E-Way exhibit coming to Lussier Family Heritage Center

October 18, 2020

As a follow-up to an article featured in the Fall 2019 newsletter, the restoration and interpretation of the E-Way model built by Professor Phil Lewis and his students is expected to be restored and displayed at the Lussier Family Heritage Center this winter. 

Fifty one years ago, Professor Phil Lewis (Director of the Environmental Awareness Center, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison) received a $9,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (1969) to demonstrate how a community’s existing natural and cultural resources could be identified and accentuated to elevate environmental awareness. 

Dane County's E-Way was intended to elevate environmental, ecological, and aesthetic planning decisions to a higher priority within the community development decision-making process and to provide a permanent recreation corridor system for its residents' use.

Initially, this environmental corridor was mapped out using large scale map overlays depicting various natural, cultural, historical, and man-made resources. In essence this was the equivalent of today’s Geographic Information System (GIS) computerized mapping.

As Jack Dangermond (Founder of Environmental System Resource Inventory - ESRI) explained in 2009, “I suppose everyone sees design and design methodology differently as it relates to their background and experience. In my case, I was first introduced to the efforts of Philip Lewis and Ian McHarg in the 1960s. They both developed manual techniques for landscape planning involving plastic overlay maps. They used these overlays to describe constraints and opportunities presented by geography. These maps were typically used as the basis for ‘designing’ open space and other land use plans.” (1) Jack Dangermond has called Lewis a real mentor and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 at the Annual ESRI conference.

The corridor was later modeled by students at the Environmental Awareness Center (EAC) by creating an 8' x 12' cardboard topographic model that was used as a communication tool for identifying 21 "nodes of diversity.” This model was formerly housed in the EAC, which used to reside in the basement of Steenbock Library on the University of Wisconsin campus. Lewis recognized that, “even with the finest plans derived from the best of processes, if we fail to communicate the options to the public, there is little likelihood that they will ever be implemented.” (2)

The term “E-Way” was chosen as a symbol for educational, ecological, esthetic, exercise, and environmental system. The system linked 21 “nodes of diversity” like pearls on a necklace to expose users to their natural surroundings and to inspire solutions for human habitation that has minimal impacts on our life supporting system. The concept did in fact inspire the Dane County Board to pass a resolution (Resolution 41, 1971-72) to adopt the environmental loop concept and directed the County Regional Planning Commission to include the environmental loop in the Parks and Open Space Plan and to implement a study of the acquisition of lands with the E-Way. The installation of the restored E-Way model will be completed by the 50th anniversary of that action (July 27, 2021).

Dane County has recently dedicated the lower level of the Lussier Family Heritage Center to education, and this exhibit is a step in the direction of fulfilling the center’s educational function. The cost of restoring, displaying, and interpreting this model which has been in storage for many years is around $25,000. Contributions from the Lewis family and Saiki Design have left the project with a modest fundraising goal of $12,000. To date (10-18-2020), the project is about $7,000 short of its goal. 

Thank you to the following donors (all donors will be recognized in the exhibit): Andrew and Pam Lewis, Lisa Lewis, Bill Pinkovitz and Kristi Knuijt, Jack Ahern, Mathew Cunningham, Norma Sorenson, Holly Fortier, Judith Lyons, Stu and Lynn Thomas, Dorothy Krause, Robert and Nanci Marshall, Terry Gibson, Mary and John Laub, Dick and Kate Pederson, Mike Mathews.

The Foundation for Dane County Parks is the fiscal agent for the project. Donations may be made to the Foundation by indicating “E-Way Model Restoration” in a note on a check sent to Foundation for Dane County Parks, Inc., 5201 Fen Oak Dr. Room 208, Madison, WI 53718 or on the website. All contributions are tax-deductible, and contributors will be recognized in this effort. 


(1) Batty, Peter. "Jack Dangermond on GeoDesign". Geothought.

(2) Lewis, Philip, “Tomorrow By Design”

Top Photo: Exhibit rendering by Jared Vincent, Saiki Design Inc.

Published on
October 18, 2020

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