November 19, 2009

One hanging garden or cascade deserves another

Babylon is not the only setting for hanging gardens. Now, Armenia has one, too. Michael Kimmelman details the origins of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in his article for the NY Times titled "Unveiling the Hanging Gardens of Armenia" (Nov. 19, 2009).

Kimmelman writes of the design,

I arrived, having been invited to lecture at the opening, dimly aware of the center’s history, which began during the 1930s, when a prominent local architect, Alexander Tamanyan, conceived the Cascade, as it’s called, a towering, white travertine ziggurat of artificial waterfalls and gardens tumbling down a promontory that links the historic residential and business centers of the city.

The Cafesjian Cascade reminded me of Oakland's Cleveland Cascade which connects a residential neighborhood to Lake Merritt and Oakland's downtown. The original essay was posted on September 22, 2006 and is reposted below. Enjoy (again).

Cleveland Cascade, 1931. Source: clevelandcascade.org

The Cleveland Cascade is located in Lake Merritt Park in Oakland, CA. The water feature was designed and built in 1923 by landscape architect Howard Gilkey. In the post World War II period, the cascade was filled in and planted with rosemary, though the irrigation feature was maintained. Two years ago, in a move described as a "guerilla act," neighbors began restoring the water feature to its original design. The early work consisted of locating documentation of the original design (see above) and removing plant materials. The Oakland City Council has allocated Measure DD funding to completely restore the cascade to its "original flowing-water gurgling vitality."

Source: Oakland Department of Public Works

Measure DD (The Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks) is an approximately $198,000,000 bond to finance the purchase, construction, restoration, and improvement of recreation facilities, creeks, waterways, Lake Merritt, and the Oakland Estuary. The Cleveland Cascade is one Lake Merritt Park project. Other park projects are 12th Street (restoration of the original scenic boulevard), Lakeside Drive (restoration of the municipal boathouse), and Lakeshore Avenue (daylighting the channel by removing the 14th Street/12th Street interchange).

The Lake Merritt Park improvement projects have been criticized, especially in regards to tree removals. Officials cite poor physiological and structural and various communities of interest claim that the existing trees have social, historical, and ecological value.

Here are a few articles reporting on the tree controversy:

There are several Lake Merritt advocacy organizations including the North Lake Merritt Neighborhood Group, Waterfront Action, and the Lake Merritt Institute.

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