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Archive for the ‘PARKS’ Category

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

Congress puts permanent cash behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improvements to national parks. C-SPAN screen capture by LAM.

FROM THE UPCOMING SEPTEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a milestone law to lock in permanent federal funding for public lands and parks. President Trump signed the measure August 4, having been persuaded several months ago to support it by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is up for re-election this year. On the day the House passed the Senate’s version of the bill, approved in June, by a vote of 310 to 107, the president said on Twitter: “We must protect our National Parks for our children and grandchildren. I am calling on the House to pass the GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOORS ACT today. Thanks @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines for all your work on this HISTORIC BILL!”

In 1964, back in the days of broader bipartisanship than it currently manages, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), with the goal of safeguarding the country’s natural resources by using revenues from offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction activities. Every year, $900 million was supposed to pour into the fund to protect national parks and forests, waterways, and wildlife refuges, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. But since its inception, the fund has expired twice and has had to be reauthorized repeatedly. It has never been fully funded, with the exception of two years during the Clinton administration. “It was considered a win to get even half of it,” says Daniel Hart, ASLA’s federal government affairs manager.

In 2019, the LWCF finally received permanent reauthorization, giving resource managers and community planners cause for celebration. But the reauthorization did not include a permanent cash flow, meaning that funding would continue to be a challenge as it would depend on repeating rounds of appropriations, which were not always assured. Now the Great American Outdoors Act has remedied the problem by permanently funding the LWCF. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Mount Auburn’s roads and paths were laid out to highlight the landscape’s natural contours. Photo courtesy Mount Auburn Cemetery.

A crowdsourced archive transcription project at one of the nation’s most historic cemeteries offers insight into 19th century landscape design.

 

Among the surprises Meg Winslow has found amid 100,000 pages of digitized 19th century records from Mount Auburn Cemetery’s long history are documents detailing “perpetual care of the soil,” she says. As part of lot purchase contracts, people were paying up front for the maintenance of healthy soil alongside care of the grass and plantings and upkeep of headstones. Winslow, Mount Auburn’s Curator of Historical Collections and Archives, found documents from the 1830s that detail soil type and quality, making clear that the experience of Mount Auburn was always focused on horticultural expression.

Established in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the nation’s first rural cemetery, the synthesis of pastoral and carefully planted landscapes dotted with memorials, gravestones, and sculpture. It was a persuasive vision of how the living should honor the dead, as opposed to the crowded warrens of graves in churchyards that had predominated. This landscape type spread across the nation within a few decades, influencing the conception of the public park as another sort of pastoral reprieve from the dirty, brutish city.

The long and complex history of this continually evolving landscape is becoming clearer. A $42,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities is funding the transcription of these documents, which include letters, trustee minutes, and records from superintendents, sculptors, gardeners, and others. It’s a record that delves into historical funerary practices, landscape and memorial design, and environmental conservation at what is perhaps the most historic cemetery landscape in the nation. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Hunter’s Point South in Queens, New York. Copyright Jonnu Singleton, courtesy SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi.

A Waterfront Alliance report wades into how waterfront access is a crucible for public health and a measure of inequality.

 

Despite alighting across the two rivers and an ocean, only 37 percent of New York and New Jersey’s waterfronts are open to the public, and only 9 percent of waterfronts in the poorest areas are accessible. The Waterfront Alliance’s new report “Waterfront Access for All: Breaking Down Social and Physical Barriers to the Waterfront” shines a light on this pervasive inequality. The report (available here) covers both policy and design interventions that can address this chasm. Those are now more urgent as the nation grapples with the twin crises of COVID-19, which has made outdoor landscapes vital places for safe refuge, and racial inequality, which is easily read through access to public waterfronts. The report focuses on New York and New Jersey and includes input from more than 60 organizations. The Alliance partnered with the New York –New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program to convene the task force that assembled the report. Intended to influence the public and city agencies, the report aims to inform the New York City Department of City Planning’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s rule making process.

“We’re trying to help the public, designers, and government agencies to reimagine what connections to the water can look like,” says Sarah Dougherty, the program manager at the Waterfront Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that a works toward creating healthy, resilient, and equitably accessible waterfronts. (more…)

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THE THEFT OF A HISTORIC SITE FOR FREE EXPRESSION CASTS LIGHT
ON THE VALUE OF PUBLIC SPACE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.

 

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

TEXT BY THAÏSA WAY, FASLA

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On June 1, 2020, in a cowardly response by the president to the protests against racially grounded police violence, Lafayette Park and the Ellipse were fenced off around the White House. These two parks, to the north and south of the White House, respectively, form President’s Park and are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS). They belong to the public, to us.

Areas of the park have been closed before (and often temporarily for arriving heads of state), but the fences that went up as May became June posed serious incursions into the democratically sacrosanct public realm. The barriers began as low temporary railings over the weekend of May 30 in a frightened reaction to large protests against the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 and the killings of so many other black people before him across the nation. As demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter grew in downtown Washington, the buffer around the White House expanded until it had pushed the nearest protests into H Street NW, a two-block remove. Late in the afternoon of June 1, hundreds of peaceful protestors were violently struck with tear gas and sting grenades fired by police to cut a large path for the president’s now infamous walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose for photographs. By Thursday, June 4, as more military vehicles poured into Washington, the fences had been hardened into cage-like walls more than eight feet high around the 82-acre whole of President’s Park. It was a reprehensible seizure of First Amendment space. (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

Claude Cormier cracks a smile.

 

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Claude Cormier, ASLA, and I pull up to Dorchester Square in Montreal, a man is leaning against the grand fountain, with its three Victorian bowls, all painted a very Victorian shade of green, smoking a cigarette. When we get out of the car, I realize it’s not a cigarette, but a joint. “If you want to buy pot in Montreal, this is where you do it,” says Cormier, in heavily accented English—and he begins to tell me the story of how his firm transformed this historic park into a place that winks at the past, while winking in a few other directions as well.

First developed in the 1860s, Dorchester Square is an oasis of ornate statuary (Queen Victoria; a military horse; and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first Francophone prime minister, are all commemorated) and manicured flower beds set amid regal edifices that testify to the city’s railroad-era wealth. Claude Cormier + Associés has been working on improvements to the park (as well as an adjacent green space, Place du Canada) since 2000. In 2015, the firm was selected to restore the northern end of Dorchester Square, a section of which had been lopped off long ago and repurposed for parking. There had not been a fountain in the park previously, but Cormier thought it would make a fitting focal point. Dorchester Square sits on top of an underground garage, and there was a load-bearing column positioned in just the right place to support a 30-foot-high steel fountain at the end of the park’s long axis. There was only one problem: The city said it needed a few extra feet to accommodate the tourist buses that embark from the adjacent block. Those few feet nixed the alignment with the supporting column.

“The city said, get rid of your fountain and design something else,” Cormier tells me, patting the fountain. “And I thought, no, I’m not taking out the fountain.” (more…)

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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Cornell students bring visions for climate adaptation down to the Hudson shore.

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Hudson River is tidal, gaining a mean elevation of only two feet for 150-plus miles inland from the Atlantic. It is flanked, almost without interruption, by bluffs and cliffs. Most communities along it have only a slender strip of land at river level. Historically, industries and infrastructure were sited below, with more salubrious parts of towns built up the slopes. Most industry is gone. Communities want to reinvent their riverfronts, which means contending with the tides and storms of a changing climate. They’re getting help from Josh Cerra, ASLA, the director of graduate studies in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University. With collaboration from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, he has been bringing community-based “Climate-Adaptive Design” studios to Hudson River towns.

The studio has obvious pedagogical value. Students learn site research and engagement skills, and to imbue design with climate science. Meanwhile, it lets Cerra pursue an interest in applied education and cross-disciplinary experiences. In developing their concepts, his students get “consultants”—other students, from Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. To assess the studio’s benefits, Cerra is collaborating with a Cornell researcher who studies behaviors and conservation management. Their inquiries, he says, include “how working with engineers or other technical partners may enhance learning innovation” for landscape architects. And then there is the studio’s value to the towns, which are gifted with provocative visions for their futures. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Milwaukee’s city-sponsored recreation program was established in 1911 for the purpose of benevolent social engineering. Its goal was the civic integration of burgeoning, and mostly poor, European immigrant populations. It offered classes in the English language and U.S. citizenship, as well as arts and industrial crafts, sports, clubs, and other entertainment. In some locations there were showers and, during the Depression, workshops for repairing one’s own shoes. These programs were frankly geared toward acculturation and the transmission of mainstream ethics such as team spirit and wholesome presentation; a 1918 list of tips for staff advises that each neighborhood location “must have its own yell and song,” and to “instruct young men to remove hats upon entering buildings.”

The recreation program was placed within the school system, an atypical arrangement. It’s still there today, as the Department of Recreation and Community Services of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Over time, this department acquired the use—and responsibility for maintenance—of 52 neighborhood parks, called playfields. Most were constructed between 1912 and 1974, occupy around three acres each, and are pretty bleak. Typically, they have space for sports such as basketball and softball, a field house with restrooms, maybe a patch of grass. Some have amenities for younger kids—wading pools, slides, and swings. At about 20 of the parks, the department now runs free, drop-in Summer Playground activity programs. Inner-city Milwaukee is still immigrant rich, though ethnicities have changed. Many residents are Hispanic, most of Mexican origin. Some are Asian, including a relatively large Hmong community. And more than 35 percent of city residents are African American, descended not of immigrants, but of migrants who moved north around midcentury for plentiful jobs. Milwaukee was an industrial powerhouse then, but no more. The poverty rate approaches 30 percent. One index of the economic situations of kids who use the playfields is that last year the Summer Playgrounds served them nearly 29,000 free meals—lunch and supper, five days a week.

As Milwaukee’s fortunes fell, the playfields deteriorated. Many now are simply expanses of cracked and heaving asphalt with no shade, broken play equipment, backboards minus hoops, boarded-up field houses, and hostile accretions of chain-link fencing. Custer Playfield, for example, “was a very dark place,” says Beth Rosenow; she’s a neighborhood safety coordinator for Safe & Sound, a nonprofit that tries to build bridges between communities and the police. “People were afraid of who was hiding behind a bush. Nobody used the park unless it was for drinking, smoking weed, a place for kids to hide and do inappropriate things—teenagers, young adults.”

In 2014, Blake Theisen, ASLA (then with SAA Design Group, now the principal owner of Parkitecture + Planning), was hired to conduct a facilities assessment. His report ran to 861 pages. “It showed we had $25 million in identified projects,” says Lynn Greb, the recreation department’s senior director. “Like, holy cow! And that was all just for replacement, not development or design.” Realizing that the department was unequipped to define a comprehensive strategy, Greb hired Pam Linn, FASLA, as recreation facilities project manager, the first-ever landscape architect on the public school system’s staff. (more…)

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