CAPLA Heritage Conservation Project Director Guides Urban Planning Graduates and Neighbors in Creating a Cultural Asset App for Tucson

April 14, 2020
Who
Helen Erickson ’12 MLA, Project Director, Heritage Conservation Program
What
Each year Helen Erickson brings together graduate students in her preservation planning course with neighborhood residents on a project designed to benefit the community. This year they created the Tucson Community Treasures app.
Image
Helen Erickson

Helen Erickson, Heritage Conservation Program Project Director.

“We know what’s special about Tucson when we encounter it,” says Helen Erickson ’12 MLA, project director for the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture’s Heritage Conservation Program, “but it’s much more difficult to protect what we value most about the community in the face of growth and change.”

Preserving the historic, multicultural richness of the Old Pueblo, as Tucson is nostalgically called, is not easy: “Identifying culturally important spaces and places really isn’t something that can be done by outside experts. It is best done by those who experience the city as part of daily life.”

That’s why, each year, she brings together graduate students in her preservation planning course with neighborhood residents on a project “designed to benefit the community by providing planning for the maintenance of important local historic resources.”

This year the class is taking advantage of geographical information system (GIS) technology to document aspects of Tucson’s heritage that might be passed over by other types of surveys.
 

Image
Example of collected data

Example of collected data on the Tucson Community Treasures app.

 
With the help of a GIS professional, students and neighborhood residents are collaborating in the development and employment of a mobile app that will allow smartphone or tablet users to map the location of important places in their own neighborhoods. By doing so, says Erickson, “cherished but intangible aspects of Tucson’s heritage will made visible to policy makers and planners—a first step towards their protection.”

A grant from the Southwestern Foundation for Education and Historical Preservation made it possible to bring outside lecturers with expertise in this area to share their knowledge with students and neighborhood volunteers. The grant also provides funding for three graduate students to synthesize and analyze the collected data during the summer of 2020, making it accessible to neighborhoods, city planners and Tucson ward offices.

The Tucson Community Treasures app, which was featured in a March 9, 2020 story by Tucson ABC affiliate KGUN 9 News, is now in the hands of community volunteers, who are in the process of documenting special places in their own neighborhoods. UArizona students are standing by to provide technical assistance by Zoom and by phone.
 

Image
Tucson Community Treasures app

Tucson Community Treasures app.

 
Erickson, who holds a Master of Landscape Architecture and Certificate in Heritage Conservation from CAPLA, joined the college faculty in 2017. For seven years before that she lent her expertise to the Drachman Institute on Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit-related projects, including landscape documentation and analysis at the Faraway Ranch Historic District in Chiricahua National Monument, architectural assessment at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and cultural landscape planning at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. She is also the national ASLA coordinator for the Historic American Landscapes Survey. She holds a BA from Harvard University and a Master of Music from the Yale University School of Music.

  

Subscribe to The Studio

Sign up for CAPLA's monthly e-newsletter to get the latest news and events, insights from faculty and leadership, profiles of students and alumni and more.

Subscribe Now

Latest CAPLA News, Projects and Profiles

Image
Ladd Keith moderating a break out discussion during the 2024 Southern Arizona Heat Summit

City of Tucson Adopts Comprehensive Heat Action Roadmap with UArizona Collaboration

Collaborative efforts from City of Tucson leadership and staff, community stakeholders, and University of Arizona faculty to address escalating heat challenges have resulted in the adoption of a newly crafted Heat Action Roadmap and Heat Protection Ordinance for city workers and contractors.

Image
Photo of the Quitobaquito, highlighting the pond and the surrounding landscape.

CAPLA Duo Honored with Historic Preservation Award for Quitobaquito Cultural Landscape Report

Gina Chorover, a senior lecturer in Planning and Landscape Architecture and faculty chair of the Heritage Conservation certificate program, and Teresa DeKoker, an alumna of the Master of Landscape Architecture program, were recognized for their comprehensive analysis of the Quitobaquito landscape within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with a Tucson - Pima County Historical Commission Historic Preservation Award in May.