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Archive for the ‘PEOPLE’ Category

BY JANE ROY BROWN

Carol R. Johnson, 1929–2020. Photo courtesy IBI Group, formerly Carol R. Johnson Associates.

FROM THE APRIL 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When the landscape architect Carol R. Johnson died last December, at age 91, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, tributes to her extraordinary career quickly appeared. Within days, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, which had conducted an oral history with Johnson in 2006 and included her work at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in its most recent Landslide campaign, published a remembrance detailing her long and influential career. The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Architect’s Newspaper followed shortly afterward, a mark of her pioneer stature outside the profession.

Johnson is remembered both for the breadth and scope of her practice, which encompassed many significant public landscapes including the Mystic River Reservation, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, and John Marshall Park in Washington, D.C., and for her leadership of Carol R. Johnson Associates (CRJA). At a time when women were rare in landscape architecture, Johnson built one of the largest woman-owned landscape architecture firms in the United States.

Educated at Wellesley and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Johnson founded her eponymous firm just two years after graduating. An inveterate traveler and hiker, Johnson’s approach to practice was informed by her deep understanding of the link between nature and culture, but also by a strong entrepreneurial drive, which resulted in a global portfolio of projects for her firm. Over the course of her nearly 60-year career of teaching and practice, Johnson also served on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Commission for Small Businesses and the Committee on Development Options during the Carter administration.

In 1982, Johnson was made a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In 1998, she received the ASLA Medal, “the highest honor the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) can bestow upon a landscape architect whose lifetime achievements and contributions to the profession have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of the public and the environment.” She was the first American woman to receive that honor.

In 2010, Johnson gave the interview that follows to Jane Roy Brown and looked back over her career. A year later, she would announce the acquisition of CRJA by the IBI Group. She retired in June 2016, 57 years after founding her firm in her apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

An illustration of Edmond Albius, by Antoine Roussin, 1863. Image courtesy of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

An online exhibit hosted by the New York Botanical Garden decodes plants’ relationships to Black people.

 

Of the five plants featured in the New York Botanical Garden’s online exhibition Black Botany: The Nature of Black Experience, some are cash crops typically associated with Black people and slavery, such as cotton and rice. Others highlight relationships that are less well-known. “We wanted to look at how Black culture is always simmered down to low and middlebrow culture, as opposed to scientific or higher-brow knowledge,” says Nuala Caomhánach, a former Mellon Fellow at the New York Botanical Garden and a current doctoral student in the history of science, who curated the show with Rashad Bell, a collection maintenance associate at the garden. Each plant shines a light on the intentional omission of comprehensive Black knowledge of botany and nature, as well as how Black people were often connected to these plants in the popular imagination by slavery.

Very simply, “plants aren’t neutral,” Bell says. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish.

BY JANE MARGOLIES

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave away more than $4.1 billion at the end of 2020, she didn’t bestow funds upon Ivy League schools and other elite universities that are often the recipients of large gifts. Instead, Scott, whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon stock she received after her divorce, handed out money to a handful of community colleges, among many other deserving institutions, based on the “vital services” such groups provide, as she wrote in a Medium post.

Community colleges also came up recently in connection with Dr. Jill Biden, the new First Lady, after a Wall Street Journal opinion piece criticized her for using the honorific before her name because she is not a medical doctor. Biden, whose doctoral dissertation was on maximizing student retention in community colleges, has long taught at such colleges and plans to continue to do so now that she and her husband, President Joseph Biden, have moved into the White House.

Community colleges may be making news of late, but these institutions, open to all and costing a fraction of the tuition of four-year colleges, have long played a crucial role. They are the places where many Black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation students embark on higher education. And they are often stepping-stones for high school graduates who haven’t yet decided what they want to do with their lives. Smaller classes allow students to get individual attention from professors who focus on teaching, not their own research. Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees or certificate-based programs, and from there students can transfer to four-year schools to continue their education. Several community colleges have programs in landscape design or related fields, but they are not always perceived as channels into the profession of landscape architecture.

The profession, long dominated by white males from comfortable backgrounds, now seeks to be more inclusive and diverse. Students who come from community colleges to four-year schools can bring fresh perspectives that can broaden and enrich the practice of landscape architecture. Some argue that it is precisely students like these that the profession needs. But how does that transition play out in practice? Let’s look at New Jersey for clues. (more…)

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INTERVIEW BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Greg Kochanowski documented the loss of his own home in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which destroyed 110 of 217 houses in Seminole Springs, California. Photo by GK.

 

The Los Angeles-based designer Greg Kochanowski researches wildfire mitigation close to home.

 

Earth is a water planet. It is also, as Stephen J. Pyne has written, a fire planet. The Earth “has held fires as long as plants have lived on land,” Pyne recently wrote in Yale Environment 360. To remove fire from landscapes that have coevolved with it “can be as ruinous as putting fire into landscapes that have no history of it. The fires we don’t see—the fires that should be there and aren’t—are an index of ecological loss, like imposing a drought on a normally lush landscape.”

Greg Kochanowski knows well the losses that fires and their absence bring. As the studio director of the multidisciplinary design firm RIOS, Kochanowski had been investigating the effects of urbanization on the fire-adapted landscapes of Southern California for more than three years when the 2018 Woolsey Fire destroyed his home in Seminole Springs, California.

Now, Kochanowski has collected his research, as well as his experience of the Woolsey Fire, in The Wild, published last fall as part of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design’s pamphlet series. The book explores the urban periphery of Los Angeles and the economic, cultural, and political pressures that have resulted in the city’s persistent peri-urban expansion and, consequently, the inevitability of ever larger, ever more deadly wildfires. Landscape Architecture Magazine spoke to Kochanowski shortly after the book’s release. His reVISION ASLA 2020 panel, “Fire Across the Pacific: Australia, California, and the Climate Crisis,” is available online.

LAM: What gave birth to the line of inquiry you’re tracing in the book?

Kochanowski: It was really the Rising Currents book that came out of the MoMA exhibition [Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront, 2011]. That was the first time that I had seen the global design community using their expertise to solve much broader problems. I was really inspired by it, but I was living in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has issues with sea-level rise, of course, but there was a lack of theorizing about the West. It was a very East Coast discussion. In the West, I was experiencing fires, and then it would rain and you would have floods, and then landslides, and it happened every single year. It was just this cycle. After a few years, I thought, no one’s talking about this. So, I began to look at the fire cycle, and had a session at the ASLA conference in 2018 on some of that initial research. And then my house burned down. Then I got really interested in fire. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Design firms are (finally) using social media for marketing, but in the era of physical isolation, it has also become a kind of social infrastructure.

FROM THE JANUARY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Gina Ford, FASLA, wants me to know that she was asked to get on Twitter. It was early 2011, and the marketing team at Sasaki, where Ford was a principal at the time, felt that the firm needed to be more active on social media and also needed a fresh voice. “I was one of the only principals that was on Facebook actively. I think that’s why they thought I was fertile ground,” she says.

What Ford didn’t anticipate was how comfortable she would feel online compared to some of the other environments in which she found herself. “As a woman who doesn’t like traditional networking, social media was a place that I could channel my energy and be myself,” she says. This was especially true “when I started in the early 2000s,” she says, “being the only woman in these big rooms with businessmen in suits.” By the time Ford left Sasaki to start her own firm, Agency Landscape + Planning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was highly involved in helping craft the firm’s external messaging, including on social media.

With Agency, which Ford founded with Brie Hensold, Honorary ASLA, in 2017, she wanted to try something different. The firm has an express focus on social and environmental justice, and Ford wanted that to be reflected across the firm’s social media channels. “We wanted social media to be an expression of our culture,” she says. Prior to that, Ford says she had been “a little understated” in the role feminism played in how she approached practice. “I don’t shield the world from that anymore. I’m very proud that feminism is part of what we do.”

Agency’s social media feeds are full of stylish illustrations, snapshots from site visits, and photos of community events, but also articles about race and gender, critiques of design culture, and celebrations of design heroes—an ode to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or an interactive star chart of Ford’s most influential mentors and teachers designed for Women in Design Boston.

The looser, more personal—and more political—approach has earned Agency a sizable online audience. The firm has nearly 3,000 followers on Instagram, about the same number that follow Ford’s personal Twitter account, which makes her one of the more visible and vocal landscape practitioners on the platform. (Ford is infamous for calling out publications that refer to landscape architects as architects.) That visibility has paid off in speaking gigs and interview requests in mainstream outlets. On the day she and I spoke, Ford was quoted in a New York Times article about the omission of female landscape architects from the larger landscape discourse, inspired by the theme of the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Does Agency hire a PR firm? Because you guys are always in the news,’” Ford says. “And I’m like, that is 10 years of hand-over-fist slogging through a very consistent point of view on social media.” That word choice—slog—is not incidental. Social media can feel demoralizing, she says. “The first few years I was doing [it], it did feel like I was screaming into a black hole. And I think that’s where a lot of firms go wrong. You can’t post something and expect an immediate return. That’s not the way social media works. You post, you post, you post, you post, you post; someone’s like, ‘Oh, she’s into that thing’; and then five years down the road, they’re writing a piece about that thing and they’re like, ‘Oh, we should talk to that girl who’s always posting about that thing.’ It’s a long game that a lot of people don’t want to play—or don’t even know to play.” (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Hollander Design’s new fellowship for landscape architecture students steps up the support for underrepresented groups.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A summer of collective soul-searching over the systemic nature of racism in America has spurred new investments in the education of young designers of color. Among them is the new Hollander Design Fellowship, a $4,000 annual academic scholarship available to students enrolled in the graduate landscape architecture program at the City College of New York’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture.

Established in August 2020, the new fellowship will be awarded to three graduate students per year for each year they are enrolled, for an annual total of $12,000. It is available to MLA candidates who identify as Black or African American, Latinx, or Alaskan Native or American Indian, or as a member of another cultural or ethnic group that is underrepresented in landscape architecture, including the LGBTQ community. The first three recipients, Miguelina Portorreal (class of 2021), Jeana Fletcher, Student ASLA (2022), and Mathew Brown Velasquez (2023), were announced in October. Three additional students received a one-time Hollander Design Award of $4,000. Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, ASLA, the director of City College’s graduate landscape architecture program, says the smaller award was established to respond to the large number of high-quality applications the school received. (more…)

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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Jaz Bonnin, Heidi Brandow, Elsa Hoover, and Zoë Toledo walked through the doors of Harvard University’s Gund Hall, they weren’t aware they were making history. The women arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) with diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging interests, from affordable housing to the spatialization of resource extraction. Still, the women had one thing in common: heritage that stretches back to well before Western contact. Brandow is Diné and Kanaka Maoli (known more commonly as Navajo and Native Hawaiian); Toledo is Diné; Hoover, of mixed Anishinabe and Finnish heritage; and Bonnin, of mixed heritage that includes Yankton Sioux and Blackfoot.

The students’ arrival at the GSD in fall 2019 marked the first time in the school’s nearly 100-year history that four students of Native ancestry have been enrolled at the same time. It’s an illustration of the near-total absence of Indigenous voices within the design and planning professions. For Brandow, a painter who is pursuing a master’s degree in art, design, and the public domain, such experiences are all too common. “As a Native person, being at Harvard, or anything you do, you accept that you’re probably going to be the first, or one of a handful of people,” she says. “You accept that Harvard is 500 years behind on this. But you also recognize that’s an opportunity to get the work done. To create these spaces, to increase visibility, to make this declaration of our presence and the necessity of more recruitment of Indigenous people.” (more…)

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