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The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is a 15-acre linear urban space in downtown Boston, sited on land where Interstate 93 was previously located (now in a tunnel below). The greenway has been criticized for not being designed cohesively; however, the space should instead be considered as a series of disparate urban parks, each with its own merits.

One of the better-conceived spaces along this route is Chinatown Park, located at the southern end of the greenway. It was designed by Carol R. Johnson Associates, a Boston-based landscape architecture firm. The park is approximately three-quarter acre in size, and includes a curvilinear path with red sculptural features, a waterfall fountain and stream, plants native to Asia, and a plaza for festivals and other activities. China’s culture, history, and natural scenery are all represented by the park’s elements.

 

Chinatown Park 1
This bold, modern gate at the north entrance of the park is a counterpoint to the ornate, traditional Chinese gate to the south (shown in later photo). Red is a very popular color in China, representing good fortune and joy.

 

Chinatown Park 2
North park entrance – The sculpture in background is entitled “Zheng He’s Mizzen Sail”. The park’s pavement pattern symbolizes the scales of a dragon.

 

Chinatown Park 3
The waterfall fountain is composed of reclaimed seawall stones, acquired from a part of the Boston Harbor where many Chinese immigrants arrived.

 

Chinatown Park 4
Recirculating stream, flowing from the waterfall fountain

 

Chinatown Park 5
The park includes Peonies and many other plants of Asian origin.

 

Chinatown Park 6
“Bamboo curtains” at southern end of serpentine walkway

 

Chinatown Park 7
Plaza at southern end of park

 

Chinatown Park 8
The traditional Chinese gate can be seen at the south end of the plaza.

 
Photos by Alice Webb

Green roofs have important environmental and economic benefits, which include reducing stormwater runoff, cooling urban air temperatures, improving air quality, and reducing energy usage in buildings. Another positive outcome that I hadn’t given much thought to, until this week, is the wildlife habitat that green roofs create. This roof (below) in Boston supports a nesting gull, standing over its brood of chicks. Who could ask for a better home, with such great views of the city and harbor?

 

Green Roof in Boston

 

Photo by Alice Webb

The Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in Miami Beach includes a relatively new addition: a block of water gardens that evoke Florida’s Everglades. The site was designed by the landscape architecture firm of Raymond Jungles, Inc., and construction was completed in 2010. The surfaces of the water gardens are raised above the surrounding pavement, and include many native plants such as Bald Cypress, Red Mangrove, and Pond Apple. The biomorphic shapes of the gardens and seats are juxtaposed with the bold linear pattern of the surrounding pavement, creating an interesting combination of urban and natural themes.

 

Lincoln Road Mall 1
The gardens include a variety of plants that thrive in or near water, with an emphasis on native vegetation.

 

Lincoln Road Mall 2
Islands in the water gardens – these ones include large Bald Cypress trees. I’m guessing that the surrounding water somehow infiltrates the soil in the islands from below.

 

Lincoln Road Mall 3
A “dry” garden with Live Oak trees

 

Lincoln Road Mall 4
The gardens are raised above the surrounding pavement – some more than others.

 

Lincoln Road Mall 5
Mosaic surfacing forms bold stripes in the pavement.

 

Lincoln Road Mall 6
Water flows over this pond edge into a drain for recirculation.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

Adjacent to the New World Center building (home of the New World Symphony) in south Miami Beach is an interesting park that was designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm, West 8, and built though a private-public partnership. This 2.5-acre green space’s primary function is to serve as a venue for the public to watch symphony concerts, movies, and video art projected on a large blank wall of the building, all free of charge. Those events, however, take place in just one section of the park; the rest of the space mainly consists of crisscrossing walkways, long seat walls, and groves of palm trees.
 

I visited during a pleasant spring day on a Friday afternoon, and the park was somewhat deserted – I wonder if it gets more use on the weekends and during lunch time. I found the space to be unique and attractive in its design, but lacking in features and daytime activities that would tend to attract more people.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 1
The park entrances are accentuated by these sculptural structures with Bougainvillea growing in the centers.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 2
Lawn and projection wall

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 3
The park includes lots of shady areas for relaxation.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 4
Seat walls throughout the park include attached stones – an attractive accent, but also functional, since they would tend to keep homeless people from sleeping on the walls and deter skateboarding along the edges. I don’t know if these were the intentions of the designers and client, but it makes sense to me.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 5
Angular walkways cut through groves of palms and traverse the undulating topography, giving the park a sculptural quality.

 

Miami Beach Soundscape 6
The New World Center is seen through the trees – the lack of low vegetation allows for sight lines across most of the park.

 

Photos by Alice Webb

I’m often hesitant to tell people that I’m a landscape architect, and it’s not because I have anything to hide – it’s due to the misconception that comes with the title. People tend to hear the word “landscape” and ignore the “architect” that follows. Reactions often range from “you should look at my yard” to “winter must be your slow season”.  I tend to cringe at most responses, but politely try to explain what I do. I think that removing the word “landscape” from the title and substituting it with something else, such as “site”, would do a lot to avoid confusion, but our professional association isn’t about to alter a name used since the 1800s. We therefore need to keep educating the public about landscape architecture – I’m attempting to do my part with this post and with my blog in general.
 

In the meantime, I have started to tell people that I’m a type of architect that designs outdoor spaces. I then let them know that we are called landscape architects but our work isn’t limited to planting design, and that the vast majority of us do not perform any construction or installation. I also let them know that all 50 U.S. states require licensure for landscape architects, due to our impact on the public’s health, safety, and welfare.
 

Landscape architecture is a very broad field. The scale of work can range from very small spaces to entire regions, and the scope of design and planning can also vary widely. Examples of landscape architectural projects can include parks/recreation sites and facilities; streetscapes and other urban spaces; green infrastructure/storm water management; office and commercial sites; academic and corporate campuses; housing developments; hotel facilities and resorts; residential properties; green roofs; landscape art and earth sculpture; hospital grounds and therapeutic gardens; historic preservation; environmental restoration; transportation corridors and facilities; and urban/regional planning.
 

A landscape architect’s design work often begins with analysis of an existing site, followed by the design of schematic plans for the property. We later design and produce construction drawings and specifications, which contractors will follow to build/install our designs. Our construction drawings typically include, at minimum, the layout and specification of site features (such as walkways, parking areas, structures, and athletic facilities); grading and storm drainage design; a planting plan; and construction detailing.
 

I find it ironic that a profession having such a large and beneficial impact on the public is so misunderstood. I hope that significant progress is made to dispel its myths before too long. It would be nice to tell people that I’m a landscape architect and typically get responses like this: “Great – What types of projects do you design?”

This is the time of year (in New England, as least) that many of us are really longing for warmer weather, tired of shoveling snow and otherwise being secluded indoors. The following images (from my garden in spring and summer) should provide some welcome relief from the bleakness of winter:

 

Barren Strawberry
Barren Strawberry

 

Chives in bloom
Chives in Bloom

 

Cranesbills (True Geraniums)
Cranesbills (True Geraniums)

 

Crocus
Crocus

 

Fritillary butterfly on Boneset
Boneset with Fritillary Butterfly

 

Goat's Beard
Goat’s Beard with Hostas

 

Japanese Iris
Japanese Iris

 

Lace-cap Hydrangea
Lace-cap Hydrangea

 

New growth - variegated Andromeda
New Growth on Variegated Andromeda

 

Red Admiral on Enkianthus
Red Velvet Enkianthus with Red Admiral Butterfly

 

Variegated Solomon's Seal
Variegated Solomon’s Seal

 

Violets
Violets in the Lawn

 

Photos by Alice Webb

I’ve encountered a variety of interesting art pieces in landscape settings ranging from urban to natural. Some are in parks and nature preserves, others are along city streets and alleys, and a few are in small town centers. Some integrate visually and thematically with their surroundings, and others stand alone. Below are a few favorites.

 

1 - Art on the High Line 1
Cut-outs in a small panel (viewed through a scope) on New York City’s High Line transform this view of buildings into abstract shapes.

 

2 - Art on the High Line 2
More art on the High Line: A modernistic wire structure with houses and seed/fruit trays for birds and insects seems to represent the intersection of city and nature, as does much of the High Line. A similar structure faces the opposite direction on the other side of the walkway.

 

3 - Garden in the Woods
These transparent facial profiles at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, appear to symbolize the connection between people and nature.

 

4 - MSU art museum
Juxtaposition of “natural” and built forms – Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing

 

5 - Felice Varini - New Haven
Painted optical illusion in New Haven, Connecticut, by Felice Varini – this shape is only visible when one stands at a specific point. As one progresses further down the alley, it no longer appears as four circles within a square.

 

6 - Cambridge granite sculpture
Sculpture composed of various types of stone in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

7 - Sculpture in Eastport ME
Granite sculpture in Eastport, Maine – a town whose principal industry is commercial fishing

 

8 - CityGarden bas-relief
Bas-relief piece in CityGarden – a sculpture park in St. Louis, Missouri

 

9 - Sculpture in Montreal
A deep discussion taking place in Montreal, Quebec

 

10 - Belfast ME bench
Colorful bench in Belfast, Maine

 

11 - SLCH healing garden
Whimsical piece in the Olson Family Garden at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

 

See also Public Art in Outdoor Spaces (Part 1)

Photos by Alice Webb

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