Each April World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM) celebrates all aspects of landscape architecture. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) asked its members and followers to share pictures of their favorite examples of landscape architecture on social media with #WLAM2017 and a card that reads, “This Is Landscape Architecture.” The goal of the campaign is to educate the public about the profession and all it entails.
This year, approximately 1,700 people from 57 different countries posted nearly 7,000 times with #WLAM2017, reaching 2.9 million people. Each day during WLAM a different ASLA chapter took over our Instagram so we could show the breadth of the field.
For example, the Iowa Chapter decided to highlight off some of its public spaces.
This well-edited exhibition is perhaps the best of NBM’s recent triptych of landscape architecture exhibitions, which included a survey of the landscape photography of Alan Ward, FASLA, and a retrospective of Oehme van Sweden’s work. The curious flow of the exhibition enables discovery. Around each corner are Halprin’s surprising drawings and dioramas, and photographs graciously donated by some of the country’s leading architectural photographers.
The exhibition moves through 35 sites chronologically, from his early residential work through to his first forays into the public realm, from the hallmarks of his Modernist designs to his post-Modern work in the late 70s and early 80s, and, finally, his capstone projects before his death in 2009.
Some themes emerge. Throughout his career, Halprin enjoyed partnering with artists. He purposefully created room for art works, knowing they add rich, pleasing layers. Gould Garden in Berkeley, California, created from the late 50s to 1960, shows one of his early partnerships with artist Jacques Overhoff, who molded bas-relief panels in concrete around Halprin’s pool.
Halprin believed in cities. When many people abandoned the urban cores after the race riots, Halprin saw opportunities for regrowth. His Portland open space sequence, with its three-part necklace of Modernist parks, was created from 1965-70 and demonstrated his early commitment. Moeller argued “it changed perceptions of downtown Portland.” And New York Times architecture critic Ada Louis Huxtable, who was not generous with the compliments, called the sequence “one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.” (The sequence is now on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is in need of major repair. A $4.5 million rehabilitation effort begins next year).
Halprin was all about “animating the landscape through choreography,” particularly the movement of water. The first thing you see when you enter the exhibition is a 10-foot-tall watercolor drawing of water moving around rocks. But if you look closely, you will see Halprin drew arrows to indicate the currents’ directions; he was mapping the choreography of a shore eddy.
Moeller thinks Halprin was deeply influenced by his wife Anna, who was a dancer. “He adapted her ideas by ‘scoring’ for human activity.” In his UN Plaza in San Francisco, he applied a design approach he called “motation,” which is described in the exhibition as “scoring how perception of the environment changes depending on the speed and motion of the observer.”
The exhibition, of course, includes beautiful photographs of his masterpieces: the Frankin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is a culmination of his life-long collaboration with artists; Freeway Park in Seattle, which creates a sense of movement through water and sculpted concrete and initiated a new landscape type — the park over a highway; and Sea Ranch in California, which showed how ecological community design should be done.
Sea Ranch in particular is made fresh by new photographs that show how Halprin ingeniously used berms reminiscent of military forts to both hide buildings and pools and create wind blocks. As Birnbaum explained, “Halprin was one of the first to think of landscape as infrastructure.”
Many of Halprin’s landscapes are under threat of demolition or a slow death from a lack of maintenance. Birnbaum hopes this exhibition will help “raise awareness of their value.” It’s a bit ironic given Halprin’s influence can be found in so many contemporary projects. Birnbaum even sees his impact on the High Line in New York City, where James Corner choreographed a continual dance between observer and observed.
DLANDstudio Launches Phase 1 Design for Rails-to-Trails QueensWay – The Architect’s Newspaper, 6/2/16
“After years of debate over what to do with the 60-year old abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR), the coalition has been moving toward the goal of converting 3.5 miles of the railroad—which extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park—into a park similar to the High Line.”
Design Team Led by Mia Lehrer Picked for New Downtown L.A. Park– The Los Angeles Times, 6/9/16
“A group led by landscape architecture firm Mia Lehrer & Associates has won a design competition for the 2-acre park, on the site of a former state office building adjacent to Grand Park at the foot of City Hall, city officials announced Thursday.”
Can leaving the comfort zone push designers to re-imagine what is possible? Outside Design, an exhibition at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)’s Sullivan Gallery, shows that the answer to this question is yes. During a talk at the gallery, Jonathan Solomon, director of architecture, interior architecture, and designed objects at SAIC, called for leaving the usual behind and “re-weirding the discipline of design,” which can allow designers and artists to innovate and move beyond disciplinary boundaries. The exhibition is part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and features the work of five firms of artists and designers: Analog Media Lab (Urbana-Champaign, Illinois), Ants of the Prairie (Buffalo, New York), The Living and the Ali Brivanlou Lab (New York City), Species of Space (Chicago), and Sweet Water Foundation (Chicago). Solomon curated the gallery as a “series of laboratories.”
To re-weird design, as Solomon explains, designers must design outside of their wheelhouse. They have to explore ideas and processes that push both the design and themselves, and go beyond clients’ comfort levels. It may also call for designers to look outside — literally. Designers should see the “complexity of nature and ecology” as an inspiration for design and art, as well as a potential means to create a more sustainable future.
David Hays of Analog Media Lab describes their work as “purposeful, pragmatic, and playful” yet grounded in experimentation. Their Rococo Chair riffs on the floral designs of Rococo-era upholstery fabrics, replacing them with actual flowers sandwiched between clear plastic (see image above). However, these flowers aren’t sealed up; they are allowed to decay. The flowers in the chair are dynamic, making the “rococo image real.”
Moving up to the scale of the building, both Ants of the Prairie and The Living propose re-wierding building façades, integrating them with the natural world.
Whether we like it or not, animals and bugs live with us in and around our homes. How do we reveal and enhance this relationship? Joyce Hwang of Ants of the Prairie created her installation, Habitat Wall, as an “inhabitable living membrane.” Built of different types of wood, including salvaged and reclaimed pieces, and composed of a series of modules, Habitat Wall is a beautiful physical object, but also functions as nesting houses and ledges for bats and birds, allowing both people and creatures to live together.
Designing at the intersection of biology and architecture, David Benjamin of The Living works with biologist Ali Brivanlou to co-create a façade with nature. They designed Amphibious Envelope, a façade wherein the traditional double-paned glass is replaced with tanks filled with water, moss, frogs, and snails. As the oxygen levels in the wall lower, the frogs rise to the top of the water, triggering sensors which release air bubbles, thus re-oxygenating both the water and the air around the wall. The installation is both a “functional façade” and an “open-ended experiment” that allows for a more fluid relationship between the inside and outside.
And the process of re-weirding design can be expanded yet again to the scale of the public realm.
Eric Ellingsen of Species of Space plays with questions of language and people’s perception of public space. A book case built on an angle and a dream machine, a spinning strobe in a dark room that produces visual hallucinations, are a means to change our perception. Elison also is in the process of mapping poems of cities, to create a “physical manifestation of language and design.”
For Emmanual Pratt of Sweet Water Foundation (SWF), an ecosystem can be both a physical natural process and a network of people. SWF “transforms blight into life” through their internship model, which trains students in aquaponics and ultimately encourages them to create a “decentralized network of sharing.” The aquaponics ecosystem then becomes an ecosystem of community partners and users. Their installation, Aquapons, highlights the importance of a sustainable system.
Outside Design shows us how small changes in perception can yield interesting results. Designers owe it to themselves to look outside the usual design processes. Inspiration may come in the form of bats, frogs, or poetry. Everyone should be open to the opportunities “re-weirding” can provide.
Hermann Park’s Japanese Garden Serves As City Oasis– The Houston Chronicle, 4/17/15
“Hermann Park’s Japanese Garden is a place where families flock to watch koi school in murky ponds, where couples rest under the trellis covered in leafy wisteria and where Houstonians steal away for quiet time in a natural setting.”
How the Drought Will Reshape Californian Landscape Architecture – Curbed, 4/22/15 “California is dealing with a resource crisis that’s asking a West Coast accustomed to expansive growth and endless possibility to go against character and make do with less. The last time going dry has caused this much consternation was during Prohibition. Curbed spoke with four leading landscape architects to find out how their profession needs to adapt to a challenge with the potential to reshape the industry.”
‘The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley’ Review– The Wall Street Journal, 4/22/15
“’The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley,’ an exhibition at the Center for Architecture, shows how modern landscapes often make a better case for modernism than the architecture itself.”
Studio Octopi Begins Crowdfunding Campaign for a Lido on London’s River Thames– Arch Daily, 4/23/15
“London’s central waterway, the River Thames, has been a site of enormous interest from architects and urbanists in previous years. From a controversial garden bridge to discussions about how to appropriate what has been described as one of the city’s largest untapped public spaces, London-based practice Studio Octopi have now launched a Kickstarter campaign to help to realize their dream of creating ‘a new, natural, beautiful lido’ on its banks.”
Group Rallies to Save Cherished Spot at Children’s Hospital – The Boston Globe, 4/27/15
“Just ahead of a wrecking ball, a contingent of parents and caregivers want the city to bestow protective landmark status on Prouty Garden, a half-acre splash of green at the heart of Boston Children’s Hospital. It may be their last hope for preserving the emerald retreat.”
Throughout October, the University of Virginia School of Architecture community got to see photographs of the landscape architecture of Reed Hilderbrand, touch samples of materials used in their projects, and grab post-card copies of their site plans. An exhibition of their work culminated in a lecture by founding partners, Douglas Reed, FASLA, and Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA, on their design philosophy.
Rather than being cloistered in an enclosed gallery space, the exhibit occupied the open, eastern hallway of the architecture school where it encouraged daily encounters between students and the firm’s work. It was clear from Reed and Hilderbrand’s talk that both believe places of cultural significance shape fledgling designers and the type of work they ultimately produce.
Each designer situated the firm’s work within his own personal biography and the landscape in which he was raised. In discussing his youth in Louisiana, Reed drew upon Jens Jensen’s belief that we are always longing to return to the “landscape of home.” His experience growing up in a landscape of extreme flatness — contrasted with Hilderbrand’s childhood in the rolling Hudson River Valley — plays a significant role in his unique understanding of the conditions of the ground. Together, they believe “a site’s history and the particular character of its ground – its shape, soil, moisture, vegetative cover – are what motivates meaningful form in our projects.”
While Reed and Hilderbrand may call upon their particular conceptions of home in their design philosophy, they also spoke of the importance of travel. Hilderbrand attributed his year in Rome as a Rome Prize recipient as the primary inspiration him to come together with Reed to found Reed Hilderbrand. Getting to intimately know the landscapes of Rome, not as a tourist, but as an extended visitor with the time and the freedom to “see and return,” made him want to build great places. “Seeing great things is both humbling and inspiring, ” said Hilderbrand.
In their first project together, the Leventritt Garden at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, their design drew upon not only a deep understanding of the conditions of the site, but also an experiential knowledge of Roman terraces, resulting in an “organic parterre” distinct from, yet perfectly suited to the rest of the Arboretum.
The success of this first project stemmed from their ability to grasp the site’s unique assets, while drawing on a vast inner library of places seen over years of travel.
In Reed Hilderbrand’s work at Bennington College, their reading of a set of disjointed site systems from previous eras of development, including an overlay of campus architecture of disparate styles, propelled the partners to bring cohesion to the campus. As Reed says, in this case “we realized that the larger regional context – the panorama of mountains,” with the elevated plateau of the college campus serving as a viewing platform, drew the campus plan together.
While it was inspiring to see images of Reed Hilderbrand’s work in the everyday environment of the school and in the pages of their new monograph, Visible | Invisible: Landscape Works of Reed Hilderbrand, the magnitude of their effect became more apparent after hearing them reflect upon their work. The elegant detailing, subtle sculpting of the ground, and the clearly distinctive quality of the work, are stunning and motivating.
This guest post is by Rachel Vassar, Master’s of Landscape Architecture Candidate, University of Virginia
Image credits:(1) Visible / Invisible, Metropolis Books, (2) Leventritt Garden / Andrea Jones, (3) Leventritt Garden Plan / Reed Hildebrand, (4) Bennington College plan / Reed Hilderbrand, (5) Bennington College / Michael Moran.