Famous Trees: Emergence, Progression, Procession

Judith Stilgenbauer
Left to right: Plantings surfacing above the Memorial Wall, 228 National Memorial Park. Graphic by Judith Stilgenbauer Enlarge [+]

Dynamic and temporal elements distinguish open space from built form. Landscapes are not static; they develop and change. Processes in natural landscapes occur at various speeds. Some take millions of years, others minutes. Plant life reacts on the yearly pattern of seasons and the daily rhythm of night and day. Plantings evolve over the course of their lives–they grow mature, flourish, and decay. We perceive landscape through movement in space and time.

Environmental designers throughout history intended to control nature or to “enhance” its beauty by manipulating temporal qualities and slowing change. In contrast, many recent designed landscapes embrace a new aesthetic of ephemeral characteristics such as growth, spontaneity, and decay.

In the case of our “228 National Memorial Park” project in Taiwan, the metaphor of proliferating giant bamboo that will eventually surface above a memorial wall is pivotal to the design concept. Plants materialize the key idea of process in this new memorial landscape designed to achieve its meaning over time.

Comparing the situation in the 1930s with today, my “Famous Trees of California Revisited” project addresses the significance of 50 tree specimens in the natural and cultural history of California. In this publication, we intend to illustrate the development of the trees and their surroundings over the last 75 years, exploring how environmental awareness and our attitude toward design, nature, and preservation have evolved.

Judith Stilgenbauer
228 National Memorial Park; first prize, open international design competition, 2006. Project currently under construction. Graphic by Judith Stilgenbauer Enlarge [+]
Judith Stilgenbauer
The Lone Sentinel at Yosemite in the 1930s, Famous Trees of California Revisited. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley Enlarge [+]
Judith Stilgenbauer
Left: First California pepper tree at Mission San Luis Rey in 2007, Famous Trees of California Revisited. Photo by Janet C. Delaney. Right: Maunsell Van Rensselaer Collection, (2006). Photo courtesy Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley Enlarge [+]

Navigating the Waters of Collaboration

By Jean Eisberg, Master of City and Regional Planning ‘07

To a planner, China is opportunity. Over a billion people and growing; rising skyscrapers and a soaring GDP; poverty, pollution, and potential. The issues are rich, but the place is even richer.

During the spring 2007 semester, I traveled to Jiaxing, China with a group of students, faculty, and professionals for an interdisciplinary design studio. We were fortunate to be able to collaborate with students and professors at Tongji University, located nearby in Shanghai. The Tongji group guided us during the trip and throughout the studio.

I studied China as an undergraduate student and while visiting the country again, I was reminded of why I was initially so intrigued. This is a country whose history, politics and social structures have changed radically over the past several decades. Jiaxing exemplifies this dynamic.

Jiaxing boasts a mix of cultural and historic amenities as well as modern industry and technology. Water defines the landscape; it is, at times, beautiful, but it is also polluted and often strewn with debris. Nearly empty eight-lane roads portend the growth to come. But, today, it is difficult to differentiate Jiaxing from the many other mid-size industrial cities in China. Our group needed to enhance the existing assets in Jiaxing to bring out its unique identity and ensure its competitiveness in the region. The central government’s proposed high-speed rail station offered an incredible opportunity to make this happen.

After returning to Berkeley, it was time to get to work. But, as planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects, we did not always speak the same language. We spent several weeks sketching, arguing, and jumping in and out of scales. Out of the chaos emerged some great ideas about water, open space, transportation, energy, architecture, and urban design. Our recommendations encompassed all scales — from architectural materials and façade details to a transit plan and renewable energy resources — reflecting the range of disciplines represented among the students in our studio.

The Tongji students helped us to understand the traditions, policies, and culture that define and affect architecture and development in the region. Collaborating with our colleagues at Tongji was one of the highlights for me. With a year of college-level Mandarin muddled in the back reaches of my brain, I got a chance to practice speaking and drew laughter for my errant tones. But even better was the chance to share opinions on what planning means in our respective countries. As one Tongji student admitted, China plans and develops without always considering the repercussions or offering mitigations. I countered that in the United States, legislation and politics often necessitate intense scrutiny and lengthy processes that can prevent projects from moving forward. We both wondered about the middle

I still see opportunity in China in terms of its tremendous growth. But I also see the possibility for China to become a leader in sustainable development, something we can all learn from.

Climate for Change

The potential of landscape design to transform the built environment from its current energy-intensive state has largely been overlooked.

Contemporary energy conservation efforts emphasize architectural and engineering solutions. Green building is a trend, still divorced from the landscape and the garden, both which are green to begin with. Integral to any discussion of sustainability or green building should be a consideration of the capacity of the designed landscape to create and modify microclimates and thus conserve energy.

Prior to the oil embargo of 1973 which alerted the world to its overdependence on diminishing fossil fuel reserves, building and growth patterns had become extremely wasteful. In reaction to the prevailing attitudes that our energy supplies were inexhaustible, many architects and landscape architects began to investigate passive design techniques. Unfortunately, our fascination with later Information Age technologies diverted our attention away from these early advances and investigations.

Many of the principles of passive design explored in the 1970s had their origins in the distant past. Throughout landscape history, the harsher the climate, the more ingenious the devices and methods became for creating physically comfortable spaces. A review of historical gardens would reveal many precedents for energy efficient design. In fact, the principles of climatic site planning reach back thousands of years. In Mediterranean climates, such as ours, people lived in close connection with the landscape, adapting their environments to create comfortable living spaces by observing natural patterns and systems. One doesn’t need a complex computer model to understand how the sun moves across the sky.

The move towards an energy responsive ethic provides us with a second chance to incorporate the knowledge and methodologies from our ancient and recent pasts and implement these ideas on a large scale.


A solar-powered limonaia defines the edge of a south-facing terrace at Vicobello, near Siena, Italy. The adjacent formal garden is essentially an orange grove.
As early 36 BC, Varro identified the southeast-facing hillside as the ideal location for a villa. (The form of the typical “suburban” villa included house and grounds together with the total complex understood as a unit.) The southeast orientation allowed the dwelling and the garden to catch the prevailing summer breezes and block the cold northern winds in winter.

During the Renaissance there existed a “Canon of Horticultural Rule” which presented a format for placing elements in the landscape. According to the canon, the bosco or planted woodland was an integral element of the site plan. A dense plantation of evergreen trees placed on the northern side of a structure not only blocked the winter winds, but also played an important ecological role, providing abundant vegetative mass for photosynthesis and wildlife habitat. This is an extremely important lesson for contemporary design: establishing a ratio of vegetative mass to built form and maximizing tree canopy can provide great climatic benefit. A plantation mass can effectively block the sun, and thus reduce ground level temperatures and insulate buildings. Planting large areas of deciduous trees with broad canopies will produce significant quantities of oxygen, while reducing ambient temperatures in the summer.


Contemporary ideas of passive solar design are also rooted in history. All living material can trace its origins to the heavenly fire. Without the sun we cannot thrive. In the past, solar orientation was a guiding principle in laying out garden and dwelling. Leon Battista Alberti promoted the common-sense use of passive solar design as long ago as 1482. He believed that loggias should be designed not only to capture beautiful views, but also to provide year round comfort by admitting sun or breezes, depending on the season. Alberti even proposed the use of glass to keep out the winter wind and let in the undefiled daylight.

Pliny the Younger’s Laurentine villa near Rome contained a unique solar device called the heliocaminus, or heated sunbath, which was a garden room enclosed on four sides and open to the sky to capture the sun’s rays. The solar-heated heliocaminus of the Romans evolved into the giardino segreto or secret garden, ever popular in Italian Renaissance gardens. Usually a sunken space with decorative stone or stucco walls, the enclosed room deflected cold winds and collected heat from the sun. One of the finest examples of the giardino segreto can be found just outside of Florence on the grounds of the Villa Gamberaia. Located directly across from the central entrance to the villa is a narrow secret garden, hardly more than 20 feet across and 100 feet long. This diminutive garden runs east to west to ensuring exposure to the morning and afternoon sun.

Being aware of the movement of the sun also allowed Renaissance designers to develop garden elements for the year-round growth of crops. The limonaia was one of the first solar-powered spaces in temperate climates that harnessed and stored solar energy for the winter storage of citrus plants. Similar in form to the loggia, the limonaia faced south and was enclosed with large plates of glass, like a greenhouse. Operable windows regulated interior heat. Plants were placed on tiered platforms at the base of the solid north wall to receive plenty of sunlight.

The Villa Medici at Castello, a few miles from Florence, had over 300 varieties of fruit trees in cultivation, essentially making this villa a functioning agricultural landscape set within a beautiful formal garden. The ornate formal gardens of the Italian Renaissance, so often criticized as exercises in geometry imposed on nature, continue to have relevance for designers and planners today. As agricultural centers they provided sustenance for not only their owners, but the families that cultivated and maintained them. Most of the farming villas produced cash crops and could be considered self-sustaining in many respects.

The limonaia, integral to the Italian garden, can be retrofitted into contemporary gardens to serve as the foundation for sustainable communities. Relevant today for its ability to capture and store the sun’s heat, a limonaia can be an instrumental device for growing food as we move towards a more sustainable future where gardens provide not only beauty, but sustenance.


nishat (3)
A shady pavilion built directly over a canal and filled with jets of aerated water at the Nishat Bagh, in Kashmir, produces a form of natural air conditioning.
Garden designers have sculpted the movement of air and designed air-cooled spaces throughout history, particularly in Mediterranean climates. Today’s designers can exploit the cooling effects of moving air to reduce the energy and environmental costs of using mechanically-cooled air-conditioning systems. Microclimates can be designed to take advantage of the cooling properties of air flow. Air can be directed, funneled, and accelerated with simple landscape and architectural forms such as seats, arbors, pergolas, garden pavilions and porches.

The Alcazar Gardens of Seville contain one of the cleverest air-cooled seats in garden history. This extraordinary bench is situated in the Jardin de la Danza, a small garden room within a series of enclosed patios. Extremely thick walls enclose the garden on the east and west, while the southern wall addresses the prevailing summer breezes with an intimate niche. Between two built-in benches, a small arched window with a decorative metal grill frames a picturesque view of the adjacent lower garden. As the breeze flows, it is forced through the small window, thus increasing its velocity at its point of exit on the opposite side of the opening. (We now understand this phenomenon as the Venturi Effect.) In addition to being naturally air-conditioned, the enclave remains cool in the summer because the thick walls that enclose it act as an insulator, while the white walls reflect the heat produced from the intense rays of the sun. This ingenious form of air conditioning remains effective to this day.

Alleés are parallel rows of evenly planted trees placed on either side of a path, avenue, or roadway, and are usually long enough to create a walk or promenade of some distance. They are commonly used to direct views, organize spaces, create vistas, and unite various parts of a garden. An alleé can also stimulate the movement of air and be used to direct air currents into specific areas of the garden, garden structures and dwellings. When planted along south-facing slopes, alleés benefit from naturally rising air currents that push air from the shaded space into building interiors.

In desert climates garden pavilions were commonly built with a south-facing porch balanced over a large pool. The shaded interior porch with its high ceiling would catch the cooled air that passed over the pool. Many variations were possible, but a connection to the garden was essential. To augment the cooling effect of the porch, the Persians suspended a curtain from the façade of the pavilion to block the hottest rays of the summer sun. The curtain was pulled back in the winter to allow the sun to enter and warm the space. A soft and luminous quality of light filtered through the fabric. When the curtain was fully extended over the pool, it acted as a large air scoop, concentrating the ephemeral breeze, and capturing water evaporating from the pool. In addition, the cloth could be moistened with rose water, cooling and scenting the interior as the moisture evaporated. The Persian garden pavilion and the Italian summer house are both designed for natural coolness. As intelligent passive design devices they represent relevant footprints for reducing energy consumption in the contemporary built environment.


The sunken room at Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, Italy, functions as an effective solar collector for winter comfort.
The importance of water as a commodity cannot be underestimated, especially in California. Without water there can be no life. And in past cultures, the collection, storage, and movement of water was a priority in order to maintain a predictable supply throughout the year. Only then could passive microclimates be enjoyed and the art of the garden flourish.

In California, every drop of water that falls on a site should be captured and stored. Extremely high temperatures combined with lengthy droughts have turned the American west into a tinderbox. In many regions of the world water is being used more quickly than aquifers can be replenished. Water tables are falling. If this trend continues it will have a profound impact on food production and living standards.

The control and disbursement of water in California has become a politically explosive issue. Perhaps only through enlightened watershed management and a change in public attitudes toward consumption can a dependable supply of clean water be preserved. Continued research of both historical precedents and current technologies, combined with the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, are the first steps towards redefining our relationship with water. Water is not merely a resource to be exploited for human convenience, but rather a nurturing force that links and sustains all life on earth.

In many arid climates cisterns were used as a fundamental method of storing as much rain water and runoff as possible for use during the dry season. In Los Angeles, before aqueducts brought water from the north, residential cisterns were critical elements in a system that had to balance the effects of both droughts and floods. This tradition can be resurrected in the contemporary landscape. Runoff can be directed into insulated closed cisterns built into new structures or retrofitted into existing structures.

Long before modern drip irrigation, the Persian gardener developed a simple yet efficient method for subsurface irrigation. In Yazd, one of the hottest spots on the Iranian plateau, “condensing jars” significantly reduced the amount of water lost to evaporation. Earthenware containers were placed in the soil between rows of plants, set with their narrow necks protruding just above the surface. When filled with water these containers “sweated” moisture through their porous earthen sides, directly irrigating the roots of the vegetation. Condensing jars, removed from exposure to sun and air, effectively conserved water by protecting it from evaporation.

Aerated water was often employed to cool garden structures. Forcing water under high pressure through miniature openings or thin slots would suspend fine drops of water in the surrounding air, humidifying it and lowering the temperature. To produce this effect, water would first be pumped into reservoirs on the roof. With gravity pressure, the water would descend through columns pierced with thousands of tiny holes, creating an almost invisible mist that gently cooled the room. Aerated by thousands of tiny misting jets, these garden rooms were a tranquil oasis for the body and mind.


Many advances have been made in green architecture and alternative building. The US Green Building Council has established standards for sustainable buildings. However, these achievements need to be integrated with energy-conserving, sustainable landscapes that create new gardens on a regional scale. New and exciting opportunities lie ahead for the creation of unified garden and architectural forms that not only conserve energy, water, and agricultural lands, but are also works of art and places for spiritual renewal.

The Moving Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. By separating the issue of individuals serving in the military during the Vietnam era and U.S. policy carried out there, the Memorial Fund hoped to begin a process of national reconciliation.
— Description of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.[1]

Each wall is 126.2 ft. in length for a total length of 252.4 ft. — or slightly less than the length of a football field.
— Description of the Moving Wall[2]

kim_1 On May 1, 1981, a jury of architects, landscape architects, and artists plucked submission no. 1,026 — a set of moody pictures drawn in blue and green pastels — from a pool of more than 1,400 proposals for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The drawings were accompanied by an evocative essay, handwritten on a single sheet of paper, that described the memorial’s proposed immensity: two walls, each more than 200 feet long and made of polished black granite, converge at a point, forming an expansive V. The names of more than 58,000 American soldiers, either killed during the war or declared missing in action, are carved in chronological order into the surfaces of the walls. “Seemingly infinite in number,” the essay stated, “[the names] convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.… We, the living, are brought to a concrete realization of these deaths.”[3] The jury’s announcement of the winning proposal, designed by Maya Lin, ignited a public controversy that would last for the next several years.

Meanwhile Jean Baudrillard, the French social theorist, published the first edition of Simulacra and Simulation in fall 1981. In this pivotal work of postmodern theory, Baudrillard posited that our conception of the world is no longer “real” or “unreal” — but, instead, “hyperreal.” One’s sense of hyperreality, Baudrillard suggested, is constructed through the process of simulation, or the mass production of objects based on a “generative core.” [4]

One of Baudrillard’s primary claims was that the production of simulacra has supplanted a society’s efforts to produce copies, counterfeits, or replicas of idealized forms. Instead, reproductions exist through independent — and sometimes irreverent — relationships to an original model. “There is no more counterfeiting of an original,” Baudrillard wrote, “… only models from which all forms proceed according to modulated differences.”[5] Therein lies the internal paradox of simulation — while the production of objects may be inspired by a desire to replicate the model, the importance of the model falls away as reproduction occurs. Discrepancies between an experience of the original and one’s understanding of its reproductions are explained by Baudrillard’s notion of the generative core — the experience of the original model (as opposed to the thing itself) — that serves as the model for replication. Variations are the inevitable result, because the model itself is not a finite or known quantity.

Simulacra and Simulation can be described as a grand, sophisticated claim toward the power of subjectivity — or the notion that individual realities are constructed through signs of the real, or through the process of codification, rather than through an objective representation of the real itself. Baudrillard’s term for these newly constructed realities is “simulacra.”

A Strong, Clear Origin

The Moving Wall in Bridgeport, Wash., October 25-31, 2003. Since 2000, Superintendent Gene Schmidt had imagined the hills behind Bridgeport Elementary School as the perfect backdrop for the Moving Wall.

The publication of Baudrillard’s theories on simulacra and simulation paralleled a spectacular effort to produce an object that would become the preeminent model for “proper” memorialization, not to mention one of America’s most recognized “originals.” Among architects and designers, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has set what some might call an inescapable precedent for the design of commemorative memorials. It is one of the most widely discussed memorials among historians, art and architecture critics, and cultural theorists, as well as an internationally circulated icon of America as a whole.[6]

Although the length of the design and construction process measured less than two years, it was defined by both internal and external controversies from the start. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, whose principal financiers included Texas billionaire Ross Perot, raised more than $8 million to fund the memorial.[7] When veteran Jan Scruggs founded the VVMF in 1979, one of the motivations behind the construction of a memorial was that it would help to quell the discord among veterans. But internal divisions were only deepened by Scruggs’s decision to effectively exclude the input of his fellow veterans, or the community for whom the VVMF supposedly stood. In November 1980, the VVMF — eager to push the plan through “Washington’s notoriously difficult architectural gatekeepers”[8] — appointed Paul Spreiregen, a prominent Washington architect, to oversee the competition and selection of jury members. The result was a panel that included a compilation of eight artists and design professionals — but no veterans, family members of dead soldiers, or, for that matter, women or minorities.[9]

On May 6, 1981, the VVMF had to subdue its own surprise in declaring Maya Lin, a 21-year-old senior at Yale, the winner of the competition. (One of the more memorable moments in Freida Lee Mock’s 1995 documentary A Strong, Clear Vision is Scruggs’s account of the awkwardness associated with first meeting with Lin in her college dormitory.) Nonetheless, the committee stood behind Lin — the author of what one juror described as “a simple and meditative design”[10] — as she was dragged into the national spotlight and forced to conduct a highly public defense of her proposal.

The perceived emotional coolness of her minimalist design, not to mention the unconventionality of its designer, had only intensified the furor harbored by a group of veterans who were already livid over their exclusion from the selection process. On Oct. 24, 1981, in a New York Times op-ed column, Tom Carhart — a veteran and Purple Heart recipient — characterized Lin’s proposal as “a black gash of shame and sorrow, hacked into the national visage that is the Mall.” At public hearings in the Capitol, Lin defended the simplicity of her design with an uncanny, unwavering resolve and, in line with a statement previously published in the Washington Post, rejected suggestions to change it in any way: “I don’t think anything should be done to the design that adds or detracts from its power. You could say, I guess, that I’m stubborn.”[11] In November 1982, the memorial — constructed exactly as Lin had envisioned it — was unveiled, in situ, on the Washington Mall. In 1984, however, a bronze statue of three servicemen and an American flagpole were added to the memorial site to appease some veterans’ objections to the original design.[12]

John Devitt Goes to Washington

Installation of the Moving Wall in Bridgeport, Wash. Volunteers built a platform out of 2×4’s to create a level surface for the Moving Wall.

No sooner than the official VVM was unveiled had a plan for veterans to reclaim the memorial started to take shape. John Devitt, a former First Cavalry door gunner for the U.S. Army, sat among an audience of 6,000 at the VVM’s dedication ceremony on Nov. 13 (two days after Veterans’ Day) in 1982. Because he was unemployed at the time, Devitt’s trip to Washington had been sponsored by donations from members of his local community in San Jose, Calif. Devitt was aware of the controversy leading up to the memorial’s opening and shared some of the skepticism and resentment that had been publicly expressed by his fellow veterans — but he attended the ceremony nonetheless, grateful to his family and friends for their fundraising effort.

Devitt’s trip to Washington turned out to be life-altering. He returned to California deeply moved by his visit to “the Wall,” as veterans have nicknamed it, which he described as both healing and cathartic. “I walked up to ‘The Wall’ and felt this intense pride,” Devitt said in an interview with Jim Belshaw, a writer for Veteran magazine, in December 2000. “I hadn’t felt that since the day I left Vietnam. It was one thing nobody had mentioned in the twelve years I’d been home. Everybody talked about guilt. I had tried guilt and it didn’t work. I was very proud of the guys I was with and especially the ones who were killed. You can’t give more than that. I was so glad to see their names out there in the public.”[13]

In addition to a heightened sense of personal pride, Devitt felt charged with a mission to move the experience of the Wall beyond the arena of the Washington Mall. “When you think about it,” Devitt wrote, “two or three million people visit the Wall every year. There are ten or twenty times that many people who, for whatever reason, will never be able to make the trip to Washington.… I wanted them to be able to see and feel what I had.”[14] In other words, Devitt was not so much inclined to crystallize the power of his experience at the Wall as he was compelled to reproduce it.

The Original Copy

Installation of the Moving Wall in Zanesville, Ohio, June 9-15, 2000. Local carpenters built a special platform to create a tapering effect. At its apex, the base of the wall is 3 feet above grade, but at its respective ends, the aluminum panels sit directly on the ground.
Installation of the Moving Wall in Zanesville, Ohio, June 9-15, 2000. Local carpenters built a special platform to create a tapering effect. At its apex, the base of the wall is 3 feet above grade, but at its respective ends, the aluminum panels sit directly on the ground.

Devitt devoted the next 11 years to the development of a traveling half-scale version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, an object commonly referred to as a “replica” of the original. Although there are at least nine known copies, Devitt’s was the first. The traveling memorial, first titled the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Mobile) in 1984 — but now, in its third iteration, known as the Moving Wall — has visited nearly 1,000 communities in the U.S. during the past 20 years. Although most of the sponsoring communities can be classified as blue-collar or working-class, the Moving Wall has made several appearances in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Atlanta. The Moving Wall has also traveled overseas: In July 1993, the Moving Wall was installed on sites in Guam and the Mariana Islands, where the United States maintained strategic military stations during the Vietnam War.[15]

The success of the Moving Wall has spawned the design of subsequent replicas — or copies of Devitt’s copy — further expanding the spiral of individual meanings. The VVMF developed a traveling replica, the Wall that Heals, in 1996. Coors Brewing and Service Corporation International (SCI) have also developed traveling VVM’s. Members of Vietnam Combat Veterans, an organization formed by Devitt in 1986, have referred to these replicas as “rip-offs,”[16] implicitly because Devitt has not been given due credit by these corporations as the inventor of the original copy. It seems that VCV looks more favorably upon the founders of a virtual replica, called the Virtual Wall, which can be visited at www.virtualwall.org or via a link on the Moving Wall’s website.

A Wall Moves to Bridgeport, Wa.

A volunteer polishes the Moving Wall’s reflective surface.
A volunteer polishes the Moving Wall’s reflective surface.

The Moving Wall was displayed on the soccer field behind Bridgeport Elementary School October 25-31, 2003. The installation was orchestrated by local residents Gene Schmidt and Ken Krugel, both of whom had visited the original VVM in Washington before the Moving Wall’s appearance in Bridgeport. Krugel, a Vietnam veteran, first visited the VVM in 1984, nearly two years after it opened on the Mall. He was hesitant to visit the memorial — as he claims many veterans were — and expected to encounter “a second-hand memorial.”[17] Like Devitt, Krugel was unexpectedly moved by his visit to the VVM. He recalled spending an entire day — and night — at the memorial, an experience that served as a template for his vision of the Moving Wall’s appearance in his hometown. “We had the perfect setting for the Moving Wall in Bridgeport,” he said. “I’ve seen it installed in other places, in city parks or on brown dirt. But we had it against the hills, and near an orchard. With the subdued lighting, the fog, and the trees, it was very much like the setting in Washington.”[18]

Krugel aided Schmidt, superintendent of the local school district, in assembling a team of 300 volunteers to help with the logistics of the Moving Wall’s setup and display. Since 1999, when Krugel and Schmidt began planning for the Moving Wall’s arrival, they had envisioned the school’s athletic fields as the perfect site for the installation — not only because it was both a picturesque setting and on level ground but because of the field’s location adjacent to the Bridgeport Cemetery, the burial ground for the five local soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. The volunteers erected an aisle of flags and several tents to display memorabilia — the flags, plaques, photos, and identification tags left at the Moving Wall, which are adopted as part of the traveling exhibition. They also monitored the computer terminals, where visitors looked up the location of specific names. Schmidt organized opening and closing ceremonies, a performance of “Taps” every day at dusk, and an oration of the 58,202 names inscribed on the wall that lasted four days. “People had their tissues out before they even got here,” Schmidt recalled. “And no one ran. It was apparent that this was a memorial, a commemorative scene. People stayed quiet and walked slowly.”[19]

From Mobile to Moving

Since 1984, two stewards have transported the memorial to over 1,000 communities throughout the U.S.
Since 1984, two stewards have transported the memorial to over 1,000 communities throughout the U.S.

When Devitt first conceived of the Moving Wall in 1982, his primary goal was to evoke an emotionally powerful experience, not to replicate the exact physical features of the original memorial. He modeled its physical form as a carrier for the 58,202 names that are carved into the original. For Devitt, the names “were what counted, the primary concern”[20] — the names, rather than an allegiance to the original memorial, were his main consideration in devising the traveling memorial. The names on the Moving Wall are arranged chronologically — as they are on the original — employing a design strategy devised by Lin to express a spatial connection between the number of U.S. casualties and the progression of the war. While the listing of names allows for the recognition of each individual soldier, the body of names, as a whole, communicates a wider political message about the immense scale of lives sacrificed to sustain U.S. involvement in the drawn-out war.

Devitt first attempted to reproduce the names photographically, but he found the polished granite surface of the original to be so reflective of its surroundings that the individual names became illegible in photographs. As a result, Devitt decided to silkscreen the names onto five Plexiglas panels, and the first moving memorial, the VVM (Mobile), was completed in time for Veterans’ Day 1984. Devitt recalled its immediate impact at its unveiling in Tyler, Tex.: “We hadn’t even put up the fifth panel when a Gold Star Mother placed a beautifully decorated candle at the base of the panel where her son’s name was displayed.”[21]

In devising a system to “carry” the names, Devitt’s main challenges were durability and portability. The VVM (Mobile) was retired after the 1986 tour because the Plexiglas panels had weathered so poorly; initially it was replaced by a kit of masonite panels laminated by a formica display surface for the names, with steel-tube framing for support. In 1988 the VVMF provided Devitt with photographic negatives of the names, a template Devitt used to have all of the names laser-engraved onto the surface. In 1990, Devitt constructed yet another moving memorial, this time out of 140 aluminum panels coated with a black polyurethane finish and supported by a kit of adjustable steel poles; it was also at this time that Devitt obtained a copyright for the moving memorial and changed its name from the VVM (Mobile) to the Moving Wall.

The Moving Wall is recognizable as an attempted duplicate of the original VVM, but in most senses its form represents a vast departure from that of its model. Because it is not sunken down into the ground and has little width or depth, the Moving Wall acts primarily as a two-dimensional display surface for the names and thus looks like a flattened version of the original. In addition, the Moving Wall’s aluminum panels are flimsy compared with the gravity and permanence imparted by Lin’s use of granite to construct the original. These differences, however, are what define the Moving Wall as a simulacrum. They point to the give-and-take relationship between Devitt’s desire to evoke his experience of the original and his determination to make the replica portable. And it is through these discrepancies that the Moving Wall becomes a memorial on its own — or, in Baudrillard’s words, an “emancipated sign, in which any and every class will be able to participate.”[22]

A Community Mobilizes

Opening ceremonies were held on October 25, 2003 in the field behind Bridgeport Elementary School.
Opening ceremonies were held on October 25, 2003 in the field behind Bridgeport Elementary School.

It took Gene Schmidt four years — and the help of a local senator — to successfully schedule an appearance of the Moving Wall in Bridgeport. Schmidt submitted Bridgeport’s first application in 1999 and was initially discouraged when the school district received no response from the Moving Wall’s headquarters in Michigan. But when he read about the Moving Wall’s appearance in Nespelem, Wa. — a rural town of only 200 people — Schmidt thought, “Well if they can do it, gosh, so can we.”[23]

Schmidt enlisted Krugel, the local postmaster, to help with logistics. The pair began fundraising well before the Moving Wall’s appearance in Bridgeport was even confirmed. “We got on the waiting list,” Krugel said. “But I didn’t know if we’d ever really get it.” Schmidt’s outlook was more optimistic: “I knew it would be just a matter of time before we’d get it. And in any case, we needed to start planning and fundraising as soon as possible. For a small town like ours, it was a major undertaking.”[24]

Relative to the tiny town of Nespelem, the city of Bridgeport may seem larger than it actually is — with a population of 2,000 residents, Bridgeport might be aptly characterized as a big small town.In a city where people struggle to make ends meet — half Bridgeport’s residents live with a median household income of $28,000 or less — Schmidt knew he could not rely on the community to make unsolicited donations to fund the Moving Wall display.[25] It costs about $4,000 to display the Moving Wall for one week — plus nine days’ worth of food and hotel rooms for the traveling stewards. All display fees are used by Devitt’s organization, Vietnam Combat Veterans, to cover the Moving Wall’s travel and maintenance costs. “This is not [an effort] to make the Memorial Fund of VCV, Ltd. rich,” the group’s guidelines state. “It is to ensure that The Moving Wall is not used or abused.”[26] In addition, local communities assume the costs of extras — everything from flags and marching bands to toilets and compensation for 24-hour-a-day guards.[27]

Schmidt and Krugel collaborated with local individuals and groups to raise the necessary funds. Through this process, which involved hundreds of residents, the Moving Wall became specific to the Bridgeport community, generating a level of significance and meaning well before the replica had even arrived. Schmidt and Krugel asked Sen. Maria Cantwell to write letters to John Devitt on the community’s behalf, and the pair procured the help of the Columbia Quilters, a group of Bridgeport residents who raffled off a quilt and donated the proceeds to the Moving Wall fund.

Schmidt also obtained financial support from Bridgeport’s veteran community. According to Krugel, the older World War II and Korean War veterans felt that the time had come to recognize the younger generation of vets who had served during Vietnam, many of whom were treated with hostility after returning from active duty. Krugel had experienced such disdain firsthand stepping off of a Greyhound bus in Los Angeles in 1969: “I wasn’t in uniform, but I had a military haircut. And someone spat on me three times. Obviously that is something I’ll never forget. There were stories of drug abuse, massacring children, and rape, all of which certainly happened. But not all vets took part in this — I certainly did not. To say the least, it was not a popular war.”[28]

Replicas — or Simulacra?

On the Moving Wall’s website, Devitt has posted the following statement to eliminate confusion between the original, not-for-profit version and other “so-called replicas” that have been sprouting up around the United States: “The Moving Wall is not just a generic name for any of the traveling replicas that copied The Moving Wall — it is a name that was given specifically to the nation’s first traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial during its fourth display back in February of 1985. The first visitors to the nation’s first memorial designed and built to be brought to the people were moved beyond words. Many expressed their thankfulness that absolutely nothing was expected of them — there was nothing for sale, no solicitations for money and no advertising. They found only the names on the wall and the memories that visitors brought with them. The Moving Wall is the only traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was actually designed and physically built by Vietnam Veterans with public donations.”[29]

But is the copy of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial best characterized as such? Is “replica” or “copy” an accurate designation for the Moving Wall, which, at approximately half the size of the original, packs neatly into four large bins and travels the United States on a flatbed truck? Baudrillard and his postmodern bedfellows have overthrown the concept of the “true” copy, or the notion that exact reproduction is even possible; in Baudrillard’s view, there is no more interpretive distance between the “real” and the “imaginary.” As it follows, there are no more copies — just simulacra. Baudrillard’s view of social progress, a scenario in which “every order subsumes the previous order,” renders the idea of the replica, and any belief in the existence of a “true” copy, mere nostalgia. The first order of the simulacrum is embedded in the second order, which is then absorbed by the third, making a total regression back to the era of the counterfeit impossible.

Even if the Moving Wall is widely referred to as a “replica,” it functions more like Baudrillard’s definition of a simulacrum, with each installation existing independently of the original VVM and making up one part of a spiraling network of individual experiences. In August 2005, Krugel described the Moving Wall less as a copy and more as a simulation of an effect — similar to Baudrillard’s notion of a “generative [experiential] core”: “It’s not granite, and it’s not down in the ground. It arrives on a truck and [is] put together with screws and bolts. But it’s not just about the visual experience — it’s about the emotions. When I think of other monuments, they’re just there. This just happens to be one that moves.”[30]

As “Real” as It Gets

In Schmidt and Krugel’s estimation, approximately 8,000 people visited the Moving Wall in Bridgeport, some traveling from as far as 200 miles away — but only 2 percent of them had ever visited the original in Washington. “Even if they can afford the trip, many people don’t want to go. They feel nervous about confronting those emotions — especially in public. For those 20 and under, Vietnam is a lesson in history. But for those 40 and above, those are very real and oftentimes painful moments to remember.”[31]

The nearly 4,000 school children who visited the Moving Wall did so at a safe remove; for kids, the experience is mostly educational. But for some visitors, the experience proved to be painfully personal. While the Moving Wall was in Bridgeport, Krugel and his wife paid several visits to the parents of one of the five soldiers from Bridgeport killed in the war. “We sat in their living room for an hour until we could even tell them why we were there. And then, we talked to this couple for four hours. The mother started to bring out pictures, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia from the soldier’s high school days that she had never shown to anyone. They were so resentful that they were unable to talk to anyone for 30 years about the death of their son. Bridgeport is close to Canada, where many people fled to avoid being drafted — the majority of people from here didn’t volunteer. That says a bit about how this couple and a lot of Bridgeport viewed the war.”[32]

A few days later, Krugel accompanied the parents of the slain soldier to the Moving Wall, where they grieved and displayed their son’s honorary medals. “That memory alone,” Krugel recalled, “makes the whole operation worthwhile.”[33]

Krugel also viewed the effort to bring the Moving Wall to Bridgeport as an opportunity to symbolize the unification of the local veterans community which, like most organizations with members of different generations, has suffered from internal divisiveness over the years. “There’s a saying among vets,” Krugel said, “that goes, ‘Never again.’ As in never again will vets of one war not support vets of another.”[34]

“So Many” Memorials, So Many Meanings

Last April, in reference to the nine separate visits of traveling VVM memorials — including the Moving Wall — to southern Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star published an article, titled “Are They Too Much of a Good Thing?” In the feature, several local residents are quoted as agreeing that while traveling replicas like the Moving Wall were “a good idea,” there was the possibility that they could lose their meaning if the walls are displayed too frequently. Mike Brewer, a veteran living in Tucson, took a more equivocal stance, citing high public demand as the likely reason for the proliferation of the memorials. “If you look at the math,” Brewer told the Daily Star, “the war was 13 years long, 2.5 million served in Vietnam and 9 million were in the military during that era. The war touched a lot of people. And even with so many models on tour, they have not saturated the market.”[35]

With “so many” replicas, and the exponential meanings generated through their production and display, a theorization of the Moving Wall resists total comprehension. As the Moving Wall is continually located and relocated on sites throughout the United States, it effectively defies a singularization of its meaning, and interpretations become multiplied through the ongoing process of simulation. Although millions of people continue to visit the original VVM in Washington, Baudrillard’s writings on the process of simulation — as applied to the case of The Moving Wall — provide a framework with which one is able to de-emphasize its importance as a discrete object and, in turn, recognize the presence of “so many” memorials and an even greater number of individually constructed realities. The Moving Wall does more than gesture toward the absence of an objective reality; it can be thought of as a traveling figure that generates multiple meanings in the absence of a singular truth. Unlike many of the minimalist memorials that we see today, it does more than merely gesture toward this eternal void. Instead it highlights the presence of more realities than we can know or name.


This paper is an extended version of the research, writing, and discussions that originated in a graduate seminar, Architecture and National Identity, taught by Greig Crysler in spring 2005. I am grateful to professor Crysler and to my classmates, many of whom helped to shape the thoughts presented in this paper.


[1] Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “The Memorial” [http://www.vvmf.org/index.cfm?SectionID=4], n.d.

[2] Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. “Physical Statistics of The Moving Wall™” [http://www.themovingwall.org/docs/physical.htm], n.d.

[3] Maya Ying Lin, Boundaries (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), 4:05. Maya Lin was declared winner of the nationwide competition on May 6, 1981.

[4] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 56. Originally published in 1981. For commentary on Baudrillard’s reputation as a postmodernist, see Douglas Kellner, “Baudrillard en route to Postmodernity” [http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/pomo/ch4.html], and Kellner, “Jean Baudrillard,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/baudrillard/], 2005.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The extent to which the VVM has influenced the design of future memorials was evident among proposals to the recent Ground Zero (2003-04), Flight 93 (2004-05) and National AIDS Memorial (2004-05) design competitions. For an example of how the VVM is exported internationally as an icon of America, see http://travel.discovery.com/convergence/americanicon/vietnamvets/vietnamvets.html.

[7] Edward J. Gallagher, “The Vietnam Wall Controversy,” Lehigh University Department of English [http://www.lehigh.edu/~ejg1/vietnam/content/round1.htm] and [http://www.lehigh.edu/~ejg1/vietnam/content/round2.htm], n.d.

[8]Kristin Ann Hass, “Making a Memory of War: Building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” From Carried to the Wall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 12.

[9] Paul Richard, “Design Competition for Vietnam Memorial,” Washington Post, Nov. 11, 1980, B7. Archival footage of Lin’s testimony at public hearings in the Capitol can be seen in Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders’ documentary film A Strong, Clear Vision (New York: New Video Group, 1995).

[10] Wolf Von Eckardt, “Of Heart and Mind: The Serene Grace of the Vietnam Memorial,” Washington Post, May 16, 1981, B1.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “The Three Servicemen Statue” [http://www.vvmf.org/index.cfm?SectionID=103], n.d.

[13] Jim Belshaw, “John Devitt: Travels With The Wall,” Veteran [http://www.vva.org/TheVeteran/2001_01/thewall.htm], December 2000/January 2001.

[14] Gerry Stegmaier, “The Moving Wall,” Among Friends[http://www.themovingwall.org/docs/stegmair.htm], n.d.

[15] See “History of The Moving Wall™ Displays,” Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. [http://www.themovingwall.org/], n.d.

[16]Veterans Combat Veterans, Ltd. Replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Suspected Misinformation/Disinformation [http://home.earthlink.net/~vcvltdvetnet/wall0602.htm], May 25, 1997.

[17] Ken Krugel in a telephone interview conducted by the author on Aug. 17, 2005.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Belshaw, http://www.vva.org/TheVeteran/2001_01/thewall.htm.

[21]Stegmaier, http://www.themovingwall.org/docs/stegmair.htm.

[22] Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant (London, Thousand Oaks, and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1993), 51. Originally published 1976.

[23]Gene Schmidt in a telephone interview with the author, Aug. 16, 2005.


[25]U.S. Census Bureau, “Summary of Census Data for Bridgeport, Washington” [www.ofm.wa.gov/census2000/dp58/pl/07870.pdf], 2000.

[26] Criticism of Jan Scruggs.

[27] Schmidt, Aug. 16, 2005.

[28] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[29] Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. “Scheduling the Moving Wall™” [http://www.themovingwall.org/docs/skedling.htm], n.d.

[30] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[31] Schmidt, Aug. 16, 2005.

[32] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Carol Ann Alaimo, “Are they too much of a good thing?” Arizona Daily Star, April 16, 2005.

Martin Luther King Memorial

By Bonnie Fisher MLA  ’80 / ROMA Design Group

In 2000, ROMA Design Group won the international design competition for the Martin Luther King National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There were more than 1,000 competition entries, and members of the design jury included Ricardo Legoretta, Charles Correia, the designer of the Gandhi Memorial, and Randy Hester, professor of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley, amongst others. The design team members included ROMA Design Group partner Bonnie Fisher MLA ’80, Dipti Garg MUD ’03, Joel Tomei MArch ’67, and Carl Baker BA Arch ’99. After winning the competition, ROMA formed a Joint Venture with the Devrouax & Purnell in Washington, D.C. for the implementation of the design. Construction is expected to begin by November 2006 and be completed in 2008.

fisher_1The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is designed to increase our awareness of Dr. King’s message regarding human rights and civil liberties and to help build an understanding of his role as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and his legacy in shaping the meaning of democracy in America. The project is conceived within the environmental tradition that characterizes more recent memorials such as the Vietnam War and the FDR memorials, rather than the single monument or commemorative building of previous eras. The King Memorial utilizes landscape elements — water, stone, and trees — to heighten the experience of place and to evoke the kind of emotional response that Dr. King conveyed in his poetic use of language. It contributes to the larger Olmstedian landscape of the National Mall and is located on a four-acre site that will be created by the relocation of the existing West Basin Drive. The site strengthens the axial relationship between the King, Jefferson, and Lincoln memorials and expresses the evolving message of democracy through the continuum of time, from the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address to the Civil Rights speech Dr. King delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

fisher_2This memorial is not designed to be experienced in a single way, with a single message, but rather to have a broad accessibility that appeals to all of the senses, with diverse, repetitive ,and overlapping themes. The introduction of an arcing berm into the dominant horizontality of the site creates a complexity of spaces suitable for moving, viewing, sitting, meeting, speaking, and congregating in large and small groups. The circular geometry of the memorial juxtaposed with the triangular configuration of the site engages the tidal basin and frames views to the water, creating a space that is peaceful and expansive and that, in its form, nurtures inclusivity and a sense of community. Within the space, the words of Dr. King are incised on a curving wall of water, heightening visitors’ sensory experiences and adding to the understanding of his message of freedom, justice, and peace. The memorial engages the visitor by revealing the struggle of the movement and the promise of democracy, with the “Mountain of Despair” (the twin portals of stone flanking the entry) opening onto the “Stone of Hope” (a solitary monolith hewn from the two entry pieces). The image of Dr. King emerges from the “Stone of Hope,” standing vigil and awaiting delivery of the promise “that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is a memorial that celebrates Dr. King’s hope and optimistic spirit, as well as the value he placed on active citizenship rather than complacency and submission. It is not intended to be a eulogy, nor to focus on death or enshrinement. As Dr. King said, “Death is a comma, not a period.” When the cherry trees blossom in the springtime marking the season of his death, they will celebrate Dr. King’s life and achievement. The memorial is intended to be personally transformative for visitors, building a sense of commitment to the promise of positive social change and higher levels of achievement related to human rights and civil liberties.

The Joint Venture project team is led by Paul Devrouax, Managing Principal; Boris Dramov, Design Principal; and Bonnie Fisher, Landscape Principal (M.L.A. ’80).

Key staff of ROMA Design Group’s current effort include Mimi Ahn, Craig McGlynn, Jim Leritz, Joel Tomei (B.Arch., and M.Arch., ‘67), Dipti Garg (M.U.D., ’03), and Robert Holloway.

Key members of the design team for the competition include Boris Dramov, Design Team Leader, Bonnie Fisher (M.L.A. ‘80), Burton Miller, Robert Holloway and Carl Baker (BA in Arch., ’99). In addition to ROMA, other key members contributing to the design competition include Christopher Grubbs (illustrator) and Dr. Clayborne Carson (historical consultant).

All images courtesy ROMA Design Group. Renderings by Christopher Grubbs Illustrator

The Y-Plan for Youth Insights

This article is dedicated to the memory of Kevin Aaron, Class of 2003, Department of City & Regional Planning, who worked diligently to make McClymonds mini-park redesign a reality for the youth of West Oakland.

Kevin Aaron working with McCiymonds students.

Under the guidance of the innovative UC Berkeley-based Y-PLAN, 40 youngsters from McClymonds High School in West Oakland have created preliminary designs for a unique and inviting neighborhood gathering place, transforming what the City of Oakland called “one of the six most dangerous parks in Oakland.” To accomplish this, the teenagers partnered with 20 city planning, design and education graduate students to create a plan, win support of community agencies, and develop the once drug-infested property just 20 feet from their school. Today, not only the park but the participating individuals and organizations are being transformed by their successful experience.

The Y-PLAN is an award-wining classroom and community-based research project through which graduate students engage in Bay Area community development projects by teaching city planning and design to local high school students. The project is at the core of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development’s new Center for Cities and Schools, founded by the author and doctoral student Jeff Vincent. The center’s vision is to bridge the fields of education and urban policy to create equitable, diverse, and livable cities and schools.

Underlying the strategy of both the Center and the Y-PLAN is the knowledge that public space is a powerful identity-forming presence in the lives of urban teenagers. They understand the rhythm and nature of places in unique ways, defined by the way they use the area and the social relations that are generated there — not by what other “experts” deem important. The Y-PLAN process validates these insights and the powerful contributions young people can make to improving public spaces. The program helps them translate their unique understanding of the places where they live, play, or go to school into proposals for improving their environment.

the final design of the McCiymonds Mini Park, a permanent allee of trees is transformed by each class, which plants a tree for each freshman in a temporary bed
The final design of the McCiymonds Mini Park, a permanent allee of trees is  transformed by each class, which plants a tree for each freshman in a temporary bed

The Y-PLAN begins with a 10-week mentorship class in community development, taught by the graduate students. Working with their graduate student partners, the high school students develop plans and then present them to a jury of civic leaders and professional designers. Past panel reviewers have included CED Dean Harrison Fraker, City and Regional Planning Chair John Landis, Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, CED alumni such as Amanda Kobler, also a former Y-PLAN participant, and many local residents. The goal of the final presentation is not only to get feedback but also to galvanize support and stewardship for the youth’s ideas.

That is exactly what happened in May 2002, when the jury involved in a Y-PLAN project to redesign an abandoned mini-park in West Oakland decided to join with the youthful participants in realizing their vision. Besides their sense of accomplishment, the teenagers, too often alienated from public processes, learned the invisible mechanisms and practices of urban change: what they have done once, they may be able to do again. All of them benefited from their close working relationships with possible role models, and one, Yahya Abdulmateen, is now a freshman in CED. Talking about the Y-PLAN experience he said:

“Getting the opportunity to work with college students on something that I had such high interest in was a great experience. I got to experience what the design process was for architects. I enjoyed working with people who had the same career interests as myself…The Y-PLAN helped me to get a better understanding of planning and architecture as a whole. It also provided me an architectural mentor by introducing me to Professor Walter Hood. I stepped onto the Berkeley campus feeling like I had an advantage.”

In the end it was the compelling insights discovered by the local high school students in the Y-Plan experience that persuaded Walter Hood to take on the challenge of bringing the project into a built reality. Hood believes that “a static master plan is ultimately a useless goal — what we strive to do is find a dynamic set of operations that gives hope and vision to citizens’ desires. It is not about a finite image. The community invests in a process that delivers design dreams.”

Hood’s dynamic approach to community design is best illustrated in his designs for Cesar Chavez Park. The phasing diagrams show how the park will evolve over time with each community “operation”, leading to phase (5) illustrated in the model and plan. What distinguishes Hood’s work, however, is not just involving the community in a “dynamic set of operations” but in his search for the “poetic moment”. As Hood explains,“working with communities is not only meetings, brainstorming and design charrettes, but involves funding ways to elevate particular ideas so they reach a poetic moment in material form.”

In working with the students, school officials and residents at McClymonds Mini Park, Hood had them write “narratives” about the place, draw a “timeline” of the site’s history, and identify “objects” of meaning to its history and story. In the process, the community (and Hood) discovered ideas of deep significance that lead to the following major design ideas:

  1. Expanding out into 26th Street to enlarge the park and closing through traffic.
  1. Removing a large portion of fencing that faces the park and building movable gates developed in coordination with local artist.
  1. Planting a linear promenade of trees that stretch across the entire school grounds connecting the north and south streets.

Hood and the community have proposed a framework for change to the public space around McClymonds High School that if successfully implemented, will be unprecedented. Through a process of design activism, the integration of the school back into the community may be possible. This could not happen if not for the work of students in the Y-PLAN who provided the inspiration to re-imagine the streets and park of McClymonds.