Raleigh and the Research Triangle are on a landscape architecture roll.
First came the Sasaki redesign of Moore Square, one of five public squares laid out by William Christmas in 1792, now in process.
Then the competition for a master plan for Dix Park – 308 acres in the center of the city – won by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in 2017, and currently underway.
Now comes the “Leading by Landscape IV” conference from April 12 to April 15. Curated by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, it promises to change the way that North Carolina thinks about the past and future of its public realm. Besides Dix Park and Moore Square, there are also 100 miles of greenways, first envisioned in a 1972 N.C. State thesis written by Bill Flournay.
“The city is where it is today because people have been looking at the broader landscape,” says Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C. “The universities are acting as laboratories.”
The Triangle will become a laboratory unto itself in mid-April. Among the speakers will be Mark Johnson from Civitas and representatives from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Reed Hilderbrand and West 8. Also participating: Dan Gottlieb, director of planning and design at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Kofi Boone, associate professor of landscape architecture at N.C. State and Mark Hough, university landscape architect at Duke University.
Then there are the expert-led tours of approximately 30 sites, including historic projects and more that are underway. “Over the weekend there will be other dimensions to look at – downtown Raleigh and Durham, parks, gardens and campuses,” he says.
The foundation has saved the best for last, however. There’s a panel discussion planned that includes four professionals with strong connections to the Triangle: Mitch Silver, Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; Alexandra Lange, architecture critic, Curbed New York, and author of “Writing about Architecture”; Randolph Hester, director of the Center for Ecological Democracy in Durham; and Linda Jewell, professor of landscape architect at U.C. Berkeley.
“They’re all from the region, and they’re coming to listen for the day and then opine on what they’ve heard,” he says. “Basically, they’ll come and be brilliant, but they have personal and emotional connections to the city.”
“Leading with Landscape” promises to be quite the watershed event for the Triangle’s public spaces.
Now if only someone could figure out how to do the same for the built environment here.
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