Land Slide: Great American Landscapes at Risk
As with historic buildings, cultural landscapes reveal aspects of national
origin and development through their forms, features, and history of use.
More than just gardens and parks, cultural landscapes range from thousands
of acres of rural land to quaint homesteads with a small front yard.
The innately evolutionary nature of cultural landscapes makes them highly
vulnerable to misuse and ill-advised change. Consequently, many of the
places in which we live, work, and play often change in ways that threaten
their unique character and national importance. The collective story of
such places is the focus of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s
list of Land Slide landscapes. Every other year TCLF will
issue a list highlighting a particular type of cultural landscape. This
year, the focus is on masterworks of landscape architecture and spans
approximately 250 years of design excellence. The list for 2002 includes:
Front Lawn: East Plaza, U.S. Capitol Grounds, Washington, D.C.
Designed between 1874 and 1892 by Frederick Law Olmsted, this landscape
is threatened by proposed plans to build a much-needed but ill-conceived
underground visitor's center.
in the City: Seneca Park, Rochester, New York
Although sections of the park have been lost to earlier development, portions
of Frederick Law Olmsted's design survive along the Trout Pond. A recent
proposal to triple the size of the park zoo and create a 650-car parking
lot would replace these survivals with a sea of asphalt and concrete.
Soon We Forget: Three Invisible Modernist Designs by Lawrence Halprin
Bulldozers or neglect threaten three masterworks by one of the twentieth
century’s pre-eminent landscape architects: the sunken sculpture
garden and fountain at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1976)
in Richmond; Denver’s linear urban promenade, Skyline Park
(1973); and Fort Worth’s Heritage Park
as Text: River Road Estates, Louisville, Kentucky
The picturesque bluffs overlooking the Ohio River host three miles of
contiguous estates dating from 1875 to 1938 and represent the diverse
work of such landscape architects as the Olmsted firm, Carrere and Hastings,
Bryant Fleming, and Marian Coffin. Today, a major transportation study
is considering the construction of a monumental bridge, which, if built,
would destroy the continuity of this outstanding collection.
Midwestern Original: Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, Akron, Ohio
Designed in the 1910s by Boston landscape architect Warren Manning for
industrialist patron Frank Seiberling, this Arts and Crafts estate is
threatened today by poor drainage and storm-water management. Much of
the historic landscape is slated for excavation in order to save the foundation
of the building. Although the plan is to restore the historic gardens,
funds are currently not available.
Cradle of Modernism: The Indiana Landscapes of Dan Kiley: North Christian
Church, Columbus, and Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
These 1960s projects done in collaboration with architect Eero Saarinen
reveal Kiley’s philosophical commitment to modern design. Now, the
Indiana Department of Transportation plans to widen a road that will destroy
part of the North Christian Church landscape. Even more destructive was
a recent tornado that devastated the Concordia campus, including 779 trees
that helped to define its significant spaces and visual relationships.
California Dream Personified: Val Verde, Montecito, California
Perhaps even more significant than the Spanish Colonial Revival house
designed by Bertram Goodhue are the powerful and poetic gardens, transformed
in the 1930s from dull formal expressions into a simple evocation of an
Italian villa garden by pioneering California landscape architect, Lockwood
de Forest. A local preservation group wishes to protect this California
Landmark and open it to limited tours, but neighbors and the City of Santa
Barbara have objected. A lawsuit is pending.
the Waterfront: Christopher Columbus Park, Boston, Massachusetts
Designed in the mid-1970s by Sasaki Associates, this revolutionary design
reclaimed a segment of Boston’s harbor by commemorating its former
industrial past. Today, the future of this park is uncertain. After several
years of neglect a new landscape plan has been proposed, one that, however,
sweeps away nearly all elements of the original design.
Poem Lovely as a Tree: Savannah, Georgia
Designed in the 1730s by James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah has
maintained a rich environment with hundreds of historic structures clustered
around 22 public parks and squares. Part of Savannah's charm and unique
character stems from the hundreds of live oak trees found throughout the
city. This overarching canopy is disappearing at an alarming rate, the
life span of the trees frequently cut short by improper care, inappropriate
roadway projects, and the installation of communication lines.
College and University Campuses and their Settings
More than 3,300 campus landscapes can be found from coast to coast, representing
some two centuries landscape architectural design. In most cases, the
central quadrangles have been preserved, but equally important supporting
spaces and significant views and vistas have fallen prey to campus parking
and new building construction, forever altering these nationally significant
landscapes by such masters as Frederick Law Olmsted (Stanford University),
Warren Manning (Amherst College), Beatrix Farrand (Princeton University),
Ralph Cornell (UCLA, Los Angeles), and Harriet Wimmer (Revelle Campus,
University of CA at San Diego).