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Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

BY ZACH MORTICE

The Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Image courtesy NCMA.

Art parks and public gardens decide whether they can give people safe respite when people need to isolate.

 

With the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans have been jolted from their daily routines, their social lives, and their public spaces. Social distancing is pushing people into virtual realms and individual experiences. Landscapes have become a final refuge.

Museums are closed, so across the country, sculpture parks and public gardens are figuring out how they can safely meet the needs of social distancing. When they can, they’re offering one of the few bits of unfettered culture still available. The ones that place nature first have some advantages others don’t.

The Clark Art Institute’s grounds in Williamstown, Massachusetts, are open; more than 100 acres of nature trails are dotted with a handful of sculptures by Giuseppe Penone, William Crovello, and Jenny Holzer, set in a recently expanded campus designed by Reed Hilderbrand. “We have a 140-acre campus and several miles of walking trails that go through the woods on campus,” says Vicki Saltzman, the Clark’s director of communications. “It has always been our policy that the campus is open to the public to use 24 hours a day, and there’s certainly plenty of room in the 140 acres for lots of social distancing. It’s always been a very central part of the Clark’s ethos to think about art in nature, and we make that connection on a daily basis no matter what’s happening in the world around us.” (more…)

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BY TIM WATERMAN

Piccadilly Circus on a Friday night. Photo by Tim Waterman.

The most noticeable thing before the lockdown was that a sense of threat had crept into every public encounter, and suspicion of contagion was pervasive. Three days in a row, out for a walk, I saw someone fall. First, an old man in a pork pie hat who fell against a bollard on Gerrard Street in Chinatown, still festooned with red lanterns for the Year of the Rat. Then outside the hoardings for the as-yet-unopened new entrance to Tottenham Court Road Underground station on Oxford Street, a young man was collapsed and unresponsive, being attended to by paramedics. In Covent Garden an older woman fell, carrying a bag of medical supplies—a knee brace, possibly—and when my partner and I instinctively went to help, she held up both hands to keep us at bay. Now the government has shut down, for almost a week and indefinitely, pubs, restaurants, and shops, and has ordered people to stay at home except to shop for groceries or to exercise. People are still wary, but are much better at keeping to the rule of maintaining a two-meter distance from all others at all times. This is relatively easy to observe outdoors, but indoors it turns shopping into an odd, halting dance. But in London, where it is unheard of for people to speak to strangers in public, or even to make eye contact, both of these things are seen to happen daily. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

With regular business upended by the novel coronavirus, landscape architecture principals plot, wait, and wonder.

 

There was a moment on Friday, March 13, when the novel coronavirus changed everything at the office, says Annette Wilkus, FASLA, the founding partner of SiteWorks in Manhattan. “I walked in on Friday, and one of the staff who’s usually solid had this look in her eye and said, ‘Annette, it’s getting really crazy.’” By Monday the 16th, everyone at SiteWorks was working from home, the day that schools, businesses, and Broadway were closing and the S&P 500 fell by 12 percent, the Dow by 13. New York City was bracing for what would swell into the country’s largest wave of COVID-19 cases.

Around the country at the same time, principals of landscape architecture firms were hurrying to get people home to work safely while they sorted out office logistics, took the pulses of clients and their projects, and mentally packed for a weekend that could last months—just as spring was arriving to cold climates where construction otherwise would be firing up. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Honolulu’s popular Queen Kapi‘olani Park is closed as of Friday, March 20. Photo by Timothy A. Schuler.

It could have been a scene from any number of dystopian films: a group of skateboarders, their faces obscured by bandanas or other makeshift masks, slaloming down an otherwise empty street, the landscape around them—the wide beach, the grassy lawn, the parking lot—deserted. In reality, the scene was one of many strange tableaux in Honolulu this past Friday afternoon, following the closure of city parks and beaches in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Hawaii is regularly ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation, and Honolulu is a bustling city with a noticeably active population. Over the past 96 hours, it has become a ghost town. On Saturday, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 48 (which in two days would nearly double), Hawaii’s governor instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers. The next day, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered residents and visitors to “shelter in place” and leave their houses and apartments only for essential services, an order that was later expanded to the entire state. By Monday, Waikiki’s famed hotels sat mostly empty, its shops shuttered as if preparing for a Category 5 hurricane. Along Waikiki Beach, yellow caution tape fluttered from trees and lampposts, encircling public areas and blocking access points as if the entire beachfront were one giant crime scene. (more…)

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