Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's all about soil

I lied when I said it was all about light.

Guatemala: Organic Corn at 10,000 feet

Striking results even when dried.

Cool Globes

Since I'm going to be on a panel discussing the cool globes on October 13th at the Coyote Art Festival I've been thinking a lot about global warming. In turn, this leads me to reflect on the reforesting/organic agriculture project my company has been helping to support in Guatemala for the past few years. Now that I am the Earthways project director, essentially the US fundraiser & liason to the NGO in Guatemala, and because it is my favorite place on the globe, I have Guatemala on my mind. And heart. Since I never posted a report on my most recent trip there (Feb. '06), I'm going to try to post some images here before I return.

Let's start with an image up in the mountains at about 10,000. If you look closely, you can see that people are farming up here. Given the utterly impoverished soil & human conditions it is amazing that many of those who have been returning to organic & sustainable methods have begun to achieve striking results.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Notebaert Nature Museum Green Roof

In my quest to learn which green roof system (to use pre-fab trays or not) performs better, I went to see one of the earlier green roofs in Chicago. The head engineer at the Notebaert Nature Museum, Chris Dunn, was kind enough to give me a tour and indulge all my questions. He is very pleased with the installation. Since the green roof was installed in 2003 by Intrinsic Landscaping, Inc. (so cutting-edge that LEED wasn't even a program yet), it has been an interesting lab for observation. Plant materials, originally mostly sedum, have morphed to include a bunch of aster and moss. Chris and Kurt Horvath (President of Intrinsic Landscaping) were on-site investigating what might have caused these changes (soil pH, less maintenance) and one of the reasons I appreciate them is that they approach the situtation as curious scientists, not demanding prima donnas. It is a public building after all and therefore we should all be able to learn from the process. Unlike architecture which is a bit more exact, plant culture is constantly in flux. Of course, green roofs incorporate both, so the intersections most fascinate.

This was one of Intrinsic's earliest installation using a non-tray system. They now install all over the US and are quite in demand from some of the more progressive institutions. The discussion of pros & cons (to tray or not to tray) is too complicated to investigate here. For the moment, let's say that if a leak occurs, you don't know where it originated in either system, so as far as I can tell, that's not a good argument for using the trays. Although apparently there is now some electronic device which can pinpoint the leak exactly. Also, once you remove the tray, that system is compromised and has no filter. This green roof has three components over the building roof membrane: a pvc permeable layer, a root barrier and a filter cloth. The soil medium is contained by grills on a slope with about a 4% grade. About 3/4s of the way down the green roof sit three drains. Intrinsic set up dams before installing the layers in order to test drainage.

In general, even after a large storm, the roof garden seems to retain water at a rate of about an hour before the excess is released back into the drainage this case a retention pond (or the lagoon as it was known in my childhood wanderings). Who wouldn't applaud that?

Inside the museum, you can watch the process of the green roof installation from a worm's eyes view. Most people know the Notebaert as the butterfly museum, but of course it offers more ways to spread our wings and rise above the crowd.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Adam Siegel Photography Show

My brother Adam just had a show of his wonderful photographs (plus two other artists) open until October 11, 2007 at the Zolla-Lieberman Gallery in Chicago. After that, that renowned sculptor, Deborah Butterfield struts her stuff.


Up near Indiana/Michigan border we saw a fabulous woodland garden designed by Garth Conrad Associates out of LaPorte, IN. Its subtleties were powerful and worked their magic.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Miscanthus Study: Light Again

It's All About Light!

As my mom quotes Rembrandt.