CAPLA Students and Faculty Win Honors in Prestigious HALS Competition

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CAPLA Students and Faculty Win Honors in Prestigious HALS Competition

UA College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture
January 9, 2015

by Mason Gates​

Over the last three years R. Brooks Jeffery, Director of the Drachman Institute and a professor at the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA), has tasked his Heritage Conservation students with using their growing skill set to help record and preserve historic landscapes in Arizona.  When he began the Heritage Conservation program, one intent was to foster relationships between CAPLA students and working professionals, by providing examples of real-world projects they might encounter in their careers. Working with undergraduate and graduate students in tandem, he was able to accomplish both tasks by participating in the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge.

HALS is a program initiated by the National Parks Service to create a documentary record of American landscape development and heritage. In 2001, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the National Parks Service, and the Library of Congress established HALS and in 2010, these organizations signed a tripartite agreement making it a permanent federal program. Through its yearly competition, CAPLA students have been able to work in teams under the project supervision of Drachman Institute Project Director Helen Erickson, CAPLA Master of Real Estate Development Program Coordinator Gina Chorover, both of whom are Arizona Chapter ASLA members, and City of Tucson Historic Preservation Office Lead Planner Jennifer Levstik.

The Heritage Conservation program most recently participated in the 2014 HALS Challenge on behalf of the Arizona Chapter of ASLA. Each year the National Park Service provides a theme under which contestants operate. This year’s challenge was Landscapes of the New Deal in which the class conducted documentation based on national (HALS) standards for Tumacácori National Historical Park, The Tucson Plant Material Center, and Colossal Cave Mountain Park.  These three projects were submitted along with four others documenting New Deal landscapes located throughout Arizona.

Under the direction of president Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, the New Deal sought to alleviate the destitution of the Great Depression through a series of domestic programs between 1933 and 1938. During this time, many locations in Arizona were being given distinction as national landmarks and improved in a manner befitting such recognition. One such location, the Tumacácori National Historical Park, was documented by a team of students led by Helen Erickson. Tumacácori was originally a mission church constructed by Jesuits in the 18th Century and became a national monument in 1908. During the New Deal Era, a visitor center, garden, entrance, barrier wall, archeological excavations, and landscaping were completed. The team’s report included maps, sketches, and a general inventory of landscape features, accomplishing the HALS goal of making landscapes visible and of equal historical significance with the architectural and archeological resources of Tumacácori and sites like it.

The teams compiled seven total submissions, a number which earned them Honorable Mention at this year's competition awards ceremony. All of this year’s projects are now housed and protected at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Bri Lehman, an MLA candidate highlighted her project, “The nomination I worked on was for Colossal Cave Mountain Park, which is located just southeast of Tucson in Vail. This park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, and was one of the only caves that was a part of the work done by the CCC around the country.” The value of these contributions to historical record is not lost on Bri. “For me, it was important to participate in this nomination process because it familiarized me with exactly what is required in order to complete these nomination forms, and really underscored the magnitude of documenting these landscapes before they disappear.”

The Arizona HALS team will continue to work in partnership with students from all over the state; they look to expand their volunteer opportunities to Northern Arizona University very soon. "The relationship between historical landscapes and sustainability is starting to become more and more important," Helen Erickson said. "Training students to understand them as inextricably linked allows them to see things they wouldn't see otherwise."

R. Brooks Jeffery expanded on the competition, “The HALS documentation challenge has been a great opportunity for our Heritage Conservation students to compete – and succeed – nationally against established professionals.  This experience prepares them to enter the profession with confidence and contribute to an exciting tradition of competition success at the UofA.” 

UA Students combined strengths with their AZ Chapter of ASLA counterparts from Arizona State University. The ASU students were led by Phoenix-area landscape architects Jim Coffman, Caryn Logan-Heaps, and Aaron Allen. Congratulations to UA Students Ismat Ayman Abdulhamid, Jeff Braun, Megan Brooks, Caitlin Brown, Alexis Cardenas, Rebecca Caroli, Cannon Daughtrey, Jonathan Dugan, Allison Dunn, Elondra Ome Eichenberger, Cristina Urias Espinoza, Starr Herr-Cardillo, Brianna Lehman, Steven Santillan, Stephanie Stiscia, and Cortney West, whose diligent efforts for R. Brooks Jeffery’s class garnered them such high praise at the 2014 HALS Challenge awards ceremony.

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