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Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge’

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

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, compiled in 1979 and printed in 1982. Image courtesy of John Davies and Alexander Kent, The Red Atlas.

A map of Vilnius, Lithuania, produced in Russia at the tail end of the Soviet era, details the speed of the Neris River’s flow (1.8 miles per hour), its depth and width, and that it had a sandy riverbed. In addition, it reveals the dimensions of a nearby bridge, what it’s made of (concrete), and how much it can carry (55 tons). Across the Cold War divide, on Western shores, Soviet cartographers still had a grasp of some of the minutiae that made up its sworn rival’s infrastructure. A 1980 map of San Francisco points out that the Oakland Bay Bridge is constructed of metal and rises between 171 and 213 feet above the water. One of perhaps a million maps made by the Soviets to secretly and conclusively chart the surface of the earth, it’s a relic from what might be the largest and most ambitious cartography effort in history.

Though much of this story’s origins and methods are shrouded in secrecy, British authors and map enthusiasts John Davies and Alexander Kent have found a way to break open these mysteries with a beautiful and brief cartographic volume. Their book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, 2017), focuses on how these maps (more…)

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Find the LAM staff out and about in March and April:

March 19–21

LABash 2015, San Luis Obispo, CA

March 24–28

2015 CELA Conference, Manhattan, KS

March 27–28

The Harvard–Lincoln Institute Journalists Forum on Land and the Built Environment, Cambridge, MA

April 8-9

Therapeutic Landscapes Symposium, Philadelphia, PA

April 10

Ohio Chapter ASLA Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH

April 11–14

Greater & Greener 2015: Innovative Parks, Vibrant Cities,  San Francisco, CA

April 15–19

2015 Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, Chicago, IL

You can also find Landscape Architecture Magazine this spring at the following shows:

March 5–7

Hearth Patio and Barbecue Expo, Nashville, TN

March 19–22

Architectural Digest Home Design Show, New York, NY

April 13–15

Outdoor Design and Build Show, Dubai, UAE

April 14–17

Coverings, Orlando, FL

And as always, at more than 400 Barnes & Noble stores.

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