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Merit Award - COMMUNICATION

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Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America

Arnold R. Alanen, University of Wisconsin and Robert Z. Melnick, FASLA, University of Oregon Johns Hopkins University Press

Robert Z. Melnick, FASLA
Dean, University of Oregon
Lawrence Hall
Eugene, OR 97403-5249
Tel. 541-346-3631;
Fax 541-346-3626
rzm@oregon.uoregon.edu


Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America

Interest in the cultural landscape expanded appreciably over the past two decades of the twentieth century, but to date few books have directly addressed the broad range of issues associated with the preservation of such landscapes. This book, edited by two individuals (each of whom also authored chapters as well as the lengthy introduction) with long experience in landscape architecture, explores a broad range of theoretical and practical issues that are pertinent to the preservation of the American cultural landscape. As noted by a recent review in Landscape & Urban Planning {January 2001), the book is a "groundbreaking" volume, one that is "remarkable in drawing together the most recent scholarly thought on the practice of landscape preservation." By providing "a thorough examination of a blossoming field," the reviewer observes, the book "has initiated discussions that will be critical to the future practice of general preservation for years to come." In April 2001, the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) selected the book to receive its Antoinette Forrester Downing A ward-the first time that anyone affiliated with landscape architecture has been selected for this honor. The citation called the book "the most outstanding publication in the preservation field that enhances the understanding and protection of the built environment in the United States." The SAH reviewers gave specific attention to the clear editorial vision, honest attention to the challenges of professional application, and clear, jargon-free prose.

While geographers initiated the academic study of cultural landscapes during 1920s, it was landscape architects in academe and in public and private practice who led the cultural landscape preservation movement that began to develop during the 1980s. While collaboration with architects, geographers, historians, ethnographers, archeologists, and other professionals continues, it is landscape architects-as evidenced by many of the chapters in the book-who are and will be the

professionals most actively involved with the actual preservation of historic cultural landscapes. Indeed, cultural landscape preservation is an area of activity that has been recognized by the ASLA since the mid-1970s.

To date, the terms, definitions, and policies employed in cultural landscape preservation are borrowed from architecture. Since cultural landscapes are dynamic entities that change over time, the architecturally derived approaches often prove inadequate. Since so few comprehensive studies or overviews of cultural landscape preservation have been undertaken to date, it is difficult for practitioner and academic alike to challenge many of the prevailing assumptions. It was for these reasons that Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America was conceived and carried out. Following the introduction that summarizes the status and importance of the field, the book's eight chapters feature the role of nature and culture, the selling of heritage landscapes, urban parks and cemeteries, Puerto Rican neighborhoods in New York City, vernacular landscapes in small towns and rural areas, ethnographic landscapes, Asian American imprints on the landscape of the West, and integrity as a value in cultural landscape preservation. The book does not ignore theoretical issues, but the chapters primarily draw upon examples and case studies that individuals in the field can used in their day-to-day activities.

Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America has already proved to be of interest to landscape architects, as well as to individuals in related disciplines who are called upon to assess, analyze, and develop procedures for the protection of cultural landscapes. Because Preserving Cultural Landscapes takes on "the most pressing and most challenging issues in the field today," the SAH awards committee stated that the book "promises to serve as the touchstone and primer for this important new area for years to come."

 


2001 Award Winners
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