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Posts Tagged ‘African-American’

BY JENNIFER REUT

An emerging platform for design activism braces for the future.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

It can be difficult, even in the face of powerful evidence, for designers to accept responsibility for the role the profession has played in reinforcing the boundaries of race and class that shape urban lives, not just the spaces in which they’re lived. “As designers and planners, we have neglected these communities,” says Lindsay Woodson, a recent graduate of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) in urban planning.

Woodson is talking about neighborhoods like Sandtown in Baltimore, or Ferguson, Missouri—historically segregated communities that are disproportionately affected by police violence. In 2014, Woodson and fellow Harvard graduate student Marcus Mello began a project that would illuminate the systemic crosshairs in which (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Witness Walls is composed of two different types of concrete walls, one with soft, impressionistic imagery and the other with sharper image contrasts. Photo by Stacey Irvin.

 

Correction appended August 24, 2017.

Many cities where African Americans fought for equality in the 1950s and 1960s are associated with violence: Selma, Memphis, Birmingham. Nashville wasn’t such a place. Its civil rights story was nonviolent and “so successful we don’t know about it,” says Walter Hood, ASLA, who was asked to commemorate this history with a public art installation.

Nashville was a leader in civil rights. It desegregated its public schools relatively early, in 1957, and its activist community and local pastors offered the same suite of training and conditioning for student protestors that many southern cities did. After a historic protest, then-Mayor Ben West was forced to desegregate the city’s lunch counters.

The site of this protest is now home to a commemorative public art and landscape installation by Walter Hood: Witness Walls, for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, completed in April. It’s the city’s first (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

As Las Vegas’s historic westside faces change, residents ask, who benefits?

As Las Vegas’s historic Westside faces change, residents ask, who benefits?

From the August 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

At the start of a three-day design charrette in a small Las Vegas community center, one of the first questions Steven Clarke, ASLA, asked the 100-person crowd was how many had participated in a design charrette before. “About 80 percent of them raised their hands,” says Clarke, a fair-haired 45-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who was new to this group of people, many of whom weren’t particularly happy to be doing another charrette. The purpose of the current exercise was to focus on the historic Westside neighborhood of Las Vegas, which has been a marginalized African American neighborhood since the early 20th century. Many of the community members who had gathered wanted to know what would be different this time around, Clarke says. The skepticism quickly boiled into anger. Some demanded to know how the charrette process would do anything to create jobs in the neighborhood. Others demanded to know how much Clarke was being paid, and by whom. “It got extremely tense,” he says. “It was probably the most challenging charrette I’ve faced in my career.”

The Westside was once the healthy heart of the city’s African American community. Today the area is largely vacant, a wasteland of urban disinvestment. The neighborhood’s blocks hold more than 200 empty lots and dozens of abandoned buildings and burned-out houses. The main commercial strip is a ghost town. Its few businesses—a minimarket, a barbecue joint, a clothing shop—are modest, and foot traffic is all but nonexistent. Down a side street, residents of an apartment building are hosting what looks like a regular sidewalk sale of old vacuum cleaners and electronics. A few blocks away, a middle-aged sex worker sits on a curb and halfheartedly propositions the few cars that drive past.

Just on the other side of intersecting freeways, less than half a mile away, is (more…)

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BY SONJA DÜMPELMANN

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

From the December 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

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White characters in What Are We Going to Do, Michael? (1973) tell the story of African American activist Hattie Carthan’s fight to save a southern magnolia tree.

In the 1973 children’s story What Are We Going to Do, Michael? 10-year-old Michael, together with his neighbor Mrs. Jacobson, helps to save an 80-year-old southern magnolia tree that is threatened with being cut down to make way for an urban renewal project in their neighborhood. Nellie Burchardt’s story is based upon true facts and events that occurred in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yet, the way in which Burchardt portrays Michael and Mrs. Jacobson belies parts of the true story. In the children’s book, the two protagonists appear as white residents of a run-down, racially diverse neighborhood. In reality, Mrs. Jacobson was Hattie Carthan, an African American woman in her 70s living on a deteriorating neighborhood block in Bedford-Stuyvesant. By 1970, Bedford-Stuyvesant had become one of the largest African American communities in the United States, and, as Harold X. Connolly wrote in 1977, “a code word…for America’s unresolved urban and race problems.” It is unclear whether Burchardt’s choice to change the race of her protagonists had anything to do with the sales or readership aspirations for the book, or with the more idealist educational and egalitarian aspirations to cultivate white children’s empathy and awareness of nature in the city and of its ethnically and racially diverse citizenry, or, in turn, even with an unabashed racism. In any case the choice of the story itself as well as the changes made to its principal characters reflect (more…)

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Produced and directed by Austin Allen, an associate professor at Louisiana State University, Claiming Open Spaces is a documentary on the perception of parks, in cities such as New Orleans and Detroit, from the cultural perspective of the African Americans who use them. As noted by a young Walter Hood, ASLA, the cultural makeup of the communities that use city parks is often left out of planning and programming, which can alienate the people meant to use them. This lapse comes up in interviews with residents who fondly remember a neighborhood park before it was redesigned and with kids who wonder why they are constantly hounded by police for simply enjoying time in the park.

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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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