Posts Tagged ‘Charles Birnbaum’

BY ZACH MORTICE

The plan by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates retains the fundamental elements of Dan Kiley’s original design. Photo by Nic Lehoux.

The protection of modernist design is a relatively new topic in preservationist circles. And in many cases, landscapes have lagged behind modern architecture in receiving formal recognition and valuation.

But over the past several years, the modernism preservation nonprofit Docomomo US has used its primary awards program to bring visibility to the vulnerability and value of historic modern landscapes. The projects recognized by Docomomo US’s sixth annual Modernism in America Awards show the ways that all disciplines of the designed environment come together as a defining element of modernism: architecture, landscape architecture, art, interior design, and more. That’s been a recurring theme through the years, though this year’s awards were the first time it was “expressed so clearly or comprehensively,” says awards juror and Docomomo US President Theodore Prudon. Several projects honored put the preservation of historic modernist landscapes front and center: the rehabilitation of Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, honored with a Design Award of Excellence, and the restoration of Olav Hammarstrom’s Pond House in Massachusetts, which received a Design Citation of Merit. (more…)

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The Marcus Center in 1970. Photo courtesy Joe Karr, FASLA, and the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Milwaukee rushes toward a zero-sum choice that could eradicate a Kiley landscape.

 

Dan Kiley developed his approach to landscape design in the wake of World War II. After designing the courtrooms for the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he explored the classical European gardens such as the Tuileries, Villandry, and Versailles, and  translated their allées, bosques, and hedgerows into modern expressions of landscape design. Channeling this tradition created “spaces with structural integrity,” Kiley wrote.

“The trees form a mass that’s almost a structure,” says Joe Karr, FASLA, who worked with Kiley from 1963 till 1969. “Dan quite often used plants like an architect would use other materials.”

Kiley’s landscape for Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, which sits next to the Milwaukee River downtown, exemplifies these lessons. The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s President and CEO Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, says it’s “truer to the Tuileries as any Kiley landscape that survives today.”

But the Marcus Center is now planning to destroy Kiley’s primary landscape feature on the site: a grid of 36 horse chestnut trees. A new plan will replace the trees with a great lawn for large public gatherings, quite contrary to Kiley’s design intent. Construction is tentatively slated to start (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Nashville has a plan to preserve Fort Negley Park—one that many hope deals with its violent past.

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Fort Negley Park, a 55-acre swath of open space two miles south of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, is most famous as the site of a prominent stone masonry fortification built during the Civil War after Union soldiers seized the city. Built out of earth and dry-stacked limestone, Fort Negley is said to be the largest inland fort constructed during the war. It helped the North retain control of Nashville and eventually win the war.

The structure itself, however, was built by nearly 3,000 African American men and women, who were “impressed” against their will—rounded up on the street or pulled out of church services, some of them as young as 13 years old. A quarter of them died, either from injury or mistreatment. They were buried near the fort, (more…)

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BY MIMI ZEIGER

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To revive downtown, the city appears poised to drive right through a masterpiece.

From the December 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The city of Fresno sits in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley. When you drive into town from Los Angeles, the landscape is agricultural and framed by roadside eucalyptus trees. It gives way to off-ramp clusters of gas stations, fast-food chains, and light industrial warehouses. Most of Fresno’s neighborhoods, after nearly 50 years of decentralization and flight from the urban core, sprawl north, tracking the edge of the San Joaquin River. The city’s historic downtown and civic center are a near ghost town.

At the heart of downtown is the Fulton Mall. In the early part of the 20th century, it was Fresno’s main drag, Fulton Street, six blocks lined with banks and department stores. In 1964, the landscape architect Garrett Eckbo turned the street into a modernist pedestrian mall as part of a master plan for downtown Fresno by Victor Gruen Associates. Photographs of the period show a wide promenade full of people flanked by the awnings of existing buildings. Daffodils peek out of Eckbo’s sculptural planting beds, fountains gurgle, and a clock tower by Jan de Swart, an expressive interpretation of a historic form, unambiguously marks the mall as the new town square.

Today, the mall is the center of a fight over downtown Fresno’s redevelopment. The city government, with a $14 million federal transportation grant, supports plans to put a new complete street down the center of the mall. Preservationists plan to file a lawsuit to block the scheme. The rhetorical standoff between sides comes down to revive versus destroy, but the conditions on the ground tell a more complicated story about the role of design as a catalyst and a scapegoat in a changing urban landscape.

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