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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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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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