Barack Obama’s Obama Presidential Center, a three-building complex designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien on Chicago’s South Side, has made its intention to embrace its neighborhood very clear—specifically Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance, the historic Frederick Law Olmsted–designed greenways that have hosted, among other things, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a.k.a. the “White City.” But what the Center hasn’t made as clear is that the complex’s footprint is growing, with its leaders recently proposing an aboveground parking garage that could take up about five acres of the Midway. The library’s concession for eating into this space is a green roof, which opponents claim should not be considered green space at all. Original plans for the center, released in May, did not include any building on the Midway. The land is owned by the city’s Department of Transportation, and the move would need to be approved by the Chicago City Council. “To say it’s ok to carve up a work of art and replace it with something else is ridiculous,” said Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. “The issue is not whether a green roof is considered green space; what’s disconcerting is the Obama Center’s insistence that they need more parkland.” When completed, the Obama Center—whose footprint currently measures roughly 20 acres—will consist of a tall, stone-clad, geometric presidential museum, a green-roofed library, and a forum for events, all clustered around a broad plaza. The greenery is meant to blend with the existing park, but will not, say critics, make up for the amount of space it is taking from the famed parks. A spokesperson for the Obama Foundation told AN: “The parking facility on the Midway will revitalize underutilized section of the Midway Plaisance. The facility will be covered and surrounded by a new park that will be open to the public.” The Chicago Park District has called three meetings for citizens to weigh in on the planned changes, particularly to Jackson Park and the Midway. “We thought a comprehensive planning process was in order,” Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry told CBS Chicago. “Now it’s happening so quickly that we don’t believe it possibly can be a real, transparent process.”
Posts tagged with "Charles Birnbaum":
Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza, a classic but poorly maintained “park plaza” (to borrow the term its designer, landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, coined to describe it), has escaped demolition, preservationists announced Friday. The Cultural Landscape Foundation said they’d reached a settlement to preserve the 1975 public space, ending a lawsuit brought by TCLF and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota in June 2012. It awaits the signature of Mayor R.T. Rybak. Last year, against objections from a coalition of preservationists led by TCLF, Peavey Plaza was slated to be razed. A rift had developed one year prior, after city-led redevelopment plans threatened key elements of the original design, prompting Friedberg and TCLF president Charles Birnbaum to split from the team tasked with bringing the aging modernist plaza up to contemporary standards. “Specific details beyond the general design concept have yet to be established,” read a TCLF press release. “The parties have conducted substantial work with each other on a rehabilitation of the Plaza in good faith with a focus on preservation of the historic elements of the Plaza, while permitting the Plaza to be changed and/or modified in order to achieve some of the objectives of the City.” Peavey Plaza landed on the National Register of Historic Places in January — one of a small fraction of sites on that list with significance in landscape architecture.
One of the jewels of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Golden Gate National Parks (including their new visitors centers), last week received the Stewardship Excellence Award from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The award, created in 2001, is given to a person, group, or agency that shares TCLF’s mission of stewardship through education. In this case the groups overseeing the project were The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and The Presidio Trust, working with the National Park Service. The Golden Gate National Parks was established in 1972 and comprises 80,000 acres of open space and historic districts along the San Francisco and Marin coasts. It is considered one of the nation’s largest urban parks and is used by 16 million people annually. "These stewards, working with many Bay Area practitioners, have skillfully faced the daunting design challenge of balancing nature and culture within the parks," said TCLF founder and president Charles A. Birnbaum in a statement. The award was given concurrently with the publication of a guidebook, What’s Out There: Golden Gate National Parks, produced by TCLF.