A couple weeks ago I attended the Second Wave of Modernism II Conference at the Museum of Modern Art, a follow-up to the 2008 Conference held in Chicago. Presented by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), and sponsored by Charles Luck Stone Center and Landscape Forms, the all-day event featured three panels geared around the general theme of Landscape Complexity and Transformation: Residential Transformations, Urban Renewal Re-Evaluated, Metropolitan Transformations. Given TCLF's focus on "increasing the public's awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of its cultural landscapes," landscape architects, academics, and related practitioners comprised the majority of the participants, but, as will be seen, a couple architects were also thrown into the mix. Below are my quick-and-dirty, one-to-two-sentence summaries of the various contributions throughout the day.
Barry Bergdoll, Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, situated the conference within the larger context of the museum's exhibitions -- from 1964's "Modern Gardens and the Landscape" to 2005's "Groundswell" -- that focused on landscape architecture.
Charles Birnbaum, founder of TCLF and the Conference's main organizer, presented some of the "First Wave" of modern landscape architects and their writings (Fletcher Steele, Lawrence Halprin, Dan Kiley, etc.), and then laid down the ground rules for the panels: each presenter should discuss their influences, their ideology, and a specific project.
Jane Amidon, Professor and Director in Urban Landscape at Northeastern University, was optimistic about the growth of landscape architecture as a profession but warned that it will need to deal with more stringent codes that parallel that growth.
Panel 1: Residential Transformations:
Joeb Moore, Principal of Joeb Moore + Partners, spoke fairly abstractly and psychologically about a shift from object/product/mechanics to process/field/systems, recounting the writings of György Kepes and Richard Neutra ("Inner and Outer Landscape") and the work of MIT's The Center for Advanced Visual Studies, which Kepes founded.
Lisa Gimmy, Principal of Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture, traced her influences from visiting Sea Ranch as a young girl to visiting the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm; she presented her office's renovation of the landscape around Richard Neutra's Kun 2 house in the Hollywood Hills, a design that skillfully works plantings into new retaining walls and features an undulating carpet of green over some boulders.
Christopher LaGuardia, Principal of LaGuardia Design, brought up one of the few architects (not landscape) that appear to bridge the two realms: Luis Barragan; he then spoke about Norman Jaffe (an architect who did lots of houses on Long Island and actually employed LaGuardia for a while) and the Perlbinder Residence, which was added to by architect Cristian Sabella Rosa with a reconfigured landscape by LaGuardia.
Gary Hilderbrand, Principal of Reed Hilderbrand Associates, grew up on the Hudson River, which was a large influence alongside the weekend trips to New York City and museums like the Whitney and MoMA. He discussed his work on the landscape around the Beck House in Texas by Philip Johnson; I especially liked Hilderbrand's statement that he designs relative to the next larger order, in this case the nearby river, which the new landscape echoes in parallel rows of stone terraces.
Panel 2: Urban Renewal Re-Evaluated:
Thaisa Way, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, discussed, as the panel moderator, the need to refine, rather than replace, when facing work on urban renewal projects from the last century.
Elizabeth K. Meyer, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia, discussed the future of the grounds around the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) in St. Louis; she worked as a historian with designer Michael Van Valkenburgh, presenting some great archival photos of the city before and after the construction of the Arch and the grounds, as well as sketches of the latter by landscape architect Dan Kiley.
Michael Van Valkenburgh, Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, spoke highly of the influence of Dan Kiley, including his gardens at the Art Institute of Chicago, an outdoor place I am also fond of. He mainly spoke about the winning design for JNEM, which shifts the entry from the north, and a large parking garage, to the west, and garages within the downtown; it focuses on edges, such as the Mississippi River, where the walkway will merge with the water; and it moves away from a "mow, blow, and go" landscape.
Charles Renfro, Principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, spoke about glass, particularly in relation to DS+R's Lincoln Center transformation; his one mention of landscape was the Illumination Lawn, "an egalitarian space on top of an elitist restaurant."
Raymond Jungles, Principal of Raymond Jungles Inc., talked about growing up in Nebraska, playing hockey in Illinois (hey, I did that too!), stealing a magazine with a Barragan project from his dentist's office, and moving to Miami and working with Roberto Burle Marx. For the project he candidly discussed the 1111 Lincoln Road project with Herzog and de Meuron, who explained to Jungles, when he proposed a structure of some sort in the landscape, that "landscape architects do not design structures in HdM projects."
Before the break for lunch, Charles Birnbaum had some choice words for Charles Renfro, whose firm transformed a Dan Kiley-designed landscape at Lincoln Center, yet who failed to mention Kiley once during his presentation. On the other hand, Michael Van Valkenburgh mentioned Kiley close to 40 times. Admittedly perturbed, Birnbaum found Renfro's lack of mention or appreciation to be indicative of a fissure between architects and landscape architects, something that needs to be overcome. At the time I wasn't sure if he was also berating Valkenburgh for name-dropping Kiley so much, instead of focusing on other things (process, ecology, etc.). Yet both landscapes were designed by Kiley, so the latter definitely was not the case
Panel 3: Metropolitan Transformations:
Due to getting back late from lunch I missed Bradford McKee, Editor-in-Chief of Landscape Architecture Magazine, and Julie Bargmann, Founding Principal of D.I.R.T. Studio, though a friend pointed out that the latter is responsible for the design at BLDG92, which I omitted to research and mention in my blog post, since corrected. Looks like, per Charles Birnbaum's comments, I have some work to do.
James Corner, Principal of James Corner Field Operations, had the most diverse influences, from his Manchester upbringing (city, nature, soccer) to Ian McHarg, Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette, Robert Rauschenburg, Rowe and Koetter's Collage City, and even how sweat on the skin indicates that form and process are one. His project -- the Qianhai Water City near Shenzhen, China -- uses landscape "fingers" to clean the water in the new town of 5 million people.
Kathyrn Gustafson, Founding Partner and Director of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, talked about her upbringing in Yakima, Washington, and how its landscape of dry nature and irrigation influenced her thinking, which contrasted with the grand gardens of Versailles. She presented a couple in-progress projects and ended by stating that landscape architects should focus on creating places for discovery, layering history, program, nature and ecology.