Reflection by Summer 2016 Boasberg Fellow Mikayla Raymond

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Feature Stories

Reflection by Summer 2016 Boasberg Fellow Mikayla Raymond

Reflection by Summer 2016 Boasberg Fellow Mikayla Raymond
Sep 22, 2016
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During my time at The Cultural Landscape Foundation, I found myself surrounded by some of the most forward-thinking historic preservation, design, and landscape architecture professionals- all of whom had made it their mission to create an accessible way to communicate the significance of historic and cultural landscapes to a broad audience. This unique group included two fellow cultural landscape fellows, who further inspired me with their breadth of knowledge, which admittedly had little overlap with my own academic focus. These different perspectives came together in a way that was only possible in the intimate office setting at TCLF.

Although my writing focus was New York City, I found inspiration in my DC setting. DC is a city with one of the deepest legacies of historic preservation battles - both won and lost – situated within an incomparable landscape context. It was in this heritage setting that I was able to take part in an aspect of preservation that I had thus far only been able to study. Living in Cleveland Park in the Boasberg home, and its beautiful garden, I felt firmly entrenched in the DC preservation story.

Over the course of eight weeks, I was able to write a substantial collection of essays which will soon become the National Park Service and the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Cultural Landscapes Guide to New York City, launching online and at a reception in New York City on October 14th. Not only did this allow and even encourage me to look at a wide array of sites- from public pools and playgrounds, public housing projects, community pocket parks and parkways, with equal attention paid to designs implemented both by often invisible and forgotten employees of the NYC Parks Department and by names like Olmsted- it forced me to approach these landscapes as a designer as well as a preservationist. As a preservationist, writing succinct essays intended for a design-oriented audience was a challenge that will definitely continue to the final year of my Master’s program, as I tackle a thesis that seeks to speak to landscape architects, environmentalists, and preservationists alike.

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New York Times Building Atrium, New York, NY, designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander in collaboration with HM White Architects - Image courtesy of HM White Architects

I was also able to flex my writing muscles in writing the announcement for Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s receipt of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects highest honor- the Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture. This award, the first of its kind, couldn’t have been presented to a more deserving landscape architect. In studying Oberlander’s background, I found myself inspired by this woman who had accomplished so much, and had laid down a pathway forward for women in the field to follow.  My admiration of Oberlander’s incomparable work and legacy set forth an intense curiosity for other women vanguards, and led to my participation in the ongoing project of getting more women landscape designers represented in our Pioneers database. By looking carefully at the New York sites I had been researching, I found that a number of women had been left out of the story. TCLF is at the forefront of getting these women the recognition they deserve, and I am overjoyed to have been a part of these efforts.

My fellowship offered me a unique educative experience, allowing me to both indulge my curiosity through research, and contribute to a publication in the field where I hope to see myself working in the near future. This opportunity helped me better envision my role in the future of this field moving forward, and launched me onto meaningful research as I complete my time in the Historic Preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania. I have begun a thesis on the Stoneleigh Estate’s restoration and transition into a native plant garden by the Natural Lands Trust, and hope to continue incorporating the skills I learned at TCLF, both in writing and understanding landscapes, into this project and beyond upon my graduation next May.

 

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Constitution Gardens, Washington, D.C. - Photo © Barrett Doherty, 2016