Friday, March 01, 2019

Shaping the Postwar Landscape

Shaping the Postwar Landscape: New Profiles from the Pioneers of American Landscape Design Project
Charles A. Birnbaum, Scott Craver (Editors)
University of Virginia Press, November 2018

Hardcover | 7 x 9 inches | 248 pages | English| ISBN: 9780813941738 | $65.00

Publisher Description:
Shaping the Postwar Landscape is the latest contribution to the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s well-known reference project, Pioneers of American Landscape Design, the first volume of which appeared nearly a quarter of a century ago. The present collection features profiles of seventy-two important figures, including landscape architects, architects, planners, artists, horticulturists, and educators.

The volume focuses principally on individuals whose careers reached their height during the period between the end of World War II and the American Bicentennial. In that postwar era, landscape architects played an important part in the revitalization of American cities, introducing new typologies for public spaces in the civic realm. Among these were parks that capped freeways, plazas and gardens atop buildings, promenades on revitalized waterfronts, "vest pocket" parks on tiny urban plots and derelict sites, and pedestrian-friendly downtown malls. Practitioners were also active on the new suburban frontier, their influence extending as far as Levittown and mobile-home communities. They created new outdoor living environments tailored to the California climate, and their work shaped landscaped in the American South, East, West, and Heartland.
dDAB Commentary:
A few years ago, when I was writing 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, a couple encyclopedic books were especially helpful in my research: Pioneers of American Landscape Design (2000) and Shaping the American Landscape (2009), both edited by Charles Birnbaum of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). Shaping the Postwar Landscape adds to those titles and brings the "Pioneers of American Landscape Design" series closer to the present by featuring around 75 landscape architects, educators, architects, and artists who have shaped the American landscape over the last half-century. Although considerably slimmer than the previous two books (both of them are around 480 pages), the new book is just as thorough with its biographical and  bibliographical information on important practitioners. Like its predecessors, it also includes in the back matter a handy list of "sites accessible to the public" by the designers in the preceding pages.

For decades Birnbaum has devoted his apparently inexhaustible energy to the preservation of modern landscapes through exhibitions, events, tours (including the "What's Out There Weekends"), TCLF's extensive website, editorials, guides, lectures, and many publications. While each component is important and content is often shared between platforms, Birnbaum sums up the need for all of it in Shaping the Postwar Landscape's Introduction: "when historical landscapes are threatened, documentation matters." TCLF's documentation in its many forms elucidates the intentions of designers; it expresses the importance of significant landscapes; and it solidifies the details that went into a built work. Without this documentation, the public doesn't know the significance of a Daniel Kiley landscape, for instance, or why M. Paul Friedberg's Peavey Plaza should be saved -- thanks to TCLF, it and other landscapes have been saved.

Author Bio:
Charles A. Birnbaum, founder, president, and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, ... a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, which in 2017 awarded him the ASLA Medal, its highest honor. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. Scott Craver, Ph.D., is the editorial director of the Cultural Landscape Foundation and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
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