10 Surprising Tourist Spots for Landscape Architecture in North America
Article by Sophie Thiel
We take a closer look at landscape architecture in North America that also makes for great tourist destinations.
Every person interested in the field of landscape architecture knows and wants to see prestigious projects such as The Highline when visiting New York City or newly hyped ones such as Sugar Beach in Toronto, Ontario. However, these cities — along with all of the other more or less touristic places on this diverse continent — have so much more to offer than the obvious projects of landscape architecture that get maniacal attention anyway.
Therefore, the aim of this article is not to create a compilation of the 10 best-known tourist destinations in North America, but to surprise you with hidden spots of landscape architecture to visit during your next trip.
Landscape Architecture in North America
In front of the Four Seasons Hotel of Toronto, one can find a pocket park and a carpet-like pavement plaza designed by Claude Cormier. Since the rose-shaped park and the entrance plaza are open to public, it is definitely worth a visit — even if you cannot afford to stay at the high-end hotel next to it. With the design of the tiny plaza and garden, Cormier and Associés created an isle in the style of the Victorian era in the middle of the modern metropolitan skyscrapers. It is a place where stylistic elements from the 19th century are amplified successfully to fit modern-day perceptions.
The American Society of Landscape Architecture – ASLA – is internationally known and appreciated for its commitment to the profession, as well as for the pioneer work that is often done in the field of landscape architecture. Its headquarters in the heart of Washington, D.C., mirrors this commitment in the form of the new 3,000-square-foot green roof. Obviously, it is not surprising that the design of this green roof was conceived for both research purposes and to engage the public imagination of sustainability by educating audiences about the green roof agenda.
The green roof of ASLA headquarters was also featured in the following article by LAN’sPaul McAtomney: USA’s Got Talent. 10 Awesome Projects From The USA
One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow: The existence of the Metamorphous project — a wonderful seawall sculpture — was made possible due to the occurrence of King Tides that struck and destroyed the coastline of Vancouver in 2012. To avoid further foreshore erosion, the landscaping team made every endeavor to create something durable, but also extraordinary. The idea evolved into the creation of an abstract seawall sculpture, inspired by the natural form of the sandstone rock formations of British Columbia. The different meanings of Metamorphous mirror in every single detail of the project. The used material – CorTen steel – demonstrates one of the meanings in an exemplary way: It has an ability to change its appearance over time.
The circle of Uptown in Normal – a city located between the two major cities of Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri — has nothing to do with a conventional roundabout. A resurgence of new life and energy came along with the redevelopment of the business district that transformed Normal into a vibrant and sustainable destination. The circle became the new center, not only due to its traffic calming function to a former misaligned intersection, but mostly because it incorporates a small park and plaza with a million extras added. If you come by the city of Normal, I would strongly recommend that you park the car and go for a stroll to Uptown’s new meeting circle, lie down in the grass, or watch the water circle in its educationally arranged basin.
With the Urban Spa, an attraction was added to the Chihuahua city center. In short, this project is a reactivation of an unused water source and neglected public space. However, if you look more deeply into it, a success story is revealed: The Urban Spa installation shows how to rejuvenate a public space and, at the same time, create an attraction for all by uniting a neighborhood. Indeed, it is a project to learn from. Do not miss this thriving and colorful fountain with the important added value of social resilience.
During your stay in San Francisco, you definitely have to visit Market Street, with its Peak Experience project. It is definitely hard to pass by without recognizing the tiny but bright pink replications of San Francisco’s rolling hills. The city’s famous hilly topography has curated and framed its diverse neighborhoods.
However, Market Street was built on a rare flat land, lacking the iconic views of San Francisco’s landscape. The Peak Experience project added a collection of undulating mini-mounds that vary in elevation, finally allowing Market Street to take part in the city’s iconic terrain play.
4. Simcoe WaveDeck in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by West8 and DTAH
Another unique project in Toronto – a city full of astonishing landscape architecture – is the Simcoe Wavedeck at the central waterfront. The wooden deck structure is a one-of a-kind project that adds a sense of interconnectedness and identity to Toronto’s new waterfront at Lake Ontario. The functional but artistic design features an informal public amphitheater-style space with impressive curves that soar more than 2.5 metres above the lake.
This unique design was inspired by the shoreline of Ontario’s Great Lake, as well as the famous Canadian cottages. The WaveDeck is meant to give urban dwellers a feel for life at the lake – it is a place to play and live for young and old.
Greenacre Park is definitely one of the must-see hidden spots of New York City. This so-called “Vest Pocket Park” was one of the first ones that were realized after the city embraced the idea of these small parks in 1964. The modernist style of this mini garden offers visitors an intimate experience in the middle of this rushing city. The design includes a waterfall, shading of trees, and lots of shrubs and perennials to soothe the eye. Sit down on one of the various chairs and get comfortable while listening to the sound of bubbling water that manages to drown out all of the stressful sounds of the metropolis.
The Greenacre Pocket Park was also featured in this article by LAN’s Erin Tharp:
7 Top Pocket Parks: Small Spaces With a Huge Impact
With the Memorial a las Víctimas de la Violencia, Gaeta Springall Architects contributes to one of the most important issues of contemporary Mexican society: violence in daily life. The project proposes an undetermined space that is open to the city and open to different appropriation by its citizens or visitors. You will have to be on site to be able to deeply comprehend the memorial as a whole, to understand the subtle connections between the built structures and the natural layer and also to clearly see the void that evokes the non-presence and the absence of the victims.
This memorial with its pure but at the same time afflicted silence will touch everyone who has ever lost somebody, no matter how. On the other side – and it might sound crazy – you can also find peace at the Memorial to Victims of Violence.
“We live in denial within varnishing landscapes” was the inscribed quote of the art installation Green Varnish by Nomad studio at the CAM Saint Louis. Green Varnish was the first act, a green fabric made up of thousands of plants floating in the space like a huge, green flying carpet. Sadly, this first part of a play in two acts has already been de-constructed, but only to make room for the second part of Nomad studio: Green Air.
This second act is going to be the counterpart of Green Varnish and will be open to the public in summer 2016. If you are in the St. Louis area, don’t miss out on the Green Air installation, as it promises at least the same brilliance and richness of detail as the first installation. It seems like Nomad studio achieves to provoke an art and society critique within all of us.
Enhance Your Travel Experience Landscape Architecture in North America
With this article, I am not telling you to avoid well-known places such as The Highline on your next trip to North America, but to keep always in mind all of the rather unknown spots in between. Even if some of the projects mentioned above might be only temporary, there are always new spots of landscape architecture springing up around us, in cities and in rural landscapes. Keep your eyes open for the unexpected, hidden ones that are not hyped in every travel guide. This instruction applies not only to North America, but also to every journey you will go on round the whole globe.
Have you already seen some of those hidden spots? If yes, where and what kind of project has it been? I am curious to hear your personal stories and experiences!
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Sophie Thiel
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