by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
The extended planning community of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region and the nation experienced a great loss with the passing of landscape architect and planner Cy (Cyril) B. Paumier, Jr. earlier this year.
According to his obituary1, Paumier was “influential in the formulation of urban design plans for city center projects [that] spanned over 50 cities in the United States and the United Kingdom.”
His professional career of more than four decades was remarkable and, perhaps most notably, he served as Chief Land Planner for the famous developer, James Rouse of the Rouse Company, from 1969-1972 where he oversaw “land planning, site planning and landscape design for the new city of Columbia, Maryland.”iii
Paumier went on to co-found the respected Columbia-based planning and design firm LDR International (Land Design/Research) where he served as principal for more than 30 years prior to its acquisition by HNTB in 2000.
As a long-time resident of Columbia, Paumier remained active in the city’s evolution, preparing a plan for the redesign Symphony Woods, home to the renowned Merriweather Post Pavilion outdoor amphitheater, in 2008. Though never realized, the plan was felt by many to fully reflect the principles of land, design, and community that drove the original plans for Columbia.
About working with Paumier, colleague Robert (Bob) Gorman, says: “Cy hired me for a designer position at LDR in the summer of 1973. I had visited the fledgling new town of Columbia several years earlier, before serving in the army, and was thrilled to be asked to join one of the most talented landscape architecture/planning teams in the country. Cy was passionate about creating high quality urban environments that were beautiful, functional, and enhanced the lives of the people that lived and worked in them.
He was a champion of mixed-use development, diversity and the importance of the marketplace. To enhance our ability to provide high quality design services and development strategies to cities large and small, Cy ultimately grew the firm to include not just landscape architects but economists, former civic leaders, architects and researchers.
His vast experience revitalizing urban centers led him to write a number of richly illustrated books for the Urban Land Institute that are still must haves for anyone in the redevelopment business.”
Gary Maule, another close colleague and contemporary of Cy’s remarked: “Cy was a keen observer and would visit, hunt for places globally — cities, towns, open spaces — that people were talking about and would figure out what about them made them work, what made them sustainable. He would then figure out what about them might work in other locations, other environments.
He would determine what the obstacles were and how to overcome them, how to turn them from being burdens into opportunities, and create a far-reaching vision that people would get excited about and buy into. Cy was good at that! I had great respect for Cy, he was so enthusiastic and approached all projects and problems that way. That process, of identifying and overcoming obstacles is still relevant in planning and urban design today. It is also what I consider to be a sign of good leadership.
In many projects, Cy sought to make the public realm the focus, whether keeping the Baltimore waterfront open by stepping back buildings from the water’s edge, ensuring pedestrian and open spaces and preserving a common view of the harbor, or proposing main streets in place of shopping malls, as in Reston VA.
These were the principles and values Cy promoted and design practices he advocated. He was ahead of his time.”