Archive for the ‘HISTORIC LANDSCAPES’ Category

By Zach Mortice

The 2008 flooding in eastern Iowa saw the Cedar River crest at 31 feet, inundating much of downtown Cedar Rapids. Image courtesy of Sasaki.

On the morning of Jun 12, 2008, the landscape architects Gina Ford, ASLA, and Jason Hellendrung, ASLA, of Sasaki woke up in their hotel rooms by the riverside in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to stifling heat and eerie silence. They were in town to pitch their riverfront master plan to the city council. They knew the Cedar River was expected to flood (and had stocked up on water, granola bars, and bananas just in case) but neither expected any sort of ordeal stemming from the river, which they had come hoping to reimagine as a lively and gregarious urban greenway. The power, air-conditioning, and phones were out. The hallways were empty and pitch black, and a ferocious rainstorm had darkened the skies and pushed the encroaching floodwaters. Reaching each other via cell phone, they discussed their options. In the distance, the Quaker Oats cereal mill plant’s red neon sign was still lit. “It can’t be that bad,” said Hellendrung. “They still have electricity.”

“As I said that, there was a bolt of thunder and lightning, and the sign went out. Then I was like, ‘Maybe the police will get here soon?’”

Police did dispatch rescuers, who led Ford and Hellendrung out of the hotel. A second-floor connection to the convention center (more…)

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At Paterson Great Falls, one of the newer national parks, Americans made many things, including history.

At Paterson Great Falls, one of the newer national parks, Americans made many things, including history.

From the August 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Paterson, New Jersey, is a tough town. Gang violence is prevalent, teachers are being laid off, and about 30 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty. But the city’s got soul. On Market Street, the lively main thoroughfare, bachata music spills from 99-cent stores, and the scent of Peruvian food wafts through the air. Paterson has been a magnet for immigration since the 19th century, and the reason why is found nearby. Twenty minutes from the center of town is the Great Falls, now part of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, where the Passaic River makes a majestic drop of 77 feet off basalt rock cliffs before it continues its twisted path. These are the falls that made Paterson.

In 1778, Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s aide-de-camp, recognized the river’s potential to harness power for both manufacturing and geopolitics. Hamilton understood the young nation needed to grow its industry to be independent of Europe. Through a group he helped form in 1791, the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM), Hamilton chose Paterson as the site of the nation’s first planned manufacturing development.

Gianfranco Archimede, who today directs Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission, said: “At the end of the war, the king essentially said, (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy.

Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy.

From “Industrial Evolution” by Tom Stoelker, in the August 2016 issue, featuring the National Park Service’s management plan to unite industrial history with natural beauty at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson, New Jersey.

“A view above and below.”

—Chris McGee, LAM Art Director

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 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.

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When everyone wants a piece of the same postcard.

When everyone wants a piece of the same postcard.

From the August 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Mather Point, a limestone fin that juts into Grand Canyon National Park, is the first overlook from which many, possibly most, visitors to the storied national park get a glimpse into that astonishing other world. In the middle of a short flight of steps down from the rim to the overlook sits a pair of large boulders. There’s often an informal queue at that spot. Every day hundreds, maybe thousands, of people wait to clamber up and have their pictures taken. Shot from below and elevated by the rock above the crowd, people appear to float before the geological fever dream of the canyon. Invariably, they spread their arms wide, like wings. These portraits make an allusion to flight—and an illusion of solitude.

A redesign of the access to Mather Point for cars and pedestrians, and of the park’s nearby main visitor center, was completed in 2012. It more than doubled the parking capacity. But attendance at national parks has soared since then, and already these new facilities are frequently overwhelmed. For the National Park Service system as a whole, between 2012 and 2015, recreational visits were up nearly 9 percent. For national parks in the Intermountain Region, attendance rose (more…)

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Editor’s Note: This month, the Society of Architectural Historians awarded Vittoria Di Palma’s Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45) the 2016 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award. The award, established in 2005, recognizes “the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of landscape architecture or garden design.”

Back in May 2015, we featured the title as our “Backstory,” and we’re sharing the piece again in recognition of the SAH award.


“Wasteland is a cultural construct, a creation of the imagination, a category applied to landscapes rather than an inherent characteristic of them.” So writes the historian Vittoria Di Palma in Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45), her study of 18th-century landscape ideals. Elegantly laying out the pervasive if elusive role that disgust has played in the development of modern notions of landscape value, Di Palma asks us to look again at undesirable spaces. Dividing her study by typologies—swamp, forest, and mountain—Di Palma examines the way that new and evolving definitions of wasteland have, in their repellence and contrast, shaped the theories of landscape beauty and utility that continue to influence our perceptions of landscape today.

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A new film focuses on Jens Jensen.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Jens Jensen didn’t care much for the White City. According to the new documentary Jens Jensen: The Living Green, he, along with the architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, rejected the European influence of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and embraced the prairie and its ecology as the American landscape idiom. Today, many of his pioneering ideas about the use of native plants and landscape conservation have new currency. Jensen, who was born in Denmark but is closely associated with Chicago’s urban parks and midwestern landscape preservation, will be the subject of an Earth Day observance at the New York Botanical Garden. A screening of the documentary will be followed by a panel discussion with Darrel Morrison, FASLA; Robert Grese, ASLA; the filmmaker Carey Lundin; and Jensen’s great-granddaughter, Jensen Wheeler Wolfe.

Jens Jensen: The Living Green Film Screening and Panel Discussion at the National Building Museum, April 14, 2016, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

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Dan Kiley's South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago has seasoned over nearly 50 years into a rugged, magical hawthorn canopy.

Dan Kiley’s South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago has seasoned over nearly 50 years into a rugged, magical hawthorn canopy.

From the October 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

There is nothing quite like sitting beneath the almost fully connective canopy of 50-year-old cockspur hawthorns in Dan Kiley’s South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago in early summer. The 32 trees at the center of the garden, set in a 20-foot grid, reached their natural maximum height long ago. Their wily trunks have thickened and twisted with age; their craggy, wandering branches continued to elongate, eventually overlapping and intertwining, creating a space that has a level of repose perhaps unequaled in a midcentury urban landscape space. Crataegus crus-galli has narrow, waxy, obovate leaves, which are naturally held upright at the tops of the branches, suggesting intolerance for shade; they filter a kaleidoscope of sunlight and shadow onto the warm brown crushed-stone paving below. Reflections from the water surface and gravel color the air. Though generally I find the modernist conceit of describing “rooms” in landscapes inadequate or ill-suited, this canopy explicitly creates a ceiling and produces a dazzling sense of interiority within the garden’s sunken court space. It’s hard to believe you are sitting within 150 feet of Chicago’s main drag.

Michigan Avenue, the historic eastern anchor of Chicago’s exalted grid, attracts hordes of traffic and tourists to its institutions, architectural sites, and parks. There are excellent urban landscapes to see here, including the Lurie Garden, Maggie Daley Park, Grant Park, and the grounds of the Field Museum. None is more tranquil than the South Garden. Peter Schaudt, one of Chicago’s most admired landscape architects, considered it Chicago’s best landscape space. This year, ASLA conferred its Landmark Award to the project, which recognizes works between 15 and 50 years old that retain their design integrity and benefit to the public realm. At about its 50-year mark, the South Garden more than (more…)

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