Landslide: The uncertain future of a great legacy

The goal of the Landslide® program, established in 2003, is to draw immediate and lasting attention to at-risk and threatened landscapes, and to promote informed stewardship. 

Landscapes often die quiet deaths because their histories are not known and they’re not valued.  Landslide, designed to educate and thereby rally support at the local, state, national, and even international levels, is a designation applied to hundreds of parks, gardens, horticultural features, environmental art, and working landscapes —collectively, places that embody our shared landscape heritage. From monitoring threats to chronicling ongoing care and management, Landslide promotes informed dialogue and rallies public support for at-risk landscapes. The program has been very successful in saving sites throughout the U.S., including the Frick Collection’s Russell Page-designed garden in New York City and Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, Minnesota by M. Paul Friedberg. However, others remain at risk or have been lost altogether.

As part of the program, each year TCLF’s announces a thematic Landslide compendium; this year’s theme focuses on landscape architect Lawrence Halprin’s built legacy. Previous years’ themes include: The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley, The New American Garden: The Landscape Architecture of Oehme van SwedenMarvels of Modernism, and Landscape and Patronage. By focusing on Halprin, we acknowledge the enormous influence that his public work has on our daily lives and makes visible his hand in shaping our experiences. We also call attention to the long term maintenance often required at many of these sites and highlight areas of neglect. 

For each of the publicly accessible sites we include two graphic scales that rate the property:

The first looks at the current condition of the landscape, including degrees of threat.
Halprin’s landscapes often include elaborate water features that require ongoing maintenance. When the fountains are turned off due to neglected maintenance it negatively impacts the design intent. Other factors, such as uncharacteristic or overgrown vegetation, or updated generic site furnishings and paving materials also have the potential to diminish the quality of the landscape experience. For example, Greenwood Common in Berkeley, CA receives the highest possible rating for continued long term maintenance of the landscape, while Capitol Towers Apartments in Sacramento, CA receives the lowest rating because of an approved redevelopment that would demolish the majority of the site including Halprin’s landscape.

A: Well-maintained
B: Good, but needs some work
C: Beginning to falter
F: High risk

The second scale measures the level of visibility Halprin is given by the stewards of each site.
Visibility can be measured in a number of ways, from on-site interpretation that includes mention of Halprin, to recognition of Halprin on a steward’s website, to listing in the National Register of Historic Places under the category of landscape architecture. Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, TX, receives a high rating in this category because it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under the category of landscape architecture, and the nomination form was heavily focused on Halprin’s involvement in the design. This nomination and subsequent listing directly influenced the current rehabilitative efforts underway at the landscape. Meanwhile, Hebrew University in Jerusalem receives the lowest possible rating for visibility, because Halprin does not appear to be mentioned anywhere in onsite interpretation or in their online materials.

A: Halprin is highly regarded 
B: Moderate discussion of Halprin’s work
C: Casual mention of Halprin
F: Halprin’s contribution is not recognized

Finally, we indicate whether each site is designated – i.e. listed in the National Register of Historic Places or designated a National Historic Landmark – and whether that designation's area of significance includes the Halprin landscape or is limited solely to architecture.  It’s worth noting here that of the 25 publically accessible sites in the exhibit – only five are considered to be significant for landscape architecture.

Landslide has proven an effective tool in raising the visibility and value of at-risk landscapes. We invite you to explore the Landslide  site and to learn more about the program and the many extraordinary sites listed.