Posts tagged with "Landscape Architecture":

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The new Silver Lake Reservoir Complex master plan keeps biodiversity in mind

The Silver Lake Reservoir is an unusual, yet integral, element of the Los Angeles landscape. According to an LA Times article from 1907, the year it was completed and became the largest fresh-water lake and water reserve in the city, the project was a rare piece of infrastructure that doubly served as a respite from the burgeoning city. “While this reservoir is to form a part of the city's greater water system,” the article reads, “it promises also to become a favorite resort for pleasure walks because of its delightful surroundings. Its gently sloping banks will be a park of themselves without the magic touch of a landscape gardener’s hand.” A chain-link fence has long kept the public at an arm’s length from the 81-acre water reserve to maintain the reservoir complex as part of the city’s drinking water supply. Though the reservoirs were decommissioned in response to changes in U.S. federal regulations in 2008, the chain link fence has since remained, leaving the vast majority of the site unoccupied. The Los Angeles Department of Water of Power (LADWP) has, in recent years, begun funding a master plan for the 114-acre site to be given back to the city as an uninterrupted parkland while maintaining a small number of facilities onsite. Landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Jones was selected as the lead consultant last year, along with the Glendale, California-based architecture firm Chee Salette as the local landscape architect, architect, and community liaison. After a number of community workshops, a single master plan was developed, the combination of three prior iterations that envisions the site as a new hybrid; one that opens up the site for community placemaking while making room for natural habitats for the local biodiversity that includes birds and small terrestrial animals. The master plan removes the barrier between the lake and the walking path to introduce elements including wetland terraces, observational platforms, a flyover bridge, and an outdoor classroom to educate the public on the site’s nonhuman residents, which will, in turn, receive floating habitat islands, renewed coastal scrub, and two restored woodlands. A new multi-purpose room and set of recreational facilities, including a basketball court and playfield, will be joined together on the southern part of the site. A final community workshop is planned for the end of May to solidify the master plan’s details.
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John Beardsley will curate inaugural Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize

Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has named writer and art historian John Beardsley as curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Prize. The biennial award is the first-ever international landscape architecture prize to give recipients a $100,000 cash prize and two years of public engagement activities. Named after lauded German-born, British Columbia-based landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the inaugural prize will be awarded in 2021. Beardsley, who holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Virginia, is the author of several books including Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape (2006) and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995), the latter of which profiles Helen Martins, Simon Rodia, and many others. From 1974 to 1978, Beardsley acted as a curator at the Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and at the Corcoran Gallery, also in Washington, from 1981 to 1989. He has organized and co-organized numerous acclaimed exhibitions including The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, which showed at both the Whitney Museum of American Art and at the Museum of Fine Art Houston. In addition to his curatorial roles, Beardsley has held teaching positions in the landscape design departments of Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Beardsley served as director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. In his new role as curator of the Oberlander Prize, Beardsley will craft the prize’s intellectual content, support the jury process, and have an integral role in developing public engagement programs. As TCLF notes, these programs “are key to reaching the goal of increasing the recognition, visibility, and legibility of landscape architecture as a global, cultural, and professional practice.” “I am thrilled that John Beardsley has agreed to be the Oberlander Prize Curator,” said Elizabeth K. Meyer, chair of the Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee, in a press statement. In addition to developing the inaugural curator role and selecting Beardsley to fill it, the committee will assist Beardsley in his various responsibilities. “The Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee quickly and unanimously agreed that he would be the perfect person to lead the Prize process in its early years,” added Meyer. “John’s knowledge of the cultures of landscape studies, landscape architectural history, and contemporary landscape architecture practice is both broad and deep. The landscape architecture community, and the cultures of landscape, are indebted to John for taking on this momentous new program.”
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OLIN receives design approval for D.C. Desert Storm memorial

Plans are well underway to build a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in Washington, D.C., now that OLIN has taken over as lead designer. On November 21, 2019, the memorial’s design concept won approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), a milestone that helped push the memorial closer to the goal of completion by the end of 2021, as basic items such as the layout and structure were determined. The design approval from the CFA on January 17 of this year, but the National Capital Planning Commission still needs to review and approve both preliminary and final plans before construction can begin. Early efforts are owed to Indianapolis-based CSO Architects, who since 2012, dedicated much of their time (pro bono) in developing design concepts for the memorial. “If it wasn’t for CSO’s participation, this wouldn’t be where it is right now and in fact, it wouldn't have even got off the ground,” Scott Stump, president and CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association (NDSWMA), told the Indianapolis Business Journal Since 2010, the NDSWMA has secured a site for the monument, received concept approval, and raised almost a quarter of the $40 million needed before construction could begin. Stump is responsible for the idea of the memorial, wanting to preserve the memory and military significance of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations so it wouldn’t be perceived as a “footnote in history.”  It was the American Institute of Architects that recommended some “veteran-friendly” firms to Stump when he realized he was lacking in the visual representation needed to get the project moving. CSO had done numerous projects for military clients and principal Randy Schumacher took lead on the project. Landscape architecture firm Context Design has also contributed to the original design. Schumacher worked alongside Stump to develop ideas and also solicited feedback from veterans. The result was a design that featured a curved wall ranging in height from six to sixteen feet meant to suggest the “left hook” military maneuver. Once the site was secured (a location just north of the Lincoln Memorial and west of the Vietnam War Memorial) adjustments needed to be made to the design. The new design has lower walls that meld into the ground and includes a central water feature, which symbolizes a desert oasis as well as the international coalition that participated in the operations.  With OLIN’s work on the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Ohio (which also features a similar swirling site plan), the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, and the grounds of the Washington Monument, they seem like a natural pick to take over as lead designer. CSO and Context still remain involved and Schumacher is honored to play a part in the project, saying, “It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do, as an architect and as an American.”  A few elements in the design are still awaiting approval and the push to raise the 110 percent of the funding required by law to begin construction is an ongoing fundraising effort. The association’s goal is to complete the fundraising by March.
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MVRDV to redevelop Seoul waterfront as sprawling urban park

Rotterdam-based MVRDV is no stranger to the Seoul area. Its 2018 addition to the Paradise City development, dubbed The Imprint, provided an abstract boost for the colossal entertainment complex near South Korea’s largest airport. This month it was announced the firm won a competition for the major redesign of the Tencheon valley and waterfront in Seoul with "The Weaves," set to begin construction in 2021. The Weaves site is located on a large stretch of waterfront land between Seoul’s former Olympic stadium in the Jamsil District and the central business district of Gangnam. In an area dominated by elevated roadways and parking lots, MVRDV plans to turn our attention to the natural landscape, focusing on three major aspects in its design: natural ecosystems, pedestrian access, and space for public programming. “Seoul is taking amazing steps to transform grey and obsolete infrastructure into lively green and social spaces," said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas in a press release. "The Weaves is a design that introduces natural landscape combined with exceptional, varied access. It also responds to the local identity. Jamsil is known for its history of silk production and the design recalls the tangled silk threads of its past in a unique and playful way. It becomes an intertwining poem where movement becomes landscape poetry.” Major plans include returning the Tancheon river to a more naturalistic state, changing it from a straight canal to a whimsical, meandering stream with retention pools, islands, and aquatic plants to “blur the boundary between land and water.” Additionally, a series of winding paths will allow pedestrian access throughout the site from various points. These graded, intersecting paths will form plazas with cafes and amphitheaters to accommodate vast public programs. Construction of The Weaves is expected to take approximately three years, with projected completion in 2024.
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SCI-Arc launches new program on emerging topics in landscape architecture

Shortly after Hernan Diaz Alonso became the dean of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 2015, a suite of four postgraduate programs (Architectural Technologies, Design of Cities, Fiction and Entertainment, and Design Theory and Pedagogy) were offered that confirmed the progressive, speculative stance the school first took when it opened in 1972. Yesterday, SCI-Arc announced that a fifth postgraduate program will soon be added into the mix. Synthetic Landscapes will be a one-year, three-semester Master of Science degree program that, according to the school’s website, “focuse[s] on advancing knowledge and developing expertise in the design of complex landscapes for the twenty-first century.” Reflecting on the decision to establish the program, Postgraduate Programs chair David Ruy commented that “Landscape design, the often overlooked counterpart to building design, is increasingly becoming a primary arena for the development of ecological awareness and innovation.” The curriculum will incorporate lessons familiar to a landscape architecture program—including those of horticulture, botany, climatic systems, and zoology—while challenging the conventions currently present in landscape design to imagine alternate relationships between the built and natural environments. “There shouldn’t be a distinction in landscape between the metropolitan and the natural,” said SCI-Arc Director Hernan Diaz Alonso. “With Synthetic Landscapes, we're trying to figure out if there is a SCI-Arc way to conceptualize landscape architecture as a synthetic problem and tackle the largest scales of architectural thinking. I want to see if we can think of new forms of nature as a way to both produce and unsettle our built environments. Landscapes are cultural objects as much as anything else we would design.” Joining the Synthetic Landscapes program as visiting faculty will be Timothy Morton, a long-standing member of the Object-Oriented Ontology school of thought and author of more than 20 books on the subject, including The Ecological Thought (2010), Hyperobjects (2013), and Dark Ecology (2016). “Besides authoring what have already become seminal books,” said Ruy. “Timothy has also had a profound influence on cinema, music, fashion, and art. The opportunity to work closely with such an important thinker within the context of an exciting new landscape architecture program is truly unique.”
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AN chats with GOLF's expert architecture editor, Ran Morrissett

For 40 years, Ran Morrissett has been hooked on golf course architecture. Arguably one of the most underrated and hidden fields of design, the professional world of creating and maintaining golf courses is surprisingly complex and rather storied. North Carolina-based writer Morrissett, who started studying the topic seriously for Golf Club Atlas, a website he founded with his brother, has just been named the first architecture editor at GOLF Magazine Growing up, his family of four would travel to world-class courses abroad in England and Scotland, or places closer to home such as Harbour Town in Hilton Head, South Carolina, or Pinehurst No. 2, a 1907 design by famed course architect Donald Ross in North Carolina. It was during these vacations that comparing and contrasting—aka critiquing—golf courses became a tradition. Cut to decades later, and Morrissett has made it his own unconventional career.  AN sat down with Morrissett ahead of the GOLF’s release of its annual Top 100 course rankings, where they compiled the best places to play on the planet. As Morrissett's first major project with GOLF, the classification system reveals which of the some 30,000 courses around the world, both private and public, boast the best design. It wasn’t exactly a daunting task for Morrissett, however, who at 56 years old has held tee times in over 35 countries and visited some of the most revered courses ever made. We asked him about his nascent role and what makes great golf course architecture.  AN: Tell us more about your origin story and why you’ve dedicated your life to studying golf courses. RM: In my twenties, I found it was becoming increasingly harder to have meaningful conversations with people on golf course design. At the time, the internet didn’t exist and there wasn’t any great writing on golf course architecture. That all started to change when the Donald Ross Society was established in 1989 to help preserve his courses and the Classics of Golf started republishing the finest architecture books from the late 19th and early 20th century.  Newspapers were also only covering the major events in golf, mostly within the PGA Tour, and they’d profile these insanely difficult and long courses that were set up to challenge the best, not the average player. My brother and I didn’t think that was enjoyable so we started the Atlas online to provide a platform for people who just wanted to play for fun and connect with others. We found that thousands of people shared our viewpoint.  So everyone became a critic on how to improve the physical set up of the game? Yes. At one point—and you could argue it’s still true—the definition of a good golf course was how tough it was. That’s not what we thought. A hard golf course can beat you up and demoralize you. To be honest, the absolute easiest thing in the world is to build a hard golf course.  Why? It’s harder to make a course that everyone will enjoy playing regardless of their skill level or age and one of the largest determining factors for that is the way it interacts with nature. In a similar way that Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture harmonizes with nature, good golf courses do the same. For example, if you go to the Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, this minimalist design pays tribute to the existing natural environment, which is a design ideal. How Coore & Crenshaw found eighteen holes and connected them so flawlessly to make the course a delight to walk amongst this huge expanse of rolling sand dunes is amazing. One of the greatest architects of all time, Harry S. Colt, said the ultimate test of a golf course is: Will it live? His designs are among the most timeless because they seem as if they were almost born out of the ground, as opposed to man impaling design features onto the Earth. That's what makes them attractive and keeps people coming back.  Another reason why Sand Hills, in particular, is so successful is that it drains well. Some say great architecture is about drainage. The more sand content in the soil, the better the property will drain, which directly impacts and extends the course’s playing season. What is the most challenging part of designing a golf course? The responsibility that golf architects have is enormous because they are working with such big blocks of land. Think about it: If you build a poor golf course that doesn’t provide any enjoyment for anybody or doesn’t drain well, you have essentially ruined 100 acres of land. It’s not going to live if it can’t find an audience that will use it.  Another challenging aspect for both the architect and the player is the hole location. The architect has to consider how a player will approach each hole as it moves throughout the green. Courses that have flexibility are inherently more interesting than courses that are just linear and ask the same thing shot after shot, day after day.  How has Golf Club Atlas grown? We’re in every corner of every great golf nation. I have friends around the world that I try to meet when I travel and they come to me when they want to play Pinehurst, a mecca for golf. This year, my wife and I will probably have entertained 300 people from all parts of the world. It’s important to connect with others in golf because like a building, a golf course is a living thing. You can’t walk away from it and think it’ll be fine without any help. Golf courses are reliant on people who will dedicate the time to study them, understand their heritage, and find the right consulting architect to maintain it.  When we started Golf Club Atlas there were hundreds of courses being built each year, so we wrote a lot about new construction. Now there are fewer courses being built and many architects are turning to restoration work. What is the biggest issue architects face when restoring aging courses? One of the main problems is how to address the overgrowth of the 80- to 100-year-old trees on sites around the country. Trees can narrow holes, impede sunlight, and lessen the quality of grass and turf. Moisture issues can occur too if the soil remains damp for too long, causing golf balls to release slower.  Golf is often perceived as a highly exclusive sport. You mentioned the best courses in the world are set on coastlines, which I link to being expensive to play, live near, or get to.  That's comment is coming from your perspective here in the U.S. In the UK, it’s every man's sport. Clearly, you have golf courses here that are extremely costly, but the nice thing about the sport is that—and I say this from personal experience—people love to show off their courses and will invite you to play. I’ve been asked to play at over 2,000 courses. I do wish the U.S. had more of the UK’s inclusion model but part of the reason is that UK courses are built on ideal sites—sandy soil for a climate that’s conducive to great golf and isn’t costly to maintain. This means dues are cheaper too. Heavier, clay soils and weather (including heat and humidity) add to the challenge and expense of maintaining courses in America as opposed to the UK. It sounds like a lack of knowledge on the diversity of the sport is a problem. It’s true. Some of the best courses built in the last 25 years, though, are open to the public. Mike Keiser built nearly 10 of the highest-ranked courses in the world, like Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon. Anyone is welcome there. One of the best courses in the U.S., Bethpage State Park on Long Island, is public too. At GOLF, we realize the narrative hasn’t always been the best for golf course architecture. We’re all very keen on trying to highlight courses that strike a balance between being challenging and fun so that they’re inclusive for as many people as possible. Four sterling examples of this in the Top 10 are St. Andrews, Royal Melbourne West, National Golf Links of America, and Royal Dornoch. Can you explain more about your plans as the architecture editor at GOLF?  The magazine has always been broken down into three things: How do you play (instruction), what you should play (equipment), and where do you play (courses). Obviously, my role is to help point people to places where they would like to play. One of the reasons I love the sport so much is that I do my homework and I don’t play poorly designed golf courses. I derive no joy from doing that. If we can get people to where they’re going to have the most fun, then we’re doing a great service to the game. Additionally, if you understand what’s in front of you and what the architect is challenging you to do, then, in theory, you should be able to score better over time. You can literally think your way to a better score.
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A Barbara Stauffacher Solomon retrospective explores her lesser-known work

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Breaking All the Rules runs through January 20, 2020, at the Architecture and Design Center of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Organized by Brooke Hodge, the museum’s director of architecture and design, it is not a traditional architecture, graphic design, or art exhibition, but straddles all these lines, hence the title (similar to that of a small monograph on Ms. Stauffacher Solomon published by Hall of Femmes). If you are in Palm Springs, it's an exhibition worth checking out. The Architecture and Design Center occupies E. Stewart Williams’s Santa Fe Bank Building, one of those great Palm Springs banks that took inspiration from a world-famous architect; in this case, Mies van der Rohe. The “universal space” holds several pieces from Stauffacher Solomon’s diverse career, which is hard to pin down. Although visually powerful, the narrative can be a little difficult to piece together. Stauffacher Solomon is best known for her graphic design at the Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast. She has been credited with the invention of “Supergraphics” as a result of her work there, and she got almost as much press coverage as the architects for her simple, bold moves. But that work has been largely excluded from this show, as it focuses on selections from the rest of Solomon's career. It is important to understand her story. "Bobbie" grew up in San Francisco and lost her first husband to a brain tumor at a young age. In order to make a living and raise their daughter, she moved to Basel, Switzerland, to study with Armin Hofmann. This sets the stage for Stauffacher Solomon's subsequent work in graphic design, landscape architecture, and fine art. She is always moving between the rigor and discipline of Swiss Modernism and the radical spring of groovy California. She reveals some of this in the videos on display, which provide a context for appreciating the drawings, paintings, and new supergraphic—and her own mischievous delight. A group of eight of Stauffacher Solomon's ping-pong-themed paintings takes up the most space in the museum. Immediately, the visitor is intrigued by the sound of ping-pong being played somewhere just out of sight. The paintings, the exact size of ping-pong tables, hung horizontally when originally shown in 1990 at the San Francisco Museum of Art. In Palm Springs, they are displayed vertically, which is interesting given the relatively low ceiling height. Each canvas depicts a lushly illustrated green Californian landscape complete with white lines and nets. In addition to the sound of ping-pong balls bouncing, there are several actual ping-pong tables with paddles and balls. The paddles and balls were removed in San Francisco, but here, all are encouraged to play. An accompanying selection of drawings shows these rectangular green spaces in the urban landscape.
“To ping is to sing.” “To pong is to go wrong.”
Commissioned for this show, Solomon designed a new accompanying supergraphic overlooking the Ping-Pong tables with those few words. A supersized red ball appears to hurl through space. Stauffacher Solomon's supergraphics at Sea Ranch were rooted in the severity of her mentor Hoffman’s training but also showed her rebellious side, with bold use of color and humor (find the suggestive figures in the Sea Ranch’s Moonraker Pool Center next time you visit). Her work there, painted in a few days, covered an unfinished building that had gone over budget. Since her contributions to supergraphics and Sea Ranch are well known in the design worlds, this smaller show explores less familiar aspects of her career. Following the success of her interpretation of Swiss Modern graphics, Stauffacher Solomon returned to school at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked with the overlaps of architecture and landscape architecture. She ended up painting all kinds of green rectangles, including the series that resembled ping-pong tables. Her master’s thesis was entitled “Notes on the Common Ground between Architecture and Landscape Architecture.” Her ideas later coalesced in a book from Rizzoli, Green Architecture and the Agrarian Garden. This phase depicts her evolution from almost pure graphics to landscape depicted graphically. Yet her first book from Rizzoli, and the art that accompanied this period, was still rooted in the discipline of graphic design. Her journey moves on to a series of artworks that she gathered in a second book from Rizzoli, Good Mourning California, which embraces her home state and its many quirks yet foretells its possible demise. Some of the drawings of women seem influenced by German-American artist Richard Linder. The pieces are rougher, wilder, even angry. Without watching the two videos in the exhibition, it might be difficult for the uninitiated visitor (i.e. not a design aficionado) to make sense of Breaking all the Rules. Listening to Stauffacher Solomon describe her life and work on the videos provides the necessary frame of reference. She describes her early art studies, working as a dancer at San Francisco’s Copacabana nightclub while still a teenager, meeting her future husband at 17, befriending leading bohemians, rebuilding her life as a very young widow and mother, being disciplined by Swiss Modernism, applying that discipline to California in the 1960s, becoming the darling graphic designer of the city’s architecture scene (no surprise—trying to rein in the future chaos of postmodernism), and trying to synthesize thoughts on architecture, landscape architecture, design, the environment, and everything else. It will take a different show (and larger venue) to tell Bobbie Stauffacher Solomon’s design and personal story more completely, but this is splendid first look. Be sure and play some ping-pong.
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Tulsa's Gathering Place aims for reconciliation

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Gathering Place park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the product of a dream of 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and of several decades-long experiments by the landscape architecture team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). What Kaiser originally intended to be a series of riverfront “gathering spots” to activate the city has become a singular, whimsical, and lush 66.5-acre landscape that has attracted over 2.8 million people since opening last year. AN spoke with Scott Streeb, Matt Urbanski, and Michael Voelkel at MVVA about designing the park and sourcing materials both locally and globally for “the most complex topography [they] have ever done.” Taking cues from fanciful and innovative European playgrounds, their goal was to turn several desolate plots of land into an inclusive, truly one-of-a-kind environment. By many accounts, they succeeded; this summer, TIME listed the park as one of the greatest places in the world.

Beyond its ambitious design agenda, Gathering Place has also aimed to unify the historically segregated city. Tulsa was formally settled in 1836 and by the 20th century had earned the nickname “the Oil Capital of the World.” Money from the energy business flowed into the city, bringing with it a serious construction boom during the Art Deco era. Despite growing prosperity, race relations were tense. In 1921, white crowds rioted for 16 hours in the affluent neighborhood of Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killing local residents and destroying black-owned businesses and buildings. It was one of the worst attacks on African Americans in U.S. history, and Tulsa still hasn’t fully recovered.

Gathering Place is being marketed as a space where the region’s diverse communities can come together. A decade ago, in talks between MVVA and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), key decisions were made to engage Tulsans in their vision for the future 100-acre landscape and to raise expectations of what 21st-century parks can do.

Funding

Over 80 philanthropic and corporate donors, including GKFF, funded the entirety of the $465 million park. Though built with private dollars, Gathering Place is a public park: GKFF donated it to the River Parks Authority, the city and county agency in charge of public riverfront parks, in 2014, through Title 60, a public trust law. River Parks now owns both the land and the park and oversaw the five-year construction effort.

Land

Gathering Place takes up four disparate, flat parcels of land along Riverside Drive, the adjacent four-lane commuter highway, that were purchased in 2009 by GKFF for $50 million. At the northern end was once a 35-acre estate owned by oil entrepreneur B. B. Blair. The historic Blair Mansion, built in 1952, was torn down in 2014 after a failed attempt by its previous owner to relocate the building. Two large-scale apartment complexes south of the site, totaling 494 units on 14 acres, were also demolished and its residents displaced to make way for a construction staging area. GKFF offered to pay for those affected to receive mental health services. Phase 2 of the park’s design will be built out in this location, south of the skate park (shown below) and will include a $45 million children’s museum by local firm KKT Architects, as well as a $24 million pedestrian bridge by MVVA.

Playground Equipment

MVVA and German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgeräte designed the park’s custom swings, water-play and sensory equipment, elephant slide, and four fantastical wooden castles that stand 30 feet in height. Danish design company Monstrum shaped additional wooden playscapes to look like the great blue herons (pictured here) and paddlefish found along the Arkansas River. The 160 playground structures and their installation cost about $11.5 million.

Plantings

In 2011, two years before construction began, MVVA began tagging around 600 existing trees on-site, some up to 200 years old, in an effort to monitor their health, and preserve and restore them. The firm then brought in 5,789 new trees sourced from over a dozen nurseries, two in Oklahoma and others in Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The cohort includes over 90 species of evergreen and deciduous trees. Nearly 120 species of shrubs and over 200 species of perennials were selected as well and had to be stored in a greenhouse for up to three years before planting.

Buildings

There are three buildings on-site by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. The ONEOK Boathouse features a roof canopy made of 130 fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels in the shape of flying sails. The rest of the three-story building, which includes a steel and concrete frame, has floor-to-ceiling glass panels that Vitro Architectural Glass created using raw material and sand from Mill Creek, Oklahoma. Williams Lodge, the 25,000-square-foot structure that serves as an entrance to the park, blends into its surrounding landscape with native sandstone from Haskell County. These massive boulders integrated into the design range from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Hardscaping

There are over 20 different surface materials used at Gathering Place, including eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas sandstone in various hues. In total, the walkways used 4,500 cubic yards of fill excavated from just across the Arkansas River. The stones that flank the entrance paths are also from an in-state quarry, similar to those found in the Four Season Garden, a series of rock towers, pictured below.

Terraforming

MVVA took 450,000 cubic yards of silt from the Arkansas River to create the 40 feet of grade change in the park necessary to bridge over Riverside Drive. Ohio-based engineering company Contech fabricated a set of precast concrete arches off-site in Broken Arrowhead, Oklahoma, that support the two 300-foot-long land bridges that help the park seamlessly connect to the waterfront.

Transit

Riverside Drive was shut down in July 2015 and reopened in September 2018 after construction ended. The City of Tulsa spent $40 million to widen and reconfigure the busy highway and for other infrastructure improvements, such as stormwater drainage and replacing sanitary sewers and water lines surrounding the site.

Because Gathering Place is located just five minutes south of downtown Tulsa and immediately west of the wealthier Maplewood Historic District, accessibility is an issue for nonsuburban communities. This summer, the park began providing free shuttle transportation to underserved neighborhoods in North Tulsa, scheduled to operate every other weekend.

Water

Because of the oppressive Tulsa heat, water plays a big role in the park, and its nearly-6-million-gallon central reservoir, Peggy’s Pond, serves as a source for irrigation. To create it, MVVA had to dig down to groundwater level, integrating 70 feet of grade change within the landscape. Wetland gardens at the northern end of the park work as a biofilter to clean the water that’s pumped out of the pond. Parking lot and highway runoff is also filtered through the gardens, and then through two large cisterns and below-grade, natural filtration basins. Wells throughout the site pull up clean water and redistribute it through the pond.

Maintenance

Half of the money raised went to capital investment and the other half created a $100 million endowment for the continued operations and maintenance of the landscape for the next 99 years. GGP Parks, LLC, is a subsidiary of the River Parks Authority that operates out of GKFF and coordinates the over 450 volunteers that help the park run every day. So far, both individuals and groups have completed 11,300 hours of volunteer work. There are also 200 full-time and part-time employees who specialize in horticulture, programming, community engagement, food service, and more. An underground maintenance warehouse spanning nearly 1 acre was built to house facilities management off-site.

Labor

Columbus, Kansas–based construction company Crossland took over the build-out efforts from Manhattan Construction in 2015 when initial preconstruction, utility, and dirt work was done. Since the park’s groundbreaking, any day sees upward of 150 to 500 people laboring across 27 work zones and 12 play areas. A total of $10.3 million was paid to both contractors, and 3.7 million man-hours were worked on-site.

Security

Over the last year, Gathering Place partnered with a local charity group, John 3:16, and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa to help employees and security teams better understand how to engage with the city’s homeless community. The park is open to all and does not operate fully in the late evening or early morning, but does welcome the homeless throughout the day.

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Hunter’s Point South Park completes a Queens coastline years in the making

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

The transformation of Hunter’s Point South in two phases from a contaminated strip of coast in Long Island City, Queens, to an ecologically sensitive 11-acre park was 11 years in the making. Stretching along the East River south of Gantry Plaza State Park and Steven Holl’s Hunter’s Point Community Library (see page 16), Hunter’s Point South Park sits on a conveniently sited piece of land that was neglected for decades before the park opened at the end of last year.

The park was designed by Thomas Balsley Associates (TBA; the firm became SWA/Balsley in 2016) and WEISS/MANFREDI to be a sustainable storm buffer and public green space for the new Hunter’s Point South development, a 5,000-unit housing complex on the southern shore of Long Island City.

The idea for Hunter’s Point South Park had been percolating long before plans for it officially started coming together in 2007. Thomas Balsley told AN that back in 1990, when Gantry Plaza State Park was being planned, he envisioned a whole-coast master plan that would stretch from Anable Basin in Long Island City (the site of Amazon’s failed HQ2 bid) all the way down to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now home to a wastewater treatment plant known for its iconic “biodigester” eggs). To Balsley, Gantry Plaza State Park was supposed to be the start of a line of parks running down the Queens–Brooklyn shore. Design on Hunter’s Point South Park began in 2009, and Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi’s early sketches are remarkably close to what would be built nine years later.

The linear park provides views of the Manhattan skyline and has an amphitheater-like arrangement that also blocks noise from the busy Queens streets to the east. Because of tight siting requirements, budget constraints, and the harsh microclimate that the park has to endure, SWA/Balsley filled the site with resilient native salt-marsh plants. Besides acting as a natural flood buffer, the plants don’t require active irrigation, meaning none was built into the site. The plants also filter and clean the river, a job that Balsley likened to “acting as the park’s liver.”

Lighting

Arup was also responsible for specifying the park’s lighting fixtures. Most of the fixtures used were New York City Department of Transportation/Parks Department–standard pedestrian- and street-lighting poles and Holophane helm fixtures. Linear lighting by Wagner was used to illuminate the benches and overlook handrails and as uplighting. Step lights by Bega were integrated into the wooden furnishings and concrete walls. The nonstandard lighting features were all intended to be as minimal and unobtrusive as possible, so as not to detract from the landscape and views.

Structures

WEISS/MANFREDI was responsible for designing structures for both phases of the park, with Galvin Brothers serving as the general contractors. In Phase 1, that meant the 13,000-square-foot bent-steel pavilion that houses Parks Department offices, restrooms, and a COFFEED cafe at LIC Landing, the park’s ferry dock. Fabrication of the structure and canopies was done by Powell Steel Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which permanently closed in 2013. Stainless steel cladding came from Westfield Sheet Metal Works in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

For Phase 2, the towering steel overlook structure (below) was fabricated by Newport Industrial Fabrication in Newport, Maine, while the freestanding precast panel walls were fabricated by Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) in Alma, Quebec.

Furniture

The custom wood–slat lounge chairs and banquette seats and custom precast concrete benches were designed in-house by SWA/Balsley and WEISS/MANFREDI, with galvanized steel framing and Kebony USA–provided Kebonized southern yellow pine. Steel benches with aluminum seat dividers were provided by Landscape Forms and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with raw materials mined from within 500 miles of the facility to reduce environmental impact.

Transportation

The park is easily accessible despite its coastal locale. It can be reached via the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station; by the Q103 bus via the Vernon Boulevard/49 Avenue stop; by the Long Island Rail Road, which stops at 49-13 Vernon Boulevard; by numerous street-level bike paths; by car; and via the Hunter’s Point South ferry landing.

Vegetation

Plant species were selected for their hardiness and nativity and include juniper trees and a variety of shrubs and grasses for the park’s bioswales. Besides cutting down on maintenance costs, the flora used by SWA/Balsley can thrive on the edge of a briny river, and hosts native fauna.  Plants were sourced from nurseries in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Infrastructure

Arup, which was responsible for the structural, civil, and bridge engineering of both phases, oversaw the installation of 7,500 feet of sanitary and storm sewers and 3,700 feet of water main.

Infill and hardscaping

Prior to the park’s construction, the site had been used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a dumping ground for soil excavated from rail-line construction sites around the city, and many portions of the site had since grown wild. To build out and sculpt the shoreline, existing infill was repurposed and moved to the water’s edge. Around the shore, board-formed and precast concrete walls were used to create the harder edges, while Jet Mist and Stony Creek granites mined from Stony Creek, Connecticut, were used for the riprap (below) and to fill in steel gabions.

Art

Because this was a city project, the NYCEDC was tasked with appointing an artistic consultant. After a search, Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts was chosen, which in turn picked Nobuho Nagasawa to create a site-specific installation. Seven photoluminescent sculptures resembling different phases of the moon were installed in 2017 in the winding, peninsula-like amphitheater forming a piece titled Luminescence. Each “moon” in the series was cast from Hydrocal, a mixture of plaster and portland cement.

Funding and Labor

In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected the project’s developer, TF Cornerstone, and TBA, which brought on WEISS/MANFREDI as collaborators. The project was split into two phases from the beginning. Phase 1 broke ground in January 2011 and opened in August 2013, after the NYCEDC spent $66 million for the 5.5-acre park and an accompanying 3,400 feet of linear roadway. Phase 2, which began construction in November 2015, opened at the end of June 2018, at a cost of $99 million. This 5.5-acre section, which came with another 3,500 linear feet of new roadways, was funded through the NYCEDC as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, as the park fulfilled the green space requirement of the adjoining housing development and is intended to mitigate flood damage there in the event of a storm surge.

The NYCEDC shepherded the project through two mayoral administrations and hired the LiRo Group to act as construction manager for the build-out, which then subcontracted the actual construction to the Great Neck, Long Island–based Galvin Brothers. The standard design-bid-build process was used for both sections. Park maintenance is handled by the NYC Parks Department.

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Tongva Park in Santa Monica is Californian through-and-through

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hunter's Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Santa Monica’s Tongva Park is a true product of Southern California. It certainly has a physical connection to its context—its hills and outlooks are packed with soil from construction sites in the area; its irrigation water sourced from the local runoff recycling facility; its plants were grown in regional nurseries—but in less tangible and more sociopolitical ways, too, the park bears the mark of the Golden State.

Tongva, which opened in 2013, was funded under California’s now-defunct tax increment financing (TIF) laws. The first of their kind in the U.S., California’s TIF laws went into effect in 1952 with the passage of the Community Redevelopment Act, which set a precedent nationwide for how infrastructure might be financed. Many states have since imitated the approach to establish the funding mechanisms behind massive—and often controversial—projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier and New York’s Hudson Yards. Tax increment financing lets municipalities borrow money for developments in areas designated as “blighted” with the assumption that the developments will generate higher property-tax revenue as land values rise. Critics have argued that TIF programs have been abused to subsidize luxury developments that do little to improve the quality of life for local residents, and in 2011, while work on Tongva was well underway, then-governor Jerry Brown dissolved California’s TIF program, making the park part of the state’s final wave of TIF-backed projects.

The park benefits from Southern California’s crazy-quilt approach to urbanism, where the wealthiest communities of the Los Angeles region have remained independent cities, enabling areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica to invest tax revenue within their borders without sharing with the city of Los Angeles that surrounds them. Cities where the median home price is less than Santa Monica’s, ($1.6 million, more than twice the median home price for Los Angeles) may not be able to spend so lavishly on their parks.

California comes through most tangibly in the park’s siting and the aesthetic decisions by the park’s designer, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). JCFO incorporated several beloved trees that were already on the site into an arroyo-inspired plan that orients visitors toward spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches out casually, with an air of West Coast chill, just across the street.

Funding

The park was entirely publicly funded using TIF. The City of Santa Monica bought 11.6 acres of land from the RAND Corporation; besides the park, housing was built on the site and Olympic Drive was extended through it. The city spent $53 million on the property and another $42.7 million to design and build the 6.2-acre park, which includes a small area across Main Street in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Plants

Tongva hosts more than 30,000 plants of more than 170 species, and more than 300 trees from 21 species, most grown in seven nurseries across the state; the farthest is in Watsonville, less than 300 miles up the coast. Some trees traveled even less distance: Morty, a Moreton Bay fig tree, and the Three Amigos, a group of ficus trees, pictured below, along with several palms, were preserved and rearranged on the site to fit into the new landscape. The park mixes native and non-native drought-tolerant species in zones modeled on three California ecological communities (coastal scrub, chaparral, and riparian), creating a landscape that feels familiar but avoids cliché.

Buildings

The steel cocoon-esque pavilions, pictured below, and play structures were fabricated by Paragon Steel in Los Angeles.

Furniture

Custom furniture was designed using Forest Stewardship Council–certified jarrah wood, a variety of eucalyptus usually grown in Western Australia. Off-the-shelf benches from Landscape Forms were also used.

Art

Weather Field No. 1, by Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, comprises a field of 49 stainless steel poles with weather vanes and anemometers attached.

Hardscaping

Aggregates in the hardscaping came from pits in the nearby San Gabriel Valley. Walls have California Gold rocks.

Water

Plants are irrigated by water from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility. Stormwater from the park is also collected in bioswales, and water features recirculate potable water in closed systems.

Transit

Tongva integrates into regional transit in some of the usual West Coast ways—there are bikeshare stations and scooter access—but it’s also just a block away from one of the Los Angeles area’s biggest transit initiatives: the LA Metro Expo Line expansion. The nearby Santa Monica Station opened three years after the park and was a part of a broader regional plan, whereas Tongva was part of a separate Santa Monica–specific urban plan.

The region’s ubiquitous car culture is also present. Tongva sits at the southern tip of the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which extends up the shore to Big Sur, San Francisco, and beyond, and Olympic Drive, a local three-lane street, was extended along the park’s southeastern edge.

Land

The site was previously home to the RAND Corporation headquarters, which have since relocated to a neighboring block. Housing developed by the Related Companies was built on the opposite side of the Olympic Drive extension.

Infill/Terraforming

Before being cleared for Tongva, the site was dominated by the RAND Corporation’s parking lot. To create the park’s lookouts, which rise in points to 18 feet and provide views to the Pacific Ocean, infill soil was taken from construction sites around the city, tested to ensure safety, and sculpted to create accessible slopes for the site.

Project Delivery

JCFO was selected through an international competition in which 24 teams participated. After JCFO won, there were five community workshops over six months, and the scheme was presented to six review boards and commissions before site work began in 2011. Although the scheme began as a design-bid-build project, the city turned it into a design-build project midway through the process to try to speed delivery after California revoked its TIF laws.

Maintenance

The City of Santa Monica spends just under $100,000 annually on basic maintenance, plus about $20,000 annually on tree work and $10,000 annually on custodial work.

Security

Although there is no operational security technology in the park, Santa Monica has used some unorthodox activity-based surveillance strategies. After squatters set up informal camps on the park’s western corner, city agencies arranged for a food truck to occupy that area, which has since discouraged people from living there. And on top of regular maintenance costs, the City of Santa Monica spends about $330,000 annually on “ambassadors” who staff the park, answering questions from visitors and keeping an eye on activity.

As is standard in many U.S. parks, Tongva closes at night; its hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Five top landscape firms join forces to save the National Mall Tidal Basin

As the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. weathers the impact of tourism and climate change, teamwork may be the best way to save it. The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and the Trust for The National Mall have announced a partnership of five landscape architecture firms tasked with shaping the Tidal Basin’s future. “The National Mall Tidal Basin embodies freedom, perseverance, and democratic values, and it is a place where people come together from around the country and around the world to celebrate these ideals," said Katherine Malone-France, NTHP's chief preservation officer, in a statement. "That is why we must bring our best innovation and ingenuity to meet the challenges it is facing. DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations, and Reed Hilderbrand are slated to join forces in order to maximize the Tidal Basin’s potential as a public space. The coalition exists within the National Mall Tidal Basin Ideas Lab, a forum for innovation and collaboration with regard to the future of the landscape. Surrounded by the iconic memorials of Washington, the Tidal Basin has played an important role in the city’s landscape throughout history. The heavily-trafficked Tidal Basin Loop Trail offers unmatched views of the National Mall and its surrounding monuments, but a crumbling sea wall has led to regular flooding that impedes sidewalk access and threatens the world-famous cherry trees around the basin. The Ideas Lab hopes to compile a broad range of perspectives from the firms in order to combat the many challenges faced by the Tidal Basin such as infrastructure issues, an overwhelming visitor experience, the need for intensive land conservation, and more. “Our goal, as a lead partner of the National Park Service, is to bring innovation and partnerships to expedite the fulfillment of the Master Plan for the National Mall,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO of the Trust for the National Mall. “These five visionary teams are a prime example of how collaboration between distinguished experts in fields aligned with our project needs will create solutions to help overcome the complex preservation issues affecting the treasured Tidal Basin.” The proposals will be presented in an Ideas Lab exhibition slated to run next summer through fall 2020, during which the public will have the opportunity to inform the design process before concepts are finalized.
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Sean Griffiths on the fun of debating with the late Charles Jencks

Charles Jencks possessed an authoritative but genial way of speaking that nevertheless harbored a hint of arch skepticism. The worst place to encounter it was in a hotel lobby where jet-lagged and disoriented after arriving for some conference or other, you would hear your name exclaimed in a gentle yet ominous greeting and turn around to be confronted by Charles Jencks, who, giving the impression of having comfortably settled into his surroundings some hours prior to your arrival, was already in full Charles Jencks mode. To experience this was to be subjected, in advance of having properly formulated an argument you had anticipated making, to a precise and lengthy deconstruction of said argument before you had even made it to the hotel room. Such behavior was, of course, entirely in keeping with a number of attributes that characterized Jencks’s life and work, not least among them energy, enthusiasm, erudition, precision, and good humor. Generous yet critical, serious yet funny, acutely focused yet magpielike in his ever-curious observation and appropriation of what was going on around him, he was the very personification of the multivalence and “double-coding” that he promoted in the architecture he admired. And of course, as one would expect in such a figure, the prodigious output of groundbreaking, if not uncontroversial, theorizations of architecture, which made him a figure of profound significance in the architectural discourse of the last 50 years, was interwoven with other equally important concerns, each of which on its own would amount to a considerable legacy. There was his thriving land-art/landscape practice whose commissions comprised curving and spiraling landforms, sometimes designed with his daughter, the landscape architect Lily Jencks. These were inspired by Jencks’s interest in cosmology and contemporary physics but also recalled the ancient pagan monuments of Britain, his adopted country (Jencks was born in Baltimore, Maryland). One is sited adjacent to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. Unlike others bestowed with exotic titles, like The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, this one is modestly entitled Landform and functions, as my daughter and I once discovered, as an excellent tobogganing slope, thus perfectly exemplifying the Jencksian ambition for design to be simultaneously highly philosophical and fun. Perhaps of greater significance was his central role, alongside that of his wife, Maggie Keswick, in the development of Maggie’s Centres, the world-famous series of sanctuaries for cancer patients, each designed by an architect of note, providing sites of holistic support for those going through the traumatic process of dealing with cancer. These have become among the most highly sought-after commissions for architects across the world as well as havens for those enduring the distress of illness. Jencks’s compassion was also exemplified by his commitment to campaigns against injustice. A fierce opponent of the Iraq War and a supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people, he was nevertheless circumspect in flaunting any specific political allegiance while exuding a liberal attitude to life and culture. Despite his concomitant Post-Modernist rejection of the grand narratives of Hegelianism and Marxism, a little of the former seeped through in his famous evolutionary flow diagrams that charted and illustrated the historical development of architectural movements. These compositions were little works of art in themselves and exhibited Jencks’s determination to categorize diverse strands of architectural practice and thought under the rubric of a series of “isms.” Thus, we got Post-Modernism, Ad-Hocism, Bio-morphism, Reactionary Modernism, and so on. This ongoing process of nominalism was a corollary to the way he saw architectural meaning as being carried by linguistically-based semiotic systems of signs and symbols. Nowhere was this more evident than in the title of his most successful and famous work, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, a truly seminal text that heralded the arrival of Post-Modernism as a serious architectural movement. But his reliance on linguistic tropes was also considered a weakness by critics who did not accept that the sociopolitical dimension of architecture was reducible to a series of visual codes whose currency was ambiguity and irony, rather than an engagement with architecture’s underlying means of production. In pursuing such a route, Jencks was a product, as well as a shaper, of his time, a period when the social democracy that had underpinned the postwar, modernist transformation of Britain and Europe was in retreat, and technologies of communication began to displace industrial forms of production as the determinants of cultural outputs. Despite this, Jencks was acutely aware of how rebellions against the status quo are eventually co-opted by the dominant ideology. In answer to his famous claim, made in The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, that architectural modernism died on July 15, 1972, with the dynamiting of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, I once put it to him that Post-Modernism had subsequently died on September 15, 2008, the date that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and ignited a financial crisis whose political legacy we still grapple with today. Jencks, of course, demurred, pointing out that the real and “happy curtailment” of Post-Modernist architecture had actually occurred in 1987 on account of the fact that by then, most of its major protagonists had accepted commissions from the Disney Corporation. Even when acknowledging that you were right, he made sure that you knew that he had been right before you were. Charles has gone now, and the world of architecture is certainly a less interesting place as a result. Sean Griffiths is an artist, architect and academic. He practices architecture through his company Modern Architect and serves as a professor of architecture University of Westminster and as a visiting professor of architecture at Yale University. He was a founding director of art and architecture practice FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) between 1991 and 2014.