2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Feature Stories

2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward

2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward
Nov 19, 2020

This has been an enervating year for all of us. No one expected a pandemic would completely upend life globally, but it did; and, we have all had to adjust to new social norms, working remotely and finding calm amid the uncertainty. We at The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) did soldier on and there is much progress to report.

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Harriet Tubman Mural (included in Landslide 2019: Living in Nature), Cambridge, MD - Photo courtesy Chesapeake Bay Program, 2019

Since TCLF’s mission is to “connect people to places,” to say that a philosophical and programmatic shift was required would be an understatement.

The social unrest and the protests for racial justice we are witnessing have revealed deep divisions in our nation and exposed a profound lack of education and awareness about our own history; it has also prompted a great deal of soul searching along with calls for healing and reconciliation. In some key ways, this recalls the events of 1968, when marches, riots, and sadly, even assassinations seemed to signal that the fabric of the American democracy was unraveling. That unforgettable year was in many ways the flashpoint of struggles by generations of Americans to secure the personal liberty and equality promised but not yet delivered by their citizenship. Although the ensuing decades have undeniably brought progress on many fronts, the present moment, too, is rife with upheaval and social division—a sign of how far we have yet to go on our journey toward “a more perfect union,” despite how far we have come.

Memorial service at the lynching site of Jesse Lee Bond (included in Landslide 2018: Grounds for Democracy) in Memphis, TN - Photo by Thomas Haley - courtesy Jessica Orians, 2018

This year has witnessed the surfacing of long neglected and largely unknown stories about cultural landscapes associated with African Americans. Some are known, while many are invisible; others have been erased. Through the What’s Out There database and Landslide, TCLF has focused on a number of sites associated with civil and human rights, but much more needs to be done. 

Consequently, we wish to announce that “Race and Space” will be the unifying theme for TCLF’s programmatic agenda beginning in 2021. To that end, as an education and advocacy organization, we will make visible, instill value and engage the public in these myriad cultural landscapes that collectively convey who we are, where we came from, and where we are going as a nation. TCLF is committing to a comprehensive, ongoing effort across all of our programming and advocacy initiatives to reveal the stories of these largely unrecognized cultural landscapes and lifeways. We believe this work is essential and requires lasting attention. 

Kaplan Scholars walking in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (included in Landslide 2018: Grounds for Democracy), Bronx Community College, Bronx, NY - Photo by Deivid Valdez - courtesy Judieth Eisenberg, 2017

We are also pleased to report that generous benefactors – TCLF board co-chair Joan Shafran and her husband Rob Haimes and TCLF board member Trey Trahan with Trahan Architects – have offered to match dollar-for-dollar for the first $50,000 in donations made to TCLF as part of this annual appeal that will be dedicated to this ongoing initiative.

As places that have been affected, influenced, or shaped by human engagement, cultural landscapes can anchor the collective memories of our national failures and triumphs, reminding us of the lessons from a past in which the basic rights we now take for granted were publicly tested and contested. Many of these landscapes and the stories they can tell face daily threats to their legibility or outright erasure.

Please give now. Your support is vital and the first $50,000 in donations received will be matched dollar-for-dollar.

With that, here’s an overview of the year 2020:

Online Growth: TCLF’s website has seen unprecedented, explosive growth in 2020, up nearly 100%.

Landslide, our annual thematic report about threatened and at-risk landscapes, continues to be one of our most high-profile and effective initiatives. Landslide 2020: Women Take the Leadorganized on the centennial of women securing the right to vote, covered a century of landscapes designed by women such as Dumbarton Oaks Park in Washington, D.C. by Beatrix Farrand, the Lynchburg, VA garden of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in Cambridge, MA by Carol R. Johnson. An extensive, illustrated online exhibition accompanied by more than twenty richly edited videos replaced a planned traveling photographic exhibition.

Landing page for Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead

Advocacy efforts for at-risk sites continued, including: the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden; the Weyerhaeuser Campus in Washington State; Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah; Boundary Waters in Minnesota; the McGinley Garden in Milton, MA; Olmsted’s Jackson Park in Chicago; and numerous others; meanwhile, MARABAR in Washington, D.C.; Union Bank in Los Angeles, CA, the Appalachian Trail, Sanctuary Woods in Wauwatosa, WI, the Cadbury Factory near Liverpool, and Dolphin Square in London, UK were saved.

(left) MARABAR installation at the National Geographic Society Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; (right) Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

What’s Out There: the database of North America’s cultural landscapes surpassed 2,100 sites including sites designed by women such as Susan Child, Genevieve Gillette, Mary Miss, and Martha Schwartz; a research fellow in Ohio increased the sites from that state; Boston grew to 68 sites and we published What’s Out There Boston.


Pioneers Oral Histories launched about the late Modernist Bay Area landscape architect Robert Royston and editing is underway for one about Southern California-based landscape architect Pamela Burton; of note, oral history subject Joseph Yamada passed away earlier this year.

Socially Distanced: Garden Dialogues, What’s Out There Weekend Boston and the inaugural Walks & Talks, a new walking tour program with leading practitioners, were held. Events in 2021 are being planned.

Walks & Talks with Ken Smith, New York, NY - Photo by Dena Tasse-Winter, 2020

Conferences: The inaugural Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Archtiecture Prize Forum, “Courageous by Design,” has been rescheduled to June 2021; we also published videos for Second Wave of Modernism IV: Making Space within Place on our You Tube channel

Technical Assistance: Along with our work as an “official consulting party” to federal and state agencies, TCLF’s President provided technical assistance: at myriad sites – Boston City Hall, MA; Fort Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C.; Irwin Park, New Canaan, CT; Freeway Park, Seattle, WA – for municipalities and non-profits – Rhinebeck Town Planning Board, NY; Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA; Brackenridge Park Conservancy, San Antonio, TX – and private firms – Agency Landscape + Planning, Lee + Associates, Reed Hilderbrand, Sasaki, studio dwg, West8.

[Left to right] Three Rocks, Jeongnamjin, Jeollanam-do, South Korea, 2018 by Michael Kenna; Untitled Industrial Landscape (A Group of 4 Works) by Kevin MacDonald; Donnell Pool Reflection by Millicent Harvey; Paris Place des Vosges by Jeffrey Millstein.

Silent Auctions: Support for TCLF's programming was aided by two silent auctions. “Masks for Unity” in the Spring featured plain cloth masks that were rendered, enhance and decorated by leading landscape arhitects and allied professionals, and the Annual Silent Auction in the Fall. Together the auctions brought in more than $85,000.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Archtiecture Prize: Funding the Prize’s $4.5 million endowment broke the 80% mark; the “100 Women Campaign” to secure $10,000 each from or on behalf of women to support the Oberlander Prize has 93 participants; John Beardsely is the inaugural Prize curator; a research fellow has been engaged; more than 160 nominations have been received; the first laureate to be announced in Fall 2021.

John Beardsley - Photo by Ronda Ann Gregorio, 2020

Media Coverage: included major media outlets New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Philadelphia Inquirer, Forbes, and such specialty media outlets as Harvard Magazine, ArchDaily, Architect’s Newspaper, The Art Newspaper, Dezeen, Landscape Architecture Magazine, Minneapolis Journal of Finance, Washington Business Journal, and others.

Thank You. This past year would not have been possible without the support of many individuals, organizations, and others, including Season of Events Sponsors ABC StoneBartlett Tree Experts, and Victor Stanley, and Annual Sponsor, the American Society of Landscape Architects.