Category Archives: landscape

smallest park in the world

Portland is kind of quirky, but that’s why we love it. Most of its quirk has developed over the last decade, but some things started long ago. It was on a 3rd grade class field trip that I first encountered the smallest park in the world. Surrounded by asphalt and located (in stunning contrast) next to Waterfront Park (one of the largest parks in the City), this little park still makes me smile.

lincoln cottage

Seven years ago I started research on the Lincoln Cottage, a small house situated on a hill on the edge of Washington D.C. where Abraham Lincoln spent his summers while President. He couldn’t travel to the Shenandoah Mountains like Herbert Hoover did or Camp David like many modern presidents do now. Our country was at war so he needed to stay close to Washington.

However he needed a place that was quiet, where he could think outside the chaos of Washington, and escape the hot swampy weather surrounding the White House. Even during the usually idyllic summer months Lincoln was often described as sad and restless as he wandered the grounds. During the summer of 1862 while living at the cottage he formed his thoughts on slavery that would he would eventually formalize with the Emancipation Proclamation.

My research led to the restoration of the Lincoln Cottage grounds which are now open to the public. The restoration project was initiated in anticipation of the Lincoln Bicentennial, which was in full swing this week surrounding what would have been Lincoln’s 150th birthday. Leading many of those celebrations was President Barack Obama.

In 2002, when I started this project I would not have believed that an African-American would reside in the White House when the celebration commenced. Now I can’t imagine anything else. In itself it’s the most profound element of the celebration and exactly what Lincoln foresaw as he pondered this very issue at the Lincoln Cottage.

the cottage and grounds in 2002 before restoration


today i got to talk about cultural landscapes. today i got to feel like i was sharing my experience with people who appreciate it. today i got to remember wonderful discussions in my old office at fairsted. today i got to remember going to coffee with amy. today i got to feel passionate.

all aboard

Every time I take the train from New York to Boston I relive my post grad school life.

I pass through Rye, my first stop after driving 3000 miles from Oregon with Ivy in the summer of 2001. I pass through Westport which I was dreaming would be filled with fresh produce and wonderful food markets ala Martha Stewart, but which paled in comparison to the fresh fruits and vegetables I could find in my own home state.

I pass by the East Norwalk train stop where I deboarded the commuter rail nearly every day on my way to work. The platform looks the same. We stop in Bridgeport and it still looks as rundown and ghostly as it did when I lived here. There’s still a promise of restoration, but reality is a much different story. As we lumbered out of the station and continued to head north I could see the downtown was filled with grey rundown buildings next to a couple brand-spanking new renovations that stuck out like diamonds floating in a sea of tar.

Beyond that we stopped in New Haven and it took everything I had not to get off and pop into see Jeromy, Anne and Ella. Maybe have a little pizza at Modern, maybe drink a little whiskey at Bar, or catch a concert on the Green.

From there the landscape changes to less familiar places, but beautiful bays and inlets that dot the shoreline through Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Finally the train rolls in to Boston, passing alongside the commuter rail stops that run to the city from the south making their way to Back Bay and then South Station. I can’t count how many times I passed through South Station on my way in and out of Boston, but it felt so familiar walking through the doors and heading to the T. I was back!

la la land

Christmas in LA in March. Nothing about that sounds right, but mom and I had a great trip to the Palm lined city – a visit we’d planned over the winter when we couldn’t rendezvous with my brother in December. We took in a concert at Erik’s studio, had dinner at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, and toured the recently reopened Getty Villa in Malibu. We had breakfast at Urth Cafe with Peter and Garrett before meeting up with them again in West Hollywood for dinner. It felt a lot like our old Boston days, but in a much nicer climate!! I guess I can see why they like their la la life.

the new architecture of new york


I remember when Italian architect Renzo Piano was awarded the commission for the new New York Times building at the beginning of the century. I was still living in Connecticut and imagined I’d be close by to watch the construction of a building that I once dreamed I’d work inside. However, more than eight years (and a few moves) have passed and the building has just opened to its reporters and photographers. The punch list is still being punched, but the quintessential public spaces are open.

The NY Times architecture critic led readers on a comprehensive online tour of the building this past fall and as I watched it I longed to be in the space in person. I had no idea then that I’d be in NY City the next month, be able to walk around the building, and visit its lobby and atrium. Piano’s use of texture and color is brilliant, the grays (both smooth and finely lined) evoke the paper’s newsprint. The bold warm colors evoke the life and energy that the words of NY Times reporters use to bring us stories of hope and heartbreak everyday.


Within two blocks of each other in midtown Manhattan are two historic buildings that have recently received modern updates. British architect Norman Foster’s addition to the Beaux Arts Hearst building has been lauded as a success (and it is), while Portland architect Brad Cloepfil’s renovation of Edward Durrell Stone’s building at Columbus Circle has received the wrath of the preservation community. Though it’s still under construction, Cloepfil’s work blends modern style and contemporary needs with the historic fabric of Stone’s building in as respectful a way as Foster’s intervention blends environmental values with the historic Hearst building.