'Splash Pad Urbanism,' Threats to Open Space, and More Landscape Architecture Trends
Charles A. Birnbaum takes a tour of the year in the field of landscape architecture, noting the big trends in an up and down year for the profession.
Among the highlights of the year: Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE, earned a MacArthur genius grant, a first for the profession. Among examples of the best projects by landscape architecture around the country, Birnbaum explores Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee; and an eight-acre addition to the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Birnbaum is not as kind in assessing a trend that dominated landscape architecture in 2017—what Birnbaum calls "splash pad urbanism." According to Birnbaum, the reliance on splash pads as a one-size-fits-all park amenity raises the question: "are we becoming lazy?—or just willing to accept a little mediocrity in exchange for a planning board’s easy approval (and public buy-in)?" When considering the rise of splash pad urbanism, and its implications, recall also the term "bouncy house urbanism," coined by Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne. It seems there's a lowest common denominator available for every age bracket.
Also concerning Birnbaum is the ongoing threat to open space, which includes the Trump Administration's unprecedented decisions to shrink national monuments, but also the decision to site the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, Chicago.