Spruill Farm news

We continue to search for academic and/or municipal partners for the  Spruill Farm project.  Who’s interested?   Here’s a link to the Farm website – you can download the program document. www.spruillfarm.org


We’ve moved!!!!

 the new ‘home office,’…67% greener than before.

After 5 fun years on Princess Street, we’re sad to say goodbye to our downtown studio space, but excited to streamline expenses and reduce our commute!  Check out our new satellite treehouse space!!

New telephone number:  910-821-0084

New mailing address: 1319 Military Cutoff Road, Ste. CC, #221  Wilmington, NC 28405


We love parks!!!!

Well- here’s a full version of the letter Scott submitted to the Star-News Friday (not sure if/how it may be edited for space, if published), but we also wanted to add some context, alternative thoughts & visions to these comments.

Give HUD it’s money back!

Let’s see;  the city gets $250K over 3 years ago when it applied for HUD money for its ‘Thalian Square’ project, one of the key civic priorities of the ILM Vision 2020 plan.  Then our elected officials decide they don’t have the ‘political will’ to spend it where it’s really needed and want to shift it to a pie in the sky riverfront scenario on land they don’t own (Hilton lot) and an area from which the current users don’t want to be displaced (Coast Guard).    Meanwhile, on our faux ‘Main Street’ at Mayfaire, developers saw fit to give a generic, ubiquitous multiplex a masonry forecourt/plaza, ornamental fountain & entry more befitting the oldest ‘grand dame’ of North Carolina’s theaters.   After spending a year for a painstaking & stunning restoration of the Thalian interior, the parking lot still looks like that of a strip-shopping center.  This irresponsible lack of ‘vision’ is a travesty.  At least these powers that be and complacent theater goers don’t need to take an arduous walk from one of the SIX public parking decks downtown (recently built or under construction), two of which are about the same walk movie goers have to get their seats at Regal Cinemas.   

On the presumption that HUD lets them keep the money, council should make appointments to see an optometrist- as Vision 2020 looks like it’s a blurry goal at best.

 Scott Ogden    Wilmington, NC      6/3/2011

The Riverfront Park, while not that pretty or inspired for that matter, is however pragmatic & functional as is, especially the block from Market to Princess.  In its geometry, it’s so skinny that it’s merely a sidewalk version of the Riverwalk- with the only improvement possibly being more signage/etc. to inform visitors that the northern & southern wooden segments of the Riverwalk are in fact connected.   Eating lunch on the courthouse steps countless times, we’ve observed how it’s used and functions;  as stage (Azelia, concerts, etc.), for media events, the holiday XMAS tree, base of visiting ‘tall ships’, and for the weekly farmer’s market.

While some new thoughts for downtown are creative such as the Public Market & the parking deck/aerial bridge park from 2 years ago, the current plaza falls under that old adage- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!  (especially when more and better areas could use it for other varied functions throughout the CBD & historic areas- another lost opportunity of focus in Vision 2020 , the ‘college green’ concept for CFCC as park & amphitheater, as it’s now a big, generic parking deck @ Red Cross & Front).

One thought we’ve kicked around (while not original- it could be really fun, educational & adaptable) is a barge or two as park/green space that could move up & down the Cape Fear Waterfront.  Skinny, reclaimed industrial relics given second life as mobile green space that could be located @ the courthouse, or the convention center, or Dram Tree, or Battleship Park.….wherever necessary.

At small (30’ wide x 120’ long) & medium (50’ w. x 200’ l.) sizes [there also also micro & mega sizes!!],  barges could work on a multitude of sites on the Cape Fear, mirroring full or half block lengths.  They could be arranged end to end, or side by side.  Some could be ‘green’ or park space, others could have amenities such as educational facilities, like NYC’s ‘science barge’- (think- Eagles Island mobile lab, tied to wetlands restoration, rice plantations, etc.).  Others could be hardened or have water- for a pool and/or concerts or added event space like the ‘floating pool’, London Riverfront, etc.  Some could be energy generating (with wind/solar/tidal) and even function to move plants to other locations, for living shorelines, restoration projects, etc.   The Riverwalk is nice;  but the opportunity to get folks back ‘on the river’ instead of over it on decks or adjacent to it  on hardened bulkheads is one that should be explored.

Here are a few projects like this from around the US/world;


Robert Smithson’s ‘Floating Island’:

The first ‘art’ project from the man who gave us Spiral Jetty and other seminal earthworks- this park barge circled Manhattan.  Took 35 years to see it’s concept come to fruition- but interesting beginnings.



Barging Boston, in a 2010 proposal, talks about key concepts of these types of floating ‘adaptive reuse’ parks with the following words;   Mobility, Adaptability, Economy, Industry, Tourism & Possibility.  Their proposal looks at the entirety of the harbor’s edge condition from industrial to residential and tourist areas.   Boston, similar to Charleston in its types and amount of harborfront, has really take big strides in renewing the greening aspects (Big Dig, etc.) to what is already a beautiful urban city with many pocket parks & waterfront amenities.  http://bargingboston.com/media/bargingboston_media_shift2.html

Similarly, Seattle had a reclamation project- ‘the living barge’ in the industrial area of the Duwamish River near the main Seattle port;  more something to look at as a ‘folly’ not unlike the Smithson work- but compelling too!


On the usable side, New York City has other urban gardens & recreational structures that both demonstrate farming & ‘green infrastructure’, as well as mobile swimming & sport.  The ‘science barge’ is a working greenhouse & lab that’s powered by both a solar array & wind power.  It’s anchored North of NYC in Yonkers and works up and down the Hudson.




NYC also has a floating pool that moves from park to park along the East River & Brooklyn water fronts;





Another thought:  spend some of that $250K (a small piece?!?) for a ‘visions’ competition for the Wilmington waterfront.  Multiple cities have done similar endeavors that last few years, with resounding success & building a lot more public buy-in & creativity than an engineer’s EIS report.



Again, Seattle has launched a new vision for it’s entire city’s edge with Elliott Bay & the Puget Sound by the same team that did NYC’s famed Highline.  It calls for a range of urban edge interventions that tie the city back to the water with pools, event spaces, boat launches, etc.


London- floating walkways & amenities for future 2012 Olympics along the Theme

Stopping ‘Dumb Growth’

Cape Fear Economic Development Council [CFEDC] hosted noted ex-mayor of Milwaukee, author/ educator, and New Urbanist advocate John Norquist for 2 days last week, May 19 & 20.  The enduring theme of the luncheon presentation and multiple breakout and work sessions was ‘adding value’ to our cities.  While ambiguous at first, one can interpret this phrase in a multitude of ways so that as Mr. Norquist noted;  conservatives and liberals, old and young, cat people and dog lovers, can all agree that the developments proposed add this inherent ‘value’ to the city/region.   It is often called ‘smart growth’ or a remixing of the urban fabric that pushes for restructuring codes & land use in America.  Single-use zoning, as most of SE North Carolina is, is now seen as an out-moded strategy, one that has created all the ‘sprawl’, that most Americans say they don’t like.  [Norquist also quipped that they don’t like ‘density’ so what’s the in-between, or answer?]

The next day the Star-News had this story in the Local page.

‘Rezonings pave the way for nearly 6,000 homes’

What if we rewrote this headline as it should be;  ‘Navassa plans for 12K Northerners to Relocate in Brunswick Co.’,  ‘Town Envisions 65% of its area to be paved in 30 years’, ‘Northeast Brunswick County;  Cary without the parks, planning or conservation’.

Other headlines in the month of May add to this lack of vision & conventional approach to growth. ‘Lane to be added from bridge to Leland’        ‘I-140 Wilmington Bypass interstate extension work to begin soon’

Thankfully(?), we will have that bypass by 2018, so that everyone from Jacksonville & points north and east won’t have to go through Wilmington on their way to Myrtle Beach, except stop at a new Scotchmen store off ‘the loop’ or maybe hit a new outlet mall or strip center or umpteenth Bojangles.

He also talked about ‘congestion’, drawing a metaphor to cholesterol, in that there is both a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ component to congestion.  Merchants & restaurant owners on Front St. downtown or Main St. in Mayfaire don’t mind the back-ups that traffic exhibit in being a desirable destination, and a place that has more to offer than copious stripped asphalt & a big glowing box signs of College Road, Oleander or US17.  However, our area is being drowned in new highways, overpasses, turnlanes, ‘michigan lefts’, and other engineering feats to combat ‘congestion’ and allow all the exurban & suburbanites here to get from home to work to store to mall to home, without walking or even slowing to 25 for that matter.  Just like our waistbands and garages, America is truly obese on the legacy of cheap gas, fast food & shitty development, and it has to stop if we are to have any quality of life in the future.

If we have learned nothing from the recent events along the Mississippi, Gulf Coast, and the ‘sustainability mecca’ of Greensburg, Kansas (obliterated by tornados and rebuilding itself as the ‘greenest town in America’),  we are taking advantage of our land and its inherent strengths and qualities which we are quickly erasing.  That essence & potential which drew all of us here in the last decade or century; whether by boat, train or the dreaded I-40 extension from Raleigh is eroding.   It’s called ‘sense of place’ and most Wilmingtonians cite it as a key factor of why they moved here- but from recent history and future efforts, that will soon be the tiny, sweet filling in a hard candy shell of garbage, concrete & unsightly sprawl.

street edges

We’ve been helping WECO (watershed education for communities and officials) and the NC State B.A.E. Stormwater Engineering Group with their Street and Intersection Retrofits in Wilmington.  These  bioretention areas filter stormwater runoff AND do a little traffic-calming!

Soundscapes- #1, March 2011

At the studio, we are visual people and also inspired by music that gets our creative juices flowing.  For our friends, etc.- we thought we’d post a few links every once in awhile with what’s going through the speakers of the studio (in addition to as usual;  KEXP web-streaming, WFMU (Ken on Wednesday AM!!), and Pandora…).  Here’s a sampling of winter/early-spring heavy rotation selections.

Diplo- Blow Your Head #1 (Mad Decent)- fun DJ mix (from the TV/BlackBerry spokesperson) with down-tempo & dub-step modern classics (incl. Joker, Rusko, Untold & others).   For some reason, techno/dance music seems like it should be enjoyed while you send 0’s & 1’s through the interweb.

Foster the People- band of the spring, very peppy, dance/pop from LA.  Just an EP now, full CD later this year.  Pumped Up Kicks & Helena Beat are awesome spring/summer songs.  Group to watch for 2011!!

Cut Copy-Zonoscope  (Modular)  CD came out before the Japan tsunami, so you have to excuse the visualization of the future 2037 Giant Wave of Manhattan.  Another nice disk of 80’s, techno/pop from Australia’s favorite dance band.  No filler songs; Where I’m Going & Pharaohs & Pyramids are our faves.

James Blake- James Blake (Atlas)  After a few EP’s/singles, this 22-yr old ‘Sound of UK’ blends R & B with dubstep & trip-hop into a beautiful mix of ethereal words & blips. Beautiful, reflective, a must to listen to over and over for the wonder of of its textures & words.  ‘Limit to your Love’ is a standout.

All are available at Amazon.com for download or purchase.  More next month!!

Plants are more than “materials…”

not just plant 'material...'

What is a plant material?  Is it a fabric made of plant fiber?  Can it be any chunk of vegetable tissue?

In the jargon of landscape architects (many, but not all….!)  it means a PLANT that fulfills a human purpose in a built environment.  It could be a ‘buffer tree.’  Or a ‘interior parking lot canopy tree.’  Or, my personal favorite, a ‘parking lot perimeter planting.’  (to screen headlights.)  In larger, more thoughtful cities, some land development codes and technical standards (established to maintain health and public safety) have started using language that includes respect for habitat and species diversity.   Hooray!  How about we boost this noble  purpose to the top  of the list?

Plants are NOT just tools for screening neighbors, or fluffing the underside of a building.   Plants are alive, they are members of the biological community.  They are more than materials…