Landscape architecture and place identity

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Landscape architecture and place identity
Brenninkmeyer, Elise M
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viii, 102 leaves : ; 28 cm


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Landscape architecture ( lcsh )
Geographical perception ( lcsh )
Human geography ( lcsh )
Geographical perception ( fast )
Human geography ( fast )
Landscape architecture ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 96-102).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Elise M. Brenninkmeyer.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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74818184 ( OCLC )
LD1193.A77 2006m B73 ( lcc )


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by Elise M. Brenninkmeyer B.A., Middlebury College, 1999 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment Of the requirement for the degree of Masters of Landscape Architecture Department of Landscape Architecture 2006


This thesis entitled: Landscape Architecture and Place Identity written by Elise M. Brenninkmeyer has been approved for the Department of Landscape Architecture (Ann Komara, committee chair) (Ekaterini Vlahos. committee member) The final copy of this thesis has been examined by the signatories. and we find that both the content and the form meet acceptable presentation standards of scholarly' \vork in the above mentioned discipline. HRC protocol # ____


Abstract Place identity is important to communities interested in clearly situating themselves within an ever-expanding global context. Answering the compelling question, "who am I," often requires a coherent response to the question "where am In order for communities to be clearly understood and differentiated, cities must "be as founded in the imagination as securely as they are founded upon the earth." How people understand and remember place fixes that community in their imagination by way of its place identity. Landscape architecture can facilitate the positioning of a community in the mind through place specific design that recognizes and centrally frames a landscape's iconography, heritage and geographic character in a community's place identity. This paper offers a definition of place identity as an application of landscape architecture that helps people locate themselves within their community and positions that community as an entity in the world. is organized into three points of discussion to explore the place identity of a community at the city scale. It begins with the relevancy of place identity, including an outline of other work that parallels the investigation and highlights the importance of connecting a community with their landscape. Landscape architecture has the ability to move beyond the confines of an individual site and to interpret and express through design the character of an entire community. This value positions the profession as a crucial voice in the landscape studies movement and as a driving force for place identity. The second section identifies and explains four elements of place identity that can be expressed through a landscape: site heritage, iconography, geographic character, and place specific design. These elements are distilled from research in cultural geography, urban planning, regionalism, the landscape studies movement and landscape architecture theory. These explanations are followed by an investigation of the success or failure of place specific design in existing works of landscape architecture. proposes a place identity case study methodology and applies it to two sites in the city of Denver Colorado: Commons Park and Skyline Park. The conclusions of this paper acknowledge the intrinsic importance of place to a community and the unique ability of landscape architecture to inform place identity. To exercise design as a tool of distinction is to apply it in a way that makes a site stand out from other landscape designs. Landscape architecture that engages place identity at a city scale roots that distinction in the city's landscape fabric by selecting, preserving or celebrating public spaces with unique and special roles within the community. Landscape architecture that engages place identity at a site scale roots that distinction in the landscape by identifying and accentuating what is inherently unique and special about the site. Exercising design in this way articulates the significance of landscape within a community and offers a reference through which that community can better understand and remember place. Abstract approved: 7 Willis (1999: 9) quoted by William J.V. Neill, (New York: Routledge 2004),13. Uisc M. Brcnninkmcycr III


This work is completed with thanks to all the teachers who encouraged and enriched my academic discoveries. is dedicated to my parents, who constantly enable me with their love and support. Elisc M. 13rcnninklllcycr IV


"The population on this continent will become grounded, will find their place, by a slight change of mind that says, "I'm here." Gary Snyder Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 11


GROUNDING IN THE WORLD .................................................................................................. LITERATURE REViEW ........................................................................ ... ............................... ...................................................... 20 LOVE OF PLACE .................................................................................................................... 20 WHAT IS PLACE IDENTITY? .................................................................................................. 22 LANDSCAPE AS SyMBOL ............................................................ ... . .................................. THE WORK OF A SYMBOL IN CUL TURE ................................................................................. 28 SYMBOL AS CONCEPT OF CITY .............................................................. ........... .................. 31 SYSTEM OF SYMBOLS .......................................................................................................... 32 LANDSCAPE HERITAGE ........................................................................................................ 34 COLLECTIVE MEMORY: COMMON GROUND ......................................................................... 35 GEOGRAPHIC CONTEXT DISTINCTIONS ............................................ ............................... 39 REGIONAL LOCAL IDENTITY ............................................................................................ 41 THE WORK OF CONTEXT ......................................................................... ....................... .... 42 ................................................................................................ METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................................... 49 CASE STUDY COMMUNITY: DENVER CO ............................................................................ 51 SITE HERITAGE ................................................................................... ................................ 56 GEOGRAPHIC CHARACTER .................................................................................................. 59 ICONOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... 60 PLACE SPECIFIC DESIGN ...................................................................................................... 65 PLACE IDENTITY .................................................................................................................. SITE HERITAGE .................................................................................................................... 75 ICONOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... 78 GEOGRAPHIC CHARACTER ................................................................................................... 80 PLACE SPECIFIC DESIGN ....................................................................................................... PLACE IDENTITY ............ ... ................ .. ............ .. ................................................................ 86 Elise M Brenninkmeyer V


List of Figures Figure 1 View from Above. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 2 "Cloud Gate", artist Anish Kapoor explores "the metaphysical issues of being and non being, presence an absence, and place and non-place." (Marco Debiari) Figure 3 Landscape text (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 4 In New York City, the landscape architecture of Central Park draws upon the glacial geologic character of the local landscape to reveal a place identity unique to the city. is impossible to conceive of Central Park without putting it in the context of the city and no understanding of New York City is complete without Central Park. ( Figure 5 Mt. Rushmore (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 6 Landscape as symbol: Boston Common ( Figure 7 Functional structure as symbol: Brooklyn Bridge (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 8 Anomaly as symbol: Yosemite National Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 9 Snow melting from Shavano's peak fills a crevice in such a way that it resembles an angel with uplifted arms. This formation is linked to the life sustaining moisture delivered to the valley by melting snow, becoming an icon named the Angel of Shavano. (Rick Ramsey) Figure 10 Paris' Eiffel Tower, San Francisco's streetcars and Switzerland's Alps are well known examples of an image representing a city or country. ( Figure 11 Early 20th century image promoting Chicago's lakefront. (Carl Van Vechten) Figure 12 Gettysburg is the site of the largest battle in the civil war. (National Park Service) Figure 13 Speakers comer in Hyde Park has a legacy as an arena for democratic expression. (Thomas Marben) Figure 14 Representation of Tiananmen Square is politically monitored ( Figure 15 Trevi Fountain is a plaza in Rome with a local, national and global identity. (www.nehrt) Figure 16 The geologic legacy of the Grand Canyon (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 17 Manhattan skyscrapers and the bedrock into which they are anchored. (Julian Pye) Figure 18 Paley Park in New York City is place specific design that transforms the constraints of a small site into a place evocative of the city's identity and a standout member of New York City's parks. Elise M. 8renninkmeyer VI


Figure 19 The urban design, architecture and landscape fabric of Amsterdam respond to the conditions of its canal. ( Figure 20 The fOWlding of Denver at the confluence of the Cherry Creek and Platte River. (Collier & Cleveland Lithograph) Figure 21 Cherry Creek contained in channel below street grade in Downtown Denver 2006 (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 22 Image of Denver that exaggerates its connection to the Rocky MOWltains. (Rob Stuehrk) Figure 23 Map showing relationship of Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Figure 24 1874 Aerial Plan of Denver Figure 25 Commons Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 26 Commons Park: Site Layout (Civitas Inc.) Figure 27 Confluence Park, adjacent to Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 28 The railroad brings steer and other livestock to Denver's historic stockyards. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 29 Commons Park: Connection to Communities (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 30 The South Platte River at Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 31 Cherry Creek flood ravaged Downtown Denver in 1864 (source unknown) Figure 32 Commons Park: South Platte River Access (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 33 Appreciating the South Platte River. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 34 The Millennium Bridge crosses heavy rail tracks to connect Commons Park with the 16th Street Mall and Downtown Denver. Another bridge carries pedestrians over the River into Commons Neighborhood where a third bridge crosses 1-25 to connect with Highlands. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 35 Downtown Denver and Union Station seen from the Sky Garden in Commons Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 36 The Sky orients the visitor within the park and the city. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 37 Stone wall at park perimeter defines the park edge while also alluding to the reciprocal encroachment of city and park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 38 Commons Park: Orientation of Dominant Views (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 39 Little Raven Promenade. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 40 Curving step wall divides native and manicured plantings, elevates formal promenade and introduces an urban vernacular. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Elise M. 8renninkmeyer VB


Figure 41 Commons Park Design Theme: Denver's Natural Past (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 42 Commons Park Design Theme: Denver's Social Past (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 43 Commons Park Design Theme: Denver's Urban Downtown (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 44 School Group interacting with the South Platte River at Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 45 Formal terracing at 16th Street entrance. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 46 Planters displaying place appropriate grasses are cut into paving of Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 47 Shade structure in Commons Park reflects urban forms and materials. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 48 Model of Skyline Park (Thomas Balsley Associates) Figure 49 1928 image of downtown Denver. (Charles Louis McClure; Western History Department of the Denver Public Library) Figure 50 Aerial view of Downtown Denver with original Skyline Park. (USGS; Figure 51 Running fountain in original Skyline Park. ( Figure 52 Daniels and Fisher Tower in Denver skyline, early 1900's. (Harry Mellon Rhoads; Western History Department, Denver Public Library) Figure 53 Skyline Park: Vertical Structures (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 54 Skyline Park: Access and Traffic (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 55 Skyline Park: Planting (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 56 Skyline Park: Grade change overlay on Structures (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 57 Skyline Park: Dominant Views overlay on Structures Figure 58 Pedestrian traffic concentrated at edges of park. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 59 Intersection if Skyline Park and 16th Street (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 60 Waterless Halprin fountain below active street grade of park. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 61 D&F Tower is the anchor of Skyline Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Figure 62 D&F Tower seen from north end of Skyline Park (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 63 Turf planes and linear planters at Skyline Park (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Figure 64 Plan for Skyline Park. (Thomas Balsley Associates) Figure 65 Finding shade at Skyline Park. (Elise Brenninkrneyer) Elise M. Brenninkmeyer Vlll


"Where are you from?" is an innocent question meant to stir up conversation when people meet. has never been an easy one for me to answer however and requires a quick sizing up of my inquisitor before I choose one of the many places where I have lived to offer as the Figure 66 View from Above. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) place I am "from". I was born in New York but I am not a New Yorker we moved before I was six months old. My parents live in Toronto but I am no longer a resident of Canada and my "landed immigrant" status was revoked. My new home is Denver and while I don't fall into the elite category of being "native" to Colorado, right now it is where I am from. But what does that mean to the person who asked me the question? If they are not from Denver, in what sort of community do they imagine me conducting my life? If they are from Denver, what commonalities do they assume we share? What is the identity of this place that I am from, and what does that identity say about me? The practice of landscape architecture is an opportunity to enhance place identity by drawing upon a community's iconography, heritage and geographic character to inspire place specific design. is essential for the profession to practice design in a way that augments place identity in order to support a genuine articulation of a city that is understood by residents and visitors alike. In an exploration of the phenomenology of architecture, Christian Norberg-Schulz asserts, "In fact, it is meaningless to imagine any happening without reference to a locality. Place is E1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr


evidently an integral part of existence.,,2 To that end, this paper offers a definition of place identity as an application of landscape architecture that helps people locate themselves within their community and positions that community as an entity in the world. It is organized into three points of discussion to explore the place identity of a community at the city scale. It begins with the relevancy of place identity, including an outline of other work that parallels the investigation and highlights the importance of connecting a community with their landscape. Where the history and theory of city building spans many disciplines, there is still room for it to be influenced by the concepts of genius loci and a sense of place. Landscape architecture has the ability to move beyond the confines of an individual site and to interpret and express through design the spirit of an entire community. This value positions the profession as crucial voice in the landscape studies movement and a driving force of place identity. The second section identifies and explains four elements of place identity: iconography, site heritage, geographic character, and place specific design. The elements are distilled from research in cultural geography, urban planning, regionalism, the landscape studies movement and landscape architecture theory. Iconography is employed as a term that encompasses the events and processes that give symbols meaning within a culture as well as the vocabulary of symbols themselves. The term heritage is used to refer to both the legacy of a community's history and the pervasive influence of its culture. Geographic character considers the totality of landscape features, geologic legacy and climate that make up the physical 2 Christian Norberg-Schulz, (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1980), 6. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 2


reality of a place. The final element, place specific design, results from the interpretation and expression of a community's iconography, heritage and geographic character. is the arena in which landscape architecture can recognize and leverage a community's place identity. Hence, these explanations are followed by a third section investigating the success or failure of place specific design in existing works of landscape architecture. outlines a place identity case study methodology and applies it to two sites in the city of Denver Colorado: Commons Park and Skyline Park. Commons Park is a new park on a site around which the city was founded and grew. Skyline is a park in the downtown heart of the city, an area that has been at the center of a great deal of change throughout Denver's history. The conclusions of this paper acknowledge the intrinsic importance of place to a community and the unique ability of landscape architecture to inform place identity. Thus the arguments establish an imperative of landscape architecture to design interventions on the land that reflect and reinforce a city's place identity. Place identity and the landscape are closely related where "nature forms an extended comprehensive totality, a 'place', which according to local circumstances has a particular identity.,,3 When it augments that particular identity, landscape architecture orients a community's grounding in place. 3 Norberg-Schulz, 10. Figure 2 In "Cloud Gate", artist Anish Kapoor explores "the metaphysical issues of being and non being, presence an absence, and place and non place." (Marco Debiari) !'lise M. Brcnninklllcycr 3


Grounding in the world Place identity, how people understand and remember place, is a cohesive and communal understanding of what it means to be in and be part of a given neighborhood or city. is important to a community because it allows them to imagine themselves as an entity in the world. As communities become more and more multicultural, place identity becomes a common ground between diverse interests groups. Conversely, place identity allows communities to retain a sense of uniqueness in the assimilating context of globalization. In this way, place identity is both a unifying community perspective and a cultural differentiator. is a celebration of what is unique and characteristic to a community. The primary building block of place identity is the physical place itself, the land within a defined area. The geographic character of that land provides resources and challenges that predispose communities to organize certain patterns of living on that land. Events and accomplishments integral to the development and culture of those communities become part of the heritage of the land. Through both daily and monumental interactions with the land, human beings develop sentimental attachment to the geographic character of their communities. Iconography allows them to either position significant landscapes symbolically within their culture or to use symbols within a landscape that express its meaning to the culture. Shaping a landscape to express its function within a culture is the design imperative of landscape architecture. Every landscape has an innate history and character that establishes its role in the community. Whether that role is celebrated, enhanced, overlooked or ignored through landscape architecture reflects cultural Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr


biases and concurrently impacts a city's place identity. When landscape architects design public space, they create the arena for residents and visitors to experience or consciously "be in" a community. The urban landscape of a city requires careful consideration of how to design individual sites as well as how those sites strengthen the fabric of the city and its overall network of public spaces. Landscape architecture that expresses the iconography, heritage, and geography of a community also communicates what is distinctive about the community and what is shared throughout the community. This in tum allows visitors and residents to acknowledge the unique existence as well as the value ofthe community within the context ofthe nation or the world. A community's understanding of place identity is based upon a common cultural identity that is largely informed by landscape characteristics. Richard Muir, a geographer and author of various writings about landscape, describes this relationship with the statement: Landscape and place are intimately connected but not identical. .. Landscape makes a forceful contribution to the spirit of a place but it can never be the sole contribution. It does, however, determines so many of the qualities of that spirit: the lie of the land, the character of the scenery, the resources of water, soil and minerals and so much more besides.4 Communities both live within the constraints of a landscape and shape that same landscape to meet economic and political goals. Exploitations of the land reflect engineering innovations and cultural priorities that supercede and transform the landscape's geographic character. At the same time, people's patterns of living Richard Muir, (Lanham: Barnes Noble, 1999), 294. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 5


respond to the potential of the landscape to provide sustenance and security. Cultural geographer Don Mitchell explains that in this light, is best seen as both a work ... and as something that does work;" and because no landscape is immune from human intervention, every landscape ... is a natural scene mediated by culture."s Landscape and culture are intricately entwined, each one responding to the influence of the other. Sometimes that influence and response is gradual and subtle and other times it is dramatic and overt. The means and intensity with which humans intervene on the landscape evolves with human innovation. A widely used term, 'vernacular landscape,' generally refers to the physical evidence of dwelling practices that is expressed in the landscape. It is often applied to landscapes that resulted from the dwelling practices before industrialization allowed the mechanical manipulation of geographic features, whose landforms typically include agrarian and village landscapes. 6 In these instances, landscape character dictated what resources were available and what challenges confronted a people living in any particular place. Consequently, people adapted their patterns of dwelling and living to the landscape character because their survival depended upon the effective employment of its resources and they built shelters that offered the best protection from its threats. The limited technology available for consuming and exploiting these resources did not allow the shaping of 5 Don Mitchell, (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2000), 94; W.J.T Mitchell (1994: I) quoted by Mitchell, 99. This volume provides a historical and theoretical overview of the field of cultural geography as well as an analysis of its academic relevance. Mitchell is also the author of 6 The vernacular landscape however is not universally prevalent in pre-industrial landscapes any more than it is exclusive of contemporary landscapes. Versailles, built for King Louis XIV of France at the end of the 17century, is far from a vernacular landscape while contemporary landscapes have been the subject of vernacular examination by landscape architects such as J. B. Jackson. Elise M. Ilrcnninkmcycr 6


the land to be preconceived. Instead, the resulting shape ofthe landscape conscientiously responded to and reaffirmed the geographic features that created the landscape characteristic in the first place. The landscape architect and professor of environmental studies Michael Hough explains, "There was no alternative but to accept the limitations imposed by nature, culture and technology. The differences between one place and another, the sense of belonging, of being rooted to a particular location, have traditionally been achieved because there were few alternative options available." 7 Thus the pattern of the vernacular landscape that connected a community with the geographic character unique to their landscape was a by-product of necessity. Place identity is closely linked to the patterns and interventions of cultures on the landscapes because that patterning is the evidence of a unique method shared by a community of interaction with geographic features. As cultures evolve, their priorities shift and their need and ability to shape the land changes. In tum, place identity evolves where "the degree to which natural patterns are altered is a function of the availability and sophistication of the technology to hand. The sense of place is organic, changing with time."g Today urban design is more often contrived than vernacular since technology allows people to manipulate geographic features in pursuit of a preconceived landscape character. People can shape the land independently from using its resources for survival or protecting themselves from natural threats. Rather than being constrained to a vernacular pattern, development 7 Michael Hough, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990),85. Hough also authored (Routledge, 1995). 8 Hough, 58. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 7


can choose whether or not to observe geographic features and environmental forces in the landscape. The ability to surmount landscape constraints and the perception of dominating nature are temptations to which development often falls prey. Thus tension exists where, "societies endowed with unprecedented levels of nostalgia and conservational concern are confronted by an equally unprecedented technological ability to transform urban and rural landscapes in ways which obliterate all references to the past.,,9 Hough contrasts this condition with the vernacular tradition by explaining, "The apparent shift away from what is distinctive to what is similar in the contemporary world is the consequence of the complex social, economic, and technological changes that have occurred with increasing rapidity since the industrial revolution." The industrial revolution increased our ability to gather resources necessary to survival from areas far removed from our communities and to control or diminish threats from the natural world. This allowed the global repetition and reproduction of urban forms as engineering and technology quickly advanced ideals of urban planning and design regardless of geographic characteristics. In fact: For the most part ... site does not shape contemporary urban form. Like San Francisco, it is there in spite of the city. By contrast, many older cities have an undeniable sense of identity because site and urban form, architecture and landscape, become one ... city adapting to the constraints and opportunities the landscape affords. Communities began to grow regardless of rather than in concert with unique landscape features, distancing citizens from the character of their landscape and diffusing place identity. Technology allows the pretense of separating culture from 9 Muir, 44. Hough, 85. Ibid, 15. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 8


landscape and, where development overrides the natural constraints of a landscape, it can estrange communities from their local landscape character. is the prerogative, if not the mandate, of landscape architecture to reconnect communities with the landscape in which they are situated. The American Society of Landscape Architecture describes the role of the profession in a community by stating, "How we have shaped the land is the story of ourselves, as a people and a nation. From our country's capital to scenic landmarks, landscape architects design and protect these centers of community activity, preserving treasured landscapes for our children and future generations." 12 Landscape architects selectively preserve and design landscapes that are deemed to be beneficial to a community, often aspiring to create centers of cultural activity. To design a landscape is to create a place, and the impact of that place on a community is a result of design decisions. A place that taps into shared characteristics can contribute to a cultural identity while a place that ignores community features or diffuses a local vernacular can undermine a cultural identity. Landscape architecture should celebrate local character in an effort to reverse the trend observed by Michael Hough where, "Much of the urban landscape-the parks and gardens and formal open spaces of the city has been subjected to a universal design standard that denies a sense ofplace.,,13 Where development patterns reflective of a culture's local landscape were once necessary for survival and identity was a secondary benefit, today they are critical to identity. This is especially true where globalization has diluted cultural identity and "more and more ordinary 12 American Society of Landscape Architecture "Landscape Architecture, Places of the Heart where Souls Take Refuge and Spirits Soar" (Washington DC: AS LA). \3 Hough, 92. Elise M. Brenninkmcycr


people have found in 'globalization' not a new and attractive 'cosmopolitanism' but a pennanent state of dislocation.,,14 In communities throughout the world this side effect of globalization is a concern of citizens, sociologist, and politicians and it is increasingly a subject of study in design fields. The scholar and architect Roxi Thoren answers the challenges of globalization with a design opportunity unique to landscape architecture: "In an increasingly homogeneous global culture, how can designers express local identities in their work? One element that continues to make communities unique is their physical environment, and landscape architecture has much to offer other design disciplines as a source of place-specific fonn." 15 Through the agency of design, landscape architecture must recognize the significance of local features and engage them to foster or reaffinn a sense of place in every community. Although landscape architects are professionally oriented toward deciphering the iconography, heritage, and geographic character of the landscape, every human is engaged in a dialogue with the physical landscape around them. In her exploration of the messages and meaning inherently contained within a landscape, the landscape architect Anne Whiston Spirn states: The language of landscape is our native language. Landscape was the original dwelling; humans evolved among plants and animals, under the sky, upon the earth, near water. Everyone carries the legacy in body and mind. Humans touched, saw, heard, smelled, tasted, lived in, and 14 Mitchell, 280. Figure 3 Landscape text (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Roxi 1. Thoren, "Cultural Identity and Place: The Role of the Landscape in Icelandic Architecture" (Athens GA: School of Environmental Design, University of Georgia), 3. Uis.: M. Br.:nninklll.:ycr


shaped landcapes before the species had words to describe what it did. Landscapes were the first human texts, read before the invention of other signs and symbols. Clouds, wind, and sun were clues to weather, ripples and eddies signs of rocks and life under water, caves and ledges promise of shelter, leaves guides to food; birdcalls warnings of predators. This evolutionary legacy of living in and navigating through the landscape allows most humans to appreciate an innate connection to landscape. In fact, as a species we have coexisted with the landscape for so long that we sometimes perceive it as an extension of our own personality. This can easily be seen in works of literature and folklore where the setting of a story is as important to the moral of the story and the character of the protagonist as the actual events of the story. In his exploration of the cultural and personal and cultural significance of various landscapes, David Jacobson examines how Americans also burden the landscape with moral responsibilities: Physical form and moral place are inherently related to each other. In Genesis, in other words, place is moral as much as it is physical, and human kind's association with geographic place, and the forms that association takes, tell us much about the character and shape of different social identities. IS If we invest the landscape with reflections of our character and morality we are likely to suffer a personal and cultural loss as our connection to the landscape weakens. Thus, it was a perceived distancing of people from the landscapes surrounding them that spurred contemporary academic attention across many disciplines to the role of landscape in a culture. Anne Whiston Spim, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 15. Some favorite titles in an extensive list of well known examples include by L. M. Montgomery, by Thomas Hardy, by Willa Cather and David Jacobson, (Baltimore:The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), I. E1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr


The connection between a culture and the landscape in which it is situated is recognized in the disciplines of cultural geography and urban planning. These fields complemented research of current and established perspectives in landscape architecture to investigate the role of landscape architecture in the creation of place identity. However, the study of people's connection to landscape does not belong to a clearly defined academic discipline and David Lowenthal, professor of geography and landscape architecture instructor, notes: ... although landscape is a subject of generally acknowledged importance, integrated understanding of it is almost entirely lacking. The sheer multiplicity of interests that impinge on landscape economic, aesthetic, residential, political-suggest the magnitude of the subject but at the same time seem to preclude the development of any unified perspective. A growing body of academic interest emerging out of these fields was coined the by the cultural landscape historian Paul Groth in the 1997 publication Groth explains that, For writers in cultural landscape studies, the term means more than a pleasing scenery. denotes the interaction of people and place -a social group and its spaces, particularly the spaces to which the group belongs and from which its members derive some part of their shared identity and meaning. All human intervention with nature can be considered as cultural landscape ... Cultural landscape studies focus most on the history of how people have used spaces buildings, rooms, streets, fields or yards to establish their identity, articulate their social relations, and drive cultural 20 meamng. Edmund Penning-Rowsell and David Lowenthal, (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1986), I. 20 Paul Groth Todd Bressi, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), I. Uisc M. Brcnninkmc)'cr


Conferences, publications and discussions organized under the umbrella of landscape studies try to provide a common platfonn for diverse disciplines to discuss the positioning of a culture within its landscape.The interdisciplinary investigation of the cultural significance of landscapes enriches and expands the parameters of landscape studies with a multiplicity of unique and valuable insights. Where "there are problems of translation between fields and often uncertainties of exact meaning within anyone;" it is not surprising that, "landscape studies writers have no single approved method or theory.,,22 This complicates any clear definition of, or approach to, landscape studies and belies the simplicity of the concept that people are connected to the physical environment in which they are situated. Even between countries the parameters of landscape studies are blurred, and academics in the United States understand the field differently than academics from Britain or Canada.23 Likewise, distinct priorities and focuses of investigation can be seen between the practices of cultural geography in each of these countries. Of the many academic fields engaged in the landscape studies movement, the advantage of cultural geography is its common philosophical history in which academic investigation is internationally rooted. As such it is a good framework from which to contextualize the evolution of the landscape studies movement. Cultural geography began to address the role of landscape through the work of philosophers such as Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) and Carl Sauer 21 The chronology of the landscape studies movement begins with publications of John Brinckerhoff Jackson in the middle of the twentieth century, is complemented by various environmental movements at the end of that century and continues in the present day within the purview of cultural geography and a variety of disciplines. 22 Groth Bressi, 10. 23 Ibid, 13. E1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 13


(1889-1975). Herder considered the interaction of environmental factors with community to result in distinctions that are linked "not to some environmental factor itself but rather to the long history of local interaction within the environment and within locally rooted societies.,,24 Carl Sauer built upon this observation and set a new course for the study of cultural geography with the publication of (1925) and (1956). Mitchell outlines Sauer's role in the development of cultural geography where: Sauer's main purpose was to show that environmental determinism had pretty much got it backwards. wasn't nature that caused culture, but rather culture, working with and on nature, created the contexts of life. Sauer was especially concerned with material aspects of culture, particularly the landscape, which he saw as manifestations of culture's traffic with nature. 25 As such, Sauer introduced the tradition of landscape studies to cultural geography by advancing ideas about the intertwined relationship of a culture and its landscape. 26 An important idea presented by Sauer illuminates a methodology for understanding this relationship. is that: The cultural landscape is fashioned from a natural landscape by a culture group ... culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape the result. ... The natural landscape is of course of fundamental importance, for it supplies the materials out of which the cultural landscape is formed. The shaping force, however, lies in the culture itself.27 Thus Sauer dispelled the notion that culture is passively shaped by the physical geography in which it is situated and he introduced the notion of reciprocity between culture and context. This leverages the landscape as an agent of as well as a recipient 24 Mitchell, 23. 15 Ibid, 21. 26 Ibid, 22. 27 Sauer (1963: 343) quoted by Don Mitchell, 27. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr


of culture. The cultural landscape then arises out of a complex, dynamic and malleable relationship between cultures and the place in which they operate. As cultural geography expanded its field to include investigations of the landscape, other fields also expanded their boundaries and significant authors emerged from a variety of disciplines. John Brinckerhoff Jackson (1910-1996) popularized the fonnal premise of cultural geography and pioneered the landscape studies movement when he applied the concept of landscapes as cultural artifacts to twentieth century everyday America. 28 Considered by some to be the father of vernacular landscape studies, Jackson examined shopping malls, highways, gas stations, suburbs, mobile parks and other common landscapes as artifacts of culture. He looked at contemporary cultures rather than concerning himself with anthropological explorations and he examined the reciprocity of culture and landscape in its everyday rather than its monumental manifestations. Through this lens, Jackson regarded the vernacular landscape as "the image of our common humanity hard work, stubborn hope, and mutual forbearance striving to be love. ,,29 In 1951 Jackson produced the first issue of magazine, a pioneer publication in the landscape studies movement, which he owned and edited until 1968. Its mission was "to see the landscape made by men as a symbol of social and religious beliefs" and as such it promoted the "humanistic endeavor that (Jackson) 28 Jackson's significant contributions include (Yale University Press, reprinted 1986) and (University of Massachusetts Press, 1980). Dolores Hayden, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 14. Other significant contributions by Hayden include (1976), and (Vintage, 2004). Elise M. Brcnninkrneyer


called cultural landscape studies.")O The magazine promoted Jackson's interest in the "geography of everyday places,,)l and in America it was the first interdisciplinary collection of articles about landscapes and cultures.)2 Also promoting an interest in the significance of everyday places, Dolores Hayden overlaps politics, history and sociology with landscape studies. A noted author and professor of architecture, urbanism and American studies, she tells the "story of how places are planned, designed, built, inhabited, appropriated, celebrated, despoiled and discarded. Cultural identity, social history and urban design are here intertwined.")) Her work explores the politics of identity in an urban landscape where specific histories related to gender, race, or neighborhood, are suppressed. She is widely appreciated for examining political forces that overtly suppress or promote the expression of cultural identities in an urban landscape. Authors such as planning theorist Kevin Lynch (1918-1984) also contributed to discussions of landscape and urban planning by analyzing the form of a city and the arrangement of its urban spaces.)4 Yi Fu Tuan (b. 1930), a Chinese American geographer has written extensively about a human's ability to emotionally and perceptually process the environment, acknowledges, "Until Kevin Lynch's book appeared in 1960, little was known about the mental maps of city 30 J. Jackson, "Editors Note" 18, no. I (Winter 1969), I; Groth Bressi, 2. 31 Grimes, "Brinck Jackson, 86, Dies: Was Guru of the Landscape" (August 31, 1996),27. 32 Groth & Bressi, 2. 33 Hayden, 14. 34 Lynch's significant contributions include (MIT Press, 196), (MIT Press, 1981) and (MIT Press, 1972). Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 16


dwellers.,,35 These explorations of form are concerned with how a citizen navigates through a city and the impact of designed elements on their reception of a space; how urban spaces make them feel comfortable, exposed, oriented, lost, communal, or isolated. Participants in the landscape studies movement are collected from small interest groups within a larger discipline. Like landscape history, landscape studies "has never been the property of a single discipline.,,36 The English geographer Jay Appleton admires the landscape studies movement where, "one of its most striking characteristics is the number and range of interests groups from which its activists have emerged to develop a common cause. ,,37 While this broad appeal indicates a universal applicability of its concerns, landscape studies is not a prevalent influence within individual disciplines. Where many disciplines acknowledge the importance of landscape within a network of other cultural influences, landscape architecture is unique because its priority is the physical landscape itself. Thus landscape architecture as a discipline has much to offer the landscape studies movement and much to gain from the insights of the multitude of diverse expertise engaged in landscape studies. Through landscape studies, landscape architecture is poised for a focused exploration of the connection between a culture's identity and the landscape that would lead to conclusions about place identity. 35 Yi-Fu Tuan, Values (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1974),205. Tuan's significant and influential contributions include (University of Minnesota Press, reprint 200 I). 36 Richard Muir, (Boulder: Barnes Noble: 1999),37. 37 Jay Appleton "The Integrity of the Landscape Movement" in by Groth Bressi, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 189. Appleton'S significant contributions also include (John Wiley & Sons, reprinted 1996). Flisc M. Brcnninkmcycr


In design fields however, discussion of place identity begins and ends with the tenn "genius loci". Translated as genius loci has been adopted by design fields to reference everything from ecological design to historic preservation with mystical significance. In this way, genius loci is applied to individual sites rather than interpreted for a community. Correctly understanding the influence of Figure 4 In New York City, the landscape architecture of Central Park draws upon the glacial geologic character of the local landscape to reveal a place identity unique to the city. is impossible to conceive of Central Park without putting it in the context of the city and no understanding of New York City is complete without Central Park. ( iconography, heritage and geographic character on the spirit of a community would allow landscape architecture to leverage genius loci beyond the confines of an individual site in pursuit of place specific design. The importance of design in a landscape to cultural identity is paramount where "that which a culture group fashions out of and imposes upon the natural landscape 'are derived from the mind of man, not imposed by nature, and hence are cultural expressions.,,38 However, few articles or publications investigate, let alone venture to propose, methods for enhancing place identity through landscape architecture. There is a lack of academic investigation into the role of landscape architecture in creating place identity, and very little analysis of designed landscapes that capitalize on unique landscape characteristics to successfully enhance a community's place identity. 38 Sauer (1963: 343) quoted by Mitchell, 27. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr


Cultural geographer Edward Relph provides a telling comment on the room for academic exploration into place identity, stating "we live, act and orient ourselves in a world that is richly and profoundly differentiated into places, yet at the same time we have a meager understanding of the constitution of places and the ways in which we experience them."J9 Additionally, a consequence of not achieving place identity through landscape architecture is apparent in a description of Ottawa where: The stratified and exposed limestone rock, the rapids, falls, and fast flow of the river, its marshy edges, and native woodland provide dramatic and unparalleled views of the city and its skyline as they unfold. .. This landscape is what makes the city memorable as a beautiful place. Yet in spite of this extraordinary natural heritage, it has been said that Ottawa is a city of views but no places. Much of its designed landscape negates rather than enhances this sense of identity. 40 This observation underscores the usefulness of case studies for testing and promoting the impact of landscape architecture on place identity. Public spaces such as city parks are construed to be accessible to all citizens of a metropolis; they are the setting for both planned and unplanned interactions and become an opportunity for design to resonate throughout a community. Analyzing how these public spaces evoke or subdue place identity can reveal the power of landscape architecture to awaken place identity in other communities. Where iconography, heritage and geographic characteristics are latent qualities in a landscape that place-specific design can leverage to foster place identity, case studies focusing on the role of public spaces in a city's landscape fabric can evaluate the impact or lack of place specific design. 39 Edward Relph, (London: Pion, 1976: 6) quoted by Muir, 274. Relph's work is grounded philosophy and history and concerned with the "standardized urban landscape." His publications include (London: Croom Hyelm, 1981) and (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). 40 Hough, 110. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 19


Landscape Features and Place Identity is common practice to explain the design of cities and urban landscapes with references to the influences of history and politics. History explains why settlements arose where they did and how communities made use of natural resources, while politics drive how cities capitalize on resources to propel growth or compete with other cities to ensure survival. Between the legacy of the past and propulsion toward the future however, a city exists with a contemporary understanding of itself, a malleable place identity that situates its citizens in a recognizable community. This identity is reflective of the past but meaningful to the reality of the present day. relates to the context of a larger region but sets the locality of its community apart as an individual entity. As such, "cities have to be treated as rather than abstract spaces where the 'blind' forces of economy and politics may have free play. To respect the does not mean to copy old models. means to determine the identity of the place and to interpret it in ever new ways.'.4l Every community has a particular identity, a unique feeling and form that is specifically theirs. Investigation of iconography, heritage and geographic character determine identity and interpreting them through design brings a new layer of relevancy and meaning to place. Human beings depend on the land for survival. Since the time of the caveman we have collected information about which landscapes best support life, intuitively 41 Norberg-Schulz, 182. Elise M. Brenninkrneyer


passing the knowledge down through generations. We have also fought amongst ourselves to secure a piece of the earth as our own, to ensure access to the earth's resources for survival. We are drawn to landscapes and seek the security of a connection with our local landscapes, a feeling that the land belongs to us. A consequence of this feeling of belonging is that from the grandiose to the mundane, "places matter because they are the focus of personal sentiments, with the feelings for place permeating the day to day life and experience.'.42 Yi-Fu Tuan has explored this instinctive relationship between humans and the land at length and describes it as topophilia, "human love ofplace.,.43 While acting as a definition, this term also hints at the immensity of the relationship by explaining that, "human love of place, can be defined broadly to include all of the human being's affective ties with the material environment.,,44 Topophilia clearly links the inherited human love ofland to a community's need for place identity. Tuan points out the habit of humans to invest places with both meaning and emotion where, "The term couples sentiment with place ... Environment may not be the direct cause of to pop hili a but environment provides the sensory stimuli, which as perceived images lend shape to our joys and ideals.'.45 Interpreting and reaffirming place is important to connect communities to their surroundings, the physical reality in which lives are grounded and emotions invested. 42 Muir 274 43 Tuan: 92. 44 Ibid, 93. 45 Ibid, 113. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer


The word "place" is a common word with a variety of familiar uses. Yet, Dolores Hayden points out, "Place is one of the trickiest words in the English language, a suitcase so overfilled that one can never shut the lid. It carries the resonance of homestead, location, and open space in the city as well as a position in a social hierarchy. ,,46 So it is also a loaded word and therefore can carry different connotations depending on how it is used as well as who is using it. Indeed, "place means something more than location,',47 it also references, for example, the things that belong to that location. Because it encompasses belonging, place gathers people together, and it becomes evident that" place is a necessary component of feeling close to people, and to the earth. ,,48 The character and the people that belong to a location are important to this discussion and so the word "place" is used in reference to a defined area where people are gathered into a community. The scale of place is also variable and in this paper the primary considerations of place will be at a city scale. In the consideration of a city however it must be acknowledged that a city is a place made up of smaller parts -a network of neighborhoods where each neighborhood itself is a place made up of individual sites and all the neighborhoods together create a larger community that is the city. Any given place exists both physically in the world and conceptually in a person's imagination. In order for communities to be clearly understood and 46 Hayden, 15. Norberg-Schulz, 10. 48 Lucy R. Lippard, (New York: The New Press, 1997),292. Lippard is an art writer with an interest in cultural studies and geography. Her published works include (New Press, 1995) and (Temple University Press, 1993). Elise M. 8renninkmeyer 22


differentiated, cities must "be as founded in the imagination as securely as they are founded upon the earth." If a person has visited a place, it exists in their imagination as a memory. If a person has not spent time in a place, it exists in their imagination as a presumption of how that place might be. Both conceptions are heavily influenced by identity. Identity arises from the distinctions that set something apart as well as the commonalities that are the basis for a sense of belonging. A person's understanding of the distinctions and commonalities of a defined area shape their conception of that place. Whether that understanding is derived from personally experiencing the place or from impressions gathered from secondary sources, it is nonetheless an indication of the community's place identity. When a landscape is mediated by culture, it acquires a history and is invested with emotion that in turn carries meaning for that culture. Even the least celebrated landscape possesses latent character that makes it a place with its own identity. Thus, William Neill states, "Indeed it is difficult to think of space that is not a place of some kind, since it will be designated with meaning of one sort or another within some cultural frame. ,,50 The landscape is the starting point out of which place is created. The geographic features and climate in a landscape determine the geographic character of that landscape whether it is rocky and or lush and moist for example. This in turn informs how cultures adapt their patterns of living to suit the challenges and benefits of that landscape's geographic character. These patterns become ways of life, weaving a history of both mundane and monumental events 49 Willis (1999: 9) quoted William J.V. Neill, (New York: Routledge 2004), 13. 50 Neill, 11. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 23


significant to the culture that symbolically and emotionally tie the people to the landscape in which they live. Richard Muir explains: Landscape is likely to be an important factor in any discussion of place because it will normally be a crucial component of the sense of place .... First, places may be regarded as having their own intrinsic personalities, with some places being visually striking and possessed of powerful images: Mount Rushmore, Stonehenge or Lake Baikal are all associated with strongly developed senses of place. Second, the sense of place can be identified as the emotional attachments to localities developed by individuals and Figure 5 Mt. Rushmore (Elise Brenninkmeyer) communities in the course ofliving and growing within the setting of home. Senses of place can be associated with a spectrum of different geographical levels, from the smallest of localities to the international regional.51 integral part of place identity, the sense of place accounts for the emotional significance of a landscape to the community. Stuart Hall cites the importance of '"the recognition of some common origin or shared characteristic" to the creation of identity. 52 A sense of place is an attachment to the geographic character of a place that is shared by the people living there. Thus the urban landscape itself offers the basis of a shared identity. The identity is negotiated between how community members interpret the landscape and how they consequently engage it. Each engagement of the landscape potentially reaffinns or changes how it will be subsequently interpreted. Thus, the identity is "always discursively formed and always in process;,,53 yet it is grounded in the intrinsic character of the place. The intrinsic character of the place is a product of geographic determination that existed 51 Muir, 273. 52 Stuart Hall, (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd., 1996),2. 53 Neill, 3. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 24


before culture arrived and perseveres, whether latent or realized, through human intervention. Hence Edward Casey positions place as ''the bedrock of our being-inthe-world" where the power of place is ''to direct and stabilize us, to memorialize and identify us, to tell us who and what we are in terms of where we are (as well as where we are The way that cultures create place out of a landscape reflects their ideals and way oflife. As they exploit the resources of the land and mold their communities to facilitate daily activity, patterns emerge. Hence D.W. Meinig contrasts environment with landscape in the statement, "environment sustains us as creatures; landscapes display us as cultures.,,55 Every landscape accumulates patterns of human intervention that can then be interpreted to reveal how a culture uses interacts with the landscape. In this way, Meinig and other members of the landscape studies movement "regard all landscapes as symbolic, as expressions of cultmal values, social behavior, and individual actions worked upon particular localities over a span oftime."j6 place identity a recognition of the and shared conditions allow a community to imagine themselves as an entity in the world; the symbolic power of a landscape aUows it a community's icooograpby, heritage and geographic character in support of place identity. 54 Edward S. Casey (I 993:xv-xvii) quoted by Neill, 13. 55 D.W. Meinig, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979),3. S6lbid, 3. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 25


Landscape as symbol Iconography is "the theoretical and historical study of symbolic imagery.,,57 It explains why symbols are chosen, how symbols are positioned in a culture and what symbols most effectively convey meaning to a community. It is 6 Landscape as symbol: positioned in this paper to discuss both the Boston Common ( symbols themselves and the processes that give them meaning within a community. There are two ends to the spectrum of symbols that resonate within a culture. On one end, traditional urban forms and monumental civic architecture reinforce cultural nonns. celebrate engineering achievement and reflect civil organization. The use of traditional urban forms is prevalent throughout city building where. "an urban symbol may be a functional structure like a bridge. a non-utilitarian edifice like the St. Louis arch, or a 7 Functional structure as symbol: Brooklyn Bridge (Elise Brenninkmeyer) piece of land like the Boston Common ... 58 On the other end, breaking the mold of expected urban form can symbolically position a feature in a culture. In this case: 57 Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988), I. 58 Tuan, 199. 1lise M Ilrellllillkrneyer 26


An anomaly is often a landmark; it may become sacred, like Australia's Uluru. Different cultures occupying the same landscape at different times often embrace the same significant landscape features: high points and churches in England, sacred springs and Christian shrines in Ireland, aboriginal sites (Uluru) and Australian tourist destinations (Ayre's Rock). Anomalies sharpen the perception of a larger context that might otherwise be taken for granted: a clearing in the forest, a grove on the prairie. Sometimes, even, 8 Anomaly as symbol: Yosemite National Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) anomalies or rarities are valued more highly than the common landscape. National Parks in the United States and Great Britain often preserve the most extraordinary landscapes, remote from human settlement, anomalies of natural phenomena. ,,59 By straying from the expected character, an anomaly becomes a symbol for both the difference it illuminates and the dominant character that it contradicts. Across cultures and eras, symbols carry meaning based on the standard they emulate or from which they diverge. A landscape itself and the way it is treated can be a symbol, or elements can be situated symbolically within a landscape. There is no requirement of grandiosity attendant to symbolic meaning in a landscape. Cosgrove expresses this in the statement: All landscapes carry symbolic meaning because all are products of the human appropriation and transfonnation of the environment. Symbolism is most easily read in the most highly-designed landscapes the city, the park and the garden and through the representation of landscape in painting, poetry and other arts. But it is there to be read in rural landscapes and even in the most apparently unhumanised of natural environments.59 Spim, 159. 60 Cosgrove (1989: 126) quoted by Muir, 222. Elise M. Brcnnillkmeyer


Humans create symbols in the landscape because humans comprehend, value, and respond to symbols. Tuan underscores the sublime potency of this trait of human perception where the positioning and reading of symbols makes use of the fact that "however diverse our perceptions of environment, as members of the same species we are constrained to see things a certain way.,,61 follows that symbols work because, "humans understand and experience one kind of thing in terms of another; ,,62 we make associations between what we see and what we have previously experienced or learned. Symbols and culture rely on each other for meaning and affirmation. Just as a symbol acquires potency by being effectively positioned in a culture, a culture uses symbols to authenticate and empower itself. In this way, culture is "the medium through which people transform the mundane phenomena of the material world into a world of significant symbols to which they give meaning and attach values.,,63 How we symbolically position specific landscapes and why we choose those landscapes for a specific purpose is a function of cultural bias. The urban landscape is a powerful cultural tool where symbolism in the landscape" ... serves the purpose of reproducing cultural norms and establishing the values of dominant groups across all of society.,,64 As much as symbols can be explicitly used to convey preconceived messages, the meaning of a symbol is malleable and influenced by coincidental as well as 61 Tuan, 5. 62 Spim, 19. 63 Mitchell, 63. 64 Muir, 222. 28


contrived associations. In the mid 1900's in the United States, mountains that exceed fourteen thousand feet in elevation gained recognition as a unique category of mountain called This association automatically lends symbolic value to any mountain reaching an elevation over fourteen thousand feet because the celebration of Fourteeners contributes to "America's fascination with mountains as ideal nature.,,65 And, as a group the Fourteeners "have become towering and tangible 'peaks of identity,' engendering a collective sense of attachment between communities and their surrounding idealized landscape.,,66 Any mountain belonging to that group is predisposed to symbolic leverage, regardless of the significance of surrounding mountains that do not meet the elevation requirements. Legend and folklore are equally powerful associations to propel symbolic significance. This canbe seen in the importance of the Angel of Shavano to the people of Salida and Poncha Springs in Colorado. Mt. Shavano is a particularly potent symbol where, "Shavano's Angel Legend and visibility combine with its Fourteener status to assure that it remains more central in local place identity than do other nearby distinctive peaks.,,67 Figure 9 Snow melting from Shavano's peak fills a crevice in such a way that it resembles an angel with uplifted arms. This formation is linked to the life sustaining moisture delivered to the valley by melting snow, becoming an icon named the Angel of Shavano. 65 Kevin S. Blake, "Colorado Fourteeners and the Nature of Place Identity" no. 2, April 2002, I. 66 Blake, 6. 67 Ibid, 9. Elise M.


Thus belonging to the celebrated Fourteeners automatically positions Mt. Shavano as a symbol within the nation and the legend furthers its symbolic importance to the local community. As the world grows in complexity and the speed of communication increases, symbols become even more malleable relative to the "instability of meaning, our ability to invest signs and symbols, to recycle them in a different context and C C ,,68 translorrn t elr relerence. n our contemporary context even more t an prevIous ages, "meanings can be extended, altered, elaborated or obliterated. ,,69 The importance of symbols to a culture persists because it may be true that, "earlier and less commercial cultures may sustain more stable symbolic codes, but every culture weaves its world out of image and symbol. ,,70 The interrelated nature of culture and symbol allows for a dynamic discourse between intended and perceived meaning. Lynch addresses this discourse with the explanation, "If it is desirable that an environment evoke rich, vivid images, it is also desirable that these images be communicable and adaptable to changing practical needs.,,7l Today's cultures and future cultures will continue to use symbols and will adapt the symbols to accommodate changing meanings and promote evolving ideals. They will revise the message and value of established symbols to have relevancy to their contemporary reality. 68 Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 7. 69 Ibid, 8. 70 Ibid. Lynch, 139. Elise M. Brcnninkillcycr 30


Cities have a rich tradition of positioning symbols to reflect and promote the ideals of their respective governments or civilizations. Thus, "all cities contain symbols of some kind that concentrate and enforce (through high visibility) the ideals of power and glory.,,72 Tuan defines a symbol as "a part that has the power to suggest a Figure 10 Paris' Eiffel Tower, San Francisco's streetcars and Switzerland's Alps are well known examples of an image representing a city or country. ( whole,,73 and often a single image or icon is equated with an entire city, or sometimes an entire country.74 Tuan describes this significant position of a symbol as imageability,75 where a "strong trait is made to stand for the entire city ... to capture the character of a place by a specific scene or picture.,,76 This is important not only to the governing bodies in a city but also to the citizens, because symbols help them make sense of where they are. Anselm Strauss explains, "the city, as a whole, is inaccessible to the imagination unless it can be reduced and simplified."n Being able to orient and conceive of a city in your mind is imperative to place identity. Thus it is significant that: 72 Tuan, 246. Ibid, 23. 74 San Francisco's streetcars, Paris' Eiffel Tower, and Switzerland's Alps are well known examples. 75 In (Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1960), imageability is defined by Kevin Lynch as "that quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer. is that shape, color or arrangement which facilitates the making of vividly identified, powerfully structured, highly useful mental images of the environment." 76 Tuan, 204. Anselm Strauss, (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1961), 8. Strauss (1916-1996) was an American sociologist who published over thirty books, including (Aldine Transaction, 1967). Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr


Not only does the city-dweller develop a sentiment of place gradually, but it is extremely difficult for him even to visualize the physical organization of his city, and, even more, to make sense of its cross currents of activity. Apparently an invariable characteristic of city life is that certain stylized and symbolic means must be resorted to in order to "see" the city.78 IfTuan is correct in asserting, "American cities lack visual identity;" then American cities need to leverage symbols in order to cultivate place identity. 79 As important as the selection and presentation of symbols, the way in which symbols are organized into a system of representation also influences place identity. Strauss describes the evolution of Chicago's urban imageries to illustrate how citizens assemble individual symbols into a system of representation of the city's identity. He establishes that, "just as every American city is represented in temporal terms, it receives representation along other dimensions: spatial, geographic, economic, social, cultural. All such representations form a characteristic system of symbolism, they do not merely constitute a bunch of discrete images."gO Strauss stresses that the system of representation is as important as the individual symbols themselves. Iconography informs a hierarchy of desirable symbols within a community. That hierarchy is influenced by political and social agendas that can position some symbols more prominently than others or ignore certain symbols altogether. His study of Chicago reveals this since: "when Chicago's residents lay stress upon one or more of those images, they also systematically under stress certain other images; e.g., when they point to the lake front with pride, they will carefully avoid mentioning, or visiting, the 78 Strauss, 6. 79 Tuan, 204 80 Strauss, 32. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 32


less palatable urban scenery that daily impinges upon lower-class Chicagoans; and they link certain images in suggestive ways with others as when the city's enviable enterprise is conceived of as a distinctively Midwestern trait or is spoken of as characteristic of the sons of Italian and ,,81 eWIs ImmIgrants. Because the inclusions and exclusions reflect cultural biases, what is left out is as important as Early 20century image promoting Chicago's lake front. (Carl Van Vechten) what is included in the system of representation. Strauss acknowledges, "to say that certain urban populations within Chicago link, stress, and avoid certain public images is already tantamount to saying that these images have functions and histories not immediately apparent. ,,82 Thus the selection of symbols to include in a system of representation is based on cultural dispositions and reflects a community's heritage.83 Strauss, 34. 82 Ibid. 83 lohn Dixon Hunt and Dolores Hayden are two authors who further explain the political and cultural dispositions of a community. In the work (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), Hunt presents a reception history of landscape architecture that explores the dialogue between a designed landscape and the people who inhabit, transform and adopt a personal understanding of it. Dolores Hayden explores the political influences on community design that result in the celebration or suppression ofa landscape's history in her work (MIT Press, 1995). Elise M. Brenninkmcycr 33


Heritage Landscapes receive the history and reflect the culture of a community, consequently they possess a heritage that is specific to that community. When a landscape is recognized for the history that occurred on its grounds, "the association between landscape and history converts the landscape into heritage. ,,84 At monumental sites Figure 12 Gettysburg is the site of the largest battle in the civil war. (National Park Service) such as Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, the history of the site fuels an emotional connection to the landscape because "awareness of the past is an important element in the love of place. ,,85 It also leverages the significance ofthe landscape in a community. This occurs when, "The historical aspects of landscape combine with aesthetic and place-related elements to constitute landscape as heritage. Landscape becomes, therefore, a significant component of the overall heritage which endows communities and nations with identity. ,,86 In addition to encompassing the events of the past, landscape heritage indicates the cultural biases that shape current politics. Tuan references this evolution where, in order" ... to understand a person's environmental preferences, we may need to examine his biological heritage, upbringing, education, job and physical surroundings. At the level of group attitudes and preferences, it is necessary to know 84 Muir, 42. 85 Tuan, 99. 86 Muir, 37. L1ise M. Brcnninklllcycr 34


a group's cultural history and experience in the context of its physical setting. ,,87 In positioning landscapes as cultural artifacts, society chooses which heritages to celebrate and which to suppress. Thus, "the group, expressing and enforcing the cultural standards of the society, affects strongly the perception, attitude and environmental value of its members.,,88 In this way, urban landscapes are comprised of both public history and public culture. 89 History is diffused into a culture through the mechanism of collective memory. Collective memory is a discourse between citizens in a community and the heritage they choose to preserve through a shared consciousness of select histories. In advocating the importance of cultural identity to urban planning, William Neill explains how a collective memory is shaped by a community and how it in tum infonns their identity. He states, If discourses are part of the means by which subjects come to be known and to know themselves, central here must be discourses involving the construction ofmemory ... 1t is worth remembering however, that memory is not something abstract like history, that it cannot exist outside those people who do the remembering ... Collective remembering can take various institutionalized, cultural and ritualized forms. is also constituted spatially and therefore, of major significance to urban planning.9o This spatial constitution of collective memory infuses a community's heritage into the landscape. Dolores Hayden explains that urban landscapes become "storehouses for social memories," where "natural features such as hills or harbors, as well as streets, 87 Tuan, 59. 88 Ibid, 246. 89 Hayden, 6. Neill, 10. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 35


buildings and patterns of settlement, frame the lives of many people and often outlast many lifetimes.,,91 The memories intertwined in the landscape can remind a community of significant events that influenced their culture or of common ideals upheld by the culture or of geographic features commonly revered. Memory infuses space with the meaning and significance necessary for place. In this way, "Space defines landscape, where space combined with memory defines place.,,92 When the memory is shared throughout a community, it informs their identity as a culture. Where memory "can not exist outside those people who do the remembering," it is owned by a community of people and it can be preserved or passed on through their iconography. One way of perpetuating a collective memory and ensuring that it survives in the civic consciousness is to express it through the landscape. Shared histories may become civic identities because they are a way of life or because of political leveraging. Often urban landscapes are specifically designed to promote or suppress a particular history; this is "the power of place". Hayden investigated how the power of place acknowledged minority populations and concluded, "the power of place the Figure 13 Speakers comer in Hyde Park has a legacy as an arena for democratic expression. (Thomas Marben) power of ordinary urban landscapes to nurture citizens' public memory, to encompass shared time in the form of shared territory remains untapped for most working people's neighborhoods in most American cities, and for most ethnic history and Hayden, 9. 92 Lippard, 9. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 36


most women's history.,,93 Place identity is suppressed when political leveraging encourages a community to ignore their collective memory. Even as politics shape both history and heritage, history sets the conditions out of which politics arise. Thus, "history is not just the traces of the past; but is the outcome of a dialogue between the present and the past; the present itself being many voiced.,,94 This dialogue influences the association of Figure Representation of Tiananmen Square is politically monitored ( landscapes and place identity where "space is penneated with social relations: it is not only supported by social relations but it is also producing and produced by social relations,,95 A cyclical condition is established where because collective memory can influence the choices and priorities of a culture, collective memory is sometimes carefully controlled to suit political agendas. In the midst of multiple histories vying for precedence in a culture, the urban landscape offers a common ground on which to express a collective memory. Beyond political divisiveness, "Landscapes affirm or negate the memory of a personal past, [and] record a collective, cultural past, even a past beyond 93 Hayden, 9. 94 Muir, 41. 95 Henri Lefebvre (1991: 286) quoted by Hayden, 41. Figure 15 Trevi Fountain is a plaza in Rome with a local, national and global identity. ( Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 37


individual experience or human memory.,,96 The past recalled by a landscape can speak to an individual, a culture, the human race or even the fonnation of the earth itself. Just as the scope of collective memory can vary between human and geologic references, the scale ofthe landscape that promotes a collective memory varies from a small meaningful comer such as Rome's Trevi Fountain to a citywide system such as Boston's Emerald Necklace. Accordingly, "while a single, preserved historic place may trigger potent memories, networks of such places begin to reconnect social memory on an urban scale. ,,97 If Michael Frisch is correct in asserting, "the relationship between history and memory is peculiarly and perhaps uniquely fractured in contemporary American life,,,98 then exposing the latent memory contained in a landscape can heal this fracture and enhance place identity. Thus it is important to celebrate historic sites in a community and designing them in ways that reveal their heritage. Landscape architects can enhance place identity not only by designing landscapes that acknowledge a city's history but also through city planning, to make historically significant sites within the city's urban fabric centers of public activity. % Spim, 62. 97 Hayden, 78. 98 Michael Frisch quoted by Hayden, 45. F1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 38


Geographic context distinctions Larger than political identities or social histories, the geographic characteristic of a landscape includes the geographic features of the landscape, the geologic legacy of the earth's evolution that is evident in a landscape and the climate and resulting vegetation of that landscape. this context, "the landscape is in truth nothing less than the complex, interrelated and unified material product of the geographical environment, a seamless totality in which the immemorial process of nature and the more recent activities of mankind interpenetrate.,,99 The geologic legacy of the Grand Canyon (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Dominant geographic features shape the physical context in which life is conducted. When these features encompass vast tracts of land and represent multiple eras of geologic formation, they are considered regional geographies and are often persuasive enough to characterize a way oflife. 100 Thus, "inherent qualities of landscape features and phenomena account for similar meanings across time and place."IOI This larger scale of identity links communities separated by distance and time because they all conduct life within the context of the regional geography. They are equally familiar with its challenges, opportunities and nostalgia for its character. This similarity allows that, "irrespective of the civilizing influences of cultural tradition, however, it is the native landscape that is a primary determinant of regional 99 P. Coones (1985:5) quoted by Muir, 6. An "east coast" way of life is though of differently than life "in the west" or "southern living." Spirn, 32. Elisc M. llrcnninkmcycr 39


identity.,,102 This regional identity permeates urban landscapes with dominant geographic conditions that Ann Whiston Spim calls "deep context." In Manhattan, the proliferation of skyscrapers is possible in part because they are easily set in the shallow bedrock characteristic of the geographic region. This exemplifies that, "the deep context of a city is invisible to most, buried under layers of human constructions; and yet it exerts a powerful influence upon the urban landscape." 103 The underlying condition is so powerful that "when surface structure obscures or opposes deep context, only energy, materials and information can sustain it.,,104 The physical context in which cultures operate as well as the constraints on how "surface structure" is manipulated to support the daily activities of a culture is determined by geographic character. Geographic context pervades these important elements of place identity. Geographic distinctions are as important as the context from which they diverge. When geographic features create a landscape that is notably distinct from ordinary experience, an Figure 17 Manhattan skyscrapers and the bedrock into which they are anchored. (Julian Pye) individual and powerful sense of place immediately informs place identity. This can be seen in the case of the previously mentioned Fourteeners, where "Fourteen thousand feet, arbitrary as that elevation may be, in part gains a distinct sense of place 102 Hough, 103 Spiro, 158. Ibid. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer


because of physical extremes and challenges."I05 Fourteen thousand feet differentiates the mountains not only in their name and belonging to a symbolic group, but also through their geographic character. Geographic distinctions are most often a local exception to regional characteristics. These local exceptions provide the individuality necessary for place, especially where place suggests belonging. This sets up the contrast where "Place is most often examined from the subjective viewpoint of individual or community. While 'region' has been more of an objective geographic term."I06 Additionally, these local exceptions are often the impetus for cultural development because their uniqueness allows a condition of survival or reverence not found in the larger regional character. A water source in an otherwise arid region, a hill overlooking the plains from which enemies might approach, or an island in a sea are all examples of local exceptions to regional conditions that are attractive to community development. Geographic characteristics and distinctions work on both regional and local scales and communities situate their local identities within a regional context. In fact: America's regional individualities are carved deeply into the psychology of our cities. Of course, the psychology of every city within a given region is not more like that of each of its neighbors than it is dissimilar to the psychology of cities lying within other regions. But regionalism is one major conceptual device by which to view the symbolism of American cities.107 105 Blake, 4. Lippard, 34. 107 Strauss, 124. Flisc M. Brcllninkrncycr


This is a particularly American phenomenon "since our cities are so widely scattered on such different landscapes, it is difficult not to associate a city with its region."lo8 Despite the dominance of regional identities however, local identities also feed the regional and even national character. In this dialogue, "national identity is constructed in the context of local identities which cut across both it and each other in complex ways."I09 Communities feel attachment to both their local and regional geographic context and being grounded in both is important to place identity. Tuan explores this through the lens of topophilia where, "patriotism means the love of one's terra patria or natal land. In Ancient times it was strictly a local sentiment."llo He concludes, "topophilia rings false when it is claimed for a large territory." I I I Hence, attachment to multiple scales of community must be carefully balanced in place identity. A community may value itself as part of a collection of communities within a region, however it is important for that community to have an identity of its own within the larger context of that region. To belong to the region will shape the context of where the community is situated but its place identity also requires establishing distinctions between itself and other communities in the region. is important to note that both regional and local context are important to a community's ability to position itself in the world. Geographic context is central to place identity since "man dwells when he can orientate himself within and identify 108 Strauss, 114. Cosgrove, Roscoe and Rycroft (1996:536) quoted by Muir, 231. 110 Tuan, 100. Ibid, 10 Uisc M. Brcnninkl1lcycr 42


himself with an environment, or, in short, when he experiences the environment as meaningful." 112 In addition to acting as a stable co-ordinate of positioning, it is important to also note "context is a place where processes happen, a setting of dynamic relationships, a collection of static features." 13 is the work of context to direct how elements develop within its confines. Otherwise, "all snowflakes, snowdrifts, leaves, trees, gates and towns would be identical if active context did not shape them .... No feature of landscape is immune.,,114 When geographic characteristics are insurmountable, context prevails throughout all cultural constructs. Roxi Thoren observed this in her exploration of the role of landscape in Icelandic architecture, concluding "the setting is a cultural construct that cannot be removed from Icelandic design.,,115 Through climate, geographic character provides a palette of textures and materials that shape culture. also insists on a geologic reality that is deeply embedded in the history and evolution of the land, the genius loci of millions of years of earth's formation that result in a unique confluence of geographic characteristics. Thus, Speaking in context demands more than using local materials and imitating forms common to the regional landscape. To speak in context is to distinguish deep and lasting contexts from those that are superficial and fleeting, it is to respond to the rhythms and histories of each and to project those contexts into the future. 16 Norberg-Schulz, 5. Spirn, 133. Ibid. Thoren, 4. Spirn, 167. 43


Design is a primary tool through which a culture assembles its heritage, iconography and geographic character into a meaningful place. If "landscapes are a cacophony until sorted into individual dialogues by focusing on a primary signal to which many elements respond," then landscape architecture designs the frame through which to achieve focus. 117 Landscape architecture is ideally suited to framing elements into a clear display of In New York City, Paley Park's place specific design transforms the constraints of a small site into a place evocative of the city's identity and a standout member of the city's parks. ( place identity where, "the first element of orienting in a landscape is to see that landscape. The more resonances there are between design and context, the more opportunities there are for citizens to observe, question, and engage their place.,,118 The prerogative of landscape architecture to connect communities to the landscape in which they operate position it as a design field with considerable opportunity and responsibility to enable place identity. In all design, "overlapping functions, feelings and meanings enrich the experience and reading of a place when expressed in material form.,,119 The enrichment can come in many ways, such as isolating a meaningful form, clarifying a point of view, highlighting dominant characteristics or combining elements into a harmonious whole. Roxi Thoren promotes a consideration of urban design where, Spim, 38. Thoren, 7. Spim, 80. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr


"ideally, such designs will encourage continued exploration that will gradually move from an engagement with the building, to an engagement with the landscape, and recognition of the role of the landscape in creating community.,,120 This is one example of design as a lever for place identity to resonate with the citizens of a community. Design can highlight and direct attention to those elements of a community that infonn their identity. Thus, where "any individual citizen ... will need a vocabulary to express what he imagines the entire city to be," the vocabulary is provided or at least reinforced through elements of design.121 When that design vocabulary builds on a community's iconography, heritage and geographic context, it connects communities to their place identity. Where design does not engage place, Dolores Hayden points out the dilemma of missed opportunities: Architecture, as a discipline, has not seriously considered social and political issues, while social history has developed without much consideration of space or design. Yet it is the volatile combination of social issues with spatial design, intertwined in these controversies, that makes them so critical to the fA .. 122 uture 0 mencan cItIes. Conversely, good design reflects the character and history intrinsic in every space. When shaping urban landscapes, "the question of whether to reveal or conceal the traces of a site's history whether natural, industrial or politicaldefines its genius loci and ultimately plays a role in the fonn, meaning and cultural significance of the 110 Thoren, 7. 111 Strauss, 13. 111 Hayden, 8. I:lisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 45


new design.,,123 The power of design to create fonn, meaning, and cultural significance is an opportunity to position those elements in support of place identity. Fonn and cultural significance that are unique to a place can infonn innovative, distinctive and meaningful design that resonates within its community. By embracing what sets a place apart, design bestows identity to local, regional and even national communities. One designer who recognized Figure 19 The urban design, architecture and landscape fabric of Amsterdam respond to the conditions of its canal. ( this potential at the beginning of the 19th century was Wilhelm Miller (1869 1938). A horticulturalist, author and academic, Miller's theories on landscape design introduced the tenns "Prairie Spirit", "Prairie School" and "Prairie Style." He authored in pursuit of a national American landscape design aesthetic. His recognition of the importance of place specific design led to statements emphasizing the connection between unique characteristics and independent identities such as, "Let us not copy Europe and the East, but have something they can never have! The way for every new country to come into its own is to apply universal principles of design to the native materials.,,125 Uniqueness is important to cities as well as nations vying for recognition as independent identities. Unique materials and the design vocabulary of iconography, heritage and geographic character constitute place. In fact, the combined expression 123 Libby Hruska (ed.), (New York: The Museum of Modem Art, 2005), 16. 124 Originally published as a circular in 1915 by the University of Illinois Department of Horticulture. 125 Wilhelm Miller (1916) quoted by Spim, 78. Uisc M. Brcnninklllcycr 46


of these elements may result in something more unique than any of the elements individually. Landscape architecture is a powerful medium through which to effectively position a place specific design vocabulary in community identity. Roxi Thoren's work explores this facet of the discipline. She postulates: In an increasingly homogeneous global culture, how can designers express local identities in their work? One element that continues to make communities unique is their physical environment, and landscape architecture has much to offer other design disciplines as a source of place-specific form. 126 Despite the special ability of landscape architecture to enhance place identity, "much of the urban landscape the parks and gardens and formal open spaces of the city has been subjected to a universal design standard that denies a sense of place.,,127 In the urban landscape, it is the public space in particular that impacts place identity. Where Hayden proposes that public space can nurture a "profound, subtle and inclusive sense of what it means to be an American," public space is surely also able to inform what it means to belong to a particular city.128 Just as symbols work individually or as a system, not only individual public spaces but also the collective body of public spaces informs place identity. This is because "identity in the urban center is based on the continuity of the built environment -a matrix of built form. Urban spaces, squares, parks, streets, and the ways these are linked are the organizing framework.,,129 If landscape architecture seizes the opportunity to celebrate unique geographic characteristics while capitalizing on the iconography and heritage of a Thoren, 3. Hough, 92. Hayden, 9. Hough, 115. Uisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 47


landscape, it can infonn communities with a sense of place. This is important not only at individual sites but also as a weaving of stories and imagery throughout the urban landscape. Together, the public spaces in a community create an arrangement of shared and distinctive qualities that speak to what it means to be a member of that community, establish its uniqueness as a place and support of place identity. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 48


Place Identity Case Studies In an article outlining strategies for case studies of landscape architecture, Mark Francis states: A case study is a well-documented and systematic examination of the process, decision making and outcomes of a project, which is undertaken for the purpose of informing future practice, policy, theory and/or education. [As such] ... case studies are a way to build a body of criticism and critical theory, and to disseminate the effectiveness of landscape architecture outside the 130 pro esslOn. If case studies impart "lessons from which one can generalize or principles that can advance knowledge,,,131 then case studies of existing public spaces can help to illustrate the failures and successes of the practice of landscape architecture as a catalyst of place identity. Case studies consider both quantitative and qualitative information. The outline provided by Mark Francis for acquiring basic site information succinctly gathers the quantitative information into a baseline of facts from which to frame a qualitative investigation. Each case study begins with an outline of the site's size and location, the project stakeholders, construction dates and the cost of the project. This is a straightforward list to clearly layout and allow comparison of rudimentary site information. The factual outline is followed by a qualitative analysis with questions pertaining to the four elements defined as integral to place identity, which comprises the bulk of the case study. The analysis is introduced with an identification of the site boundaries, a brief description of the character of the neighborhood surrounding the 130 Mark Francis, "A Case Study Method for Landscape Architecture" no. 1 (2001), 16. 131 Francis, 16. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 49


site, and an overview of when the site was designed and by whom. This paragraph sets the stage for an in-depth discussion of the site based on the topics of its heritage, iconography, geographic character and design. Each topic is considered as a subheading with specific questions aimed at revealing their role in place identity. Questions about the site's heritage include: What is the history of the site? What is the significance of the site to the community? and, How have politics shaped the site? Questions concerning the site's iconography include: Are traditional urban monuments positioned at or near the site? Are any symbolic site anomalies at or near the site? Do any symbols at or near the site express cultural norms or values? Has the meaning of any symbols evolved? and, How do any symbols at or near the site work as a system of representation? Geographic character was evaluated in the context of place identity by asking: What are the inherent geographic qualities or features at the site? and, Are the geographic features of the site characteristic of or distinctive from the geographic context of the community? Of the region? Of the nation? These questions sometimes overlapped into discussion of design decisions within each topic of investigation. Specific design questions however were considered as a unique topic of investigation. They include: What is the focus ofthe design? What is the frame of the design how is the focus achieved? and, What does the design communicate is distinctive about the community? The ultimate purpose of the questions is to discover through the case study the answer to four main inquiries: How does the design of the site express or repress elements of the community's heritage? Are any symbols at the site incorporated into the city's iconography? How does the design of the site observe or contradict its geographic Elise M. Brcnninkmeycr 50


character? and ultimately, What, if anything, does the design communicate is specific to the city's place identity? The case studies involved multiple site visits over a span of four weeks in the spring, mapping of design documents and researching master plan documents and published reviews ofthe sites. Within the constraints of this paper, I was not able to interview designers, stakeholders or users ofthe case study sites. As previously noted, the sites to which I applied this place identity case study methodology are Commons Park and Skyline Park in Denver Colorado. These sites are both centrally located in downtown Denver and were intended to contribute to the overall fabric of the city's urban landscape. They are two out of only three downtown parks, and so they are positioned to powerfully influence Denver's place identity and are useful subjects of a case study. The city of Denver began with the founding of two towns beside an Arapahoe Indian village at the confluence of the Cherry Creek and the Platte River. The confluence was an oasis in the otherwise dry short grass prairie and became central to navigation and trade during Colorado's 1858 gold rush. Although in Figure 20 The founding of Denver at the confluence of the Cherry Creek and Platte River. (Collier & Cleveland Lithograph) its early years Denver was both defined by and dependent on the confluence ofthese two geographic features; Denver's relationship with the waterways evolved to also be shaped by politics, flooding and engineering. Ultimately, highway and building F1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 51


development marginalized each waterway by binding their ebbs and flows in channels at a substantial distance below the city's active street level. Today the city largely turns it back on these important local features and separates them from the dailv life of Denver citizens. In lieu of addressing the waterways and short grass prairie of Denver's local geography, Denver's urban design focuses on promoting its Figure 21 Cherry Creek contained in channel below street grade in Downtown Denver 2006 (Elise Brenninkmeyer) proximity to regional mountain ranges. This bias ultimately compelled the city to tum away from its source, and in so doing, to compromise a fundamental connection to its place identity. Denver's dissociation from its rivers collided with the growing romanticism of mountain living and resulted in the loss of its "Queen City of the Plains" title in favor of the designation "Gateway to the Rockies." Names reflect social values and naming is a social practice that reveals a culture's Figure 22 Image of Denver that exaggerates its connection to the Rocky Mountains. (Rob Stuehrk) relationship to locality, land and natural processes. In that light, Denver's name change can be interpreted as a shift away from praising the virtue of a Queenly city Matthew Potteiger and Jamie Purinton offer an in-depth exploration of the power of naming in the work (John Wiley & Sons, 1998). The shift in Denver's nicknames occurred in the beginning of the 20th century. Trends mirroring the shift include the popularity of motor clubs and the creation of the Denver Mountain Parks (begun in 1913 with five parks in the mountains surrounding Denver within a fifty-five mile circle drive). E1isc M. Brcnninkl11cycr 52


and relocating its identity to a regional mountain range that is valued more than the city itself. The "Queen City" title celebrates Denver's situation on a short grass prairie, a local geographic condition that encompasses local features such as the Platte River and Cherry Creek. The "Gateway" title however, speaks of leaving Denver to go elsewhere and in so doing frames its connection to place and society outside of the city itself. The Rocky Mountains are an impressive and dominant feature in the regional geography surrounding Denver. Although the foothills of the range fonn a conspicuous backdrop to the city, they are twenty miles outside of Denver's city limits and as a regional feature, they are not unique to Denver. Colorado Springs, Boulder, Fort Collins and other Front Range cities also enjoy the dramatic backdrop they provide. Clearly Denver's local sense of place is diluted if people Figure 23 Map showing relationship of Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. primarily understand and remember it as a way to access a mountain range shared by a multiplicity of other cities. This dilution overlooks the significant local geographic features unique to Denver such as the Cherry Creek and Platte River, and compromises the integrity of Denver's place identity. Denver's place identity is uniquely challenged because the city's local identity is routinely overshadowed by the regional dominance of the Rocky Mountains. Therefore, recognition of local conditions is vital to linking the community of Denver to the landscape of Denver in order to foster a distinctive place identity. Although regional features can not and should not be separated from an understanding of place, F1isc M. Brcnninklllcycr 53


they are shared between many localities and therefore do not speak to the uniqueness of a specific community. As such, they should be recognized as the context in which a local identity resonates. Denver will never lose its mountain association; breathtaking views of snow covered or sunlit mountains will continue to drive design decisions that embrace viewsheds. However, design decisions in Denver must not overlook opportunities to engage local geographic features because it is these features that speak about what is unique to Denver within the regional context. Commons Park and Skyline Park were each designed with the intention of positioning the sites centrally in the life and identity of downtown Denver. How each addresses the heritage, iconography and geographic character of their sites impacts the way the sites fit into their community context and participate in the expression of Denver's place identity. 1874 Aerial Plan of Denver (source unknown) Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 54


Case Study: Commons Park Project Name: Commons Park, Denver CO Location: Little Raven Street, between 15th Street and 19th Street Date DesignedlPlanned: land designated as park over 100 years ago? Construction Completed: Completed and dedicated in 200 I Construction Cost: $12 Million. Much of the construction cost was funded by grants from Great Outdoor Colorado Legacy, and financial support from the Central Platte Valley Metropolitan District, and the City and County of Denver Size: 20 acres Landscape Architects: Civitas Incorporated (Denver), Jones Jones (Seattle) ClientlDeveloper: City and County of Denver, Denver Parks and Recreation, the Mayor's South Platte River Initiative Consultants/Architects: Public Works, Urban Drainage and Flood Control, Miro Engineers and McLaughlin Water Engineers, Keamerer Ecological Consultants Managed By: Denver Parks and Recreation Originally vacant land surrounded by rail yards and industry, the site of Commons Park was reserved as parkland for over one hundred years before the park was realized. Also the largest park to be built in Denver in the last one hundred years, Commons Park spans twenty acres on Little Raven Figure 25 Commons Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Street between 15th Street and 19th Street and is flanked by the South Platte River to the west. is located in a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood, primarily visited by residents, commuters to and from the city, and people traveling along the Platte River Greenway trail. The initiatives ofthe Platte River Greenway Foundation to revive the river and create a network of green open spaces on its banks and the dismantling of the 16th Street viaduct helped to push the opening of the park forward. Eventually, the landscape architecture firm Civitas, Inc. of Denver was commissioned to execute a design; and in 2001 the park was finally dedicated. Elise M. Brcnninklllc),cr


l lill!.) n;) .... r':)"I'I1'1'1<1, 12 Till' 4 1'S' P:A:.. 13 .... ,.; .. i:,1 5 Hi''' i-'hu.<1 Stv 18:" 11 '!'rf'H'U Figure 26 Commons Park: Site Layout (Civitas Inc.) Commons Park is bordered to the west by the South Platte River and adjacent to the confluence of the river with Cherry Creek. An important water source in the region's primarily dry prairie, the confluence was a popular camp for Arapahoe Indians and a navigation point as well as oasis for early trappers and explorers. As news Figure 27 Confluence Park, adjacent to Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) spread of gold discoveries in the mountains, prospectors also camped at the confluence to prepare for or recover from mining nearby rivers and mountainsides for gold. The prospectors in turn attracted settlers to the confluence who made a living Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 56


providing services and trade to the miners. Soon two towns sprang up on either side of the confluence Denver to the north and Auraria on the south. Competition between Auraria and Denver was fierce until it was decided that both could prosper from cooperation and the citizens resolved that, "Whereas the towns at and near the mouth of Cherry Creek are, and ought to be one; therefore, be it." 133 In 1860 a ceremony on the Larimer Bridge over Cherry creek formally joined the two towns into one city of Denver. Once established as a city, another crucial element of Denver's prosperity was it connection to the national railroad. The tracks in and out of Denver follow early navigation routes along the Platte River and parallel the park one block east. The train follows the Platte just as settlers, miners, explorers and generations of Native Americans did. Where the 'great leading road from the Missouri River' grew out of trails following the South Platte River, an 1858 letter from General William Larimer to the Mayor of Leavenworth, describes the significance of the River's navigational role: Figure 28 The railroad brings steer and other livestock to Denver's historic stockyards. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) This town, 'Denver City' is situated at the mouth of Cherry Creek where it forms its confluence with the South Platte. This is the point where the Santa Fe and New Mexico road crosses to Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger, also the great leading road from the Missouri River: in short, it is the center of all the great leading thoroughfares and is bound to be a great city.,,134 Jerome Smiley, (Denver: Times-Sun Publishing Co., 190 I) 324. Thomas J. Noel, (Tulsa: Continental Heritage Press, 1980),25. E1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 57


Likewise, the arrival of the railroad in Denver in 1870 secured the city's connection to the regional and national economy. This ultimately allowed the city to prosper as a center of livestock trade and agriculture and assured its survival beyond the boom and bust days of its mining culture. Hence, the Platte River is closely tied to the navigation, settlement and development of Denver's pioneer history. The banks of the Platte River where Commons Park is located are rich with the heritage of the city growing up around it. Figure 29 Commons Park: Connection to Communities (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 58


The dry and level South Platte River, whose banks were once scarred by Bison trails, was instrumental to early navigation.135 runs in a northeasterly direction from the foot of the mountains in South Park to the Missouri River in Nebraska, which ultimately feeds into the Mississippi. Thus it connects Denver to the national waterways, linking into the largest river in North America. Whereas nationally the Platte is part of a larger network, locally it is a unique geographic feature. During an exploration for a route to Santa Fe in Figure 30 The South Platte River at Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) 1739 Pierre and Paul Mallet named its flat shallow water "Riviere la Platte". When Major Stephen Long camped at the confluence in 1820, his exploration party recorded the Platte at 300 feet wide and 12 feet deep. remains an anomaly that cuts an impressive swath in the local geographic character of the short grass prairie. Large cottonwoods, flowering trees and a variety of riparian grasses and shrubs spread along its banks. These conditions were especially notable at the confluence ofthe Cherry Creek that was so named because of the abundance of choke cherry trees scattered on its banks. In addition to the distinctive geology and vegetation of the Platte, the drama of its unpredictable and violent flooding made it a powerful presence in the local geographic character. Early settlers were warned by Arapahoe not to trust the complacent banks of the local rivers. Sure enough, Denver's history is marked by several significant flood events, the largest of which include the Cherry 135 Geoffery L. Muntz and Alan S. Wuth, (Frederick: Jente-Hagan Boookcorp" 1983),2. Elise M. Brcnninklllcycr 59


Creek flood of 1864 that ravaged Downtown Denver and the South Platte River flood of 1965, which undennined dams and other engineering attempt to control the river and caused $45 million in damage. .... : .... \' .... _. 0 ....... "\""1.,,"" G,.",,:t ... 13.0 ... .., Figure 31 Cherry Creek flood ravaged Downtown Denver in (source unknown) Figure 32 Commons Park: South Platte River Access (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Because of its historical and geographic significance, the South Platte River is also symbolically significant. In the 1980's Platte River Greenway Foundation realized this and began to develop open space along the banks of the Platte and initiated clean up projects to revive the river waters. Its significance to the city Llisc M Brcnninkl11cycr 60


allowed for an impressive amount public and private investment in its revival. The cost of facilities associated with the South Platte River includes: "the public investment: somewhere between $45 million and $65 million on river and parks improvements. The private tab: hundreds of millions of dollars on sports facilitates, retail, an aquarium, an amusement park, residential properties, and a stunning pedestrian bridge anchored by a 200-foot-tall mast."IJ6 Figure 33 Appreciating the South Platte River. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) A system of bridges currently connects the park to the 16th Street mall, carries pedestrians over the Platte River and will soon span Interstate Highway 25 to connect with the Highlands neighborhood. Bridges are traditional urban forms that carry a great deal of symbolic weight in any community. The traditional role of bridges in a community is multi-faceted as bridges enable important connections within a community, celebrate engineering accomplishments, and often display an artistic sensitivity or grace that makes them a powerful aesthetic presence in their community. The system of bridges Figure 34 The Millennium Bridge crosses heavy rail tracks to connect Commons Park with the 16th Street Mall and Downtown Denver. Another bridge carries pedestrians over the River into Commons Neighborhood where a third bridge will cross 1-25 to connect with the Highlands neighborhood. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) linked to Commons Park however is an evolution of bridge iconography. Whereas 136 Mary Voelz Chandler, "How Denver Got Its River Back," 92, no. 11 (2002),88. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr


bridges are historically a means to transport people or vehicles over an obstacle, two of the three bridges in this system are allow people to cross Denver's web of transportation systems. These bridges respond to the modem phenomenon where transportation arteries have grown so large that they fragment the communities they travel through. Whereas bridges are traditionally part of transportation systems, they are increasingly necessary to provide access across those transportation systems. And where monumental bridges are traditionally celebrations of the engineering achievements that allow large loads to be carried across great distances, these new takes on bridge iconography fulfill the need for pedestrian bridges that carry significantly lighter loads and span shorter distances. Another evolution occurring near Commons Park is the role of its historic train station. Union Station was the hub of train travel and a social as well as economic icon in Denver from the opening of the first Union Station on July 1,1881 through its heydays in the 1920's and 1930's. Today plans to make it a light rail hub Figure 35 Downtown Denver and Union Station seen from the Sky Garden in Commons Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) and anchor for regional transportation declare, "Denver Union Station will be a multimodal transportation hub of international significance and a prominent and distinctive gateway to downtown Denver and the region.,,137 Thus the station symbolically reflects both the history of transportation in the city as well as its IJ7 Denver Union Station EIS, "Denver Union Station, Denver Union Station EIS, http://www .denverun Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 62


citizens current travel patterns and its hopes for future growth. In addition to its symbolic weight, the station augments Denver's place identity because as a hub of transportation it is an orienting point within the city. In Commons Park, Union Station is visible from the Sky Garden and at intervals along the Little Raven Promenade. The visual connection of the station to the park locates park visitors in both the history and the contemporary layout of Denver. Architectural installations inside the park include a black-framed compass rose shape called the Sky Garden at the top of Overlook Hill, the use of a stone wall at the street side promenade, and the Common Ground sculptural wall in the Long Meadow. The Sky Garden is an interesting surprise rewarding the visitor who climbs the hill. Figure 36 The Sky Garden orients the visitor within the park and the city. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) The compass rose shape fittingly orients the visitor to the panoramic views that also await them at the top of the hill. Although the compass rose is a shape with a central role in the history of human navigation and orientation, its meaning in the park and the city has been adapted. The compass rose in Commons Park has become an attractive location for ceremony, where the author has witnessed a marriage and an alternative newspaper chose the site as "the best place in Denver for a pagan ritual." A plaque in the trail leading to the sculptural wall, Common Ground, describes its intention: These views of Union Station are however in danger of being obstructed by current apartment building construction between Commons Park and Union Station. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 63


honors this site's historical use by diverse people. The 200foot parallel, sculptural walls evoke a bend in the nearby Platte River. The exterior wall echoes the silhouetted mountains; the interior wall represents the urban center both cherished by Denverites. Cutouts in the wall frame city views. A pathway up the serpentine structure symbolizes Western trails, while cascading stairs provide a place to gather or simply contemplate the surroundings. Constructed with native Colorado Rhyolite, was a community-inspired work of art commissioned by the Gates Family Foundation to commemorate the millennium." The plaque reveals intentions to reference the heritage and geographic character of the site as well as a desire to genuinely connect with the community. is unfortunate that without the instruction of the plaque however, does not clearly communicate its meaning or relevance to the site. is an arc shape that could be construed as a river bend but its placement and edges hint at a castle or tower intention. Though perhaps useful as a viewing platform, the narrowness and inability to see into the structure from the promenade dissuade the casual visitor from venturing up and onto the platform. Though the intentions behind were good, their expression is unclear and compromises the installations participation in the city's iconography. The stone wall perimeter is a more effective, although perhaps more mundane, architectural installation in the park. is made of Colorado Sandstone, a locally prevalent material. The wall symbolically establishes the difference between the park and the street while enabling a smooth transition between the two. Not only does Figure 37 Stone wall at park perimeter defines the park edge and alludes to the reciprocal encroachment of city and park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) the wall present a harmonious edge that both announces and defines the limits of the Elise M. BrcnllinKllle),cr


park, it is strategically broken in many places to enhance the flow of the promenade between the park and street edge. is low enough so that the park's vegetation can be seen creeping over it into the city and so that from the park the city is just a step away. Figure 38 Commons Park: Orientation of Dominant Views (Elise Brenninkmeyer) The three themes that inspired the design ofthis park are Denver's natural past, Denver's urban downtown character and Denver's social past. The natural past is expressed on the west edge of the park where the South Platte River's original character is recreated with a two-acre Figure 39 Little Raven Promenade. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) wetland that is planted with native riparian vegetation and graded to allow for periodic flooding. A large swale is the backbone for an area at the west of the park called "The Seeps." is a restoration of the vegetation and landform typical to the geographic character of the South Platte River banks. Additional swales, which Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 65


diminishing in size from west to east, filter and direct runoff throughout the park and augment the natural past theme. Denver's urban character is expressed in the park with a wide and formally planted Promenade on Little Raven Street. This promenade features alternating allees of Gamble Oak, Honey Locust, Little Leaf Linden, and White Ash trees reflective of Denver's downtown streetscape. Another formal element that reflects the formal design of a downtown space is the 460-foot-Iong curving step wall, which brings a visitor up from the wetlands to the open field. This field provides an open turf area for informal gathering or recreation, a social space typical of Denver parks. is also the starting point for the parks rambling promenade, characteristic of a Denver park experience. The promenade moves people throughout the park, providing opportunities for them to encounter other visitors and to appreciate the design themes of the park as well as its surrounding views. Figure 40 Curving step wall divides native and manicured plantings, elevates formal promenade and introduces an urban vernacular. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Where the park contrasts formal and manicured spaces with areas more in keeping with the geographic character of the site, meandering paths leave the visitor time to examine and contemplate the diverse and overlapping conditions they are traveling through. One intention behind the natural past design theme was that "the topography and associated plantings would tell a story about the impact of wind and Elisc M. Brcnninklllcycr


water on the plains' landscape.,,139 This is accomplished via the undulating landforms that rise up from the river banks and the planting of over forty percent of the park with native species consistent with riparian meadows and prairie grass meadows. These areas transition from the edge of the park into open turf fields that express the social design theme in the center of the park. The different planting areas are separated by walkways that allow each area to receive water according to different needs and also allow the visitor to travel easily between each. Consequently the park graciously combines both themes into a harmonious planting scheme where plantings and topography reflect the geographic character ofthe site's location in a prairie and yet accommodate the manicured plantings suitable to an urban park. As the visitor is moving through different areas of Commons Park, they also transition through a variety of views. City views along the eastern edge give way to mountain vistas over the park's southwest horizon which leads to a passage overlooking the river until finally the visitor can appreciate a panorama by climbing the small hill to the Sky Garden and looking out over river, mountain, neighborhood and the park itself. The directing of movement and framing of views throughout the park are strong design tools that leave little doubt in a visitors mind about the nature of their surroundings. City views present Denver's urban reality and small glimpses of distant mountains remind the visitor of Denver's regional context without over shadowing the river views that celebrate the Denver's unique geographic character. Views into the park itself self-reference Commons Park in a way that powerfully reiterate the park's role in Denver's urban fabric and place identity. 139 Interview with Mark Naylor of Civitas Inc. recorded by Joe Kuk. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 67


'il,;....-b...1o. Figure Commons Park Design Theme: Denver's Natural Past (Elise Brenninkmeyer) o ) Figure 42 Commons Park Design Theme: Denver's Social Past (Elise Brenninkmeyer) ., Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 68


; ''

Greenway trail. Additionally, rock and sand outcroppings that were introduced into the park not only allow a visitor to observe the changing conditions of the river over seasons and between days, but also to physically interact with the river, by splashing, wading or skipping stones. Finally, the bridge connecting the park to the Commons neighborhood offers visual access to the different currents and speeds of the river as do paths that parallel the river from a variety of heights throughout the park. Thus multiple opportunities for observing or interacting with the river exist in the park and make it practically impossible for a visitor to enter the park without recognizing the importance of the South Platte River. This honored position of the river in the park is augmented with plantings and topography reflective of the geographic character of a river valley. Hence the way the park address South Platte River honors the unique geographic character of the site through design and accentuates the importance of the river to the community. Connection to downtown Denver and is another important element of the park. Where perforations of the park edge facilitate ebbs and flows of access between the park and its surrounding communities, terraced entrances at street intersection herald links to the urban grid. Where terraces at 1 h and 18th Street have formal Figure 45 Fonnal terracing at 16th Street entrance. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) seating and a loose arrangement of stone pavers that disperse into the crusher fines surface of Little Raven Promenade, the entrance terrace at 16th street is the most pronounced and formally arranged. This entrance is evenly paved, formally planted Uisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 70


and has a wide street entrance that funnels into the parks central social gathering area called "The Green." The 16th Street connection also fonns the axis on which the system of bridges is aligned and it is the axis for the largest volume of pedestrian traffic. Where 16th Street is the site of a pedestrian mall at the core of downtown Denver, this connection locks the park into the central vein of downtown Denver visually, metaphorically and via circulation patterns. By using traditional elements found in Denver parks, Commons Park borrows already established elements of Denver's place identity as well as reminding the visitor of other parks that contribute to Denver's place identity. However, the expectations of a visitor today are different than those of the original visitors to Denver's traditional parks and so the traditional elements are shifted accordingly in the Commons Park design. The promenade wanders instead of following a geometric fonn, offering a slower path Planters displaying place appropriate grasses are cut into paving of Commons Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) of travel than that of the urban grid outside the park and reflecting the migratory nature of a river. Where these paths suggest and herald the parks physical and metaphorical location between the built urban environment and natural river conditions, updates to planting palettes reflect a change in cultural values and aesthetics from previous eras of park design. To this end, unique planters are cut directly into the pavement rather than being raised or buffered by lawn and extensive native plantings reflect current concerns for supporting local ecologies. These interpretations of Denver park traditions foster a place identity that is dynamic and up EI isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 71


to date while still recognizing the heritage of the larger community in which the site is situated. Most of the symbols in Commons Park are beneficial to the city's imageability as they reflect the site's heritage as well as its present connection to the city. This sensitivity to context extends to consider the symbolic power of materials used with the decision, "No wood will be used. Wood suggests the mountain parks vernacular. This park is to relate more to the urban structures and steel is perceived as being more urban.,,141 As a system the symbols overlay meanings into the park which stand alone meaningfully as well as 47 Shade structure in Commons Park reflects urban forms and materials. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) working together in support of a larger message of the park's role in its community. The multiple meanings both enrich the place identity of Commons Park and give the park a variety of opportunities to resonate with its visitors. Commons Park expresses it's community's heritage by celebrating the river around which Denver was founded and by referencing the character of the city growing up around it. The design of the park accommodates the ebbs and flows of the significant South Platte River with topography and plantings that are reflective of a prairie riverbed and paths, outcroppings and overlooks reacquaint the visitor with the site's unique geographic character. These elements as well as the park itself are positioned to participate in the city's existing iconography and traditional urban forms Civitas Inc. with Jones and Jones, (Denver: Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, 1997), 7. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 72


are reinterpreted to add contemporary resonance to the community's iconographic vocabulary. Thus the design effectively augments the community's place identity through realization of its three design themes: Denver's natural past, Denver's social past and Denver's urban downtown. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 73


Case Study: Skyline Park Project Name: Skyline Park, Denver CO Location: Arapahoe St. between 15th Street and 18th Street Date DesignedlPlanned: The park was originally proposed in 1967 and designed by Lawrence Halprin Associates in 1970. The Skyline Park Revitalization Council initiated the redesign of the park in 2000 and renovation began in May 2003. Construction Completed: Original design completed 1973, redesign opened July 2004. Construction Cost: $6.5 million (includes $2 million in bond funds, $1.5 million in City capital improvement funds, $3 million privately raised funds) Size: 3.2 acres (100 feet wide, 3 blocks long) Landscape Architects: Thomas Balsley Associates of New York with local input and assistance from David Owen Tryba Architects ClientlDeveloper: City and County of Denver and Downtown Denver Partnership Consultants/Architects: Weitz Company Managed By: Denver Parks Recreation; Downtown Denver Partnership Figure 48 Model of Skyline Park (Thomas Balsley Associates) Skyline Park is located in the center of Downtown Denver on cross axis with 16th Street Mall, a major pedestrian corridor built in the 1980' s. Spanning three blocks, it is bordered to the west by office buildings and by Arapahoe Street on its east side. The area in which it is located hosts retail, commercial and residential as well as convention related uses and is regularly frequented by professionals working in the surrounding buildings. residents of nearby neighborhoods, tourists and shoppers. Originally designed by Lawrence Halprin Associates and completed in the early 1970's, the park was redesigned in 2003 by Thomas Balsley Associates and its J:iisc IIrclllllllKlllcycr 74


current rendition was unveiled in July of2004. The Thomas Balsley design, which retains some elements of the Halprin design, will be the focus ofthis case study. Halprin elements that remain as a tribute to the previous design will be called out while those that remain without reference to Halprin will be evaluated in the context of the new design. The site of Skyline park has been part of the hustle and bustle of downtown Denver since the city's early days. As such its history is intricately tied to Denver's evolving culture and the choices for downtown development instigated by that culture. The original location of the Mining Exchange Building at 15th Street and Arapahoe, the comer of the site, indicates the connection of the site to Denver's beginning as a mining camp and growth into a frontier outpost that capitalized on the booms of mining outposts and provided miners with "civilization." Most of early downtown considered bars and brothels to be the prime offerings of civilization until efforts to bring Figure 49 1928 image of downtown Denver. (Charles Louis McClure; Western History Department of the Denver Public Library) respectability and prosperity to Denver spawned the establishment of cultural institutions and an extensive cable car network. Denver's first church building housed a Southern Methodist congregation at 14th Street and Arapahoe and its first streetcar system passed Arapahoe on its way up 16th Street. In that way, the site also witnessed the transformation of Denver from "wild west" outpost into a nationally Elisc Brcnninkmcycr 75


relevant metropolis. By the middle of the 20th century however, historians tell us that "Much of old Denver was paved over with parking lots and freeways. Prairies blossomed with shopping malls and subdivisions. .. Postwar Denver remained a privatized metropolis. Its great achievements were skyscrapers, residential enclaves, shopping malls and freeway escapes from core-city problems.,,]42 Thus, the site experienced a dramatic transformation along with the rest of downtown Denver when the Skyline Urban Renewal Project was initiated in 1968. This project resulted in the demolition of many downtown buildings in order to make room for more modern skyscrapers. The destruction and rebuilding of urban renewal was part of a national trend that considered rebuilding in this way to be the solution to rundown cities and urban blight. That trend was adopted into Denver's city planning culture and resulted in the creation of the Skyline Redevelopment Area that designated thirty-six downtown blocks for demolition and rebuilding. Part of the plan for renewal included the creation of a park within the Skyline Redevelopment Area that was conceived of as a catalyst for redevelopment; that park was Skyline Park. Thus the creation of the original Skyline Park in 1973 was a direct result of the political and social goals of urban renewal. The selection of Lawrence Halprin Associates to design the park reflects the parallel between Halprin's Figure 50 Aerial view of Downtown Denver with original Skyline Park. (USGS; ) 142 Thomas J. Noel and Stephen J. Leonard, (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990), 253. Uisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 76


reputation and the goals of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority. The work of Halprin is described by landscape critic William Thompson where, ... its core cannon addresses the reanimation of the center city.,,143 In pursuit of reanimating the center city, the original design was intended to be the focal point of the Skyline Redevelopment Plan and a nexus of pedestrian and open space system. 144 It contained three signature fountains as well as brick and concrete walking and seating surfaces described as: ... inspired by Red Rocks Park and the natural setting of the surrounding countryside, a distinctive organic landscape concept emerged with a strong focus on three sculpted fountain elements, one in each block, a pattern of depressed walkways and raised planters containing shade trees defined by distinctively pigmented fonned-concrete retaining walls. 145 The Halprin design existed until 2003 when the Downtown Denver Partnership, an alliance of businesses, residents and city officials decided that it was not meeting their requirements of the space and they subsequently hired Thomas Balsley Associates of New York to redesign the site. The current park was opened in July 2004, and is managed by Denver Figure 51 Running fountain in original Skyline Park. (www .denvergov .org) Parks and Recreation as well as the Downtown Denver Partnership. Political motivations fueled both the urban renewal that resulted in the creation of the first Skyline Park by Halprin and the decisions that led to its redesign by Thomas Balsley Associates. The interest groups most invested in the outcome of HALS, 6. 144 Historic American Landscapes Survey, "Skyline Park" (HALS No. CO-O I), I. 145 Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants, "Skyline Park Revitalization Initiative," Downtown Denver Partnership, report. pdf, 6. Elise M. Brenninkllleyer 77


the Skyline Park redesign were the downtown businesses and an assortment of preservation groups. Belief that the decision making power was not equal between the groups is reflected in comments such as, "The business community had pushed the project for years and had ponied up a sizeable amount of the necessary money .. the input of the business community was fairly directly tied to the cash needed to get the project done." Additionally, the business climate of downtown Denver evolved over the first thirty years of the park's existence. The creation of the 16th Street Mall in 1982, designed by I.M. Pei shifted pedestrian traffic patterns, buildings adjacent to the site were rebuilt in ways deemed unsympathetic to the park, economic recessions limited the funds available for park maintenance and drought restricted the running of Halprin's fountains. Preservation groups blamed the loss of the park's vitality on these shifts and the decline in the park's upkeep, where interest groups in support of redesign blamed the Halprin design for the park's waning popularity, Today the Daniels & Fisher Tower and the Federal Reserve Bank are significant buildings adjacent to the Skyline Park site. The D&F Tower was the third tallest building in the world at the time of its completion in 1910 and the tallest building west of the Mississippi until 1914 (when it was surpassed by the Smith Tower in Seattle). It was designed by Frederick Figure 52 Daniels and Fisher Tower in Denver skyline, early 1900's. (Harry Mellon Rhoads; Western History Department, Denver Public Library) 146 Mary Voelz Chandler, "High Plains Burial" 94, no. II (2004) 85-90. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 78


J. Sterner and George Williamson and modeled after the campanile in St. Mark's Square in Venice. Its tower displays four Seth Thomas clocks and contains a two and a half ton bell. Built as a boisterous advertisement for one of Denver's leading department stores, it became a Denver landmark but only barely survived the urban renewal of 1968, which demolished its adjacent emporium. Today it is a distinctive office building with 20 floors, each measuring thirty-two square feet. The Federal Reserve Bank is closely connected to the Denver Mint, both of which reflect the city's historic role turning minerals into money and also position the city significantly in the nation today as institutions responsible for the creation and administration of national currency. Skyline Park: Vertical Structures (Elise Brenninkrneyer) The naming of Arapahoe Street is also symbolically significant because the Indian settlement that Denver grew up around was an Arapahoe village. Confrontations or cooperation with the Arapahoe tribe were pressing issues for early settlers, politicians and city officials. was the Arapahoe who warned settlers that Elise M. Brcnninkmcyer 79


the Cherry Creek would flood and Little Raven was a notable chief who negotiated peace treaties that helped to shape Denver. Ultimately, the treaties were betrayed and the Arapahoe people were forced to flee the city. Now streets named after the tribe or individual members of the tribe remain as subtle symbolic references to a culture that once flourished in the city and its surrounding plains. Geographic character Downtown Denver sits in a short grass prairie typical of its geographic region. The short grass prairie is found nationally throughout the Midwest and is most prevalent in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska and Kansas. Its geographic character is inherently dry and relatively flat with sandy soil mixes. Plants that would typically grow orl the site include a variety of warm season grasses, mostly bunch grasses growing 12 to 18 inches high. Of the three types of grasslands in North America, the short grass prairie is the driest receiving only 10 to 12 inches of rain a year. In Denver however, flooding events periodically interrupt that dryness. The South Platte River flood of 1965 was large enough that the overflowing banks and tumultuous water caused significant damage in the Skyline Redevelopment Area. This damage sparked federal funding for rebuilding that also helped to finance the construction of Skyline Park and prompted the approval of the Skyline development plans that included a site configuration for the park half a block wide and three blocks long. Additionally, when the park was opened eight years after the flood, it filled a functional role as a storm detention basin. Where the original Halprin design expressed this role through its varied topography, the current design buried the walls F1isc M. 80


and gullies so that while the park will still detain water in a storm event, that function is not expressed by its design. Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants outlined a vision for Skyline Park as follows: A new approach is required which respects the way the Park was created, but makes some basic changes. Four key conclusions emerged regarding the nature of this change. First, in light of the scarcity of public spaces in the downtown there is a strong need to maintain the public character of the Park an idea echoed throughout the consultation process. Secondly, there must be a way to extend the vitality of the 16th Street Mall, which bisects Skyline Park but did not exist when it was created, into adjoining portions of Skyline Park. Related to this is the desire to capitalize on the fact that Skyline Park occupies a real focal point in the heart of Downtown at the comer of Arapahoe and 16th Streets. Finally, the recognition that the future success of Skyline Park depends in part on the enhancement of its context, in particular, forging a better relationship to the Mall and the development of stronger relationships h h d' b 'ld' 147 WIt t e surroun mg Ul mgs. The proposal does outline notable goals preserving public space, integrating with its immediate context, and being a centerpiece for downtown Denver. Although the vision proposes a stronger relationship to buildings surrounding the park however, it does not express any concern for a connection with the heritage or geography of its community. Reflecting on those aspects of the site as well as opportunities to leverage or create symbols would more effectively support the city's place identity by considering the context beyond adjacent high-rise office buildings. 147 Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants, 2-3. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr


taIIII iooOlol,"":, --Sl-.-I "T41f'. ib<" ... Skyline Park: Access and Traffic (Elise Brenninkmeyer) The park is divided into three blocks and its depth at each block uniformly spans one hundred feet from the street edge. A road bustling with shuttle and pedestrian traffic separates the south block and the mid block. The mid block and the north block are intersected by four lanes of one-way automobile traffic. Where this presents challenges of circulation and continuity, it also presents an opportunity. The size and configuration of the site is uncommon for urban parks. As such, Skyline Park offers Denver a opportunity to distinguish its beloved park system from that of other city's because it includes this park with site parameters that are set apart from most other city parks. Payley Park in New York is celebrated as a pocket park treasured because of the constraints of its small size as much as any other feature of the site. Only 42 feet wide and 100 feet deep, the park "has become one of Manhattan's treasures, a masterpiece of urbanity and grace ... an oasis in the city's Elise M. Brcnninkmeycr 82


heart.,,148 Similarly, the definitive breaks in the narrow thread of Skyline's site is a condition that could be leveraged as a distinguishing characteristic in Denver's place identity. Today neither the design of the park nor the positioning of the park in Denver's urban fabric fully realize this potential. sount BlOCK o ..... ... a...... l>too.k"'!t Figure 55 Skyline Park: Planting (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Design elements carried through all three blocks include linear street tree plantings along Arapahoe Street, open squares of turf at each block and the grouping of evergreen trees in the south and mid blocks. In the master plan for Skyline Park it is suggested that, "the choice of plantings should create a diverse yet unified set of spaces that reflect the native Colorado landscape within an urban environment.,,149 Honey Locusts, Oak and Ash trees complement street tree planting on Arapahae Street, one species planted on each block. Oak trees are gathered at seating areas beside the Park Central building, and evergreens huddle at the intersection of 15th Street, h Street, th Street and on the "hill" between th and h Street. New Alan Tate, (New York: Spon Press, 2001), 5-6. Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants, 45. Elisc M. Brenninkmcycr 83


planters contain a variety of perennials that change with the season; planters retained from the Halprin design at 18th and Arapahoe display native grasses. Species are clearly segregated and even though the evergreens are repeated, their arrangement is isolated enough from other plantings that little sense of continuity is achieved. Skyline Park: Grade change overlay on Structures (Elise Brenninkmeyer) C] ... _"',. 57 Skyline Park: Dominant Views overlay on Structures (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 84


Each block is primarily flush at street level with several areas covered by sandstone pavers. Wide steps of white granite from China help the visitor to climb a mound, which arises close to the middle of the park between 16th and 17th Street, and the two remaining red concrete Halprin fountains are below the dominant grade of the park. The hard edges of these jarring changes of grade are foreign to the undulating rhythm of the Colorado plains and create a sense of separation between the Halprin designed elements and the rest of the park. All three blocks also display primarily linear views down their lengths. These views are not necessarily directed through design strategies but rather default to whatever lies in axis with the tunnel vision running parallel down the length of the site. One exception to this is the north end of the mid block, where 16th Street activity spills onto the site. No elements of the design however clearly embrace or highlight this connection and where the site dissolves unremarkably into the traffic of 16th Street the physical and social connection between the two important elements of downtown Denver is not articulated in the park's design. This intersection of the park with the pedestrian mall is also an uncelebrated diversification of the sites circulation pattern. Where most of the site emphasizes linear circulation patterns and a lot of pedestrian traffic defaults to the park and street edge, the north end of the south block opens up to the street at a wide angle that could potentially funnel in visitors. Figure 58 Pedestrain traffic concentrated at edges of park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) Elisc M. Hrcnninkmcycr 85


This area is therefore all the more important to draw people into the park, however it orients a pedestrian's direction of traffic toward the south end of the south block. Their back is turned to the majority ofthe park and they are directed across just one third of the site, heading toward a quick and uninspiring exit. The design does not entice entrance nor does it encourage further exploration of the park once a visitor has reached the entrance. Rather, the progression of design after entrance is flat, linear and immediately communicated to the visitor. This lack of Figure 59 Intersection of Skyline Park and 16th Street (Elise Brenninkmeyer) suggestion or development does not entice exploration so that unless the visitor sees a short cut to a particular destination through the center of the park, after encountering this entrances they are likely to stay on the edge or flow through the entrance and right back out of the park. This phenomenon greatly reduces the park's ability to engage residents or visitors and impact their understanding of Denver's place identity. Parks and Recreation manager Kim Bailey underscored the importance of Skyline Park to the Denver community when she called it, "The premiere civic space in Denver," and Mayor Hickenlooper declared the park" ... an integral part of what is Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 86


going on downtown.,,150 Not only is the park an opportunity to impress citizens with Denver's place identity, its location makes it easily accessible to Denver's considerable number of convention visitors and therefore potentially influential over the impressions of Denver's place identity that those visitors relay back to their respective communities. As such it is all the more important that the park contribute to Denver's place identity. The redesign of Skyline Park, like the original, is a direct result of Denver's economic and political processes, including the fonnation of committees and the tradition of debate. is therefore heavily influenced by the current cultural reality of Denver and is a reflection of the political forces that prevail in downtown Denver. This is Skyline Park's primary identity however and outside of the political weight of the sight, the park fails to speak to the geographic context or historic iconography of the community. Nothing on the site speaks to the community's geologic heritage, or the heritage of the Plains Indians or settlers who first inhabited the site and the preservation of Halprin design elements read as hollow gestures rather than as a thoughtful inclusion or evolution of the design history. The very fact that the preserved Hal prin Figure 60 Waterless Halprin fountain below active street grade of park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) features are the only elements of the park below the dominant grade of the park belittles their significance to the overall design. Each is marginalized in such a way that not only do they fail to resonate in the overall design of the park; their presence 150 Voelz Chandler, 82. Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 87


has become idiosyncratic and as such they loose meaning as well as their ability to infonn place identity. The D&F Tower is centrally located on the site and is an impressive presence from many viewpoints downtown. Its imageability and strong presence align it with Lynch's description of a landmark: Landmarks become more easily identifiable, more likely to be Figure 61 D&F Tower is the anchor of Skyline Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) chosen as significant, if they have a clear fonn; if they contrast with their background; and if their is some prominence of spatial location. Figure background contrast seems to be the principal factor. The background against which an element stand out need not be limited to immediate surroundings: the grasshopper weathervane of Faneuil Hall, the gold dome of the State House, or the peak of the Los Angeles Hall are landmarks that are unique against the background of the entire city. The tower has a clear fonn that stand outs against its immediate surroundings as well as the background ofthe entire city. The current design observes the tower in that no view of the tower is obstructed while you are in the park and the surface planes of the park dutifully step up and down in alignment with the tower. However, Figure 62 D&F Tower seen from north end of Skyline Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) aside from this passive alignment of geometry the park does not effectively engage the monumental tower as a landmark. The geometry could just as easily reflect the Lynch, 78.


narrow constraint of the site on which the tower is centrally located, none of the materials or forms respond to the essence of the tower and there is no indication that the tower has disrupted or inspired the design of Skyline Park. The missed opportunity for any potential symbolic leveraging of the Federal Reserve is also a failure of Skyline Park to enhance place identity through the use and promotion of symbols. Located across the street from the park at 16h and Arapahoe, the Federal Reserve, is an austere and intriguing government building linked to the park both visually and by way of the pedestrian mall on 16th Street. However, nothing in the park would lead a visitor to notice the significant building let alone appreciate the importance of the bank to the city and the nation. Consequently, Skyline Park fails to honor these symbols in a way that would position them meaningfully in Denver's place identity. While important symbols are not given their appropriate recognition in Skyline, a lot of the plantings are jarringly out of place in the design and the place specific design goal of the master plan to adorn the park with Colorado plant species was not realized. The dominant planting at Skyline Park is large square platforms of Figure 63 Turf planes and linear planters at Skyline Park (Elise Brenninkmeyer) bluegrass. The bluegrass patches neither reflect the geographic character of the site nor resonate meaningfully with the community. They are too small to host recreational activities or team sports that often require turf and are instead most commonly put to the service of dogs who need to be 'let out'. Perennial plantings on Elise M. Brcnninkmcycr 89


the street edge are meant to recall the planting designs of one of Denver's first park designers, S.R. DeBoer.152 De Boer was a landscape architect central to Mayor Robert W. Speer's campaign to apply concepts of the City Beautiful movement to Denver's urban landscape between 1904 and 1918. However evidence of DeBoer's planting palette is unclear and not immediately known within the community, and the connection is therefore too obscure to resonate with the average visitor. A more effective link to DeBoer might have evoked the theoretical views held by him and his contemporaries. This would suit the site especially where "their effort involved a cultural agenda, a middle-class environmentalism and aesthetic expressed as beauty, order systems and harmony ... .In the broadest sense then, the City Beautiful movement was a political movement, for it demanded a reorientation of public thought and action toward urban beauty.,,153 A contemporary and place specific interpretation of these ideals would speak more clearly to Denver's place identity and allow the site to resonate in Denver's social and design history. 152 Voelz Chandler, 92. Figure 64 Plan for Skyline Park. (Thomas Balsley Associates) 153 William H Wilson, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1989), This work as well as by Don And Carolyn Etter (Denver, 2001) provide additional information about the city beautiful movement in Denver. Elise M. Brcnninklllcycr 90

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The creation of flexible space was a primary design concern that led to the use of flat open squares. These flat open squares however, literally created a blank slate in the middle of Denver's downtown and neglected the potential of the site to reflect and enhance Denver's place identity. Creating a multi-use public space does not exclude the possibility of creating a place that resonates with its community, and in fact the inclination of people to engage the mulit-use space depends on it. The master plan states: This vision for Skyline Park proposes the creation of a new landmark space in Downtown Denver that builds upon the area's revitalization and redevelopment successes such as LoDo and the 16Street Mall. The success of this vision for Skyline Park will depend in tum on its ability to influence and shape the next generation of initiatives in its vicinity. 154 A landmark should call out something special about the land it is marking, and it should do it in a memorable way. Skyline Park is not a landmark for Denver because it does not speak to the iconography, heritage or geography of Denver. As a highly visible and central downtown space the new plan for Skyline Park is a missed opportunity to acknowledge and promote place identity. Being one of only three downtown parks, this missed opportunity negatively impacts other initiatives in its vicinity as well as the overall fabric of Denver's urban landscape. The cookie-cutter design of Skyline Park was heavily influenced by political agendas that not only repressed elements of the site's heritage but also ripped out the design legacy of Lawrence Halprin, a leading landscape architect of the 20th century awarded with such distinctions as the Thomas Jefferson Gold Medal in architecture in 1979, the Medal of the Arts in 2003 and the ASLA Medal also in 2003. The park Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants, 49. Uisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 91

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does not elevate potential landmarks within the city's iconography and either addresses them inconsequentially or fails to acknowledge them at all. contradicts the geographic context of the site and introduces planting and topography out of keeping with the regional Figure 65 Finding shade at Skyline Park. (Elise Brenninkmeyer) or local geographic character. Where an intention of the redesign was to create "a dynamic center of activity highlighting the best of Denver's civic and cultural events," I 55 the element of Denver's civic and cultural identity that it does evoke is that of economically driven political agendas. Thus the previous Halprin design and current Balsley redesign of Skyline Park were both built in an effort to influence the business environment of downtown Denver. Above all, the identity of the current Skyline Park is one that reflects the interest of commercial powers to present a polished and universal setting for their businesses and buildings. However, the traditional urban forms and strict geometry on the site are not interpreted through design to be relevant to Denver's contemporary context. Where stakeholders pursued a generic design to provide a clean slate to their businesses, they missed the opportunity to create a place that would draw clients and visitors into an exploration of Denver's unique identity and consequently bring an additional layer of meaning to the location of their businesses in Denver. 155 Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants, 2. Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 92

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Lessons Comparing the case studies of Commons Park and Skyline Park illuminates the impact landscape architecture can have on place identity by the way it addresses the inherent elements of a landscape through design. Even before construction, the intention of each site's design indicated how the design would or would not contribute to Denver's place identity by leveraging the site's heritage, iconography and geographic character. The clarity of the design statement at Commons Park targeted important elements of place identity the site's natural past, social past and larger downtown context and in so doing oriented the design of the park to positively reflect and contribute to Denver's place identity. In contrast the goals of Skyline Park's design are focused on creating a multi-use space and a hub of downtown activity without specifying any character ofthe site or its context that could inform the meaning of the design. Commons Park both builds upon established traditions in Denver's park design history and updates Denver's place identity with forms that resonate with the citizens of today and planting that reflects their evolving ecological awareness and concern. In contrast, Skyline Park is an assemblage of geometry and formal planting beds whose meaning is irrelevant to the community in which it is located. Whereas the function and character of Commons Park would resonate differently if it were located in a different community, relocating Skyline Park would not alter the meaning or significance of its form. An important tenet of place identity is that it is specific to a community. In order for landscape architecture to encourage place identity, it therefore must create 93

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spaces that are specific to a community. The "deep context" of a site can inform a landscape architect how to design in a way that is place specific. The design should allow visitors a subtle opportunity to encounter, ponder and begin to understand a site's heritage, iconography and geographic character. Material choices, viewsheds, planting schemes, site grading, and circulation patterns are a few of the tools available to landscape architects that were used effectively at Commons Park to reflect and enhance Denver's place identity. The choices of the landscape architect using these tools at Commons Park created a cohesive park character that reveals the latent qualities of the landscape and relates meaningfully to the larger community. The tools were used more generically at Skyline Park and the resulting design is neither responsive to the site's latent character nor relevant to the city in which it is situated. Where Skyline Park fails to inform a visitor of what is special about the place they are in, visitors to Commons Park will better understand what it means to be in and be part of the city of Denver. They will have an appreciation for the South Platte River because of interacting with it and observing the flooding allowances designed into the park, and they will be able to envision the character of the prairie on which Denver is situated through the native plantings of the park. They will have recognized the urban context of the park and the experience of moving through the park will reveal to them significant symbols of Denver's history as well as allow them to share the patterns and principals of traditional Denver parks. As such, Commons Park is a celebration of what is unique and characteristic about Denver and the design of its Elisc M. Brcnninkmcycr 94

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landscape architecture makes it an important element of the urban landscape that promotes Denver's place identity. Elise M. Brcnninkmeycr 95

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The potential for landscape architecture to enhance a city's place identity is an opportunity to ground a community in a common understanding of where they are and what it means to be there. This in tum informs who they are as a community. Because humans are innately social beings, every person lives within the larger context of their community. Being able to understand and remember their community as a place allows a person to know more about themselves. A person's understanding of their community is rooted in the physical landscape oftheir community. is subsequently related to their ability to know that landscape as well as how the community is organized into places, images and meaning within that landscape. Thus Heidegger's concept of dwelling is expanded upon by Christian Norberg-Schulz to link the act of being in a place and knowing a place to identifying personally with a place. He states: To gain an existential foothold man has to be able to himself; he has to know he is. But he also has to himself with the environment, that is, he has to know he is a certain place. 156 Kevin Lynch also explored how people identify with a place by dissecting the patterns around which a city is organized and the elements through which a citizen perceives their city. He postulates: There seems to be a public image of any given city which is the overlap of many individual images. Or perhaps there is a series of public images, each held by some significant number of citizens. Such group images are necessary if an individual is to operate successfully within his environment and to cooperate with his fellows. 156 Norberg-Schulz, 19. Heidegger is a noted philosopher who advanced the concept of dwelling to include man's consciousness of his existential being in the world as well as his physical occupation of a space. 157 Lynch, 46. niSI! M. Brcnninklllcycr 96

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Each author's approach to the significance of a person's ability to identify, understand and relate to where they are located, lends credence to the importance of place identity. Landscape architecture can address the concern of both Lynch and NorbergSchulz because landscape architecture is engaged in designing the physical landscape of a community as well as in organizing the places and symbols of that community. Lynch offers an example where: Beacon Hill was considered to be very distinctive, often felt to be the symbol of Boston, and often seen as from a distance. was known to be in the center ofthe city, close to downtown, bounded sharply by Beacon Street and thus touching the Common .... Nearly everyone was conscious of the connection to the river. In this description, the landscape architecture of Beacon Hill relates to the heritage of the city through its connection to Boston Common and to the geographic character of the city through its connection to the Charles River. What's more, the landscape architecture of the city respects the iconographic potential of Beacon Hill and frames it as a symbol visually and metaphorically at the center of the city. A city's local community is part of a regional community that in tum informs a national community. A city's place identity allows its citizens to know how it fits within and contributes to the regional and national community. This ultimately enables them to recognize the unique value of their city. Every site, regardless of size, possesses a heritage, iconography and geographic character that fit into the larger heritage, iconography and geographic character of a community. This paper proposed a definition of place identity where landscape architecture is exceptionally Lynch, 162. Elise M. Brenninkllleyer

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well positioned to leverage these inherent characteristics to infonn a community of their common identity and collective value. The discursive creation of identity is a political, cultural and social process that is substantial and complex. However, belonging to a community is a central tenet of society through which people evaluate one another as well as orient a conception of themselves within society. Where there are a plethora of factors that infonn a person's identity, the landscape in which a community operates is a recognizable symbol of its culture. Although the use and interpretation of a site can not be predetennined in any absolute way, design decision that express the place specific elements of a landscape position that landscape to resonate within a community. When design is exercised in landscape architecture as a tool of distinction it creates places that stand out from other landscape sites. By augmenting place identity, landscape architecture roots that distinction in existing landscape elements that are inherently special and unique. The resulting places celebrate their individuality and are highly valued by the community in which they are situated. In these instances, landscape architecture is practiced in the service of a community to articulate the essence of a community through distinctive place specific design. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 98

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Adams, Robert. Denver: Colorado Associated University Press, 1977. Alexander, Don. "The Resurgence of Place: Modernism is out and building places that fit with the environment and local aspirations is in." 28 no. 3; (Summer 2002): 16-20. American Society of Landscape Architecture. "Landscape Architecture, Places of the Heart where Souls Take Refuge and Spirits Soar." (Washington DC: ASLA). Arps, Louisa Ward. Denver: Sage Books, 1959. Blake, Kevin S. "Colorado Fourteeners and the Nature of Place Identity." 92 no. 2 (April 2002). Casey, Edward S. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993. Civitas Inc. "Central Platte River Valley Riverfront Parks and Redevelopment," Civitas Inc., Chandler, Mary Voelz. "High Plains Burial." 94, no. 11 (2004): 85-90. Chandler, Mary Voelz. "How Denver Got Its River Back." 92 no. 11 (2002): 86-95, 107-108. Civitas with Jones and Jones, 1-7. Denver: Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, 1997. Cosgrove, Denis and Stephen Daniels (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Cronon, William. New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1995. Denver Parks and Recreation. "Parks." The City and County of Denver, www.denvergov.orgiParks_Recreation/default.asp Denver Union Station EIS. "Denver Union Station." Denver Union Station EIS, Elise M. Brcnninkmeycr 99

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Dorsett, Lyle W. and Michael McCarthy. Boulder: Pruett Publishing, 1986. Duncan, James and David Ley (eds). NY: Routledge, 1993. Emporis Buildings. "Daniels and Fisher Tower." Emporis 2004, www.emporis.comlenlwmlbu?id= 121448 Francis, Mark. "A Case Study Method for Landscape Architecture." 20 no. 1 (2001): 15-29. Gillette, Jane Brown. "Civitas:Building the City." 11, (2001): 42-103. Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce. "Introducing Denver, A guide to the Greater Denver Metropolitan Area." Denver: Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce. Griffin, Bo. Boulder: Pruett Publishing, 1964. Groth, Paul Todd Bressi. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. Grimes, William. "Brinck Jackson, 86, Dies: Was Guru of the Landscape." August 31, 1996. Hall, Stuart and Paul Du Gay. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Ltd., 1996. Hayden, Dolores. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995. Hruska, Libby (ed). New York: The Museum of Modem Art, 2005. Hough, Michael. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Hunt, John Dixon. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. 1895-1876. New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1972. Elise M. Brcnninkmcyer

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Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. Jacobson, David. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. Jones, William C. and Kenton Forrest. Boulder: Pruett Publishing, 1980. Lippard, Lucy NY: New Press, 1997. Lynch, Kevin. Cambridge: The M.LT. Press, 1960. Meinig, D.W. (ed). New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. Miller, Wilhelm. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, reprint 2002. Mitchell, Don. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2000. Muir, Richard. Lanham: Barnes Noble, 1999. Muntz, Geoffrey Frederick: Jende-Hagan Bookcorp, 1983. Neill, William J.V. New York: Routledge, 2004. Noel, Thomas J. Tulsa: Continental Heritage Press, 1980. Noel, Thomas J. and Stephen J. Leonard. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990. Norberg-Schulz. New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1980). Ouellette, Robert. "TTC re-examines ravines." January 10, 2006. Penning-Rowsell, Edmund C. and David Lowenthal (eds). Boston MA: Allen and Unwin, 1986). F1isc M. Brcnninkmcycr 101

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Potteiger, Matthew and Jamie Purinton. New York: John Wiley Sons, 1998. Shemaker, Joe with Leonard Stevens. Westminster: The Greenway Foundation, 1981. Smiley, Jerome. Denver: Times-Sun Publishing Co, 1901. Spim, Anne Whiston. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. Stilgoe, John New York: Walker and Co., 1998. Strauss, Anselm L. New York: Free Press, 1961. Swaffield, Simon. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. Tate, Alan. New York: Spon Press, 2001. Thomas Balsley Associates. "Skyline Park." Thomas Balsley Associates, Thoren, Roxi J. "Cultural Identity and Place: The Role ofthe Landscape in Icelandic Architecture." Athens: School of Environmental Design, University of Georgia, 2005. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1974. Urban Strategies Greenberg Consultants. "Skyline Park Revitalization Initiative." Downtown Denver Partnership, http://www.downtowndenver.comlpdfs/skyline reports. pdf Whitehand, J.W.R. and PJ. Larkham (eds). NY: Routledge Publishing, 1992. Wilson, William H. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1989. Elise M. Brenninkmeyer 102