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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 JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

If you visit one of our national parks nowadays to commune with nature, you may find yourself having instead an experience of mass tourism. Many parks are huge. You’d expect plenty of elbow room. But much of any wilderness park is inaccessible to the public. Besides, people generally head for a few famous spots—you probably want to see those too—which quickly become overwhelmed. Attendance is up over the past few years. Infrastructure typically went in over decades, usually piecemeal, not by comprehensive plan, and for smaller crowds, so both visitor experiences and the places themselves become degraded. And the National Park Service has money problems. By 2017, the bill for deferred maintenance—apart from any new capacity—was $11.6 billion (see “Roads to Ruin,” LAM, February 2016).

Still, where it can, often with help from citizen conservancies, the park service is commissioning landscape architecture interventions to redress the gridlock and throngs. Most people will still find themselves among multitudes of strangers, but these redesigns can provide more authentically natural, less contrived interactions with the environment. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park was until recently a prime example of the problem. A project there, which opened to the public last summer, is a model response. Half of its $40 million cost was donated by the Yosemite Conservancy. It was designed by Seattle-based Mithun.

Mariposa Grove actually has two concentrations of the great trees, the lower grove and the upper grove. Before, when you reached the lower grove you were in a parking lot. Several giant sequoias were stranded there like islets in the sea of asphalt; you might not even have realized you’d arrived. This lot filled up early. Overflow traffic returned some seven miles on a winding, two-lane park road to Wawona, where there is a historic hotel, a convenience store, and a small Yosemite history museum. Visitors there caught a shuttle back to the grove. But Wawona had only “a makeshift drop-off for the shuttle and no parking infrastructure for the hundreds who would come through—quite a fiasco,” says Christian Runge, ASLA, a Mithun senior associate.

When you finally shuttled back to the lower grove, “there was a sense of confusion,” Runge says. “Wayfinding wasn’t clear. There were redundant loops of trails. They had to have rangers telling (more…)

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ON BRAZIL’S BEHALF

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

Araucárias, Paraná, ca. 1884. Photo by Marc Ferrez/Gilberto Ferrez Collection/Instituto Moreira Salles.

 FROM THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Speaking out against the military dictatorship of Brazil during the late 1960s and early 1970s had definite risks. Politicians, human rights advocates, artists, and intellectuals who publicly opposed the right-wing government’s programs of hyperdevelopment did so under threat of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and death. Many fled into exile. Roberto Burle Marx, the Brazilian landscape architect (1909–1994), had been a public figure for decades when, three years after the 1964 coup, he was appointed by the dictatorship’s first president, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, to a 24-member national cultural council. For Burle Marx, the decision to join the council was ethically freighted. He accepted with one clear objective: to save the Brazilian landscape.

In a new book, Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes Under Dictatorship (University of Texas Press, 2018), Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, brings forth a series of 18 frankly activist speeches, or depositions, that Burle Marx delivered as a member of the council. They target, among other things, the unchecked destruction of Brazil’s forests for raw materials and agriculture. He surveyed the progression of environmental tragedy with a deep knowledge of botany and ecology, an intricate alertness to policy, and always appealing to a Brazilian pride in its national landscape patrimony.

“The way I read his depositions, Burle Marx is positioning an argument that’s against the economic development theory of the regime,” Seavitt Nordenson told me recently. “Sometimes they listen to him and sometimes they don’t. But he’s on the inside and he’s arguing passionately, because he’s been working on the cultural project of the Brazilian landscape for so long.” Seavitt Nordenson notes that in these speeches of 50 years ago, Burle Marx touches on two huge problems of today, anthropogenic impacts affecting climate and the loss of biodiversity. “They’re very clear—they’re jocular speeches, often funny, and have so much spontaneity—and he manages to communicate a serious message to an audience that has significant political power.”

This excerpt of Depositions includes a brief introduction by Seavitt Nordenson to three depositions on forests, followed by her translations of the depositions themselves.

 —Bradford McKee

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A lift behind the scenes helped bring the National Park Service into being.

A lift behind the scenes helped bring the National Park Service into being.

From the April 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In February 1916, the American Society of Landscape Architects met in Boston for its annual meeting. Among the reports entered into the proceedings was one of the Committee on National Parks. The committee was made up of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Harris Reynolds, Stephen Child, Percival Gallagher, and Warren H. Manning, and it had been formed on the recommendation of ASLA President James Sturgis Pray in 1915, part of a groundswell of unease that had been brewing for several years over the fractured administration of the national parks.

The passage of the National Park Service Organic Act on August 25, 1916, established the park service and its mission, and though it has been amended many times, and threatened many more times than that, it remains, 100 years hence, our primary apparatus for preserving and interpreting the national parks. Ethan Carr, FASLA, the landscape historian and author of Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture & the National Park Service, writes that (more…)

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