Front yard landscape before sewer trenching, originally uploaded by Vegas Swallows.

The first thing many people notice when moving in to the valley is our distinctive rocky front and back yards. The Xeriscape concept, however, does not call for simply laying down a truck load of rocks around your property.

Xeriscaping refers to landscaping in ways that do not require supplemental irrigation. It is promoted in areas that do not have easily accessible supplies of fresh water. The word Xeriscaping was coined by combining xeros (Greek for “dry”) with landscape. Plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate are emphasized, and care is taken to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off.

-Wikipedia

We are starting to see these exclusively rock landscapes around commercial buildings and on UNLV’s campus. The goal of saving water is great but why do we need to replace grass with such an unusable alternative? What happened to good old concrete patios? Even bare dirt would be more usable than sharp, heavy and hard to walk across rocks. It destroys any other possibility for land use aside from aesthetics.

Instead of rock yards, how about simple patios? How about larger sidewalks? Concrete benches next to buildings? C’mon people, be creative, grass is not just there to look nice and neither should any replacement for it (most rock gardens do not look nice anyways). Use the extra land for something, even parking would have more use than a rock carpet.


UNLV, originally uploaded by Pantyhose Girl’s.

The Sun posted an interesting article about the fight to save Frazier Hall from demolition.

Razing Frazier Hall will make UNLV a more inviting place, giving passersby a view of lush, tree-shaded lawns now hidden behind the building. Maude Frazier, the pioneer educator who pressured state officials a half -century ago to build a university in Southern Nevada, will be honored elsewhere at UNLV.

But the classic Vegas blow-it-up-when-it-ages mentality doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“I am concerned about just tearing everything down and imploding a feature of Las Vegas, which we do constantly up and down the Strip,” said Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Steve Sisolak, who earned a master’s degree from UNLV in 1978. “I don’t know if we want to take that to the university.”

I didn’t know Maude, but I know that I would not be fighting to protect an old outdated building that is of little use aside from nostalgia. This may be a case of historic vs. historical. Frazier Hall may be historic but its not historically important as a building. There is nothing special about its architecture that warrants attempts to save it.

I would much rather prefer a nice little park with a statue and some benches, maybe an arched entrance if I were Maude.

Progress or History? [Las Vegas Sun]

 



Las Vegas parking lot, originally uploaded by kmhinkle.

There are two schools of thought about the future of UNLV and its community. On one side are those who want more parking, quicker and easier access to and from the school. On the other side are those who would like people to stick around. No need for parking since we don’t really want people driving to the campus from outlying areas, they should live nearby. We should create that whole “community” thing we’ve heard about.

It seems that this discussion has, in part, been taking place since the early days of the Strip. Robert Venturi published Learning from Las Vegas in 1972. The book is an appreciation not only of the unique architecture of the Strip but also of its extremely car-friendly nature.

On the other hand, there are plans for Midtown UNLV and other non-standard development models, but they only seem to showcase just how rooted our city is in automobile-dependent culture. In a recent Rebel Yell article, Gerry Bomotti compared Midtown (or at least its construction) to the District at Green Valley Ranch. This seems to show a fundamental misunderstanding of what Midtown is, or should be, about.

The District is hideous. It’s surrounded by parking lots, sits next to a giant overpowering casino and is surrounded by walled and gated suburbs. This is not the kind of future we want for UNLV. And so far it stands out as one of the best examples of fake urbanism. It’s basically an imitation of a very limited urban center.

I have not heard anything about a regional plan that addresses the concerns related to the Midtown Project, which is necessary. Transportation issues were touched on at the latest planning meeting but defered to the RTC (Regional Planning Commision). Midtown planners need to solve the transportation issue themselves. In order for this plan to succeed it needs to take the form of a transit village. Whether bases on bus-rapid-transit or the extension of the monorail from the MGM, which as planned sits alone on the west side of the Thomas and Mack Center, surrounded by parking lots. We need some sort of efficient mass transit system connected to the project in order to get people out of their cars. Unless Midtown’s planners seriously consider transportation, and the wider region surrounding the development and it’s associated zoning codes and limitations. We may just end up with another isolated version of the District.

Discussion about community at UNLV I think might be misplaced. All such discussion, which reaches out into the entire valley comes back to urban planning. More specifically, planning for cars, and lots of them. I took an urban planning class last semester and it was almost entirely centered on technical details. Legal requirements like numbers of parking spaces per square foot or sidewalk requirements, turning radius, all have their place, but miss the point of what urban planning (not rural) is. It’s planning an urban environment. One where people can walk around, create communities, feel comfortable. Not just drive somewhere, park, drive somewhere else, park and so on.

We don’t, as far as I’ve seen, plan our city much at all. Private developers do all the planning. The county just maintains the Super Grid. Pretty much everything in between the 8-lane arterials are the work of private developers, concerned mainly with quick financial turnover, not communities.

Sure you can have non-location based community, but i think that there is something in us, something genetic that makes us want to know the people in the next cave; to create casual networks of people, to organize ourselves into public forces. Can we do it in a world solely reliant on cars? I don’t know but I’d rather not take the chance.

I am not a fan of parking, I think if we eliminated all parking requirements and their associated lots, our cities would be a lot more interesting and lively. Planners and builders would have to create actual cities instead of groups of houses and strip malls. Lack of parking is more of a stick than a carrot but it will coax a few people into reconsidering their transit options.


Well at least their monorail seems to work and goes downtown. Of course their downtown only consists of the Wedding Chapel but hell.



The Plaza Hotel, originally uploaded by *Checco*.

So yeah, we already have our own Plaza Hotel (and Casino), but it just ain’t the same.

Naftali, an Israeli-born newcomer whose company plans to build a Las Vegas version of its famed New York Plaza Hotel, will be playing in a sandbox already jam-packed with gaudy buildings, outsized egos and multibillion-dollar projects built after years of trial and error.

East Coast Style, Vegas Proportions [Las Vegas Sun]

Naftali is the first developer to pay over $1 billion for Strip property. He announced plans to buy the New Frontier on May 15, 2007.


MK Lotus In Front of San Francisco City Hall by Inhabitat.

I was, unfortunately, unable to attend the West Coast Green Conference in San Fransisco this last weekend. Some bloggers who attended have however written their thoughts on some of the ideas presented. Including the zero-energy prefab installed in front of City Hall(pictured, the smaller one).

Inhabitat checked out days 1 and 2, and made a video.

Also:

MKLotus Off-Grid Prefab at West Coast Green @ EcoGeek

West Coast Green @ WorldChanging

Also some interesting newspaper write ups:

The Chronicle wrote about how some San Franciscans have opened up their eco-friendly homes to coincide with the conference and The Mercury News explains why getting people to recycle in other regions (like Las Vegas at only 13-17%) is more difficult.

The Conference was geared toward residential buildings and simple updates to get more energy efficiency. I’ll try to get hold of some keynotes if I can.


Urban sprawl, Las Vegas, Nevada, originally uploaded by cocoi_m.

baghdad_suburb01, originally uploaded by Luodanli.

Every time I see Baghdad on TV I think of home.

The similarities are not intentional but it turns out the standard US sprawl development model mirrors the way Baghdad’s suburbs naturally developed. In Iraq, family members would buy property near each other and build walls along their collective perimeters facing other neighborhoods. One entrance would be gated or guarded to deter crime and prevent entry to “undesirables.”