Sustainable Landscape Symposium Saturday held at JHC on June 4, 2011
Photo credit - Alex MacLean Ad Design - Mark Ovietta/TCLF
BRIDGING THE NATURE-CULTURE DIVIDE
JUNE 4, 2011: JAY HERITAGE CENTER, RYE, NY
PRESENTED BY: THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE FOUNDATION AND JAY HERITAGE CENTER
Sponsored by ASLA,Preservation League of NY State, New-York Historical Society with support from Con Edison
Cheryl Barton, FASLA, FAAR
Contested Landscapes: Ethics of Place
I work as an evolutionist, not as a preservationist. In my view, cultural landscape (preservation/restoration/reconstruction/rehabilitation) is a sub-set of sustainable design thinking. Nature trumps all, as climate change is making abundantly clear, and cultural landscapes must respond to this reality. Places—sites, landscapes—are seldom a tabula rasa. They are layered and encoded: natural and cultural strata are deeply enmeshed in a site narrative. As a designer, it is my role—privilege, really—to decode these layers and interweave the next layer into the palimpsest in a way that is clear and that does not entirely erase the existing narrative.
I am concerned about the prevalence of freeze-dried landscapes—the rigid interpretation of preservation guidelines by those who do not understand landscape systems. Consequently, my work is about hybrid and transformative landscapes rather than pure cultural landscapes.
The Dynamic Nature of Cultural Landscapes
The dynamic nature of cultural landscapes is key to their continuing relevance. As the cultural lens through which we observe crafted landscapes evolves, so does our perspective on ‘Nature’, which Raymond Williams suggested is merely “a singular term for the multiplicity of things and living processes”. Is the potentially overwhelming vibrancy of today’s ecology—which is the direct result of a frenzy of cultural activity - an inescapably destructive force? To what extent might it be a new weft weaving through the warp of historic places, creating new patterns of meaning? It is possible for the essential narratives of cultural landscapes to be sustained in part by the uncertainties of evolving ecology?
Using a diversity of wild habitats and cultural landscapes for illustration, I will discuss how his design and management philosophy regarding shared value systems has evolved in an age when the only certainty is the accelerating pace of change.
Patricia M. O'Donnell, FASLA, AICP
The Jay Property & Marshlands Conservancy: Conflict & Balance for Cultural & Natural Values at a National Historic Landmark Property
Heritage Landscapes completed the Marshlands Conservancy & Jay Property Cultural Landscape Report, History, Existing Conditions, Analysis & Treatment, (MJ CLR) in 2004. It addresses the Jay Property and adjacent Marshlands County Park acreage, which is a rare example of an evolved regional landscape. Today the Marshlands & Jay Property have several stewards: Westchester County Parks, New York State Parks and the Jay Heritage Center, addressing the historic core landscape and buildings of 23 acres; and Westchester County's Marshlands Conservancy, managing the 137+ acres for natural resource and habitat values.
With different missions, uses, advocates and management objectives, conflicts continue between these apparently competing agendas, and there are inherent tensions between the neighboring property stewards. These resources are valued for different reasons, ecology and habitat versus historic significance, however, as the cultural landscape report indicates, compatible management can embody both. Landscape treatment recommendations address preservation with combined restoration of specific character-defining features and conservation stewardship. From both cultural and natural landscape perspectives, the way forward engages multiple values, involves collaboration and must be holistic and sustainable.
Douglas Reed, FASLA, FAAR
Building the Case for Continuity and Change: Bennington College and the Clark Art Institute
As landscape architects, we often engage in the practice of helping stewards of culturally significant landscapes argue for change in ways that preserve heritage and develop viable and relevant uses—all in the service of interpreting the meaning of a place for the greater culture. And to do this—to realize and sustain ideas about landscape continuity and change—our work must also encompass plans for managing the physical, ecological, and economic realities of a property.
Reed Hilderbrand’s work at Bennington College and the Clark Art Institute, landscapes not identified per se as historically significant, exemplifies an approach to design rooted in ideals of preservation practice. At these sites, as in all of the firm’s work, design and management plans are founded on the assessment of layers of cultural imprint and the evaluation of ecological systems—the evidence of each property’s unique character and identity.
Working at these two institutions over more than a decade, the firm has joined with administrators, stakeholders, caretakers, scientists, and scholars, and engaged governing regulatory agencies, to shape strategies for preservation and change. Each site exemplifies a complex and highly variable process to rehabilitate the landscape and sustain vision through incremental implementation.
Thomas Woltz, CLA, ASLA
Collaborative Design Process in Conflict Resolution in Historic, Agricultural, and Working Landscapes
I will review a number of case studies from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects' portfolio that demonstrate successful collaborations between landowners, landscape architects, conservation biologists, and historians in which potential conflicts of nature and culture have been resolved through the firm's design process.
In addition I will review the complex issues facing land stewards when dealing with a variety of conflicting situations including: Invasive plant and animal management in disturbed ecological contexts of productive farmland in Virginia and northeastern states; negotiating sensitive archeological sites at Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, while restoring a vision of the cultivated landscape, now overgrown with successional forest; and the preservation of sacred Maori earthworks in the midst of active agricultural land in New Zealand. Management of these landscapes can also become an important part of interpretation through demonstration of harvest patterns, management of open space using fire, designed reforestation, and by making evident the management tools in use.
Finally, I will discuss how collaboration with disciplines outside of landscape architecture can help build a framework for resolving the potential conflicts between culture and nature
Jay Heritage Center
210 Boston Post Road
Rye, NY 10580
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