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.

Since the last Annual Meeting was held in Boston, a large number of noteworthy contemporary landscapes have arrived–along the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, at Central Wharf, new campus landscapes at Harvard and MIT, and more. For the preservation-minded and for faithful students of Frederick Law Olmsted, Boston is home to the great Emerald Necklace. And in Brookline you can find Fairsted, Olmsted’s home and studio and today a National Historic Site. The grounds are open dawn to dusk year-round, but in November the museum is open for tours only on Fridays and Saturdays at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm. Other noteworthy historic landscapes within an easy walk of the Convention Center include the Boston Commons, the Boston Public Gardens, Copley Square, the Granary and King’s Chapel burial grounds. For a walk among the dead, I favor Mount Auburn Cemetery across the Charles River in Cambridge with its shaded dales and beautiful vistas of the City on a Hill.

The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston does not cover everything that may be of interest, including some noteworthy landscapes that are further afield. If you decide to attend, you may want to carve out some time for a day trip to explore the coves and rocky coastline of the North Shore including a visit to Castle Hill in Ipswich. November may be a bit cold for a swim in Walden Pond, but a day trip to areas west of town might include stops in Lexington, Concord and Lincoln: Minute Man National Historic Park, Concord Battleground, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home, as well as the Gropius House. The campus of Wellesley College, which is southwest of Boston, is another wonderful stop for landscape architects, and features contemporary landscapes thoughtfully interwoven with the historic campus fabric.

Of course, the primary attractions of the Annual Meeting are the educational offerings and the professional networking opportunities. This year, there are a number of interesting preservation-related field sessions planned, as well as some educational sessions that may be relevant to preservation. A selection is listed below (my special thanks to Marion Pressley for helping with this list).

Education Sessions related to preservation:

  • FRI-A01 The Continuity of Change: Adapting and Interpreting Modernist Era Landscapes
  • FRI-D06 Boston Through the Eyes of Landscape Architects
  • FRI-D08 Solving the Congestion Crisis in America’s National Parks
  • SAT-A05 Capture, Create, and Convey with HD Laser Scanning and Other New 3D Technologies
  • SUN-A05 Great Public Spaces: Philadelphia’s Regional Foundation Creates a Public Space Fund
  • MON-B07 Compelling Storytelling: Integrating Art, Information, and Landscape
  • MON-B10 Boston’s Urban Wilds: Sustaining a Landmark Urban Ecology Program

Field Sessions related to preservation:

  • FS0001 Newport’s Cultural and Historic Landscapes – Past to Present
  • FS002 Sustainable Futures for Historic Properties: Estates in North Easton and Milton
  • FS003 Landscape Cemeteries in the 21st Century and Contemporary Design Challenges
  • FS005 The Emerald Necklace: Balancing the Past, the Present, and the Future
  • FS006 New Campus Interventions at Wellesley and MIT
  • FS014 Four Gardens of the Fenway
  • FS016 The Past, Present, and Future of Harvard University Campus Spaces
  • FS019 Boston from the Charles River

With regard to networking opportunities, be sure to mark your calendar for the annual meeting of the Historic Preservation PPN. This will be held on Sunday, November 17th from 3:15 to 4:45 pm (PPN Room 3). There will also be a ticketed reception for members of all of the PPNs on Friday, November 15th from 5:15 to 7:15 pm. And, between the two, the annual HALS meeting will be held on Saturday, November 16th from 5:15 to 6:15 pm. The theme of the 2013 HALS challenge was “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.” Awards will be given at the HALS meeting to recognize this year’s top three HALS submissions. On the EXPO floor, both the PPNs and HALS will have exhibit tables. Please be sure to stop by.

I look forward to seeing you in Boston!

by  Jonathan Ceci, Chair of the Historic Preservation PPN

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