Lowline Lab opens to the public

In October 2015 the Lowline Lab (“The Lab”) opened to the public, acting as a proof of concept for the Lowline—an innovative underground park that will transport daylight into the depths of a historic trolley station.


At the Lowline, the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley terminal once more will be open to the public as an entirely new typology of public space in the Lower East Side. As a park, the site will be both an archeological relic and futuristic realm, befitting the dense urban surrounds of Manhattan. Conceived of by James Ramsey and Dan rasch, the Lowline will use an innovative light system that collects and redistributes sunlight from upper levels to the subterranean realm, making plant growth possible.



A new typology of public space deserves a new typology of vegetation. Mathews Nielsen worked with RAAD Architects, the Lowline, and John Mini Distinctive Landscapes to develop the conceptual topography for The Lab, creating undulating stalactite and stalagmite forms covered in plants that take advantage of the unique microclimates of the Lowline. There’s no natural space that shares the endemic characteristics of the Lowline – low to medium light, below ground, cool temperatures, and monitored
watering. Plants were selected for their tolerance of these intense conditions and unique character and planted to accentuate the constructed topography and to create a new visual experience, pairing edible plants with semi-tropical ones.



The Lowline Lab will run through the winter months, testing the system in New York City’s harshest conditions for plants and for the public. As an on-going experiment, Mathews Nielsen, working with the Lowline, continues their search for the right blend of plants that can thrive year-round offering New Yorkers a bit of communal green space during the long winter. A variety of educational and panel sessions, sponsored by the Lowline, will take place during the exhibit period.


A publicly accessible laboratory and exhibit free to the public through December 2016, it is the precursor to the Lowline, the world’s first underground park, slated for completion in 2020.





Text Credit | Mathews Nielsen
Image Credit | Courtesy of the Lowline

 Posted By Damian Holmes on November 23, 2015
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Top 10 YouTube Tutorials for Drawing Trees


Article by Win Phyo.We take a look at 10 tutorials for drawing trees that will …

Article by Win Phyo.

We take a look at 10 tutorials for drawing trees that will bring life to your sketches and help you communicate your design schemes with more confidence.

Trees are awesome! Feel free to disagree with me but who doesn’t love trees? They provide us with shade during the summer months, make us feel peaceful in a park, provides homes for birds and as a landscape architecture student, they are one of the key things I can use to create functional and beautiful designs. They are also the most frequent features we will end up drawing throughout our academic and professional lives. Therefore, whether you are a beginner or a pro, here are 10 YouTube tutorials that can help you capture the most simplistic to the most intricate details of our majestic arboreal friends.

I realize that as artists and designers, we all have different styles of expression; hence the videos explore various drawing mediums. What is your style?

Tutorials for Drawing Trees

10. Brush Pen Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> How to Draw a Tree With Brush Pens – An Oak Tree – How to Draw Trees

In this tutorial, the artist draws an elegant oak tree using very simple circular scribbles, which intensify in mass to create a sense of 3D (three dimensional) space. He continues by drawing a bare tree trunk with impressive mark-making skills. The finished piece will show you how simple it actually is to make a beautiful drawing.

9. Chalk Pastels Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> How to draw a tree at distance with pastels

If you like the bright and colorful, this tutorial is for you. A friend of mine loves drawing in chalk pastels so much so that it has almost become her “thing”. Every time she whips out the colorful soft colored chalks to present her design, I am in awe of how effective they can be. This tutorial is a perfect representation of this feeling. The artist starts of with a chunky block of green and just applies layers over different colors to create a simple and colorful tree drawing.

8. Marker Pen Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Mike Lin: How to draw a tree with markers

I will assume, at least from my personal experience, that most students own the kind of marker pens used in this tutorial. They are great for rough coloring and can cover a huge area in short amount of time. This tutorial is my personal favorite and I feel it will be useful for us all. Mike Lin shows us a great tip to blend the different marker pens and even adds a bit of pencil and watercolor pencil to the mix. The great thing about this is that the final product can be as general or as detailed as you want.

7. Colored Pencils Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Rendering trees using colored pencil

Gone are the days where we used to color our apple trees within the line (mostly) in our coloring book with the colored pencils. If you want to go from block coloring to what I would like to call “dot” coloring, where each color is dispersed throughout the drawing, watch this video. The artist gives a step-by-step guide to render a group of trees by using light to dark colors, starting from a simple outline.

6. Pencil Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Drawing tutorial – Tree: simple way | Kurs rysunku – Drzewo: prosty sposób [S02E01 ENG/PL]

Drawing trees with just a pencil can be the most difficult task. However, when you can master the toning techniques, it is a great, lightweight tool to take with you on your travels. This artist uses an abstract technique that breaks the form of the tree down into ovals, which allows you to separate the light and dark areas- what a drawing genius! If other techniques have failed for you, this one may give you hope again!

5. Pen Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Linescapes: How to draw a tree II – groups of trees

Trees don’t usually come as individuals. They are most often clustered in a group. This three-minute tutorial shows how to draw groups of trees within a rural-type landscape. The sketcher gives a great tip of representing tree clusters in the distance as a single, two-dimensional volume. Take a look at the short clip to see what else he does!

4. Watercolor Drawing Tutorial

This tutorial is a great way to familiarize yourself with different tree forms and represent them as a very simple three-dimensional shape within seconds. I wouldn’t hesitate to try out this technique, as it is so quick to do. Once you have mastered this, you can try out a more advanced tutorial, such as this from the same watercolor artist.

WATCH >>> How to Paint Tree Studies in Watercolor – Basic Shapes

3. Aquamarkers Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Painting a tree with Aquamarkers – tutorial

I have never come across Aquamarkers, but being a watercolor fan, watching this tutorial, and seeing how versatile the medium was, I would definitely like to give them a try. Coming in third place in this article, it is incredible how a few lines made with these Aquamarkers can be blended with a watercolor brush to give a smooth painting finish. It is easily achievable and in my opinion, should become must-have equipment for landscape architecture students!

2. Pastel Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> Moody Views trees in pastel

Earlier on, I showed you a tutorial to create a brightly colored drawing using chalk pastels. This one is using pastels in a different rendering technique – more subtle and dream-like. Again, the end drawing looks phenomenal yet I am in awe of how easily anyone can re-create this effect!

1. Pen and Ink Drawing Tutorial

WATCH >>> How to Draw Trees | Pen & Ink Drawing Tutorials

This is the most comprehensive, all-around tutorial with tips on strokes, form, and showing light and shadow. If you do not have time to watch all ten videos, I highly recommend this one. Not only is it great for beginners, but instructor Alphonso Dunn truly gives the opportunity to explore different ways of drawing the trees. His approach is unique and can be easily applied when drawing on-site, as well as at your drawing board.

There you have it! After reviewing the above tutorials, you may have noticed that I described many as “simple”; I admit that the mediums may have been different but the level of difficulty did not seem to be so high. You can say that the artists have made it look so easy but I think we can all achieve it and eventually develop our own styles. They all started with scribbles and strokes but ended up with elegant tree drawings.






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Spice Up Your Life with the Trendy, Groundbreaking Global Movement “Spark Your City”


Article by Farah Afza JurekhSpark Your City, by Kipling, in Sutton Walk, London

Imagine you are …

Article by Farah Afza Jurekh

Spark Your City, by Kipling, in Sutton Walk, London

Imagine you are walking past the same old, boring tunnel to start your day, stressing about how angry your boss’ mood might be or how your presentation to the multibillion-dollar company will turn out. Suddenly, you notice a huge difference around you. The usually dull, gray tunnel does not look the same as you see every day. It is completely adorned, lively and colorful. And even though this bright, new change won’t necessarily turn your presentation into the perfect one or bring a smile to your boss’ face, this colorful tunnel will definitely lift your mood and relieve your stress, preparing you to give your day your best shot.

The spaces around us can act like mood lifters. A vibrant, colorful space can bring joy and happiness, relieve stress, or create a festive mood of celebration, depending on how the space has been designed. A dull, shabby place can ruin our mood, depress us, or aggravate our stress levels.

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Like the name of the project suggests, “Spark Your City” is a global movement — coordinated by the luggage brand Kipling — to spark joy in everyday city life. It is an exclusive initiative to transform the drab parts of cities into vibrant, interactive spaces to lift residents’ moods and bring joy to their mundane, busy, urban lives.

In order to achieve that, Kipling invited creative, talented, pioneering, and influential women from around the globe who have expertise in their own fields to transform ordinary city routines and landmarks into extraordinary living playgrounds that will also inspire other women in their fields. Isn’t that exciting?

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

The Start of a Global Initiative

The initiative started in London and will continue in 50 other cities, encompassing 1,000 events around the globe. The first event launch was ignited by Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney, with the makeover of London Bridge. The second event – the one we will talk about here — took place on Aug. 27, 2015, at the behest of the energetic television presenter Helen Skelton. She is a former Blue Peter presenter, currently working in different genres for the BBC. An adventurous spirit who has already broken two Guinness world records for her adventures, Skelton has always been passionate about trying something new. She has the ability and the intelligence to draw out something extraordinary from the ordinary. This was certainly showcased in her plan.

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

The Magical Tunnel

Skelton’s idea was to brighten up the route from Waterloo to the London landmark Sutton Walk (Southbank) through a kaleidoscope of images, variegated colors, and shapes. The main concept behind the project was to create an urban jungle amidst the concrete and bricks of city life. Everyone from every-day users to tourists loved the kaleidoscopic, adventurous tunnel. To the regular users, it was magical — as if someone had struck the whole tunnel with a magic wand!

The Experience

As one walked through the tunnel, one could imagine being in a real jungle. The intriguing feelings, the enthusiasm, the unexpected joy, the excitement of walking along the jungle, encouraged people to explore more. At the same time, Skelton’s presence in the tunnel literally turned it into an interactive, adventurous playground for all.

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

We live in a massive playground,” Skelton said. “It’s so easy to run around town looking at our phones or our feet, but if we look up and around, there is so much that can excite and inspire us. There is plenty for adults and kids to explore in London. It’s constantly changing and evolving. I never feel like I ‘know’ London. Around every corner is something new to explore.”

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Together We Build a Better Place

It is true that there are many great outdoor spaces in London. But spaces that can ignite the moods of people of all ages, offer adventure, and encourage people to explore their cities are few in number. Projects like this one not only ignite the adventure within oneself, but also encourage us to transform other parts of our cities into a better place.

Overall, this is a great global initiative that will not only remind people to live their lives happily every day, but also inspire people to celebrate life and to inspire the whole community, bringing in loads of new ideas to spark up their cities and making them better places to live.

Spark Your City

Spark Your City

Full Project Credits For Spark Your City:

Project Name: Spark Your City
Event Year: 2015
Initiators: Kipling
Location: Sutton Walk (Southbank), London


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Get Real


Gaming junkies are far from the only crowd salivating for access to the technology. The software industry is falling over itself to produce new web and media applications for the Oculus Rift, ranging from immersive 3-D movies (think IMAX inside a pair of ski goggles) to tutorials on how to properly dissect a human cadaver to combat simulations for the military. At its core, virtual reality (VR) is an advanced way to experience a 3-D model of anything a designer can come up with; naturally, architects, engineers, and landscape architects are also standing in line for a chance to plug their designs into the new technology.

Computer engineers have been chasing the idea of VR since the mid-20th century, but the current incarnation is a quantum leap in two ways: one, the price is better; previous versions were priced for well-funded university research labs, not design firms. And two, new modifications address a long-standing problem with VR headsets, which is severe, debilitating nausea—a VR brand of motion sickness—in a large percentage of users. The nausea resulted from a lag between the movement of your head and eyes and what the VR display showed inside the goggles, but recent improvements in the technology have cleaned up this problem.

The Oculus Rift (and other competing products, such as the HTC Vive headset) are currently available only as developer kits for software engineers, meaning few designers have integrated the technology in their practice. Rick Harrison, of Rick Harrison Site Design in Minneapolis, is one of the few who has. Harrison is a surveyor and land planner as well as a software entrepreneur, and he is developing VR-ready 3-D modeling software, called LandMentor, that he hopes to launch soon after the Oculus Rift becomes available to the public. In a profession dominated by meetings with developers and city council members who often have difficulty grasping how a 2-D, or even a 3-D, model, will look and function once built, Harrison has found that the technology has improved the communication process immensely. “It is not what you expect. It gives you a sensory feeling unlike anything you’ve ever had before,” Harrison says.

Cultish comments spout readily from early adopters of VR technology—“This is a teleportation device,” said Facebook’s chief technology officer, Michael Schroepfer, in a recent New York Times article—but it remains to be seen how the Oculus Rift and related software packages will actually affect the design professions. “You have to have it, you have to experience it,” insisted Harrison during our phone call.

Several days later a package arrived in the mail: Harrison’s laptop computer, the beta version of the Oculus Rift, and a device that looks like a webcam, but has an opaque lens (it turns out this is an infrared sensor that tracks the movement of your head while using the headset, helping to prevent motion sickness). It takes a few minutes to plug everything in, but before I know it I’m flying through a subdivision that resembles the imaginary world of The Simpsons. I immediately see why the Oculus Rift is not yet on the market: The graphical quality is reminiscent of video games from the early 1990s. (Though Harrison assures me the resolution will be much improved with the upcoming version of the Oculus Rift.)

At first I feel as if I’m looking at a computer screen with 3-D glasses, but when I rotate my head behind me—and it’s not the wall of my office there, but a glistening, albeit pixelated, lake with sailboats on it—at this point, I, too, am at risk of joining the cult. I have no doubt that once the visual quality improves a bit, and it’s possible to import a design without having a degree in computer engineering, any designer would want to use this technology. It is an unmatched communication tool for visual information.

Landscape architects who are accustomed to working with rendering farms, outsourced companies where graphic designers create animated fly-throughs or walk-throughs based on their design, may soon find that many of those companies will have the ability to create VR-compatible 3-D models as well (Village Features is one already offering the service). For firms that want to work with VR in-house, IrisVR, a company founded in 2013 by two recent graduates from Middlebury College in Vermont, has created software that allows designers to drag and drop files from 3-D modeling programs such as SketchUp, AutoCAD, and Revit into an application that allows them to be viewed through a VR headset.

“It’s not just a tool to show the client the end result, like how renderings are typically used,” says George Valdes, product vice president at IrisVR, who has a degree in landscape architecture from Florida International University. “It’s actually more of a feedback process. You can bring in your clients and have them experience the space and then work together to [determine] expectations.”

IrisVR software is currently available to design firms as a beta version, but will be launched publicly as soon as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive become available. The current version allows users to set their height to provide the most realistic sense of scale when they’re navigating a site, plus a few bells and whistles, like changing the time of day and time of year to visualize the effects of shading in a design.


Within the next year, Valdes says, multiple users will be able to access the same model from anywhere in the world and see an avatar of each other as they walk through the design together, while chatting about the project via phone. There is also an application in the works that allows users to interact with the design inside the VR model using gloves, wands, and other handheld devices being developed in conjunction with the headsets (such as the Oculus Touch and HTC’s Tilt Brush). Members of a design team or clients will be able to write notes to each other and sketch out ideas on the fly. “That allows for editing and the kind of collaborative features that are made possible by VR, which could then be exported back into your modeling software as a review layer,” says Valdes. “You could end up drawing the wire frame for a bench.”

The inherent wow factor of VR technology makes it a seductive tool for firms to sell their design work, but some designers worry that salesmanship may one-up the potential for VR to improve design outcomes. John Danahy, founder of the Centre for Landscape Research at the University of Toronto, has spent much of his academic career exploring the ethical parameters of technology in design. He has been actively developing 3-D simulation technologies for landscape architects since the early 1980s and has used virtual reality systems extensively as a participatory planning tool, helping people visualize the ramifications of different design and policy choices. Danahy’s view is that the new developments in VR technology will serve a broader social purpose to the extent they are used “as a prosthesis for design thinking….and to educate a group of people to think for themselves [by] teaching them a language for seeing the landscape.”

Danahy says the use of visual simulation tools in landscape architecture has been too focused on real estate marketing, “or what I would call getting-your-approval marketing,” he says, rather than problem solving. “I think animations are the root of many problems. It’s like watching a movie—you only get to see what the director and the people in the cutting room decided you could see. That’s a completely didactic experience. When someone is promoting a concept, they don’t want people to see the negative. They want people to see only that perfect rendering.”

Instead, Danahy proposes what he calls “the show-me principle” as an ethical framework for using simulated reality on projects where the public good is at stake. “If the Oculus Rift is used correctly,” says Danahy, “every person is free to say, ‘Show me there, show me what it’s like from my bedroom window, show me what it’s like from my favorite place to sit in this park.’ If and when we get to that point, the culture of design decision making will be turned on its ear.” With software potentially allowing VR simulations to be edited with relative ease by the designer, it’s easy to see how this new rendition of VR could contribute to an iterative, responsive public process.

The possibilities for engaging the public around ecological change using VR are of particular interest to Danahy, who can rattle off a long list of research projects he would love to see happen with the new technology as it becomes available—showing residents of coastal areas what their city would look like under different climate change scenarios, for example. The visceral response provoked by the “realness” of virtual reality might have greater sway over public sentiment than images projected on the wall of an auditorium, especially among young people who have grown up with digital media. In that way, says Danahy, landscape architects would “shift from the mentality of a master planner to a much more complex role as a collaborator or a catalyst of a social process.”

Pete Evans, a professor of architecture at Iowa State University who uses the Oculus Rift and computer-assisted virtual environment technology with his students in design reviews, agrees that it should be seen as more than just a fun design tool, but as a tool that can change the way the environment is perceived by both the public and practitioners. “When you open the door to being able to provide an experiential setting for communicating and collaborating on design, then I think everyone is in a better place,” he says. “We have to encompass everybody in that conversation, including people who are not technologically experienced.”

The life-size models inside a VR headset certainly invite exploration by nonpractitioners, and the broad availability of the technology will mean the public can explore design proposals that affect their community from the comfort of their home, or even at publicly accessible viewing stations at the sites in question. A variety of VR headsets that use smartphones to serve as both the viewing screen and the computer to run them are also entering the market, meaning designers could approach public engagement in a different way. Google Cardboard, which is literally made of cardboard and sells for as little as $5, is the most widely distributed smartphone-based VR viewer thus far.


And if the advent of the VR Age isn’t enough to keep you up at night imagining what the future will bring, know that AR—augmented reality, which is technology that projects holographic images into a room, allowing viewers to remain present in their physical environment—is on its way. Early next year, Microsoft will release a developer’s version of the HoloLens, a cordless, transparent headset that, in theory, will one day allow designers to manipulate a virtual model of the landscape with their hands. The liberation of not being tied to a computer monitor and mouse would certainly have broad appeal, as would interacting in VR without the rest of the world being blocked out by dark goggles.

Brian Barth is a Toronto-based writer with a background in environmental planning and landscape design. He is currently working on a book titled Invisible City: A Natural History of the Urban Landscape.



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Muir Woods After Dark

Near Truckee  California  USA

April 21, 2016

6:30-8:30 pm

Audience: Adults, High School Students, Public, Middle School Students, Families, Seniors, Elementary School Students

Location: Marin County, Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods National Monument

Event Type: Environment/Science, Birds/Wildlife, History, Tours/Walk/Recreation, One Tam, Hiking

Join us for an evening walk through the park which begins at dusk and concludes after sunset. We’ll listen for wildlife and use our senses to guide us through the trails. Bring a flashlight!

A Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus)

A Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus)

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California Vegetation Shows High Vulnerability to Climate Change

California Climate Vulnerability Assessment of Macrogroup Vegetation_01.31.2016_FINAL_Page_001

A study conducted by the University of California-Davis suggests most natural vegetation communities in California will experience significant climate changes by the end of this century. Some of the predicted effects are already happening, such as shifts in species population distributions and extreme weather events.

In this study, 31 “macrogroups” representing over 99% of California’s terrestrial vegetation communities were analyzed based on their vulnerability to various scenarios demonstrating future climate conditions (i.e., changes in temperature and precipitation) by 2100.

Up to 63% of these groups are highly suspectible to climate projections and may experience spatial disruption (where vegetation may relocate from unsuitable conditions), changes in reproductive lifespan,  and other traits in sensitivityand adaptive capacities.California Climate Vulnerability Assessment of Macrogroup Vegetation_01.31.2016_FINAL_Page_022

This study, originally requested and utilized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, can contribute to better understanding of environmental changes and aid in biodiversity conservation and climate adaption. To read this report, click here.

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Volunteer Day at Learning Garden

volunteer day

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All National Parks will be Free (April 16-24)


During National Park Week (April 16–24), entrance to ALL national parks will be FREE. Plan ahead and bring your family and friends to explore America’s astonishing natural and cultural treasures.


It’s the perfect way to celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service, founded in 1916.


Visit the Centennial page to learn more about local festivities, including a Find Your Park Earth Day volunteer event in partnership with SCA (Student Conservation Association) and American Express.


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Volunteer with Golden Gate National Parks


It’s fun. It’s healthy. It makes a difference. And it’s easy to get started! We have a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, including many that do not require training.


With 80,000 acres of park land, we need your help as we work towards our vision of Parks For All Forever.


Upcoming Opportunities & Events >>
Search the calendar and sign-up for volunteer opportunities and events in the Golden Gate National Parks.


Individuals >>
Get involved in one of our regular weekly drop-in programs. We offer a variety of opportunities throughout San Francisco, the Presidio, Marin, and San Mateo County.


Groups >>
Volunteer programs are a great team-building experience for corporate groups, community organizations, youth groups, and schools. For groups of 5 or more, we can help you find the right activity.


Youth & Family Opportunities >>
Explore the park with friends and family. We have a variety of volunteer opportunities suitable for teens, young people, and families.

Internships & Long-Term Volunteers >>
Apply for a long-term volunteer opportunity or internship in restoration ecology, inventory and monitoring, education and outreach, trail work, and more.

Point Reyes new employee training

Park Academy Classes >>
Learn in the parks! We offer special classes for park volunteers, members, interns, and staff. Classes are scheduled year-round and cover a wide range of topics.


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Join The Celebration! World Landscape Architecture Month


April is World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM), an international celebration of landscape architecture. WLAM introduces the profession to the public by showcasing landscape architect-designed spaces around the world.

From the High Line in New York to your favorite local park, WLAM uses social media to celebrate the work of ASLA’s members and landscape architects around the globe.


The profession will be on display on April 12 when WTTW’s “10 Parks That Changed America” debuts on PBS. The show follows the evolution of public spaces from across the country and illustrates how landscape architecture shapes how we interact with our environment.



World Landscape Architecture Month is the month long celebration of landscape architecture and designed public and private spaces. Established by the American Society of Landscape Architecture, WLAM aims to demonstrate how landscape architecture affects our daily lives. Additionally, each ASLA member will receive a wallet sized card with “This Is Landscape Architecture” on it to take pictures of it at designed spaces to share on social media. ASLA will showcase all of these efforts to create a national story about connecting students across the world collaborating ideas that promotes the landscape architecture profession.


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