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BY JONATHAN LERNER

Jack Dangermond built a tech colossus, and a fortune, from GIS. Now he’s sharing it all to save the world.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Jack Dangermond wears oversized tortoise-shell glasses. At 72, his hairline has receded halfway back on his head. For work, he dresses casually—open collar, v-neck sweater. His manner is gracious and energetic, but calm and notably confident. He tends to speak as if in final draft, which he credits to years of dictating correspondence. He is tall and rangy, but it’s quite possible that when he arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1967 to earn an MLA he would have been taken for a geek. His ulterior motive in going there, after all, was “to start playing with computer mapping”—when computer mapping barely existed.

The school’s pioneering Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis had been founded two years earlier by the architecture professor Howard Fisher.

Dangermond says that on meeting Fisher, “He immediately hired me. Within an hour. Which was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my life.” Harvard was one hot spot of the era’s radical activism. “The Vietnam War was going on,” he says, “revolution in the air, protestors shutting down the university, creating all kinds of controversy. This big aha! moment came for my wife Laura and myself, who were both working there in the basement of Memorial Hall. We had a job making computer maps, doing air pollution studies and land-use suitability studies. The realization was, ‘We don’t want to go right or left; we just want to go forward with this idea of (more…)

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April is, of course, World Landscape Architecture Month. This year, to mark the occasion, LAM is issuing a special supplement for young readers, called YOUR LAND. It offers a basic introduction to landscape and landscape architecture, a look at the methods and goals of the profession, a breakout of several intriguing types of projects, a career primer, and, not least, a glossary of landscape architecture terms! Our goal is plain: to encourage the making of more future landscape architects. For many people, landscape architecture is a second career choice after they have made their first, and one they like better—it’s mainly a matter of exposure to the wide range of things landscape architects do in their work. We figure sooner is better, so this supplement is free and available digitally for downloading. For limited quantities of bulk print copies for classrooms or other groups, e-mail discover@asla.org (shipping charges apply).

Our regular April issue is every bit as exciting, covering a range of bold work that is reshaping landscape architecture today. In the cover feature, Michael Dumiak reports on an audacious plan by H+N+S Landscape Architects in the Netherlands, led by Dirk Sijmons, to power the countries around the North Sea with wind energy by the year 2050. It’s a multinational endeavor that transcends bureaucracies as well as boundaries in hopes of making these countries fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which took effect last year, of holding the average global temperature to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels by reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

Back in North America, Jack Dangermond and his company, Esri, have done as much or more than anyone since the onset of the digital age to help decode the Earth’s landscape with the computational tools known as geographic information systems, or GIS. At this stage of his career, as Jonathan Lerner profiles, Dangermond is putting that might behind his Green Infrastructure Initiative, the goal of which is “to identify and secure the critical remaining large cores of relatively unspoiled landscape” on a national scale. It is a galactic attempt to counter (more…)

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