Fresno’s Fulton Mall

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Charles A. Birnbaum, President of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, lays out, in The Huffington Post of 22 December 2011, his selection of the year’s “10 Notable Developments in Landscape Architecture.” In number 9 he notes his concern over the situation of Fresno’s Fulton Mall, of which he writes . . .

“In 1964, the six-block Fulton Mall, designed by Garrett Eckbo as a consultant to the architectural and planning firm of Victor Gruen, opened to the public. Eckbo’s widely hailed design echoed the rippled groundplane of the nearby San Joaquin Valley and featured stained concrete construction, curvilinear and angular ribbons of concrete aggregate, a pioneering use of outdoor sculpture, brightly colored seating areas of various sizes and configurations, plus play spaces, pools, fountains and an 80-foot right of way. The site is being re-examined, and this past October three options for remaking the mall (narrowed down from 10) were unveiled — two could significantly destroy the character of the mall by opening it up to cars with a traditional street or inserting two lanes of road and curbs weaving them through some of the outdoor “vignettes” while demolishing others. The third, complete restoration, is most likely not economically viable. The one really sensible solution — keeping four of the six streets closed to cars while opening many of the cross streets, a realistic compromise balancing design, historic preservation and economics — inexplicably seems to have been abandoned.”

(In number 5, Birnbaum applauds the publication of Lawrence Halprin’s A Life Spent Changing Places, in the Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture series. For the full article, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-a-birnbaum/landscape-architecture-2011_b_1163303.html.)

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Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, is the Founder and President of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). Prior to joining TCLF, he 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. His recent projects include two web-based initiatives: What’s Out There? (a searchable database of the nation’s designed landscape heritage) and Cultural Landscapes as Classrooms. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning + Preservation and a frequent blogger for The Huffington Post.

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