After some chilly winter weather, I’m out of hibernation office mode and headed back outside! Last week, the Designing the Parks team headed out to Cape Cod for a few days of stewardship, site visits, conversations with park resource managers. We were joined for the week by some other cultural landscape enthusiasts/interns from Gateway National Recreation Area, Minute Man National Historical Park, Salem National Historic Site, and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF). Getting out of the office and meeting/collaborating with like-minded people from around the country was really refreshing. I enjoyed hearing about all the different pathways taken that landed us all in the same area of work, and I look forward to more opportunities like this!
I had been to the Cape once before, but did not have the chance to explore nearly as much as we did last week. The amount of ground we covered was amazing, and what struck me and perhaps the entire group was the wide variety of landscapes offered at Cape Cod. Ranging from mid-century modern houses to the Penniman House at Fort Hill, kettle ponds, seashores, P-Town, bogs, and almost overwhelming dunes. A concept we learned about from Peter McMahon, who founded the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, was the “Cape Cod way of life” which as I understand it revolved around the creation and sharing of new creative ideas in a community of like-minded artists, writers, academics, students, and teachers, often in the category of design and architecture. Among these were some of the main contributors to modern architecture like Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. It’s inspiring that many of these influencers had little or no formal training in architecture (Jack Hall, Paul Weidlinger) but still designed and built their own homes from a different approach from that of a trained architect, which adds to the unique “personalities” of each modern house we saw on our trip.
At the Cape, this class of artists and creators could experiment with their designs and ideas on their own, and also have the opportunity to collaborate and share with others who may influence their ideas. In that way, I like to think that Cape Cod was a kind of large scale continuous charrette throughout the summer months, which is embodied by the experimental modern houses such as the Hatch House (my favorite!).
The Cape Cod way of life concept resurfaced a few times in discussions among our group. I like to think our group was contributing to the continuation and preservation of the Cape Cod way of life through all the fresh ideas and thought provoking questions and discussions brought on by our experiences and diverse backgrounds. We didn’t build experimental houses or have Triscuit and martini dinner parties (we did s’mores instead). I do feel that I left Cape Cod with lots of new ideas, philosophies, and connections to individuals from a variety of backgrounds who are working toward keeping important cultural and natural resources relevant and accessible for future generations.
We also re-created George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River thanks to Bill Burke, park historian and fearless leader.
And a non-Cape Cod related note: The Commandant’s House has gone through phase 1! The beds have been emptied and extended. Here are some before and afters!