Healing Labyrinth for Cancer Support

image: Thomas Baker
image: Thomas Baker

[The labyrinth] is…at once the cosmos, the world, the individual life, the temple, the town, man, the womb—or intestines of the Mother (earth), the convolutions of the brain, the consciousness, the heart, the pilgrimage, the journey, and the Way.
–Jill Purce, The Mystic Spiral

The Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support was built in 2000 as part of the Athens Regional Medical Center (ARMC). The Center serves the community of Athens, GA and the northeast region of the state. It is a welcoming “safe harbor” for anyone affected by cancer and provides resources, research, and access to social services, as well as a supportive therapeutic outdoor environment for patients and their families as they deal with the physical, social, and emotional impacts of cancer treatment. The Center and surrounding gardens also serves ARMC medical professionals and caregivers who care for these patients and their families.

Construction on the Loran Smith Center began in 1999. With therapeutic gardens and healing landscapes as her research area, Professor Marguerite Koepke saw this as a special opportunity to establish a dialogue with the hospital and Center. ARMC was very receptive to the collaboration and Koepke prepared the first master plan for their approximately two-acre site.

At that time, Koepke was also establishing a new semester-long course in therapeutic garden and healing landscapes design at the University of Georgia (UGA). She saw her relationship with the ARMC and the Center as an important opportunity to involve students in local service learning projects, especially those in medical settings, with real clients and real sites. Over the years, as the ARMC campus has grown and changed, her classes have been involved in multiple projects, including several revised master plans and small garden area designs. Design elements in these long-term master plans have typically included a grotto, a meditation/labyrinth garden, memorial garden and numerous naming opportunities, a wetland meadow with observation points for quiet meditation, woodland walking paths, small play areas for young users, and an area designated for a small greenhouse to support horticulture therapy and year-round use.

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Heading to the Beach this Weekend?

The boardwalk at Jones Beach State Park image: Alexandra Hay
The boardwalk at Jones Beach State Park
image: Alexandra Hay

With Memorial Day weekend comes the unofficial start of summer, and though the water may still be chilly at this time of year, many people will be heading to the closest beach for some start-of-summer celebrations.

For those in New York, and especially on Long Island, Jones Beach State Park is a destination that epitomizes summer. Though only 20 miles from New York City, Jones Beach could not feel further removed from the suburbs nearby, only a few causeways away. And, like Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Jones Beach is a site that has been dramatically transformed to create the iconic space we enjoy today.

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A Great Place to Play in Nature?

image: Chad Kennedy
image: Chad Kennedy

Traditional park and playground design philosophies are evolving and shifting as researchers and designers have begun to see the results of past trends in risk management, safety, and design. These trends have led to static playgrounds with less than stellar play value, and infrequent patron trips. Modern design philosophies are now embracing the incorporation of plant life and other natural elements into play areas. At the core of this philosophical shift is the fact that nature is intrinsically dynamic and ever changing, and that the addition of these features to playgrounds introduces variety, change, and opportunities for creativity.

Until recently, the concepts of nature-based play were founded on observation and were weakly supported by research. However, supporting research is becoming more widely available. The following is an abstract for a research project conducted at Utah State University by Jeff Hamarstrom and Keith Christensen. The study investigated what elements are found in naturalized play spaces, what adult and teacher perceptions of these playgrounds are, and how natural elements are being used by children. The full thesis is available for review as well.
–Chad Kennedy, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Officer

Naturalized Playgrounds

Play is essential for children’s emotional, cognitive, social, physical, and educational development [5]. The play environment can support these diverse needs in different ways [7, 3, 1]. The growing concern of parents and outdoor play researchers over the loss of interaction between children and nature has pushed designers toward creating play environments that are based more on natural elements than manufactured equipment [9, 11, 5, 4]. These playgrounds are often referred to as “natural” or “naturalized” and typically contain elements such as water, plants, flowers, hills, tree groves, weather stations, rock outcrops, and streambeds. They might also contain some of the typical manufactured play structures such as swings, multi-level structures, or climbing structures [13]. While the elements being used might differ, all naturalized playgrounds promote the idea that natural elements are there to be a part of play and to be played with; they are not just there for aesthetic value.

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Piet Oudolf’s Garden for Hauser & Wirth

Design concept image: Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Design concept
image: Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Piet Oudolf’s planting designs for such high-profile projects as Chicago’s Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and New York’s High Line have created a definitive “new perennials” style that he describes as “romantic, nostalgic, not wild, organic, spontaneous” in an article in The Telegraph. His gardens can be recognized by their large sweeps or drifts of tall perennial varieties and more naturalized plant choices, which create blocks of color and texture that weave the eye through the garden. Veronicastrum, Sanguisorba, Cimicifuga, Miscanthus, Rudbeckia, and Eupatorium are several perennials that often populate his signature gardens.

At Hauser & Wirth Somerset, a new gallery and arts center in Southwest England that will open this July, Oudolf is further developing his style to include combination groups of perennials, grasses, and groundcovers in his stylistic development as a garden designer. Additional cultivars and variously scaled selections will be arranged in repeating clumps versus the usual expansive drifts.

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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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Rethinking Runoff: Shrubs & Stormwater

Harrison Street Bioswale in Syracuse, NY image: Ethan Dropkin
Harrison Street bioswale in Syracuse, NY
image: Ethan Dropkin

Stormwater retention is a hot-button issue among landscape architects. It’s something that all designers need to consider and can pose challenges on specific sites as well as in larger ecological systems. As landscape architects, we strive to implement creative practices to mitigate stormwater issues.

The planted retention/infiltration practice is one familiar to us all; however, this practice comes with its own unique set of care and maintenance issues. Enter the new guide from Cornell University’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI): “Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices: Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions.” This guide by authors Ethan M. Dropkin and Nina Bassuk of Cornell University includes helpful information about issues associated with stormwater, various mitigation practices, and an extensive plant list.

In the past, designers have tended to select wet site-tolerant plants for these installations; however, while bioswale soils may be wet for brief periods, they are more often very dry between rainfall events. The authors tested several plants for their wet and dry tolerance and developed a bulletin describing many woody plants that are well-adapted to these conditions of alternately wet and dry soils.

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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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