Posts tagged with "National Register of Historic Places":
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.”
Although debating the ideal size, role, and scope of the federal government is one of America’s great national pastimes, there has typically been surprisingly broad and consistent support for the Antiquities Act of 1906, a landmark conservation law passed by Congress and enacted by President Theodore Roosevelt 111 years ago.
The law, generally speaking, grants the United States government—particularly, the President—broad authority in designating federally owned lands as national monuments. The effort is made as part of a federally recognized network of protections, which includes the National Park Service, in order to retain and perpetuate public use of wild, scenic, and culturally significant landscapes. The Antiquities Act is responsible for securing some of the most sublime and irreplaceable landscapes the country has to offer, such as the Grand Canyon, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Devils Tower, and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, for current and future generations. The act, more or less, protects America’s—and Americans’—most literal and shared heritage: land.
But like so many other cultural and political norms and traditions under the new presidential administration, the Antiquities Act is facing an existential threat.
This April, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior not only to review 27 specific national monuments created under the last three presidential administrations but also to review the law itself, calling the Antiquities Act a “massive federal land grab.” President Ronald Reagan has been the only president not to name any new national monuments; President Trump is threatening to be the first to rescind existing monuments.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent the summer observing the new monuments—including Bears Ears National Monument, in Utah, which was expanded under President Obama and has drawn ire from local landowners and politicians. Zinke completed his review in late August but is keeping the findings close to his chest, revealing that “some changes” were in store, without making the report fully public (at press time). It is expected, however, that Bears Ears Monument will shrink in size—current estimates predict it will be reduced from 1.35 million acres to just 160,000—but that, according to Zinke, the government would “maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations.” The move is fiercely opposed by Native American communities, including the Navajo Nation and Hopi and Zuni reservations, which surround the monument.
For now, we wait to see the full extent of Zinke’s report. And while we do not know where the administration’s review of the Antiquities Act itself will head, the effort—when combined with unsuccessful motions to backtrack on Obama-era methane-emissions regulations, successful measures allowing for increased mining runoff into streams, and incentivizing programs for coal projects on federal lands—it is clear the president intends to tarnish the nation’s lands in concert with violating its institutions and norms.
In the same way that architects have led the way in saving architectural relics via support for historic preservation and the National Register of Historic Places—also administered by the Department of the Interior—we must become more vocal in our support for retaining and, in fact, expanding public access to public lands. The National Park System is currently languishing with a $12 billion backlog of repairs. Efforts like the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew, which connects young people to preservation-related trades through on-the-ground work, is a positive first step, but more work and support are needed.
As with historic preservation, national monuments exist to perpetuate and preserve our most meaningful and compelling spaces and can, moving forward, even work to highlight forgotten or marginalized histories and cultures. Natural landscapes, like cultural landscapes and historic structures and neighborhoods, are vital to the architectural profession and the country alike.
The federal government should keep its hands off these lands, and architects would do well to fight publicly for their protection.