Archive for the ‘HISTORIC LANDSCAPES’ Category

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

In this dispatch of the Queue, the LAM staff reads up on the politics of space, urban parks in Mexico, an extraordinary gift of land in California, why architects talk funny, and way too much more.


Alexis Madrigal’s piece on California’s water problem is being heavily circulated, but in case  you haven’t seen it, the Atlantic has it posted in full.

Also all over the interwebs is Elizabeth Kolbert talking about her new book, the Sixth Extinction. “We are effectively undoing the beauty and the variety and the richness of the world which has taken tens of millions of years to reach,” Kolbert tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.  “We’re sort of unraveling that…. We’re doing, it’s often said, a massive experiment on the planet, and we really don’t know what the end point is going to be.”

Do our green urban policies actually undermine social equity? Tom Slater fires a shot across the bow of the advocates for urban sustainability and resiliency, and asks, Who gains? Who loses?


Recognition for the groups, including TCLF, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, and the Minnesota chapter of Docomomo US,  who rallied to save M. Paul Friedberg’s modern landscape, Peavey Plaza.

Lorena Martínez, the mayor of Aguascalientes, Mexico, finds that the new 8 mile long linear park park, La Línea Verde, solves a host of urban problems, from asthma to crime. Cityscope talks to the mayor and the citizens about what it took.

Via Grist, Brentin Mock interviews Clarice Gaylord, who was in charge of the EPA’s first effort to deal with issues of environmental justice–under the Bush administration.

Instead of selling his 300 acres of highly valuable land near Silicon Valley–the number $500 million was thrown out there–Walter Cottle Lester willed his family farm to the state to be preserved as an agricultural park. No playgrounds, no swimming pools, no basketball court, just wide open space.

Via PlaceswireEsri’s ArcGIS opens up its platform to the public and puts reams of government data, including the EPA’s, into the public’s hands.


Photographs by artist/geographer Trevor Paglen of never before-seen-surveillance sites cracks open the hidden landscapes of intelligence gathering.

So very cool new Multiplicity project from Landscape Forms and Fuseproject lets designers play with street furniture.

Translation, please: “Interrogating the hermeneutic potentiality of the urban fabric’s boundary conditions is the key to intervening in the city’s morphology. The phenomenological nature of a building and its neighborhood is enhanced by ludic acts of horizontality.”

How to make pennyfloors, with much chortling in the comments about cost per square foot.

The world without people is a little bit creepy.

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Shute's Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Shute’s Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Undergraduate Zheming Cai’s ASLA award-winning student project to reimagine the historic military site of Shute’s Folly Island off coastal South Carolina took on the twin behemoths of preservation and tourism and forged them into a refined solution that balanced the site’s architectural and landscape histories. The project, Preservation as Provocation: Redefining Tourism, won a 2013 ASLA Student Honor Award and was praised by the “very impressed” jury for its sophistication. Cai’s design of the historic fortification “broke away from the military history” and “built on other reasons to visit,” according to the comments. Now a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cai talked with us about how to use flooding as an interpretive tool for historic places, understanding the genius loci, and taking a landscape perspective on tourism.

You won the ASLA Student Honor Award for a project that was about preservation and tourism in South Carolina while you were a student at Purdue University. Can you tell us how you got interested in these two concepts and how you chose the site?
This was my senior capstone design project. The previous semester, I had taken a more architecturally oriented historic preservation course with Ken Schuette, who is also my adviser. I had focused on community, cultural heritage, and downtown areas, so that took some of my initial interest in that direction. Schuette discovered a student competition for Castle Pinckney sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He asked me if I had any interest in doing a competition for my capstone, and I said yes, I will do it.

The reason I picked this competition was that I was reading through their brief and they had this attached image of the castle (Castle Pinckney). Lots of my undergrad research is on the genius loci, the spirit of a place, and it reminded me a lot of the picturesque Tintern Abbey kind of image, and that got me really excited. I’m a landscape architect, so I wanted to stick my hat into the ring and do this competition from a landscape perspective. I didn’t win because my project wasn’t architectural enough, which was pretty interesting.

So initially it wasn’t my intention to apply for an ASLA award, but my adviser highly recommended it. At the time, I had graduated already and I was traveling in Yellowstone with my parents, so I had to put it all together in a little cabin.


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View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge behind Crissy Marsh. Courtesy the National Park Service.

There’s been a new salvo in the Crissy Field development project, which we wrote about back in October (At the Presidio, a Field of Schemes, Oct 22, 2013). The National Park Service released a letter last week expressing strong reservations about the development plans at Crissy Field and encouraging the Trust to take the long view. The letter echoes their concerns voiced in a letter earlier in the fall, but this time stating, “There is wisdom in allowing these new uses to settle in before selecting a major new use and tenant for the Commissary site.” For more coverage see John King’s article in SF Gate and read the full  letter from Frank Dean, General Superintendent on the Presidio Trust site.

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Looking north over the Main Post, old commissary building and parking lot, and Crissy Field marsh with  the San Francisco bay beyond.  Main Post Update to the Presidio Trust Management Plan, November 2010.

Looking northeast over the Main Post, old commissary building and parking lot, and Crissy Field marsh with the San Francisco bay beyond. Main Post Update to the Presidio Trust Management Plan, November 2010.

In San Francisco, much of the hotted-up dialogue around the unfolding redevelopment competition for Crissy Field can be pinned on filmmaker George Lucas and his proposal for a Lucas Cultural Arts Museum in the heart of the vaunted Presidio. The competition, to replace the old commissary building with a cultural institution on the Crissy Field site, includes two other contending proposals, but it’s Lucas’s recent sally in the New York Times that got people talking, and looking. To the Times, Lucas blasted the competition’s proposals and the sponsor, the Presidio Trust, for its handling of the redevelopment, and he threatened to take his project to Chicago (where his wife, Mellody Hobson, is the president of an investment firm) if it is rejected—a tactic that will be familiar to anyone who followed Lucas’s real estate tangles in Marin County.


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Photo courtesy National Park Service

From the August 2013 issue of LAM:

By Linda McIntyre

In December 2006, as the National Park Service was starting up the process of developing its National Mall Plan, Susan Spain, ASLA, and Alice McLarty, who are landscape architects with the park service, took me on a tour. As we walked along the rock-hard compacted soil underneath the iconic, yet worn and weedy, lawn panels of the Mall (the tree-lined central axis of the wider National Mall in Washington, D.C.), Spain and McLarty told me how the park service hoped to overhaul the site’s decrepit infrastructure, including, incredibly, the turf (see “Pall Over the Mall,” LAM, April 2007).

I was skeptical. How could any planted site survive more than 25 million visitors and hundreds of permitted events every year? Paving might be redone and new trees planted. But surely the public’s First Amendment right to assemble in the center of the nation’s capital—for demonstrations, festivals, tourism, and softball, to name a few of the everyday activities there—would be the death of any lawn soon after it was installed, no matter how good the intentions or design.


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Courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation

Lovejoy Fountain, Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

The Portland Open Space Sequence, completed between 1966 and 1970, includes two of the most famous landscapes of the modern era—Lovejoy Plaza and the Ira Keller Fountain. At both sites, Lawrence Halprin & Associates designed fountains that abstract natural gorges in concrete and invite people to play in them.  Recently, these spaces, a smaller fountain known as The Source, the grass-covered hillocks of Pettygrove Park, and all the pedestrian malls connecting them were named to the National Register of Historic Places. You can read more about the nomination here.

The landscapes join a very small group of modernist landscapes listed on the register. Peavey Plaza by M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, and Gas Works Park by Richard Haag, FASLA, joined the register in January, though plans are still afoot to demolish Peavey. The Portland spaces have received much more support locally. The Halprin Landscape Conservancy was founded in 2001 to contribute to their care, and Portland’s City Council affirmed its support for the spaces’ registration last June.

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The reflecting pool at Boston’s Christian Science Plaza/ Photo by Alan Ward

From the January 2013 issue of LAM:

By Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA

Each generation makes and remakes the city, through grand schemes and incremental acts. As they alter the city’s streets and public spaces, our mayors, developers, institutions, planners, architects, engineers, and landscape architects reimagine the texture and shape of urban life. Aldo Rossi suggests, in The Architecture of the City (1966), that the city is built on the collective memory of events and impulses, achievements and artifacts, and forces of evolutionary change; its cultural ethos accrues through alteration and the passage of time. Would anyone not endorse Boston as a consummate example?

People love Boston’s coherent, identifiable character, one that evolved over four centuries as it has grown from a coastal village to a thriving metropolis. It’s a city rich in cultural assets—America’s Athens. Its iconic spaces have by necessity adapted to changing contexts: the practical simplicity of the Common, which supports varied forms of public life today as it did in 1620; the pattern of crooked colonial streets, which keeps travel downtown confusing to visitors but picturesquely varied and pleasing; the elegant hierarchies and radical urban reform expressed in the planning of the Back Bay and Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, which have proved resilient in the face of massive change; the inspired and majestic rock pile of H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church, somehow even more compelling alongside the prismatic marvel of Harry Cobb’s John Hancock Tower. We can all identify other notable Boston treasures and how they’ve been altered in the face of new realities.


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