Getting Oriented at Olmsted

Hi, my name is Julián Huertas, and I am the Designing the Parks intern through the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) at the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (OCLP) in Boston, Massachusetts. I graduated from Bowdoin College two weeks ago, and I am stoked for this summer because I get to professionally pursue my interest in design, architecture, and landscape architecture with the OCLP through HAF and LHIP. The office for the OCLP is in downtown Boston, but my summer project will be focused in Cape Cod, specifically researching and analyzing 11 mid-century modern residential houses designed and built in the 1940s-1970s by famous mid-century modern architects, such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breur, Philip Johnson, and Paul Weidlinger. I’ll be working with my colleagues to research and publish a Cultural Landscape Report that will present historical overview of the residences and settings, document the existing conditions, evaluate the landscape features, and provide landscape treatment recommendations for future maintenance and potential redesign.

I started at the office this past Monday, June 6th. After getting an introduction to my colleagues and our summer project on the first day, we took a site visit on the second day to the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.  We toured the interior of the house, which derives its namesake from the historical poet and fellow Bowdoin alumnus William Wadsworth Longfellow who lived at the house, and then toured the house’s landscape and garden. I was amazed by the aesthetic beauty in addition to the plant diversity within the elaborate garden, which has been maintained by the same Park Ranger for just about 20 years.  For this beginning week at the OCLP, we have reviewed the details of our project and upcoming trip to Cape Cod, and we also have begun learning the fundamentals and intricacies of AutoCAD and ArcGIS. These are programs used for design, mapping, and understanding sites, and I’m really hoping to get a solid command of them over my time with the OCLP this summer.

This upcoming Sunday, we leave Boston for Cape Cod, where we will be staying at the station at Coast Guard Beach for 5 days until Thursday. The 11 houses of our project are located in Wellfleet and Eastham, two towns of Cape Cod that are heavily vacationed in the summer. The houses reflect the mid-twentieth century modern influences of 1). increased affluence, 2). technological ability to construct modular, prefabricated, affordable housing, and 3). mid-twentieth century desire to connect with nature by retreating from urban to suburban areas.  European Modernist values and ideologies were the foundations for the constructed properties as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breur had left Europe for the United States to live, work, and teach in New England. There was no unified code about European Modernist architecture, but the architects building in Cape Cod valued social responsibility in design, the exposed structure form and aesthetic, and the ability for technology to create affordable and prefabricated houses. In regard to landscape, the houses are situated on seaside settings, such as wooded hilltops or rolling dunes, to overlook the ocean. The properties feature rutted sand roads and pathways for circulation in addition to minimal formal landscaping to enhance the views of topography, vegetation, and water elements. Our OCLP team will use our time at these properties in Cape Cod to carry out site circulation and vegetation mapping, species collecting and documenting, and photography and video production to produce the Cultural Landscape Report, which I mentioned above.

I am really excited to get this project started and to work at the OCLP over this summer. Stay up to date with my blog because I will be posting every week. Also, follow me on Instagram @jujuhuertas, Snapchat @jujubeanbean, and Twitter @Juju_Huertas. I’ll be putting out pictures of my experiences working at the OCLP’s downtown Boston office, visiting and researching our site project at Cape Cod, and dealing with the frustrating nuances of AutoCAD and ArcGIS. Also, if you have any interest in learning more about me and the design work I like to do, please be sure to check out my portfolio, Until next time!

Image 1 & 2 Citation: McMahon, Peter, and Cipriani, Christine. Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape. New York, NY: Metropolis Books, 2014.

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