Posts Tagged ‘American Academy in Rome’

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Thaïsa Way, now leading Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, wants deeper histories for the profession.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The urban landscape historian Thaïsa Way, FASLA, relocated this summer from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she has served on the faculty for 12 years, to Washington, D.C., to lead the Garden and Landscape Studies program at Dumbarton Oaks, an outpost of Harvard University. The program operates from an early 19th-century mansion surrounded by a Beatrix Farrand garden on 16 acres above Georgetown—one of the few largely intact designs of Farrand’s remaining. Way’s arrival follows the retirement of John Beardsley, who ran the program since 2008. We met on a hot July morning, and sat at the back of the garden inside a rustic stone pavilion called Catalogue House, which has two lead squirrels on top. The pavilion holds photographs that explain some of the garden’s plantings—such as the recent reinstallation of a famed aerial double hedge of hornbeams. The conversation quickly turned to history and the future of history. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Rosetta S. Elkin Live Matter exhibition and publication, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, with support from Harvard Arnold Arboretum, 2015. Image courtesy of Rosetta Elkin.

On April 20, the American Academy in Rome announced its class of 2017–2018 Rome Prize recipients, which includes the landscape architects Rosetta Elkin and Alison Hirsch with Aroussiak Gabrielian.

Chosen by a jury chaired by the architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis (and featuring the landscape architects Lisa Switkin of James Corner Field Operations and David Fletcher), Elkin, Hirsch, and Gabrielian will join a multidisciplinary cast (more…)

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Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. Christopher Marcinkoski, The City that Never Was.

Remnants of Spain’s early 21st century speculative urbanization pursuits. From Christopher Marcinkoski, The City That Never Was.

A few months back, we published a short appeal for more landscape architects to apply for the storied Rome Prize with the hope that the breadth of the field could be better represented. On April 23, the American Academy in Rome announced the 2015–2016 fellows, which included three new fellows in landscape architecture: Christopher Marcinkoski, Alexander Robinson, ASLA, and Thaïsa Way, ASLA.

The Rome Prize, which provides significant time, research materials, and studio space at the academy’s recently restored Villa Aurelia in Rome, has long been a coveted honor. Described as “life changing” and “transformative” by the 1997–1998 fellow Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, it is also a way of benchmarking where and how the concerns of landscape architecture converge with currents in the arts and humanities. Along with a cohort of musicians, writers, artists, scholars, and architects, the new landscape fellows will live and work in Rome for six months to a year.

Christopher Marcinkoski is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former senior associate at James Corner Field Operations. His project, “Rome, Empire Building, and the City That Never Was,” expands from the research in his forthcoming book, The City That Never Was, by looking at the emergence of speculative settlement and infrastructure projects. “My project in Rome intends to use the historical lens of Roman urbanization to think about ongoing projects that are being pursued in Africa,” Marcinkoski says. Using the example of megaprojects in Spain and Ireland that were begun but then abandoned during the recession, Marcinkoski says that these kinds of projects are now appearing in places such as Angola and Morocco, built by outside entities and sometimes in exchange for access to material resources. Coming off a long book project, Marcinkoski plans to use his time for more design experimentation, rather than written critique, though he notes that these speculative projects on the African continent deserve close attention. “There’s an incongruity between what is being proposed and what is needed.”

An interactive interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson

An interface for the Owens Lake Dust Control Project explores the nexus of infrastructure performance and experience. Credit: Alexander Robinson.

Alexander Robinson’s research deals with some of the major water infrastructure projects in the western United States; his work was recently featured in After the Aqueduct. He says that working on that exhibition helped him understand what he wanted to do with the Rome prize, and his project, “A Projective Picturesque: Reconciling Pictorial with Performance in Landscape Architecture,” will bring his research in infrastructure into a conversation with often-maligned picturesque aesthetics. Robinson is interested in “recognizing that there is a rift between performance and pictorial—there’s a lot more embedded in what we see than the scenic.” The project at the American Academy in Rome will take him back to his roots as a landscape painter to reconcile those aesthetics with the use of the planimetric design tools that are the mainstay of his current position as the director of the Landscape Morphologies Lab at the University of Southern California. “How do we think about the pictorial and the visual syntax of landscape architecture in the context of landscape infrastructure and performance?” he asks.

Thaïsa Way’s project, “Drawing a History of Landscape Architecture,” sounds perfectly scholarly, but it has an unexpected twist. The project will allow Way, a landscape historian, to study the relationship between drawing and landscape from its architectural origins to its current idiom as a form of professional communication. “I’m really interested in the history of drawing. It’s what makes us as a profession, makes us different. We use drawings to think, create, and communicate in a huge range of ways. How did those ways of thinking come to be?” But there’s more: “I am going to also draw—as a historian, to really understand what it is to draw, I need to draw!” she says. To do this, Way will look at the drawings of former landscape architecture fellows—the Rome Prize for landscape architecture was established in 1915, so she’ll have a deep archive to draw from—and then bring them to the sites where they were made, immersing herself in the relationships between the subject, the site, and the hand.  Way says experiencing the act of drawing will inform the way she writes about drawing. “As a historian and a critic, I read differently because I also write, and I wanted to have that same experience,” she says.

Part of why Way is excited about starting the fellowship in Rome is because of the way her work fits together with that of Marcinkoski and Alexander. All of the Rome Prize landscape projects in some way deal with issues that are in the forefront of contemporary practice, and each new fellow has pulled back and asked how history might inform these questions more fully. But they also speak to the field in other ways, tying individual research to the concerns of the field at large. Way says: “They’re all really about the profession, not just about ourselves.”

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2x4_aar_rome_prize_emailIt’s always been a bit of a mystery why more landscape architects don’t apply for the Rome Prize. It isn’t because it’s obscure: The fellowship is one of the best-known and most prestigious awards for designers and humanities scholars, the kind of résumé bell ringer that’s recognized across the professions. At its center is an 11-month (on average) residency at the American Academy in Rome’s Villa Aurelia among a diverse group of scholars, musicians, and artists, and the rich community working in and around the academy. But while the architecture fellowship has always been highly enrolled, perhaps because of the academy’s early association with the architect Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead, and White, the two (on average) fellowships for landscape architecture do not receive nearly the same amount of applications. And that’s a shame: “This is an opportunity not to be passed up,” says Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA,  a principal at Hargreaves Associates.

Jones was a Rome Prize fellow in 1997–98, and she describes her fellowship year, when she made topographic models of Renaissance gardens, with unabashed enthusiasm as “life changing” and “transformative.” She now chairs the board of trustees, the first woman and the first landscape architect to do so, and she’d like to see more landscape architects throw their portfolios in the ring.

Despite its lofty origins and association with classical studies, the academy supports a wide range of new work from emerging artists and designers, and the city of Rome is so rich that there are many ways to develop project proposals that overlap with contemporary research and practice. Jones suggests those applying should  focus on the portfolio—the body of work is paramount—and that those at any point in their career should apply. “Juries are looking for people for whom it will be game changing,” says Jones. “It really is a time to take time to really look and see things.”

The current Rome Prize fellows in landscape architecture are Kim Karlsrud and Daniel Phillips of Commonstudio and Adam Kuby, an environmental designer from Portland, Oregon. Recent past landscape architecture fellows have included Bradley E. Cantrell and Elizabeth Fain LaBombard, and Walter Hood,  ASLA, Thomas Oslund, Peter Walker, FASLA, and Eric Reid Fulford have also been fellows. Applications for the next year’s Rome Prize are due November 1, 2014, and carry a small fee of $30 per application. Late applications will be accepted until November 15 with a fee of $60 per application. More info about the fellowship as well as eligibility and requirements can be found on the AAR’s website.

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