In partnership with the National Park Service, the Urban Heritage Project has worked on projects related to cultural landscapes in Washington, D.C. since the spring of 2012. This collaboration dates back to the 2012 - 2013 Parks for the People competition, organized by the Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service, when a PennDesign interdisciplinary studio was named a finalist in that competition. In the years since, a team of faculty, graduates, and students in Historic Preservation have documented the history and evolution of over a dozen NPS “cultural landscapes” in the Washington, DC, area—ranging from Civil War-era forts to public golf courses to urban boulevards—enabling the proper stewardship of these sites for centuries to come. The UPenn project team is led by Associate Professor Randall Mason as Principal Investigator and PennPraxis Research Associate Molly Lester as project manager.
Knitting together historic photographs, maps, and primary sources, researchers compile a thorough physical history for each site, chronicling the development and evolution of the landscape from pre-colonial times to the present. Based on this comprehensive understanding of the landscape’s physical fabric, the researchers then offer an analysis and evaluation of features that have been lost and those that survive from the landscape’s most significant years, including an inventory of any extant buildings and structures, vegetation, small-scale features, circulation, viewsheds, topography, and other facets of the site. The findings offer clear and thorough guidance to NPS officials as they manage, preserve, rehabilitate, and modify each cultural landscape, setting priorities for the most significant surviving features that convey the site’s history.
To learn more about the specific projects, please visit the Cultural Landscapes website. This project is made possible by a partnership with the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Studies Unit.