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Olin

Placemaking

Written by Laurie OlinAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Laurie Olin, Dennis C. McGladeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dennis C. McGlade, Robert J. BedellAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Robert J. Bedell, Lucinda R. SandersAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lucinda R. Sanders and Susan K. WeilerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Susan K. Weiler

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Synopsis

With increased attention to sustainability and environmental concerns, landscape architects now lead teams of urban planners and architects in developing new outdoor space and reconfiguring existing designs. As the preeminent landscape architecture firm in the United States, Olin is at the forefront of this movement with completed projects across the country and in Europe. The firm was awarded the gold medal of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the profession's highest honor, in 2006.

Well-known for the restorations of Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library and the landscape of the Washington Monument, Olin is also recognized for the dramatic transformation of a derelict, brownfield site into the vibrant Canary Wharf, now the financial center for all Europe, and for the landscape design of the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles and Columbus Circle in New York. The firm has also designed sculpture gardens for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio.

In dialogues with noted colleagues and collaborators, each of the partners articulates a personal vision and philosophy of landscape and design. Laurie Olin, founding partner, speaks with the poet Michael Palmer, while Susan Weiler reflects on her collaboration with artist Jenny Holzer. Other dialogue participants are Kim Tripp, former director of the New York Botanical Garden; Niall Kirkwood, chair of the landscape architecture department at Harvard; Sean Timmons, founder of Simmons Design Engineering; and Charles Waldheim, a leading proponent of landscape urbanism. Taken together, these conversations provide a unique window into the creative process.

Excerpt

From: The Unstated Goal
By Laurie D. Olin and Michael Palmer

LO At its simplest landscape architecture comprises three activities. When you come to a site, what stays and what goes is the first decision. It's probably the one with the most profound effect in the terms we're discussing right now. The second activity is one that I would call editing or emphasis. That is where you take something and you make it more of itself—you exaggerate. An example would be Olmsted and Vaux in Central Park scraping away earth by a rock so the tall part is taller and the low part is lower and it feels rockier. That's an editing function that goes beyond removing things or saving things. It's an adjustment. But then the third activity is possibly the most difficult for everyone, and that is invention: what to bring to a place and insert that's new and was never there before—what's appropriate and why. What do I keep, what do I throw out, what do I make that doesn't exist? These activities are basically similar to those in many of the arts.

MP The difference being that I don't have to take a poem of Milton's and figure out what lines to erase—though there is a poet, Ron Johnson, who has done just that to interesting effect. Is there a project that really exemplifies all three for you?

LO This guy across the street, which is as yet very much unfinished.

MP The redesign of Independence Park?

LO Here, I blew away a previous park. The National Park Service had done some studies that convinced them that it did not function properly and was a failure. They then asked Bob Venturi's firm to do a feasibility study for a new visitors center and a new pavilion for the Liberty Bell. And we worked on that, and in the course of working on it with Bob, we realized that they should never have torn down three blocks of the city to start with. But now that they had them, the federal government could not just take a piece of a national park and turn it over to private commerce; they would need an act of Congress to do that even if it might be better if it were only two blocks long. So the question was, how do we make a park that is going to work in the city and have it be attractive for the people who live here to go and hang out and have lunch, not just visit on the Fourth of July?

It was a very difficult problem. I had only one little old building to work with, the Arch Street Friends Meeting House. So I conceived with my team to put a building on each block, which would make at least one street feel like an urban street. There would be something on each block to give it program and activity, so we wouldn't have an abandoned block, which had happened previously. Everybody would want to see Independence Hall, even from the third block, so that meant the other buildings couldn't get in the way. Visitors would also need to be able to circulate in the park, and go back and forth, so the people in the city wouldn't feel the park was a problem anymore.

I began trying to work with the concept that, when all this history took place, Independence Hall was at the edge of America, facing farms and wilderness. It occurred to me that there was this kind of American pastorale—the sense of buildings confronting a pastoral setting, confronting trees—and that that was part of our love of parks. This suggested a way to take what people conceived of as a park—a greensward and trees, and a café and that sort of thing—and to stretch that into three blocks.

So it was pretty much all invention, and it was very tough. Right now it feels very dead. The park's not finished, we don't have a café yet, the first block is not finished. In ten years, people will get what I was trying to do, and hopefully it will work.

Table of Contents

Introduction
John R. Stilgoe

THE UNSTATED GOAL
Laurie D. Olin and Michael Palmer

Bryant Park
New York

Bishopsgate
London

Vila Olimpica
Barcelona, Spain

Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park
New York

THE NEW GARDEN
Dennis C. McGlade and Kim Tripp

J. Paul Getty Center
Los Angeles, California

Mission Bay Master Plan
San Francisco, California

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Washington, D.C.

Midway Plaisance
Chicago, Illinois

Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints Conference Center
Salt Lake City, Utah

ART AND LANDSCAPE
Susan K. Weiler and Jenny Holzer

Canary Wharf
London

Welles Sculpture Garden, Toledo Museum of Art
Toledo, Ohio

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Gap Headquarters
San Francisco, California

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A MATERIAL REALIZATION
Robert J. Bedell and Niall Kirkwood

Brancusi Ensemble
Târgu-Jiu, Romania

Washington Monument
Washington, D.C.

Columbus Circle
New York

University of British Columbia, University Boulevard Competition
Vancouver, Canada

Syracuse Connective Corridor Competition
Syracuse, New York

THE SPARK OF INGENUITY
David A. Rubin and Sean Timmons

United States Air Force Memorial
Arlington, Virginia

Camana Bay
Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies

United States Embassy
Berlin, Germany

University of California Berkeley, California
The Presidio San Francisco, California

Comcast Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

REPOSITIONING
Lucinda R. Sanders and Charles Waldheim

Project Credits

Biographies

  • Olin by Laurie Olin, Dennis C. McGlade, Robert J. Bedell, Lucinda R. Sanders, Susan K. Weiler, David A. Rubin; foreword by John Stilgoe
  • September 30, 2008
  • Architecture - Landscape
  • The Monacelli Press
  • $65.00
  • 9781580932103

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