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Spatial Artifacts: Eckbo Uncovered

{Bay Lido Building Pocket Park, 1958, Garrett Eckbo. Apologies for the poor quality. Image Via: Modern Landscape for Living}

Friend, neighbor, fellow OSU alum, and landscape architect Kevin Newrones, while reading Modern Landscapes for Living, realized that one of the photos featured in the book was a 1958 Garrett Eckbo pocket park that stood just up the road from our homes.

In general, the notoriety of acclaimed landscape architecture projects are typically limited to that of our own kind, and even in that regard, we are, at least I certainly am, capable of standing in a space designed by one of the greats and would not necessarily notice.

Inspired by a trip to Boston, in which another LA friend had extensively mapped out all the landscape architectural nodes of significance. A map which I’m still perplexed by it’s intricate historical expanse, included virtually unknown pocket parks designed by Olmsted. How the kid finds these things I still don’t know, but I was excited to contribute to uncovering my own hidden space of reputable design.

Tucked neatly just between the Lido Bridge and the Elks Lodge in Newport Beach CA, is a small bayfront promenade designed by Eckbo in 1958. Although the original detailed hardscape no longer remains, in classic Eckbo form, the aged park still possesses the diagonal to coalesce natural and geometric form and provides tension, direction, and dynamic quality. Eckbo’s modernist approach devised a new axiality, a new geometry without symmetry but with balanced structure in order and space.

{Eckbo’s Bay Lido Pocket Park Today, 2009 Newport Beach CA}

{Eckbo’s Bay Lido Pocket Park Today, 2009 Newport Beach CA}

Saddened by it’s dilapidated state, I plan on contacting the city to spark interest in a restoration project, although given Newport Beach’s ineffectual bureaucratic reputation, I’m not getting my hopes up.

I have to wonder how many spaces I’ve traversed through completely unaware of it’s infamous creator. And how many of these landscapes fade and are submerged and covered by encroaching and morphing infrastructure. I suppose its a bit romantic to envision such spaces as living organisms, whose lives last as long as the spirit and people for which they were designed. Are we justified in restoring them, or should we let them go peacefully?

If you have a similar happening I’d love to hear it, and if you know of a surviving significant landscape in jeopardy please contact the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

5 Comments

  1. For a very recently recorded discussion between Reuben Rainey and the late Robert Royston (Eckbo’s working partner for nearly 2 decades) refer to Terragrams dispatch 11 at http://www.terragrams.com.

  2. Thanks Craig. I’ve been following Terragrams for a while now, its a great platform.

  3. Hi Adam, I read your article here and I am wondering if you have looked into any kind of California historic preservation group or foundation (in addition to the cultural landscape foundation) to support the restoration of this site. A group like this might strengthen your case as you present it to the city. As far as I understand, since it is from 1958, it is past the 50 year mark for being considered “historic” by historic/landscape preservationists. I feel compelled to ask this because I am taking a historic landscape preservation class and a cultural landscapes class, as I’m beginning my master’s at Ball State

  4. Hey Stephanie. To be honest I haven’t had time to really look into it, but that’s great advice about a possible CA historic preservation group. I’ll be sure to use you as a resource if I have a questions along the way.

  5. Yes feel free to do that, and there are a few of my professors who have been extremely involved in things like this.

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