Landslide 2020 spotlights women-designed landscapes and the threats that they face

Taking the Lead

Landslide 2020 spotlights women-designed landscapes and the threats that they face

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has released its 2020 edition of Landslide, an annual in-depth report produced by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that profiles—and raises awareness of—a geographically diverse number of at-risk American parks, gardens, horticultural features, working landscapes, and “and other places that collectively embody our shared landscape heritage.”

Like with prior Landslide reports, the sites that comprise Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead respond to a specific topical theme. This year, to mark the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment, each of the dozen threatened landscapes (two containing multiple sites) were created, designed, tended to, and championed by women including a multitude of female landscape architects and designers, many of them pioneering in the field and some unsung and overlooked. As TCLF points out, women represent a majority of undergrad and graduate students at landscape architecture programs. That plurality, however, doesn’t translate to the profession itself. Women, as of 2018, make up 35.5 percent of American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) members. Even fewer are principals at landscape architecture firms, ASLA Fellows, or, most significantly, BIPOC.

Accompanying the report, which delves into the history of each landscape and discusses the threats that they face and what the public can do to help, is a multimedia virtual component. Originally envisioned as a traveling photographic exhibition, that plan was scrapped and retooled by TCLF in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the shift to bring the Women Take the Lead exhibition online was obviously unplanned for, the new format has the potential to reach an even greater audience than a peripatetic in-person exhibition. It also led to the production of additional content, namely newly commissioned photography and a series of 20 short interviews remotely filmed with landscape designers, historians, conservationists, and others who have an association with each threatened site featured in the report. Bookending the virtual exhibition are video interviews with practitioners in the field that further highlight the need for greater gender diversity as well as other challenges.

a leafy public square in savannah
Clermont Lee’s Troup Square in Savannah, Georgia. (© Daves Rossell/Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

Landslide 2020 not only raises the visibility of 20th century women landscape architects and designers, and the potential ephemerality of their built contributions, it also features critical voices of inspiring contemporary practitioners such as Gina Ford, Alison Hirsch, and Sara Zewde who address the unique issues women practitioners confront and what can be done to insure their success in the profession,” said TCLF president and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum in a statement announcing the launch of the report and exhibition.

Although thematically linked, the sites featured in Landslide 2020 are notably eclectic and include a demolition-threatened late-1980s postmodernist park, a bustling urban plaza suffering from deferred maintenance, open space vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in America’s most populous city, a state park system in desperate need of funding, and Disneyland. Also varied are the threats that they each face.

TCLF has called attention to over 300 different endangered landscapes since the first Landslide report was released. Below are this year’s selected sites, linked to their respective profile pages in the report.

Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, Lynchburg, Virginia

Beebe Garden, Lake Oswego, Oregon

Children’s Park and Pond, San Diego

Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Dumbarton Oaks Park, Washington, D.C.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Landscapes of Clermont Lee, Savannah, Georgia

Michigan State Parks, various locations, Michigan

Radburn, Fair Lawn, New Jersey

South Cove at Battery Park City, New York City

Staged Gates at Hills & Dales MetroPark, Dayton, Ohio

Thomas Polk Park, Charlotte, North Carolina