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Charles A. Birnbaum
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Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, is the President and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) in Washington, DC. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the American Academy in Rome. Prior to joining TCLF, Charles spent fifteen years as the coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative (HLI) and a decade in private practice in New York City with a focus on landscape preservation and urban design. He has written and edited numerous publications including Shaping the American Landscape (UVA Press, 2009), Design with Culture: Claiming America’s Landscape Heritage (UVA Press 2005), Preserving Modern Landscape Architecture (1999) and its follow-up publication, Making Post-War Landscapes Visible (2004, both for Spacemaker Press). In 2008, Charles was the visiting Glimcher Distinguished Professor at Ohio State’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture and was also awarded the Alfred B. LaGasse Medal from the ASLA. This past year Charles was awarded the ASLA President’s Medal by the Society’s President.

Entries by Charles A. Birnbaum

Can Parks and Memorials Happily Co-Exist?

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 10:19 AM

The National Mall in Washington, DC is saturated with monuments and museums and, while there is little support for adding more to the Mall, there is support for continuing the tradition of building monuments in the city. While it is a fraught process that requires approvals from numerous...

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President and Mrs. Obama -- Please Don't Approve the Taking of Public Parkland for the Obama Presidential Library

(4) Comments | Posted February 12, 2015 | 8:02 AM

Dear President and Mrs. Obama:

Next year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) Organic Act, which led to the Park Service's creation, established "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment...

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Will Part of Chicago's Historic Washington Park Be Confiscated for the Obama Presidential Library?

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 6:48 AM

The bidding war for the Obama Presidential Library got very controversial with the University of Chicago's (UofC) January 6, 2015, announcement of its unprecedented proposal to confiscate land they do not own - public parkland - should they win. Other locations are under consideration, including in...

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2014's Notable Developments in Landscape Architecture

(0) Comments | Posted December 9, 2014 | 11:07 AM

This year there was a cultural shift that saw landscape architecture and its practitioners achieve an unprecedented level of visibility and influence.

This year the single most notable development came courtesy of the New York Times architecture Michael Kimmelman critic who wrote: "Great public places and works of...

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Landscapes of Clarity - Dan Kiley's Modernist Origins in Seventeenth Century France

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 11:48 AM

Dan Kiley (1912-2004), the great Postwar landscape architect and icon of Modernism, remains a decade after his death one of the profession's most influential practitioners. He's finally gaining greater public recognition, to judge from the popularity and demand for The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley,...

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That 'Temporary' Frick Garden - It Was Created to Be Permanent

(0) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 1:16 PM

In a bit of revisionist history, the garden at the Frick Collection designed by the world-famous British landscape architect Russell Page (1906-1985) and once hailed by the New York Times as one of his "most important works," has been downgraded by museum officials to...

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Here's What's Missing in the Debate Over the Frick Collection's Proposed Expansion

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 12:24 PM

The announcement that the Frick Collection on New York's Upper East Side plans to build an addition has generated some buzz and concern - and if implemented, it would forever destroy an important part of the collection - an exquisite garden by the world famous British landscape architect...

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Living on the Edge

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2014 | 10:51 AM

Everyone wants to live next to a park.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and his civic patrons knew this early on. Olmsted also saw it as the landscape architect's duty to carefully orchestrate the relationship between what he termed the "main park" and the "outer park," thus the...

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Here's What's Missing in the Debate Over Central Park's Horses and Carriages

(3) Comments | Posted April 30, 2014 | 10:56 AM

Should the horses and carriages of New York's Central Park be banished? The proposal, initially floated by the city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, as a campaign promise, has set off a firestorm. The mayor reiterated his position in a recent Associated Press article saying, "it's inhumane," adding,...

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What's the Big Idea? Debating the Future of a Great Urban Park

(0) Comments | Posted January 7, 2014 | 4:42 PM

America's 21st century urban parks have the ability to be transformational; and when a design embraces the unique qualities of a given site, it can deepen the public's understanding and value of our shared landscape heritage, something we've already seen with visionary works like New York's High Line....

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2013's Notable Developments in Landscape Architecture

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2013 | 8:38 AM

In surveying the year in landscape architecture, "aptness," a word favored by the great Modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley seems, well, appropriate. For Kiley aptness meant reading a landscape and understanding what existed at a particular site before one intervenes. This raises issues of understanding a...

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Designed for Democracy: When Public Goes Private a Park Loses Its Heart

(2) Comments | Posted June 19, 2013 | 9:44 AM

Nationally, in the wake of urban growth and renewal, there is considerable debate about whether public parks and open space should be given away or sold to for-profit enterprises. Are they valuable civic resources or just places to put stuff? What if, hypothetically, we're discussing a park designed by the...

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City Shaping VI: In 21st Century Toronto, There is Momentum

(1) Comments | Posted May 29, 2013 | 5:28 PM

Town Hall Square, by Janet Rosenberg & Studio. Photograph courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

If you want to see why cities are centers of energy, look at the remarkable transformation underway in Toronto (and avoid the sideshow involving...

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From Parking Lot to Paradise - the Revenge of Urban Agriculture

(0) Comments | Posted March 17, 2013 | 6:55 PM

Urban agriculture during my baby boomer childhood in New York City, when postwar agricultural production became increasingly industrialized, amounted to simple school projects like rooting an avocado pit or a potato in the base of a sawn off milk carton. Today, however, we have home food production, urban farming, productive...

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Dan Kiley: A great yet little known Modernist

(1) Comments | Posted February 10, 2013 | 3:30 PM

In his later years, you could find Dan Kiley with his wild hair and pants hiked up to his waist always brimming with opinions and ideas - or as the celebrated landscape architect Laurie OIin once observed: "Dan's thoughts are like rabbits - they just keep...

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2012's Notable Developments in Landscape Architecture

(0) Comments | Posted December 17, 2012 | 1:40 PM

There are many reasons why landscape architecture "has gained stature in the public's imagination," as Alan Brake, Executive Editor at The Architect's Newspaper recently editorialized. In sorting through the many notable developments in landscape architecture this year, it's clear that the repercussions of Hurricane Sandy on the Northeast...

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Museum Tower is an "attack" on the Nasher Sculpture Center's garden, building and art

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2012 | 4:10 PM

As Nasher Sculpture Center landscape architect Peter Walker sees it, the intense light reflecting off Museum Tower, the 42-story, $200 million condominium complex across from the center, is an "attack on the garden and on the building and on the art." According to Walker,...

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A New Philanthropic Threshold -- The Significance of Central Park's Gift

(1) Comments | Posted November 1, 2012 | 3:35 PM

John Paulson's recent $100 million gift to New York's Central Park, the largest bequest ever to a city park, has drawn considerable praise and, surprisingly, some blowback (the old "no good deed goes unpunished" scenario). The 843-acre park, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted,...

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The Big Task of Managing Nature at New York's Central Park

(0) Comments | Posted September 12, 2012 | 10:01 AM

I know that it may come as a shock to some, but New York's Central Park is not an act of God.

It might seem that way, especially in the woodlands, which appear so authentically, well, natural. But, no - Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and...

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New Jersey's 'Done Deal': Destroying a Historic Resource With False Choices

(4) Comments | Posted July 31, 2012 | 6:46 PM

From mobile phones to Starbucks beverages, we are used to having lots of options. So, when it comes to the disposition of historic resources, why do governmental officials so often offer us false choices? For example, the city of Minneapolis, as I've previously written, says there are no...

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