Future Looking Brighter for Landscapes of the Recent Past

While modernist buildings have fared somewhat better in the minds of preservationists, recent trends seem to indicate a more promising future for protecting the significant modernist landscapes of the recent past, says Charles Birnbaum.

Until recently, the prospects for protecting treasured modernist landscapes seemed grim. "Fewer than 2,500 of the 80,000-plus National Register sites boast any significant landscape design," explains Birnbaum, and only "[a] few modernist icons have won this coveted consideration..."

"Opinion about contemporary landscape architecture, however, does seem to be evolving," he notes. “Design icons, such as the Eames chairs and the Glass House, have helped solidify modernism’s significance among scholars and the public,” says historical consultant Charlene Roise, president of Hess, Roise and Company. “Now, with renewed interest nationally in urban centers and a growing understanding of landscape architecture’s value through projects like the High Line, modernist landscapes are also gaining awareness and supportive constituencies.”

With the recent listing of M. Paul Friedberg’s Peavey Plaza, in Minneapolis, and Richard Haag's Gas Works Park, in Seattle, "[t]he tide is slowly turning for landscape architecture and its practitioners, especially as preservationists come to see that recognizing the designed outdoors can provide a more complete picture of modernism as a movement," says Birnbaum. "And though it’s still too early to tell if these spaces will get the same consideration as the buildings, this recent activity is the start of a broader bid for immortality."

Full Story: Charles Birnbaum on the Future of Landscape Architecture


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