Page 1

SCAPE land and design in the Upper Midwest



The Mega-School Reconsidered:



What’s it like out there?

Willow Weaving

a publication of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

On the Cover: Marjorie Pitz, FASLA, weaves extraordinary structures from wild sandbar willow.

Learn how she does it, in topic:art Photo by Marjorie Pitz, FASLA

__SCAPE is published quarterly by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (MASLA). __SCAPE is FREE. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to, and type subscribeSCAPE in the subject line. Send general MASLA inquiries to: MASLA

WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS? (or at least in print?)

International Market Square 275 Market Street, Suite 54 Minneapolis, MN 55405 612-339-0797 FAX 612-338-7981 Send general __SCAPE inquiries, le�ers to the editor, and advertising requests to: Adam Regn Arvidson MASLA Director of Communications 300 First Avenue North, Suite 210 Minneapolis, MN 55401 612-312-2126


is looking for writers Have a story idea? Read a good book lately? Know of a good website? Have a favorite magazine? Send your article ideas to Adam Regn Arvidson 612-312-2126


issue #3



:nature Two Days in Sri Lanka



An Urban Education

In the wake of last December’s Asian tsunami, a group of Minnesota designers tackle the tricky problem of relocation -- with a charette.

On the hidden connections between urban structure, regional transit, and learning

by Frank Edgerton Martin

What is it like to practice away from the Twin Cities metro area? Nine landscape architects share their stories.


Valued Places


Fellow’s Top 5


Communities in Crisis


State of the Outstate

The Forest for the Trees

Peavey Plaza Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

by Cassie Neu and Colin Kloecker





Stick by Stick

The joy of weaving willow

by Doris Sullivan, FASLA

In Other Words will return in Winter 06 with an expanded offering

by Marjorie Pitz, FASLA

by Adam Regn Arvidson

MASLA Executive Committee John D. Slack, president Thomas Whitlock, past president Bruce Chamberlain, president-elect Sonia Walters, secretary Renee McGarvey, treasurer Jim Hagstrom, trustee Travis Tegethoff, director of public relations Mike Jischke, director of programs Richard Wiebe, director of academic affairs Craig Nelson, co-director of awards and banquet Anne Okerman, co-director of awards and banquet Adam Regn Arvidson, director of communications issue #1


The Forest for the Trees editor’s note

sial point. Put the federal / local bickering out of your

As I write this, the death toll in the Pakistan earthquake

mind for a moment and remember that a great majority of

continues to rise. It is yet one more in a seemingly endless

the City of New Orleans is below sea level. Good levees

year-and-a-half long string of natural disasters which

or not, about 80% of one of the world’s major maritime

have killed or displaced literally millions of people.

ports is below sea level. And everyone is talking about

And despite being deadly, this ceaseless ba�ery has at

rebuilding: reclaiming the same soaked neighborhoods

times bordered on the unprecedented and bizarre: four

and remaking the flood-ruined houses.

hurricanes hit Florida last year; we have nearly run out of Atlantic storm names; and for the first time in recorded

And herein lies the controversy. It is easy to sit high and

history, an Atlantic hurricane made landfall in Spain.

dry in Minnesota and say we should never build below sea level, and that New Orleans should be rebuilt somewhere

Though I hate to open this installment of _SCAPE so

safer. But the bond between a person and their native

morbidly, the issue is front and center and cannot be

(home?) landscape is extraordinarily powerful: powerful

denied. This publication deals with land and design, as in:

enough to make them risk almost everything to remain in

the human fingerprint on the natural world. Right now,

that landscape.

the natural world is kicking our collective human bu�. There is no denying the strain this puts on our resources.

In this issue, we take a look at crises and native landscapes.

How can the disaster response agencies and non-profits

A group of designers get together to help a community

go to Pakistan when, in reality, they are still cleaning up

in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka.

Indonesia? How can the world’s governments begin to

who choose to practice out away from the Twin Cities

feed and clothe the earthquake survivors when there are

tell us exactly why. A new school puts students back in

tens of thousands without homes in Louisiana? How can

touch with their home city. An Army Corps of Engineers

we live peacefully on this earth when it takes lives in such

landscape architect shares how we all might help in times

a cavalier manner?

of natural disaster.

It is hollow solace to know that, in fact, humans have

This is big, reader, and _SCAPE would like to hear from

thus far lived in a time of geologic quietness. Cataclysmic

you. What do you think about this freakish string of

events have been rare in the history of homo sapiens. If

crises? How important is your native landscape to you?

this is a case of “we were due for something,” it does not

What can you do (or have you done) to be there for those

change the fact that we all still have to deal with it. And

in need? How can design help? Please send your thoughts

Katrina raises perhaps the most important and controver-


Adam Regn Arvidson

Landscape architects


Valued Places In 2001, the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects published Valued Places: landscape architecture in Minnesota. This glove-box sized guidebook profiles 52 sites in the Land of Lakes, each of which has benefitted from design, care, or stewardship by landscape professionals. Here are a few samples...

Peavey Plaza Located on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, Peavey Plaza has been a favorite urban gathering place since 1975. A highly versatile space of over one acre in size, it serves as a cool, quite summer refuge for downtown workers; an ice skating pond in winter; and as a venue for concerts and festivals. The plaza is a highpoint of modernperiod landscape architecture in Minneapolis. The design is simple yet rich in spatial variety. Set against the backdrop of Orchestra Hall, Peavey Plaza is a visually complex space of square cornered seating terraces, raised planter boxes, bubbling fountains, and pipes, beckoning passers-by to the plaza and quieting the sounds of nearby traffic. For all its value as an urban space for quiet rest and reflection, Peavey Plaza is equally important as home to annual festivals and concerts sponsored by the Minnesota Orchestra and other local arts organizations. During the Viennese Sommerfest, the reflecting pool at the center of the plaza is drained and becomes the stage and center of a much-loved local tradition. Food vendors move onto the street level plaza space beneath temporary canopies and peddle Austrian treats. The same pool serves as a skating pond in winter months, surrounded by plantings of colorful evergreens. Peavey Plaza, designed by landscape architect M. Paul pools which step gracefully down from street level. Its southwest exposure allows for many sun-drenched nooks


and quiet areas, while the canopy of honey locust trees overhead provides opportunities for seating that is shaded

Friedberg, has been a success story since its opening in 1975. An instant classic in urban design, it was cited for a Special Award in 1978 by the Landscape Architecture magazine.

from summer glare. Recalling the musical character of its neighbor, the plaza announces itself with a grouping of tall stainless steel cylinders at street level in its southwest corner. Gushing water, not music, is produced by these issue #3



Valued Places

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum In 1907 the Minnesota State Horticultural Society approached the State Legislature to establish a fruit breeding farm in Excelsior, Minnesota, and to have it be a�ached to the University of Minnesota. Specifically, the farm would develop fruit, especially apples, that would survive Minnesota’s climate, thus creating a new industry. Since that time over 80 varieties of fruit and landscape plants have been developed and released to the public.

In 1956, the Men’s Garden Club of Minneapolis, a�er years

sible Sensory Garden, and proposed redevelopment of

of discussion, proposed to Dr. Leon Snyder, the Head of

the shrub rose garden.

the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota, the establishment of an Arboretum to grow

In 1997 a new master plan was created which encompassed

and evaluate landscape plants for Minnesota and to

the Arboretum proper, the Horticultural Research Center,

create a public display garden. The first 160 acres were

and all lands the Arboretum proposed to purchase in the

purchased in 1958.

future to protect its watershed (approximately 1200 acres total). The plan also located places for a new visitor center

The Arboretum’s first master plan was completed in 1959.

conservatory, new areas for collections and gardens,

It laid out Three-Mile Drive and the location of collections,

new circulation, additional parking, and a be�er entry

some generic and some functional or cultural. This plan

sequence. This plan is presently being implemented.

and parking areas. In 1978 and again in 1987, this master

Today the Arboretum has a diverse collection of plants

plan was refined and updated. The latest plan upgraded

(about 5,000 taxa), gardens, recreated and native

the entry, created the new parking areas, located an acces-

landscapes, and educational and research programs. The


SCAPE fall 05


also noted natural areas and proposed a site for a building


largest woody collections (research and display) include pine, apple, crabapple, linden, grape, lilac, and azalea. Perennial collections include shrub roses, hybrid tea roses, clematis, ornamental grasses, iris, peony, hosta, daylily, and lily. These collections display the be�er species and cultivars which are hardy in Minnesota.

Arteka is once again Arteka, locally owned and operated. 8810 13th Avenue East, Shakopee, Minnesota 55379 tel: 952.934.2000 �� fax: 952.934.2247

In addition to the collections, there are over thirty model gardens and exhibits at the MLA: the perennial garden, six types of herb gardens, the Home Demonstration Gardens, the dwarf conifer garden, the Fern Walk, the sensory/ accessible gardening exhibit, the MacMillan Garden, the Japanese Garden, the shrub walk, the garden for wildlife, and the Waterfall Garden. Major ongoing Arboretum programs include research on cold hardy apples, grapes, street trees, and landscape shrubs -- especially hardy azaleas -- wetland restoration, and ornamental grasses. Educational programs include adult, children, horticulture as therapy, teacher training in biological sciences, and family programs. Andersen Horticultural Library, with over 11,000


has an historical

����� ��� ����

seed and nursery catalogue tion



published several books


The AHL Source List of Seeds and Plants.

A new visitor center, envisioned in the 1997 master plan, opened this summer. by Peter Olin

issue #3

to advertise in

__SCAPE contact Adam Arvidson, editor at 612-312-2126 ������������������������������������������������������������ ��������������������������������



Fellow’s Top 5 We asked Doris Sullivan, FASLA, what five things landscape architects can do to help communities in crisis. She is a landscape architect with the Army Corps of Engineers and has been, literally, on the ground in the aftermath of natural distasters. She writes: I am responding to this question shortly a�er Katrina and Rita have swept through the Gulf region. My immediate reaction is to think of “communities in times of crisis” in terms of natural disasters. So, the first thing that comes to my mind is the need for quickly built, temporary shelter. Landscape architects were made to participate in emergency recovery efforts especially designing temporary facilities. Think: a charre�e that will become a real place for a short while. Think: efficiency, practicality, and community. In 2001, I was a member of a team that worked for

My experience is an example of only some of the contribu-

FEMA to provide temporary housing for flood victims

tions that landscape architects can make to the construc-

in West Virginia. My skills as a landscape architect

tion effort.

locations, structure placement, green space layout, bus stop location, and exterior lighting. For each site (we tackled 6 different projects within a 29 day span), we started with the surveyors “xyz” files and within 5 to 7 days had plans and specifications ready for the contractor. The team had designed a small “housing development” that we expected to be inhabited within a couple weeks and which would remain in place for about 18 months.


Landscape architects (along with engineers and


work with local officials to find appropriate sites


put detail to the actual facilities by planning

architects) can manage offices and projects, we can

for temporary facilities, and we can

temporary housing sites,

designing circulation, and

And the relief and gratitude on the face of an exhausted

planing infrastructure. We can review proposals and

parent leading her children into their own “home” was an

review construction documents. We can also work with

unexpected bonus.

contractors to assure quality control during construction.


SCAPE fall 05


were extremely valuable. I provided road layout, utility


whips In addition, we can facilitate communication.

Landscape architects are excellent liaisons. We under-

stand physical systems, natural systems, people and their needs, communities, the politics of housing, and the basics of utilities and circulation. All the knowledge required for pass the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination (LARE) can be drawn upon in crisis response projects. We can work as collaborators or we can facilitate communication among varying disciplines, agencies, and special-interest groups.


Lastly, once the immediate human needs are taken

care of, landscape architects re-enter one of their major “comfort zones:” analysis. We can examine what went wrong, what went right, what needs to change, and what cannot or should not change. At this point, we can assist by developing ideas, creating master plans, completing studies, and designing for quality and endurance. As new projects develop, all of the “lessons learned” from the times of crises will present opportunities for the kind of creative design landscape architects do best.


, Inc. Architectural Lighting Designs, Inc. 2920 Anthony Lane St. Anthony, MN 55418 Phone: 612-252-4100 Fax: 612-252-4141 E-mail –

Doris Preisendorf Sullivan, FASLA, is a landscape architect with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. She started with the St. Paul District in the Planning Section working on master plans, recreation planning, visual analysis, preliminary conceptual design, and planting plans. In 1997, Doris transferred to the General Engineering Section. She has been responsible as Lead Engineer doing civil/site design for a wide range of Corps projects. She has overseen site layout for five locks in the St. Paul District. In 2001, she was a member of an emergency response team that provided temporary housing to flood victims in West Virginia. Doris also coordinates competition entries for the St. Paul Corps district. Prior to joining the Corps, Doris worked as a landscape architect for firms in Minneapolis and San Diego. She was named the Corps’ Landscape Architect of the Year in 2000, was awarded an Achievement Medal for Civilian Service in 2001, received the Lob Pine Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2002, and was made Fellow of ASLA in 2003. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

issue #3


topic: nature

In the wake of last December’s Asian tsunami, a group of Minnesota designers tackle the tricky problem of relocation -with a charette.

Two Days in Sri Lanka


ow do you address issues involving people

of devastation, and the despair of people whose family

who live thousands of miles away? How do

members have died, whose homes have been destroyed,

you make a difference in someone else’s life

and whose lives have been changed forever. How do you

whom you have never met before? How do you design

deal with actual space and landscape, when the only thing

a building that stays cool in tropical heat and honors

you can understand is emotion.?

cultural spaces and directional entries?

How do you

address a site on a hill where a natural spring surges water

Off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, in a region called

in a distant country you have never visited? How? When

Hikkaduwa, a group of 50 homes will soon be transformed

the only thing you have seen are photos and video footage

into a new community for residents of several villages


SCAPE fall 05


by Cassie Neu and Colin Kloecker

of its devastating 2003 floods by organizing charre�es to create design solutions quickly.

The American

Institute of Architects’ (AIA’s) Search for Shelter is commi�ed to the same process, having developed designs for numerous organizations engaged in helping those impacted by change or





Community Services, the Midtown Greenway



Community Housing, and others. The South Asian Tsunami devastated more communities, affected more countries, and changed more peoples’ lives than any previously documented natural disaster. The sheer number of rebuilding projects is vast and that were destroyed during the South Asian Tsunami on

the need for help is immediate. Charre�e-based design

December 26th, 2004. What this community needs now

seemed an appropriate way to address the Sri Lanka

is a community center in which people can gather and

Community Center in Hikkaduwa.

begin to move forward with their lives. These were my


thoughts and questions as I listened to the members of the Minnesota Sri Lanka Friendship Foundation (MNSLFF) speak to a group of design professionals about their

onstruction is already underway on the 50 homes designed by an overwhelmed Colombo, Sri Lanka-based government design group, the Sri

country, its current devastation, and what they hoped to

Lankan Urban Development Authority (UDA). In addition

receive from a two-day design charre�e that was about

to house designs, the UDA also provided MNSLFF with

to begin.

a conceptual plan for the community center. MNSLFF

Charre�e-based design can be beautiful, communitydriven, and extremely helpful in developing a vision for a group of people. It is conceptual, rough, and quick, but thorough enough to jump-start creative

Last July, a group of designers convened a charette to help a tsunami-ravaged community in Sri Lanka, opposite. The frenetic pace of the two days resulted in creative ideas, including a unique site plan, above, rendered mere minutes before the final presentation. The group remained collaborative throughout, presenting preliminary ideas to each other, below. (Vicki Hooper of HGA, presenting; Patrick Lynch University of Minnesota, at right.)

thinking. In the a�ermath of disaster, such a quick solution for shelter, food, and water is a necessity. In disasters that overwhelm communities, peoples’ lives depend immensely on the rate of recovery.




have endured their own natural disasters on scales

smaller than the Tsunami but equally demanding in the need for disaster relief. The Minnesota Design Team, a group formed to help small communi-

ties develop visions for their future, helped St. Peter in the a�ermath of its 1998 tornado and Roseau on the hells issue #3


topic: nature

for the community center that will include a Montessori school, medical clinic, and library. The 16 participating needed designers to develop the concept into a flexible,

designers processed as much information as they could

functional, and energy-efficient community center that

about Sri Lankan culture, local building materials and

would also be a beautiful space in which people could

styles, the site and natural environment, natural cooling

socialize, learn, and receive medical care.

and ventilation techniques, and ways in which the architecture of the community center could connect the

The two-day design charre�e was organized by

people of this new village with each other as well as with

Architecture for Humanity Minnesota (AFH MN), and it

Minnesota and the rest of the world.

was open to professional architects and landscape architects, as well as students. AFH MN and MNSLFF met at

The next morning the designers regrouped over donated

the SmithGroup office in downtown Minneapolis on the

coffee and bagels and got to work. A�er discussing what

evening of Friday, July 15 2005, to kick off the charre�e.

we learned the previous night, we decided to form smaller

Members of MNSLFF gave a brief history of their group

groups to look at four primary issues: heating/cooling/

and then began to explain the programmatic elements

ventilation, space planning, landscape site design, and global/local connections. A�er three intense hours of

Charette Participants

small group work, the large group gathered to review

Jeffrey Swainhart - Swainhart Construction Rich Koechlein - URS Cassie Neu - LHB Tu-Anh Bui - LHB Maureen Ness - LHB Jess Roberts - LHB Vicki Hooper - HGA Michael Nolan - SmithGroup Nick Woodard - SmithGroup Pei Ling - SmithGroup Ben Sporer - Landform Stephen Mastey - Landscape Architecture Inc. Richard Venberg - Venberg Design Build Sishir Chang - Pan Asian Tsunami Healing Katheryn Martenson - CALA Patrick Lynch - CALA Colin Kloecker - CALA

became clear that certain elements would become integral

what had been accomplished. As each team presented, it

Water became a key design component, moving from a pool at the top of the community center, through the courtyards, and into an irrigation sieve to water the community gardens, above. The upper and lower building levels, below, of the community center include cultural separation of spaces and the three distinct uses: library, preschool, and medical clinic.

MNSLFF Clients: Ananda (Lal) Liyanapathiranage Mithula Perera Nevanka Goonewardena Becky Guneratne


SCAPE fall 05

components of the design throughout the process: the movement of water through the site, the technology center as the heart of the community center, and a sensitivity to the village’s history and culture. We then broke for lunch before beginning the final stretch of the charre�e: refining the work already prepared and producing a finished design to present to the UDA for approval.


ord of mouth had brought Sishir Chang, the founder of the Pan Asian Tsunami Healing Group (P.A.T.H.), to the Minnesota Chapter

A healing and recovery process must take place while residents are at the same time looking forward to new lives. Connections to the coast and the former villages are important.


t every step of the process it was important for the charre�e participants to respect the reason why so many Sri Lankans are being relocated

of Architecture for Humanity. P.A.T.H. is an umbrella

from the coast to the new village on the Monrovia Estate.

organization that was bringing together over a dozen

These people who have lived on the coast for generations

Twin Cities Asian organizations to help the tsunami

were now being asked to move two miles inland from

survivors and families of victims. MNSLFF is one of the

the water to prevent damage from future tsunamis. In

participating groups. Its members had raised funds for a

understanding that a healing and recovery process must

community center on the Monrovia Estate in Hikkaduwa,

take place while residents are at the same time looking

Sri Lanka, but had no means to design it. That is where

forward to new lives, the group of designers realized

AFH MN stepped in.

that connections to the coast and the former villages are

Founded in February, 2005, by seven individuals with varying design backgrounds and







the Minnesota Chapter of Architecture for Humanity (AFH MN) upholds the same message to which its founders, Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, originally commi�ed themselves: “To promote architectural and design solutions to global, social



crises.” AFH MN has since

The community center is designed to relate to several contexts: the ocean coast, Minnesota, the international community, religious space, and existing land on the site.

grown to 20 members. The organization hopes to be simultaneously



between architects, landscape architects, and planners, as

important, as well as connections to friends in Minnesota

well as between students and practitioners.

like MNSLFF. With this in mind, water - like that found on the coast of Sri Lanka and in the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota

In the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina

- was chosen as the common element and developed as a

and Rita, there is a greater need for design services that

design feature throughout the site.

address people’s needs in real social and environmental catastrophes.

AFH MN is currently working to help

develop a competition for designing lasting, immediate shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina. This is reflective of AFH’s primary goal: to help people come together locally to address farther reaching issues, whether they lie

Have your own story of design and healing? __SCAPE welcomes letters to the editor. Send them to

on local, regional, or international ground. issue #1 #3


topic: nature

and geography. The prevailing coastal breezes enter the building from the south and are directed through

A spring-fed pool adjacent to the south side of the

the building and out a stack ventilation system. A large

community center will cool the interior as prevailing

veranda on the north side of the building shades the

southern winds pass over the water and through the

interior space while also providing outdoor circulation

building. The pool will also act as a daylight mechanism


when the sun reflects off the water and into the building. The spring water will then run under the building to exit

First floor circulation is exterior, shaded by a veranda. With

in a social courtyard and will be channeled to finally end

its series of columns, the veranda lends a monumental feel

in an irrigation sieve to nourish community gardens at the

to the building, which is entered from the north. The first

base of the site.

floor accommodates the Montessori school, the medical

The site plan of the community center went beyond the building itself, considering surrounding courtyards for gathering, community gardens, and the functional and symbolic water connections.

Moonstones (Sri Lankan circular stone slab thresholds), made of donated Minnesota granite or limestone, will be

clinic, and an office. The second floor can be accessed by

placed throughout the site at major entry spaces, spring

stairs from the first floor or by a gently sloping ramp from

water collection areas, and within community gathering

the east pavilion. Access is again by the veranda, repeated

places. Inscriptions in the stone will tell the story of the

from the first floor. The second level accommodates the

community, where the people came from, where they

library and a technology center, seen throughout the

are today, and who their friends are in Minnesota and

charre�e as the heart of the building: access to computers


with internet capabilities provides a link to connections between friends and family across the world, a link to

The building’s expression of passive heating/cooling

information, and a link to the future.

and natural ventilation incorporates the region’s ecology


SCAPE fall 05


t the end of the day, in return for our hard work and in celebration of the new connection between the two groups, MNSLFF provided an

incredible traditional Sri Lankan meal. The design team members then presented our finished design to MNSLFF members. AFH MN’s work with MNSLFF’s community center is not finished. It is currently under review by the Sri Lankan UDA, a�er which AFH MN will respond to any revision suggestions and prepare construction documents for their use. Construction is scheduled to be finished by the one year anniversary of the devastating tsunami.

Cassie Neu of LHB, left, and Richard Koechlein of URS present the site plan, connections, and details to members of MNSLFF. Nevanka Gooneewardena and Ananda (Lal) Liyanapathiranage are in the foreground.

In disaster relief, a short time frame for design is required. The Sri Lanka design charre�e proved that a good design can come from a quick and efficient process. Perhaps it was the dedication of MNSLFF to their country to pull

We came together because we believed in building a community center for tsunami survivors. It is amazing what can happen if you pull dedicated designers together in a room with d r a f t i n g materials for a short period of time. Editor’s Note: This article was developed in collaboration with t/here: journal of architecture and landscape, an annual printed journal published by the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota. The next issue of t/here, titled “Refuse,” will take a deeper look at the Architecture for Humanity organization: its inception, additional projects it has completed in Minnesota, and its philosophy. _SCAPE will also be reviewing t/here in its Winter 06 issue in January. For questions about t/here or for more information on how to get a hold of a copy of the journal, please e-mail

together an informative presentation so fast, or perhaps it was the efficient organization on behalf of AFH MN that created the right environment for designers to create such a helpful design. Most likely, it was simply the fact that people came together because they believed in building a community center for tsunami survivors, and they wanted to help in some way. It is amazing what can happen if you pull dedicated designers together in a room with dra�ing materials for a short period of time.

Cassie Neu is a landscape designer with LHB in Minneapolis. She holds a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota. She joined AFH MN in February 2005 because of her passion for design as a means to help people. Her design philosophy is focused on restorative community design. She feels that the innate qualities of a place are best revealed by the people who inhabit it and the native landscapes that embrace it. Guided by a respect for the land and the people who live there, she aspires to restore and create places that inspire, inform, and heal. Cassie enjoys backpacking, running, mountain biking, organic gardening, and travel. She lives in South Minneapolis with her husband and two cats.


design may be a valuable solution for recovery in the a�ermath of the many large natural disasters occurring today worldwide. issue #3


An Urban Education

topic: law


ocated atop

Center was never


really intended to

C e n t e r,

be a school, yet Saint

the new St. Paul

Paul’s “castle” has



much of the civic


grandeur and sense

Performing is







found in historic

challenge traditional

high schools such

ideals for what a

as the neo-classical



West High School on

city should be. Such

Hennepin Avenue










for landscape architects



tors because of the deep



twined histories of American


tion, school design,

On the hidden connections between urban structure, regional transit, and learning

and public policy. Rarely have educa-

by Frank Edgerton Martin

Romanesque-style Central High, whose tower still looms over downtown. The is

Conservatory home-away-

from-home for 160

tion policy, architecture, and planning been considered

creatively charged high school students, who stream in

as a connected whole, yet, throughout American history,

and out of the venerable castle everyday, providing it

they have shared common destinies. The striking contrast

with more daily life than it has seen for a while. The city

between the Conservatory and most of Minnesota’s other

itself provides this new charter school’s campus. Theater

new high schools illuminates a small piece of this story in

is at the neighboring Ordway Center, dance at the newly

the Upper Midwest.

renovated studios of Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and library

“The monument was already in place,” says Paul Neuhaus,

Rice Park. In the longer-term, the Conservatory school

AIA, who served as the Conservatory School’s project

will expand to include other downtown partners such as

architect for Perkins+Will. “It seemed that it just needed

Smith McNalley Music College, Minnesota Public Radio,

some new life with new tenants.”

Landmark Center

and local theatres. The Science Museum of Minnesota

was designed in 1902 as an architectural expression of

will soon serve as a venue for science classes and labs not

the fortress-like permanence of the federal government.

available at Landmark Center.

A�er nearly being demolished for a parking structure in the 1960s, a group of citizens saved it as a center for arts

The new school facility itself is very simple and low-tech.

organizations. Today, the chateau-esque building is home

Set in what is literally a 5th-floor garret, the classrooms

to cultural groups ranging from COMPAS/United Arts, the

are designed to accommodate morning courses in English,

Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, the Ramsey County

history, math, and foreign languages. The Conservatory

Historical Society, the Schubert Club, and, since just last

plans to develop staggered morning and a�ernoon

September, the new Conservatory school.

sessions to ultimately teach 300 students.



SCAPE fall 05


resources at the elegant St. Paul Public Library across

High schools came to resemble Southdale; and kids stopped going home for lunch because home was too far away. Faced with a dark and divided space, Perkins+Will’s

and, later, public universities, the spaces and times of kids’

first challenge was to bring daylight into the classrooms

daily lives were not as highly segmented as they are today.

and halls. The designers opened up each classroom with

Cooperation and teamwork used to be learned through

storefront windows that bring light from the perimeter

working in the family grocery store, harvesting the crops,

into hallways, and painted the perimeter walls in rich

or taking care of the grandparents a�er school. When

terraco�a tones. The effect is that color and light from the

children played useful roles in the family and community,

punched windows stream into the corridors. Such interior

they did not require organized summer programs, soccer

transparency supports the Conservatory’s desire to build

leagues, community service programs, and other institu-

a strong sense of community whereby the activities of the

tions simulating community and responsibility.

school are fully visible. Post-war suburbanization only further dispersed learning, Jennifer Somers, CID LEED AP, who served as project

play, and home. In Moment of Grace: The American City in

manager and interior designer explains that such openness

the 1950s, historian Michael Johns describes the moment

breaks with the assumption that passers-by will distract

“when the American city of factories, downtown

students; that classrooms should be isolated worlds. Part

shopping, and well-defined neighborhoods, vitalized by

of the underlying assumption at the new Conservatory

a culture of urbane song, dress and manners, achieved its

for Performing Artists is trust in the ability of students to

consummate expression….” This was also the era when an

focus and to govern themselves, so that an architecture of

American urban teen culture, supported by the “cultural

separation becomes unnecessary

incubator” of the large city high school, emerged with


distinct youthful tastes in music, clothes, and popular

he ability to discipline one’s a�ention, to learn how


to find both concentration and solitude within the crowd, is one of the lessons that kids naturally

In this affluent decade a�er World War II, the immense

learn in dense cities where distractions are everywhere.

building boom taking place in the suburbs responded to

Today’s zoned suburbs and mega-schools are designed

housing shortages with none of the neighborhood tradi-

with a kind of social control and order in mind that makes

tions or streetcar density that had shaped older cities. The

concentration unnecessary because they are so regulated,

model of the comprehensive city high school translated

predictable, and (as students may quickly say) boring.

to the rambler suburbs as a discreet campus surrounded by sports fields, strangely akin to the new shopping

For over the last century, new schools have proffered a

malls si�ing amidst parking lots. High schools came to

rich vein of work for architects; and the evolving styles,

resemble Southdale; and kids stopped going home for

scales, and layouts of school buildings continue to be

lunch because home was too far away.

both a response to and a driver of teaching styles. Before the rise of comprehensive city high schools in the late 19th century (when most Americans began to go beyond the eighth grade), work and family were closer together and the city itself was a campus for growing up. Even with the great American gi� of access to high school,

issue #3

The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists is a new charter school, located in the downtown Landmark Center, opposite, that challenges current thinking on the nature of the high school campus. The Conservatory uses the city as its primary learning environment, and makes its classrooms transparent, this page, to reinforce that connection.


topic: law


oday, state policies establish funding formulas that

render the preservation of in-town schools nearly impossible. In many states (including Minnesota)

in order to qualify for state aid, if rehabilitation if an older school is projected to cost more than 60-70% of a brand new school, new construction must be pursued. Furthermore, the size of a site that must be acquired in order to receive new construction funding is invariably immense—and therefore almost inevitably away from existing neighborhoods and town centers, making new schools reachable only by car or school bus. The body that establishes school site size guidelines is the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), and this is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. CEFPI is comprised mostly of school architects and planners who stand to benefit greatly from new school construction on large sites. While some states such as Maine and Pennsylvania have established maximum

According to the 2003 report by the National Trust for Historic Preservation: State Policies and School Facilities: How States Can Support or Undermine Neighborhood Schools and Community Preservation, Minnesota has the strictest site size requirements in the nation, exceeding even those recommended by CEFPI. State-funded schools in Minnesota must be built to the following criteria: Elementary Schools 10-15 acres—plus one acre for each 100 students

Middle Schools 25-35 acres—plus one acre for each 100 students

High Schools with more than 2000 students 60 acres—plus one acre for each 100 students

By comparison, Duluth Central, the former Minneapolis West (at 28th Street and Hennepin), Saint Paul Central, and the former Bemidji High Schools range in site size from 3 to 4 city blocks, or from 12 to 20 acres. Some of these schools extended their campuses by using facilities in the surrounding community, such as sports fields.

site size standards for state reimbursement, many states including Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, New Jersey, North

or finding pick-up games of so�ball where they invent

Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah comply with CEFPI’s

their own rules, they are driven to organized sports at

recommendations. Minnesota exceeds them (sidebar).

recreational parks socially-engineered for function and volume. Such zoning of play spaces echoes the well-

More “space station” than public space, the massive

calibrated learning and arts programs inside the nearby

schools that result are surrounded by acres of parking lots

school where every activity has its place and time.

and retention ponds. Inside, they simulate the downtowns


and neighborhoods le� behind with “main streets,” “houses” (a school within a school), health clubs, and food courts. In Minnesota, examples of such new “sprawl

here is a difference between the learning “enrichment” offered by today’s mega-schools and the richness of social life that kids learn from growing

schools” can be seen in Bemidji, Red Wing, Stillwater,

up in cities. Like our native language, such an experience

Wayzata, Glenwood, and scores of other communities.

is not taught but absorbed from listening and responding; it is learned from conversation with others who o�en

Many quantifiable arguments support the case for such

know things that we do not. When children’s spaces

large isolated schools: per pupil cost efficiencies, shared

and time are scheduled like a zoning plan, there is li�le

support functions such as libraries and labs, and the ability

chance for spontaneity and immersion, for “mixed uses”

to offer a wide array of courses and activities. Yet, having a

in moments when learning, play, and creativity happen

universe of options from cheerleading to Chinese is really

simultaneously in a single place.

no substitute for learning how to take the bus, how to feel safe in a crowd, how to address the unfamiliar. Kids are

Expanding our sense of “campus” beyond school walls

losing the ability to make up their own games, in their

does not mean that kids need to live in cities, but they

own ad hoc spaces, at their own pace. They are losing the

need to be able to go there, they need to have the transporta-

chance to create their own performances. Instead of being

tion access, safety, and a sense of purpose to draw them

able to build tree forts mimicking grown-up buildings

in. They need to feel involved and useful, just like the

What do you think? Are mega-schools really helping kids learn how to live? Would you send your child to an urban campus like the Conservatory? __SCAPE welcomes letters to the editor. Send them to


delivery boy or the kid working in the family shop fi�y years ago. Indeed, many of the Conservatory School’s founding students come from towns throughout the region, and even other states. SCAPE fall 05

Transit choices, school choices, and school design can work together to create a greater educational whole. In today’s economy where the corner store is now a

in cities with real transit connections, will be. That’s why

discount store and the family business is much rarer, the

it’s so important that we uncover the hidden historical

linkages of youth and civic life must be redefined. The

connections between urban structure, regional transit

St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists offers one

and learning itself. For the Twin Cities, the proposed

kind of option: a school where the city’s downtown arts

Central Corridor LRT line linking downtown St. Paul and

organizations, libraries, businesses, and parks create not

Minneapolis can become a boon for educational options

so much a campus as a community for growing up. In this

for kids throughout the region.

multi-institutional fabric, students will confront many


role models, organizational cultures, and artistic traditions. They will not find simple answers from a single source. They will not find a school planned by a single mind or a single set of curriculum guidelines.

ne week a�er opening, the Conservatory bustles with life. September sunlight streams through the central atrium into the Commons area. As

students (who actually look like they want to be there) flow out of their classrooms for lunch break, another group

In the long-term, charter schools like the Conservatory

reconvenes for an orientation session led by teachers and

will most likely thrive in tandem with the transit-oriented

administrators. Watching through the glass front, one sees

renewal of cities and suburbs where a streetcar ride to

them listen intently. There is laughter. There is a sense of

distant places is once again a bike ride away. In the next

comfort that these kids and their elders convey in being

50 years, the American urban regions that will be the

together. Perhaps it is related to their shared adventure

healthiest for learning will offer such choices of schools,

in launching an entirely new school and chapter in their

internship sites, and apprenticeships in the arts, sciences,


and other fields. They will also become the most creative and economically competitive.

A young woman, a senior specializing in dance, is asked what makes the Conservatory school different. “This

Transit choices, school choices, and school design can

school steps you out of normal life,” she says. “Everyone

work together to create a greater educational whole.

is different here, but we all love art.” Home-schooled since

Traditional urban density is not a necessity in reaching this

kindergarten, she speaks with astounding clarity for a self-

goal, but the options of encounter and access, once offered

professed introvert. “All my life, I’ve been very sheltered,” she admits. “With art, you learn to judge the art and not

For Further Reference To learn more about the school preservation initiative and related public policy, see the website for the National Trust for Historic Preservation (, which has been leading research and local support in this area for the last five years. It’s helpful to search the site for “school preservation.” The Council of Educational Facility Planners International recently created a useful publication on schools and smart growth. Published in 2004, this report reflects a rising awareness on the part of facilities planners of the need for flexibilty in funding and site options. CEFPI’s 2004 document can be downloaded from their website ( SmartGrowthPub.pdf). For images and program descriptions of the Saint Paul Conservatory for Perfoming Artists, see the school’s website ( issue #3

the artist. When you pursue one kind of art, you become an artist in every way…it gives you an understanding of different types of people and their struggles.” What if we all questioned our assumptions about the places and times that learning really happens? One of our first discoveries may be that work and learning, play and performance are o�en strongest when they arise together. The most formative play experiences may not happen on “playgrounds” at all. They happen when we perform in life, in public places, and with other people. They happen as a part of a city life that, like native language, raises us up the world and our possibilities within it. The good news is that, just because you’re an artsy kid in high school, September needn’t be bleakest month of all.

Frank Edgerton Martin is a writer, campus planner, and regular contributor to Landscape Architecture Magazine.


State of the Outstate

topic: business





te hi rc

l ra

em El nd










, es


u so


en ts

Ro se

an d


so ci at es

by Adam Regn Arvidson

es ssociat SAS+A Kent G. Worley LHB

ow does this sound?

“I am looking out of

my office window at the waves coming in from Lake Superior.

as it is in the Cities – even if metro area designers might think otherwise.

I have a 2 and a half

mile bicycle commute to work every day. I am close to

Minnesota landscape architecture is a li�le metro-centric.

recreation and fishing. I don’t have to waste time driving

Nearly all of the events sponsored by the Minnesota

north: I am north.” Pre�y nice? Mark Anderson isn’t

Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

bragging. He is merely stating the main reason he has

(MASLA) take place in the Cities. The annual banquet, the

stayed in Duluth, even though, it might seem, it could be

golf outing, and nearly every educational opportunity are

hard going practicing landscape architecture anywhere

held about 150 miles from Duluth, 230 miles from Fargo,

but the sprawling confines of the Twin Cities metro

and 250 miles from Bemidji. “250 miles is not an easy

area. Anderson is a senior landscape architect at LHB, a

trip for a one-man show,” says Richard Rose, who runs

Duluth-based multidisciplinary design firm. He has been

Bemidji-based Rose and Associates. And he’s not afraid

in Duluth since 1974 and at LHB since 1986. He admits,

to travel. A�er schooling at Kansas State and Wisconsin,

along with most of the other LAs practicing outstate, that

he opened a practice in Canada, where he did extensive

he feels a li�le bit disconnected from the profession, but

work with isolated communities and parks and recreation

maintains that business is just as exciting and lucrative

in the Northwest Territories. (Talk about outstate.) He


etts ie & B



What is it like to practice away from the Twin Cities metro area? 9 landscape architects share their stories.


IELDSpencer Jo F TH R O N

Yaggy Colby CH R ES T E

SCAPE fall 05

came to Bemidji in 1981 for very specific reasons that are

on the same page,” he says, “especially when big box

not unlike Anderson’s. “It was a conscious move,” he

retailers are knocking on the door and development is

recalls, “to a small town with certain educational values.

happening on the outskirts.” His gentle cajoling of the

[Bemidji has] a unique mix of natural resources and

powers-that-be is, admi�edly, part altruistic and part

educational opportunities.”

shrewdly businesslike: he wants his community to realize its potential, and he wants to make a living helping that

So, then, the air is fresh, the fish practically jump into the

happen. The cajoling, hopefully, leads to good projects.

boat, and small-town feel is a daily emotion – what about the work. What is it like without the critical mass of clients,

Sydow, similarly, laments the lack of guidelines and

practitioners, and creativity a large metropolis usually

ordinances to force developers’ hands. He says there is

incubates? What is it like, really, to run a business in

such a high level of quality in the north country’s undevel-

Duluth? Or Fargo or Bemidji or Rochester or Northfield?

oped sites, but “there are fewer restrictions to ensure a


higher quality of development” when that occurs. Sydow

ccording to’s “Firm Finder,” (the

started SAS in 2001 a�er a 6 year stint in Colorado and

supposedly definitive listing of who’s whom in

earlier work in the Twin Cities. His knowledge of what

landscape architecture), Minnesota has 9 firms

is happening elsewhere is useful as he navigates Duluth’s

practicing outside the Twin Cities metro area.


political scene. The public involvement, however, is only

are two firms in Fargo, North Dakota, and another two

part of the story. “I am out to change the standards,” he

in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (cities certainly within the

says, “even though we don’t have the ordinances in place.

sphere of influence of the Land of 10,000 Lakes). Of these,

I set a higher standard for [SAS+Associates’] clients from

several were unreachable, either having relocated to larger

the get-go.” Masterpole quickly echoes the sentiment.

metropolitan areas (Omaha, in one case), or unresponsive

“There is sometimes not much appreciation of landscape

to phone calls. The rest are a vocal, invested, involved

architecture [in Rochester],” he says. “Developers might

bunch, even if the metro folks haven’t heard their names.

say they need a planting plan, but they’re not thinking

Apparently, some of the big keys to outstate success

in terms of all the elements. I always think how a devel-

include being a generalist and ge�ing one’s hands dirty

opment can be mixed-use, how it should be designed.”

with local happenings.

Masterpole also faces the difficulty of convincing local developers (and there are very few in town) to change

Spencer Jones, a solo practitioner in Northfield, sits on

their bread and bu�er, even though people continue

that city’s Park Board. Luke Sydow, founder of Duluth-

to buy what they are selling. “I say let’s give people a

based SAS+Associates does the same in the city by the

choice,” says Masterpole.

lake, and also gives time to the Comprehensive Planning Commission.


Masterpole, head LA at







you have to spend time outside normal practice to convince people, and in a small town like this, you can very seldom find ways to get paid for that kind of effort

has his fingers in just about everything (his neighborhood group, most passion-

But if, in fact, the outstate is home to fewer developers,

ately), a visibility that got him named one of the five

fewer homeowners, and smaller cities with smaller

most influential people in southeastern Minnesota last

projects, isn’t every client precious? Couldn’t too much

year (see sidebar). These designers have to know a li�le

pushing put an LA office out of business fast? Here’s

about everything, in order to educate communities on the

where the generalist takes over. In a small market, variety

merits of good design, smart planning, and the value of

is the spice of business. Kent G. Worley has been in and

landscape architecture; and, according to Rose, “you have

around Duluth since 1967, a�er a finishing a Masters

to spend time outside normal practice to convince people.

degree at the University of Michigan. He joined a firm

And in a small town like this, you can very seldom find

that later became Architectural Resources, Inc., a multi-

ways to get paid for that kind of effort.” He is working

disciplinary office that today has locations in Hibbing and

to bring smart growth and green design principles to a

Duluth. (One of the principals of that firm, incidentally,

community of about 12,000 people (the smallest outstate

is landscape architect Earl Thedens, who has recently

city with a landscape architect). “It’s tough ge�ing people

moved from Hibbing to Duluth.) Worley was with ARI

issue #3


until 1995, when he started his own practice. Through his

topic: business

career, Worley has worked, “on sundry kinds of things,”

A Landscape Architect’s Influence Andy Masterpole, ASLA, is one of the most influential people in Southeastern Minnesota. In the 2005 New Year’s Day issue of the Rochester Post-Bulletin, he appeared alongside four other notable “movers and shakers” profiled in the paper. Masterpole stood out because designers don’t usually appear on such lists. Pastors, yes. Community fund-raising champions, probably. Somali refugees who tutor at-risk youth, definitely. But a landscape architect? As director of planning for the local engineering firm McGhie & Betts, and as a neighborhood advocate and all-around multi-tasker, Masterpole is trying to introduce new thinking to the region. “I try not to use cul-de-sacs at all,” he says. “I consider them evil.” Masterpole also wants uses mixed, natural corridors preserved, and development compact and high-density. None of these ideas seem particularly groundbreaking if you live in an urban area, but Rochester’s zoning laws and design sensibility make growing smart a constant battle for Masterpole. His solution? Reject existing and outdated codes and write new ones instead. “It takes so much persistence,” he reveals, to change the status quo, “but I have been fortunate enough to convince [developers and the city government] that they should try something new.”

looks one part Richard Gere and one part Good Ol’ Boy), Masterpole cuts a memorable figure.

His demeanor, however, is more the

patient educator (with a dash of cheerleader for good measure). This combination of whimsy and knowledge works with both clients and city council members—many of whom he considers friends. It has also made him a darling of the Post-Bulletin. Since October 1998, Masterpole has graced that sheet numerous times: as a member of the Aesthetic Design Review Committee for Trunk Highway 52; for his own rain garden demonstration project; and in “Your Style,” a regular feature on the local fashionable. Asked if he thinks he is influential, Masterpole considers for just a moment, as if he’d been wondering about that since the article came out. “I think I am,” he concedes, “because I cover a lot of different I have to represent my neighborhood, the development

community, and the environment. I enjoy walking that fine line.” He is also willing to concede that location has a lot to do with his influence. He knows his vision is finding easier foothold in other places. But why not seize the moment in Southeastern Minnesota, too? And appearing in print in the illustrious company of good Samaritans and community do-gooders certainly gets the word out. Editor’s Note: this article was commissioned by Landscape Architecture Magazine, but never published.


housing to large residential projects to designs for civil engineers and architects. To Worley, that diversity, along with his projects’ typically close geographic proximity, has been the greatest benefit. “I can remember many different projects,” he says, “and going to see the process of the work. We were able to do that o�en, to make lots of trips.” Seeing things built is a satisfying cornerstone of Worley’s career, and something he could not imaging doing in the Cities.

the cardinal rule for life with fewer available clients: either stay lean or diversify your talents


n addition to being generalized and communityinvolved (things that perhaps even metro area practitioners might claim), outstate offices have another

primary facet in common. Almost across the board, LAs practicing away from the metro are either sole practitioners or operate within a larger multidisciplinary firm. Worley has done both. Sydow, Spencer Jones, Rose, and

Often adorned with colorful ties and vintage jewelry (and a haircut that


ranging from Duluth’s famed I-35 corridor to public

Mike Allmendinger, founder of Land Elements in Fargo, all work alone or with a very limited staff. Anderson’s LHB, Thedens’ Architectural Resources, Masterpole’s McGhie and Be�s, and Rochester-based Yaggy Colby are all much larger offices where architects, LAs, and sometimes engineers work side-by-side. The landscape architecture or LA/planning office with 5 to 8 designers simply doesn’t exist out there. This illustrates the cardinal rule (adaptation, if you will) for life with fewer available clients: either stay lean or diversify your talents. Spencer Jones obtained degrees from the University of Minnesota and Harvard, a�er which he worked for an architecture firm in Northfield and then, in 1994, went out on his own when the demise of that firm became imminent. He has done extensive work with Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges (both in Northfield), as well as continuing to work for local architects.

He says that

once he was a solo practitioner, he recognized the need to keep the practice small, in order to keep overhead low. “That way,” he describes, “I would be able to take the falls and rises easily.” While he admits this has meant declining some larger projects that have come his way, he feels it has worked well overall. Anderson describes LHB’s diversification as a means of broadening the firm’s SCAPE fall 05

reach, thereby capturing a larger array of potential clients.

away from the seven counties. Some voice frustration

Uniquely, LHB also operates an office in the Twin Cities,

about Twin Cities practitioners running up to their neck

while maintaining its corporate headquarters in Duluth.

of the woods and not seeking out a local collaborator.

“The market up here couldn’t always support us,” he

Some suggest LAs should not be practicing outside their

says. In 1989 LHB was working on a large business park

own region, with or without local help. Some actually

in the metro area and opened an office to support that

make regular trips to the Cities to see what’s new, in order

work, immediately hiring a landscape architect to assist

to learn and bring ideas back.

Anderson (and save him regular drives to the Cities). Today, either office may head a project no ma�er where

Whatever the opinions of these practitioners, they still

the site is located. The distribution of work now occurs

ba�le the provincial stereotype, stated most accurately by

primarily based on specialties – not unlike any large

Richard Rose, who relates that “some folks say you’re not

architecture firm – and the offices assist each other with

an expert until you’re from 40 miles outside of town.” So

the aid of internet file sharing and video conferencing.

maybe a region-swap is in order. (Insert pause for gasps


from Twin Citians and cheers from outstaters). igh-tech methods, like what LHB uses to keep the firm connected, also go a long way to

The fact is, outstate landscape architects are pushing the

helping other outstate LAs stay up to date. In

envelope in places where the envelope is sealed a li�le

addition, these practitioners tend to carefully plan their

more tightly than in the metro, and they deserve recog-

trips to the metro or elsewhere, in order to get the most

nition for at least that. Add on the difficulty of doing

immediate impact. Mike Allmendinger founded Land

business in a small market (as Northfield’s Spencer Jones

Elements in 2003, a�er the demise of Fargo-based Maple

says, “in a small community you can be hung for what

River Workshop. Allmendinger does a lot of residential

you do, but also people will know you for what you do”),

master planning, primarily in a conservation bent. He

and these designers are truly hoeing difficult ground. But

doesn’t see himself as out of touch, in fact he recognizes

they are not operating in a vacuum. Though it is even

he is a big part of “bringing new ideas to Fargo, and changing the scenery a bit.” He also knows it is harder to stay current, and

in a small community you can be hung for what you do, but also people will know you for what you do

he overcomes this by making sure he gets to National ASLA Conventions, keeps design

tougher for them to stay connected, up to speed, and in the

publications coming into the office, and spends time with

know, they all are well versed on current trends, research,

other Fargo-based design professionals.

and projects. And they know these communities. They


in Rochester, has a similar tactic. He subscribes to an

live out there.

So it could be argued that collaboration

internet service that sends national articles to his in-box,

might benefit both metro and outstate practitioners.

he a�ends seminars locally and in the Cities, and gets together every couple of months with other Rochester

Andy Masterpole says to metro area LAs: “I think you

LAs. Sydow feels “it is important to have that relation-

guys are doing a great job. In a way I am sort of envious.”

ship with your co-workers” (and by co-workers he means

But he lives a stone’s throw from the rolling forest- and

co-landscape architects), but he admits the distance does

corn-clad valleys of the blufflands, and still gets the diffi-

make things difficult. He gets to two MASLA functions

cult, exhilarating challenge of pushing clients for innova-

per year, rather than the 6 or 7 he might like to.

tive, high quality design on a diversity of projects on


urban and rural sites. That sounds pre�y nice. So, then,

o how can the Urban Core reach out to the Land

right back at you, Andy. Maybe the metro LAs should be

of Sky Blue Waters, the Red River Valley, and Bluff

sort of envious, too.

Country? “I’d like to team up with a lot more firms

from the cities,” suggests Sydow. “When projects come up here, I’d like to team up.” Outstate LAs are closely a�uned to what happens when metro area firms head outward, and their opinions vary. Some are purely eager to learn

with and from their metro area colleagues. Most feel they have something to teach Twin Cities LAs who venture issue #3

Adam Regn Arvidson is Director of Communications for MASLA, editor of _SCAPE, and a regular contributor to Landscape Architecture. He is a landscape architect with Dahlgren Shardlow and Uban, Inc.

Have you worked outstate? Is Minnesota design metro-centric? Have you partnered with an outstater? __SCAPE welcomes letters to the editor. Send them to


topic: art


illow is supple, earthy, and full of magic. A piece of willow contains energy that awaits transformation in your hands. Bend it fast

and it sha�ers into ruin. Bend it slowly, and it relaxes beneath your power, becoming a line of potential grace and amazing strength. Working with willow can fill you with harmony -- you absorb its magic and stir to its primal

earthiness. Willow grows everywhere in the United States, usually on wet forgo�en sites o�en considered worthless. Chances are that a prime thicket grows within ten miles of your house. Ask nicely, and it might be yours for free. Best yet, a�er being harvested, a willow thicket will renew itself in 8-10 years. Sandbar willow (Salix interior) is the species I have used in construction. It is found in 48 states and grows to heights of 15-18’, with trunk diameters up to 3” at the base. Like bamboo, it grows fast, straight up, and spreads by root suckers into dense colonies. It has few side branches, making it easy to trim into long, straight, tapering poles. Look for sandbar willow in flood plains near rivers or in marsh areas. In the winter, you can spot it from a distance as a gray-colored thicket with a reddish haze created by

Stick by Stick The joy of weaving willow by Marjorie Pitz, FASLA

its finer twigs. Desperation led me to try willow. I needed free saplings and volunteers to help build The Sacred Circle, an AIDS Memorial in Loring Park with a budget of only $2,500. Word of mouth led me to a source of Sandbar Willow—a plant that, at the time, I had never even heard of.

Skeptical at

first, I cut some willow for experimentation. found




(kids could carry an armful), easy to cut (kids could saw it), tough, and effortless to drill into (no pre-drilling). Its bark is or peel), and it is nonabrasive in your hands. I was hooked. Working with willow is a tactile, natural undertaking. The results can be playful and evocative, as with TreeMan!, above, and The Sacred Circle, below.


SCAPE fall 05


durable (doesn’t flake

The Sacred Circle was a place for healing and remembering. The official artists’ statement encouraged each passer-by to “Walk into the embrace of ‘trees,’ center yourself, and watch the changing sky.”

Each “tree trunk” was

made with willow saplings cut down before their prime, just as are people who have died from AIDS. Alone, a sapling is not strong, but gathered together, they gain power.

The circle

was symbolic of a community sharing a common focus and providing comfort and security. The AIDS Memorial utilized willow as a cladding over telephone poles. The poles were ugly, but free. I screwed willow sticks to the poles in parallel

Willow sculptures have made recent appearances at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: TreeMan!, above, in 2004; and The Ravenous Bird. right, in 2005.

strands to mask the beat-up surface beneath. The bu� ends were staggered and joints disguised. The effect was remarkably like the mature bark on nearby trees. The sculpture was up for an entire year in Loring Park with no signs of aging or vandalism. I suspect the willow could have lasted five years or more before beginning to break down, since it wasn’t touching soil.

Ravenous Bird in summer 2005. These pieces were more


deep satisfaction from building with my bare hands and

daring, using willow as a structural material, and working

“found” materials—it satisfies a primal urge. This feeling

with its ability to curve.

it not mine alone. I have heard volunteer willow-weavers

ince then, I have installed two other tempo-

rary willow works at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: Tree Man! in summer 2004, and The

exclaim (with pleasure), “We could just throw some skins What I love about working with willow is how it frees you

over the top, and we’d have a real house!” and, “This must

from straight lines and corners. Willow branches become

be how the Indians made their lodges!”

lines in space, curving at your will to beckon and flow.

windows. It feels as if you are high in the upper branches


of a tree, looking out with ease, but hidden yourself.

you learn. Start small. Learn from experiments. Make a

Walls can bend and merge into a rounded ceiling without any edges. Woven branches create a magical interior, casting a thousand shadows and offering a thousand

ant to create with willow? Here are some tips to get you started. Be ready to play, allowing your fingers, heart, and brain to explore this

new medium without a forced outcome. Playing helps model. Have fun. Take the Arboretum’s class on creating


The other appeal is tactile. Willow branches fit easily in the

a willow tower.

hand and feel good -- Natural. Structures made of willow belong to nature, and people appreciate the honesty and freshness of the material. issue #3

With willow, I derive


topic: art

I have found that making a model at 1” = 1’-0” is immensely helpful – li�le sticks act like big sticks. Siberian elm, buckthorn, and apple sports work well for models, as these plants throw out long supple shoots in one season. Soak the cut ends of your twig supply in water, and pre-bend them to relax their fibers before use. Use 28 gauge wire and pliers to twist junctions together. You will need a structure upon which to anchor your first twigs. Glue strips of balsa to the model base around the perimeter of your sculpture, and wire twigs to them. If your final sculpture will have an internal framework of lumber (as I did for codecompliant stairs and platforms on TreeMan! and The Ravenous Bird), build a scale model of this feature and use it to anchor the

Bushwack, bend, braid: these are the steps to create a willow sculpture. First, cut the willow, above, with a bushwacker. Then, use your body to bend the sticks, opposite below right. Finally, weave the fronds and watch the shape coalesce, such as for The Ravenous Bird, right and far right.

first strands. Models are essential during construction. The time you invest is well worth the effort, in order to help your construction crew understand what they are doing. They will enjoy analyzing the model to figure out how shapes are created and how the lines flow. Despite a succession of inexperienced volunteers helping me on my projects, the final sculptures have very accurately replicated the models.


ow to harvest willow?

Vehicular access

to your soggy site is crucial (dragging an armload of willow through long marsh

grass is hard work). Late March or early April is a great time for cu�ing—no bugs, no leaves, the ground can still be frozen or dry, and temperatures can be lovely. My first willow harvest used handsaws, but a�er ten volunteers spent hours at work, the homeowner came out with a chain saw and in minutes doubled our supply. Through such trial and error, I have found the


SCAPE fall 05

best cu�ing tool to be a gasoline-powered bushwhacker

Amazingly, the willow sticks will not dry out if you

that harnesses onto your body. A bushwhacker cuts at

harvest them early. I let them sit all April and May, and

ground level while the operator stands up, using a circular

the willows retained their flexibility. They do not require

saw at the end of a pole. It looks dangerous, but the bigger

soaking. The wispy tips dry out first, which isn’t a big

danger is skewering yourself on the wicked stumps that

deal. If need be, you could refresh willow bundles in a

surround you a�er cu�ing begins.

pond, soaking them one day for every foot of length (a 15’ piece would take 15 days of soaking).

grass with six to ten willows in your arms each trip to the


trailer, counting groups of ten willows and wiring them

listen to its crack warnings, and observe its unique struc-

compactly into bundles (for easy handling), and loading

ture, such as weak joints and natural twisting. Step on the

up the bundles. A 16’ trailer works well for hauling away

willow bu�, reach down and pull the other end slowly up

the harvest.

to the sky, arcing the stick as your feet brace it against the

It took six to nine people six hours to prepare and bundle the 500 or so willow trunks needed for each of my two Arboretum projects.

Typical harvesting tasks include


clipping off side branches, trekking through long marsh

tart by pre-bending the willow—and bending your body. Learn to work willow by bending it. The willow does the teaching, and it doesn’t take many

sticks to become skilled. Feel it with your feet and hands,

earth. Remember, this is work—you will feel the willow fight you. As the parallel fibers inside each stick gradually relax and separate, the willow becomes more and more supple. Walk your feet along the stick’s length as you pull against your foot-fulcrum to unlock the interior strands. Speed is not rewarded. Willow benders strike ballet-like poses as they release the willow fibers, bending their own bodies to adjust their strength to the willow’s inner forces. Nothing is harder than your first few sticks. Beware of trying this alone—you’ll get whipped both physically and emotionally. It seems you need ten hands to subdue and anchor the first few springy devils. But what do you anchor them to? Take advantage of any lumber structures you might have (I had stairs and platforms), and screw your first pieces into them.

Another technique is to

outline the base of your piece on the ground with lumber (curved if needed). Pound 2x4 stakes into the ground for anchoring the linear outline, and place a 1x4 on each side of the stake to create a trough. The 3-1/2” space inside the trough gives you room to insert the bu� of a branch, and loosely hold it in place. Bend the branch and contemplate its location, while le�ing the bu� end twist and slide in the trough until you pin the other end. Last, anchor the willow bu� into the wood trough with long screws.

Did you see these installations? What did you think? Ever worked with willow? Share your stories. __SCAPE welcomes letters to the editor. Send them to issue #3


topic: art The powerful thing about a willow sculpture is its details -- so organic, so complex, so fascinating, so intricate. The careful weaving of cut sticks leads to compositions rich with interest, such as TreeMan!, top and bottom; and The Ravenous Bird, middle two.

firm structure. Get your proportions and forms right. Step back for a distant view, as your helpers adjust sticks to shape the sculpture. As soon as you begin weaving strands back and forth through your structure, the whole capricious mess begins to tighten up. It takes at least two people per willow to wrestle a pole into position and pin it. One holds and anchors the bu� end, and one feeds the tip in and out around other sticks. During this process, the stick must rotate, slide, back up a few times, and match its peculiar curvature to the form at hand. A good team can be overheard saying, “That’s perfect! Right there! That branch fits like it was made for this spot!” Then you begin feeling the magic of turning something wispy into something tough.

Each stick you place

increases tension as the willows thrust outwards and interlock against each other. When you feel this rigidity growing, it is amazing—such strength from such thin material! To do the pinning, you can use a combination of screws, wire, and plastic lockties. Nail guns are fast, but risky, as the branches can pop off a�er the willow shrinks a bit, exposing the sharp and dangerous nails.

Ravenous Bird was wiggly for


a day, since we had to splice

of carpentry, one week of willow by volunteers, and one

willows end-to-end to make

week of finishing touches and miscellaneous work.

he willow for Tree Man! took only 3-1/2 days, and

Your first few sticks might seem frightfully wobbly. The

the total project (including construction of the interior stairs and ramps) required 2-1/2 weeks.

The Ravenous Bird took three weeks altogether: one week

them long enough to arch over the back. By the second

Finding volunteers is a scary thing. I dared ask a contractor

day, however, the wobbles

I had worked with (J.E.Dunn Construction) if they would

were gone and the crew was

build Tree Man! with me. The model was already half built

si�ing confidently on the

so the company president could visualize the concept. I

bird’s back.

was hugely relieved and astonished when he enthused,


Don’t worry about those

they saw it as a community service and a team-bonding

wavering willows. It’s more

opportunity for their staff.

important to “outline” the

supplied carpenters for the framing, but office personnel

final form with your initial

did all the willow weaving -- not their skilled construction

sticks than it is to make a

workers. About 24 volunteers helped with each project,

The contracting company

SCAPE fall 05


“Let’s build it!” This was going to be FUN for them – and

    


 

 

with most people contributing from four to six hours. Try to find a reliable person who can help you daily, so the turnover of volunteers seems less frightening. To volunteers, the project feels like a party (they won’t worry about the final product like you will). They get a lot of satisfaction from learning new skills and witnessing fast progress. Willow weaving is satisfying and earthy, and passes its magic straight into your crew. Energy levels will be high despite the hard work, and people will become excited and inspired. In fact, working with willow actually brings out the best in people. During the construction of Tree Man! An office boss came for a half day, and shocked us all. Usually dressed in a black suit and white starched shirt, he appeared in jeans. Normally stiff and critical and driven by the clock, he loosened up a lot as he learned a new skill. While he worked on making a rounder, less-lumpy head, I heard him talking about how the willow “flows”, and how each new piece must “stay with the flow.” Then he talked of understanding the willow and feeling its potential in his hands (this was an engineer talking). Suddenly he called out, “I am ONE with the willow!” The crew roared with delight at seeing their boss unleashed and happy, but truly everyone shared the intimate depth of his discovery.

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They had all became one with the willow.

Marjorie Pitz is Principal in the firm Martin & Pitz Associates, Inc., which deals primarily with public gathering spaces such as Lower Phalen Creek, the Children’s Memorial at Resurrection Cemetery, the Minnetonka Community Center, Upper Iowa University, and the Sensory Garden and Shade Tree Exhibits at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Marjorie’s foray into the art world has already yielded several projects: Tree Man!, a willow tree house at the Arboretum; Merwyn, a concrete fantasy creature emerging out of the Seward neighborhood; The Ravenous Bird, a 40 foot long sculpture (complete with slide) at the Arboretum, and Turning Leaf at the Minneapolis North Regional Library.

This irrigation plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if the products I specify don’t measure up. Install confidence. Not frustration. Install Rain Bird.

issue #3



���������������������������� ���������������������������������������� for a calendar of events, chapter newsle�er, board members, award winning projects, membership information, and more, visit the official website:

������������� Reach for the sky. Art and nature combine at The Sacred Circle, made of willow sticks. Read more about sculpting with living branches in topic: Art. photo by Marjorie Pitz, FASLA

_SCAPE 2005 Fall  
_SCAPE 2005 Fall