Up to 40 trees, some of them decades old, were reportedly cut down in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park on August 6 as part of construction associated with the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) campus. Despite a pending lawsuit and ongoing federal review, construction crews were reportedly spotted demolishing baseball fields in Jackson Park to make way for an OPC-funded track-and-field facility in the same spot. The new field is being constructed at a cost of $3.5 million to compensate the city and Chicago Park District for the current track and field that will be swallowed up by the 19.3-acre campus. The $500 million campus, master planned by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, has already seen its fair share of pushback from the community since its unveiling in 2016. First, a controversial parking facility was moved underground after complaints that its presence would spoil the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed landscape and the accompanying Midway Plaisance. The buildings themselves were redesigned to sit within the park better the next day. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, OPC executives had pledged not to cut down any trees until the project had passed review and they had obtained the proper permits. However, this promise appears to have only counted work on the main campus, and not associated work. As The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) points out, the new field is inextricably linked to the main project and is tied to the OPC’s construction timetable. When the Sun-Times asked about the discrepancy, Obama Foundation officials reportedly declined to confirm that the new field was part of the OPC, telling the paper that “the construction schedule put forward by the Chicago Park District ensures the new track will be ready for students and fall sports leagues.” Additionally, the federal lawsuit filed in May by preservationist group Protect Our Parks was rebuked by lawyers from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District in June, who argued that as the City Council hasn’t given the project approval yet, any lawsuit was premature. The Chicago City Council won’t vote on the project until the fall, and no construction is supposed to occur until the twice-delayed federal review concludes. According to the Chicago Tribune, the groundbreaking for the campus has been pushed to 2019. No update has been given on whether this will change the projected 2021 opening date. On August 8, TCLF delivered a letter with their concerns to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a federal advisory body on historic preservation. The felling of the trees in a park listed in the National Register of Historic Places and what the Foundation feels is a lack of due diligence by the City of Chicago to look into the site’s archeological significance were addressed. AN will follow this story up as more news about the Center breaks.
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When nine-year-old African American caddie Alvin Propps was arrested for playing golf at the newly desegregated Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, in 1950, it set off a firestorm that eventually made its way to the mayor’s office. As the first peacefully desegregated golf course in the former Confederate South during the Jim Crow era, the course became the center of controversy. But when the mayor’s office decided to drop the charges, it set a precedent, and Lions Municipal became open to African Americans from that day forward. However, the course is now threatened by private development, after the University of Texas Board of Regents decided not to renew the City of Austin's lease in 2011 on the 1924 course just two miles west of the Texas state capitol. In 2019, it could be handed over to developers. In a post by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Glenda Gilmore, the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History at Yale University, said, “Historians searching for the impetus of the ‘classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement,’ preceding Brown v. Board in 1954 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, have posited a ‘long civil rights movement’ that preceded those iconic struggles. In other words, Lions Municipal Golf Course is representative of the ‘birth of the civil rights movement.'” The city has floated the idea of preserving the clubhouse, but not the course. However, many critics say that because the structure wasn’t part of the site when the desegregation happened, preserving the clubhouse alone is not enough. The Congressional Black Caucus has voiced support for measures to protect the course, and the Texas House of Representatives, the City of Austin, and Travis County, Texas, have all passed resolutions acknowledging the historic importance of the site.
Following the decision yesterday to bury the Obama Presidential Center’s controversial parking garage under the center itself, the Obama Foundation has announced major changes to the rest of the campus. The complex, which will eat up approximately 20 acres of the Olmstead and Vaux-designed Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side, has faced scrutiny from preservationists and residents throughout the design process. When it was first unveiled, the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and Interactive Design Architects plan called for a squat, stone-clad museum at the heart of the center’s campus. The museum is joined by a forum and library with the three buildings ringing a central plaza, while each is connected to the other via perforated underground tunnels that let in natural light. Coming a day after the announcement that the parking garage was moving from the Midway Plaisance and into the park itself, the latest design for the center was revealed in a video from the Obama Foundation. In it, the former president and first lady present a new conceptual model of the site and discuss the changes therein. Most noticeably, the museum will now be slimmer but top out at 225 feet, as opposed to the originally planned 160 to 180 foot height. In response to criticism that the building was imposing or inappropriately dense for the site, the architects have replaced sections of the on the south and west sides and replaced them with screens containing quotes from the Obama presidency. The lettering will be made of the same lightly colored stone as the façade, although architect Tod Williams has told the Chicago Tribune that they aren’t sure whether the lettering will spell out real words, or remain abstract. A 100-foot tall section on the building’s north side has also been replaced with glass and will expose the escalator bank to natural light. Other details revealed include the creation of a 300-seat auditorium on the forum building’s north side, as well as the ongoing negotiations between the Chicago Public Library over including a branch inside of the library building. The underground parking garage will hold 450 cars across one or two levels, and be punctured with light wells to keep it airy and open. All of these changes come as the Obama Foundation is expected to file for their first construction permit today, and as the project undergoes a federal review to make sure that the Presidential Center won’t fundamentally alter the character of Jackson Park. With the move of the parking garage into Jackson Park itself, the structure will also fall under this review. While the battle over the parking garage has simmered down, preservationists are still concerned over the complex’s impact on a historically significant landscape. Martin Nesbitt, Obama Foundation chairman, said, “While the center’s buildings will occupy 3.6 acres, there will be a net gain in open space because closing Cornell Drive would create 5.16 acres of parkland,” in addition to the planted green roofs. Charles A. Birnbaum, President & CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, countered with the following statement: “That’s not true. Closing Cornell Drive does not add 5.6 acres of parkland – that’s double counting. Cornell Drive, which unfortunately has been widened to six lanes, is part of the Olmsted design and is itself mapped parkland. “The people of Chicago were told they would get a presidential library administered by the National Archives, a federal facility, in exchange for the confiscation of historic parkland, listed in the National Register of Historic Places – instead, they’re getting a privately-operated entertainment campus with a 235-foot-tall tower, a recording studio, auditorium, sports facility, and other amenities.”
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has announced the recipients of the 2017 Stewardship Excellence Awards, an annual award aimed at promoting organizations that “connect people to places” in accordance with TCLF’s mission statement. This year, TCLF has honored two West Coast-based preservation groups—the Halprin Landscape Conservancy in Portland, Oregon and The Sea Ranch Association in Sea Ranch, California—that focus on “promoting sound stewardship” of works by the seminal late modernist landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. By highlighting Halprin’s legacy, TCLF is acknowledging changing trends in contemporary landscape and architectural preservation efforts, which in recent years have shifted in focus from works of the 1950s and early 1960s toward the preservation of buildings, landscapes, and interiors from 1965 and on. Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s president & CEO said in a statement, “Lawrence Halprin’s built legacy is revolutionary, influential, and extremely fragile,” adding, “its future is dependent on well-informed, proactive stewardship.” The Halprin Landscape Conservancy was founded in 2006 and, via a series of public-private partnerships, is now fully recognized by the City of Portland as a major steward of the city’s iconic landscapes. In 2013, the organization successfully undertook a “conditions assessment report” for Halprin’s Sequence of Open Spaces, an effort that resulted in its listing in the National Register of Historic Places, according to TCLF. In the years since, the group has also led efforts to restore Halprin’s Lovejoy Plaza, successfully thinned and trimmed trees at Halprin’s Pettygrove Park, and completed a $2.15 million local improvement district in Portland focused on the Open Space Sequence. The Sea Ranch Association, in turn, has been in existence since the iconic Northern California development’s founding in 1965 and is tasked to serve as “stewards for the conservation and enhancement of the environment and administer Sea Ranch affairs.” The association utilizes a set of restrictive covenants and design review processes to limit and guide development and upgrades at the community, including efforts aimed at documenting and interpreting the site for future generations. Via email, Birnbaum told The Architect’s Newspaper, "This year’s Stewardship Excellence honorees provide both the inspiration and the roadmap for success for other individuals and organizations seeking to secure the future of our cultural landscape legacy.” The honorees will be recognized in October during the opening reception for The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin exhibition at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
To most, the words "National Park" provokes images of Yellowstone and Yosemite. The National Park Service (NPS) would like to broaden that image to include historic sites and notable open spaces within U.S. cities. To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the NPS has partnered with the Washington, D.C.–based The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) to release a new guide to the historic and notable open spaces in Philadelphia. The project is spearheaded by the Urban Agenda, an initiative within the NPS to make parks accessible and relevant to city dwellers. In addition to highlighting parks, plazas, and gardens, the online What’s Out There Cultural Landscapes Guide has entries for the neighborhoods, museums, homes, schools, and houses of worship that make Philadelphia Philadelphia. The city's book features over 50 significant sites, which users can filter by type, theme, style, or designer. Each entry has images and a written description of the site design and history. Among many luminaries, the guide highlights the contributions of nineteenth century garden cemetery designer Philip M. Price, Thomas Holme, inventor of the Philadelphia Plan; and I.M. Pei, Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, and Denise Scott Brown, 20th century architects who have contributed to Philadelphia's built environment. The guides build on TCLF's What's Out There database, which contains over 1,900 sites in the U.S. and Canada. Besides National Parks, the guide has information on National Historic Landmarks, National Natural Landmarks, National Heritage Areas, Land and Water Conservation Fund Sites, and National Register of Historic Places landscapes. TCLF already has non-NPS affiliated guides for Chicago, Denver, D.C., and Toronto, and over the next 18 months, the NPS and TCLF will release guides for Boston, New York, and Richmond, Virginia, Next City reports.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation just released the latest installment in their Pioneers Oral History series with a 64-minute interview-style documentary with landscape architect Nicholas Quennell. https://youtu.be/5oFxzw1DfbA?list=PL6K1HBuaqHQRI5ZKCzqxgQ5qQZlbBpcyZ Quennell recalls his evolution as a landscape architect, from his beginnings as an architect working with Lawrence Halprin and creating the now-iconic Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco, to establishing his firm, Quennell Rothschild & Partners in New York in 1968. Although best known for his projects such as the Central Park Children’s Zoo, Fort Tryon Park, Lighthouse Park, East River 60th Street Pavilion, and Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Quennell also had a brief stint as a pop artist, taught at Columbia University, and served as president of the New York City Art Commission, among other colorful experiences, such as living in the Chelsea Hotel in the 1960s. Drawing from his over 50 years of experience in the field, Quennell offers valuable insights not only on the past several decades of landscape architecture, but also the future of where it is headed. The 64-minute video is divided into one to two-minute segments which can be watched here.
Pioneering post-war landscape architect Asa Hanamoto passed away at his home in Mill Valley, California on April 9. The son of Japanese immigrants, Hanamoto was interned with his family at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in Northern California during World War II. He then served in the U.S. Army, studied at UC Berkeley, started his career at Eckbo, Royston & Williams, and went on to design public projects including parks, campuses, recreational designs and community plans over a career that lasted more than five decades. Hanamoto's firm, RHBA (now called RHAA), blazed a trail for then-nascent fields of environmental and community planning. It is known especially for work on the Willamette River Greenway Study (1975), establishing a vital recreational and scenic corridor along the Oregon river; and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (1976), assessing and planning the 116-square mile project and establishing management plans that still guide the area. Hanamoto's biography can be found at the Cultural Landscape Foundation's web site.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation has released the latest documentary in its ongoing Oral History series, which documents the lives and careers of pioneering landscape architects through in-depth interviews, archival footage, and on-site videography of their most noteworthy projects. The most recent edition focuses on Laurie Olin, recipient of the National Medal of the Arts and one of the nations most esteemed landscape architects. Through 29 segments amounting to over 90 minutes in total, the documentary charts Olin’s seminal career from his early years in Alaska and at the University of Washington, to his professorship and the University of Pennsylvania and his work on such influential projects as New York’s Battery Park City, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle. The documentary series is part of the foundation’s multifaceted Pioneers of American Landscape Design initiative, which aims to identify and promote significant designed landscapes and explore the personal and professional histories, design philosophies, and significant projects of their designers. Past subjects of the Oral History project include M. Paul Friedberg, James van Sweden and Carol R. Johnson. Check the foundation’s website for additional information and a wealth of highly informative videos.
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.
Peavey Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ celebrated modernist square completed in 1975, fell into disrepair—two of its three iconic fountains are no longer operational, and its sunken “garden rooms” have helped harbor illegal activity. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg’s plaza became the focus of a high-profile preservation battle two years ago, with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) leading the charge to rehabilitate Peavey and city officials pushing for demolition. Now TCLF has announced the plaza has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The “park plaza” style Friedberg forged is evident in Peavey’s blend of hard concrete squares and American-style green spaces. It joins 88,000 sites of architectural heritage on the list, only 2,500 of which have significance in landscape architecture. Preservationists sued the city last year to contest city council’s claim that there were “no reasonable alternatives” to demolition, hoping to win protection under Minnesota’s Environmental Rights Act.
Why doesn't landscape architecture in Southern California get the same attention as architecture? That's one of the questions that will be answered at Friday's Landscapes for Living conference at SCI-Arc. The event, organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, will focus on Post War Landscape designs in the region, which have largely stayed under the radar. For instance, who has heard of Ralph Cornell, who designed legendary landscapes like the Torrey Pines preserve near San Diego, Beverly Gardens in Beverly Hills and the Civic Center Mall and Music Center plaza in Downtown LA ? Other subjects will include Ruth Shelhorn, the only female architect to work on the original plans for Disneyland, and designer of the park's entrance and Main Street; Bridges and Troller, who designed Century City; Lawrence Halprin, better known for his parks in the Pacific Northwest but also active in California; and of course the legendary (but under appreciated) Garret Eckbo.