Archive for the ‘HISTORY’ Category

 Lincoln's Cottage sits on one of the highest points in DC. Copyright (C) National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Lincoln’s Cottage sits on one of the highest points in D.C. Copyright National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Tucked away among the 276 acres of the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home property in Washington, D.C., is a modest gothic revival home where Abraham Lincoln and his family went to escape the city’s oppressive summer heat.

President Lincoln's Cottage. Copyright © National Trust for Historic Preservation.

President Lincoln’s Cottage. Copyright National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It was here that Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and it was here that he was sometimes seen walking the grounds at night, wrestling with the country’s most difficult problems in the years before the Civil War.

Paths away from the cottage thread through the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Copyright© National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Paths away from the cottage thread through the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Copyright National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The site, now known as President Lincoln’s Cottage, is managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s important for its associations with Lincoln, but also for its significance as a walking landscape, one that witnessed and perhaps nurtured some of our most enduring ideas of what it means to be American.

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Rich Haag with a clump of Equisetum, one of his favorite plants. Photo: Daniel Jost.

Rich Haag with a clump of Equisetum, one of his favorite plants. Photo: Daniel Jost.

On a recent tour of the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Richard Haag, FASLA, told a group of us, students from the University of Washington, two stories about the demise of the Garden of Planes. The garden was the first stop in the famous sequence of spaces that Haag designed at the reserve, and it was erased a few years after it was completed.

One story involves a fox. “A fox used to have a den there,” Haag explained as we passed by a giant stump that, ironically, Haag preserved for its habitat value. “And every morning, the fox would come out and leave his morning offering right on top of the gravel pyramid,” at the center of the Garden of Planes, he said. “That’s one of the reasons they got rid of it.”


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

In this dispatch of the Queue, the staff reads up on the latest on the troubled National Flood Insurance Program, considers the legacy of Bunny Mellon, and indulges in a little nostalgia.



    • Slate (via Climate Desk) has an article on “Flood Zone Foolishness,” detailing how the very states most at risk are blocking reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program. In the November 2013 issue, we ran an interview with the project lead on the plan that recommended changes to the program (“The Risk Picture”) and the likely uptick in consumer premiums.
    • Lawrence Halprin (posthumously), along with Lawrence Noble (sculptor) and George Lucas (owner), will receive the Henry Hering Memorial Medal for Art and Architecture from the National Sculpture Society (founded 1893) for their outstanding collaboration on the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio in San Francisco.





    • Deadline approaching for this radically hybrid art/geography/landscape/performance event: The Anthropocene, Cabinet of Curiosities Slam, to be held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison November 8–10, 2014. The conference will feature a keynote address from Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.
    • The Cultural Landscape Foundation unveils its 2014 season of events, which includes What’s Out There Weekends in Miami, Richmond, Virginia, and Los Angeles; the Garden Dialogues series; and a land-art theme for Landslide.
    • The Middle East Smart Landscape Summit 2014 will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 6–7, 2014.



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Specimens of the Tiliaceae Family. United States National Herbarium (US).

Specimens of the Tiliaceae Family. United States National Herbarium (US).

The United States National Herbarium was founded in 1848, and it now holds five million specimens, with a particular strength in type specimens. Housed in the botany collections of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the herbarium’s collection is now part of a new crowdsourcing project that allows anyone with Internet access to view and transcribe data from specimens and contribute to the expansion of the herbarium’s collections database. It’s a terrific way to engage with plants as historical artifacts, design objects, and, of course, as botanical specimens, while essentially doing important work for the Smithsonian from the comfort of your own device.

After registration, which requires no special credentials or knowledge, you can begin transcribing the text from the labels into a web form. The data you enter, once approved, becomes part of the specimens’ record. Sylvia Orli, an information manager from the department of botany who helps facilitate the NMNH’s program, says the transcription project is part of a global effort to digitize natural history records. Within the NMNH, the department of botany is among the first to use the new crowdsourcing transcription tool, and several other units within the Smithsonian are participating as well.


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Photo by Kenneth Hayden

 We were sad to receive word of the death Sunday of Grady Clay, Honorary ASLA, LAM’s longtime, influential, and much-loved editor, at the age of 96 in Louisville. More remembrance and details on observances will follow as we receive them. For now, we are posting a terrific interview that Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, did with Grady for the magazine’s 100th anniversary issue.

From the October 2010 issue of LAM:

By Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA

GRADY CLAY, HONORARY ASLA, who worked as an associate editor and, ultimately, the executive editor of Landscape Architecture for 23 years, has a rich, extraordinary perspective on the profession and its practitioners. As an outsider with tremendous insight, Clay, now 94, helped shape decades of debate and discourse. He chronicled the origins of modernism, the first corporate office parks, The RSVP Cycles, Design with Nature, postmodernism, and both the New American Garden and the Bagel Garden. He plucked out new talent like a gifted curator and gave it a voice. Clay’s arrival came at a major hinge point in the profession, as it coincided with the centennial of Central Park and the onset of urban renewal. His incisive editorial vision marked a passing of the profession’s old guard and the rise of a new generation’s eclectic vision.


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Fletcher Steele was one of the first landscape architects to experiment with modernism, but he was not a modernist zealot. In fact, he once said: “A good garden abounds in suggestions to the past.”

A new short film created by the Library of American Landscape History and the filmmakers at Florentine Films/Hott Productions examines Steele’s most famous work, Naumkeag. The garden is best known for its Blue Steps with their parabolic railings; however, the stairs have only a small role in the film Fletcher Steele and Naumkeag: A Playground of the Imagination. The landscape historian Robin Karson, Affiliate ASLA, who provides most of the commentary, says the garden’s “masterpiece” is actually its sculptural South Lawn, which the film captures beautifully. Meanwhile, much of the film is dedicated to Naumkeag’s garden rooms that draw from Chinese and European precedents. You can see the entire film on the LALH website.

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It seems not much could rattle Shlomo Aronson, considering how much great landscape architecture work he has done in Israel, where the cultural sensitivities stack up well out of proportion to the country’s small size. In this new oral history filmed by The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Aronson, who is 76, talks about his life, times, and designs, including his work in Jerusalem with his friend and mentor Lawrence Halprin. Many of his works navigate the tricky shoals of history on complex ground. Yet sometimes the answers are amusingly straightforward. “Every place where you don’t know what to do, you put an olive tree,” Aronson says. “It’s an obvious solution to me. It’s indigenous. It’s from here. And you don’t have to argue about it…both communities, Jews and Arabs, love this thing.” In the excerpt above, Shlomo talks about his work on the Suzanne Dellal Dance and Theater Center in Tel Aviv.

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