Aridscapes: Designing in Harsh and Fragile Lands, by Shlmo Aronson, International AS LA; Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2008; 214 pages, € 33.65.

Reviewed by Peter Jacobs, Fasla

The worldwide desertification of temperate and dry landscapes has been an important part of the conservation and development agenda lor at least 40 years, and the current debate that surrounds climate change suggests that many temperate regions of the world will continue to shift toward increasingly arid conditions.

Aridscapes, a bilingual Spanish and English publication, addresses these issues and explores innovative concepts, design strategies, and technical solutions that are essential to the conservation and appropriate development of dry landscapes. It provides capsule discussions of landscape projects in a number of settings throughout the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union, and North America.

The text stresses the historically ingenious strategies developed to conserve, manage, and distribute water for agriculture and human settlements. Many contemporary techniques such as drip irrigation have been informed by these approaches and now serve to support considerably larger contemporary populations and significantly more intensive use than would otherwise be possible.

The mosaic of issues addressed in Aridscapes includes the psychological aspects of aridscapes, oasis and desert gardens, the impacts of agriculture, and the need to set each of these within the context of regional landscape planning. Unfortunately, much of the experience derived from past solutions provides a sobering perspective of the history of human intervention in this and other challenging landscape contexts.

Aridscapes argues that the lessons of the past, current and expanding ecological knowledge, and a sensitive understanding of the social and cultural dynamics of resident populations can contribute and have contributed to projects that reflect best practices in landscape planning and design. Many of these projects are the product of the author's considerable love for arid landscapes and his long practice in this context. Other case studies address how this landscape has been changed through increasing population and development pressures and how it might better be conserved.

One of the most important contributions of Aridscapes is the honest appraisal of what we have learned from the past, where we have succeeded, and where we have been victims of unintended consequences that arise even from our best intentions. The Aswan Dam project in Egypt or the filling of the marshlands in the Hula Valley in Israel are two such projects whose positive and negative impacts are discussed over time. These postproject evaluations are rarely encountered in the landscape planning and design literature and yet are essential to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Of equal interest are the observations and admission that we still do not know enough of the dynamics of landscape change, that some of the phenomena that we observe are not easily explained, and that prudent intervention is not only the most reasonable approach, but one that may lead to the most convincing design solutions.

Unfortunately, the graphic presentation of Aridscapes is visually nervous and unnecessarily complex. The Spanish text is lixated on the left-hand page, the English text 011 the right. The numerous illustrations and diagrams that support the theoretical and practical discussions are generally quite small given the pocketlxxjk dimensions of text. The additional decision to mix black-and-white typefaces and illustrations on sepia backgrounds interspersed with the more traditional blocks of black text and illustrations on a white background complicates the reader's ability to focus on and absorb the proposals that form the backbone of the book,

Aridscapes is a somber but important reflection on the issues that lie beneath the surface of landscape planning and design. It is the mature reflection of an experienced practitioner who has developed bold but sensitive solutions to complex planning and design problems and has had the courage to revisit his and other projects. We have much to learn from the lessons reported.

Peter Jacobs, FASLA, is pmfessw of landscape architecture at tlx University of Montreal.

Google Sketchllpfor Site Design: A Guide to Modeling Site Plans, Terrain, and Architecture, by Daniel Tal, ASLA; Hobokcn, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2009; 368 pages, $49-95.

Reviewed by Madis Pihlak

S KETCHUP is an innovative software program useful for all designers and planners. The software is relatively easy to learn, and a designer can quickly produce very impressive sketch perspectives. Even such simple design software has enough complexity that a book is needed so users can comfortably learn the program. Daniel Tal's book is rich with color illustrations and is intended to guide the landscape architect with little computer graphic skill to proficiency with one of the most creative and efficient design-oriented software programs. Design principals can use this book to learn how to rapidly sketch out design ideas that can then be printed and drawn over by hand or sent to other designers in the firm for review and further design development. With this book as a resource there is no excuse for not fully entering the digital age.

Good books for learning design software are very rare. Good digital media books written for landscape architects are even rar-


er. This book is sophisticated enough to state that there are many ways to accomplish things with SketchUp. It's not a simple cookbook or "trained dog" approach to computer software learning. The step-by-step instructions are here, but there is enough flexibility and theory that you will experience long-term learning if you complete the design exercises and understand the underlying logic behind how SketchUp has been programmed to behave.

The beginning of the book is a little dry and confusing. If f did not already know the design value of SketchUp, I would have been inclined to put the book down. However, once you make the decision to continue reading, you are rewarded with a well-written and specific how-to book.

Understanding the overarching ways the software works lets you better understand how to model complex objects like buildings or stairs and retaining walls. Analogies are made to sculpting out of stone, where you define the overall form first and then chisel the smaller details by pushing and prilling the forms much as you would a clay study model. This intuitive way of working writh a design medium is what intrigues designers when they first encounter SketchUp. One potential drawback of the book is that it is easy to get lost if you do not complete the exercises and simply try to read the book to understand how SketchUp works. This is a book that must be used right along with the program to be fully understood.

An ongoing issue with most software books is the pace of change of the software itself. This book is focused on SketchUp 6, and the current version of SketchUp as I write this is 7.1. According to Google, the parent company of SketchUp, version 7 is easier to use, shares models letter, and has some new tools. This problem of discussing the outdated software version could be partly remedied with a companion web page where the version 7 changes could be explained. The book does interact well with the free web site ( You simply search for SketchUp tutorial models writh the author's name. The tutorial models provided on the Google 3D warehouse site, however, are provided in the same outdated SketchUp 6 model version. Fortunately there is not a major difference between SketchUp 6 and Sketch Lip 7. This ensures that the book is still useful for readers who want to learn the current version of SketchUp 7.1.

The author has a very useful web page with models, tutorials, and YouTube videos ( The publisher (Wiley) also has a separate professional and education web page for the book. All these web sites provide resources that will keep the book material up to date.

What the book lacks is the sort of theoretical discussion that would have raised it to the next level of thoughtful digital media books—namely the value of SketchUp in the actual workplace as opposed to the university studio, or the ongoing debate over hand-drawn versus computer-generated graphics. This may l>e a little unfair, because many times the publisher's editors take a very focused approach to digital media books with the intent of removing any potentially extraneous material. At the very least a few concisely written paragraphs at the end of each chapter on how SketchUp could be integrated into professional work flows or design development processes would give a more grounded appeal to the book and lead to better reader comprehension.

A concluding chapter should review what the reader would have learned from using the entire book, but the last chapter doesn't do that here, which causes the book to end abruptly. Even with some of these drawbacks, SketchUp for Site Design is a useful book that belongs in every landscape architect's library.

Mac/is Piblak is an associate professor of landscape architecture, architecture, and visiutl arts (/Digital Studio) at Pennsylvania State University.

A CLEARING IN THE WOODS: CREATING CONTEMPORARY GARDENS, by Roger Foley, Affiliate ASLA, photographer; New York: The Monacelli Press, 2009: 208 pages, $50. THIS Book cooks at 26 gardens from various locations, representing a variety of styles, scales, and design approaches—all through one photographer's lens. The projects are shot with an awareness of materials, color, tight, texture, and design intent. More than yet another attractive book for garden design enthusiasts, this volume demonstrates the value of documenting one's work with a skilled eye, reinforcing what award juries often say: Professional photography pays.

Ken smith Landscape Architect, by Ken Smith, ASLA; New York: The Monacelli Press, 2009; 240 pages, $50.

quirky, colorful, and provocative. It's also engaging and amusing and, when more closely examined, thoughtful and logical. Critic John Beardsley's introduction puts this midcareer retrospective of IS projects in context, and Smith's brief, reflective commentary precedes each project. Smith's image-oriented work, like fashion, may not appeal to everyone, but the process through which it emerges is well worth exploring.

•"Japanese Stone Gardens, by Stephen Mansfield; North Clarendon, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing. 2009; 160 pages. $24.95. this highly specific offering takes an In-depth look at one type of Japanese garden. It traces the history of the "dry stone garden" from ancient times to the present day, carefully explains this style's aesthetic underpinnings and design elements, and then travels the Floating World to profile—with capsule text and numerous photographs—15 key examples. This is a worthwhile read (and look) for anyone even remotely interested in the oft-misnamed "Zen gardens" of Japan.


This month features green products for resi dentiaJ landscapes.

Advantage Lumber Ipe Decking

IPE IS AN EXOTIC hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot and decay, is eight times harder than California redwood, and has a class A fire rating, the same rating as concrete. Advantage Lumber's ipe decking is responsibly harvested from managed forests and is 100 percent free of dangerous and harmful chemicals.

Standard and pregrooved decking is the preferred choice on outdoor decks and docks. When installed, outdoor decking should have a gap between deck boards of Yn inch for air-dried material or a quarter inch for kiln-dried material to allow for expansion and contraction. For covered porches and patios, tongue-and-groove porch decking is similar to interior hardwood flooring in that it lias no gap spacing between the boards.

Advantage Lumber can ship direct to businesses or job sites. For more information, visit

Uwharrie Chair Company Bridgehampton Swing

Environmental objections plague most outdoor furniture products. Tropical lumber harvesting devastates rain forests, old-growth deforestation threatens endangered species, and plastics disposal harms the environment, Uwharrie Chair Company offers a simple alternative to im ported teak, painted metal or hardwood, and molded plastic: pressure-treated pine.

The wood of choice for ski lodge decks, marinactocks, and landscape walks, treated lumber offers distinct advantages over other traditional outdoor materials, ft is insect and rot resistant, it may be stained or painted (or left natural), and i t s m i I led from a renewable resource: plantation-grown southern pine. Uwharrie Chair Company uses heavy, one-inch-thick, premium-grade lumber, kiln dried after it has been treated. Paints used to coat Uwharrie Chair products are latex enamel.

The Bridgehampton Swing is 50 inches wide by 36 inches deep and 381^ inches high. It can be mounted where the designer chooses or can be hung from Uwharrie's Outdoor Arbor.

Uwharrie's plan tat ion-grown pine furniture has a lifetime guarantee against rot, water damage, and insect infestation. The hardware is stainless steel and won't rust or corrode. The Bridgehampton Swing and Ou tdoor Arbor are available in a variety of finishes and are handcrafted in the United States. For more information, visit www. uwharriechair. com.

Presto Geosystems' Filter Pave

PRESTO GEOSYSTEMS' FilterPave is a hard-surfaced, recycled glass porous pavement system that filters stormwater and has the ability to adsorb hydrocarbons. Its surface is an attractive and colorful mosaic of recycled, multicolored glass bonded with a high-strength natural binder.

The pavement uses about 90 percent post-consumer recycled glass in the mix. The specially processed and bonded glass is as safe as any traditional surface for walking or driving. The structurally sound system is twice as porous as other hard-surfaced porous pavements, resulting in agreater reduction of stormwater runoff. Polluting fluids that leak from automobiles are adsorbed by the glass pavement. Use of the system can also contribute to LEED green building credits.

In addition to residential uses, the system is ideal for parking lots, trails/walkways, and sidewalks.

The FilterPave system is installed by a nationwide network of certified contractors, experienced in the application of specialty pavements. Color varies by region, and optional color enhancements are available. Visit for more information.

The Bridgehampton Swing and Outdoor Arbor, left, have a rustic quality that can suit residential landscapes. FilterPave, above, can be used on residential driveways and paths.

New Books from the Urban Land Institute


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