Laura Bush and landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh are a good match. Both teachers at heart, they believe that creating something for show is a wasted occasion without also considering opportunities for learning. Both highly value sustainability, ecological renewal and raising environmental awareness.
The flowering plants and impressive rocks in the 15-acre urban park at the George W. Bush Presidential Center are multi-taskers. Yes, the Texas wildflowers are pretty and will be more scenic as the seedlings become established over the next few years, and the prairie grasses will quickly develop into a rippling sea of green when it is windy on the hilltop.
Van Valkenburgh points out in his university lecturer’s voice, however, that the flowers, grasses and landscape boulders are far more than aesthetics. “They are not decoration,” he said. “They all have work to do.”
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architecture firm based in Brooklyn and Cambridge, Mass., has an international reputation for incorporating ecological sustainability into its designs. The plan for the Bush Center, in fact, played a huge role in the project’s attaining the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation, usually a difficult achievement for a national archive particularly because of the energy-guzzling, complex temperature, relative-humidity and air-filtration controls required for stored archival materials.
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L&L will feature a story on the company that did the construction for this project in a future issue.