About Me

UMMwatergarden   frank

Above. The sunken water garden and a sunken garden at the University of Minnesota, Morris, c. 1940. Right. A portrait of me…  


I have been fascinated by old places since visiting my grandmother in her old house in Minneapolis back in the 1960s. She loved history and helped to encourage some of the first historic preservation projects in Minnesota back in the 1940s, including the Sibley House in Mendota, home to our first governor. I went to Vassar College and majored in Philosophy which, although it did not lead to immediate employment, taught me a lot about clarity of expression and the many ways that we can understand beauty and historic landscapes. A few years later, I attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for an MSLA degree in Cultural Landscape Preservation and Landscape History. At Madison, I was privileged to study with many great geographers and planners including Arnold Alanen, Fahriye Sancar, and Yi-fu Tuan.

My own work with historic landscapes and campuses began as a consulting landscape historian and writer for the University of Minnesota-Morris master plan completed in the mid-1990s. Using participatory photography, we explored the sense of attachment that the campus community feels towards historic buildings from Morris’s agriculture school era. This research led towards a new emphasis on preserving historic buildings on the campus.

I revisited the University of Minnesota-Morris to serve as landscape historian and preservation specialist for a Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Grant. Working with Gemini Research and Miller Dunwiddie Architecture, he helped to create a visionary and long-term preservation plan for the entire campus landscape including courtyards, windbreaks and agricultural fields. This report is available on-line: UMM Historic Preservation Report


New Pathways to Sustainable Historic Landscapes

Working with Jeffrey L. Bruce and Company (with whom I often collaborate) I  contributed to a similar Getty-funded campus heritage plan for the the University of Kansas in Lawrence. For this project, we explored the campus designs for boulevards and open spaces by such noted landscape architects as George Kessler, Henry Wright, and the office of Hare & Hare. Our team is currently working  to develop a historic rehabilitation for the campus’s landmark Jayhawk Boulevard, one of the nation’s most historic campus boulevards with broad views over the prairie horizon along with historic stairs, sidewalks and buildings.

horizon KUIMG_1148

As in all of our work together, this schematic plan is both practical and visionary in its integration of  historic landscape preservation, and sustainability—and it could become a national model for campus planning. By emphasizing the concept of the “Complete Street,” this design offers equality of access for people of all ages and abilities.

Our goal is to create a new solutions and demonstrations of sustainable practices in historic landscape restorations and rehabilitations on campuses, estates, museums, and parks. I wrote a profile of Jeffrey Bruce’s work in green roofs and living architecture that you can read here.

Jeff also edits an excellent blog on current research and writing in living architecture, urban ecology, and sustainable design entitled: Sharp End of the Green Stick.

Blog Banner with title



Design Journalism and Writing

Several years ago, I helped to write The Simple Home, a groundbreaking  book by the Taunton Press released in 2007. Co-authored with noted architect Sarah Nettleton, The Simple Home explores the philosophical roots of “simplicity” and its varying architectural expressions for different homeowners. The book provides powerful insights into the connection between well-crafted architecture and a deep appreciation of the individuality of each site and each owner’s needs.

In 2001, for the centennial of the American Society of Landscape Architects, I edited the book: Valued Places, Landscape Architecture in Minnesota, a survey of historic designed and cultural landscapes around the state—including the University of Minnesota, Morris. This small book remains one of the best field guides to the campuses, gardens, and parks of my native state. Since 1994, I have also had the great learning opportunity of serving contributing editor for Landscape Architecture magazine for which I’ve written nearly fifty articles concerning landscape history, urban design, corporate campus planning, and historic campus preservation. My writing on suburban sprawl, green roofs, and urban design has also appeared in Architecture, Perspecta, Modulus, Fabric Architecture, Design Book Review, Design Quarterly, and Architecture Minnesota.

I often work with architects and landscape architects in historic landscape preservation projects, award submissions, and large-scale proposals. Please contact me if you have any questions. There is also a form for sending comments.

Frank Edgerton Martin

612. 964. 7993

330 Oak Grove Street #906 Minneapolis, MN 55403



General Biography

Frank Edgerton Martin is one of the few landscape historians who works in large-scale planning and preservation projects while also reporting new ideas and best practices through design journalism nationally and internationally and through work with artists.

Frank brings nearly twenty years of experience in master planning and historic site research for campuses,arboreta, National Heritage Areas, and other large interpretive sites ranging from Upstate New York to Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin and California. He specializes in report writing and historic guidelines for landscape preservation and historically-appropriate new construction.

He holds an MSLA in Cultural Landscape Preservation and History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison Department of Landscape Architecture and a degree in Philosophy from Vassar College.

8 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Good article in StarTribune. If you shouted it from our IDS or Foshay Tower rooftops It would fall on deaf ears. The people least likely to know and understand successful cities and neighborhoods are city politicians and planners. Just check out Block E, perhaps one of the most embarrassing blocks in the Upper Midwest, surely in State of MN. I admit I’m biased, I have a company, Banner Creations that made the banners that are still being used on Nicollet mall after 22 or 23 years.

    But I’m also biased because I’ve lived in So Mpls and I shopped downtown at Daytons, John W Thomas Company, Powers and all the other stores big and small. I bought books and art and purses and clothing and I ate frostys from the basement of Daytons. My first boyfriend worked at the record store right next to the Mayflower donut shop on 8th and Nicollet. Believe me, it’s not fun shopping at Target downtown. There’s no charm, no quality, bigger is not better.

    Retail downtown is crap. People are not going to go downtown for a work of art or some flashy fins. We want to see the sky. We want to shop in stores that are on a normal scale.We want to stop and eat an ice cream cone or buy a book or a pair of shoes, meet friends for lunch or dinner or have a drink. What we don’t want are people telling us what’s cool or hip. Moby DIck’s on Hennepin was way cool before it was torn down for Block E. I know, I went there.

    I’ve lived through so many renovations of Uptown and Downtown trying to be hip and missing it every time. Uptown or Downtown, plan too much and and you destroy the thing you are trying to create. I agree with you, get some small business and different businesses on the mall and people will come.

  2. I enjoyed your article in the Stribe today. I’m not originally from the Twin Cities and struggled to pin-point for years what was missing from downtown and surrounding ‘burbs. My husband and I occasionally stumble on pockets of character one of which was, I think it was called, the Times Bar in Minneapolis. It’s gone now evidently torn down for something new. We’ve never returned to that area. Maybe because life with kids got in the way, but I suspect that’s only part of it.

    We reside in Chanhassen which is sorta cool. (Who am I kidding, it’s pretty boring and they keep adding chain restaurants). We like Wayzata and Excelsior but find these towns are a bit too uppity to hang out there long. Bakers wife and angry catfish in Mpls are worth driving in for.

    Character is important. It enriches quality of life and I’m sad to have so little of it in my life. Thanks for pointing out some highlights in our area that we’ll have to check out.

  3. Frank,
    I just read your article on the Windego Park Auditorium in the MN Historical Society Newsletter. As an avid preservationist and Anokan I appreciate your being able to put the site into context for the readers, some of which may have never seen it and some of which may have walked or driven by it countless times and never knew its history. I am not sure if you are aware but this whole corridor is currently undergoing a Master Planning process and the amphitheater is a central part of the plan. We have been working with Geoff Martin, any relation? Is this perhaps how you were inspired to write the article or pure coincidence?

  4. Researching Logan County IL Chautauqua early 1900’s. Landscape plat was done by G.C. Cone of Minneapolis Minnesota. Looking for copy of plat if it still exists. Chautauqua now a park. Date would probably be close to 1903.

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