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Making Connections Between the LAR Archive and the College of Design

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This fall, a handful of faculty and students of the College of Design are taking advantage of the Landscape Architecture (LA) Archive, housed in the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). The growing collection contains drawings, photographs, slides, oral history interviews, plans, specifications, project files, and ephemera that comprise the papers of noted landscape architects. These materials are all available upon request to researchers and include the works of noted practitioners like Lewis Clarke, Richard C. Bell, Charles A. Flink [BEDLA ’82], Richard A. Moore, Gil Wheless, Geoffrey Duart McLean, William L. Flournoy Jr., and others.

The archive is still growing—in 2014, the Libraries established the Lewis Clarke Landscape Architecture Special Collections Endowment. “We are really prepared for the future and to preserve these materials in perpetuity,” said Susan Nutter, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries at NC State, upon introducing a panel on the subject in April.

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Graduate student Lindsey Naylor [MLA’18] is working closely with the LA archive as a research assistant through the Graduate Student Support Plan under the direction of Gwyneth Thayer, Associate Head and Curator of the SCRC, and Professor Gene Bressler, FASLA and Head of the Landscape Architecture at the College of Design. With one foot firmly in landscape architecture and the other dipping into the archive, Naylor is positioned to bridge the two departments. “I’m hoping to identify opportunities to connect the archive to specific class projects and to faculty and student research, and to see students take inspiration from the collections as they develop their own design processes,” she says.

_mah4839Bressler, her faculty mentor, hopes to leverage Naylor’s position to determine what materials in the archive will be most useful for student researchers and the LA graduate program. “Once the word gets out about the quality and quantity of materials in the archive, there’s going to be a mad dash over there to take advantage of that,” he says. Bressler also sees opportunities for professionals outside of the university to make use of the archive. “One of the things we’re building here is the capacity in continuing education for professionals, and I could see that some of these courses would direct the practitioners to avail themselves of the material in the archive, which would be invaluable.”

The archive is also benefitting Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Fernando Magallanes. Magallanes delved into the archive over a year ago in order to create an exhibit of Richard C. Bell’s works, and as a result, came to understand the value of seeing a practitioner’s works “firsthand.” He’ll be introducing students to the archive this fall in his course, Landscape Architecture History. “Having access to this primary source of historic material is an extraordinary benefit for the students, the design community, regional historians, and scholars,” he says. “The archive is an invaluable asset for maintaining the design legacy for North Carolinians and also as an important place of study and learning for future designers.”

Ph.D. candidate in design Nick Serrano is working closely with the Lewis Clarke Collection and others to complete research on postwar landscape architecture and urban development in North Carolina and the American south. He, too, advocates for the use of the archive by students and the collection’s “national resonance” and believes “there are many opportunities for incorporating the archive into programs at the college outside of teaching: lectures, research programs, and alumni functions.”

Serrano spoke on a panel hosted by the NCSU Libraries and Friends of the Library in April, during Landscape Architecture Month. The panel focused on the growing LA Archive and its accessibility to students and researchers, as well as future directions it can take. Also on the panel were Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and faculty fellow on the Institute for Emerging Issues Kofi Boone, ASLA; Flink, FASLA, President of Greenways Incorporated, and award-winning author; Susan Hatchell [MLA ’82], FASLA, President of Susan Hatchell Landscape Architecture, and former president of the American Society of Landscape Architects; Daniel A. Howe, FASLA, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Landscape Architecture at NC State, and former assistant city manager for the City of Raleigh; and Anna Reaves, ASLA, former Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at North Carolina A&T State University, and principal of Revington Reaves Landscape Architecture and Planning.

_mah4908Flink spoke of the exciting opportunities ahead for LA as a global profession. Howe considered the diverse population of students at NCSU and whether North Carolina LA is expanding beyond the region. Reaves suggested that the archive should document not only the papers of established architects but also “start documenting issues from a well-rounded and human perspective, grabbing stories together so we can connect to issues we need to be thinking about as we design into the future.” And Hatchell also emphasized the importance of talking to the community members served by various projects and involving the voices of rural people, women, and minorities.

Overall, the noted group of professionals believed that as the archive expands, there are many opportunities to increase its contents and relevance to the community. “The archive can be a wall that preserves the precious legacy of people in a certain era or it can be a platform and an expanded canon that embraces different points of view,” proposed Boone.

Thayer, whose mission it is to keep the archive relevant to the university and to continue to bring in valuable materials that will be an asset to the campus community, is committed to keeping the dialogue between the LA archive and the community going. “We’re building our collections in ways that will benefit faculty and students,” she says. “We want to make sure that everyone is aware of the wonderful resources in the archive and will make use of the collections in their study and research.”

To explore the Landscape Architecture Archive online, visit https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/scrc/landscape-architecture.

To view the oral history of Charles (Chuck) Flink, click HERE.

Photo Credits: Marc Hall


Julie Steinbacher [MFA ’16] is a transplant from Parkton, Maryland. She writes science fiction and her story “Chimeras” was a Notable Story in this year’s Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives and works in Raleigh, NC, as a freelance writer and editor. To read her fiction, visit http://julie-steinbacher.com.

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