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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.

BY DIANA FERNANDEZ, ASLA

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Vicki Estrada, FASLA, opened Estrada Land Planning in 1985, and over the course of nearly 35 years, the firm has worked on planning and landscape architecture projects that have helped define the city of San Diego. Her work as a community planner and advocate over the past three decades was community engagement before there was “community engagement,” and her imprint can be seen everywhere in the city’s parks, streets, communities, and transit. We asked Diana Fernandez, ASLA, an associate at Sasaki, to interview Estrada about her career and her life, and what followed was a very candid and wide-ranging conversation about gender, representation, identity, and making landscapes that don’t pretend. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Diana Fernandez: I’m so curious to find out what brought you to landscape architecture. I often feel like all of us landscape architects have stumbled into the field somehow.

Vicki Estrada: It’s a funny, interesting story actually. There were two processes. First of all, when I was in elementary school, I would draw. They were little downtowns. I was supposed to be listening to the teacher, but I would draw little downtowns in isometric view and with a ballpoint pen and my dad’s old office papers. You can still see his office logo on them.

The principal came by one day and said, “Hey, Steve,” my name at the time, “you’re going to be an architect.” I am? So from fourth grade on, it was kind of ingrained in me. You’re going to be an architect. You’re going to be an architect.

I got accepted at Cal Poly for architecture, and I went off. I had one year to go. I met some architecture friends, and I went down to Cal Poly Pomona on one Saturday to visit them. I remember walking down to the campus on a Saturday afternoon. It’s all deserted. It’s all quiet. We looked at this great big new lecture hall. So I walked in—have you seen the movie, The Blues Brothers?

Fernandez: No, I haven’t.

Estrada: Well, there’s a scene in The Blues Brothers where they walk into a church, and James Brown is the preacher, and the door opens up and you see the sunlight come down. I opened up the door, and there’s this room full of students, and onstage was this old guy with long, gray hair, with a cane. He pounds on the stage and he points—I swear it looked like he was pointing at me. “Imagine the Earth as a canvas,” he says. “Architects put dots on the canvas. Engineers connect the dots. You are the only ones who can paint the entire canvas.” Being an architect, I go, “What the fuck? What is he talking about?” (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.

BY JENNIFER REUT

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Like many cities in the Southwest (Palm Springs, California, most conspicuously), Tucson, Arizona, has a decent bank of midcentury modern buildings and landscapes. In the 1950s and 1960s, home buyers, drawn by the mirage of golf course-adjacent desert living (with air-conditioning, swimming pools, and lawns), flocked to the Southwest, and large swaths of the new development that went up during that era were built in the middle-class modern idiom. In the Southwest, modernism incorporated regional materials and climatic adaptations into lively vernacular architecture, and also generated some truly inspired landscapes.

Tucson Modernism Week was launched by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation in 2001 to highlight the region’s midcentury modern architecture and landscape heritage. The foundation is also among a handful of preservation groups trying to broaden notions of modern design to include the work of women and people of color, as well as expanding the boundaries of modernism to include textiles, dance, ceramics, and neon.

Among those whom the foundation has brought to the public’s attention is Taro Akutagawa (1917–2002), a Japanese American landscape designer whose work, primarily in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been nearly erased. The foundation’s Taro Akutagawa Collection contains photographs, newspaper clippings, archival images, drawings, and plans.

The outlines of Akutagawa’s life and work are known, though there is not quite a full accounting of his projects. He was born in California in 1917 and educated in Japan before (more…)

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