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.

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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.

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Futuristic Preservation

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century  image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.
Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century
image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Point Cloud Surveys of Historic Landscapes

When the US Secretary of the Interior first introduced the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation: HABS/HAER  in 1983, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and most of us did not yet know how to type—let alone know how to work on a PC.  This document was formulated in a pre-digital age and is, not-surprisingly, pre-digital in orientation; specifying such parameters for the documentation of historic structures as the use of black and white photography, the requisite submission of film negatives and consistency of hand-lettering.  Today, some of the specific requirements seem almost quaint: “Level I measured drawings will be lettered mechanically (i.e., Leroy or similar) or in a hand printed equivalent style.”  Incidentally, these standards served as a prototype for the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) when it was initiated in 2000.

In the decades since 1983, we have witnessed a revolution in Information Technology.  It has resulted in fundamental changes to the way that disciplines such as landscape architecture and history are practiced.  In the 1990s, Computer-Aided Design transformed the workflow of landscape architectural practice from design and documentation through construction.  A second wave of transformation has arrived with Building Information Management (BIM) / Site Information Management (SIM) applications and is beginning to transform the roles of designer and contractor in project delivery.  In the study of history today, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research and analysis is not uncommon.  Other new technologies and software applications are now emerging with the potential to transform a wide array of disciplines from ecology to historic preservation.   What follows is a discussion of one of these tools in particular—the digital “Point Cloud Survey”—and a review of its use in the context of a preservation and adaptive reuse project in Saudi Arabia.

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The 2013 HALS Challenge

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrandimage: www.doaks.org
Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrand
image: http://www.doaks.org

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes.  Each year the HALS office at the National Park Service issues a challenge, encouraging landscape architects and preservation professionals to document historic landscapes related to a new theme.

The theme of the 2013 challenge is “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.

Individuals and groups from every state are encouraged to complete at least one HALS short format history for a cultural landscape related to this theme, whether vernacular or designed, in order to increase awareness of the role of women in shaping the American landscape. The top three submissions will receive awards and be announced at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston during the HALS Meeting.

If you have not already begun a submission, there is still time to start. Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2013 (c/o Paul Dolinsky, Chief of HALS, 202-354-2116).   All HALS documentation is permanently housed and publicly accessible at the Library of Congress.

Click here for more information: HALS Challenge

by  Jonathan Ceci, Chair of the Historic Preservation PPN