Entangled Culture and Nature: Toward a Sustainable Jackson Park in the Twenty-First Century | Patricia Marie O'Donnell and Gregory Wade De Vries

Entangled Culture and Nature: Toward a Sustainable Jackson Park in the Twenty-First Century | Patricia Marie O’Donnell and Gregory Wade De Vries


The Jackson Park GLFER project seeks to advance park landscape adaptation and resilience to the anticipated regional effects of climate change, the most common being increased temperatures and drought, while supporting a full range of urban life—human, flora, and fauna. The objectives of the project were the simultaneous rehabilitation of the historic park and the ecological restoration of habitat. Terminology describing this project presents a challenge, as disciplinary boundaries of historic preservation and ecological restoration overlap. In previous projects addressing historically valuable landscapes, the tension between values of nature/ecology and those of cultural/historic assets often yields an unbalanced outcome, with one aspect dominant over another. The collaboration forged in the Jackson Park project, funded by Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER), sought to recalibrate this elusive balance by valuing historic and environmental legacies and their potentials, and acting on a shared belief that culture and nature are interdependent and evolving.

Jackson Park, Chicago, is the celebrated site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the fair that launched the City Beautiful movement. The landscape, designed by F. L. & J. C. Olmsted, Landscape Architects, combined naturalistic and formal styles to showcase the nearly six hundred–acre grounds to twenty-eight million visitors between April and October, 1893.2 In 1895, two years after the event and the demolition of over two hundred temporary structures, the visionary South Park Commissioners called upon the Olmsted firm to reshape the landscape as a public park. The current project, a partnership to simultaneously revitalize cultural heritage, ecological health, and contemporary use and management, researched those park rebuilding documents as the basis for an unusual but fruitful collaboration. The technical project team of landscape architects, planners, ecologists, engineers, and construction specialists developed construction documents that rehabilitate the landscape’s Olmstedian character, improve habitat for a range of diverse species, welcome a broad range of daily park uses by people, and address management needs for a sustainable twenty-first-century urban park.3


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