This past May, The Cultural Landscape Foundation brought together leaders and practitioners in landscape design, city building, and horticulture with the Civic Horticulture Conference in Philadelphia. The event aimed to spur a dialogue on how horticulture can be used in the creation of healthy, livable, and successful cities. Partner Susan Weiler led a discussion on how Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a prime example of this principle in action, leading attendees through the grand boulevard’s history and evolution, culminating in the creation of celebrated places like Logan Circle, the new Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum gardens, the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden, and Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Four Directions in Flowers garden installation.
In many ways, it might seem that landscape architects would, more than most other professionals, understand and appreciate the power of diversity. We design singular spaces that must be embraced by many different people at once—local residents, tourists, children, and adults, not to mention the stakeholders, client groups, and governmental entities with whom we collaborate. We value diversity in the environment, knowing that successful ecosystems—designed or natural—are only possible through the harmonious incorporation of myriad plant and animal species. But when it comes to diversity within our own ranks of design professionals, landscape architects have continually fallen behind the curve. Leaders in our field have begun to address this disparity, but it is up to each and every one of us to recognize the issues at hand and work together to find solutions.
The team of PennDesign and OLIN has been shortlisted for the first stage of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition. The four-phase competition, led by HUD’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, seeks to increase resilience throughout the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy with a variety of innovative design solutions that can be implemented across a range of scales throughout the region. Through this competition process, HUD will bring together design leaders, federal and local governments, community members, business and academia, and other organizations in order to understand the intricate network of interdependencies across the region and generate contextual and lasting improvements. This effort also represents a critical policy shift for HUD, which will be directing funding from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program to incentivize implementation of the competition’s winning proposals.
PennDesign and OLIN are joined by a multi-disciplinary core team of collaborators, including PennPraxis, HR&A, Happold Consulting, and eDesign Dynamics, as well as a diverse network of expert advisers. The team is one of ten to be shortlisted for the second phase of the competition, which will focus on research and analysis of the region in collaboration with stakeholders and identification of key design opportunities. To learn more about the competition and follow each team’s progress, visit rebuildbydesign.org.
“It’s sort of what Clausewitz said about politics, “It was war by other means.” It’s architecture by other means, so to speak.”
That’s one way Laurie Olin defines the practice of landscape architecture in this podcast, part of the National Endowment for the Arts‘ Art Works series. In this revealing interview, Laurie waxes on his childhood in Alaska, how he managed to study landscape architecture without knowing it, the profession’s role in the development of cities, iconic OLIN projects, and the moment he found out that he’d been selected to receive the National Medal of Arts.
The Society for College and University Planning, in association with the AIA Committee on Architecture for Education, has recognized the team behind the recent revitalization of California Memorial Stadium at the University of California, Berkeley with the 2013 Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture for Restoration or Preservation. Much more than a renovation effort, the design team orchestrated a significant modernization of the historic, Beaux Arts stadium, including a state-of-the-art press box and improved access through a series of flexible outdoor gathering spaces that guide students, athletes, and fans up to the stadium from the campus below. This gradual ascension along the significant grade change between the campus and stadium was made possible by the integration of the new Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, an athletic training facility built directly into the slope of the mountain, seamlessly integrating modern architecture within the campus context and historic stadium.
OLIN served as the landscape architect on this project, as part of a design team which included prime architect HNTB Architects; associate architect STUDIOS Architecture; lighting designer Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design; structural engineer Forell/Elsesser Engineers; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer WSP Flack + Kurtz; geotechnical engineer Geomatrix; civil engineer Bellecci & Associates; surveyor BKF Engineers; signage consultant Debra Nichols Design; and irrigation consultant Brookwater Irrigation Consultants.
In 1996, the City of Philadelphia Streets Department, matching a $5 million federal grant, undertook the first steps in an incremental public realm restructuring for the Schuylkill River. Recognizing an erosion and stormwater control problem was causing increased contaminant levels in the river and threatening the right of way of a critical CSX freight line, the City reinforced the shoreline with bulkheads and graded smooth the resulting made space. Today this same piece of waterfront is nearly unrecognizable. New high rises, activated park spaces, and improved connections are making what was once a degrading industrial site into a welcoming civic amenity. But this dramatic transformation was not the result of any single, sweeping overhaul. Instead, the Schuylkill Banks represents an important example of the power of incremental landscape infrastructure. The armature, created by a simple paved path, led to impactful offshoots and a networked public realm where previously there was none. The park is a prime example of the ability of landscape to provide socio-cultural value while simultaneously jump starting a powerful economic engine.
Portland’s Simon and Helen Director Park was designed for the ever-changing everyday: a calm note amid a frenetic morning commute, a lively lunchtime hangout, a refreshing break from a hot summer afternoon, and a relaxing evening retreat. This time lapse video (courtesy of YouTube user Andrew Louw) captures the subtle elegance of these transitions, a window into the ebb and flow of the everyday Director Park—and everyday Portland.
Laurie Olin is being honored with the National Medal of Arts, bestowed each year by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is the highest award given by the United States Government to artists and arts patrons for their contributions to fields ranging from arts education, crafts, dance, drawing, and film to graphic/product design, interior design, landscape architecture, literature, music, painting, photography, presenting, printmaking, sculpture, theater, and urban design. Laurie is the fourth landscape architect to receive the medal–past honorees have included Lawrence Halprin (2002), Dan Kiley (1997), and Ian McHarg (1990).
Laurie and his fellow recipients will be presented with the award by President Barack Obama this Wednesday in the East Room of the White House. The event will be streamed live at http://www.whitehouse.gov/Live.
It’s been just over one year since Lines in Four Directions in Flowers opened to the public on the west lawn of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Originally conceived by renowned conceptual artist Sol LeWitt over three decades ago, OLIN led the realization of the piece in collaboration with Groundswell Design Group, using 21st century technology and in-depth horticultural knowledge to bring LeWitt’s proposal to life. The project is now being recognized by the Public Art Network as part of the group’s Year in Review Program, which honors outstanding, exceptionally creative, or innovative public art works. This year’s list of projects was selected by a panel of public art experts, including artist Norie Sato, artist and Head of Carnegie Mellon University School of Fine Art John Carson, and Justine Topfer of the San Francisco Arts Commission.
Partner Susan Weiler, who led the design team for Lines in Four Directions in Flowers, was thrilled to hear the news. “It’s a great validation of our team’s work and commitment to maintaining the integrity of LeWitt’s vision,” she said. “Even though the concept—the ‘what’—was done, it was the ‘how’ that was the challenge. We spent months researching the color and flowering cycles of dozens of species and were able to design a system of plantings which ensures that there will always be an even pattern of blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Especially now, a year since the opening, it’s been incredible to see it all play out so beautifully.”
J.B. Jackson, in his book Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, wrote “No group sets out to create a landscape of course. What it sets out to do is to create a community, and the landscape as its visible manifestation is simply the by-product of people working and living, sometimes coming together, sometimes staying apart, but always recognizing their interdependence.” This spirit of community and collaboration couldn’t be more evident than in Stamford, Connecticut during the city’s recent opening celebration of Mill River Park. Residents gathered for a weekend of festivities along the banks of Mill River, commemorating the long anticipated 14-acre park and river restoration by the Army Corps of Engineers and park design by OLIN—a nearly decade-long project. But the full story of Mill River’s evolution reaches much farther back into Stamford’s history.