Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Exhibit on Indiana's Conservation Design History

The College of Architecture and Planning's gallery is now hosting an extraordinary exhibit titled Celebrating Indiana’s Conservation Design Heritage: Selections from the Archives of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, curated by Christopher Baas, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, and Ryan Smith, a second year graduate student in Landscape Architecture.

Displaying drawings mined from the vast archives at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Engineering, this exhibit explores a wide range of drawing types for state owned properties: master plans, conceptual designs, and construction drawings. The majority of the collection is the federally funded New Deal Era landscapes and structures, but several date to the reservoir construction era of the 1960s and 70s.

Due to security issues, the exhibit contains high-resolution images scaled to the original size of the drawings, not the original drawings themselves. However, two original, featured works from the exhibit are on display at the Drawings and Documents Archive down the hall from the gallery. They are a Jens Jensen design he created for the Prairie Club Fountain, Indiana Dunes State Park in 1932, and an elaborate drawing by John Lloyd Wright for Beach Cabin Units, also at the Indiana Dunes State Park, in 1930.

Jens Jensen, as a member of the Chicago’s Prairie Club, was instrumental in attempts to establish a Dunes National Park in the years leading up to WWI. After the attempts faltered, Indiana created a state park in the late 1920s (the National Lakeshore was not established until the late 1960s). As a thank you, Prairie Club members held a fountain design competition of which this design of Jensen’s won. The fountain was dedicated in 1932. It was unearthed from a dune and moved to a location near the park’s visitor center in the 1980s.

This drawing was likely the landscape architect’s proposal to the state seeking approval for construction (a reasonable explanation for it being in the DNR archives). A similar set of construction drawings is located at the Jensen Archives at the University of Michigan.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John, had a practice in Long Beach, Indiana. He had a lengthy career both in Indiana, and later in California. He was also the inventor of Lincoln Logs. Little is known about this commission beyond what the drawing communicates. Wright presents a conceptual plan for a multi-story motel that is cleverly integrated into the dune landscape. The project was never constructed.

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