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Preservation of historic landscapes is the focus of campus talk

29 October 2003


Faculty Glade, one of the most venerable of Berkeley locales, is the kind of “cultural landscape” that will be the subject of a talk by landscape architect Charles Birnbaum, a consultant to the campus’s Landscape Heritage Plan.

What are cultural landscapes? More significantly, why and how should we try to save them? And, closest to home, what are the elements that should be preserved in historic landscapes like those of the Berkeley campus?

These are the sorts of questions that concern landscape architect Charles Birnbaum, who will speak on the Berkeley campus on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Birnbaum, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, will discuss the nature of built and designed landscapes, the preservation work of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and the Landscape Heritage Plan, currently underway to assess the historic landscapes of the Berkeley campus.

While buildings have long had pride of place in the historic preservation movement, interest is increasing in saving important American landscapes shaped by man — from humble farms to elegant plantations, cemeteries, battlefields, botanical gardens, public parks, and university campuses.

As part of the Landscape Heritage Plan work, funded by the Getty Foundation, Berkeley staff and consultants (including Birnbaum) are documenting the history and assessing the condition of several campus landscape features from Faculty Glade to Campanile Way, to a number of historic bridges over Strawberry Creek.

“While we don’t currently have funding to undertake major upgrades to these parts of the campus landscape, the plan will provide guidelines and perspectives on how the work should be properly done, along with an implementation approach for future funding,” says Julia Monteith, senior planner with Capital Projects and manager of the study. “Like the buildings it frames, the campus landscape is of national stature and needs to be cared for and respected,” says Monteith.

Based in Washington, D.C., Birnbaum is currently coordinator of the National Park Service’s Historic Landscape Initiative. He authored the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes, a document that has become a reference bible for designers, architects, historians, and planners throughout the country.

Birnbaum also founded the Cultural Landscape Foundation, which he will discuss at the lecture. He will be joined at the podium by San Diego-based historian Vonn Marie May, who is also working on the Landscape Heritage Plan study.

The slide-illustrated talk runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in 112 Wurster Hall. The free event, open to the public, is jointly sponsored by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Capital Projects.