Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jane Amidon Visits

Friday was a roller coaster of a day. We had the great privilege to have Jane Amidon visit for the day. She gave a lecture on the modern typology of the park open to the College of Architecture. Better yet, the LA department got to spend an hour with her in informal discussion. We peppered her with all sorts of theoretical and practical questions related to landscape architecture and architecture. Later that afternoon she sat in as a juror for the third studio/Parks. It was a long day. It is amazing how exhausting a day of thinking and mental processing can be.

Some thoughts for the day (a little off topic but greatly stimulated by the day) :

I have really been mentally debating my graduate project. I have two (and I’m very open to suggestions).

One is a mixed use project. 80 acres, residential, commercial, city park runs through it, creek runs through it, water front and marina. It is an abandon airport that needs a “new urbanism” master design.

Second is designing green belts and environmental corridors for Oklahoma City, overlaying the city using Michael Hough’s work as a precedent study.

Jane Amidon’s discussion and presentation was very inspiring. There is something that is very thrilling about having intelligent conversation and debate with someone that you esteem highly. (Thank you Jane!)

Jane P. Amidon


1995 Harvard University, Master of Landscape Architecture

1988 Williams College, Bachelor of Art in History/focus in environmental and land use studies


· 2006

Source Books in Landscape Architecture 3: Peter Walker and Partners'Nasher Sculpture Center Garden ,
Amidon, Jane (Ed.). (2006). New York: Princeton Architectural Press.


Source Books in Landscape Architecture 2: Ken Smith Landscape Architect/Three Urban Projects ,
Amidon, Jane (Ed.). (2005). New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Source Books in Landscape Architecture 1: Michael Van Valkenburgh?s Allegheny Riverfront Park ,
Amidon, Jane (Ed.). (2005). New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Moving Horizon: The Landscape Architecture of Kathryn Gustafson and Partners ,
Amidon, Jane. (2005). Basel: Birkhauser Press (English, German and French hardcover editions; Chinese paperback edition 2006)


Ten Landscapes: Stephen Stimson Associates ,
Amidon, Jane. (2002). in J. Trulove (Ed.), Massachusetts: Rockport Press.


Radical Landscapes: Reinventing Outdoor Space ,
Amidon, Jane. (2001). London and New York: Thames and Hudson (2001 hardcover edition); London and New York: Thames and Hudson; Frankfort: DVA; Madrid: Blume, (2003 foreign language hardcover and paperback edition).


Dan Kiley: America?s Master Landscape Architect ,
Kiley, Dan & Amidon, Jane (1999). Boston: Bulfinch/Little, Brown; London: Thames and Hudson.


2003-present Assistant Professor and Graduate Faculty Member

Knowlton School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture Section

The Ohio State University

Courses: design studios; contemporary history and theory in landscape architecture; graduate seminars; plants in design.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Oklahoma Rising"

Happy Birthday Oklahoma!

What a great day!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Antoine Predock and Place

The morning after Antoine Predock’s presentation at the Goff Lecture series .

I don’t have my notes in front of me, which is why I am writing. I really want to express where Mr. Predock’s lecture has inspired me. If you want more about him, then you can read his book.

A. Predock is a charismatic and inspirational person. It is easy to find little pieces of myself in him. His passion and dedication to architecture is evident in his work. I found that his comments on sustainability could easily be misconstrued to give a young person license to dismiss environmentally sound practice. However, I believe he places the environment high, just not at the expense of poetic license and the expression of art. He sees Architects as artist. Everything else we do, business, sustainability, client meetings are supporting roles. I agree. It is easy to forget that, but it is a very important point he made.

This leads me to reflect on several other essay’s I’ve been reading, Frampton’sCritical Regionalism” and Essays out of the first half of “Recovering Landscape” By James Corner. Mr. Predock helped me formulate some of my thoughts I’ve been having.

Predock really talked about intense and thorough research. It is this huge upfront and in-depth plunge that will give you the power of intuition. He referred to a story about Bruce Goff. He stopped in unannounced as a young man to Bruce Goff’s studio/office, and he asked Mr. Goff the Meaning of one of his famous houses, maybe the Bavinger House. Mr. Goff took a deck of cards and fanned them out and referred to “the gesture”. I took it to mean human gesture and intuition. I am analyzing, dissecting and regurgitating what I heard. But I really took the premise of the lecture to be this plunge and immersion into research. Studying culture, land, geology, strata and extending that land based research right into the spiritual or the sky. “Going from the earth to the sky” he said.

It is this immersion into research, collage, digital representation, drawing and exploration that gives the designer the ability to use gesture and intuition and to have confidence in it. This I believe. Design is then based at a subliminal and an overt level towards the place through intuition. However, we have to develop the support system that informs intuition.

I have been having trouble reconciling place. A part of me wants to hold onto the historical and cultural significance of place. This is where some of my reading this week has helped. Mr. Predock identified with culture and historical significance. However, he really talked about the peculiarities of light, earth, sky, water of a specific place. Specifically he let local materials, light intensity, vegetation, water patterns inform him. He talked about their interaction with our senses. He also talked about how that culture was related to these peculiarities of place. Many times not overtly, but subliminally. He provided numerous examples of how his research guided him to intuitively design. His designs would be informed by his research and his clients would identify with the design in unusual and unexpected ways.

Mr. Predock said that he would sacrifice sustainability for poetic expression, not a direct quote, and I do agree with him. I think that I fall into the trap of the environmental issues dictating the design. They should inform and guide. The understanding of the environment should give me a designer to trust my intuition. However, a design without art and poetic presence is a design without spirit. I will not add to our cultural schema. One of the articles I was reading was about the preservation of farms in Holland. If the farms are preserved, but they are not farmed the same way, the people are no longer using them as life sustaining and they are no longer interacting with the site, then they have become a museum piece.

We must allow change. We must encourage each generation to write on the palimpsest. If not. Preservation becomes a hole in our cultural record. By adding the layer of each generation we enrich culture. I think that I may be skewed in thinking this, because I live in the U.S. and I live in Oklahoma. I live in a place where our history is very short. Where we typically see the land as tabula rasa. Where the Indian foot print, and the early settler’s footprint is very slight. I do want to preserve, but I don’t want to live in a museum. I see the museum option as lifeless.

Mr. Predock talked about his landscape of the art museum in Taiwan. I don’t remember the name, but his landscapes referred to specific regions. They were not a showcase with plaques of names. They were a way to incorporate the identity of other people’s environment into the space. It was about the relationship that the museum was having with the people and the people in return would have with the museum.

As usual these thoughts are off the cuff, they provide a record of thoughts and a jumping off place to accrue more understanding.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Global Climate Change

I don't like to preach about global climate change. However, those that dismiss it out of hand are irresponsible. I cannot believe that any reasonable and rational person believes that our population boom, altered environment and fossil fuel based energy use since the 1800s has had no global affect. Can you say flat out that millions of cars and trucks and buses and airplanes and trains and cargo and cruise ships, industries and businesses has had no global effects? Can you really look at your constituency, your children, your students and say none?

So if there has been a change, can we predict what the consequences of that change are? I don't think so. But I think it is safe to predict there will be a change.

I personally don't think I'm going to live long enough to see such a drastic change. I'm not completely convinced in the global "warming" predictions. I don't think we have all the answers and I'm not sure we can rule out a self correcting ice age, similar to the "little ice age" of the which could be equally devastating to the world if more severe. I'm not sure we can predict the outcome of our changing climate.

However, are my children and grandchildren going to look back on my generation as being so selfish that we would not sacrifice a little profit and economy that we would leave them a greatly altered world , without regard to their, extreme expense in mitigation, adaption and suffering?

It is such a politically charged issue. Oklahoma's political climate doesn't really acknowledge the problem, especially our infamous senator Inhofe. I was listening to the radio tonight when I heard a program from "Its your World" with John Holdren as speaker. It seems that the evidence continues to pile up pointing towards global climate change. I think it is hard to predict all of the little specifics of the coming changes and hard to quantify all of the current changes. However, this has really been the first presentation that I have listened to that I has got all of the arrows pointed towards global climate change. There seems to me to be a clear trend and it is irresponsible for us as citizens and our leaders of our generation to pooh-pooh it.

So to the believers I say: "Stick to the facts, be rational and not inflammatory." To the non-believers I say: "Stick to the facts, be rational and not inflammatory."

Lets have a serious discussion about this, and lets start today making changes in our lives that will create a better quality of life for us and generations to come.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

1939 Warner Oklahoma

America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945

American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936

American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936

Item Title

[An] ungrazed and overgrazed Andropogon furcatus prairie [in] July [with] Ptilimnium nuttallii, Muskogee County, Oklahoma

1904 Arbor Day Proclamation

I love this Oklahoma document I found at the Library of Congress. It is hard for me to imagine in 1900 being so concerned about the loss of the forests. Of course, Oklahoma was very late on the scene, the Eastern forest had been devastated 100s of years previously. The Ouchita's in Oklahoma and Arkansas were hit hard in the mid to late 1800s. The Forest service has a great history on that.

Most interestingly in the document is the Indian's role in the Oklahoma Prairies. This really underscores my new understanding of the Oklahoma Prairie system. It was not a system due to natural processes, but a system dominated by a thriving Indian Culture.

  • Desoto travels through the Ouchita's in 1542 and finds large fields of maize (corn) and flourishing Indian communities.
  • The French arrive in the 1670s.
  • No Indian populations left? Disease?
  • The practice of burning forest and prairie to encourage large grazers to come and eat the new green spring growth was practiced by the Indians. Sometimes the prairie and forest would burn over 100 miles.
  • So, my question: If the there was flourishing Indian communities that were devastated and culturally crippled. Did the large grazers increase in numbers due to lack of hunting?
  • It seems to me that the herds of Buffalo that Lewis and Clark experienced in 1802 or 1804 had to be a result of Indian cultivation.
The Ouchita's today. They are managed (meticulously) by the Forest Service. They are logged, views are maintained, cleared and staged.

My point: The prairies are a man made landscape.

Yes there always were large grasslands, but probably not like the pictures of Oklahoma City and Norman in 1900. It took fire to kill all of those trees. So now we find ourselves in a landscape in central Oklahoma dominated by trees. Oklahoma does not have the deep agricultural roots of Europe. It is a young state and has been more dominated by cattle and failed farms. The layers of land use in Oklahoma are very few.

The Indian cultures manipulated the landscape and when the great prairies are mentioned, it is their landscape that is referred to.

The Sooners and Boomers had a much different vision. One of a more Jeffersonian attitude. They bound it with the grid iron of the survey. They divided it up in a "Democratic" method. (Depending on what side of the ethnic fence you were on.) It was then spoiled and plundered in the exploitative manner that founded the country. Trees were cut; sod was tilled; cattle introduced. The resources of land were used to sustain and garner. The excess of resource were considered as equity and treated as such.

As has happened repeatedly through our history disaster struck. Time and chance, drought and depression. Oklahoma literally blows away. With it the Sooners and Boomers are evicted by the very thing they came for--the land.

Conservation--the years of planting and damming.

Now we find ourselves in an era where the Oklahoma land is not appreciated. It is not understood. We don't have a general maintenance policy. The prairies of the Indian cultures has dissappeared, with only small remenants remaining. The farmer still struggles with most of the land too unproductive to sustain single families. We are not at risk of our soil blowing away.

Where is the landscape of Oklahoma going? I don't want to return to the treeless prairie of 1900, but what about open space? Are farms important? Should we struggle (because it will be a struggle) to honor them, maintain them and celebrate them. What about our forest? What about our forests that make up our rural areas. There are remnants of virgin forest scattered all up the east side of the Sante Fe Rail line that runs up through Purcell, Norman, Oklahoma City and Edmond. Are they worth saving? Should we place a higher value on them? Should we consider them as part of our past culture? Do they reflect times past? What about our forest that took over the fields of the Grapes of Wrath period? The elm and hackberry and mulberry?

So if landscape is a palimpsest. What does the graphical representation of OKC look like on actual paper? How would I do that? Instead of going backwards, what is the next layer going to look like on the land? What needs erased and what needs saved?


Friday, October 5, 2007

Bored Web Surfing

It is a desert out there in web world when it comes to Landscape Architecture. Rarely do I come across these little nuggets of very interesting information. Frequently, I meet my bedtime with little to show for my surfing. Google-ing (what a strange word) "Carl Steinitz" off of another lead I came across "Framework for Landscape Planning". So if your bored, stumbled across my site, and you are looking for another lead before bedtime. Check it out.

You never know, you might learn something.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Old Maps

I love old maps. I learned that I had access to the Sanborn maps today through the University library. Very interesting and I hope to spend a little time going through them. I need to get up to the Oklahoma Historical Society again and dig through their stuff. I have been up there several times and it is always great fun. I especially like digging through their vast collection of newspapers. As a fan (maybe junkie) of maps I wanted to pass along Hipkiss' link I run across on my blogline. I haven't dug through the link page yet, but I'm headed there.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Next Generation Design Competition


Next Generation Design Competition

I am hoping that my colleagues in Landscape Architecture are putting their name in that hat in this competition. This is our field! We need to be coming up with the new and provocative answers to our global water crisis.