Archive for the ‘HISTORY’ Category


Ireland's National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

Ireland’s National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In May, Ireland unveiled a National Landscape Strategy (NLS), in an attempt to establish guidelines for the governance of the country’s historic geography while recognizing its inherent dynamism. Getting to grips with a nation’s landscape in such an ecumenical, broad-brushstrokes way is a tall order, even for a small island nation the size of Maine. Human settlement has left its mark on the Irish landscape for nearly 10,000 years. It’s an old place etched with memories, from the craggy coasts of Western Ireland to the karst of County Clare to the genteel Georgian terraces of Dublin.

These all now come under the protective purview of Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht (the latter word referring to the Gaelic language). The agency has committed itself to a 10-year program to implement the NLS, with the completion of a comprehensive national Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) within five years. “It encompasses all landscapes—rural and urban, beautiful and degraded, ordinary and unique,” says Martin Colreavy, Ireland’s principal adviser on built heritage and architectural policy.

Ireland, of course, is a divided island, and the department’s remit extends to the boundaries of the Irish Republic—that is, the three historic southern provinces. The fourth province to the north—what we call Northern Ireland—remains part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has drawn up its own “Landscape Charter,” which will complement this one, reminding us that politics is often a land-based proposition.

If boundaries define landscapes, then landscapes define identity. As the NLS indicates, this is Ireland living up to its European obligations as (more…)

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September’s LAM focuses on three issues in the world of education, including the questions surrounding the development of online landscape architecture degrees, the inclusion of concerns about social equity for the future of the profession, and the debate over the conversion of five-year BLA programs to four. And a rather grand renovation of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, campus by PFS Studio shows how the designers inject a modern attitude into a basic Beaux-Arts plan.

In this month’s departments, the city of Austin undertakes some creative master planning of four municipal cemeteries to combine history with a revenue source for future maintenance; Future Green Studio in Brooklyn is  designing with weeds; and two water-focused landscape designs involving Atelier Dreiseitl stress the need for an understanding of local ecology. And don’t miss our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns. The full table of contents for September can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating September articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Learning Curves,” Hover Collective; “Graveyard Shift,” McDoux Preservation; “In the Weeds,” Tod Seelie; “Keep it Up,” Atelier Dreiseitl.

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This season marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the city of New Orleans finds there is still a long way to go to fully heal. But there are a lot of great revitalization stories, including those involving the beloved green spaces at the heart of the city, old and new. This three-minute video highlights four of these spaces, including the 2013 ASLA award-winning Lafitte Greenway by Design Workshop, which connects City Park to downtown, and Arnold Park, which plays host to Jazz in the Park, a free, weekly concert from September to October.

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July’s LAM looks at the long-needed rehabilitation of Babi Yar Park, a memorial ground in Denver dedicated to the lives lost in Kiev, Ukraine, during the Holocaust, by Tina Bishop of Mundus Bishop; a rethinking of Chavis Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, by Skeo Solutions, which embraces the park’s African American heritage through public engagement; and the ground-to-crown planting of the One Central Park high-rise in Sydney, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, with Aspect | Oculus and Jeppe Aagaard Andersen, where sprawling green balconies make what is said to be the tallest vertical garden in the world.

In this month’s departments, the Milan Expo 2015 centered on food sustainability seems to draw controversy from every angle; Molly Meyer is leading the charge for affordable, simpler, and greater biodiversity in green roofs; and nature reclaims lands once lost from the demolition of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. In The Back, an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History immerses visitors in the beauty of Iceland through sight and sound. All this plus our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns.

You can read the full table of contents for July 2015 or pick up a free digital issue of the July LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating July articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Global Cucumber,” Tim Waterman; “Green Roof Gold,” Michael Skiba; “A River Returns,” National Park Service; “Star Witness,” © Scott Dressel-Martin; “The Chavis Conversion,” Skeo Solutions; “Live It Up,” Simon Wood Photography; “Songs of Ice and Fire,” Feo Pitcairn Fine Art.

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To revive downtown, the city appears poised to drive right through a masterpiece.

From the December 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The city of Fresno sits in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley. When you drive into town from Los Angeles, the landscape is agricultural and framed by roadside eucalyptus trees. It gives way to off-ramp clusters of gas stations, fast-food chains, and light industrial warehouses. Most of Fresno’s neighborhoods, after nearly 50 years of decentralization and flight from the urban core, sprawl north, tracking the edge of the San Joaquin River. The city’s historic downtown and civic center are a near ghost town.

At the heart of downtown is the Fulton Mall. In the early part of the 20th century, it was Fresno’s main drag, Fulton Street, six blocks lined with banks and department stores. In 1964, the landscape architect Garrett Eckbo turned the street into a modernist pedestrian mall as part of a master plan for downtown Fresno by Victor Gruen Associates. Photographs of the period show a wide promenade full of people flanked by the awnings of existing buildings. Daffodils peek out of Eckbo’s sculptural planting beds, fountains gurgle, and a clock tower by Jan de Swart, an expressive interpretation of a historic form, unambiguously marks the mall as the new town square.

Today, the mall is the center of a fight over downtown Fresno’s redevelopment. The city government, with a $14 million federal transportation grant, supports plans to put a new complete street down the center of the mall. Preservationists plan to file a lawsuit to block the scheme. The rhetorical standoff between sides comes down to revive versus destroy, but the conditions on the ground tell a more complicated story about the role of design as a catalyst and a scapegoat in a changing urban landscape.


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Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. Christopher Marcinkoski, The City that Never Was.

Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. From Christopher Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was.

A few months back, we published a short appeal for more landscape architects to apply for the storied Rome Prize with the hope that the breadth of the field could be better represented. On April 23, the American Academy in Rome announced the 2015–2016 fellows, which included three new fellows in landscape architecture: Christopher Marcinkoski, Alexander Robinson, ASLA, and Thaïsa Way, ASLA.

The Rome Prize, which provides significant time, research materials, and studio space at the academy’s recently restored Villa Aurelia in Rome, has long been a coveted honor. Described as “life changing” and “transformative” by the 1997–1998 fellow Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, it is also a way of benchmarking where and how the concerns of landscape architecture converge with currents in the arts and humanities. Along with a cohort of musicians, writers, artists, scholars, and architects, the new landscape fellows will live and work in Rome for six months to a year.

Christopher Marcinkoski is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former senior associate at James Corner Field Operations. His project, “Rome, Empire Building, and the City That Never Was,” expands from the research in his forthcoming book, The City That Never Was, by looking at the emergence of speculative settlement and infrastructure projects. “My project in Rome intends to use the historical lens of Roman urbanization to think about ongoing projects that are being pursued in Africa,” Marcinkoski says. Using the example of megaprojects in Spain and Ireland that were begun but then abandoned during the recession, Marcinkoski says that these kinds of projects are now appearing in places such as Angola and Morocco, built by outside entities and sometimes in exchange for access to material resources. Coming off a long book project, Marcinkoski plans to use his time for more design experimentation, rather than written critique, though he notes that these speculative projects on the African continent deserve close attention. “There’s an incongruity between what is being proposed and what is needed.”

An interactive interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson

An interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson.

Alexander Robinson’s research deals with some of the major water infrastructure projects in the western United States; his work was recently featured in After the Aqueduct. He says that working on that exhibition helped him understand what he wanted to do with the Rome prize, and his project, “A Projective Picturesque: Reconciling Pictorial with Performance in Landscape Architecture,” will bring his research in infrastructure into a conversation with often-maligned picturesque aesthetics. Robinson is interested in “recognizing that there is a rift between performance and pictorial—there’s a lot more embedded in what we see than the scenic.” The project at the American Academy in Rome will take him back to his roots as a landscape painter to reconcile those aesthetics with the use of the planimetric design tools that are the mainstay of his current position as the director of the Landscape Morphologies Lab at the University of Southern California. “How do we think about the pictorial and the visual syntax of landscape architecture in the context of landscape infrastructure and performance?” he asks.

Thaïsa Way’s project, “Drawing a History of Landscape Architecture,” sounds perfectly scholarly, but it has an unexpected twist. The project will allow Way, a landscape historian, to study the relationship between drawing and landscape from its architectural origins to its current idiom as a form of professional communication. “I’m really interested in the history of drawing. It’s what makes us as a profession, makes us different. We use drawings to think, create, and communicate in a huge range of ways. How did those ways of thinking come to be?” But there’s more: “I am going to also draw—as a historian, to really understand what it is to draw, I need to draw!” she says. To do this, Way will look at the drawings of former landscape architecture fellows—the Rome Prize for landscape architecture was established in 1915, so she’ll have a deep archive to draw from—and then bring them to the sites where they were made, immersing herself in the relationships between the subject, the site, and the hand.  Way says experiencing the act of drawing will inform the way she writes about drawing. “As a historian and a critic, I read differently because I also write, and I wanted to have that same experience,” she says.

Part of why Way is excited about starting the fellowship in Rome is because of the way her work fits together with that of Marcinkoski and Alexander. All of the Rome Prize landscape projects in some way deal with issues that are in the forefront of contemporary practice, and each new fellow has pulled back and asked how history might inform these questions more fully. But they also speak to the field in other ways, tying individual research to the concerns of the field at large. Way says: “They’re all really about the profession, not just about ourselves.”

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Multihalle, Mannheim, Germany. Photo Copyright Frei Otto

Frei Otto, Mannheim Garden Festival Hall (1975), Mannheim, Germany. Photo Copyright Frei Otto.

In recent years, the announcement of the Pritzker Prize has fueled as much debate about the prize itself and about the state of the architecture profession as it has about the merits of the winners. This year was no exception. In giving the award to Frei Otto, the German architect and engineer known for his tensile and lightweight structures, the Pritzker prize organization unintentionally broke its rule of recognizing only living architects. Otto died at 89 only days after being notified of his selection, and the prize announcement was rushed two weeks ahead of its planned date. His unfortunate passing aside, Otto was an unusual and in many ways inspired choice by the jury. He was a gifted and generous collaborator, and most of his most prominent built works were coauthored by other architects and engineers, many of whom were still emerging at the time, including Gunter Behnisch and Ted Happold, and later, Shigeru Ban. “Otto was a spark, a trigger. His ideas created opportunities for others to thrive,” said the engineer Guy Nordenson. In his tentlike Mannheim Garden Festival Hall and the soaring Munich Stadium complex for the 1972 Olympics, he created breakthrough structural ideas, which often required new technologies and models to bring Otto’s ideas into built reality. Nordenson credited Happold and others with having created the first computer-based form-finding techniques in their modeling of the Mannheim project. (more…)

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