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Landscape Architecture

Argentina, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Patagonia, Photography

Growing Pains in El Chalten

March 20, 2012

What started as a Netflix DVD date-night-in a few years ago culminated in a February visit to El Chalten, Argentina, the quirky little “Swiss Village of the Patagonian Alps.”

On a sunlit morning, we bussed across the invisible line separating Chile from its Eastern neighbor and began the second half of our visit to the lower lands of South America. Following a short mid-afternoon stopover in the lakeside tourist city of El Calafate, we zoomed another several hours to the north and came upon El Chalten as the sun set behind the stunning mountain range.

At this moment of dusk, the grand peaks of Cerro Fitz Roy called out, “Congratulations, tired travelers! You’ve reached the land of mountain climbers, wildlife, and majestic peaks: the remote frontier of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.” Continue Reading…

Chile, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings, Patagonia, South America

Trekking through the Ashes

March 12, 2012

“μ” Trek, Day 1: The western lands of Torres del Paine greeted us with smells of charred wood and scenes of black ash, remnants of a tourist’s mishap when burning waste at a campsite at Grey Glacier. To the south, we could see smoke rising in the distance. Our route was safely finished smoldering, but remote areas of the Park still suffered in flames.

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Bolivia, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings

Workway Bolivia: Landscape Architecture for Room & Board

February 14, 2012

Through connecting with a welcoming Workaway host family, we spent a little over a week living in Jupapina, Bolivia (about thirty minutes outside La Paz), earning room and board in exchange for flexing muscles of body and mind.

During our all-too-short time in Bolivia, we’ve been witness to unsettling destruction of natural resources: homes perched on unstable ground, bulldozers wreaking havoc on naturally stable terrain, and creation of geological chaos in the name of development.

What a treat to meet this inspiring family and engage in finding land management solutions.

Emma and Rolando with their charming kiddos: Bell and David…

Our hosts, Emma and Rolando, have dedicated their family and careers to bettering Bolivia. Emma relocated from England after spending time with international development agencies working in South America and Africa and is now involved in projects providing activities, meals, and education for children of working class parents unable to afford daycare and in community development projects benefitting indigenous people groups. Rolando ran against the political shoe-ins and won as an independent candidate for Mayor of nearby Mallasa, enacting many land preservation measures, developing public recreation lands, introducing art into public works projects, and advocating for the needs of the people, and later he was appointed and served as head of Social Services for all of La Paz.

Site: The Mendoza-Donlan Residence in Jupapina, BoliviaThe sky isn’t Photoshopped and the house really is that brilliant color. Light is amazing in Bolivia.

Emma and Rolando built their home four years ago in the beautiful Bolivian countryside, but their neighbors’ poor land management left them with an incredibly unstable property adjacent to their own. Their offer to purchase the land was accepted, and they’ve been working for the past few seasons to mitigate the damages and have plans to eventually develop the site as a tent and yurt campground serving La Paz.

As a landscape architect, I offered my skills to help with site master planning and Ted and I are both aided in filling holes, planting trees, cleaning out sand traps, and generally leaving the {future} campsite cleaner than we found it.

In one week’s time, we held client design meetings, worked out existing conditions and site analysis, spent time on concept and schematic designs, and reviewed design development options before committing to the final master plan. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings, Peru, Photography, South America

Climbing Huayna Picchu & Constructing Life in the Scheme of Things

February 1, 2012

We arrived at Machu Picchu via Inca Trail, explored the ruins on foot, then returned for a second day to climb Huayna Picchu and examine the site from an alternate perspective. Like many humbling places on the planet, the entire setting cannot be justly captured on film or photo; the three dimensional relationships are too difficult to represent in 2D. After visiting the ancient site in person, I’m still truly in awe. The following are images and thoughts from day two…(and then I’ll get off my Machu Picchu kick, I promise!)

Yes, we watched documentaries, read books, flipped through photographers’ collections, and fantasized about wandering the ancient terraces in person, but nothing truly prepared us to see Machu Picchu in the flesh (or in the stone and land, as it were).

After trekking for days and viewing other once-alive-and-now-as-shadow shelters and outposts along the way, I wondered: What makes this ancient site beat with energy all these centuries later?

As a landscape architect, I am called to consider relationships between natural systems, material elements, and humans who dwell in artfully crafted spaces.

While the layout and planning and masonry walls and terraces are masterfully executed, the deeply responsive situation within the natural setting elevates the ruins from impressive to profound.

Imagine: without Huayna Picchu looming in the background, would the world so quickly recognize the iconic image of the ancient city?

It is not simply the marvel of the stones, it is the glorious context of the design that makes Machu Picchu shine. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings, Peru, Photography, South America

Rainy Season Flora of the Inca Trail

January 30, 2012

Do you know the secret of western Oregon’s beauty? The rain.

We natives either love to hate it or love to brag about our webbed feet, but more than that, we love to enjoy the sweeping vistas of indigenous green and the rainbow of ornamental plants that grow effortlessly up and down the Willamette Valley.

When Ted and I booked our Inca Trail journey for Peru’s rainy season, we were well-prepared with waterproof pants and jackets. What we weren’t prepared for was the surprise of beautiful wildlife growing lush along the trek. It makes perfect sense, though.

I only wish I’d had enough forethought to geek out and carry a field guide to Peruvian flora.

Instead, I captured photos of favorites for a future self-imposed research assignment.

This collection is dedicated to my design collaborator and fellow Oregonian, Gavin Younie of Outdoor Scenery Design. Enjoy the plants, my friend! I was thinking of you all the way…

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