Tracing the evolution of camping, from the Adirondacks to the Art Garden

Storming the American Kampgrounds near the Badlands of South Dakota more than 20 years ago, Martin Hogue was surprised to receive a map showing the locations of the numbered tents and RV’s as well as a pool, miniature golf, and dog park—even the named streets, as if he had entered a small village.

“This was my first camping experience, so I didn’t have any directions other than what I saw in movies or read in books,” said Hogg, associate professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I imagined myself a rugged adventurer going out into nature. Instead, my destination was determined by a camp worker, who circled my campsite on a printed map. Admittedly, I was a little surprised, but also intrigued. I thought, Was it all? Camping like this?”

It’s a question that Hogue has explored in a series of research projects and as a designer, most recently as an artist-in-residence at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in upstate New York, where he created a four-week camping at Summer Art Park program.

Hogg proposed the program after publishing “Thirtyfour Campgrounds,” a photographic survey of nearly 6,500 American campgrounds — each suggesting a stage in which campers perform a series of ritual activities, often along with home-brought amenities. His next book, Making Camp: A Visual History of the Most Important Items and Activities in Camping, due to be published next year, will examine eight essays on the history and design of key components of camping—from tents and sleeping bags to picnic tables, fire pits and orientation maps. In the process, Hogg said he traces the nearly 150 years of recreational camping origins from an exclusive experience in the Adirondacks — not unlike modern “flamedoes” — to where it is today, where tens of millions of Americans camp each summer.

The advent of car camping in the 1920s led to greater standardization of calibration in campgrounds by the 1930s, a process that Hogg said was heavily influenced by New Deal planners including Emilio Pepe Mennecki, a plant pathologist and National Park Service consultant who was concerned about the devastating effects. for cars. . One-way, one-way roads with towing units for vehicles, fixed locations for tents, fire pits, and heavy picnic tables became the norm.

In “An Illustrated History of the Picnic Table,” Hogg explains how camping influenced the design of the ubiquitous picnic table, the dimensions of which were first specified in National Park Service drawings in 1922.

“If you stop and pay attention, you will realize that the picnic table is a truly unique shape,” Hogg said. “It’s not old, and it’s related to camping.”

Likewise, he said, campers might be surprised to learn that the term “sleeping bag” is a relatively new term, entering the lexicon in the mid-1800s.

Hogue sought to celebrate and revitalize the camp’s distinctive elements at Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Casanovia, which recently hosted campers for the fourth time, over the weekends in June.

Hogg said the project offered visitors a new way to engage with the sculptures and vistas of the 104-acre art park, expanding public communication in a way that similar cultural institutions could emulate. At the same time, he said, the campers and the campers themselves became part of the art installation, displayed for others to see – until the camp was dismantled, leaving behind only memories of the experience.

In addition to the communal fire pit, Hogue has set up four numbered campgrounds outfitted with a picnic table, Adirondack chairs, wheelbarrow, litter box, and flashlight—all painted a stunning azure blue to make them pop out of the landscape and Hogue said, making the scattered sites legible as a system.

Recalling the experience that he admired the campgrounds as architectural spaces, Hogg welcomed guests with an orientation map he designed, which includes a route that runs through the art park, icons defining camping, parking and dining spots, and a few key structures and bases.

“It was a wonderful trip, because there is a complexity that you weren’t expecting,” Hogg said of his research into camping history and culture. “As an architect and designer by training, being given a map is the cause of it all.”

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