One of the highlights of this author's recent exhibition, Never Built Los Angeles, was a comprehensive, and interconnected, parks plan for Los Angeles assembled by the landscape firm Olmsted and Bartholomew in 1930. That old plan is seeing some new life in the Los Angeles community. If the proposed Emerald Necklace Expanded Vision Plan is realized, that idea would come to life almost a century after it was proposed. The plan (PDF), led by the Amigos de los Rios, a nonprofit working to create and preserve open spaces in poorer areas of Southern California, and The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving open space nationwide, is intended to connect the city with a new network of parks and open spaces connected by trails, greenways, and bike paths. The idea started in 2005, when the Amigos de Los Rios laid out a 17-mile loop of parks and greenways (often underutilized spaces owned by public agencies) along the Río Hondo and San Gabriel Rivers on the east side of Los Angeles. With a grant from the California Strategic Growth Council they then partnered with the Conservation Fund to expand the scope. "They had focused on landscape architecture scale but didn’t have the experience looking at the bigger picture," explained Will Allen, Director of Strategic Conservation Planning for The Conservation Fund. The plan has grown to encompass the entire LA Basin, from the San Gabriel Forest to the Pacific. New green infrastructure would be proposed throughout the area through land acquisition, but would center along public sites like existing parks, rivers, creeks, under utility lines, near freeways, and along public transit lines. Besides the obvious recreational and public health benefits, the plan could provide relief to the area's beleaguered water supply, provide much-needed shade with new tree canopies, and revitalize struggling communities. Fundraising has already begun. Allen said the plan, whose cost could range from $200 million to over $1 billion, may take 20 to 30 years and involve coordination and funding from the region's 88 cities, private foundations, public bond issues, and public agencies like Caltrans, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Southern California Edison, and the LA Department of Water and Power. "There’s a full awareness that this would be a slog to get a lot of this done," Allen noted. "There's a lot of money out there. A lot is convincing people to invest in things that are multiple benefit." The scheme couldn't come too soon. Right now, according to The Conservation Fund, only 36 percent of children in Los Angeles live within one-quarter mile of a park, compared to 91 percent in New York and 85 percent in San Francisco. Meanwhile 85 percent of Americans live in cities now, so plans like these are only becoming more important. Allen calls the addition of parks in the area a civil rights issue. "We are in the middle of a quiet crisis," said Claire Robinson, president of the Amigos de los Rios. "We're not addressing public health, quality of life, and our relationship to nature." Olmsted and Bartholomew's 178-page plan, which would have created almost 200,000 acres of small and large parks connected by almost 100 park-lined roadways, was derailed by LA's Chamber of Commerce, the same body that commissioned them in the first place. Hopefully this plan will have greater staying power.
Posts tagged with "Frederick Law Olmsted":
The Detroit Free-Press is reporting Belle Isle could become a state park. A public hearing is expected Thursday, and city council could vote on the plan as soon as January 29. Belle Isle is a 985-acre island in the middle of the Detroit River originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While details are still being negotiated, it appears the plan could save the City of Detroit $8 million per year in operating costs. Though Detroit would still own the land, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would operate the island as a state park, charging motorists an $11 entry fee. Bicyclists and pedestrians would still get free access. The potential deal comes on the heels of some good news for Motor City urbanists. In addition to filling out the gaps in the city’s riverwalk, Detroit is moving forward with its M-1 Rail plan, as well as an ongoing $300 million renovation of its Cobo convention center.
Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park, spent nine formative years on a 130-acre farm on the southern shore of Staten Island. Olmsted's involvement in agricultural experimentation and nature conversation allowed him to develop his own thoughts about open space and urban settings. At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19th join Alan G. Brake, executive editor of The Architect's Newspaper, at the Museum of the City of New York as he moderates a discussion exploring how Olmsted's time on Staten Island influenced the field of American landscape architecture and the timeless parks he designed for the city. Included on the panel will be Ryan J. Carey, co-curator of From Farm to City; Tatiana Choulika, Associate Partner at James Corner Field Operations; and Gus Jones, Snug Harbor Heritage Farm Manager. The panel is also in conjunction with the museum's exhibition From Farm to City: Staten Island, 1661-2012.
Mark Hough put it bluntly in his latest article from Landscape Architecture magazine reposted on the American Society of Landscape Architects' blog, "Our preoccupation with Olmsted stems from a chronic, debilitating inferiority complex that plagues our profession. We lament that laypeople confuse us with landscape designers and horticulturists, and we envy the greater visibility that architects enjoy. All of this contributes to a feeling of inadequacy...The fear seems to be that if people stop talking about him, they stop talking about landscape architecture. I hate to say it, but there is some truth in that paranoia." Read the rest of the article at the ASLA Dirt.
Earlier this year AN looked at Midway Crossings, designed by James Carpenter with lighting designers Schuler Shook and landscape architects BauerLatoza Studio, a project that uses light and urban design to create a visual connection across Frederick Law Olmsted's Midway Plaisance. The project, formerly known as the Light Bridges, is now nearing completion, and the result seems to accomplish the goal of better joining the main campus of the University of Chicago with its expanding facilities across the park. Tall light poles and wider sidewalks with planted, raised easements create an inviting place for pedestrians, and the University hopes the two crossings, at 59th and 60th Streets, will create focused centers of foot traffic, improving safety. Purists may feel that the University has co-opted public park space, but the design team's use of light as the main element shows a light hand in the landscape.
Chicago has been getting a lot of screentime over the last few years, standing in for Gothman in Batman Begins and enduring the wrath of the Transformers. A blockbuster of a slightly more highbrow sort is in the works, with an adaptation of Erik Larson's bestseller The Devil in the White City. The Sun-Times and others reported this week that Leonardo DiCaprio will portray the serial killer H.H. Holmes. The story is set amid the preparations for 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition, and the story of construction of the fair grounds, one of the major developments in the City Beautiful movement, as well as the growth of Chicago as a whole, forms a parallel narrative. Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted play major parts in the story. Their roles have yet to be cast. Whoever lands the roles had better start growing their facial hair now. Burnham sported an impressive, bushy mustache. Architecture fan and patron Brad Pitt has been growing some questionable whiskers over the last year, but maybe those hooded eyes are more Clooney-esque? Burnham had nothing on the older Olmsted though. Check out that beard! Who has the chops for that? Jeff Bridges, anyone?