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Archive for the ‘HISTORY’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

An illustration of Edmond Albius, by Antoine Roussin, 1863. Image courtesy of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

An online exhibit hosted by the New York Botanical Garden decodes plants’ relationships to Black people.

 

Of the five plants featured in the New York Botanical Garden’s online exhibition Black Botany: The Nature of Black Experience, some are cash crops typically associated with Black people and slavery, such as cotton and rice. Others highlight relationships that are less well-known. “We wanted to look at how Black culture is always simmered down to low and middlebrow culture, as opposed to scientific or higher-brow knowledge,” says Nuala Caomhánach, a former Mellon Fellow at the New York Botanical Garden and a current doctoral student in the history of science, who curated the show with Rashad Bell, a collection maintenance associate at the garden. Each plant shines a light on the intentional omission of comprehensive Black knowledge of botany and nature, as well as how Black people were often connected to these plants in the popular imagination by slavery.

Very simply, “plants aren’t neutral,” Bell says. (more…)

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BY BRIAN FRYER

The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation moves closer to permanently memorializing historic injury in Idaho.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

For centuries, it was tradition each January for several thousand members of the nomadic Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation to gather at a bend in the Bear River near the borders of Idaho and Utah. Tribal leader Darren Parry says the Shoshone called the place Boa Ogoi. Bands of the tribe would share stories, use the natural hot springs, and perform the “warm dance” to hasten the coming of spring.

In the mid-1800s, as more settlers came to the area now known as Cache Valley, there were intermittent conflicts with the Indigenous people there. On January 29, 1863, a detachment of the U.S. Army Cavalry attacked a group of Shoshone that had remained at Boa Ogoi after the annual gathering, killing nearly 400 men, women, and children in one of the largest mass murders of Native Americans in the United States. (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

A new grant funds an effort to catalog the commemorative landscape.

FROM THE JANUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2017, Karyn Olivier, a Philadelphia-based artist and associate professor of sculpture at Temple University, wrapped a 20-foot-high monument to a minor Revolutionary War battle in her neighborhood park in mirrored acrylic. It reflected back the image of whoever walked past it. It amplified a nearby sculpture of the 17th-century abolitionist Francis Daniel Pastorius. At certain angles, it disappeared altogether. Olivier was hoping the project would help her neighbors see the park in a new way, and that it would say something about “the fragmentary nature of how history is revealed to us.”

“How do we make monuments porous? How do we make them malleable?” Olivier asks. “What does it mean for me to become the monument?”

Olivier’s piece was part of a citywide exhibition, curated by the Philadelphia-based public art and history studio Monument Lab, which grew out of the work of Paul Farber and Ken Lum, two fine arts faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. The show asked Philadelphians to think about what would make an appropriate monument for the contemporary city. The exhibition unexpectedly coincided with the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which formed partly in opposition to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In the three and a half years since, the conversation about America’s monuments—whom they commemorate, who builds them, and why—has only broadened. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo by Rebecca Kiger.

A landscape architect’s roots in Appalachia are the source for a new project from American Roundtable.

 

Appalachia Rising begins with a simple prompt for a place that’s been exploited and maligned for much of its modern history: “We can start by listening to what the people of West Virginia are interesting in seeing in the future.”

Nina Chase, ASLA, is the editor of Appalachia Rising, and what follows is both design document and policy paper, and part of the final project for the Architectural League’s American Roundtable series, which is focused on better futures for small and medium-sized towns. American Roundtable was supported by the Graham Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and Chase (a cofounder of the landscape architecture and urban design firm Merritt Chase and a West Virginia native) will host a presentation on January 27 on the team’s findings along with several of the contributors. In addition to Chase, the Appalachia Rising team consists of journalists, academic researchers, photographers, and documentary filmmakers, each working to “understand communities through their land and people and the ways in which the two have interacted to make place,” according to the introduction by the American Roundtable project director Nicholas Anderson. Each of the nine reports commissioned by the Architectural League is arrayed across five themes (public space, health, work and economy, infrastructure, and environment) to better enable comparisons across the nine regions studied for the project. Beginning with Appalachia Rising, each multimedia report will be available online. Chase and contributors Caroline Filice Smith and Elaine McMillion Sheldon will present their research on January 27 in a webinar at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. (more…)

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TEXT BY MIMI ZEIGER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHAD RESS

As the country confronts economic stalemate, Chad Ress’s photographs prompt comparisons with imperfect efforts to rebuild in the past.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On February 17, 2009, less than a month after his inauguration, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. A stimulus bill meant to jump-start the nation’s flatlined economy, the Recovery Act, as it was popularly known, promised nearly $800 million to state and local governments for the funding of “shovel-ready” projects.

The following year, the Ojai, California–based photographer Chad Ress stood on a dry lake bed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and watched a tractor maneuver boulders into totemic piles in New Hogan Lake in Valley Springs, California. He was there to document a project funded by ARRA. The resulting photograph is almost boring. The frame captures signs of California’s epic drought; what was once covered in water is now dust. The sky is nearly white. Yet that line of rocks was evidence of money at work.

The book America Recovered (Actar Publishers, 2019) pairs Ress’s photographs with snippets of text that he pulled from recovery.gov, the government-sponsored and now-defunct website that listed each of the public works funded by ARRA. Although the site was taken down in 2016, a mothballed version can be found in the Library of Congress archive. The recovery.gov site didn’t show photos or drawings, just obtuse project descriptions of what might get done and a dollar amount. The unheroic list was meant to demonstrate transparency, but it had all the charm of bureaucratic efficiency married to a partisan political climate (the Republican-controlled Senate at the time aimed to minimize many achievements of the Obama administration).

The website struck Ress as an important counterpoint to the archive of images amassed during the Great Depression by Roy Stryker, who launched the documentary photography division of the Farm Security Administration under New Deal legislation. Photographers including Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange were assigned to photograph America under economic hardship. Their cameras captured how people were living, government buildings, factories, and places of worship. Parallel documentation undertaken by the Works Progress Administration celebrated the monumentality of new public works—such as the majestic Hoover Dam photographed by Ansel Adams.

“I wanted to explore those disconnects between what I could read on recovery.gov and what I could see,” Ress says. “I was hoping that the language would align with what I could photograph, but that only happened once: New Hogan Lake, Valley Springs.” (more…)

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FOREGROUND

Pained Plaza (Planning)
Three public spaces from midcentury Philadelphia have been earmarked for reinvention. Two have succeeded, but one, a space for public expression, remains in limbo.

FEATURES

Black Landscapes Matter
In the introduction to his new book (edited with Grace Mitchell Tada), the 2019 MacArthur Fellow and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, argues for the power and visibility of landscapes designed and shaped by Black people.

The Dark Side of Light
Sensitive lighting design is one of the hidden assets of thriving public places, but designers worry that their work is increasingly being used to watch rather than illuminate.

The full table of contents for December can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting December articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Pained Plaza,” Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA; “Black Landscapes Matter,” Hood Design Studio; “The Dark Side of Light,” Elizabeth Felicella.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A presentation to the elders of the Red Water Pond Road Community, part of the University of New Mexico Indigenous Design and Planning program. Photo by Catherine Page Harris.

Faculty at landscape architecture programs are asking what an anti-racist landscape architecture pedagogy looks like.

 

Newly appointed this summer, Sara Zewde is the first tenure-tracked Black woman landscape architecture professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and one of only 19 Black landscape architecture professors at accredited programs in the United States. And now that her first semester teaching at her alma mater is under way, she’s witnessing a few more firsts.

Discussions of diversity and structural racism at design schools had always focused on quantitative measures, such as the number of nonwhite faculty and students, but now the conversation is shifting to what’s being taught, and that’s new for Zewde. “I have never seen this kind of conversation around the actual curriculum, and that’s what excites me,” she says. (more…)

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