Saturday, September 26, 2009

What has become of our American Landscape?

For years now, the vast and beautiful landscape of our country has become more and more homogenized.  Why does Maine have to look like Cincinnati?  Why is it that more places are losing their unique identities or “sense of place” and looking more and more the same?  

It started with this …

McDonald’s created the golden arches and they sprung up all across America and the world.   Look at this map showing all of the McDonalds’ locations across the United States.

You can read all about this Here

McDonalds was successful at branding itself and its image.  It wasn’t long before others followed suit. 

Hotels popped up everywhere.


Outlet Malls or “Factory Outlets” became in vogue all across the U.S.  They were nothing more than themed strip centers but they have changed the face of our suburban landscape.

Auto parts stores grew like weeds side by side along our urban and suburban roads.


Perhaps worst of all – drugstores at every intersection.  They pollute our major intersections everywhere, putting parking lots and ugly architecture front and center at so many traffic intersections across the American landscape.

Now, we have Starbucks and other drive throughs…


Dunkin’ Donuts …

and Panera Bread.

New ‘mixed use’ Town Centers have recently begun their assent across the American landscape.   They have managed to combine all of these ‘upscale’ branded chains into centralized lovely “Main Street”-type settings, putting the pedestrian back on the sidewalks.

Mayfaire Town Center, Wilmington, NC

Bethesda Row, Bethesda, MD

Mercato, Naples, FL

Generally, they are large, well-designed and planned communities that combine mixed uses such as residential, commercial office space and retail shopping.   Parks, landscaping, and outdoor promenades are incorporated to tie it all together in an urban streetscape-type setting.  Hotels and corporate office buildings along with luxury townhomes and apartments and upscale “Charleston-style” single family residential neighborhoods are set in the surrounding areas.  They are all connected by tree-lined streets and sidewalks.   Large open, park-like gathering areas are mixed in to accommodate larger events such as boat shows and weekend concerts.

Finally, a setting where we are given the opportunity to live, work and recreate all within walking distance.  Maybe there is hope, at least to put Americans back on the sidewalks instead of in the car. 

However, I can’t help but lament all of this progress that has come at such great cost -- the loss of our regional sense of place or “genus loci.”  Everything looks the same.  How can we move forward and keep our unique regional spirit of place at the same time?  This is a great challenge for all designers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Take on the Garden Bench

From Freshome, whimsical garden furniture.  Grow-your-own plants right on your very own bench or seat.


I wonder if they come complete with holes in the bottom for drainage?

How about bringing the garden to your very own concrete jungle with this bench?

Wood Garden Hanna Bench

Here’s a novel idea.   The Splinter Bench -- 2 chairs or 1 bench.  You choose.

For nautical lovers including Maya at Completely Coastal, a boat-shaped wood bench from David Trubridge.

David Trubridge

And a stunning Indoor/Outdoor bench from Acronym Designs. 


How about this sleek aluminum built-in?

My favorite is this striking organic wood bench from Diamond Teak.

Last but not least,  a modern take on timeless Adirondack chairs from Loll Designs.



Oh look, it’s Friday!  You know what that means … it’s time to check out Hooked on Houses Blog Party.  See what others are hooked on this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Spotlight on Westover Landscape Design

Every now and then, it’s good to stop and admire some one else’s work.  Here is some work from Westover Landscape Design, a firm based in Westchester county, New York.

 Shanti Garden, Bronxville, NY

A Garden Path

 Slate-framed lawn

  Tarrytown, NY Terrace

 Townhouse Garden

 Westover on Hudson

I admire these spaces because of their simplicity.  I like their use of bluestone slate for the hardscaping and for the most part, their simple plant palette of grasses such as Hakoni grass and ferns, combined with shrubs such as hydrangea.  All provide a sense of unity and harmony.  The weeping habits are also restful providing for a feeling of tranquility.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rock on

These beauties of nature …


are really pieces of Livingstones furniture.  Soft and comfy!

They are also made for use outdoors.


From the French company Smarin.

This week, I’m hooked on rocks.  To see what others are hooked on, visit Hooked on Houses for her Friday Blog Party.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ode to the U.S. Open

The U.S. Open is the fourth and final Grand Slam of each Tennis year, following the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon.  It occurs at summer’s end in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York on the grounds of what once was the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs.


1964 New York World’s Fair

The Unisphere became the universal symbol of the New York World’s Fair and it’s grounds.   It is still the centerpiece of the park!


The USTA National Tennis Center opened in 1978 after then USTA President W.E. “Slew” Hester spotted Louis Armstrong Stadium from the air while flying into nearby LaGuardia Airport. 

Today the grounds are known as Flushing Meadows – Corona Park.  The view from above shows how large the park is.  It includes Shea Stadium; the Billie Jean National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open; a zoo; science museum; marina; two lakes; skating rink; soccer pitches; and cricket fields.  Some would be surprised to learn that it is larger than Central Park.


In 1995, Arthur Ashe Stadium replaced Louis Armstrong Stadium as the largest venue on the grounds.  Designed by Rossetti Architects, it is also the largest tennis-only stadium in the world!

Arthur Ashe Stadium

On August 28, 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center was rededicated as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  It is the largest and most prestigious facility of its kind to be named after a woman.

There are 22 tennis courts in the Billie Jean National Tennis Center and 11 more in the adjoining park.

Although the Billie Jean National Tennis Center is home of the U.S. Open, it is also open to the public for play 11 months out of the year.  The cost to the public is $16 an hour.  Each May, it also hosts the New York state high school tennis championships.

arthur ashe fountains  Fountains outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium

Last year, 720,227 people attended the two week U.S. Open events.  It is crowded with sophisticated and sporty people.


I recently had the great fortune of attending the U.S. Open!  We were there last Saturday.  I was excited to see my tennis heroes in their New York colors!

I got to see my favorite player, Roger Federer beat Lleyton Hewitt.  Here he is on the big screen being interviewed after his win in Arthur Ashe Stadium.


And after a big serve on the courts!


I ALMOST got his autograph!!!


Here is Maria Sharapova warming up for her match against the young American, Melanie Oudin.  Oudin beat her!


And Andy Roddick hitting a big serve against John Isner, who went on to beat him!


Here’s Melanie Oudin in tears after beating her idol, Sharopova.


… and me at the biggest venue in tennis!

US Open-profile

Congratulations to Kim Clijsters for winning this year’s US Open Women’s Singles title!  You know who I’ll be cheering for tomorrow night.  His initials are RF!

If you happen to be lucky enough to have a ticket for the men’s championship on Monday evening, check out these Ten Tips when visiting the U.S. Open.  You might find them helpful!