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BY JONATHAN LERNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM WESTPHALEN

Wagner Hodgson’s assignment for a lakeside estate in Vermont required subtle deletions, essential corrections, and thematic consistency.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The property is a stubby peninsula jutting west into Lake Champlain. The lake is nearly two miles wide here. Beyond it, in New York, the tiered peaks of the Adirondacks appear flattened and monochromatic, blurring as they recede into the distance. Given the setting, the place seems even more expansive than its 140 acres. But the grandeur is counterbalanced by the land’s gentleness—it has the unassertive quality characteristic of Vermont’s culture, if not of the state’s more typical mountainous terrain. From a country road, you turn onto a half-mile-long drive. The approach runs between meadows, where sheep from an adjacent farm are grazed, before entering a wood and then curving toward the house. From here, 30 feet below through the filter of trees, the lake gleams slate blue.

Bays scoop out the north and south shores of the peninsula, shaping it like an anvil; the west shore runs for 2,000-plus feet along the lake proper. The main house sits in neat, tree-dotted lawns near the anvil’s southern point. It’s grand in scale, and traditional though restrained in style. There’s a pool and pool house, and a carriage house that doubles as entertaining space. Both are well spaced from the house and each other and visually buffered, at least in summer, by planting areas: There’s a curve of river birches undergirded by Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’), Astilbe, and a mix of sage and grass varieties, and separately, a little grid of honey locusts. Farther away, past an intervening sweep of woods, a guesthouse overlooks the south bay. A quarter mile from that, above the north bay, sits a smaller second guesthouse. Near that structure, but also shielded by trees, there’s a reconstructed antique barn. Aside from a short steep drop down to the lake all around, the land has only soft contours. As a whole, of course, this estate is plenty splendid. But its buildings are scattered, and unostentatious. Sight lines are veiled by the skeins of trees. There is no hill to provide a commanding view of the place all at once. When you’re there, it feels understated and quiet.

The Burlington, Vermont, firm Wagner Hodgson was hired in 2014 to create a coherent master plan that would transform the abandoned farm property into a working estate. That required addressing woodland management, shoreline protection, field restoration for sheep husbandry, management of agricultural runoff, siting of outbuildings, and establishment of outdoor living spaces for the client family. The property had been neglected. Some fields had been in agricultural use, but wooded areas including the lakefront bluffs had become overgrown and thick with invasives. “Before, all the way up to the house, you couldn’t even tell there was a lake here,” says H. Keith Wagner, FASLA, who was the principal in charge on the project. “You couldn’t see the house either,” until you’d come right up to it. A big part of the job came down to editing. Wagner says, “It wasn’t only what you added; it was what you subtracted.” Thinning of trees along the bluff now allows views to the water as you get close. And selective removal neatly “opened up a shot,” as Wagner puts it, between remaining trees, to provide a 400-foot head-on prospect from the curve of the driveway right to the front of the house. You glimpse the building for a moment—it’s a stately one, well served by that long view—before passing back among trees that intermittently screen it, and finally arriving at the door.

Editing, of course, involves not only deletion but also elaboration and punctuation. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Just a few years ago, Keri VanVlymen, a landscape designer with Ratio in Indianapolis, had never driven a golf cart, but now she’s an expert. Over five months in 2018, she surveyed each of Indianapolis’s 13 public golf courses, trekking “every mile of every trail of every course,” she says, 49 miles in all. She’s watched colleagues get stuck on icy hills and has clawed her way up a snowy, arched footbridge, one foot on the accelerator, one hand pulling herself along the railing while the wheels spun.

In late 2017, Indianapolis hired Ratio to re-evaluate the city’s public golf courses, with an eye toward converting some into parks. Whereas most cities of its size would have one to four public courses, Indianapolis’s baker’s dozen stretches across 1,800 acres. With VanVlymen’s colleague John Jackson, ASLA, a principal and the director of landscape architecture and urban design at Ratio, the firm is proposing supplanting green fees in favor of multipurpose recreation and letting everyone onto the land.

“Golf courses are very large-scale designed landscapes,” Jackson says. “You’re playing the game through these very large corridors.” Golf courses are often designed as “18 very large rooms. If you apply that to today’s recreational trends, there’s a lot of interesting places you can go,” he says. (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 JIMENA MARTIGNONI / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEONARDO FINOTTI

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Porto Alegre is the capital and largest city of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil. With a population of 1.5 million in the city and about 4.3 million in the metropolitan area, it is one of many Brazilian port cities. Although it is not directly on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, its location at the confluence of five rivers and at the northern end of Lagoa dos Patos—the largest barrier lagoon in South America—makes it a city that has an essential relationship with water. The Guaraní, the original inhabitants of the region, called the confluence of the five rivers Guaíba, which means the “meeting of the waters.” Today, the locals refer to this space as the Guaíba River or Guaíba Lake, indistinctly.

Given these watery proximities, the city historically has been affected by floods. In the early 1940s, after a devastating flood, a wall went up to cover most of the city’s edge on the river, eliminating its natural relationship with the water and the green spaces on the banks. The city’s residents, however, maintained their longtime habits around these natural areas, visiting and using them spontaneously. Walking, resting, drinking maté, and especially watching the sunset always continued for the locals, despite the site’s increasing state of official abandonment.

In 2011, during the term of Mayor José Fortunati (2010–2017), the Porto Alegre government finally decided to start a plan of restructuring and recovery of the areas above the water’s edge, with special emphasis on the areas near the historic center of the city. Construction began in 2015—major funding came from the Development Bank of Latin America—which put the administration of Fortunati’s successor, Nelson Marchezan Júnior (2017–present), in charge of completing the project. It is unusual in Latin America for two consecutive administrations to be responsible for a project’s implementation. Called Orla do Guaíba in Portuguese (coast of Guaíba), the plan includes the renovation and consolidation of the coastal areas and green spaces along the riverbank and the creation of a linear park at various levels on the edge between the city and the water—levels determined by shoreline modeling performed over the years. (more…)

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THE GREEN NEW DEAL, LANDSCAPE, AND PUBLIC IMAGINATION

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 NICHOLAS PEVZNER

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the 2018 midterm elections, the Green New Deal has catapulted into the public conversation about tackling climate change and income inequality in America. It has inspired a diverse coalition of groups on the left, including climate activists, mainstream environmental groups, and social justice warriors. The Green New Deal is not yet fully fleshed out in Congress—the most complete iteration so far is a nonbinding resolution put forward in the House by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and a companion measure introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). At their cores, these bills are an urgent call to arms for accelerating the decarbonization of the U.S. economy through a federal jobs program that would create millions of green jobs—a 10-year national mobilization on a number of fronts aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution text itself is a laundry list of possible goals and strategies aimed at immediately addressing climate change and radically cutting U.S. carbon emissions. These proposals are ambitious in scale and breadth: a national target of 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy generation; a national “smart” grid; aggressive building upgrades for energy efficiency; decarbonization of the manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation sectors; increased investment in carbon capture technologies; and the establishment of the United States as a global exporter of green technology. What such an effort will entail on the ground is not yet clear, but if even only some of these stated goals are achieved, the Green New Deal will represent a transformation of both the American economy and landscape on a scale not seen since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his original New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s. (more…)

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BY MARK R. EISCHEID

The site manager Ben Wever talks about maintenance at Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden.

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Considered a modernist masterpiece, Dan Kiley’s Miller Garden in Columbus, Indiana, is now more than 60 years old. Previously the private residence of the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller family (1957–2008), the property has been owned and managed by Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art) since 2009. Ben Wever, the site manager of the Miller House and Garden, was born and raised in Columbus and has a decades-long history with the site. His grandmother, Barbara Voelz, worked for the Miller family, and he would occasionally visit the property as a child. He later became a part-time gardener for the Millers while in high school, and eventually a seasonal and then a full-time groundskeeper and a personal assistant to J. Irwin Miller. Wever—an Indiana-accredited horticulturist, member of Landmark Columbus’s Advocacy and Education Committee, and a midcentury furniture collector—also has experience maintaining other Kiley designs throughout Columbus. In his current role, Wever oversees the care, curation, and maintenance of both the Miller House and Garden. The following are excerpts from a conversation regarding the practices and challenges of maintaining the Miller Garden. (more…)

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WHAT’S IN A NATIVAR?

BY CAROL BECKER

And what isn’t? Designers and pollinators are finding out.

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a medium-sized shrub that is appealing in sunny areas of the landscape because of its glossy green leaves; unusual fragrant, round, spiky flowers; and rust-red fall color. It’s especially useful in wet areas and rain gardens where it absorbs excess water and even tolerates standing water. Hummingbirds and butterflies favor the plant for its nectar, and 24 species of birds seek it out for its small, round nuts that persist into winter. This native of the Midwest and East Coast is easily grown and little bothered by pests in the garden. Yet it is not commonly used in built landscapes. Although everything else about this shrub is right, its growth pattern and size are not. The straight species can be quite large at 12 feet high or more, and it has an annoying habit of sending branches in all directions, so it looks willy-nilly rather quickly if it’s not pruned regularly and often.

But here come Sputnik, Sugar Shack, and Fiber Optics, cultivars of buttonbush that represent a tamed C. occidentalis. Cultivars are plants produced by selective breeding or vegetative propagation to achieve better traits for the landscape. Fiber Optics is a species mutation discovered by an inventory employee in the bare-root fields of Bailey Nurseries, says the company’s public relations and communications specialist, Ryan McEnaney. Bailey trialed the plant, a process that takes several years, and brought it to market in 2017. It has a reliably smaller size at five to six feet high and a branching habit that keeps it compact and rounded, while retaining all the desired features of the straight species.

The Fiber Optics buttonbush is what is known as a nativar. The term is not scientific but has value to the industry in (more…)

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Stave sections of trees native to Scotland, from a Scottish Gaelic alphabet. Image courtesy Laurel McSherry.

The Design with Nature Now conference at the University of Pennsylvania will celebrate the life and work of the pioneering landscape architect Ian McHarg this month with a slate of exhibitions and conference events held at the design school.

Among them will be an exhibition of works by the landscape architect and artist Laurel McSherry titled Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days that twins the valleys that defined Ian McHarg’s life—the River Clyde in his native Scotland and the Delaware in Philadelphia—and incorporates McSherry’s own meditative explorations of Glasgow through video, etchings, and sculpture. In this interview conducted by Lynn Marsden-Atlass, the executive director of the Arthur Ross Gallery, McSherry weaves a site-specific installation that encourages people to reconsider the prosaic landscapes that surround them.

Design with Nature Now takes place June 21–22, 2019, at the University of Pennsylvania. Laurel McSherry: A Book of Days will be on view from June 21 through September 15. (more…)

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