Treatment of Modernist Urban Park Plazas

Mellon Square, designed by John Simonds, underwent rehabilitation last year. The treatment was in progress on the southern portion of the site when this photograph was taken in July 2013. image: Caeli M. Tolar

Mellon Square, designed by John Simonds, underwent rehabilitation last year. The treatment was in progress on the southern portion of the site when this photograph was taken in July 2013.
image: Caeli M. Tolar

Many works of modernist landscape architecture are currently threatened. Due to their relatively young age, many do not meet the 50-year period set forth by the National Register of Historic Places. Those still extant have often been subjected to unsympathetic modifications and additions. More still have undergone insensitive adaptations, compromising their integrity and rendering them nearly unrecognizable as representations of notable design. Many suffer from original design or construction flaws. Miscommunications and misunderstandings due to differences in terminology and opinion arise when deciding when, where, and how to treat these landscapes. Few have been effectively preserved or restored. Those that have escaped demolition remain in the hands of private owners who have the capability to allocate necessary funds for preservation and subsequently high level of maintenance. In addition, these endangered landscapes commonly face negative public perception. Oftentimes these historic sites are viewed as outdated, dangerous, or aesthetically displeasing.

As a graduate student with a background in landscape architecture, my interests in historic preservation and landscape architecture led me to become interested in modernist works and their endangered state. My graduate thesis looks at the rehabilitation of significant modernist park plazas in urban settings, the actions and actors involved in the intervention, and the ultimate result of the revisions to the landscape. The purpose of my research was to determine common issues in interventions at significant modern urban park plazas for contemporary use and generate a set of considerations for future preservationists to follow. (For the purpose of the thesis, a modern landscape is a designed landscape constructed during the mid-to-late 20th century, inspired by the modern movement in art and architecture.)

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Submit a Drawing for the 2014 Holland Prize

2013 Holland Prize Winner: Turn-Of-River Bridge (HAER CT-192), Stamford, CT image: Morgen Fleisig, delineator

2013 Holland Prize Winner: Turn-Of-River Bridge (HAER CT-192)
image: Morgen Fleisig, delineator

Announcing the 2014 Leicester B. Holland Prize: A Single-Sheet Measured Drawing Competition

The Holland Prize is an annual competition, open to both students and professionals, that recognizes the best single-sheet measured drawing of an historic building, site, or structure prepared to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), or the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) for inclusion in the HABS/HAER/HALS Collection at The Library of Congress.

The winner of the 2014 Holland Prize will receive a $1,000 cash prize, a certificate of recognition, and publication of the winning drawing in “Preservation Architect,” the online newsletter of The American Institute of Architects’ Historic Resources Committee. Merit awards may also be given.

There is no charge to enter the competition. Entry forms must be submitted by May 31, 2014 and completed entries postmarked by June 30, 2014. Download the competition entry form and learn more about the 2014 Leicester B. Holland Prize on the National Park Service website.

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Edward Godfrey Lawson, “Our First Fellow”

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano, Watercolor plan of villa and gardens by Edward Lawson, circa 1917 image: James O'Day

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano, watercolor plan of villa and gardens by Edward Lawson, circa 1917.
image: James O’Day

In 2009 while researching at the American Academy in Rome, I came upon a cache of images in the Academy’s Photographic Archive. The photographs were diminutive, measuring only 2×3 inches, but the subject matter was colossal—the gardens of the Italian Renaissance. I had serendipitously discovered a collection of nine hundred photographs taken in the early 20th century. I learned that these photographs had originally been known as the “Lawson Collection” and had been reference material in the Academy’s library. The work was attributed to Ralph Griswold, Henry V. Hubbard, Richard Webel, and Edward Lawson. Most of these names were stalwarts of American landscape architecture and easily recognizable with the exception of one—Lawson. I wondered about the mysterious and little-known Lawson—who was he and why had this collection been named after him? Surely, he must have had some prominence. This is where my research and journey began.

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Smokey Hollow, a HALS Landscape

Smokey Hollow, Florida image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection

Smokey Hollow, Florida
image: The Florida State Archives Memory Collection

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) documents significant historic landscapes of the United States and its territories, which can range from gardens and cemeteries to neighborhoods and parks. Using historic ground and aerial photos, land surveys, plats, property records, and oral histories, HALS captures and records the cultural history of a place, the story of people who occupied the landscape, their customs, their landmarks, social traditions, and how the landscape evolved over time. The National Park Service submits completed HALS projects to the Library of Congress, where they become a permanent record of our nation and are accessible to the public.

The Florida Chapter of ASLA established a HALS program in 2007 and has submitted documentation on eight state sites to the Library of Congress so far. Measured and interpretive drawings, photographs, and written histories may be viewed on the Library of Congress website. HALS FL-01 is Barrancas National Cemetery at the U.S. Naval Air Station, 80 Hovey Road, Pensacola in Escambia County. Many Union and Confederate dead are interred there, and HALS large format photographs were produced by the National Park Service. Some of these photos are stunningly beautiful.

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The 2014 HALS Challenge

Galena Forest CCC Camp, Mount Baker National Forest, Washington, 1936 image: National Archives

Galena Forest CCC Camp, Mount Baker National Forest, Washington, 1936
image: National Archives

Documenting the Landscapes of the New Deal

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes. Much progress has been made in identifying cultural landscapes but more is needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

For the 2014 HALS Challenge, we invite you to document landscapes of the New Deal. People from every state are hereby challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to document the landscapes created during the Great Depression. These great public works were typically funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and built by programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Workers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 new parks nationwide, upgraded most state parks, restored countless historic sites, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways across the nation. Many of these landscapes remain in all 50 states, but their history may go unnoticed.

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), a companion program to HALS and  the sole surviving New Deal program, was created  80 years ago in 1933, the same year as the CCC!

Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2014. HALS Short Format History guidelines, brochure and digital template may be downloaded from the HALS website.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the top 3 entries, which will be announced at the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver during the HALS Meeting. Employees of the National Park Service, American Society of Landscape Architects, and Library of Congress may submit HALS Short Format Historical Reports, but are ineligible for prizes.

All HALS documentation is permanently archived and publicly accessible at the Library of Congress.

For more information, please contact Chris Stevens at 202-354-2146 or Chris_Stevens@nps.gov.

by Chris Stevens, ASLA, Landscape Architect and Past Chair of the Historic Preservation PPN

The 2013 HALS Challenge Winners

Gaiety Hollow. Center of Parterre Garden with the Arbor in the background.  image: Laurie Matthews, 2010

Gaiety Hollow. Center of Parterre Garden with the Arbor in the background.
image: Laurie Matthews, 2010

Congratulations to the 2013 HALS Challenge Winners!

The results of the 4th annual HALS Challenge, Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women, were announced at the HALS Subcommittee and Chapter Liaisons Meeting during the ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston on Saturday, November 16, 2013. Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 30 impressive HALS short format historical reports and 2 HALS drawing sets to the HALS collection!

  • 1st Place: Gaiety Hollow HALS OR-5, Salem, OR
    by Laurie Matthews
  • 2nd Place: The Arizona Inn HALS AZ-9, Tucson, AZ
    by Gina Chorover, Jennifer Levstik, and Helen Erickson with University of Arizona Student Researchers: Jae Anderson, Crystal Cheek, and Ryan Sasso
  • 3rd Place: Gypsy Camp for Girls, HALS AR-5, Siloam Springs, AR
    by Benjamin Stinnett and Kimball Erdman

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Historic Preservation at ASLA 2013

Water Celebration on Boston Common, October 25, 1848 image: New York Public Library

Water Celebration on Boston Common, October 25, 1848
image: courtesy of The New York Public Library

If you still haven’t decided whether or not to attend the ASLA 2013 Annual Meeting & EXPO, you might benefit from a few minutes clicking around ASLA’s The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston. It will hopefully tip the balance in favor of attendance. This online guide highlights the diversity of the landscapes one can experience in and around Boston. And there is surely something for everyone.

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Responses to the 2013 HALS Challenge

Mayflower Cottage with Lake George views image: Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell

Mayflower Cottage with Lake George views
image: Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell

We’re very excited to announce that our members successfully completed the HALS Challenge this year, “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.” So far, we’ve received information from only a few of those who submitted projects. Please send us your entries if you also completed the challenge so we can share your hard work with your fellow PPN members.

One of the submissions was from Lisa Tonneson-McCorkell, of the Saratoga Springs, New York-based LA Group. Her entry documents the Wiawaka Holiday House on Lake George. Established as an affordable retreat for working women during a time of increased women’s rights and factory conditions activism, Wiawaka is still in operation today, making it the oldest continuously operating facility of its kind in the United States.

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Futuristic Preservation

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century  image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century
image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Point Cloud Surveys of Historic Landscapes

When the US Secretary of the Interior first introduced the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation: HABS/HAER  in 1983, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and most of us did not yet know how to type—let alone know how to work on a PC.  This document was formulated in a pre-digital age and is, not-surprisingly, pre-digital in orientation; specifying such parameters for the documentation of historic structures as the use of black and white photography, the requisite submission of film negatives and consistency of hand-lettering.  Today, some of the specific requirements seem almost quaint: “Level I measured drawings will be lettered mechanically (i.e., Leroy or similar) or in a hand printed equivalent style.”  Incidentally, these standards served as a prototype for the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) when it was initiated in 2000.

In the decades since 1983, we have witnessed a revolution in Information Technology.  It has resulted in fundamental changes to the way that disciplines such as landscape architecture and history are practiced.  In the 1990s, Computer-Aided Design transformed the workflow of landscape architectural practice from design and documentation through construction.  A second wave of transformation has arrived with Building Information Management (BIM) / Site Information Management (SIM) applications and is beginning to transform the roles of designer and contractor in project delivery.  In the study of history today, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research and analysis is not uncommon.  Other new technologies and software applications are now emerging with the potential to transform a wide array of disciplines from ecology to historic preservation.   What follows is a discussion of one of these tools in particular—the digital “Point Cloud Survey”—and a review of its use in the context of a preservation and adaptive reuse project in Saudi Arabia.

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Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women

The view from Elmshaven's front porch looks out over the garden to the vineyard.image: Chris Pattillo

The view from Elmshaven’s front porch looks out over the garden to the vineyard.
image: Chris Pattillo

At first I was stumped when this year’s Historic American Landscapes (HALS) Survey Challenge to “document historic landscapes that reflect the heritage of women” was announced. The purpose of this year’s challenge is to increase awareness of the role of women in shaping the American landscape. My first thought was to record the Berkeley City Women’s Club, designed by the first woman Architect, Julia Morgan for the women of Berkeley – but our Northern California chapter of HALS had already done that site.  I thought of noteworthy women landscape architects who have practiced in California – Mai Arbegast and Gerri Knight Scott.  Both had done work at the Oakland Museum but that site had already been done as well.  Each had a role in the development of UC Berkeley’s Blake Estate in Kensington, where I’d worked as a student gardener.  Blake felt like too much to tackle and deserves more than a short form HALS.  I wanted a site that was nearby, had integrity, and was not too large for a one-person volunteer to take on.

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The 2013 HALS Challenge

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrandimage: www.doaks.org

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrand
image: http://www.doaks.org

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes.  Each year the HALS office at the National Park Service issues a challenge, encouraging landscape architects and preservation professionals to document historic landscapes related to a new theme.

The theme of the 2013 challenge is “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.

Individuals and groups from every state are encouraged to complete at least one HALS short format history for a cultural landscape related to this theme, whether vernacular or designed, in order to increase awareness of the role of women in shaping the American landscape. The top three submissions will receive awards and be announced at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston during the HALS Meeting.

If you have not already begun a submission, there is still time to start. Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2013 (c/o Paul Dolinsky, Chief of HALS, 202-354-2116).   All HALS documentation is permanently housed and publicly accessible at the Library of Congress.

Click here for more information: HALS Challenge

by  Jonathan Ceci, Chair of the Historic Preservation PPN

Congratulations 2012 HALS Challenge Winners!

Mission La Purisima Concepcion Site Plan (Douglas Nelson, 17 July 2012, HALS CA-79)

Mission La Purisima Concepcion Site Plan (Douglas Nelson, 17 July 2012, HALS CA-79)
image: LOC

Results of the 3rd annual HALS Challenge, Documenting the American Latino Landscape, were announced at the HALS Meeting of the Phoenix, Arizona ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo on Saturday, September 29, 2012. Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge has resulted in many valuable donations to the HALS collection.

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ASLA 2012: Book Signing on Sunday

Skyline Park

Skyline Park
image: TCLF

Join Charles Birnbaum and Ann Komara for the signing of their new book Lawrence Halprin’s Skyline Park at the ASLA Bookstore on Sunday from 12:30 to 2:00. (You can see HALS documentation “in action,” as the book incorporates some of the drawings done before the park was demolished)

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ASLA 2012: Historic Landscape Preservation- Attend, Visit, and Save

The Boulders Resort

The Boulders Resort
image: The Boulders

The ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo will be here before we know it in Phoenix, Arizona from September 29 – October 1.

Here is a list of Historic Landscape Preservation related meetings, field sessions, and education sessions.

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2012 HALS Challenge Update

Mission Santa Inés

Mission Santa Inés
image: HALS

HALS received 20 short form historical report entries for the 2012 HALS Challenge: Documenting the American Latino Landscape.

Sponsored by HALS, cash prizes will again be awarded to the top three submissions. Results will be announced at the Phoenix September 2012 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo during the HALS Meeting.

Good luck to this year’s competitors and thank you for contributing such wonderful documentation projects to the HALS Collection at the Library of Congress!

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Historic Landscape Preservation Extracurricular Activities

image:  Historic American Landscape Survey
Bourn Cottage & Garden
image: Historic American Landscape Survey

The members of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (HP-PPN) not only promote historic landscape preservation in their regular jobs but also with their “extracurricular activities.” Many members are engaged as individual activists or contribute to landscape preservation organizations, such as serving on the board of The Cultural Landscape Foundation or as officers of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation.

Many members also serve as Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Liaisons. The HALS mission is to record historic landscapes in the United States and its territories through measured  and interpretive drawings, written histories, and large-format black and white and photographs for the HABS/HAER/HALS Collection at the Library of Congress. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) established and maintains the HALS Liaison Network which ultimately will include representation from each ASLA chapter. The continued expansion and effectiveness of the HALS Liaison Network is critical to the recognition and documentation of inventories for our historic and cultural sites.

All of these volunteer efforts not only help protect or restore historic landscapes, but they also increase our professional opportunities.

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The Indoor Children’s Garden at Longwood Gardens

Tres Fromme’s sketch

Tres Fromme’s sketch
image: Botanic Gardens Conservation International

It is importance to examine how a design performs over time and use, and how this may shape change, whether by the designer or the users themselves. We believe such reflection is essential, to learn what makes a place meaningful and how a designed landscape may continue to evolve to nurture those meanings and values for children

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