What do you get when you combine ten landscape architects, architects, and other preservation professionals on an island in northern Minnesota for a week? You get a unique experience documenting an historic landscape.
Last summer just such a group gathered on Mallard Island in the boundary waters connecting Minnesota and Ontario. The project was led by David J Driapsa Landscape Architecture and organized with NPS National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). Project Partners included the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, the NPS Heritage Documentation Programs, and Voyageurs National Park. The island is owned and managed by the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation.
Developed by Ernest Olberholtzer (1884-1971), a conservation pioneer in the Rainy Lake watershed, the acre-and-a-half island is rich in landscape detail. Ober, as he was known, studied landscape architecture at Harvard under Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and James Sturgis Pray, graduating in 1907 and returning for a year in the newly established masters of landscape architecture program. For over fifty years Ober designed and developed his island estate, adding rustic cabins, gardens, trails, and stone retaining walls, all carefully designed to fit within the wilderness landscape.
Building on the HALS MN-06 site plan drawn by David Driapsa, FASLA, five years earlier, the group documented the island’s buildings, vegetation, views, walls and spatial organization through traditional large scale format photography and hand-measured drawings. Technical methods were also employed, including geo-locating trails and buildings using GPS and 3D laser scanning the Main House. The group also investigated the island’s history reviewing photographs and documents located in Ober’s office.
In addition to field work, the group gathered each day to learn from each other. Topics included island geology, 3D laser technology, and large format photography. Although plenty was accomplished, ample time remained to enjoy shared evening meals, swimming, canoeing, and soaking in the island experience. Summers on Mallard Island are blessed with clear sunny days and cool nights, and the soulful call of the loon.
Would you like to be part of this unique experience? We are assembling a team to return to the island this summer (June 24 to July 1, 2017) to continue landscape documentation and refinement of maps and drawings completed last year. For additional information please contact David Driapsa at email@example.com.
To learn more about last year’s project, download the 2016 report to the Ernest Oberholtzer Foundation.