Thursday, May 26, 2011

V.I.P. (Very Important Preservationists) Week for Village Green

Gracie and I give Charles Birnbaum a motor tour of the perimeter of Village Green

I haven’t posted here for a few months, mostly because I was busy preparing for an historic week at Village Green. During this time, we had the honor of hosting some of the most important and influential historic preservation proponents at Village Green.

First, on Thursday, May 12th, Charles Birnbaum spent the day with a few of us at the Village, touring the property and gathering information to help us as we complete our Cultural Landscape Report (CLR).  

A Cultural Landscape Report is one of two vital documents which are the primary guides for the treatment, use and maintenance of an historic property such as Village Green, a National Historic Landmark. Last year, we hired Architectural Resources Group to complete our Historic Structure Report, which is the other document.

Charles Birnbaum is the leading advocate for the understanding and preservation of historic landscapes in the United States. After fifteen years as the coordinator of the National Park Service Historic Landscape Initiative (HLI), Charles founded the Cultural Landscape Foundation in 1998.  

The Cultural Landscape Foundation is, according to its website, "the only not-for-profit (501(c)(3)) foundation in America dedicated to increasing the public's awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of its cultural landscapes." The Village Green recently received a matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation allowing us to hire Charles (through TCLF) to provide review and guidance as we finally begin completing the Cultural Landscape Report. He will create a "white paper" report which will help us establish a long-term preservation plan and philosophy for our historic landscape, which will be included in the CLR.

Charles Birnbaum looking at some of the work we've done on our historic landscape. 

If you’ve never had the wonderful opportunity to hear Charles speak, then you don’t know the inspirational power he has to get you motivated and organized to preserve our important landscapes. It was after hearing him talk at an event a little over a year ago that I really began the process of exhaustively researching the life and career of Fred Barlow, Jr, the landscape architect responsible for the original landscape design at Baldwin Hills Village. I think Holly Kane (the chair of the Cultural Landscape Committee) felt the same way, as she has made tremendous headway in the last year towards completing the history section of our CLR.  

We showed Charles our progress, and spent a very enjoyable and illuminating day with him.

The second big event began a few days later, at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. The California Preservation Foundation conference is always a great event, filled with tours, lectures and workshops dealing with historic preservation subjects and issues. It’s also a wonderful way to network and meet other preservationists, and find ways to collaborate.

On Wednesday, May 18th, the Village Green was the subject of one of the CPF Workshops. Titled “Time, Trees & Interim Treatments: Avoiding the Cutting Edge?” the workshop was organized by Noel Vernon, the Associate Dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona.  Noel has been a wonderful friend to the Village over the years, and last year her landscape architecture class spent much of the semester using the Village as a project, spending time researching Fred Barlow, Jr’s original design intent, and then creating innovative presentations on how they would reinterpret or restore specific areas, keeping water conservation at the top of their priority list. 

We were also much honored to have as our guest speaker Bob Page, the Director of the National Park Service’s Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation since 2000. Prior to that, for ten years he was the Cultural Landscape Program Manager for the National Park Service. Bob gave a very informative overview of the Cultural Landscape Report process, and how we might apply this here at the Village.

Several of Noel’s students came back to give their presentations at last week’s workshop, and it was great to see their varying interpretations of treatment plans.  Robert Nicolais described Clarence Stein and Reginald D. Johnson’s vision for our community, and I spoke briefly about Fred Barlow, Jr’s original design intent for Baldwin Hills Village, showing slides of the forward-thinking and drought resistant landscape he planned. Robert Nicolais also presented work he has done using Google SketchUp to create a wonderful animated graphic showing how a garden court might be restored.

Of course our workshop included a lengthy tour of the property itself, and the Village looked spectacular! We had an esteemed list of guests which included Adrian Fine and Karina Muniz of the Los Angeles Conservancy; Margaret Bach, the founding President of the Los Angeles Conservancy; Margarita Wuellner, PhD and Director of Historic Resources for PCR Services Corp; and Pamela Palmer, a prominent landscape architect from the firm ARTECHO. (

It was a busy, productive and important week for the Village Green and our historic landscape!


  1. Is that colored map of the Green available as a download?

  2. No, it's a very low-tech Doodle Art style drawing done by me using felt pens. I took four different site plans, and using colors and patterns, created layers for each of the major landscape elements: Trees, Groundcovers, Shrubbery and Vines. It REALLY helped me visualize the original design intent when I was doing my analysis. Barlow is a genius.