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BY MIMI ZEIGER

A new biography of James Rose explores his difficult brilliance.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

“Words! Can we ever untangle them?” reads James Rose’s opening salvo in Pencil Points. Appearing in the definitive journal of modernist design thought, the landscape designer’s 1939 essay rejects preconceived ideas of formal or informal design and makes the case for an organic and materials-based approach—an argument approaching revelation at a time when Beaux-Arts methodologies held sway.

Reading the text today, Rose’s words cut through the decades, carrying with them equal doses of wit, creativity, and frustration with the status quo. An uncompromising designer from his time in and out of Harvard (he was expelled in 1937, later returned but never graduated) to his death in 1991, Rose is the subject of the latest volume of the Masters of Modern Landscape Design series published in association with the Library of American Landscape History and the University of Georgia Press. It’s the first biography dedicated to the landscape architect, who although a prolific writer throughout his career and author of four of his own books, has yet to receive the kind of canonical recognition bestowed on his Harvard classmates Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley.

As director of the James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design—a nonprofit located at Rose’s Ridgewood, New Jersey, home—the book’s author, Dean Cardasis, FASLA, is well-placed to untangle the competing forces of Rose’s career. Few of Rose’s works survive in their original form, and a spare eight are presented as illustrated case studies—a fraction of the more than 80 projects produced in his lifetime. Much of the book is devoted to advocating for Rose’s achievements while trying to (more…)

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“In our language, we have a word; it means, ‘They have no ears.’ They don’t listen, and that’s what was happening.”

—Marisa Miakonda Cummings, Omaha tribe member

Brenda Williams, ASLA, has been working on tribal landscapes for 20 years, but it’s what she’s learned not to do that defines her reputation: Talk first. Her work is a lesson in when and how to listen, and what to do, and not do, with what you hear. Timothy A. Schuler follows Williams as she facilitates a new master plan for Blood Run, a sacred site carved by the state lines of South Dakota and Iowa and years of exploitation. The photojournalist Louise Johns documents the land and the people.

If you don’t live in New York City, you can be forgiven for not knowing Randall’s Island. It’s not a destination park like Governors Island or a national monument like Ellis Island. It’s where the city’s residents go to play games—right up against a sewage treatment plant and some of the city’s most monumental infrastructure. After years of neglect, the playing fields and recreational amenities get a jolt of energy from MPFP, Starr Whitehouse, and Mathews Nielsen, among others.

Also in this issue: A new wetland park for Wilmington, Delaware, has layers of challenge. Jeanne Haffner explores Lawrence Halprin’s unbuilt plans for the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.; the artist Zaria Forman gives us a preview of her new series on Antarctic icebergs; and the first biography of the landscape architect James Rose asks as many questions as it answers. The full table of contents for August can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting August articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Game On,” Sahar Coston-Hardy; “Ears to the Ground,” Louise Johns; “Wrong Side of the River,” Doug Baker, University of Delaware; “Getting Paid,” Dorothee Brand/Belathée Photography; “Traces of Self-Exile,” Courtesy James Rose Center; “BIM There, Done That,” Patrik Argast and O|CB; overlay by LAM.

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