landscape


Featured Image Courtesy: Travis Tunney


Posted in NEWS | Comments closed

Humanizing History Through Landscapes

How are race and history represented in landscapes?

A landscape is like a museum in itself. It is an artifact of history and can present questions to invoke critical thinking. In this article, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, a professor of anthropology and museum studies at IUPUI, shares her knowledge of how California mission landscapes represent race and history, causing polarizing emotions.

Missions can bring up intense connection and fond memories, or they can conjure profound pain. The questions that are presented in these spaces have the ability to steer these emotions. This concept, as you can imagine, is also true in other landscapes.

We’ve all seen fourth grade textbooks, or statues of a priest with an indigenous child, that avoid the oppression and genocide of Native American history.

Yes, historical spaces can paint a specific erroneous picture by “glossing over” particular parts of the story (10 Controversial Statues in California). Still, it is also true that colonizers believed that they were making their own sacrifices to do what God asked them to do. So how can landscapes present history and stories with “truth” without offending one particular group?

Elizabeth argues that the questions being asked/presented in these spaces must include the opinions and voices of both sides and should engage the current visitor to think on their own. The evolution of missions in California present a perfect example of how a landscape can be a catalyst to address social injustice and present-day social issues.  Is removing a statue also removing a piece of history? Can a landscape invoke empathy for both sides of a story? What do you think? How?

Posted in NEWS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Revealing underground water systems in Urban Spain


Posted in NEWS | Comments closed

What would a fish do with a swing?

A park can be a picnic, a classroom, a home, a meeting, a workout, a date, a break, a pathway. A park is a location-tool for the person, or group of people, who needs it.

I ask you: what would a fish do with a swing?

How can the designer or builder know what tools something or someone needs without a careful period of empirical observation? Building a public space without anthropological research could be like giving a goldfish a swing set. A tool without a specific purpose is an inanimate object with an arbitrary existence.

So, how can Landscape Architects be Anthropologists?

Image from Gehl Architects

Gehl Architects, a company combining architecture with psychology, works internationally to create cities for people. Gehl recently launched a new survey tool called “Public Space and Public Life”. PSPL is a platform for collecting qualitative data, giving a voice to the public in the process of observation, and helping clients to engage the users of the city  to implement useful, sustainable changes that the public will benefit from. (Read more about this incredible platform and process here.)

Students studying Landscape Architecture at AAU implement their own observation experiments before creating their designs for a space.

As you can see, the LAN 660 (Designing Public Spaces Studio) students engage the community to determine which problems are necessary to solve from the perspective of the people already using the public space in question.

If someone asked you how your home street or front yard pathway could be improved, your experience and unique vantage point would provide you with a relevant, educated, and valid response.

Landscape architecture can build a useful pathway when sociology, anthropology, and psychology are all invited to the park.

Posted in DESIGN | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

The Long Road to an Eco-Corridor

Bogota, Colombia

Written by:

Katerin LuquettaBFA Student at AAU School of Landscape Architecture

The conservation of biodiversity is now a movement around the world, and even though it still passes unnoticed in some places in the world, it is Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela who wanted to act upon preservation.

As temperatures rise faster than species take to adapt to them, Colombia proposed to its neighboring countries, Venezuela and Brazil, the creation of a green corridor to diminish the effects of climate change.

It was in the works, but as I kept digging I realized this news was as far as they got with this project.

The reason? There was one aspect besides the plant species and the wildlife that the project was not considering fully:

The indigenous groups of these tropical lands did not feel included in the project proposal process.

The corridor plan is not taking into account the illegal mining, deforestation, and hunting in the area, and the indigenous people who have preserved this land for centuries are waiting for these issues to be included. The conquest of the land by Spain and Portugal, (as England did in North America) left behind a careless approach to preservation of habitats in South America. Ultimately, landscape architecture is chosen as a career based on the design of outdoor spaces and landmarks in order to obtain an environmental outcome, but we know society and culture plays an enormous influence in decisions to be made.

Photo from National Geographic

As of 2015, the last update on this project was to continue discussion in order to agree on the final goals for the whole project. Two years have passed since the concept was supposedly presented, but now that there are so many social, political, and economic factors, the ecological factors on the table have taken a back seat.


Photo from National Geographic


Posted in NEWS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

AAU Landscape Architecture Fall 2017 Speaker Series Presents: Marcel Wilson, Principal/Design Director, Bionic Landscape

Designs by Marcel Wilson

AAU School of Landscape Architecture is honored to host Marcel Wilson, PLA at our Speaker Series event at 6pm PT on November 9th, 2017.


Designs by Marcel Wilson

As Founder and Design Director at Bionic Landscape, Marcel has led and designed works of all scale in Asia, Europe, and here in the United States. Marcel obtained his MLA in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His works are complex in texture and concept, integrating solutions that our environment and infrastructures increasingly require. He is arguably one of the essential pillars of this landscape architecture hub which is flourishing in San Francisco, California.

Please join us for the event either on campus at the Historic San Francisco Wharf’s Cannery (2801 Leavenworth, Suite 300) or enter the live stream on YouTube HERE.

**Remote viewers will also be included in the Q&A portion of the event.

Posted in NEWS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Landscape Architecture FA17 Online Town Hall Meeting: Nov. 7th at 2:30pm

Collaborate with your classmates and administration to improve your experience at Academy of Art University.

If you have any issues accessing the online meeting room, please contact the Online Help Desk:

See you all there!

Posted in NEWS | Comments closed

El Precio de Biofilia


Escrito por Káterin Luquetta

Estudiante en la AAU Escuela de Arquitectura del Paisaje

Después de la lectura anoche de Nahal Sohbati, presentando su proyecto ganador, Ridge Lane (estudiante de arquitectura de paisaje), el hipótesis de biofilia se presentó:

Biofilia: “… el sentido de conexión que tienen humanos con la naturaleza de carácter innato…”.

Ya que la naturaleza no es solamente selva, parte de la urbanización requiere traer la naturaleza a la ciudad. En otras palabras, vivir y admirar la naturaleza crea la oportunidad de ser parte de un proceso más grande en la evolución geográfica.

La gente se antoja intuitivamente los beneficios físicos y mentales que vienen con estar en la naturaleza. Por eso, los paisajistas añaden infraestructuras como bosques urbanos, calles verdes para sistemas de transporte y “techos verdes” para construir sitios dando conexiones personales con la naturaleza de una manera asequible y conveniente.

¿Pero, qué parques hay más allá de la ciudad?


Si una persona más acostumbrada a la ciudad visita a un parque nacional, sus rutinas diarias son interrumpidas y se sorprende. Mientras el mundo continúa urbanizándose, el acceso de experimentar a la naturaleza a toda gloria, en los parques nacionales grandes, se vuelve más importante. Visitar esas inspiraría incluso a los biofóbicos.

De todos modos, parques nacionales llevan precios. Aquí es el asunto complejo:

Parques nacionales necesitan renovaciones y los líderes quieren incrementar a los precios durante el temporal alta:

Mientras entiendo que “…los fondos serían utilizados [para renovaciones] …” creo que el billete de acceso para ‘America the Beautiful’ ya es un monto justo al que nos hemos acostumbrado y estamos dispuestos a invertir para el escenario total de la naturaleza.  De todos modos, el 23 de noviembre 2017, el periodo de comento cerrara y el aumento puede ser aplicada.

En el nombre de progreso, familias y grupos de afuera no podrían pagar por lo que deben ser sitios naturales inclusivos. Al aumentar precios para entrar en los parques nacionales durante temporales altos, la oportunidad de visitar reduciría y visitar parques nacionales convertiría en una actividad elitista.

La habilidad de conectar con la naturaleza ya es limitado, pero algunos creen que biofilia sigue viva.

Asi que, con esa aumentación de precio:

¿invertimos en visitar a esos monumentos de naturaleza, o solamente recurriremos a conectar con la naturaleza dentro de nuestras ciudades urbanas?





The Price of Biophilia

Written by Katerin Luquetta

Student at AAU School of Landscape Architecture

After last’s night’s lecture on the award winning project Ridge Lane by student of Landscape Architecture Nahal Sobahti, the hypothesis of biophilia was brought up:

Biophilia: “…humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature…”.

Since nature is not only wilderness, part of urbanization requires us to bring nature to the city. In other words, to live and revere nature creates the opportunity for human beings to be part of a bigger process in geographic evolution.

People intuitively crave the physical and mental benefits of being in nature. For this reason, landscape architects add infrastructure like urban forests, green streets for transportation systems, and green roofs to the built environment nourishing personal bonds with nature in an affordable and a convenient manner.

What about parks that are beyond the city?

If someone more accustomed to a city park visits a National Park, everyday routines are interrupted and they are amazed. As the world continues to urbanize, the access of experiencing nature at its best, in large National Parks, becomes even more important. Visiting these would amuse even the “Bio-phobic”.

Yet, National Parks come with a price. Here is the complex issue at hand:

National parks need upgrades and leaders are pushing to raise prices during peak season:

While I understand that “all of the funds would be used [for improvements]…,” I believe the access pass for ‘America the Beautiful’ is already a fair amount that we have gotten used to and are willing to invest on for full nature scenario. Nevertheless, on November 23rd, 2017, the comment period on the proposed fee rates will close and an increase in fees could be applied.

In the name of progress, families and outdoor groups would not be able to afford what should be intended as a shared natural space. By increasing entry fees of highly visited national parks on peak season, the opportunity for planned visits will be reduced and visiting national parks could become an elitist activity.

The ability to connect with nature today is already limited, but some believe biophilia is still alive.

So, with this price increase:

Will we still invest in visiting these landmarks, or will we resort only to connecting with nature within our urban cities?

Posted in NEWS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Seasonal Landscape Volunteer Opportunity

To be successful in this field, Landscape Architecture requires connecting to your community. How are you connected?



Landscape Architecture Instructor, Julie Trachtenberg, started a local garden in Richmond, CA in honor of a loved one. If you or anyone you know is interested in participating at this event this Saturday, November 11, 2017, please reach out to the @aaulandarch department administrator for support with transportation.


Happy planting!


Posted in NEWS | Comments closed

AAU Landscape Architecture Fall 2017 Speaker Series Presents: Kevin Conger, Founding Partner at CMG

Click HERE to livestream the event on your computer or phone!

Experienced in domestic and international design of all scales, this California licensed Landscape Architect is a founding partner of CMG Landscape Architecture. Kevin Conger graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and has since been part of many noticeable projects in the city of San Francisco.

Committed to connecting people with their environment and each other, as CEO and president, Kevin applies democracy of public space and ecological function with an artistic approach.

To name a few of the projects he’s worked on:

  • SFMOMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden, purposed to become an outdoor gallery with a simple and sophisticated attitude.

  • A ten year project with Yerba Buena Community District, which will create a bigger change in the long term by adding instead of remaking.
  • UCSF Institute of Regenerative, green roof and housing for native species and natural regeneration observation of ecological processes.

  • Brain Wash Plaza, a temporary parklet adding to more proper utilization of public space.

With tangible statements of his vision for the natural and urban world, while advocating for metropolitan life, Conger and the CMG team share their knowledge with student partnering programs.

Learn about CMG’s latest projects direct from the source at Kevin Conger’s lecture this Thursday, October 26th at 6pm PST at the School of Landscape Architecture. (2801 Leavenworth, suite 300).


Click HERE to live stream.


Article by: Katerin Luquetta, AAU Landscape Architecture BFA Student

Posted in NEWS | Comments closed