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Posts Tagged ‘Frederick Law Olmsted’

BY ZACH MORTICE

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31st Street Harbor in Chicago, by Site Design Group and AECOM. Image courtesy of Rose Yuen Photography.

The Obama Foundation on January 30 announced the selection of three landscape architecture firms to work on the Obama Presidential Center on the South Side of Chicago—a nationally renowned firm, a regional Chicago powerhouse headed by a native South Sider, and a lesser-known firm that has worked on previous presidential library landscapes.

The New York-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the 2016 ASLA Landscape Architecture Firm Award recipient and designer of the landscape of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, will lead the group. Chicago’s Site Design Group joins the team, offering extensive experience with the Chicago Park District, which, controversially, turned over the presidential library’s site to the city so that it could be transferred to the Obama Foundation. Finally, Living Habitats, also based in Chicago, rounds out the team, having designed the green roof landscape of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Arkansas. These three firms will work with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Interactive Design Architects on a narrow slice of land at the western edge of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Jackson Park, the site of the 1893 World’s Fair, next to Lake Michigan. Site Design Group is a (more…)

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BY PHILIP WALSH

The compensatory mitigation mandate opens a dynamic arena for landscape architects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

 

“Konk-la-ree!”

Or,

“O-ka-lee!”

The song of the red-winged blackbird, although instantly recognizable, is hard to put to words, as even Roger Tory Peterson, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, found. These syllables are his best efforts. The trilling, almost metallic-sounding warble evokes summertime, cattails, and the watery landscapes where Agelaius phoeniceus goes to breed.

But at this moment I’m not seeing cattails. I’m at the edge of a parking lot behind a pizza restaurant in a suburb north of Boston, looking at a large pit, about 10 feet deep, filled with Phragmites australis, the infamous invasive species that, along with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), is the scourge of wetlands in the Northeast, choking out cattails and other native species that provide food to the bird population. A few spindly red maples have colonized the embankment, along with some riverbank grape (Vitis riparia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and Rosa multiflora, a pretty though sprawling shrub introduced to America in 1866 to provide rootstock for hybrid roses and now classed as a pest in many states. Despite the red-winged blackbird’s bright song, this is a dismal place, especially in the fading afternoon sunlight, a bit of wasteland left behind by development, one of millions of similar places across the country.

This blighted spot, however, is a mandated compensatory wetland mitigation under (more…)

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The two University of Chicago proposed sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and x. Credit: University of Chicago.

The two University of Chicago proposed sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Credit: University of Chicago.

From the March 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has said he will move “heaven and earth” to bring the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum to his city. As has become apparent in a rather tacky local drama, Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff for President Obama, is not going to let Frederick Law Olmsted get in his way, either.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is expected to announce this month its choice of location for the library from among five proposed sites in three cities: Chicago, Honolulu, and New York. In Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago has offered to host the library on a 23-acre vacant site the city owns on the West Side. Emanuel has said the library can have the land if the site is chosen. Meanwhile, on the South Side, the University of Chicago is offering either of two sites for the library: 21 acres of Washington Park or 20 acres of Jackson Park. The parks are joined, and are Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s only parks in the Midwest. Washington Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004.

Isn’t it big of the University of Chicago to plate up some historic public parkland it doesn’t even own for the president? But it turns out that the ownership question is no worry. Emanuel has promised to hand over whichever chunk of the Olmsted parks the Obama foundation wants. He made that decision after the foundation’s doubts about the South Side proposal became known over the ownership issue. And Emanuel is not experiencing any friction from the Chicago Parks District’s Board of Commissioners, the members of which are his political appointees. They voted unanimously to hand over the land to the foundation if the University of Chicago’s bid were to succeed. (Though it was sort of cute, and perhaps pointless in the larger scheme, that the board’s president, Bryan Traubert, recused himself from the vote because he is married to Penny Pritzker, Obama’s secretary of commerce. Where is there not a conflict of interest in this scenario?)

The idea of taking the parkland to build the Obama library has plenty of support on the South Side, where the Obama family lived before the presidency. Throughout the city, a Chicago Tribune poll in early February found, 62 percent of voters favor the idea, though the poll question mentioned neither Olmsted nor that dozens and dozens of acres of publicly owned vacant land lie near the proposed park site for the library. So you get a response that to the idea’s supporters sounds like the desired tyranny of the majority, under which most anything wrong can be considered righteous.

The opposition to the idea has been fierce but surprisingly isolated among die-hard parks advocates such as the Friends of the Parks group in Chicago and, nationally, the Cultural Landscape Foundation. If any parkland, let alone Olmsted and Vaux territory, can be seized so easily for rank political reasons, then those of us who consider parks sacrosanct have far bigger worries than just these 20 or so acres.

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A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

In this dispatch of the Queue, the staff steps gingerly over the four million Earth Day press releases and the Frederick Law Olmsted birthday doodles to read about urban drawing, urban light, and soil science.

 

FIELD STUDIES

OUT AND ABOUT

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

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