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Design with Culture

Often viewed as nostalgic and inauthentic, the work of early preservationists has frequently been underrated by modern practitioners. Rather than considering early preservation within its historical context, many modern preservationists judge their predecessors' work by contemporary standards, ultimately negating their legacy. In Design with Culture: Claiming America's Landscape Heritage, Charles A. Birnbaum and Mary V. Hughes present an introduction along with eight essays by well-known landscape historians that effectively argue against this diminution. By revisiting planning studies, executed works, and critical writings from the years 1890-1950, these authors uncover the holistic stewardship ethic that drove pioneering landscape preservation advocates, revealing their goal to be the imaginative transformation, as much as the conservation, of material culture. The essays, which range from accounts of the professional contribution made by such figures as Charles Sprague Sargent and Frederick Law Olmsted to consideration of the roles played by women's clubs and New Deal government programs, portray the spirit and tenacity of the early preservationists. In their focus on the transformation of entities such as Mount Vernon and the White House, as well as the rural countryside along the Blue Ridge Parkway, early preservationists anticipated several key issues - such as tourism, ecological concerns, and vehicle access - that confront practitioners today. Birnbaum and Hughes illustrate not only the similarity of experience between early and modern landscape preservationists but also the immense impact that their decisions had and still have on our daily lives. For landscape architects, architects, planners, amateur and professional gardeners, conservationists, preservationists, and anyone with an interest in history, travel, and national parks, Design with Culture will prove an indispensable resource for understanding the history of landscape preservation.
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About the Author

Charles A. Birnbaum is coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative in Washington, D.C., and the founder of the Cultural Landscape Foundation. He is the coeditor of Pioneers of American Landscape Design and Preserving Modern Landscape Architecture I and II. Mary V. Hughes is University Landscape Architect for the University of Virginia, where she also serves as a lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture. In addition, with Peter Hatch of Monticello, she is codirector of the Historic Landscape Institute.


"This anthology, written by a number of distinguished scholars, breaks new ground in focusing on a major, yet generally neglected, chapter in the legacy of landscape architectural practice in the United States. Equally important, the content addresses a long overlooked aspect of the historic preservation movement, bringing home the importance of knowing that movement's past in the pursuit of high professional standards today. For practitioners and historians alike, this is an invaluable book." - Richard Longstreth, George Washington University; "This collection of fresh essays is a valuable contribution to an expanding literature about what must be considered the most complex and contested social product, our landscape - especially that which is deemed historically significant. The sweep from colonial origins to Appalachian farms, from scenic wilderness and missions of the West to the nation's capital, the little known stories behind the origins of our heritage and conservation organizations and many of our first and most meaningful parks will be of interest to laymen, students, and professionals alike. I wish this book had been written thirty years ago." - Laurie Olin, landscape architect and educator"

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