Cultural Landscapes Blog

The white supremacist gatherings that occurred in Charlottesville's historic parks this past summer underscore the timeliness of our March 2017 symposium, Race and Public Space. Commemorative Practices in the American South. Decades of political protests, legislation and court cases to expand who has a "the right to the city" were challenged by hate group rallies whose participants drew from all over the US. They came to Charlottesville because of City Council's decision to remove the Confederate statues from Lee and Jackson Parks, and to rename the two parks. But they also came because of Charlottesville's and the University's own troubled past of racial segregation that can be read in the sites of memory, the racialized topography, of our urban form and public spaces. Charlottesville's streets and neighborhoods, pedestrian malls and campus plazas became our public sphere once again. Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators gathered to bear witness, to challenge, and at time, to agitate. We experienced intimidation, violence, injury and murder. Since August, our community has gathered at public and private meetings to heal, and to argue for another sense of nation, another definition of American culture built on tolerance and acceptance, excellence through diversity, community despite difference. Now that the national and international press have moved on to other news stories, but continue to deploy the phrase "After Charlottesville, " the University and the City are collectively undertaking several initiatives to not only attend to the trauma of the summer, but to address long standing structural racism in our community. These efforts include a re-assessment of the RFP to redesign Emancipation (formerly Lee) Park and Justice (formerly Jackson) Park which were the sites of the August Unite the Right rally and the July KKK rally respectively. They involve serious attention by the University to its role in race relations given the enslaved labor that built its World Heritage Site and the admissions barriers to students of color that lasted for over 150 years after its founding. They also involve deliberations by the Center for Cultural Landscape co-Directors and our two Brown Graduate Fellows, Weaam Alabdullah and Alissa Diamond, about how we can contribute to a broader awareness of urban cultural landscapes as racialized topographies that warrant our research, analysis, interpretation, design and planning.

In a recent article in Places Journal, geographer and independent scholar Denis Wood writes on his collaborative process with students to make maps for a narrative atlas.

In the piece, titled "Everthing Sings," he writes of the "imaginative drive to find the less 'mappable things'" and a "poetics of cartography" that allows us to envision communities as "less a place than a process... that would take an atlas to unravel: what a neighborhood is, what a neighborhood does, how a neighborhood works." 

You can read the full article here

"It’s hard to think of a cultural landscape type that’s as stubbornly resistant to restoration as a neglected African-American cemetery. For even beyond the daunting practical and financial obstacles, there’s another significant challenge. What does restoration of these landscapes look like? What are the programmatic possibilities for cemeteries that no longer function as active burial sites? What are the opportunities for reinterpretation and redesign?"

In May 2017, Places Journal published a feature article, written by Zach Mortice, on the preservation crisis of African-American Cemetries that Charlottesville has confronted at sites like the Daughters of Zion Cemetery. You can read an excerpt here and the full piece on the Places Journal website

A recent article by Caroline Newman in UVA Today covers the work of UVA students and faculty in a Spring 2017 course from Architectural History Professor Lisa Reilly titled "Strategies of Interpretation: Highland." You can read an excerpt of the article below and the full piece here

"What do you do when the building believed to be President James Monroe’s home – a building that attracts a consistent stream of visitors each year – wasn’t actually the Founding Father’s residence? That’s the question that leaders at Highland, the fifth president’s estate in Albemarle County, enlisted University of Virginia School of Architecture students to help answer this spring. The 14 students enrolled in architectural history professor Lisa Reilly’s “Museum Interpretation: Highland” course developed four revamped tours for the site, some using augmented reality technology to take visitors back in time.

Each tour takes into account Highland’s 2016 discovery of the previously buried remains of Monroe’s true house, a much larger house than what currently exists on the property. That more modest home is now believed to be a guest house commissioned by the fifth president at least 15 years after he bought the estate in 1793 and moved in 1799. “For us, this discovery was a tremendous opportunity and one that we intentionally sought through years of research,” said Sara Bon-Harper, Highland’s executive director. “I don’t know of any other case where a presidential house has been lost and found.” 

The UVA Center for Cultural Landscapes, in partnership with the School of Architecture, the College of Arts and Sciences, the University Libraries, and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), announces the launch of the University of Virginia Landscape Studies Initiative with a planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Jefferson Trust and the UVA Provost. The Landscape Studies Initiative will catalyze the research of scholars, teachers, students, writers, and practitioners in the areas of anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art history, cultural history, engineering, environmental planning, geography, landscape architecture, and several disciplines in the social and natural sciences.

Landscape Architecture faculty members Elizabeth Meyer and Michael Lee will lead the collaborative design and development of a new interface for texts, maps, narratives and experience of significant cultural landscapes that builds on the thematic structure of Elizabeth Barlow Roger’s 2001 publication Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History. This initiative’s pilot project will simultaneously study Central Park, New York and Park Muskau, Germany as test beds for an interdisciplinary pedagogical model that both utilizes and creates advanced digital humanities resources related to landscape studies within the classroom. The Initiative will eventually grow to include digital humanities projects and research initiatives, curricular programs, field studies, professional development programs, annual book prizes, and occasional book reprints in conjunction with partner organizations. It will establish the University of Virginia as a pre-eminent university for landscape studies through access to rare archival materials in a library setting, as well as the development of advanced digital resources that enable enhanced interpretation of word, image, and design.

The University of Virginia School of Architecture seeks a Project Manager for the first phase of the UVA Landscape Studies Initiative. This position is funded by the Mellon Foundation and is a three-year appointment to begin in August 2017.

The Project Manager will lead the first phase of the UVA Landscape Studies Initiative under the direction of the Faculty Directors. The position works closely with faculty and staff across the School of Architecture, UVA Libraries, and the College of Arts & Sciences to set a research and implementation agenda for an innovative digital resource in landscape design history. Under the direction of the Project Manager, the interdisciplinary Landscape Studies Initiative research group will create a database of landscape places, terms, and types that are geo-spatially referenced on a global scale. The digital resource will make use of a suite of visualization tools to support new creative interpretations and critical cartographies of historic landscapes. The digital resource will function as both a research platform and pedagogic tool. Digital humanities and technical experts on the team will create metadata terms, catalogue images and texts, and design a database interface and search engine.

To apply, visit and search on Posting Number 0620834. Complete a Candidate Profile on-line; attach a CV, cover letter, and provide contact information for three references.


The Center for Cultural Landscapes is pleased to announce the appointment of Jessica Ellen Sewell as Co-Director! Associate Professor Sewell has a deep background in cultural landscape studies, going back to her graduate work at UC Berkeley, where she received her PhD in Architecture in 2000. Sewell’s work has focused particularly on questions of gender and difference, which are central to her 2011 book, Women and the Everyday City (University of Minnesota Press). In this book she explores San Francisco's public spaces at the turn of the century through an analysis of the relationships between imagined, experienced, and built gendered landscapes. 
Sewell joined UVA as an Associate Professor in Urban and Environmental Planning in January of 2016. In addition to exploring the cultural landscapes of American cities, she has also brought her cultural landscapes approach to Chinese cities during the 3½ years she was Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and Chair of the Built Environment Cluster at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou. In collaborations with colleagues there, she created an app, Exploring Suzhou, that students and scholars can use to explore the urban cultural landscapes of Suzhou, a city of 14 million that encompasses both historic gardens and traditional neighborhoods and modern new town development. 

The 2017-2018 Center for Cultural Landscapes Research Roundtable Series will examine the theme of restoration as a theoretical concept and a professional practice spanning disciplines, geographies, and centuries. Through the lens of restoration, phenomena as seemingly unrelated as the election of Donald Trump, the revival of seagrass in the Chesapeake Bay, the reconstruction of slave quarters at Monticello, and the use of 3D printing to resurrect a damaged Rembrandt painting coalesce into a revealing matrix of American identity.

Led by faculty coordinator Lisa Goff (American Studies & English; Director, Institute for Public History), the roundtables will analyze restorations of places, politics, and cultural products, and the acrimonious debates that accompany such decisions. The idea that conflicts over American identity get enacted on the landscape is nothing new. But by focusing on restoration, as opposed to preservation or conservation or political conservatism, these roundtables will attempt to bring together the most recent and most persuasive scholarship about restoration—and to put them in orbit with each other in ways that blur the professional distinctions between  preservation and design, conservation and change.

The Library of American Landscape History (LALH) announces the long-awaited publication of Warren H. Manning, Landscape Architect and Environmental PlannerThe volume is edited by Robin Karson, Jane Roy Brown, and Sarah Allaback, with photographs by Carol Betsch. 

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. Contributors to the Warren H. Manning Research Project have worked for more than a decade to assess current conditions of his built projects and to compile a richly illustrated compendium of essays that illustrate the range, scope, and significance of Manning’s notable career. 

The School of Architecture presents Fifty Years of Architectural Drawings, featuring the work of SARC alumnus Carlton Sturges Abbott. 

After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 1963, Carlton Abbott embarked on his professional journey as an architect and artist. This exhibition is a collection of drawings created during his career which has spanned over fifty years. The drawings depict a range of subjects from housing to large urban projects. Pencil, ink, and pastel on paper or illustration board, are the primary materials used. Significant in the exhibit is a series of ink drawings of the buildings along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Carlton is the son of Stanley Abbott, FASLA, recognized as the primary designer of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The exhibit will be on display in the Elmaleh Gallery through April 29, 2017.