Join historic landscape architect Helen Erickson for a tour of the TCC modern landscape by Garrett Eckbo. The Tucson Community Center Landscape was designed by Garrett Eckbo, one of the twentieth century’s foremost American landscape architects. Created at the height of his career, it was completed in two stages in 1971 and 1973, under the direction of local architects Ned Nelson and Bernie Friedman. With the demolition of the Fulton Mall in Fresno, California, in 2016, this landscape is now the largest remaining Eckbo civic design in the United States.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the National Level of Significance in 2015, the Tucson Community Center Landscape is composed of three sections: Veinte de Agosto Park to the north, the Walkway between the hotel and the former La Placita Center, and the dramatic fountain plaza in the south.
Eckbo’s design establishes a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces with stepped planting terraces and a continuity of lighting design. Dramatic two and three dimensional intersecting geometric forms are intentionally softened by vegetation. The space ebbs and flows through quiet corners and open plazas. Even after forty-five years, with repairs urgently needed, this masterpiece continues to enchant its visitors as a “people place.”
Helen Erickson, MLA, is a specialist in historic landscape documentation and planning, who has completed projects in Arizona, Texas, Alaska, and New York, and who teaches preservation planning at the University of Arizona. In Tucson, Helen prepared the Conservation Master Plan and National Register nomination for the Eckbo-designed landscape at the Tucson Community Center. She serves on the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission and Plans Review Subcommittee, and chairs the Historic Landscapes Subcommittee. Helen mentors the Arizona Chapter of the Historic American Landscapes Survey, and she is a member of the national Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network Subcommittee of the American Society of Landscape Architects.