Posts tagged with "Lawrence Halprin":

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Seattle’s Brutalist Freeway Park is reviewed for National Register and approved for renovation

The gorgeously staggered concrete elements of Jim Ellis Freeway Park, one of the most significant architectural spaces in Seattle, are scattered across a thickly forested hill atop an intersection of Interstate 5 between the neighborhoods of Downtown Seattle and First Hill. Completed in 1976 by American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and Bulgarian architect Angela Danadjieva, the 5.2-acre Freeway Park is one of only a small handful of Brutalist-designed parks in the world and is a commendable example of how parkland can be used to bridge communities that were previously divided by highway infrastructure.

Given its significance to the field of landscape architecture and the urban history of Seattle, Freeway Park was recently nominated for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The nomination was submitted shortly after a $10 million capital improvement project was announced to restore Freeway Park as part of an agreement made with the expansion of the nearby Convention Center. A total of $9,250,000 of the funds will be used for much-needed repairs and restoration, while the remaining $750,000 will go towards the further activation of the park as part of its management by the Freeway Park Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to advocate and host events in the park.

A portion of the funds may go towards reintroducing the water feature to the park, which was discontinued in 1992 following an issue with water loss that was present since its construction. The renovation process is expected to begin next summer and be completed by December 2021.

The nomination was reviewed on October 25 by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and it was subsequently placed on the Washington Heritage Register in a unanimous vote. Its placement on the NRHP is still yet to be announced.

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Another view on Sea Ranch and its SFMOMA exhibit

The exhibit The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) closes in a month. If you are in San Francisco, it’s worth seeing for many reasons. It shows that the SFMOMA’s architecture curators can do a lot with a little square footage. (Why so little is another question!) Wisely, they focused on the optimistic beginnings and not the whole controversial history of the development. In doing so, they captured a golden moment for architecture in the Bay Region, when ecology and development and modernism and postmodernism touched and kissed. After more than 50 years, Sea Ranch has a lot of narratives. Concentrating on the community’s beginnings, when there was a strong collective spirit, highlights the project’s hope, which is in short supply these days. The heavy truth about Sea Ranch is that designing an ecologically sensitive community a three-hour drive from San Francisco falls outside our current green script. The early narrative belongs primarily to landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the architect-developer Al Boeke, and the founders of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker (MLTW) and Joseph Esherick & Associates (later Esherick Homsey Dodge & Davis). Their story has many interesting turns, not the least of which is the dominance of Halprin, who emphasized the dramatic landscape over architecture. The MLTW buildings were strong yet self-effacing on the exterior and exuberant and joyous on the interior. This balance was rarely struck again. After more than 50 years, with many of the lots developed, the Sea Ranch community has largely returned to focusing on stewardship of the natural landscape—even if much of that landscape was formed by the different humans who occupied the land. If I have quibbles about the exhibit, they are more with the handsomely designed catalog than with the show. Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher’s essay mentions Salton Sea, which has little relevance to Sea Ranch, but she does not discuss Berkeley’s Greenwood Commons. The core ideas of Sea Ranch can be found in that small community, which Lawrence Halprin planned below the John Galen Howard–designed house that was occupied for many decades by William Wurster, dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. Curator Joe Becker’s essay locates Sea Ranch in the modernist idiom. Developer Al Boeke had worked for Neutra, Halprin had studied with Gropius, and Turnbull worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. While Becker mentions that Moore, Lyndon, and Turnbull had studied with Louis Kahn when he taught at Princeton, he doesn’t connect that to a larger trajectory that the three were following. For example, he mentions Sea Ranch’s various “saddlebags” and “aediculae” as key design moments, but I would argue that these point to an attempt on the part of Kahn’s students to move away from the strict confines of modernism and to give architecture a deeper meaning beyond aesthetic purity. Condominium 1 is a bridge to a restrained postmodernism. The exteriors and the studies for variations look like an experimental modernist exercise, except for the quirky interior spaces and—in the case of Charles Moore’s unit, partially reconstructed in the exhibit—the riot of color and sly historic references. Bobbie Stauffacher Solomon’s graphics inside Sea Ranch’s recreation centers (and, to a smaller degree, inside Sea Ranch Lodge) are another example of the bridge from the severity of modernism to the exuberance of postmodernism. Stauffacher Solomon is the secret star of the show. Unfortunately, her own small exhibit on the third floor was up for only two months. Hopefully, she will get a larger exhibit in the future. (Again, the problem of too little space for architecture and design!) The exhibition itself draws the visitor in with Stauffacher Solomon’s bright angled graphics and then the smell of wood. At Sea Ranch itself, that smell might come from the trees (second growth), the house interiors, or the fireplaces. Here, it originates from the lumber used for the brilliant reproduction of the living space of Moore’s condominium unit. Typically, architecture exhibitions have small models, drawings, and photographs. The now-famous Case Study House exhibit of 1989 to 1990, which helped revive interest in modernism, succeeded, in part, because of two complete full-scale models and one model, similar to this, of a living room (that of noted designers Charles and Ray Eames). Besides giving the three-dimensional experience of a space, this model also divides the room into distinctive gallery spaces for exhibits on different aspects of Sea Ranch’s formation. Inside the reconstructed living room of Moore’s unit, a video plays, in which many of the original designers (or their spouse, in the case of Bill Turnbull) talk about the community and its successes and failures. Unfortunately, nobody from Esherick’s office is represented. Recently deceased partner George Homsey built a wonderful modest cabin at Sea Ranch for his own family, but it is barely known and not covered here. Perhaps he was not well enough to be interviewed. The museum’s architecture curators have created a show and catalog that will hold the attention of architects, the Bay Area’s many knowledgeable laypeople, and people who know nothing of Sea Ranch or its importance. The combination of materials and the emphasis on the optimistic beginnings achieve this. Even if the original vision of Sea Ranch (utopians vs. land development being the obvious trope) was partially lost, the stewardship of this dramatic place where the land meets the sea and man meets nature still maintains its relevance and draws us there frequently. This exhibit encourages the dialog about the results of well-intended design in late capitalism.
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Angela Danadjieva remains an unsung luminary of landscape architecture

In 1967, Angela Danadjieva, a Bulgarian-born architect, found herself working in the San Francisco office of the celebrated landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. From 1967 to 1976, she worked on 20 urban design and city planning projects at Halprin’s office, driving design on some of the office’s best-known projects. Her work was integral to the office’s output, but today, Halprin is remembered in histories of landscape architecture while Danadjieva is almost forgotten. In 2019, when we’re increasingly cognizant about the vital positions of women and natural resources, it seems timely to bring attention to Danadjieva. She was enabled by the socialist privilege of women’s rights in her native Bulgaria, and Halprin’s devotion to the profession. Halprin was a giant in the landscaping field, walking in the footsteps of Frederick Law Olmsted and having learned from Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. Danadjieva won a competition while living in Paris in 1966, which brought her to San Francisco where she met Halprin. Freeway Park, which covers interstate I-5 in Seattle is their best-known project. For Halprin, it was the poetic outcome of his 1966 book Freeways and was another manifestation of his appreciation of waterfalls, while for Danadjieva, it was an opportunity to shine in Halprin’s eyes and fulfill her design ambitions. However much Danadjieva contributed as a designer, Halprin’s lead as landscape architect made him the architect in charge. But her participation in the Seattle park design can be seen as an object lesson in who gets credit for projects, particularly when one of the designers is a woman. Danadjieva was born in 1931 and was brought up in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Lofty ancient architecture adorned Sofia’s broad cobblestone boulevards, and greenery surrounded the city. But the political background for Danadjieva was highly unsettling. After a period of neutrality, the country was eventually thrust into the theater of World War II, caught between the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Allied Forces, which bombed Sofia in 1941. In 1944, the city was captured by the Soviets, and the subsequent socialist regime seems to have eased the way for Danadjieva. Women made inroads in Bulgarian culture, and the state-supported university helped to cement Danadjieva’s abilities. She studied environmental design and received a degree in architecture. In 1963 she paired off with Ivan Tzvetin to work on a Cuban urban project; they won second prize for it and she was awarded the prize by Fidel Castro. Not fully satisfied with her university education, Danadjieva chose to leave Bulgaria and attend Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts between 1964 and 1966, which seems to have imprinted on her an appreciation for forms from the past. While in Paris she was employed by Denieul-Marty-Paoll. Danadjieva first became a set designer for a state film company—winning a Golden Rose (the Bulgarian equivalent to an Oscar) for The Captured Squadron—and then won the competition that landed her on the West Coast and eventually in Halprin’s office. Halprin and Danadjieva reached common agreement that she would have a creative role in his firm, and as project architect she worked on both the Freeway Park and the Auditorium Fourcourt (now Ira Keller) Fountain in Portland, Oregon. Danadjieva made clay models for the fountains’ concrete forms. Both the Ira Keller and Freeway Park fountains are exciting to the senses. When operative, primal water gushes over primordial masses that resemble brutalist waterfalls. The Ira Fountain, engineered by Richard Chaix, is built on a declivity in the road whereas Freeway Park builds over a tear in the city. Ada Louise Huxtable considered Freeway Park equal to European masterpieces. When the fountains are running crowds of people are drawn to them. There has been danger in Freeway Park—a 2005 murder—which has precipitated adding amusement structures like bandshell and food vendors. The structures around Freeway Park are not that humanistic—large metal and glass buildings like the overbearing Convention Center (which Danadjieva worked on) dwarf the park—but amid the stepped and zigzagging walkways and terraces, the rushing waterworks, and the sylvan plantings, the park is a superb haven. Both Halprin and Danadjieva claim authorship of Freeway Park. Legally, it can be assumed that it was Halprin’s design—it came from his office. While Danadjieva did make the clay models of the brutalist stonework, Halprin’s hand came into play earlier. His Portland Lovejoy Fountain of 1967, which is similar and was inspired by his Sierra watercourse drawings from 1964. And the epitome of the office’s rock and water play comes somewhat later: the Washington, D.C., Roosevelt Monument designed in 1974 but not constructed until the 1990s. Also, it was Halprin’s call at the studio to make models before drawings for the Freeway fountain. But Danadjieva’s hand seems secure at the Ira Keller and Freeway fountains because the bursting water flows over those large bold idiosyncratic forms that seem characteristic of her hand. Danadjieva said in an oral history done by Michael Apostolos in February 2010, the year after Halprin’s death:
At a few occasions he left on my board thank you notes about my work…Walking through the office at lunchtime Larry came to my desk looking at what I was modeling out of clay. Seeing my concept for Seattle’s Freeway Park he turned around and disappeared—saying nothing. I went outside for lunch. We faced each other around the block and he told me: “Angela, I am so excited seeing your Freeway Park design concept. Sorry even could not speak, needed to get some fresh air,” and at that time I saw tears in his eyes. This is how I like to remember Larry Halprin, one of the greatest appreciators of my design work.
Danadjieva is still active, working with her partner, Thomas Koenig. Her work has received numerous awards, including an Honor Award in Design from the American Society of Landscape Architects. One of their projects was an addition to the Freeway Park (a monumental endeavor, including work on the Washington State Convention Center). She and Koenig are responsible for large-scale projects such as White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, and James River Park System in Richmond, Virginia, and have earned a reputation in urban development. The pair live and work in Tiburon, outside San Francisco. She is reportedly a modern woman with old world aristocratic, courtier traits. She is elusive—very difficult to locate and interview and could not be contacted for this article.
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Sea Ranch comes alive in a new exhibition in San Francisco

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) examines one of the earliest innovations in environmentally conscious development in its current exhibition, The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism. The show chronicles the history of the development at an extraordinary site along a ten-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast, where steep cliffs and coastal bluffs have eroded into layers of marine terraces to frame the luminous and moody ocean below. The story of Sea Ranch begins with the acquisition of the site by the developer, Al Boeke, who obtained the working sheep ranch for Oceanic Properties, a division of Castle & Cooke, a real estate company. Boeke, who had worked with Richard Neutra, was also an architect and saw an opportunity to do something different. He recruited Harvard-trained landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to develop the master plan, as well as a roster of architects, including Joseph Esherick, the firm of MLTW (Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull Jr., and Richard Whitaker), Obie G. Bowman, and others to participate. Halprin’s master plan would not only define the design aesthetic for Sea Ranch, but would also challenge the cookie-cutter approach to planned communities that had emerged throughout the U.S. after World War II. Halprin, who had spent childhood summers on a kibbutz near Haifa, Israel, envisioned a community based on collaboration and shared community. People would “live lightly on the land,” as the indigenous Pomo people, the first inhabitants of this land, did. The curators of the exhibition included photos of dance workshops choreographed by Halprin’s wife, the modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin. These photos, combined with Halprin’s diagrams of the “Sea Ranch Ecoscore,” situate the development, in part, as a period piece of the 1960s, echoing a freewheeling West Coast lifestyle. However, the exhibition clears up any misimpressions of Sea Ranch as primarily a social development with utopian yearnings, making clear that its main subject has always been design and its relationship to the land. If a certain taste and ideas about light, color, and detail distinguish the Sea Ranch design, it is because these were born out of the designers’ sensitivity to climate and place. The slope of a shed roof deflects the wind, and a courtyard creates protected shared spaces. A bay window protrudes to capture a view, and hedgerows are planted as natural wind breaks. The meadows are left open, and houses are set back from the edge of the cliffs, creating a communal landscape. Details matter too. Buildings are clad in unfinished wood that is allowed to fade to natural gray. Skylights puncture the roofs of cabins to capture sky views of the redwood forest. Donlyn Lyndon noted, “We wanted to make buildings part of the land, rather than buildings that sat on the land.” Sketches, drawings, and pages from the designers’ notebooks line the walls and tables of the gallery. These works include the original master plan and concept sketches by Halprin and work by the architects, such as Joe Esherick’s scheme for the General Store and MLTW’s plans for the modules for Condominium One, conceived of as a kit-of-parts. Scale models of Moonraker Athletic Center, Unit 9 in Condominium One, Cluster Houses A, and the Hedgerow Houses were fabricated by architecture students at the University of California, Berkeley. At the center of the gallery, a 1:1 scale partial construction of Unit 9 of Condominium 1, designed by MLTW in 1965, has a soaring loft, built-in benches, and a sleek but cozy feel. It is easy to imagine an afternoon stretched out on the long bench with a book, looking out at the churning sea. Inside the mock-up, a video presents interviews of many of the original players. Donlyn Lyndon, Mary Griffin, Obie Bowman, Anna Halprin, graphic designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, and others recall their impressions, debating whether the dream was deferred or lives on. Hard lessons were learned. A growing awareness of coastal access emerged in the early days of the development. Negotiations followed between the developers and the newly formed California Coastal Commission. The Sea Ranch ceded land to create six public trails. This fight stalled momentum for a decade, and the project shrank in size from its original plat map for 5,200 individual building sites to around 1,700. As a result of the complications around coastal access, sales fell off. Critics saw the development as out of touch, elite, and fuel-intensive, as it is accessible only by car along Highway 1. Getting there meant driving or maybe flying, and once there, there were few retail shops or services. In the video, Lyndon noted, “The myth is that it fell apart, which isn’t entirely true. The truth is that it needs reaffirmation…” The reaffirmation may have appeared in the form of this exhibition. As a powerful and immersive museum experience, a moment in American architecture is captured when ideology, talent, and opportunity converged. Once seen, it would be difficult to dismiss the poetic quality of the Sea Ranch site and the elegiac response of its developers and designers, who allowed the nature of what is there to take form. While setbacks may have colored its utopian vision, they did not negate the project’s importance in the pantheon of American design. From Sea Ranch, designers will continue to glean lessons about building within landscapes, respecting and protecting the natural character of a place, and designing houses that suit their sites, climate, and inhabitants. The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, through April 28, 2019.
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SFMOMA to present a deep-dive of planning behind Sea Ranch

This winter, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will exhibit The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism, a deep dive into the conceptual planning behind the iconic Sea Ranch development in Northern California. Designed by Charles Moore, Joseph Esherick, William Turnbull, Lawrence Halprin, and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Sea Ranch is considered a revolutionary effort that melded speculative suburban development with budding countercultural movements in an effort to “live lightly on the land.” The naturalistic development was planned in 1964 and driven by its conceptual opposition to the suburban American model of development that hardly considered site issues or natural beauty. Created by developer Al Boeke and a group of Bay Area architects, landscape architects and graphic designers, the project was listed along with other nearby works as a later example of the Bay Region Style, a localized variant of Modernism coined by Lewis Mumford in a controversial 1947 article he penned for The New Yorker The exhibition will showcase archival and contemporary photographs, original drawings and sketches of the initial designs as well as a full-scale architectural model created for the exhibition. “In mid-20th century California, Modern architecture represented social progress," said SFMOMA architecture and design curator Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher in a statement. "It signaled a shirking of tradition and bold new models for living. The Sea Ranch was envisioned as a place to embrace the land, a particularly moody and memorable land, that could expand California’s existing indoor-outdoor lifestyle." The exhibition runs December 22, 2018 through April 28, 2019.
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Another Halprin-designed plaza could be on the chopping block, this time in San Francisco

Depending on how things go, the Lawrence Halprin-designed United Nations Plaza and fountain in San Francisco could soon be demolished. The brick-lined open space is punctuated by a jagged, sunken fountain made of rough-shorn granite blocks and is installed in the city’s Civic Center district, an area that is undergoing redevelopment as the city seeks to beautify and enliven existing pedestrian areas. Though not designed as a commemorative work, when it opened in 1975, the fountain was dedicated to the signing of the U.N. charter, an event that took place in the Veterans War Memorial Building near the site of the future fountain in 1945. The opening marked the 30th anniversary of the signing and originally heralded the fountain as a civic work of global significance. The fountain was designed by Halprin, who worked in concert with architects Mario Ciampi and John Carl Warnecke as part of an urban redevelopment scheme for the area. At Halprin’s office, Don Carter worked as principal-in-charge for the project with Angela Danadjieva—lead designer for Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle—as landscape architect. The fountain was designed starting in 1962 during Halprin’s Modernist period; when the fountain debuted 13 years later, it contained a futuristic set of features, including computerized spray nozzles that could detect strong winds and dial-down in power in response, as to not spray passersby with water. Art and Architecture reports that the high-tech, Sierra-inspired fountain also came with an artful tidal pool installation inspired by San Francisco’s tides that cycled every hour. Greenery, including large trees, originally surrounded the fountain, as well.  The fountain was designed according to a concept called “motation,” a method for scoring how one’s perception of the environment changes depending on the speed and motion of the observer, according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The fountain’s stacked blocks are carved with inscriptions and represent each of earth’s seven continents. The work, 165-feet long and articulated raucously as a set of stepped, interactive cascades, acts as a gateway connecting Market Street with the Asian Art Museum, the Orpheum Theater, a public library, and eventually, the Civic Center Plaza fronting City Hall. Today, the fountain is suffering from disrepair and neglect, with the tidal pools long-extinguished and most of the surrounding vegetation gone. The Civic Center BART and Muni station has recently come into the spotlight as open-air, intravenous drug use has become more prevalent within its corridors. Sandwiched between the city’s rapidly-gentrifying Tenderloin and South of Market districts, the areas above and within the station are often populated by people experiencing homelessness, a long-standing site condition that precedes even the 1975 renovations. The plaza spaces were “hardened” against this type of occupation in the early 2000s when all of the benches were removed and the fountain was briefly shut down. Starting in 2005, however, the plaza became home to a twice-weekly farmers market that continues to draw crowds. Plans are currently underway by CMG Landscape Architecture to redesign the plaza in tow with surrounding streets and open spaces as part of the Civic Center Public Realm Plan. The plan is managed by San Francisco’s planning department in conjunction with multiple local agencies and seeks to soften the area by promoting pedestrian use of the spaces surrounding San Francisco City Hall while repairing some of the planning mistakes of the past, like the lack of concessions and playgrounds in the area. The design team includes Gehl Studio, HR&A, InterEthnica, Kennerly Architecture + Planning, Lotus Water, Structus, M. Lee, JS Nolan, architecture + history, and HRA Engineering. CMG is currently soliciting public opinion on a trio of redevelopment proposals, only one of which retains the iconic fountain.  The three proposals seek to redesign the space, with each presenting a different approach to shifting the overriding character of the three interlocking plaza spaces that make up the open space sequence between Market Street and City Hall.  First, the “Culture Connector” plan aims to connect the three “flex” plazas with two runs of general-purpose open spaces lined with gridded street trees. The proposal would modify Halprin’s fountain in order to transform it into a kids’ bouldering playground. A pair of larger playgrounds would ring the Civic Center Plaza in the scheme, with collections of kiosks and pavilions scattering the site.  The “Public Platform” plan aims to resignify the plazas’ function as space for protest and political gatherings by creating a more open plaza at the fore of City Hall that will be flanked by lawns. Here, fewer trees would be present while new concessions structures are to be consolidated in larger buildings at key entry points to the main square. In this scheme, the plaza fountain would be replaced with a new interactive waterwork. The “Civic Sanctuary” scheme proposes to reconfigure the plaza areas into lawns while garden rooms and a sculpture gardens ring other areas of the site. The scheme—geared toward preserving the historic elements of the plaza complex—would retain the water fountain, though plans call for removing some of the taller stone elements of the installation. The fast and loose proposals raise questions regarding the care—or lack thereof—being taken with the Halprin-designed fountain as plans are being made for the future of the UN Plaza and surrounding spaces. Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of TCLF, described the fountain as having a “high degree of integrity” and as a “slam-dunk landscape architecture contribution for the National Register of Historic Places.” Birnbaum explained that planners are mistaken to casually call for the elimination of a piece of high civic art via a public opinion survey and that the work was among the most intact of Halprin’s surviving San Francisco works. The fountain is eligible for the National Register and is actually located in an existing historic district, but under a designation that does not include the 1970s-era changes to the area. As a result, efforts to hastily rework the Civic Center’s public spaces threaten to sacrifice one of San Francisco’s major civic art works in lieu of seemingly generic and temporary sculptures. Further, the salad bar approach presented in the schemes—individual elements of from each of the proposals are also up for consideration, allowing the schemes to be mixed and matched—leaves much to be desired for Birnbaum, who would rather see more thoughtful community engagement for the site. Halprin—the “father of public engagement” according to Birnbaum—was known for artful collaboration with clients and users in his efforts to find responsive approaches for his often-interactive works and landscapes. For now, San Francisco will continue to collect public input through the summer so that the design team can generate a singular proposal for formal consideration. 
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Preservation-minded renovation of Halprin's Freeway Park moves forward

Even as SOM bulldozes Lawrence Halprin's Los Angeles atrium (the only atrium he ever designed), officials 1,000 miles to the north are gearing up to preserve Freeway Park, the eminent landscape architect's highway-capping park in Seattle. Designed by Halprin and Angela Danadjieva and built in 1976, the Brutalist park had fallen into severe disrepair, and residents said that they avoid the somewhat isolated park for safety reasons. After initial, conceptual proposals for the National Register of Historic Places-eligible property provoked alarm, stakeholders said they are collaborating with landscape preservation and advocacy organizations like The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) on any future changes.
The renovations are thus geared towards better lighting and wayfinding in the original segment of the park. On its website, TCLF cross-posted an excerpt from an agreement between public and private interests on the future of the park that stated renovations will follow "the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties, as well as specific guidance for parks found in the Secretary of Interior’s Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes," two nationally-codified standards for preservation practice.
As renovations kick into gear, the City of Seattle is collaborating with Freeway Park Association (FPA), the park's nonprofit stewards, to repair the park's facilities and infrastructure. Last summer FPA tapped Seattle's SiteWorkshop Landscape Architects to produce schematic designs and conceptual renderings for park improvements based on community feedback. Work may also include upgrades to lighting, wayfinding, and entrances, as well as restrooms and site furnishings. $1o million of the project cost is being financed by a public benefits package that stems from the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC), a $1.7 billion project that the Seattle City Council has yet to approve. FPA has also received grant money to carry out the repairs.
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SOM to replace Halprin's only atrium with $60 million amenity plaza

Brookfield Properties and SOM have unveiled new renderings for a forthcoming $60 million renovation of the Lawrence Halprin-designed public plaza and atrium spaces located at the foot of the Wells Fargo Center towers in Downtown Los Angeles. Originally designed as an “urban, indoor Garden of Eden” with developer Robert Maguire and Modernist sculptor Robert Graham, the Halprin-designed atrium space was demolished in late 2017 without announcement and will now give way for a new kind of “amenity-rich” Eden populated by two restaurants, a fitness center, an indoor-outdoor bar, and other small-scale food vendors. Gone are the Robert Graham-, Joan Miro-, and Jean Dubuffet-designed sculptures that once populated the fountain-laden atrium, to be replaced with wrap-around booth seating, a stepped amphitheater, and a bar. Renderings for the new SOM-designed plaza spaces surrounding the ground floor atrium project depict a more open frontage along the site’s Grand Avenue edge, with existing pink granite-clad knee walls to make way for new planted areas and rounded bench seating. The formal atrium structure will also be softened via the introduction of a new open-web metal awning structure along its front. Areas overlooking Hope Street on the opposite side of the complex will also receive upgrades, with renderings depicting shady terrace spaces and new cabana structures wrapping the second story retail spaces above the street. Halprin’s atrium was designed in 1983 as the first component of the Los Angeles Open Space Network, a string of indoor-outdoor plazas, gardens, and parks linking the new Bunker Hill area with the South Park neighborhood to the south. The network was bookended on its northern edge by the atrium and includes the nearby Bunker Hill steps at the foot of the Pei, Cobb, Freed-designed US Bank Tower, the adjacent Maguire Gardens Park, and Grand-Hope Park. The network was not listed as a historic resource either locally or nationally prior to the demolition of the Halprin-designed atrium. Regarding the atrium demolition, Charles Birnbaum, CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation said, “It’s remarkable and disturbing that the atrium was demolished with no public notice or input,” adding, “By the way, in 2016 the water channel that runs the length of the Bunker Hill Steps was also fundamentally altered (again with no notice or public input); the rocky features over which water once cascaded (a design element Halprin abstracted from the California wilderness) have been replaced with something benign.  The entire Los Angeles Open Space Network is at the tipping point." SOM originally designed the twin 54- and 45-story story towers on the site in 1981–they were completed in 1983–amid Bunker Hill’s initial transformation from Victorian-era upper class suburb to the purpose-built postmodern business district in existence today. The austere, reflective granite-clad towers present an angular presence on the skyline and are memorialized in Fredric Jameson’s seminal tome Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism as prime examples of the era’s new “depthless” and “literal” architectural mode. Jameson wrote:
The great free-standing wall of Wells Fargo Court—a surface which seems to be unsupported by any volume, or whose putative volume (rectangular? trapezoidal?) is ocularly quite undecidable. This great sheet of windows, with its gravity-defying two-dimensionality, momentarily transforms the solid ground on which we stand into the contents of a stereopticon, pasteboard shapes profiling themselves here and there around us. The visual effect is the same from all sides: as fateful as the great monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 which confronts its viewers like an enigmatic destiny, a call to evolutionary mutation. If this new multinational downtown effectively abolished the older ruined city fabric which is violently replaced, cannot something similar be said about the way in which this strange new surface in its own peremptory way renders our older systems of perception of the city somehow archaic and aimless, without offering another in their place?
The changes to the Wells Fargo Center come amid explosive change in the city’s Bunker Hill area, with a massive Gehry Partners-designed $1 billion mixed-use complex, a new Colburn School complex—also by Gehry—and renovations to the Music Center Plaza led by RCH Studios all currently under development. SOM’s renovations are already underway and are expected to be complete by 2019.
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Lawrence Halprin’s only atrium project undergoes surprise renovation

An eagle-eyed preservationist has sounded the alarm over a renovation of the atrium of the Wells Fargo Center on Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, designed by noted modernist landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Envisioned as a “an urban, indoor Garden of Eden,” the publicly-accessible courtyard was the only atrium that Halprin designed. Halprin’s original design for the atrium called for a network of fountains, each featuring their own sculpture, that fed constantly running waterways arranged in geometric patterns, which generated a pleasant background noise. As a passerby noted on Twitter yesterday, the contemporary statues by sculptors Robert Graham, Joan Miro, and Jean Dubuffet have been removed, and the runnels have been drained. After asking around, the original Twitter poster discovered that the area was being remodeled. The atrium sits within the Wells Fargo Center, an office building designed by SOM and completed in 1983. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) notes that although this space was often underutilized by the public, Wells Fargo Center staff had up until this point kept the atrium well maintained. TCLF has been a vocal proponent of cataloguing and preserving Halprin’s work, and have organized and curated the The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin exhibition currently running at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles until the end of the year. AN will update this story once we have more information on whether Halprin’s design, or the nude sculptures, have been removed permanently.
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Halprin's Heritage Park Plaza in Texas will receive complete restoration

Landscape architect Lawrence Halprin loved cities, so it was only fitting that his cliffside Fort Worth, Texas, commission, Heritage Park Plaza (HPP), was the first-ever item on the National Register of Historic Places designated solely as landscape architecture.

Located on the northern edge of downtown Fort Worth, on a half-acre atop a bluff on the Trinity River, HPP is a series of concrete walls, a rambling collection of ceiling-less rooms on the original site of the 19th-century military fortification for which Fort Worth is named. At one time, water, funneled through concrete channels, unified the design and offered a symbolic connection to the river. If you’ve been to the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. (unveiled in 1997), the design here will ring familiar to you; Halprin applied the approach honed in Texas to honor the 32nd president.

Completed in 1980, Heritage Park Plaza was the first project where Halprin began to think in a postmodern way. On-site, he worked with artisans to interpret the location’s history and, by extension, the city’s heritage. In a 1971 master plan for the City of Fort Worth, Halprin originally conceived of HPP as one of a series of public spaces linking the Trinity River to Philip Johnson’s Water Gardens, fewer than five miles away.

The city-owned parklet had deteriorated badly by 2007, when it closed to the public. But why was such an important work allowed to fall apart in the first place?

Reasons abound. Unlike the Water Gardens downtown, HPP’s relative remoteness makes it harder to visit, while people who do come must cross roads and traffic to access the site. The original concrete, though, is in pretty good shape. The real problem, surprisingly, came from the trees themselves. Halprin planted a central bosque with 11 live oaks, a species that sheds its leaves gradually, and consequently a basin for the water feature’s mechanical system became clogged with debris. The new trees proposed for the site—cedar elms—drop their leaves all at once, making cleaning easier to plan.

To address these issues and others, the city hired two local firms to collaborate on a comprehensive restoration: Landscape architects at Studio Outside and architects at Bennett Benner Partners will restore the park, using Halprin’s original specifications (some unrealized in the final built form).

It will cost an estimated $3 million just to repair HPP, but plans are on hold—for a good reason. Although almost all of the construction documentation for the restoration was complete, stakeholders realized that to ensure the park’s long-term survival, a master plan was needed for attracting people to and rebuilding the landscape of the whole area.

Among the changes, the team is moving Main Street and adding a forecourt that can be used for events. The move, said Tary Arterburn, principal of Studio Outside, “will bring life to the park that it never really had.”

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Why are we wrecking our best modernist landscapes?

This is a feature article from Issue 8 of The Architect's Newspaper. If you’ve seen the movie Columbus, you’ll remember, among all the nerdy dialogue about modernist bank branches and James Polshek’s buildings, that scene where the two protagonists passionately discuss the Dan Kiley landscape outside the Eero Saarinen–designed Miller House. No? That’s because landscape architecture, though intrinsic to the experience of some of the best modern buildings, rarely gets the conversation it deserves. Despite being featured in all the film’s promo shots, the landscape by one of the last century’s best landscape architects got zero shout-outs. This snub, brought to light by the Cultural Landscape Foundation Executive Director Charles Birnbaum in a Huffington Post op-ed, reflects larger attitudes toward landscape architecture in the United States. It’s a long-held and frequently heard complaint inside the discipline that even successful landscapes by the very best designers are treated like scenery for architecture. While New Yorkers love Central Park, concrete plazas between modernist skyscrapers—even though they are essential to the experience of the buildings themselves—don’t elicit the same joy. Modern and late-modern landscapes in American cities are the least appreciated and least understood outdoor spaces, though they shape day-to-day experience in the contemporary American city more than leafy 19th-century destination parks. These modern spaces contrasted with—and challenged—the platonic ideal of the American urban park, established by Frederick Law Olmsted and largely unchanged since the 1860s. Urban renewal gave designers the opportunity to think up supersize projects (New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Boston’s Government Center, Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center, Philadelphia’s Penn Center) that afforded new ways of experiencing space and the city. Instead of offering the faux-countryside, 20th-century designers summoned concrete and right angles to create dynamic public spaces rooted in modernist functionalism. In the postwar years, as industry abandoned cities en masse and corporations moved white-collar workers to lush suburban campuses, cities and captains of industry commissioned the best landscape architects in practice to activate declining downtowns with plazas and parklets. In smaller urban projects like Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, Fountain Place in Dallas, and Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, designers like Lawrence Halprin, Kiley, and M. Paul Friedberg offered contemporary city experiences that both responded to and represented these profound changes in the American urban form. This not only applies to plazas from the boomer or Gen X era, but to Millennial landscapes, too. Just as chokers and platform sandals are cool again, designers are expressing renewed interest in successful 1990s postmodern landscapes, like Wagner Park or Pershing Square. Despite their significance, these parks are now threatened by thoughtless development. Unlike their forbearers—most of which were baked into city plans or carved from large swaths of open space—modernist landscapes like Freeway Park in Seattle shaped vestigial areas, harnessed from leftover space (like vest-pocket Paley Park in Manhattan), or repurposed former industrial land (Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco). In their comparatively tiny areas, designers deployed textural materials like concrete, gridded trees into mini urban forests, and masked obtrusive city sounds with water features. Despite their historic significance, these sites are constantly imperiled by bad maintenance, and the public antipathy that follows—“What’s with all that concrete, and where are all the flowers?” While it can take decades for an artist’s work to be appreciated, as Halprin noted, landscapes and the land on which they sit are often at the mercy of changing real estate interests and don’t have time to mature in the public perception. Though some, maybe most famously Boston’s Government Center, are wildly unsuccessful and are being (sensitively) adapted right now, many upgradeable landscapes whose potential could be teased out with thoughtful changes are instead being plowed over with heavy-handed schemes that dishonor the original design intent. Maybe because they are underappreciated, many postwar urban parks and plazas are threatened by market forces and dumb human decisions: out-of-place nearby development, revamps that turn parks into front lawns for speculative real estate, rising downtown land values, and, paradoxically, resilience measures that anticipate future coastal flooding. Compared to buildings, landscapes have fewer protections afforded to them. Since June, there’s one less: The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the demolition of a Sasaki fountain and plaza that anchored the base of Citicorp Center, a suave Hugh Stubbins–designed 1970s angle-topped tower on Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street. The architect would faint if he were around to see the flowerbeds proposed for the base of his building. Though developments like these can be jarring, the cities around these landscapes have changed substantially, too. After fleeing in the mid-20th century, people and prosperity have returned to cities. Though regional development is always uneven, there’s a persistent and widespread demand for walk-to-work neighborhoods with a healthy mix of day-into-night life. Downtown is hot. And tastes have changed, too. As megaprojects like Hudson Yards and smaller regional ones like SWA’s San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas, demonstrate, there’s a desire for more programmed space, with Ping-Pong tables and colorful, interactive public art. These landscapes reflect a turn from urban production to urban consumption; though the social life of these public spaces still includes people-watching and book-reading (or phone-staring), spaces are increasingly programmed around shopping, tourism, and scenery that’s good content for Instagram. Planners today promote infill housing and mixed-use everything, so visitors to these downtown parks are, increasingly, residents too. Outside of a few true classics that have never lost their luster, how do modernist landscapes fare against their newer predecessors? For this feature, we chose some of the notable urban landscapes of that era currently under redevelopment to assess where they are now, and how they’re being adapted—or not—for the future. Their designers never intended for their landscapes to be built and forgotten. There’s little to love in badly patched concrete, treeless planters, or dry fountains. We’re looking anew at famous landscapes by the best of the best and at those that are less familiar. Some honor the landscape architect’s original design intent, while others…don’t. Preservation isn’t about ossifying landscapes in some vintage ideal, but framing updates around the original design intent. Across the country, designers are looking at landscapes with consideration of their significance while adapting them for contemporary knowledge of ecology, accessibility, and programming. In a May 2017 talk at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Meyer, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, explained why landscapes of the 1950s through the 1980s are significant today: They are a record of postwar modernization and urbanization, and they should be reimagined—not cast in amber—for the 21st century. “Adapting modernist landscapes does not require demolition and redesign,” Meyer said. Just like the designers who revamped the 19th-century city park in the 1970s, these projects will need careful updates for today’s users, made with intelligent materials, to facilitate life in the present while looking back to history, not to pickle the past but to energize urban life.
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27-story tower to rise next to Halprin's Grand-Hope Park in downtown L.A.

Developer Forest City West and architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) have unveiled renderings for a new 27-story apartment tower slated for construction on a site directly opposite the Lawrence Halprin–designed Grand-Hope Park in Downtown Los Angeles. The residential tower—currently known as 949 Hope Street—will feature 236 market-rate apartments as well as 6,700 square feet of ground floor retail spaces, Urbanize.la reports. Renderings for the tower depict a glass curtain wall–clad monolith anchored to the street by a low, single-story plinth containing retail and sidewalk seating. The tower’s base is topped along this commercial wing with an amenity level that is depicted as a rooftop garden and lounge. This level extends behind the tower into the center of the block, where parking and more terrace spaces are located. The building features a rounded corner that demarcates a cut-through walkway along the southern edge of the site and also features inset balconies along each facade. The tower is topped, according to the renderings, with a rooftop pool and a circular indoor lounge area. The project is slated for a booming quarter of L.A.’s downtown known as South Park. The area is currently ablaze with construction cranes, as the first of upwards of 20 residential and high-end hotel towers take shape in the areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center and L.A. Live entertainment complexes just to the south of the 949 Hope Street site. The northern section of the neighborhood—where the proposed tower will be located—has seen a sharp increase in high- and mid-rise residential projects over the last few years, with many more on the way. The area was originally targeted for growth in the late 1980s—with the help of Halprin and developer Maguire Partners—who envisioned Grand-Hope park as the southern cap of a district-wide parks system that would connect residential areas with corporate office towers located several blocks to the north on Bunker Hill. Though many elements of that parks system were never implemented, Halprin’s designs for the bookend parks—Grand-Hope Park to the south and Maguire Gardens at the north—were built and currently function as urban oases amid the flurry of construction. Grand-Hope Park shares a site with the postmodern-style, Jerde-designed Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising from 1993 and is heavily used by neighborhood residents. There are concerns among park preservationists over whether the mature trees in Grand-Hope park might be singed by the light reflected from the many glass towers sprouting up in the area. Tellingly, representations of the park are mostly omitted in the newly-released renderings. The 949 Hope Street project is slated for completion sometime in 2020.