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2012 Award of Honor -Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Cultural Landscape Report
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Project Category:  Research and Communication

Project Name:  Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Cultural Landscape Report

Project Location:  Miami, FL 33129

Date of Completion:  2011 (1910–1925, construction of original Villa Vizcaya)
 

Landscape Architect:  Falcón + Bueno  - Juan Antonio Bueno

(www. falconbueno.com

Landscape Contractor:  Pamar Landscape 

Owner:  Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The research for this pivotal report considered the historical evolution and period plans together with the existing conditions and current uses to address both the natural and the cultural landscapes at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Based on a thorough analysis of historical integrity and a comprehensive exploration of restoration treatments, the report also established the Stewardship and Management Plan for this fifty-acre American villa, designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior in 1994. 

A team of landscape architects—experts in the fields of garden history, historic preservation, and landscape ecology and management—conducted the necessary research and analysis as well as undertook the effective communication of the findings. A private philanthropic group that is committed to the promotion of Vizcaya sponsored and assisted in the promulgation of this two-year effort in order to enhance the preservation and advancement of the institution, which is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Historical and morphological methodologies, common to art and architecture, were followed for the gardens and a landscape ecological approach was implemented for the natural communities. Central to the historical methods was the examination of the gardens in the context of the milieu and their creators, often in comparison to similar Eclectic Revival works. Where appropriate, form and semiotics were also considered. Central to all the research was the use of the Vizcaya Archives—over a thousand images and documents were analyzed. 

The research led to the analysis of the gardens as twelve landscape units with corresponding original and extant conditions. Then the comprehensive stewardship and management plan for the gardens was developed against the historical conditions incorporating the current use and maintenance efforts in the different landscape units. Historic preservation treatments for the twelve units were specified in accordance with federal guidelines, as actions for preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, or reconstruction.

The research on the natural landscape involved the careful interpretation of a diverse array of record maps, historic photographs, land surveys, and bay soundings, as well as on-site and off-site observations. As a result, the original and extant natural communities were identified and mapped—two rocklands with ecotone, three coastal uplands, two tidal wetlands, and two estuarine communities. Historical disturbances as well as remnant, regeneration, and ephemeral elements were also mapped. 

A landscape ecological approach, using the matrix-patch-strip model, was then utilized to establish goals, objectives, and recommendations for action. Most important among the ecological goals were the reconstitution of the forest mantle, the linking of the remnant patches and strips, and the integral reconnectivity of the natural communities throughout the site. The team recommendations for action were mapped as areas to undergo preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, or reconstruction.

The study is unique in certain significant aspects—as the only publication to be authoritatively inclusive of both nature and culture for the entire site, and as the most comprehensive historical research ever conducted on the landscape of this American villa. The report also correctly classifies and locates the original natural communities for the first time. Most importantly, the report serves to underscore the preeminence of Vizcaya as both a natural and cultural resource of national and international significance within the urban landscape of Miami. 

The intended general audience included the sponsors and community, while the specific audience encompassed advocates, practitioners, and regulators of the landscape at Vizcaya. To this effect, periodic workshops and presentation were scheduled during the project to receive input and suggestions, and to keep the constituents informed. The report, which has been distributed to interested parties and will be available online, also serves as a model of research and communication methodology for similar community resources.

Significantly, the report has already impacted the historic preservation and ecological restoration of Vizcaya. The findings of the historic research have accurately informed the historic preservation of a formal garden, and the ecological approach has guided the ecological restoration of certain natural communities. This definitive report on the landscape ecology and history of the site is also serving as the cornerstone in the procurement of funding for the preservation and advancement of Vizcaya—the original intent of its principal support group.

Credits:

 Landscape architect and researcher : Patricia O’Donnell, FASLA  - Heritage Landscapes

                       Chief Horticulturist : Ian Simpkins - Vizcaya Museum & Gardens es, Inc.

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