Greetings from Department of Landscape Architecture Chair Anita Berrizbeitia, FAAR, MLA ’87
Dear Landscape Architecture alumni,
As I reflect upon another year as Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, I am pleased to share with you a few highlights of news, pedagogy, and programming.
At a time of heightened political discord and global awareness around the hazards of climate change, I am especially excited to recognize the GSD’s ongoing role as convener on a wide variety of practical and theoretical topics.
In early September, the department hosted a two-day interdisciplinary conference, Envisioning Future Resilience Scenarios for the Boston Harbor Islands, funded by the James M. & Cathleen D. Stone Foundation, that brought together local experts from the University of Massachusetts Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, Boston Harbor Now, Woods Hole Group, the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, and the Stone Foundation, to share in a common conversation about building resilience for Greater Boston and to explore the role of the Harbor Islands in protecting Boston from coastal storms. The challenges raised at the conference, including sea level rise, real estate development, economy, infrastructure, recreation, quality of life, and ecology are an ongoing focus for the department and re-emerged as sites throughout the landscape core and options studios. Climate adaptation was also the topic of several studios on vastly different regions, demonstrating widespread effects. For example, Martha Schwartz GSD ’77 led a studio in North Adams, Massachusetts, hometown of MASS MoCA, which convened municipal and institutional leadership to address climate adaptation and sustainability in North Adams.
After the 2017-2018 exhibition, Landscape: Fabric of Details, in 2018-2019, we curated Mountains and the Rise of Landscape (photos above), a multi-media, seven-part exhibition that probed a panoply of questions surrounding the role of mountains in shaping our imagination, as well as their place in our collective landscape and architectural history. Pablo Pérez-Ramos MLA ’12, DDes ’18, Edward Eigen, and I assisted Michael Jakob in curating the exhibition, which included paintings, prints, film, and fiction alongside technical mapping and a sound installation of a melting glacier in the Swiss Alps by Geneva-based composers Olga Kokcharova and Gianluca Ruggeri.
We have much faculty news to share. Michael Van Valkenburgh, Charles Eliot Professor of Landscape Architecture, retired after 37 years of service. In his farewell address, the Olmsted Lecture in October, Michael gave an inspiring presentation on his long trajectory as an educator and a practitioner. We are very fortunate to have had him for so many years and wish him continuing success in the years to come.
We were delighted to welcome two new faculty: Assistant Professor Pablo Pérez-Ramos MLA ’12, DDes ’18 and Associate Professor Teresa Gali-Izard. As always, our faculty have been very productive with scholarship and publications. Of note are Sonja Duempelmann’s Seeing Trees: A History of Street Trees in New York City and Berlin (Yale University Press, 2019), winner of the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize; Gareth Doherty’s DDes ’10 Roberto Burle Marx Lectures: Landscape as Art and Urbanism (Lars Muller Publishers, 2018), which was listed one of the top ten books of 2018 by the ASLA; and Jill Desimini’s From Fallow: 100 Ideas for Abandoned Urban Landscapes (ORO Editions, 2019). (Book covers featured above in order left to right).
In April, almost 100 alumni, family, and friends gathered in Piper Auditorium for a tribute to Professor Charles “Chuck” Harris GSD ’52, who passed away in January. Chuck served on the faculty between 1958 and 1991. Carl Steinitz, Nick Dines MLA ’68, and Chuck Jr. delivered remarks, followed by a reception and small exhibit of Chuck’s papers from the Loeb Library’s archives. Curated by Professor Niall Kirkwood and Special Collections Archivist & Reference Librarian Ines Zalduendo MArch ’95, the materials documented Chuck’s long career as a faculty member at the GSD.
Our studio offerings this year reflect the energy of our times—all are politically charged, culturally relevant, multi-scalar, and full of opportunities for invention. A few studios from the fall semester stand out. Alternative Futures for Al-`Ula, Saudi Arabia, sponsored by the Royal Commission for Al-`Ula and co-taught by Stephen Ervin and Craig Douglas responded to a call for entries by Professor Emeritus Carl Steinitz, who organized the International Geodesign Consortium, a collaboration of approximately one hundred institutions and projects worldwide, engaged in studies of similar scope and style in fall 2018. Teresa Gali-Izard taught the first in a series of studios sponsored by the LUMA Foundation. Set in the region of Arles, France, the studio explored the potential of regenerative agriculture, considering the rhizosphere—the region of soil around the roots of plants where nutrient exchange between microorganisms and plants occur—to explore the larger question of the relationship between humans and the natural world, and the role of landscape architecture in creating balance in the era of climate change. Finally, Marty Poirier MLA ’86 led a studio on Arlington National Cemetery that felt profoundly timely and emotionally laden, considering the design and entry sequence of one of our nation’s most sacred places. The studio asked students to transform the basic rudiments of arrival into a space of commemoration, considering the places that move us as a result of physical arrangements and design decisions.
In the spring, the excitement continued with studio sites that span the globe: Jungyoon Kim MLA ’00 and Yoonjin Park MLA ’00 led Landscape of Trans-Nationality: Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) and Alternative Nature, which considered the landscape surrounding a new rail link between Russia and Korea; Aga Kahn Design Critic Catherine Mosbach taught Build with Life: Transformation + Formation: Landscape and Islamic Culture; Rosetta Elkin continued her work on coastal climate adaptation with The Monochrome No-Image, a studio sponsored by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Sanibel Island, Florida. Niall Kirkwood and Gareth Doherty DDes ’10 led another politically charged studio that considered the future of Ireland after Brexit, Field Work: Brexit, Borders, and Imagining a New City-Region for the Irish Northwest; and James Lord MLA ’96 and Roderick Wyllie MLA ’98 addressed drought in the southern California landscape with SUPERBLOOM: Shelter, Drought, and Sculpture in the California Desert.
To better prepare our students to consider these exciting topics at the options studio level, we have made some strategic changes to the core curriculum. The second-year core studio is now focused on climate adaptation in two parts: third semester core studio explores climate change, adaptation, and risk as fundamental to the design of the built environment, utilizing the Boston Harbor as a case study, and the fourth semester core expands students’ reach to design urban environments in surrounding coastal communities.
The past two years have been marked by my intense engagement with university-wide committees. As I mentioned to those of you at October’s alumni reception in Philadelphia around ASLA (photos above), I was honored to serve on the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, and on the University’s presidential search advisory committee. As a planner, President Lawrence S. Bacow is a friend of the School, and we anticipate he will champion design in the broader university community. I also served on the GSD dean search advisory committee, and I am most excited to welcome our new Dean Sarah M. Whiting, who began on July 1. I thank outgoing Dean Mohsen Mostafavi for his support of our department during his 11 years as leader of the school. During his tenure, our department grew its student body and faculty ranks, as well as our presence in the culture of the school and university at large.
I would like to encourage you to join us on campus for a lecture or any of our public events this fall. Also, mark your calendars for the ASLA Annual Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego on November 15-18; I hope to see you at the GSD Reception during the Conference.
Please stay in touch; I sincerely look forward to connecting with you.
Anita Berrizbeitia, FAAR, MLA ’87
Professor of Landscape Architecture
Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture