Posts Tagged ‘America’

REVIEWED BY KELLY COMRAS, FASLA

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Victor D. Gruen (1903–1980) was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, a powerful visionary who combined social criticism, persuasive charm, ambition, and talent. Known as the father of the shopping mall, he envisioned a cure for the banality of postwar American suburbia and neglected city centers that profoundly altered the landscape of postwar city development. He suggested “shopping towns,” new community centers that would contain a rich mix of civic and commercial spaces and activities, and the introduction of pedestrian zones within the core of older city centers. Later in life, he criticized that his ideas had been co-opted by developers, commercialized by economic, political, and cultural forces beyond his control, which thereby emerged on the postwar landscape as an unintended archetype: the enclosed, inward-facing, single-purpose, multilevel, two-anchor-department-store shopping center.

Gruen has left us with an impressive number of writings about his work (including the well-known The Heart of Our Cities), and two pertinent books have tackled appraisals of his work—Alex Wall’s Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City (2005) and M. Jeffrey Hardwick’s Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (2004). But Anette Baldauf’s new translation from German of Gruen’s dictated memoirs, Shopping Town, presents us with (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Morgan Vickers at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Photo by David Kafer.

Route 66, the nation’s first all-paved national highway connecting the Midwest to California, is best read as the first draft of contemporary America. Its establishment in 1926 definitively ended any notions of an untamed Western frontier, and it signaled the beginning of America’s total transition to a nation defined by settlement, landscape, and automobile obsession.

So much of Route 66’s cultural resources and history are dedicated and scaled to the car: motels, highways, bridges, gas stations, drive-in theaters, and oddball curios that read well from a speeding Ford. Its 2,400 miles cut through eight states and 300 towns, from Chicago to Los Angeles. It channeled migrants to the fertile coast during the Great Depression and soldiers and equipment to the Asian front during World War II.

But Route 66 eventually fell victim to the car’s success. In 1945, 65,000 cars were manufactured in America. Three years later that number had grown to 3.9 million. Cars became so omnipresent that this two-lane road was soon superseded by four-lane interstate highways. By the time it was decommissioned in 1985, Route 66 had been replaced by sections of I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15, and I-10. Overshadowed by the interstate system, the communities that had sprung up around the route were cut off from the lifeblood of commerce that it supplied them.

Earlier this summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a campaign (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

Postcommodity, Repellent Fence, 2015. Image courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

From the upcoming February 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Instead of a sensible and humane overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws to deal with current realities, we are apparently going to get a wall between the United States and Mexico. It was among the most outlandish promises of the Trump campaign, if only one of its rank xenophobic turns: a gigantic blockade stretching from the Pacific Ocean, through the Sonoran Desert, and down the Rio Grande River to the Gulf of Mexico, with fear as its mortar. During the first week of the new Republican-led Congress, the House Republican Policy Committee chair, Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, told the Washington Post that legislators are looking for ways to begin work on such a wall under existing law and with American (not Mexican) money. The existing law Messer means is the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush, which called for 700 miles of actual fencing and a “virtual fence” of beefed-up surveillance along the Mexico border. That work remains incomplete. Barriers block less than half of the 1,954 miles of international boundary. Theoretically, a resumption of building could begin to lock it all up later this spring.

The human effects of this simplistic idea will be mixed. A big wall will stop some population flow, but hardly all of it, and it will kill informal cross border commerce. Ecologically, though, it is likely to be a catastrophe. It will fragment habitat on a huge scale in one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America—the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas alone is said to have (more…)

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