State of Infinity

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This session will explore the application and extension of Ian McHarg’s “layer cake” model of landscape architecture through a series of case studies drawn from the speakers’ professional experience. Starr and Poor will recount their time at UPenn under the tutelage of Ian McHarg and how they took McHarg’s layer cake model to their work in Central Park—both in analyzing existing conditions and in expanding upon Olmsted’s landscape. In the eighties, Central Park was already a vehicle for bringing a Hudson River School vision of nature into the City. The speakers’ job was to rehabilitate this vision for the realities of the late 20th century. To do this, Starr and Poor expanded on the layer cake model by incorporating not only geological, natural, and social strata, but also the political realities of New York City in the eighties—a microcosm for broader sociopolitical trends in the country as a whole. These realities included monied private interests functioning, or failing to function, within a public management framework—a relationship most harmoniously expressed in the creation of the Central Park Conservancy.
Negotiating the terrain of late 20th century American politics became central to the process of reconstructing Central Park, a template which Starr and Poor would later apply to the wholesale redesign of the Battery. Two decades later, Starr would expand on McHarg’s model again by incorporating planning for resilience and climate change into the “layer cake” through her work on the Big U Plan. Starr and Poor will also consider how the layer cake model functions in a Mediterranean context by examining their experience at Park Sharon in Jerusalem. The session will conclude with a reiteration of the lessons learned in a lifetime of designing, not only with natural layers, but with political realities and social constituencies as well.
Atlantic City, NJ
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Sustainable Development & Design
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
1. Understand how to design using natural, social, and political systems as factors.
2. Learn techniques to engage the community in the planning and design process of projects.
3. Understand the diverse role of landscape architecture in resilience planning.
SPEAKERS: Laura Starr & Jeffrey Poor Laura Starr, Partner – Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners / Starting her career in Central Park, where she worked as Chief of Design before moving into private practice, Landscape Architect Laura Sta
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New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

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