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Minnesota LAs meet and fete

The Minnesota Society of Landscape Architects held a recent dinner honoring landscape architecture pioneer Roger Martin at Minneapolis's Mill City Museum.

Minnesota's landscape architects gathered to socialize and celebrate their achievements at the Mill City Museum on April 15.

The annual awards dinner of the Minnesota Society of Landscape Architects was a down-home affair : soft-shoe and blazer, rather than tuxedo and black tie.

It was also a love-fest. Minnesota's 250 landscape architects genuinely seem to like one another.

"It's in our nature," said retired landscape architect and University of Minnesota professor Roger Martin, who received the professional group's first Valued Places Award. "We're all about context and fitting in rather than trying to put our stamp on things."

Since Frederick Law Olmsted founded the U.S. profession when he and Calvert Vaux designed New York City's Central Park in the 1850s, landscape architects have shaped our surroundings while going largely unnoticed.

A Minneapolis case in point is Martin, who started the landscape-architecture program at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1960s. For 30 years, Martin designed parks, parkways and their elements for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Of course, he didn't do all this alone, he's the first to add. For 15 years, he was part of the interdisciplinary firm of InterDesign, which included architects Dewey Thorbeck and Al French, graphic designer Peter Seitz and early computer designer Stephen Kahne.

For the next 15 years, he and his award-winning colleague Marjorie Pitz ran their landscaping firm, Martin and Pitz.

From 1972 to 1987, Martin and his partners redesigned the entire parkway system, implementing a master plan by Garret Eckbo, a pioneer of modern landscape design.

Frank Lloyd Wright once summarized most people's notion of landscape architecture: "The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."

Today, it has become a broad profession that includes landscape design, sustainability and urban and regional planning, said John Slack, this year's MASLA president. Firms range from one-man shops to giant engineering firms with landscape and planning departments.

--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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December 8, 2019, 7:47 am PDT

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