Posts tagged with "Landscape Architecture":

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Hare & Hare tracks how cemeteries became thoughtful landscapes

Hare & Hare, Landscape Architects and City Planners Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein University of Georgia Press in association with Library of American Landscape History List price: $39.95; 264 pages Cemeteries are like cities. They need streets that efficiently accommodate traffic flow, harmonious neighborhoods of related structures, visual landmarks and vistas, and a sense of place that will attract not only its permanent residents but also visitors. Sidney J. Hare (1860–1938) was one of America’s most influential designers of such landscapes. “On a national level, Sid’s foremost contribution was his participation in the ideological and physical shaping of a new type of cemetery, one fit for the twentieth century,” write Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein in their book, Hare & Hare Landscape Architects and City Planners. What had once been spooky, gloomy, often remotely sited plots of land well outside the city limits for the dead, suddenly became, through the work of Hare and his son, S. Herbert Hare (1888–­1960), in-town locales that were very much alive. The father-son team of landscape architects, based in Kansas City, designed fifty-four cemeteries throughout the country and one in Costa Rica—among them, Forest Hill in Kansas City, where they would both eventually be buried. In Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and Grandview in Salem, Ohio, which would forever change the way the dead and the living interact. The team fashioned cities of the dead that incorporated macadam-paved roads that honored the natural topographies, introduced engaging architectural elements, along with lakes and plant features, and chose foliage for the ways they would change throughout the seasons. A kind of design mantra evolved for them: More nature and less marble and stone. The elder Hare “understood more than aesthetics,” the authors recount in this first-ever dual biography of the designers, for he was “grounded [too] in the technical aspects of dealing with nature.” Quoting Hare directly, the authors write that he considered the best cemetery to be a “botanical garden, bird sanctuary, and arboretum.” The book proves that some of the best-recognized and most prized city planning designs are often ones whose makers go uncredited. “It was not until the formation of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1899 and Harvard and MIT’s offering courses geared toward future practitioners the next year that landscape architecture began to coalesce as a profession,” write Grove, a professor of art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri, and Millstein, founder and principal of the Architectural and Historical Research in Kansas City. This record of the Hares' lives and works reinforces the notion that the discipline of landscape architecture is “the fourth fine art after architecture, painting, and sculpture.” The moment the elder Hare enlisted his son to join the firm he established in Kansas City’s Gumbel Building in 1910, the two embarked on making some of the most resonant landscapes in America. One of the great American places is Kansas City’s Country Club District, for which Hare & Hare would plan some 2500 acres over a forty-year period. They would incorporate extant pasture land and wood into some of the residential neighborhoods, including Mission Hills, defined by narrow, sinuous roadways, interior parks or “parklets”, as they called them, and carefully chose flowering shrubs and sculptural trees. So obsessed was the father-son team during their work on the complex, which they began in 1913 with the developer, J.C. Nichols, that no element was too small to be accounted for—weathervanes, bridges, the fonts on the signage, the placement of public artworks, the locales for campfire sites and bridle paths. Grove and Millstein expertly detail the process for this city planning project, recounting that the Hares made more than two hundred finished drawings, apart from those they executed for some of their many individual residential commissions within the district. “Transformed by Hare & Hare’s plan—praised as beautiful, thoughtful, and original—Mission Hills was perhaps the finest neighborhood executed for Nichols,” conclude the authors. No landscape, no matter how seemingly topographically challenged, couldn’t be tamed and transformed by Hare & Hare. For their many works in Houston, for instance, the elder Hare’s vision for the new residential neighborhood of Forest Hill embraced as one of its defining scenic attributes what many would have considered its biggest natural obstacle—a swampy, sinuous bayou. Making that watery source one of its focal points was a revolutionary idea in its day. He and his son decided to depart from the strict street grid of nearby downtown Houston and instead fashion a series of roadways that radiated in arcs, outward like a giant fan. Meanwhile, their work in planning the city’s exclusive residential neighborhood known as River Oaks—some 2000 acres of land—endures. As the authors point out, “Fifty years after its inception, the architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable condemned 1970s Houston, but noted River Oaks’ exceptional planning.” Other notable projects of theirs documented by the authors include Houston’s Hermann Park, on which the Hares worked for more than twenty-five years, the expansive grounds of Tulsa’s Villa Philbrook (now open to the public as the Philbrook Museum of Art), the city of Longview, Washington, the Lake of the Ozarks, and parks in Fort Worth, Dallas, Joplin, Missouri, and elsewhere. Ultimately, upon the younger Hare’s death in 1960, the firm could list some four thousand projects in more than thirty states, Canada, and Costa Rica. As Robin Karson, executive director of the Library of American Landscape History (LALH) points out in her preface, the book “covers so much formerly uncharted territory in the history of American landscape design.” Indeed, LALH’s ongoing mission is to keep laying the often ignored historical groundwork for the discipline of landscape architecture. Even though the book immerses readers at times in the thick brambles of city bureaucracies and office politics through which the designers had to hack their way, the personalities of the two men emerge, so much so that the book functions, too, as a revealing biography of them. We feel them in action. Of Herbert, the authors state, “…he recognized that good design was achieved both over the drafting board and in the field, not by one or the other.” “Sid and Herbert believed that good landscape architecture was both a science and an art,” the authors state. “Although they emphasized the practical, functional role of their profession, they firmly believed that if a city for a garden ‘is not to be a work of art, then it would be best not to build it.’” We are grateful the Hares designed it and built it. And readers should be grateful this book was published to keep their accomplishments acknowledged and flourishing.
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America's largest BMX park opens in Houston, courtesy OJB Landscape Architecture

OJB Landscape Architecture’s (OJB) ambitious vision for America’s largest BMX venue opened earlier this month in Houston. Located near the Bush Intercontinental Airport on the site of a former wastewater treatment plant, the Rock Star Energy Bike Park features a massive bike track and public recreation space, spanning a total of 23 acres just north of the city.  “This one-of-a-kind park is a keystone to a redeveloping neighborhood in Houston,” said Chip Trageser, managing principal and project design director at OJB in a statement. “The design balances different types of experiences, from the novice to expert rider, to the visitor, or sport spectator.”  The design gives equal weight to the various types of competitive bike racing. OJB integrated a Supercross Track, a 27,000-square-foot Pump Track, and a 13,000-square-foot Dirt Jump Track across the park. There's also an 18,000-square-foot urban riding plaza that's outfitted with trick fixtures, as well as 25,000-square-feet of concrete bike bowls, and a tot-track for super young riders. A central promenade runs along the spine of the park so visitors can get from one distinct zone to the other while a bike trail encircles the entire site.  In time, the extreme sports destination will be shaded by 400 towering trees that OJB planted through several years of construction. The other 400 trees on-site were preserved from the original plot—a necessary design move to mitigate the Texas heat, according to Trageser. "We wanted to put the forest back and make the different tracks feel like they were part of a series of rooms throughout one big natural space," he said.  Built out by the Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority (now known as the Northeastern Development Corporation), the $25 million, large-scale activities park also includes four structures. At one end, local firm Brett Zamore Design created a 2,500-square-foot welcome center, as well as the larger BMX Center, which houses restrooms, a classroom, concessions area, and office space. The latter structure serves as the base of the starting ramps on the main track. Next door, an events space and observation deck looks out over the third turn on the course. On the opposite end of the park, EndreStudio designed a small pavilion that feeds visitors into the large event lawn in the center of the site, as well as the 223-foot-long wooden bridge that leads bikers and visitors over the bowls. According to Trageser, one of the most surprising ways bikers use the bridge is by incorporating its thick concrete columns into their trick elements. "I feel like this is what the park's going to be known for," he said. "The most memorable moment for me when the bike opened was when I saw these BMX professionals do these crazy tricks off the edges."  Rock Star Energy Bike Park is seamlessly attached to the North Houston Skate Park, a 13-acre urban landscape also designed by OJB. It’s dually the largest of its kind in the U.S. and hosts major skate competitions all year long. OJB's construction manager Scott Blons told AN that when the park was completed in 2015, there was an outcry from the local BMX community, which was banned from using the skating facility. "Those two courses, of course, don't mix with one another," said Blons. "So that triggered the start of our work on the BMX park." The entire site sits in a major flood zone next to the North Fork of the Greens Bayou, so OJB integrated a series of sustainable design elements to combat a potential deluge. Permeable pavement was used across all 3.5 acres of the two parking lots on-site, while stormwater detention capabilities were also integrated into the event lawn, rain gardens, and bike bowls, among other places. "There's a substantial amount of hardscaping in the park that can handle water overflow," said Blons. "Flooding is a big deal nowadays so it was important for us to think about this from the beginning." According to OJB, Rock Star Energy Park has already gotten major buzz. It's set to hold major BMX competitions starting next month with the Texas state championship and then U.S. Nationals in October and in April of next year. In May, it will present the 2020 UCI BMX World Championships, which is the last qualifier for the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.  But it's not just the international community that will profoundly benefit from the new park. Local schools are set to visit, and STEM programs are being created to teach kids how to design and build BMX tracks, said Blons. "Even my kid is now a BMX rider. The CEO of USA BMX once told me that people are now tearing down baseball fields left and right to build these parks, which speaks to their popularity." Though the park is free to use and inclusive to everyone no matter age or ability, perhaps the most important aspect of the park's existence is its location. Situated in the lower-income neighborhood of Greater Greenspoint, the park is an investment in the future economic development of its underserved population, according to Trageser. The city is prone to flooding and lacks substantial infrastructure. "The project has the potential to score growth in this area and truly give back to the community," he said. "We worked really hard to get to know the people who'd use this park and tried to translate their passion into a physical form that would be exciting for all."
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The Cultural Landscape Foundation launches major international design prize

A major landscape architecture scholarship has just hit the scene—one that’s been in the works for the past five years. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) announced today that it will establish an international prize, offered up biennially, in which recipients will enjoy a $100,000 award and two full years of public engagement opportunities. Landscape architects, artists, and architects, as well as urban planners and designers, are encouraged to apply for the inaugural prize, set to be chosen in 2021.  “Landscape architecture is one of the most complex and, arguably, the least understood art forms,” said TCLF founder, president, and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum in a statement. “It challenges practitioners to be design innovators often while spanning the arts and sciences in addressing many of the most pressing social, environmental, and cultural issues in contemporary society.”  Unlike the vast world of architectural prizes that cater to both emerging and seasoned practitioners, there aren’t many programs honoring the work of great landscape architects. As Birnbaum points out above, designing a park or tree-filled plaza in a major urban area is a huge undertaking that involves deep knowledge of many intricate systems, both manmade and natural. Many of the most successful parks in the United States were completed only after an extensive community engagement process and serious research on the surrounding region With a goal of becoming as relevant as the Pritzker Prize or the Nasher Sculpture Prize, The Cultural Landscape Foundation aims to use the prize to elevate the field and promote “informed stewardship among landscape architects, and the arts and design communities more broadly.” The Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy nonprofit has been working on setting up the program since 2014 and recently secured a $1 million donation by TCLF co-chair Joan Safran and her husband Rob Haimes. The rest of the board collectively matched their gift to set up a $4.5 million endowment.  In addition to offering the profession a prestigious new prize, TCLF also wants to enhance critical discussion on the subject of landscape architecture, so that the public can better understand the role of design. According to the website, the prize will also support a “biennial examination of the state of landscape architecture through the lens of a specific practitioner or team.” Therefore, the individual or group chosen will represent the best of the industry today.  A number of big-name landscape architects advised on the creation of the prize including Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC, Adriaan Geuze, founding partner and design director of West 8, as well as Gary Hilderbrand of Reed Hilderbrand, and Laurie Olin of OLIN. Submissions will be reviewed by a high-profile set of designers, educators, critics, and historians, though no jurors have been chosen as of yet. Five members of the Prize Advisory Committee will be selected each cycle to determine the winner while an independent curator will oversee the program. 
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Space Settlements explores what happens when we run out of Earth

Space Settlements By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City $24.00 The Earth is finite, and the sky is limitless. So proposed Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill during the convening of the NASA Summer Study in 1975, when O’Neill gathered engineers, architects, astrophysicists, and others to flesh out logistics for the space settlements originally conceived by his students. With fears of resource shortages and overpopulation dominating the 1970s, O’Neill, his students, and prominent science fiction authors proposed massive rotating spaceborne structures that could perpetuate humanity among the stars. Of course, as Fred Scharmen meticulously documents in Space Settlements, that’s easier said than done. How can humans make the leap to living in pastoral orbital colonies when every artificial biosphere on Earth has failed? How would placemaking work in a wholly artificial environment, where every vista must be carefully curated as to not alienate inhabitants? What is the “ground,” normally a constant constraint to push against, in a habitat where even that is constructed? Scharmen’s book starts as a history of the creation and impact of a series of Summer Study paintings from artists Rick Guidice and Don Davis, but it quickly turns into a deeper examination of what it means to exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If building vertically allows architects to imagine new spaces unconstrained by the ground plane, as Rem Koolhaas proclaimed in Delirious New York, then building in space presents designers with the ultimate freedom—while ironically constraining them with the most stringent challenges. The images that emerged from the Summer Study are, by design, both familiar and alien. They show pastoral landscapes and familiar building typologies curved around the interior of massive toroidal or spherical spaceships, rotating to create artificial gravity at their edges. While O’Neill emphasized the need to consider these settlements as places with logistical needs and eschewed flashy pop culture depictions of his work, Guidice and Davis knew that illustrating the space stations as occupiable places would drum up public interest for the research. These megastructures, half-a-mile wide or wider with names like O’Neill Cylinders, Bernal Spheres, and Stanford Tori, would be anchored into orbits or Lagrange Points—places where the gravitational pull from the Earth and the Moon were equal, meaning whatever's put there, stays there. That imagery is still powerful 40 years later. With the fears of the ’70s once again resurgent as climate change, resource shortages, and mass migration dominate the headlines, billionaires are looking for ways to leave this world behind and move to the stars. Take the Jeff Bezos–founded Blue Origin, a spaceflight and rocketry company founded by the world’s richest man for the express purpose of eventually moving humanity off this planet. In May of this year, the company released a suite of renderings of spacefaring toroidal colonies, each depicting idyllic countrysides and architectural pastiches protected by a glass-enclosed sky, clear references to the Summer Study images from 40 years prior. The renderings were created to gin up excitement—and financial backing—for extracting resources from the moon as the first phase of launching an extraterrestrial settlement, but exactly what’s depicted has a deeper significance. Scharmen devotes much of Space Settlements to the human considerations of living in space. Humans, like all animals, need certain things to thrive, including open space and greenery, and the opportunity to watch something grow; hence the abundance of agricultural landscapes and wide vistas in Davis’s, Guidice’s, and Blue Origin’s images. However, as Scharmen points out (and landscape architect Marc Miller highlighted in an online article for AN), the renderings are very conscious throwbacks to Hudson River School paintings. These paintings were intended, in part, to encourage white observers to move west and assert their dominance over the North American wilderness. In depicting their landscapes as (artificial) wildernesses to be tamed, Blue Origin is trying to entice a very specific, well-educated population to “settle” these massive structures. Therein lies the rub. Both the Summer Study artists and O’Neill knew that their depictions of leisure were a bit misleading, as all colonists would have to work hard to keep their city-in-the-sky running even with advanced automation. More importantly, the rationale behind expanding into these megastructures in the first place is rooted in an outgrowth of extractive capitalism. As Scharmen and O’Neill both discuss in the book, and as the Earth-bound billionaires of today surely know, space outposts would have to justify their immense cost, likely through extraterrestrial mineral mining. However, go one level deeper, and the implications become even darker. As Bezos and his peers have repeatedly stated, they feel that the only way to “save” humanity from our doomed planet is to expand into space. Bezos frequently claims that he has too much money to spend on Earth and that expanding into space is the only logical next step. "The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos told Business Insider. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power." To say that entirely artificial and dangerous habitats are the next logical step in humankind’s progression presupposes that this planet, one that we evolved specifically to inhabit, is already full. What was once proposed as a way to foster unique communities in the sky and expand humanity’s consciousness beyond the borders of this world has taken on a nihilist tinge. No one else has summed it up better than Elon Musk, another stargazing tech billionaire. When asked why he wanted to settle other planets in an interview with Aeon, Musk famously replied, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?”
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West 8 will redesign 11 miles of South Baltimore's waterfront

Dutch firm West 8 has beat out James Corner Field Operations and Hargreaves Jones for the chance to create an 11-mile-long stretch of parkland in South Baltimore. The winning proposal from the studio's New York office was chosen as part of the Middle Branch Waterfront Revitalization Competition, a city-backed plan to reengage locals with an underutilized section of the Patapsco River shoreline.  Located east of Westport and south of Port Covington across the river, the waterfront spanning from the existing Middle Branch Park will be expanded in the surrounding bay into a landscaped linear strip for recreational activities and observing wildlife. West 8 will partner with local teams from Mahan Rykiel and Moffat & Nichol on the multi-phase project, and figure out the best strategies to build a new green ring around the waterfront filled with piers, boardwalks, and other structures for performances and group gatherings.  Per the proposal, future phases will include converting the 103-year-old, Beaux Arts-style Hanover Street Bridge, which connects Middle Branch to Port Covington, into parkland as well. A new car-centric bridge will be built stretching from the planned Under Armour campus to Brooklyn, instead of Cherry Hill where Middle Branch Park is located. An artificial island will be built underneath it in the middle of the bay.  SouthBmore.com reported that in order to create this large ring of land, West 8 will redistribute dredge from a port nearby and place it further up the bay where it will eventually help form marshlands and other wetland ecologies. This move, according to Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, will help build an attractive waterfront for the South Baltimore community—one that could boost its economy like the other built-out improvements at Inner Harbor and Fells Point.  West 8 also aims to build a trail system that loops from Middle Branch Park to Westport Meadows and across Ridgeley’s Cove. A decrepit bridge there could possibly be made into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare as well, providing access to Swan Park in Port Covington.  For further context, the entire site sits south of M&T Bank Stadium and is close to the core of downtown Baltimore. A masterplan to revamp the Middle Branch area has been in the works since 2007, and the competition to redesign the waterfront started last summer, under the helm of the city-supported Parks and People Foundation.
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James Corner Field Operations' public Manhattan beach reveals first renderings

Park stewards at the Hudson River Park Trust have just revealed preliminary renderings for a new public beach in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The five-and-a-half acre site used to be a parking area for the sanitation department and adjacent salt shed, but in a few years, it will be a recreation area with a kayak launch, sports field, picnic areas, and a marsh. James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) is the New York-based landscape architecture firm behind the design, while hometown firm nARCHITECTS is doing park buildings. The soon-to-be park was first announced in February of this year, and in about 18 months, the beach on Gansevoort Peninsula will open to the public on the banks of the Hudson River at the end of Little West 12th Street. While there will be ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the Hudson River is still too gross to swim in (but who knows, great strides in cleanliness could be made by the time the park is complete). From the renderings, it appears the new beach will rise alongside artist David Hammons' recreation of the demolished Pier 52Day’s End. This is far from the only project on the Trust's plate. The organization cares for a four-and-a-half-mile greenway on the river and is now shelling out an estimated $900 million for capital projects that include Pier 57, by Youngwoo & Associates, as well as Pier 26, which features a playground designed by OLIN and an ecology center from Rafael Viñoly. In addition, construction on Pier 55, the overwater park on piers, designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and go-to artist for the hyper-wealthy, Thomas Heatherwick, is well underway. The new beach will also be a stone's throw away from the Whitney Museum. This is not the first Manhattan beach as some outlets have claimed, however, not counting pre-contact or New Amsterdam times. As recently as the 1980s, during the construction of Battery Park City, New Yorkers donned bikinis and sunned themselves on the sandy construction site just north of Manhattan's southern tip. At the same time, art organization Creative Time hosted multiple annual editions of Art on the Beach which brought large-scale public art to the desolate area. Today, way uptown, there's a semi-secret sandy beach at Inwood's Swindler's Cove, thanks to a New York Restoration Project initiative to restore shorelines in the area.
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Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform employs photography and drawings to capture a movement

The United States of America of the 19th century was a civilization in rapid flux, subject to spiraling economic and demographic growth coupled with staggering socioeconomic inequality that manifested in deleterious urban poverty. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform, on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston through September 15, 2019, effectively encapsulates the bold visions of the era's patrician reformers with the living conditions of the urban poor that influenced their sweeping plans. The exhibition is curated by Charles Waldheim, the Harvard Graduate School of Design's John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture, Director of the Office for Urbanization, and the Ruettgers Curator of Landscape, and is largely made up of highly-detailed topographical and landscape maps, historical photographs, and personal mementos. According to Waldheim, "the show started with a very simple idea; could we take large urban plan drawings from the 19th century and treat them like works of art?" For Big Plans, Waldheim hones in on four protagonists; Frederick Law Olmsted, the historic doyen of landscape architecture; Isabella Stewart Gardiner, the museum's namesake and prominent member of the Boston Brahmins; Charles Eliot, Olmsted's apprentice and prominent city planner in his own right; and Lewis Wickes Hine, the sociologist and prodigious photographer of the American urban condition. Although contemporary controversies surrounding park construction largely center on budgetary or zoning constraints, the execution of such projects during the 19th century was remarkably radical in ideology and scope. Big Plans highlights the revolutionary nature of public landscape design with an initial focus on Olmsted & Vaux's design for Central Park in New York, juxtaposed with an original hand-colored map by William Bridges for New York's 1811 Commissioners' plan that would place the gridiron street layout of Manhattan. In comparing these two disparate visions of Gotham at the onset of the exhibition, the curatorial direction quickly lays out the reformers' visions of reshaping the rigid rationality of the industrial city into one that cultivated both economic and social progress. The theme of correcting the societal ills of the industrial metropolis is continued in the second room of the exhibition with five-by-seven-inch silver gelatin prints produced by street photographer and sociologist Lewis Hines. Similar to contemporaneous New York-based social reformer Jacob Riis, Hines advocated for photography as an effective tool to prod for social reform. The images are not beautiful; as is the case with much early photography, many are overexposed and out of focus. However, aesthetics were not their purpose. The photos are a searing indictment of child labor, depicting young men and women toiling in industrial mills and sifting through fetid landfills in search of scrap materials. The remainder of the exhibition is largely a collection of drawings that plot out the expansion of the public realm and park space in Boston and Chicago, ranging from the Back Bay Fens to Jackson Park. Absent from the curatorial direction of Big Plans is a perspective from the urban working class and impoverished for whom the grandiose schemes were tentatively laid out for. This top-down perspective was a conscious decision by Waldheim to highlight the uneasy paternalism, or noblesse oblige, of the era's social reformers. While not explicit, the exhibition begs the question of whether this condescension laid the groundwork for similarly grandiose urban renewal plans during the mid-20th century. Big Plans: Picturing Social Reform Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 25 Evans Way Boston Through September 15, 2019
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Three big-name studios shortlisted for La Brea Tar Pits master plan competition

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced yesterday that it would be reimagining its 12-acre campus in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, home to the iconic La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum. To that end, three firms will compete to lead a master planning team that will be responsible for renovating and future-proofing the campus. The NHMLAC first launched the search for a master planner in March of this year, and the three teams have been invited to create conceptual designs for review. The proposals will be unveiled in August of this year and the NHMLAC will take public feedback on each. After internal and public review, the winning team will be announced by the end of the year and will be responsible for leading the master plan team through the public review, planning, and construction phases of the renovation. The shortlisted teams are as follows: Dorte Mandrup is leading one team. While the Copenhagen-based firm's most recently publicized project may be a blockbuster tower in Denmark, the NHMLAC noted in a press release that the firm has worked on five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the past, including several museums and libraries. The Dorte Mandrup team includes the London-based landscape architecture firm Martha Schwartz Partners, design firm Kontrapunkt, L.A.-based executive architects Gruen Associates, and Arup. The WEISS/MANFREDI team was singled out for its experience in designing large landscapes that invite public interaction, from Hunters Point South in Queens, to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. WEISS/MANFREDI’s collaborators are notably distinct in focus from the other teams: paleobotanist Dr. Carole Gee, graphic designer Michael Bierut, artist Mark Dion, and Karin Fong, renowned storytelling designer and cofounder of Imaginary Forces, were all tapped. Rounding out the three finalists is the team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). DS+R is no stranger to realizing large park projects either, and its Broad Museum project previously won the firm critical accolades in L.A. The DS+R team consists of the California-based landscape studio Rana Creek, and landscape architect, urbanist, and Hood Design Studio founder Walter Hood. Whoever wins will have to balance the preservation of a unique paleontological resource with improving the flow and visitor capacity of the park campus. “La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are the only facilities of their kind in the world,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the NHMLAC, “an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research in the heart of a great city, and a museum that both supports the scientists’ work and helps interpret it for more than 400,000 visitors a year. We are excited to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just renovate these facilities thoroughly but also to think deeply about how to make them function as well for neighbors and guests over the next 40 years as they have for the last 40—perhaps, even better.”
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Johnson Favaro reimagines Beverly Hills' La Cienega Park

La Cienega Park and Recreation Center in Beverly Hills, California, is slated for a transformational new master plan by Culver City–based architecture firm Johnson Favaro. Unfolding over the next several years, the 17-acre park will gain a brand new indoor recreation and tennis center, aquatics center, community space, pre-school, as well as 12 acres of sports fields and open green spaces. Opened in 1925, the original park design was novel as it incorporated a water treatment plant with an open public green space. The plant, which was the first on the West Coast to offer municipally-softened water to the community, was designed in a Hacienda architectural style, but fell out of use as larger regional water systems took over the Beverly Hills requirements. But while the plant was discontinued, the park remained very much alive. In 1986, landscape architect Patrick Hirsch proposed a redesign of the park to shift its land use from the majority open space of the original layout to a more “active” layout that included the organized sports fields that were in demand at the time for the surrounding community. The new elements planned by Johnson Favaro continue this trend towards a more “active” parkland, as customized spaces will become more and more important for after-school activities, community gathering, and the arts. Architecture is a main focus of the master plan, with the architects at Johnson Favaro designing two new indoor facilities for the site. A 30,000-square-foot recreation center will house 3 basketball courts, 16 tennis courts (8 indoor, 8 outdoor situated on the facility’s roof), and encompass the indoor sections of the aquatic center. The 25,000-square-foot community center will accommodate multipurpose rooms, art and dance studios, classrooms for educational programming, as well as a teen center. An advanced stormwater retention system will also be installed below the park and new structures, facilitating drainage and limiting runoff. Cars will also be accommodated with two above- and below-grade parking structures located on either side of the boulevard, with space for 600 vehicles. However, the park is set to be accessible via public transit as well, with entrances within walking distance from the purple line of the LA Metro currently under construction. Construction is set to begin as early as 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2023.
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The Eiffel Tower’s landscape will be redesigned before the 2024 Olympics

The city of Paris has selected the London-based landscape architecture studio Gustafson Porter + Bowman (GP+B) to redevelop the square-mile “grand site” surrounding the Eiffel Tower. GP+B’s plan, OnE, will reorganize the site into a more linear experience, complete with new parks, reflecting pools, kiosks, and an amphitheater—turning the strip into Paris’s largest park. The announcement stems from a competition launched in 2018 to renovate the areas immediately adjacent to the tower to improve safety, reduce wait times to get to the tower, and overall make the plaza a more enjoyable (and easier to navigate) place. Improving the pedestrian flow around one of the city’s most tourist-friendly landmarks is especially important with the 2024 Summer Olympics rapidly approaching. Rounding out the GP+B team are preservation experts Atelier Monchecourt & Co and French urban design firm Sathy. Together, their winning multi-stage master plan creates a central axis that runs west-to-east beneath the tower, using it as a central point to connect “Place du Trocadéro, the Palais de Chaillot, the Pont d’Iéna, the Champ de Mars, and the Ecole Militaire,” according to GP+B. That includes hopping over the River Seine and turning the existing Pont d’Iéna bridge into a greenway, and restoring the esplanades on either side. Throughout the landscape, the team has used the linear design to strategically frame views of the Eiffel Tower and surrounding city. Beyond that, the corridors and “glades” carved out from the park will be used to host temporary events, including concerts and public art shows. This combination of form and function was described by GP+B in a press release as a melding of “classical French gardens,” typically used to denote wealth and power, and “French picturesque gardens,” where artistic experimentation flourished. Trees will also be planted to help bolster the area’s biodiversity. The $39 million master plan is being enacted in phases, with the first to be finished by 2023, and the second, more ambitious section slated for completion in 2030.
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SHoP’s Pier 35 folds industrial materials into an East River habitat

Pier 35, the latest addition to Manhattan’s waterfront and yet another nod to the industrial heritage of the city’s waterways, is now open to the public just in time for spring. SHoP Architects, together with landscape architecture studio Ken Smith Workshop, have dropped a folded, zigzagging landscape intervention on the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. The pier-park’s most striking feature is the 35-foot-tall, 300-foot-long metal screen that both backdrops the park’s landscape as well as hides the Sanitation Department shed at the adjacent Pier 36. As the screen moves eastward and approaches the water’s edge, it rises on weathered Cor-ten steel panels, ultimately bending to create a raised and covered “porch,” complete with swings. A wavey esplanade runs alongside the landscaped lawns and a series of artificial dunes up to the porch, mirroring the sinuous curves of the screen. The underpass of FDR Drive connects with the pier at “Mussel Beach,” a micro-habitat that SHoP and Ken Smith designed in collaboration with ecologist Ron Alaveras. The urban “beach” seeks to recreate the historic conditions of the East River and foster mussel growth, similar to the work being done by the Billion Oyster Project. The 65-foot-long beach’s precast slopes and outcroppings are exposed and submerged as the East River rises and falls, mirroring the tidal conditions that mussels require “in the wild.” Mussel Beach was made possible through a grant from the New York Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources, as it’s a prototypical environment that, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere. Although Pier 35 was launched with a soft opening in mid-December, the canopy and plants have sprung up just in time for Earth Day 2019.
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Neighbors and preservationists sue N.Y.C. Parks Department to save a rare brutalist landscape

After a year and a half of radio silence, a contentious plan to transform the northwest entrance of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is back in the spotlight. Friends of Fort Greene Park, a collection of neighborhood residents and preservationists, and the Sierra Club have brought a lawsuit against the N.Y.C. Parks Department in the New York State Supreme Court over plans to modernize the park and remove a rare landscape intervention from Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr. Jump back to 2017, when the proposal to build a new grand entrance at the northwestern corner of the park first came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 30-acre Fort Greene Park was Brooklyn’s first and originally grew out of the military fort from which the neighborhood took its name. The city brought Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on in 1868 to turn the green space into an official park, and the duo cut tight, winding pathways that offered wide views of the planted landscape, similar to their work in Prospect Park and Central Park decades later. The park has been updated three times since then, but the basic layouts and deference to the Olmsted and Vaux plan have remained consistent throughout. In the early 1900s, McKim, Mead & White cut across the meadow in the park’s northwest corner to improve access to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, a 150-foot-tall column dedicated to the over-11,500 American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War. The monument is reached by climbing a 100-foot-wide granite staircase cut into the side of a hill. In 1971, landscape architect A.E. Bye was commissioned to accentuate the path from the park’s entrance to the sweeping monument steps using cobblestones and native plants. Bye, who rarely took on public projects, proposed a series of subtle, multipurpose brutalist mounds reminiscent of graves—a reference to the prisoners interred in the crypts below the monument. Bye worked largely through sculpture and drawings to realize his designs, and a pre-Diller Scofidio + Renfro-era Ricardo Scofidio was enlisted to help create a drawing set that the city could build from. A $10.5 million renovation and a “grand new entrance” to the park would scrap that. The improvements are part of the Parks Department’s Parks Without Borders initiative, which seeks to break down barriers between city parks and the street to create a more inviting landscape. The new scheme would move the park’s entrance to the corner and create a direct route to the monument through the existing circular garden…and Bye’s mounds. Those would be leveled to create a tree-lined “boulevard,” while 58 trees would be removed. The Parks Department claims that the mounds impede ADA accessibility, although the new flattened concrete plaza would terminate at the steps of the monument. Those changes were unanimously approved by the LPC in November of 2017. Then, on April 1 of this year, Friends of Fort Greene Park, the Sierra Club, and Michael Gruen, president of The City Club of New York and the attorney for Friends, filed a petition (here) with the State Supreme Court over the decision. The Parks Department claims that of the 52 mature trees it would be removing, 38 are for design purposes and 14 are in failing health. Twenty-eight of those trees are Norway maple, a species that the department classifies as an invasive species with a typical lifespan of 60 years in City parks, and many are at least 50 years old at the time of writing. Additionally, another 31 trees would be removed for a drainage project near the park—13 for design reasons and 18 for their condition. The department states that in keeping with their tree restitution plan, 80 trees would be planted in and around Fort Greene Park. Additionally, the department states that these improvements, as well as adding a basketball court and expanding the barbecue area, were all researched with input from elected officials, the community board, and the surrounding neighborhood. Friends of Fort Greene Park disagrees with that assessment, claiming that the department was able to avoid conducting a full environmental review. When the group had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the environmental impact statement, it received a heavily redacted version. Over one-quarter of the 150-page report was blacked out. “Despite community outcry, the Parks Department is proceeding with plans to cut 58 park trees, and to bulldoze popular landscape features in the historic park,” reads a statement from Friends of Fort Greene Park. “Neighbors had no alternative but to sue the Parks Department, to compel the city to do the required environmental review assessing the impact of the proposed project. Neighbors had earlier brought a successful court action against Parks to release secret documents about the decision to remove mature park trees. “Despite a court order, Parks has refused to fully comply with the release of documents. Neighbors believe that documents will reveal that Parks had misled city officials about the health of the park trees, creating a false impression that the trees were in poor health when the opposite is true. Fort Greene neighbors commissioned an independent arborist's report that proved the trees were in excellent health. “In addition to removing scores of trees, the Parks Department plan would also demolish a picnic area and rolling landscape mounds that are popular with neighborhood families. In what neighbors see as a scandalous act of social engineering, the Parks plan would relocate the leafy picnic grounds to a new, and more exposed site across the street from an existing NYCHA building, and away from the planned luxury high-rise.” While the lawsuit is still pending (the first filed at the state level to protect a brutalist structure), Friends has pledged that it will continue to raise awareness of the issue. When reached for a statement, the Parks Department wrote that it doesn't comment on pending litigation. AN will follow this story closely as it develops.