Cultural Landscapes Blog

The UVA Department of Anthropology and Environmental Humanities Colloquium announce a lunchtime discussion with Professor Shannon Lee Dawdy on Thursday, March 16 from 11:50am-1:30pm at OpenGrounds. Professor Dawdy will speak on a recent article titled "The Wounded Landscape: Disaster, Trauma, and Ontology." 

Disaster victims often exhibit avoidance behavior to suppress or detour around reminders of the event. Others sift slowly through the ruins, as a way to come to terms with what happened. Some rush to erase and rebuild. Some hold on to every remnant and curate the scars. While disasters often have the effect of temporarily uniting a community, the process of ‘recovery’ just as often divides it. I explore the reasons why this might be, and focus on the relationship between trauma and materiality via understandings of post-traumatic stress, scarification, and ontology. I use evidence from two New Orleans disasters – a catastrophic fire in 1788 that nearly wiped out the city and left a significant archaeological imprint, and ethnographic interviews I conducted after Hurricane Katrina and its recent 10-year anniversary. This blend of psychology, ethnography, and archaeology exposes a profound co-constitution of inner states and outer worlds.

An Associate Professor of Anthopology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, Dawdy melds archaeological, archival, and ethnographic methods with a regional focus on the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico. She's the author of two books, and her current research focuses on rapidly changing death practices in the U.S. Professor Dawdy is a recent MacArthur Fellow and has received funding for her fieldwork from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

To attend the lunch discussion, RSVP to Austin Hetrick at

Dumbarton Oaks announces the 2017 Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium "Landscapes of Pre-Industrial Cities," which will take place May 5-6, 2017 in Washington. D.C. 

The use of the word “landscape” to describe the formation and infrastructure of cities largely seems to express contemporary preoccupations with the post-industrial urban condition. Yet, features associated with contemporary urban landscapes—most notably the forms of human adaptation to and reshaping of the sites where cities develop and expand—can also be found in pre-industrial contexts in different time periods and across the globe.

Organized by Georges Farhat (University of Toronto) and John Beardsley (Dumbarton Oaks), the Garden and Landscape Studies symposium “Landscapes of Pre-Industrial Cities” explores the complex and dynamic relationship between environmental factors and the development of urban form. How was the modern dichotomy between the urban and the rural historically expressed with respect to land use, environmental control, and resource management? To what extent were territorial expansion, hydraulic management, and land reclamation determinant factors in the design, evolution, and historical fortunes of pre-industrial cities? What sense can we make of the contemporary concepts of urban sprawl, biodiversity, climate change, connectivity, and integrated management of natural resources if applied to pre-industrial urban landscapes?

For more information and to register, click here

This year's Benjamin C. Howland Memorial Lecture will take place on Monday February 20 at 5pm in Campbell Hall 153. It will feature Garnette Cadogan on "The New Sound in Our Streets."

How do the spaces we move in shape the people we are? And how might we think of our public spaces as environments which shape the kind of people we want to become? We know more and more about the world around us, thanks to a deluge of data, but somehow seem to be increasingly unaware of the people right before us. It prompts many of us to lament along with the poets. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” asked T.S. Eliot. “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” 

This talk will be a meditation, aided by the voices of poets, essayists, novelists, and other close noticers of our world, that will invite us to be better listeners in public space. “Let the new sound in our streets be the patient sound of your discourse,” suggested Richard Wilbur. And why not? We live in embattled times with an urgent demand that we understand those around us. What might it mean, then, to think of our public spaces as teachers? Places that teach us how to be attentive to the hidden, neglected, repressed? Places, indeed, in which we discover our capacity to listen and create welcome new sounds. Inaugural Symposium of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, “Race and Public Space: Commemorative Practices in the American South,” investigates the intersections between scholarship and practice around race, memory, and commemoration. It will take place March 24-25, 2017 at the UVA School of Architecture. 

The event features Dell Upton as a keynote speaker and a half-day workshop program on Saturday with Mabel O. Wilson, John Mason, Sara Zewde, and other speakers on contested sites of commemoration in the southeastern United States. The program kicks off the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) initiative Transforming Community Spaces: Bending the Arc of Memory Towards Healing and Justice, which seeks to develop guidance for communities and institutions seeking to tell a more complete racial history and change their narrative through the representation of their past history, identity and values. For the full program and to register, click here

To prepare for the symposium, we have compiled a resource list with information on the IEN initiative, the City of Charlottesville’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces, other communities in the American South that have faced issues around race and commemoration, and more. Learn about the context behind these issues on a local, regional, and national scale and join us for the conversation in March! 

The celebration of Black History Month this February includes a range of events at historic Monticello

February 4 
Slavery & Freedom: Monticello and the NMAAHC with John W. Franklin
Come hear an insider’s view on the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., with John W. Franklin, Senior Manager in the museum's Office of External Affairs.
2:00 pm to 3:15 pm

February 11
Memories Matter: Saving Family Heirlooms

Bring your family heirlooms and learn how to properly store and care for them. Record your family history at the story booth in the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center in Charlottesville, VA.
10:00 am to 2:00 pm

February 11
Let's Go Explore the Past Through Archaeology

In honor of Black History Month, join Monticello archaeologists in the Archaeology Lab to discover how the enslaved community lived at Monticello.
10:00 am to 12:00 pm

UVA School of Architecture alumnus Christopher Patzke (MLA 1999) authored a short piece on Warren Manning's Master Plan for The University of Virginia for the Library of American Landscape History. The article will be published in a forthcoming (April 1, 2017) book entitled Warren H. Manning: Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner.  

As written in the book review, "Warren H. Manning’s (1860–1938) national practice comprised more than sixteen hundred landscape design and planning projects throughout North America, from small home grounds to estates, cemeteries, college campuses, parks and park systems, and new industrial towns. Manning approached his design and planning projects from an environmental perspective, conceptualizing projects as components of larger regional (in some cases, national) systems, a method that contrasted sharply with those of his stylistically oriented colleagues. In this regard, as in many others, Manning had been influenced by his years with the Olmsted firm, where the foundations of his resource-based approach to design were forged. Manning’s overlay map methods, later adopted by the renowned landscape architect Ian McHarg, providedthe basis for computer mapping software in widespread use today."

Inaugural Sara Shallenberger Brown Cultural Landscapes Symposium

March 24-25, 2017

Center for Cultural Landscapes, UVA School of Architecture 

The Inaugural Symposium of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, “Race and Public Space: Commemorative Practices in the American South,” investigates the intersections between scholarship and practice around race, memory, and commemoration. The event features Dell Upton as a keynote speaker and a half-day workshop program on Saturday with Mabel O. Wilson, John Mason, Sara Zewde, and other speakers on contested sites of commemoration in the southeastern United States. The workshop program kicks off the Institute for Environmental Negotiation’s initiative to develop guidance for communities and institutions seeking to tell a more complete racial history and change their narrative through the representation of their past history, identity and values.

This two-day event is sponsored by the UVA School of Architecture Sara Shallenberger Brown Cultural Landscapes & Sites Initiative, with additional support from BNSF Railway. The symposium will take place at the UVA School of Architecture in Charlottesville, Virginia. All events are free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information contact

To register click here.

Image: Market Street Walk, San Francisco, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 8, 1966. The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania by the gift of Lawrence Halprin.

The Center for Cultural Landscapes is proud to announce the launch of the Reinterpreting the Pollock's Branch Watershed project website. This interdisciplinary mapping project was undertaken by the University of Virginia's Center for Cultural Landscapes and led by faculty in the Department of Drama and the School of Architecture. It focuses on the Pollock's Branch Creek watershed that runs south of Garrett Street downtown to Moore's Creek and from Avon Street to Ridge Street. 

Through the joint methods of dance and landscape architecture, the project elicits the engagement and participation of community members in a collective process designed to:

Identify and celebrate the unique features and places valued by the local community
Reimagine the area's future use and character as the City continues to change over time
Create a place-based experience of the watershed to share with the larger Charlottesville community

This project is funded in part by a UVA Faculty Research Grant for the Arts and through funding made available from the UVA Center for Cultural Landscapes, the Department of Drama, and the School of Architecture. Technical geospatial support was provided by the UVA Scholars’ Lab. You can visit the project website here

Members of the Charlottesville Blue Ribbon Commision on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces are set to finalize their report with recommendations to City Council on how to address public controversy around Confederate monuments in downtown parks. In order to explore this issue, a recent article called "Just how do you reinterpret history?" in the Daily Progress looks at the complex legacy of these statues and ask whether design is equipped to provide adequate reinterpretation strategies. The piece includes commentary from Center for Cultural Landscapes affiliate members Frank Dukes and Louis Nelson, as well as UVA MLA alum Martin Holland. You can read an excerpt of the article below and the full piece here

The struggle to ascribe a broader interpretation of African-American emancipation and Jim Crow-era history to existing and yet-to-be created public monuments in Charlottesville is only beginning. The movement to remove the city statues of Confederate stalwarts Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson may have been dealt a blow this month when a commission studying the statues voted to recommend not removing them from their respective city parks. The commissioners say the yet-to-be-finalized recommendation about the statues isn’t so simple, however. “The whole point of transforming the statues in place is not white-washing that history,” said Frank Dukes, a member of the nine-person commission.

The commission is grappling with how to address the statues of Lee and Jackson in place and accomplish its assigned goal of making recommendations that inform how the city can offer a “greater understanding” of its racial history. 

The Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville has been the site of restoration efforts to preserve this significant African American historic resource. Facilitated by a mix of public and private funds, these efforts have included site clean-up, maintenace and restoration, and education/awareness. Most recently, a historic site inventory was undertaken with contributions from Center for Cultural Landscapes affiliate members Liz Sargent and Steve Thompson. The purpose of the survey is to look for evidence of forgotten and unmarked burials in order to inform landscape architects and preservationists on how they might redesign the site. A recent article in The Daily Progress by Chris Suarez profiles the preservation work underway at the cemetery. You can read an excerpt below and the full piece here

On an unseasonably warm day last month, a skeleton crew was camped at a historic Charlottesville cemetery looking for evidence of forgotten and unmarked burials. Pushing a lawnmower-like, ground-penetrating radar machine up and down the partially sloped, verdant section of the historic African-American graveyard behind Oakwood Cemetery, the crew diligently scanned the open field for clues about what may have been there before time and nature weathered and hid its history.