landscape preservation

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Walkable Neighborhoods / Atlanta’s Beltline


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So last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and found out about a fun website called You simply type in a zipcode and the site shows you the most walkable neighborhoods. I put in my own address and it showed me all the walkable amenities close to me:

While the site isn’t perfect, it’s fun to see, and is very useful if you are researching a move.

By the way, the meeting I attended was about The Beltline:

OK, if you aren’t from Atlanta, you might not care about this. However, The Beltline is a huge urban planning project (thought up by a grad student for his thesis) that involves new development, land use, transportation,re-configuring roads and traffic patterns, historic preservation, new park space and greenspace, hopefully cleansing runoff, daylighting creeks, public art, et alia, and involves planning development at a very large scale for the next 30-50 years. Last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and its effect on my neighborhood, which borders Olmsted’s Piedmont Park. Like most cities that did most of their growing after the invention of the car, Atlanta is a very car-dependent, pedestrian and bicycle-unfriendly city, and the Beltline is a loop that will connect MARTA to a new transit loop connecting many of the intown neighborhoods. Along with the development will be new connecting streets to alleviate traffic and potentially some traffic circles. I shudder at the thought of Atlanta drivers trying to navigate a rotary, as this city is truly full of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen this side of the D.C. Beltway.

The following image is from a pre-first draft conceptual plan they (EDAW) are calling “Concept A”:

One thing I’d forgotten about from my grad school days and planning board job is that urban planners talk in a bunch of acronyms. I’d also forgotten about the fugly magic-marker images they come up with, and in spite of the simplicity of their designs, no one could tell the difference between the shades of purple on this thing, which was the difference between 9 story buildings and mile-high buildings, which caused quite a ruckus. One really scary thing about The Beltline, which is supposed to be surrounded by parkland and bike paths, is that one legal option at the moment is to sell off the land for single-family homes (the red line and yellow line along The Beltline represent a new road and single family homes along Piedmont Park). Considering some of the vultures that have been trying to profit from this project already, a lot of the possiblities are scary and I can see what a tough job the color-challenged planners have in front of them.

In a city with such severe water problems, one can only hope all of this development, which has a goal of creating at least 15 dwelling units per acre (supposedly, this is the ideal transit-friendly figure), will provide some solutions instead of making the problem worse. I haven’t heard this issue addressed much in regards to the potential of The Beltline land. Kathy Poole was a huge influence on me, and I would feel much better if she had a voice in this project.


Friday, June 13th, 2008

Project Row House Update: Third Ward TX Available on DVD


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A few months ago, Andrew Garrison saw my post about Project Row House and sent me a copy of the documentary he directed called Third Ward TX. This is a project that is so genius and moving to me; I’ve been following its progress for years. If you’d like to catch up, you really need to screen this film. I’ve dreaded and thus procrastinated writing this review for months because I know that words can’t do it justice. The last time I was moved to tears by a project or an exhibit was Gee’s Bend Quilts. It doesn’t happen often to this old cynic!


In 1993, Rick Lowe founded Project Row House. He was struck by how much the dilapidated shotgun shacks in the city of Houston reminded him of John Biggers’ paintings. He calls the shotgun shack “a humble abode and a temple.” As Lowe and a group of artists renovated the homes, they created a community where artists-in-residence would come stay and exhibit. Thus, the artists engaged the community and brought attention to a place that had been abandoned by many. Once a neighborhood with a small town feel, the area had fallen on hard times.


The first major result of PRH was eight exhibition houses housing two different artist per year, with exhibitions and exhibitions in progress showing for six months a year. The doors are open for people to walk through. Exhibits range from portraits to this 2001 Walter Hood installation:


After reaching this success, Lowe realized it was only the tip of the iceberg in helping the community. Thus, The Young Mothers in Residency Program was born. Single mothers were able to live in housing that is part of the project, and they are aided by mentor moms. They live rent free for two years while completing educations. These families become part of a thriving community. The amount of dignity this effort brings to people seems too powerful to describe. Read the rest of this entry »


Friday, May 23rd, 2008

A Few Favorite Modern Gardens


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It’s a long weekend, and many of you may be getting your first chance to really work in the yard this year. Here are a few of my personal favorites for inspiration. Enjoy!


Fletcher Steele at Naumkeag.   House by McKim, Mead and White.  This property is chock full of amazing garden rooms that are perfectly proportioned.


The Miller Garden, Columbus Indiana, by Dan Kiley. One of the best architect/landscape architect collaborations ever, between Kiley and architect Eero Saarinen.




The Pavilion Gardens at my alma mater, The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, originally by Thomas Jefferson.

I have not found a great comprehensive website documenting the Pavilion Gardens with good photographs; my best bet turned out to be flickr (where else? ). This one comes from flickr member abbyworld – Thanks abbyworld!. There seems to be a Thomas Jefferson/University of Virginia/Landscape Architecture hole on the web that needs to be filled. This is, I believe, the garden behind Pavilion VI. The sculpture is the Merton Spire, which according to these folks over at UVa, was “carved for Oxford’s Merton College Chapel in 1451. In 1928 it was given to the University to honor Jefferson’s educational ideals”. I’ve always loved this garden, as it is known as a wilderness garden, and thus is filled with native plants and is not arranged in a tight geometric plan. It stands out from the quincunxes, allees, and carefully pruned boxwood one sees around the rest of the campus, ahem, excuse me, grounds!

It’s interesting; even though the dates of these designs ranges from Jefferson’s era (around 1810) to the Guilded Age to the apex of modernism in late 1950s, I consider each of them modern in their own way, which is why I did not arrange them in chronological order.

•Image from Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect, by Robin Karsen, published by Abrams/Sagapress 1989. Photograph by the great landscape photographer, Alan Ward

•Image from The Miller Garden: Icon of Modernism, by Gary Hildebrand and David Dillon, published by Spacemaker Press 1989. Photograph, again, by who else? Alan Ward

•Image from flickr member abbyworld


Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Attention L.A.: FREE Frank Gehry Lecture this Weekend!


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I received this notice from Flavorpill today and first of all I just LOVE Shana’s writing. What an clever paragraph. It’s so much better than the standard event announcement:

Steve Martin famously said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture; tonight at the Hammer, audiences finally get to see that idea (almost) in action, as unpredictable architect Frank Gehry has it out with Bard College president and renowned classical-music scholar/conductor Leon Botstein, who commissioned Gehry to design Bard’s performing-arts center in 1996. Expect an entertaining chat about the progressive relationship between architects and cultural institutions, how to deal with large-room acoustics, and what they really think of the new LACMA down the street. – Shana Nys Dambrot

This will be a free lecture this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at The Hammer Museum in L.A and it should be fantastic. While in hot demand all over the world now, Frank Gehry has had his longest and most significant design relationship with L.A. over any other city. Furthermore, he has been crafting relationships between music and architecture for many years. He redesigned The Hollywood Bowl shell in 1970 and again in 1980, The Walt Disney Concert Hall in 1989, and The Experience Music Project in 1999. I’d love to know what he was listening to while designing each project. Read the rest of this entry »