Richmond on the James: Stories of Landscape Transformation

by Kimball Erdman, ASLA, and John Zvonar

William James Bennett after George Cooke, “Richmond: From the Hill above the Waterworks” (published 1834, NGA 66532) / image: Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art

Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation 43rd Annual Meeting
Richmond, Virginia  |  May 24-27, 2023

Call for Papers and Posters Extended
Deadline: February 20, 2023

An Invitation:

The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation (AHLP) is pleased to announce its 2023 annual meeting theme of Richmond on the James: Stories of Landscape Transformation to be held in Richmond, VA. We envision the Richmond meeting as a landscape dialogue/exploration that addresses, analyzes, and critiques contemporary issues of the urban cultural landscape. Homelands of the Powhattans and later a major city of the American South, Richmond is situated at the fall line of the historic James River. Richmond is Virginia’s third capital city after Jamestown and Williamsburg and, for most of the U.S. Civil War, the capital of the Southern Confederacy. It is a vibrant and revitalizing modern city notable for industry, visual arts education, and medicine, but also significant for Virginia’s Capitol Square, the Richmond National Battlefield Park, historic parks, significant cemeteries, and urban streetscapes. The summer of 2020 focused attention on Richmond’s most controversial landscape of memorial monumentality glorifying the Southern Lost Cause Narrative, as well as its legacy of slavery. Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, listed as one of the Eleven Most Endangered Sites in 2014 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was the second largest enslaved persons’ auction site in North America. As part of Richmond’s efforts to acknowledge and repair its complicated past, the city, developers, and the preservation community are exploring ways to embrace the 21st century through densifying and preserving historic neighborhoods; involving  institutions of education and government; dismantling and recreating monumental landscapes; focusing attention on memorializing and redeveloping portions of its notorious Shockoe Bottom enslaved auction site; grappling with desecrated and previously ignored Black cemeteries; and celebrating the recreational and scenic opportunities of its James River location.

National publications rate Richmond as one of the best places to live, work, and visit. At the same time, Richmond is reconsidering the places of its often-painful past—many that are landscape-related. Our meeting program and explorations of Richmond will focus on these issues, with hopes that attendees will share how other places’ dilemmas and successes resonate with Richmond and national, regional, and worldwide issues.

We hope that most submissions will relate to these major topics:

a) landscape legacies of suppression, enslavement, submersion, segregation and supremacy, and

b) landscape treatment of disconnected/disrupted or racialized landscapes through contemporary landscape interventions, planning and design dialogues, and innovation.

Accordingly, the following session themes serve as organizing principles for the 2023 program:

  • Indigenous Landscapes of Memory, Visibility, Intervention, and Preservation;
  • Racialized and other Culturally Distinct Contexts of the Historic Urban Landscape;
  • Culture and Context: Neighborhood and Transportation Networks Roles in Urban Landscape Connections;
  • Governmental Centers and Educational Institutions Expansion within Historic Urban Landscapes;
  • Historic Parks and Cemeteries: Questions of Equity in the Urban Landscape;
  • Re-inventing Industrial Rivers and Other Places of Work and Industry and their Environs; and
  • Who Controls the Landscape? Historic and Contemporary Factors of Finance and Regulation.

We encourage a wide range of proposals concerning these and related session topics in the context of current issues, best practices, and innovative policies that may include but are not limited to:

  • The ever-evolving theory and practice of landscape conservation, designation, and preservation of varied historic and cultural landscapes;
  • Contemporary treatment issues that respond to changing values in historic preservation and current programmatic needs of diversity, inclusion, and equity in significant and culturally distinct and/or traditionally segregated landscapes as they are re-discovered, re-interpreted, re-planned and re-designed. This topic is intended to include but is not limited to neighborhoods, monuments and monument grounds, commercial districts, urban parks, cemeteries, campuses of higher education, governmental and other institutional grounds;
  • Historic and contemporary use of the controlling tools and techniques of funding and regulation (insurance and financial redlining, exclusionary zoning, etc.) in planning, managing, impeding, and incentivizing change in urban, rural, and peri-rural landscapes; and
  • Global climate change and the implications on landscape conservation and preservation; transformations of the rivers of industry to places of outdoor recreation and landscape amenity as well as places of production and consumption.

Proposals addressing any issue relating to the theory and practice of landscape preservation and conservation will also be considered.

Proposals are invited within three categories of presentations; however, because of time constraints, you may submit one proposal only regarding the first two categories.

  1. Papers: 30-minute papers addressing issues in landscape preservation theory, practice, or education. Please submit an abstract of 500 words or less outlining the topic of the paper, its context within theory, practice, or education, its timeliness, principal findings or conclusions, and questions for discussion.
  2. Summaries of Works-in-Progress: 15-minute discussions of on-going projects. Please submit a proposal of 250 words or less outlining the work-in-progress, its context and potential significance, and questions for discussion.
  3. Posters: Graphic presentations of projects using appropriate illustrative techniques, suitable for displaying on easels (one panel 30″ by 40″ is recommended). Please submit a proposal of 250 words or less outlining the project, its context and significance, and questions for discussion.

All abstracts and proposals must be submitted electronically as email attachments—these should be Microsoft Word documents and be arranged as follows:

  • Title page: this should note the type of presentation proposed, then give the title of the presentation, the author’s name, mailing address, institution/firm affiliation, phone number, and email address.
  • Content pages: these should note the type of presentation and the title, and then provide an abstract or proposal within the word limits established above. Please do not include your name or any identifying personal information on content pages. Include page numbers and paper/poster title in the footer.

The conference paper sessions will be structured to encourage discussion. Please consider joining forces with a colleague to present papers that reflect innovative or complementary research, public policy, or preservation practice related to the conference topics. Each paper should be relatively brief, to accommodate a robust discussion period that follows.

Questions and proposals should be sent to Kimball Erdman at The revised deadline for all submissions is February 20, 2023.

For more information regarding the conference and the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, please visit our website.

The Selection Process

Proposals will be evaluated using a blind, peer review process. Applicants will be notified of the decision of the panel by March 13, 2023. Selection will be based on the following criteria (listed in order of importance):

  • Originality of content and approach
  • Likelihood of the topic stimulating interdisciplinary discussion
  • Relevance to the theme of the meeting

Presenters must pre-register for the meeting and join the Alliance if they are not already members.

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