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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

November 2004 Issue


Denver just wiped out a vintage Lawrence Halprin park. Will its bland replacement please anyone but adjacent business owners.

By Mary Voelz Chandler

High Plains Burial Connie Wanke, Friends of Skyline Park

Denver joined the club in July—that is, the club of cities in the process of remaking (some would say obliterating) works by landscape architects at the forefront of park design a quarter-century ago. In this instance, the price of admission to the club was Skyline Park, a narrow strip of land that stretches along Arapahoe Street between 15th and 18th Streets in Denver's business district.

A property that measures only about three acres, Skyline Park generated seven years of studies, meetings, hearings, and dissension in a city where preservationists have seen one important modernist design after another swept aside.

This particular case involves a park designed by Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, whose works, like those of the late Dan Kiley, have been alternately refreshed, remade, or removed in other cities. Skyline, along with two other Halprin designs, made the top-10 list of endangered landscapes compiled in 2002 by the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Skyline was built as a storm detention basin, and it still is one, since in the process of bringing the park up to grade, city officials merely left the remains underground: In effect, Denver has not only killed a Halprin park but has buried it, too.

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