Current Issue: Vol.33, Num. 2 January 2019
WISHING OUR READERS AND FRIENDS
A PEACEFUL AND PROSPEROUS YEAR 2019
Our main concern is the natural environment. What used to be predictions of future climatic changes are here now. We know how the Earth’s climate has changed through millennia and expect those changes to continue. We know that past living organisms adsorbed carbon which fossilized to form the coal and petroleum that we mine today to produce the energy required for almost every human activity; we know that by releasing into the air those fossilized carbons, we bring serious changes to the environment. All these facts translate into greater absorption of Sun’s rays, producing variations in the temperature of the Earth, reshuffling cold and hot bodies of water, air and land in massive ways. There is no doubt that our present use of fossilize materials is producing complex and dan-gerous social, economic and environmental situations.
We cannot address this tempestuous situations in our In Situ Information Bulletin, but as planners working to create spaces for human activities, recreation and enjoyment, we describe here three projects where water is an essential element. These projects provide a pleasant and optimistic view of present activities and future possibilities.
All forms of life depend on water for their existence, but for us humans it goes beyond that to produce intellectual stimulation. Poets have praised water, gardeners have used it to create pleasant spaces, and philosophers see water as one of the fundamental elements of life on Earth. While we are suffering horrific consequences from floods, we need to remind ourselves that water continues to be essential for our own existence.
The Spanish writer and philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), expressed it this way:
In Unamuno’s writings are found many examples of the effect that water has on the land-scape and human reactions to it, but by specifically attributing “conscience” to the water element he empowered the landscapes with individual characteristics. Here we explore three examples of projects where using water is very essential to their appeal.
Beatriz de Winthuysen Coffin, FASLA.
(1) Unamuno, Miguel de; Obras Completas: Ed. Afrodisio Aguado, S.A.; (Madrid, 1951). Tome I. Paisajes (1902), selec-tion from the chapter “Humilde Heroisdmo”.
The main access to the museum is from the top of the ravine, and the complexity of the situation is not appreciated until you are in the building entrance looking down four to six floors. We cannot address here the structure and functionality of this museum, but as impressive as the buildings are we want to emphasize the role of the water courts which dominate the character of the place: “The presence of water in Moshe Safdie’s design enhances the organic feel of Crystal Bridges. By day, sunlight on the Museum ponds casts undulating reflections onto the interior walls and ceilings, re-minding guests of the water just outside. By nights, the light within the Museum are dazzlingly re-flected in the ponds’ surfaces.”(3)
Besides Safdie’s splendid museum architecture, there is within the site a relocated Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Bachman-Wilson house, a classic example of what he called a Usonian house, his idea of a 20-century home, created during the Great Depression. It also reminds us of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous project, Falling Water in Pennsylvania where he dared to built on top of a stream a home, which we could considered a precursor of Safdie’s museum in Bentonville.
Also at the lower end of the Museum, past the water-courts, a 50-foot-wide Richard Buckminster Fuller dome, called the Fly’s Eye Dome was installed in 2017. This was originally intended to be a prototype for inexpensive housing solutions. It is a structure design in 1965 of prefabricated hexagonal shells that could make manufactured homes cost effective and quick to construct.
Thus we find that the Crystal Bridges Museum not only houses art in very special architectural buildings but it produces a sense of relating to the nature of the site, its topography, vegetation and water to celebrate human imagination.
(2)See Art in Architecture, Building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Scala ArtsPublishers, Inc., 2016, www.crystalbridges.org
(3)Ibid, page 54.
(This extensive park received the American Society of Landscape Architects Award of Excellence for General Design in 2018.)
Located along the edge of the Brooklyn East River, overlooking lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers across the water, this 85-acre waterfront park expands from the Manhattan Bridge, bending under the famous Brooklyn Bridge and continuing down the East River to encompass six large five-acre rectangular piers jetting out into the river. The redesign of a project of this magnitude required persistence, great expenditure, imagination, and a positive feeling of hope for the future by all concerned participants.
As users of the facility, as well as observers, we are fortunate that the project was developed under the expert guidance of Harvard Professor Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA who said: “I’m lucky to know what it’s like to imagine and hope for something like this for 20 years and finally see it, have it realized.” So do his firm principals and staff and the planning officials who helped to develop the first plan for the park in 1999. (Brooklyn Bridge Park is featured in the Landscape Architecture Magazine issue of December 2018, Vol. 108, No.12. We urge our readers to obtain a copy.)
This project received the AIA/DC Merit Award in Urban Design & Master Planning/Presidential Citation for Urban Cata-lyst in 2018. It was featured in ARCHITECTURE DC, The Spirit of Design, Annual AIA/DC Award Issue, The District Wharf, Winter, 2018.
Although it is surrounded by water, the city of Washington, DC is hardly known for its active waterfronts. When Pierre L’Enfant designed the city there were already two active small ports on the Potomac River, one in Alexandria and another one in Georgetown. L’Enfant located the new city port in the Anacostia River, where the U.S. Navy Yard was developed with a channel crossing to connect it to the Potomac River, later converted into Constitution Avenue. At first, water transportation for the city was essential, but it became less so with the devel-opment of the railroads and highways. Nevertheless, the Southwest portion of the city facing the Potomac River is different, here a protected channel waterfront was created to accommodate small crafts and a fish market. This channel, a buffer between the main land and the man-made East Potomac Island Park received many im-provements and the new development is the last one of previous attempts, stretching nearly two miles.
This area of Washington was considered a slum by the mid-20 century, and the urban renewal applied to the area facing the channel as site for large restaurant for the expanding tourism trade was decaying. Recently it has been once more renovated to fit the Washingtonian sophisticated life style. Credit for the prize winning projects go to Perkins Eastman, Architects and many other architects, landscape architects and engineers who have contributed to the many projects. It has luxury apartment buildings and restaurants, it accommodates marinas, and along the lineal channel are paths for pedestrians, bicycle riders and even for cars moving at a slow pace, it is one of the most vibrant night-life places in the city of Washington.
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