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The Ungreening of America

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We asked Charles Birnbaum to point us to five unique landscapes that we can still take a peek at. He explains: “I’ve chosen places that are either at risk or lesser known. They don’t resemble anything you’ve ever seen, and once viewed they’re unlikely to be forgotten.”
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  Freeway Park, 1976,  Seattle, WA, Lawrence Halprin, Of recent efforts to declaw the park by ripping out a third of the waterfalls, Birnbaum says, “It’s like removing two of the Burghers of Calais! This was the first park built over a freeway in America. It’s magical and confrontational. Today you have to squint to get the impact; they’ve added garish plantings, removed benches to deter the homeless, and have plans for a sculpture garden, when the whole place is a sculpture.”
    Freeway Park, 1976, Seattle, WA, Lawrence Halprin, Of recent efforts to declaw the park by ripping out a third of the waterfalls, Birnbaum says, “It’s like removing two of the Burghers of Calais! This was the first park built over a freeway in America. It’s magical and confrontational. Today you have to squint to get the impact; they’ve added garish plantings, removed benches to deter the homeless, and have plans for a sculpture garden, when the whole place is a sculpture.”
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  An aerial view of Washington, DC, circa 1993.
    An aerial view of Washington, DC, circa 1993.
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  Mellon Square, 1955, Pittsburgh, PA, Simonds & Simonds
“This is the oldest surviving park over a parking garage, and the daring geometries—tricolor crushed-stone paving patterns, irregular planting beds, cascading steps—were also designed to be viewed from the high-rises. It’s a futurist plaza, celebratory of the great European plazas, without being derivative. The fountains’ white noise softens the hum of the traffic, for a reposeful experience in the middle of the city.”
    Mellon Square, 1955, Pittsburgh, PA, Simonds & Simonds “This is the oldest surviving park over a parking garage, and the daring geometries—tricolor crushed-stone paving patterns, irregular planting beds, cascading steps—were also designed to be viewed from the high-rises. It’s a futurist plaza, celebratory of the great European plazas, without being derivative. The fountains’ white noise softens the hum of the traffic, for a reposeful experience in the middle of the city.”
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  Art Institute of Chicago garden, 1962, Chicago, IL, Dan Kiley “Built over a garage, it’s quintessential Kiley and another great response to the automobile culture. There’s a central fountain, raised planters on the grid, and limited plant materials—primarily locust trees and a bosque of hawthorns; Dan was all about the architecture of the trees.”
    Art Institute of Chicago garden, 1962, Chicago, IL, Dan Kiley “Built over a garage, it’s quintessential Kiley and another great response to the automobile culture. There’s a central fountain, raised planters on the grid, and limited plant materials—primarily locust trees and a bosque of hawthorns; Dan was all about the architecture of the trees.”
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  Museum of Anthropology grounds, 1976, Vancouver, BC, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
“There is a real conversation between Arthur Erickson’s building, with its soaring glass walls and sharp angles that carry you physically outside, and the grounds, designed by Oberlander. Both picturesque and modern, with these indigenous plants and full-scale totem poles that ground the building—it’s visionary.”
    Museum of Anthropology grounds, 1976, Vancouver, BC, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander “There is a real conversation between Arthur Erickson’s building, with its soaring glass walls and sharp angles that carry you physically outside, and the grounds, designed by Oberlander. Both picturesque and modern, with these indigenous plants and full-scale totem poles that ground the building—it’s visionary.”
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  James Rose House, 1954, Ridgewood, NJ One of the “Harvard three”—along with Garret Eckbo and Dan Kiley—who rebelled against the stuffy Beaux Arts curriculum, Rose made his house and gardens a lifetime project. “Here’s this shaggy, eccentric little property smack in suburbia, with pavilions and roof decks and courtyards flowing into each other and incorporating found objects.”
    James Rose House, 1954, Ridgewood, NJ One of the “Harvard three”—along with Garret Eckbo and Dan Kiley—who rebelled against the stuffy Beaux Arts curriculum, Rose made his house and gardens a lifetime project. “Here’s this shaggy, eccentric little property smack in suburbia, with pavilions and roof decks and courtyards flowing into each other and incorporating found objects.”

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