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Posts Tagged ‘Frederick Law Olmsted’

BY BRIAN BARTH

Claude Cormier cracks a smile.

 

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Claude Cormier, ASLA, and I pull up to Dorchester Square in Montreal, a man is leaning against the grand fountain, with its three Victorian bowls, all painted a very Victorian shade of green, smoking a cigarette. When we get out of the car, I realize it’s not a cigarette, but a joint. “If you want to buy pot in Montreal, this is where you do it,” says Cormier, in heavily accented English—and he begins to tell me the story of how his firm transformed this historic park into a place that winks at the past, while winking in a few other directions as well.

First developed in the 1860s, Dorchester Square is an oasis of ornate statuary (Queen Victoria; a military horse; and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first Francophone prime minister, are all commemorated) and manicured flower beds set amid regal edifices that testify to the city’s railroad-era wealth. Claude Cormier + Associés has been working on improvements to the park (as well as an adjacent green space, Place du Canada) since 2000. In 2015, the firm was selected to restore the northern end of Dorchester Square, a section of which had been lopped off long ago and repurposed for parking. There had not been a fountain in the park previously, but Cormier thought it would make a fitting focal point. Dorchester Square sits on top of an underground garage, and there was a load-bearing column positioned in just the right place to support a 30-foot-high steel fountain at the end of the park’s long axis. There was only one problem: The city said it needed a few extra feet to accommodate the tourist buses that embark from the adjacent block. Those few feet nixed the alignment with the supporting column.

“The city said, get rid of your fountain and design something else,” Cormier tells me, patting the fountain. “And I thought, no, I’m not taking out the fountain.” (more…)

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BY F. PHILIP BARASH

Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Photo by F. Philip Barash.

NOTES FROM BEACON STREET.

 

My living room in Brookline, Massachusetts, recently became a home office, and the windows face Beacon Street. Beacon is roomy, with a 160-foot section designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to have sidewalks, carriageways, a bridle path, and one of the earliest electric streetcar tracks in the United States. Over the past weeks, I’ve spent more time staring at this landscape than I had ever imagined possible, amid an eternity of e-mails and Zoom conferences; a lifetime of listlessness and egg sandwiches. Olmsted designed Beacon Street at the invitation of Henry Whitney, a shipping heir who had amassed parcels along a two-and-a-half-mile corridor from central Boston to the edge of Newton. Beacon Street, Whitney said, was to be a democratic rejoinder to Commonwealth Avenue, just east, where only the Boston Brahmins tread. Commonwealth may have stature and statuary, Whitney said, but Beacon would have public transit for common people: “The laboring man, the mechanic, the clerk, and […] the poor woman.” Whitney didn’t account specifically for humble writers like me, but looking upon the trickle of people outside my window, I know what he meant.

A couple in matching pom-pom hats. A jogger, wearing a neon vest, veering into traffic lanes to keep a safe distance from a jogger wearing neon sneakers. A delivery van. Another, pausing on my block. A dog encased in a vest. Two old women, the first leaning on a walker, the second leaning on the first: a breach of distancing, but a stabilizing posture. A plumber. Teenage boys choking with laughter. A baby carriage steered by a woman with her face hidden by a surgical mask. Another masked face. Another.

In CityLab, Richard Florida speculates about a coming spatial order. Sidewalks will have to get wider and procedures at the airport retooled “like we did in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures.” In the wake of 9/11, as I remember it, anyone who dared enter an airport with a covered face was a target of hostility. Women in hijabs were subjected to automatic searches; Sikhs were harassed. As people in masks and hoodies walk up Beacon Street, I wonder how we will retool our judgments. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A mirrored hut, in the shape of Thoreau’s New England cabin, reminds us to slow down our metabolism for appraising and interpreting landscapes. Photo by Justin Knight.

Günther Vogt on the limits of design, and the boundless reach of landscape architecture.

 

Ask Günther Vogt what the problems facing landscape architecture are, and he’ll tell you that there’s a bit too much design happening today.

This provocation suggests that it’s time for landscape designers to spend less time fussing with the proportions of a public square and more time working through urban and region-scaled problems. That was the thrust of Vogt’s Frederick Law Olmsted Lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design earlier this month, which accompanied an exhibition of his work on display now at the GSD’s Druker Design Gallery at Gund Hall. First the Forests exhibits six of Vogt’s projects and is filled with artifacts, models, specimens, and dioramas presented in tactile wood boxes—references to the European tradition of the “Wunderkammer” or “cabinet of curiosities,” eclectic containers filled with wonder and mystery.

There are cylindrical core samples of Boston’s mineral geology, impossibly delicate 19th century Italian gypsum models of mushrooms, excerpts from German plant morphology diagrams, and deconstructed and collaged 19th century landscape paintings, with foreground and background elements cut out and separated between panes of glass, giving the painting a semblance of texture and depth. LAM spoke to Vogt before the lecture about the exhibition. (more…)

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HERE COMES EVERYBODY

BY ANNE RAVER

The final pier has opened. Brooklyn Bridge Park is all but complete.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

It was raining, so we crouched, rather than sat, in the grassy bowl that Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, had envisioned as the centerpiece of the newly completed green space and playground on Pier 3, which, like most of the other piers in Brooklyn Bridge Park, sprawls over five acres, into the East River.

“I’m lucky to know what it’s like to imagine and hope for something like this for 20 years and finally see it, have it realized,” said Van Valkenburgh, whose firm drew its first plan for this park in 1999. “Look at that sky.” (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History occupies a formidable 1992 postmodernist structure by Graham Gund Architects. Visitors enter through a lobby that looks down into an octagonal atrium dominated by enormous dinosaur skeletons posed as if on the brink of carnage. Beyond the atrium’s glazed rear facade is a narrow concrete terrace. Then the ground behind the building pitches steeply down 45 feet to a creek. So from inside, there’s a horizontal view straight out into the tree canopy, a promise of respite from the vaguely daunting scale and sense of menace inside.

This wooded ravine, which is sort of the reason the museum exists, was neglected and inaccessible until a recent intervention by Sylvatica Studio. Now, beginning right at the atrium’s back doors and set into the terrace’s pavement, the wooden planking of an elevated walkway leads into the trees. Not far along the walkway, just visible where it turns, a 26-foot-high, latticelike but curvilinear “tree pod” beckons from the midst of branches and leaves. Its shape and color mimic the blossom of the tulip tree, a common tree in these woods. The pod is a place to stop, or sit, gently protected by its rounded tracery. But it also offers a sweeping panorama down to the creek and streamside meadow. “It’s 35 feet off the ground. We wanted people to feel slightly—not afraid—but thrilled. ‘What is this experience I’m having?’” explains Sylvatica’s founder, Susan Stainback, ASLA. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The most important question related to the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side doesn’t have that much to do with its architecture.

It is instead: What kind of landscape stewardship can a presidential museum and library offer? To be located in Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Jackson Park, the project already has a heap of canonical landscape history to contend with. So can the Obama library make a great park greater?

The answer is… (more…)

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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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