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Two views: Richmond’s iconic river scene

leave a comment » – News Two views: Richmond’s iconic river scene

Published: September 02, 2012 Updated: September 02, 2012 – 12:00 AM

This year, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has set out to identify and recognize America’s most iconic landscapes.

In a ceremony held on Aug. 30 at Libby Hill Park in Richmond, representatives of the national and state ASLA presented state and city officials with a declaration celebrating the view of the James River from the Libby Hill overlook as one of America’s finest examples.

“The view that named Richmond,” as it is called, was selected because of its historic, cultural and scenic qualities that help define the character and sense of place of the city and its region.

As part of the national program, this ceremony kicked off an independent community-service planning project to be led by landscape architects. The project will study the viewshed of the James River in Richmond and determine how it can be protected for future generations, while realizing its potential for economic development.

This effort will culminate in a public planning and design charrette facilitated by ASLA members. It will build on prior plans, including the recent Richmond Riverfront Plan and Downtown Master Plan, two excellent efforts prepared by noted landscape architectural firms.

The ASLA-facilitated process will further study and make recommendations specifically addressing viewsheds. It will not be about any one parcel or group of properties, but will look at the entire riverfront as seen from Libby Hill.

* * * * *

As the word “icon” implies, there is a spiritual basis for the strong connection between people and scenic views, especially those that include water as seen from an elevated position in the landscape. Viewing scenery is a popular recreational and economically important tourism activity in America; the management of viewsheds, such as the one from Libby Hill Park, is thus vitally important.

This view has received much attention in recent times from numerous organizations, including Scenic Virginia, The Garden Club of Virginia, the Partnership for Smarter Growth, the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods, the Church Hill Association and the Historic Richmond Foundation. Most recently, it was designated by Preservation Virginia as one of its 10 most endangered historic sites in Virginia.

Whereas landscape architects often share the goals of preservation groups, this effort will not be focused on preventing development, but rather on protecting and enhancing the views as a public resource.

Members of ASLA are professional, licensed landscape architects who search for a balanced, scientific approach to responsible land-use planning. They are highly trained professionals who seek to protect and enhance natural resources while maximizing the use potential of a site, bringing people and the land together in an environmentally compatible way. It’s a win-win approach.

As former national president of ASLA and a native of Richmond, I’m very pleased to see a professional organization like ASLA focusing on the importance of this and other viewsheds throughout America as a public resource, recognizing their recreational and economic value.

* * * * *

Because of my interest in viewsheds and their public importance, I recently joined the board of Scenic Virginia as a landscape architect with expertise in visual resource management to help undertake their important new project: to create a registry of landscapes of exceptional scenic value throughout the commonwealth.

This project, now under way, will create public awareness of scenic resources, such as the view from Libby Hill, so that their presence and value are understood by people making land-use decisions.

It is my hope that the ASLA’s viewshed planning project in Richmond will be a prototype for recognition of important views statewide.

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Written by vaphc

September 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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