Go Forth into a Modernist Landscape

Our cultural re-examination, appreciation and embrace of all things Modern is finally beginning to extend to landscapes. Two recent uses of modernist landscapes in pop culture caught my eye because they were being used as ciphers for youth, vitality, and that great credo, the American dream.


Last fall, Levi’s Strauss + Company launched “Go Forth”, a national TV ad campaign celebrating America’s raw, pioneering spirit.  A Levi’s press release said:

The campaign positions the Levi’s® brand as the brand for pioneers who are in the process of building a new America. Their youthful optimism and pioneering energy are at the core of Levi’s® DNA and this overarching theme has been woven into every component of the “Go Forth” campaign.

 About 11 seconds into the 63 second ad, a narrator voices over a stirring passage from Walt Whitman’s “Oh Pioneers” which accompanies a brief image of a youthful figure diving into a soaring canyon valley formed out of precast concrete. This architectonic symbol of optimism is the Ira Keller Fountain designed by Larry Halprin for his Portland Chain of Open Spaces (1970). I first saw the ad only days after Larry passed away on October 25 … and it made me hopeful. A new generation was being inspired by the work of a post-War practitioner who emphatically embodied the energy and vibrancy of an era. 



More recently, while at the gym, I saw the music video “Wonder” by a young singer named Annick. She sings a story about a first kiss and how love keeps us strong; and, does much of it while dancing, skipping, strolling and romping through the 1967 Simonds and Simonds work in Allegheny Commons, Pittsburgh’s oldest mapped park. Lake Elizabeth, the trapezoidal shaped water feature Simonds and Simonds inserted into the park, becomes a staging ground for a contemporary tale of youth and love, and a symbol of vibrancy and energy. 


Are there other examples out there? I’d certainly like to hear about them.