PPN Interview: Central Park Conservancy

by Jonathan Ceci, ASLA

Historic Preservation PPN Officer Jonathan Ceci, ASLA, facilitates an interview and Q&A with Christopher Nolan, FASLA, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Landscape Architect, Central Park Conservancy, and Lane Addonizio, Affil. ASLA, AICP, Vice President for Planning, Central Park Conservancy. / image: Alexandra Hay

At the ASLA 2018 Annual Meeting and EXPO, members of the Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN) were treated to an interview with Lane Addonizio, Affil. ASLA, and Chris Nolan, FASLA, of the Central Park Conservancy. The two shared experiences from their decades-long stewardship of America’s First Park, a calling that often involves negotiating a delicate balance between preservation and change.

Two days prior, I had attended their session on the challenges and rewards of improving accessibility in Central Park, Thinking Inclusive: Strategies and Perspectives on Accessibility from Central Park’s Experience. I found it one of the more inspiring sessions of the conference because Chris and Lane tied the matter of access back to the Park founders’ democratic vision. Lane shared this quote from The Third Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Central Park (January 1860):

The primary purpose of the Park is to provide the best practicable means of healthful recreation, for the inhabitants of the city, of all classes. It should have an aspect of spaciousness and tranquility, with variety and intricacy of arrangement, thereby affording the most agreeable contrast to the confinement, bustle, and monotonous street-division of the city…The Park is intended to furnish healthful recreation for the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the vicious and the virtuous, so far as each can partake therein without infringing upon the rights of others, and no further.

In their interview during the PPN meeting, Chris and Lane referred back to this founding mission and explained that restrained adaptation has always been essential to fulfilling the Park’s historic mission of remaining broadly accessible to the public.

Central Park / image: Jonathan Ceci

They also explained that questions of period-of-significance can be murky because Central Park, like many other cultural landscapes, has layers of design history. They shared diverse examples ranging from their work renewing playgrounds to projects (some currently in design) that will right some of the wrongs of mid-century modifications. Engaging the communities that use the Park in dialogue allows them to explain immediate projects within the larger narrative of the Park’s history and its democratic mission.

The interview, which was held in the PPN Lounge on the EXPO floor, attracted a large audience and many stuck around after the meeting for further discussion with Chris and Lane. Before adjourning the meeting, PPN past chair Tina Bishop, ASLA, invited attendees to get more involved by serving on the PPN leadership team or by contributing articles to The Field. If you are interested but didn’t get to sign up at the meeting, please contact me or Tina.

Central Park / image: Jonathan Ceci

Thinking Inclusive: Strategies and Perspectives on Accessibility from Central Park’s Experience, the education session presented by interviewees Lane Addonizio, Affil. ASLA, and Chris Nolan, FASLA, was recorded and is available via the ASLA Online Learning website, learn.asla.org.

Jonathan Ceci, ASLA, is Principal of Jonathan Ceci Landscape Architect and an Officer and Past Chair of the ASLA Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN). Jonathan’s practice focuses on the planning and design of gardens, campuses, and cities. He recently led campus transformation projects at Clemson University and Grinnell College and a large, multidisciplinary consultant team working to transform the National Aquarium’s waterfront campus in Baltimore. After nearly a decade at Ayers Saint Gross (where he served as principal in charge of the firm’s landscape architecture team), Jonathan has launched an independent design studio.

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