Category: News


Political Turmoil in Brazil

The feeble belief that the Worker`s Party in Brazil (PT) is a leftist one has led many well intentioned people to become their supporters.
Brazilian intellectuals who sympathize with communism are now in a Catch 22 situation. They don`t know where to go.

A great amount of social injustice has survived PT`s 13 years of government showing that only being a leftist isn’t enough to lead a society, based on a  social justice agenda, into a feasible and just economy for all, distributing wealth and providing a better society for all. In many aspects the country is much worse off than it was at the beginning of this adventure.
This term (communism) is so complex that even Marx had a hard time understanding it. He obviously didn’t, which is very unfortunate.
It leaves us “only” with Democracy to deal with. Unfortunately Democracy isn’t just a political direction, it`s also an ever changing process. An ever evolving process. It actually isn’t possible if the people aren’t well educated and institutions aren’t fairly and solidly established. It’s also an utopia if the economic difference between social classes is so big as it is in Brazil. Worse yet, when there is so much distance between socioeconomic groups, not only money wise.

Initial intentions of PT, which they concealed pretty well from the more distracted voters (50% of our population) who have elected them at least twice (there is serious doubt about fraud in the last elections in 2014), were pretty lame.

Just like in Venezuela, PT started to intimidate and persecute the few voices who started to broadcast their opinions and question PT’s real intentions. PT officials were doing anything they could to bring money into their campaigns, especially jeopardizing one of the few companies that were still under our government’s control: Petrobras (the Brazilian Oil Company). They were so incompetent running this company that they ended up telling on themselves. The fact that an Oil Company like Petrobras could swallow losses in a completely favorable market woke our society up. It took long, but finally a federal judge, Sergio Moro, in Parana (a state in the south region of Brazil) decided to act. See the Pasadena Refinery scandal and the Port of Cuba.

Mr. Moro had already worked on another corruption case, where politicians were selling their votes, bought with corruption money (including Petrobras as a source). At that time, about 4 or 5 years ago, he made a few mistakes and the whole process ended up in a huge pizza (a term Brazilians use to denote that no punishment results from certain crimes, usually committed by white-collar criminals).

This time Mr Moro is being very careful and has succeeded in putting in prison top executives from many big contractors’ firms. Even some owners! These companies paid huge bribes (added to over 800 million dollars, perhaps much more) to be able to get government contracts which in turn were overpriced so that they could get the corruption money back. A simple but intricate process that Mr. Moro went to great pains to dismantle, collecting evidence in the quiet of the night for months, until he had enough to line these executives and some politicians into prison.

The pivot of all this mess has been PT, mostly in the person of Brazilian ex-president, Lula. He’s just a few days from getting arrested but many sectors of our society are afraid that there will be a huge turmoil when that eventually happens. I don’t share this fear. There will be some localized paid protests and that will be it.

I myself was very surprised to see that Mr. Moro hasn’t met the same destiny that Mr. Nuzmann did in Argentina (another whole mess in our neighboring country). Recently I found out why that is the case. Wisely counseled, Mr. Moro cut a pact with the former military intelligence agency as well as with the leadership at the Federal Police Dept. As weak as this protection may seem it is still working and Mr. Moro is being regarded as a hero! We do still live in the far west down here.

Needless to say, foreign and Brazilian investors have become very shy and have taken billions of dollars away into safer places (is there such a thing?), leaving our economic activity in a mere inertia, bringing back inflation (over 10% per year so far), unemployment and deterioration of all infrastructure (hospitals, schools, roads, electricity, water, sewage etc.). Once again we are paying for our ignorance and lack of interest in politics.

I’ve come to realize we cannot afford the luxury of not getting involved in politics. As our present history shows it can have dire consequences on everyone’s lives.

Fortunately it seems that we are finally getting the grips of our country again and leaving politicians to their own demise. I’m still not confident it will happen. Even if it does, we are left with a corrupt society whose culture is to not work and get benefits from the government. Perhaps Brazil will continue to be, forever, the country of the future.

Our only hope is to invest heavily in education, research and technology. But this is a long road and I don’t know if I’m willing to give up my life before I see something good happening around me. I don’t have Trotsky’s selflessness and I’m sure no hero. All I want is a good future for our children!

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Since coming back to Brazil plenty of things have happened. Mostly in the golfing arena.
Trying to stay afloat in a wild market isn’t an easy task.
One needs to wear many “hats”… so our company is producing landscaping plans, selling inputs and managing installations.
Here are some images that illustrate what we’re up to.

Green Hole# 5 - Imperial Golf Club

This is a green in grow-in phase in an 18 hole golf course we designed and built.

Unique Garden Golfe

Practice Facility with Driving Range over water: Unique Garden Hotel – Brazil

We are also supervising the construction of a small 9 hole facility that we designed right on the beach in the State of Ceará, Brazil.

Our design was followed by our Landscaping Plans, considering the local Dunes environment, using mostly local plants adapted to high salinity and the local dry environment.

Dunes are an amazing Biome and worth studying. Composed of very tough and resistant plants, with a natural topography formed by the wind over centuries it offers so many possibilities that we became overwhelmed by the endless options for its landscaping.

The image below shows an initial construction phase, with some shaping, green filling and windmills (power source) in the background.

Construction under way in Ceara, Brazil

Construction under way in Ceará, Brazil

The World Cup is taking a lot of attention and unfortunately we were not involved in any of it. We are not corrupt enough! There are certain prices for what is called “success” that we are not willing to pay (or make the Brazilian people pay…).

Besides that, being in a Concrete Jungle motivates us to search for including more green into the human space. We started installing Green Wall Gardens, produced by Elmich from Singapore. An amazing technology, full of little secrets with results that leave everyone a fan.

The image belows shows one of our gardens:

A Sample of what a Green Wall with good choices of plants can yield.

A Sample of what a Green Wall with good choices of plants can yield.

Possibilities on the Roof

We’ve just heard back from the Office of State Buildings. Phone# (225) 219-4800

The architect responsible for those told me that there is no load capacity to do anything on the roof except for normal roof maintenance.

So, that’s that!

A possibility would be to creat an add on structure to harbor the Café and Belvedere. Not a bad initiative, I gather. We are thinking of something in the front, facing River Road around the NorthWest corner of the Visitor Center. Let’s see!

Also the glass tower could be transformed into a Panoramic Elevator. That would be awesome!

Best to all.

Mike’s Blog on Parti Diagrams

I found this blog and it is well applied to our work in Studio.

I tried to re-blog it, but wasn’t successful.

So here goes the full text of his blog:

“A concept that I have been intending to write about for some time is “parti”. A parti is usually a sketch, diagram, drawing, doodle, or some other graphic that represents the direction, concept, or theme of a design. The concept of parti is common in architecture. It is also used in other design disciplines. It is seldom mentioned in conjunction with landscape design however. That is part of the reason why I have not written about this concept until now. The other reason is that a parti is a vague concept.

A parti diagram does not necessarily represent what the design will look like when it is done. It is usually not a polished diagram. It can be very rough; the proverbial back of a napkin sketch. Parti has been defined as “the big idea”, “the central concept”, “the essence of the design”, “the design approach”, “the core element” and numerous other ways. In almost every case a parti is described as conveying the meaning, form, direction, essence, scheme, approach, or some other aspect of a design. If you are confused about what a parti actual is, I was too initially.

The first thing that was unclear is when in the design process a parti is actually created. The answer is that you create a parti after you have some analysis completed. You have to know where you have opportunities and where you have limitations. You have to know the client’s requirements. You should understand what functionality you need to provide. You should have created at least some bubble diagrams and prepared an adjacency analysis. In most cases a parti is going to come after some level of form composition analysis also. You may create several form compositions that you evaluate as potential starting points for your design. That being said, creating a parti comes after having a thorough understanding of the site, the client, and the functional and spatial aspects of your design.

The second confusing aspect of a parti was how it fit into the creative or generative portion of the design process. A parti is described as a vision and/or an inspiration. A parti is also shown as being a result or an output of one or more design concepts. Creating the parti comes after developing conceptual designs. Your source or inspiration for your conceptual designs may come from the site, the surrounding area, the client, the environment, or some other source. Your client may have a love of camping that leads you to develop a concept based on nature. The client residence may be of a Spanish style architecture that leads you do develop a Mediterranean theme concept. There a numerous possibilities.

So what exactly does a parti do? Why should you create one? I think a parti is a communication tool. It communicates the intent of your design concept. In A Visual Dictionary of Architecture (1995), Frank Ching defines a parti as “the basic scheme or concept for an architectural design represented by a diagram.” The parti should communicate something about the form as well as the concept. Ideally, your parti will communicate the experience you intend to create. It should depict something about the functional, sensory, and/or emotional aspects of your design concept.

I am not convinced a parti has to be a diagram or sketch. A picture, an object, maybe even a simple storyboard may serve the purpose of a parti. Which leads to the second question; why create a parti?

Anything that we can create that will make conveying our design intent to the client easier and more effective is a good thing. We all live in a world of headlines. We are flooded with information. We scan e-mails for important subjects. We skim newspapers for headlines. The 30 second sound byte is the norm. Imagine the power of a diagram or simple graphic that you can show the client and they will immediate see what you want to do. Maybe your plan view does that. Or maybe you created a perspective illustration that conveys everything the client needs to know. You may not need a parti in every design. However, if you can create one, it would certainly add value to your client presentation.

There is one very important difference in how and why a parti is used in architecture versus landscape design. In architecture the designer is working in a third dimension in creating a building or structure. That is not to say landscape design does not involve height or structural elements. The mass of a structure just does not impose upon our designs the way it does in building architecture. This is why I think our use or interpretation of a parti can be different.

As I said earlier, a small storyboard may be what you need to convey your parti. Maybe there was an object or something that you saw that inspired your design concept. A picture of that object may be your parti or a part of it. Maybe one of your form compositions can be modified to express more fully the design concept. Again, what we are looking for is a communication tool. The format or media does not really matter.

One last point about the value of a parti. I have read in several places that a parti should “anchor the design”. In other words, when a design issue or question arises, you should be able to go back to the parti for answers. In other posts I have mentioned the value of graphic tools such as a client profile, journey boards, inspiration boards, etc. to facilitate the design process. A parti can serve the same purpose. It communicates the intent of your design concept to your client. Having your parti in front of you while you are designing will serve as a constant visual reminder of your design intent.”

Different uses for asphalt

This is copied from the site: beyondroads.com

How Asphalt is Used

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear asphalt is roads. But the versatility of asphalt makes it the ideal material for other applications and locations: from driveways to runways, from the barn floor to the ocean floor.

Another type of asphalt use

HMA is also used worldwide as a practical solution to water storage, flood control, erosion, and conservation problems. Asphalt has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and used successfully as a primary liner for both sanitary and hazardous waste landfills.

You’ll find asphalt all around you in a variety of uses, including:

  • Transportation – highways, railbeds for transit systems, airport runways
  • Recreational – running tracks, greenway trails, playgrounds, bicycle and golf cart paths, racetracks, basketball and tennis courts
  • Aquatic – fish hatcheries, reservoir liners, industrial retention ponds, sea walls, dikes and groins to control beach erosion
  • Residential – driveways, subdivision roads
  • Agricultural – cattle feed lots, poultry house floors, barn floors, greenhouse floors
  • Industrial – work sites, log yards, ports, freight yards, landfill caps

Check this out! Very motivating article from The Advocate, Februrary 5th 2012. Enjoy!

LSU’s landscape architecture program shines FOR RELEASE SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012, AT 12:01 A.M. CST. Adv04 | News | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, LA.