A Healing Garden in a Therapeutic Landscape

by Rebecca W. Flemer, Affiliate ASLA

William Hamilton (1745-1813) was born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family of colonial lawyers and politicians. Hamilton was an eminent botanist and plant collector, and made The Woodlands a New World model of contemporary English landscape gardening techniques. / image: William Russell Birch (1755-1834). “Woodlands, the Seat of Mr. Wm. Hamilton, Pennsylvania,” from Country Seats of the United States, 1808.

Visit any hospital or healthcare facility in North America and you are likely to find a “healing garden.” This may be a revamped courtyard or a purposely composed landscape designed to benefit patients and their caregivers. Preliminary plans are underway in the Dell area of Woodlands Cemetery in West Philadelphia for a healing garden and green burial site. At first glance, a healing garden in a cemetery may appear to be counterintuitive. However, the institution’s founders and early patrons believed in the therapeutic influence of nature and current plans build on those ideals. Close to the city and multiple healthcare facilities, the garden will serve as a place to learn, heal, and reflect. Aaron Wunsch, Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jessica Baumert, Executive Director, have been discussing this plan with Cherie Eichholz, PhD, a social worker at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. Outlines for such a scheme also appear in the cemetery’s 2015 master plan.

The Woodlands, a 54-acre historic cemetery and estate, is located near the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia VA Hospital (The Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center). The surrounding neighborhood is a mixture of students and professors, with a daily influx of patients and visitors to the nearby medical complexes.

At just under an acre, the ruggedly overgrown north-eastern corner of the Woodlands is known as “The Dell.” Steep sloping ground—20 feet in depth—discouraged burials here. A stream, Middle Run, ran through the area and held a water collection tank which fed an early irrigation line. The area is part of a buffer around the cemetery protecting the grounds from the surrounding commotion of city traffic and noise.

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Capturing a City’s Vision for a Dynamic Public Plaza

by Shane Friese, ASLA

Colleyville Plaza rendering / image: Freese and Nichols, Inc.

City Hall in Colleyville, Texas, looks out on a 140-by-140-foot flat area of lawn with no trees or distinguishing features. But not for long.

City leaders envisioned turning that unadorned lawn into a dynamic public space with a critical linkage to City Hall and the Public Library. The goals included creating a signature gathering place for residents of this city of 25,000 residents near Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and making retail/office/residential development adjacent to City Hall an even more enticing location.

The new Colleyville Plaza is set to break ground this year. When the project is completed, it will provide a welcoming community centerpiece with amenities that include a covered stage for small concerts and events, string lighting to brighten a new pedestrian corridor, benches and tiered seating for casual or formal use, attractive plantings, a signature fountain and an open area for gatherings such as the city’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration. During events, food trucks will be able to set up on the new pedestrian corridor in front of City Hall.

Our experience in working closely with the City to design the plaza underscored valuable lessons for meeting a client’s strategic goals with a plan that embraces and reflects local character.

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The Greening of Schoolyards: Campus Master Plans are Vital Tools

by Jane Tesner Kleiner, ASLA, RLA

Hough Elementary School’s outdoor classroom
Students practicing their year-end play in Hough Elementary School’s outdoor classroom / image: Jane Tesner Kleiner

I recently attended lunch recess at a local elementary school. With a bright orange measuring tape and a can of white marking paint in hand, I made my way to the far corner of the playground. It was a typical elementary school setting: lots of grass, a few trees, pavement play, and manufactured play structures. There was not much else, including shade, and it was pretty warm already. Before I knew it, though, a small cluster of kids trailed behind me, asking the classic, “Whatcha doing?” When I said I was marking the location for their new Butterfly, Sensory, and Strawberry Garden, they told me they were going to help. And as we talked, I gave them the BIG PICTURE of what we wanted to change on their campus. I shared with them the campus Master Plan.

Greening of Schoolyards (GOSY) projects can involve many things, but central to them all are access for everyone and user safety. Of course, in a world of sanitized “play structures” and manufactured authenticity, adding natural areas can come with concerns, many of which stem from lack of experience on the part of stakeholders. They aren’t uncreative…they just haven’t redesigned large, open spaces. When it comes to schools, thoughtful master planning encompasses two main objectives: enhancing the campus and building buy-in among numerous constituent groups.

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How GROW is Changing BrightView, One Woman at a Time

by Kate Douglas Kestyn, Affiliate ASLA

A recent regional conference called GROW Live!
A recent regional conference called GROW Live! in Blue Bell, PA / image: Kate Douglas Kestyn

The American Society of Landscape Architects was founded by 11 people. Do you know how many were women? One.

Beatrix Farrand studied the art and science of landscape before any formal academic programs existed. In the late 1800s women were excluded from public projects, but that didn’t stop Beatrix from gaining prominence. She began her career designing private residential gardens, but her later work is likely better known to you. It includes the National Cathedral, White House gardens, Princeton, and Yale.

She was the first. Since then, woman have come to serve a broad range of roles in the landscape industry. But we are still outnumbered by men. That’s why BrightView—the nation’s largest landscape company—founded GROW (Growth in Relationships + Opportunities for Women), the company’s first Employee Resource Group (ERG), with the goal to attract, retain, and promote women in the company.

Caring for our people is part of BrightView’s culture. The new corporate reality since BrightView went public is that shareholders have certain expectations and cultivating diversity is among them. “Being the largest landscape company in the country carries certain obligations as a leader in the industry,” said CEO Andrew Masterman. “The GROW initiative is just one way we can achieve that.” He added, “the women of BrightView are making history, changing the way landscaping is delivered, and leading the design, development, maintenance, and enhancements of some of the country’s most recognizable environments.”

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Documenting Historic Streetscapes

Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore
Mount Vernon Place, Charles & Monument Streets, Baltimore, MD (perspective view looking northeast at the north street side of East Mount Place; view includes the statue “Force”) / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS MD-1-19

The mission of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) is to document historic landscapes of the United States. Since 2010, landscape architecture preservation enthusiasts have been challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to increase awareness of particular cultural landscapes through the annual HALS Challenge competition. Past themes have been: Cultural Landscapes of Childhood, Cultural Landscapes of Diversity, the American Latino Landscape, Cultural Landscapes of Women, Landscapes of the New Deal, Modernist Landscapes, National Register-Listed Landscapes, City and Town Parks, and Memorialization, Commemorating the Great War.

For the tenth annual HALS Challenge, the National Park Service invites you to document a historic streetscape—either an individual street or a contiguous network or grid of streets. The deadline to enter is July 31, 2019.

What makes your favorite historic street(s) unique? Does your local Historic Preservation Commission protect the streetscape characteristics and features of historic districts along with the contributing buildings? You may increase historic landscape awareness with your local governments and preservation commissions by documenting historic streetscapes for HALS and illuminating these significant pieces of America’s circulatory system.

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