Tag: Peter Walker

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

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[Originally published 2nd quarter 2008, in arcCA 08.2, “Landscape + Architecture.”]


Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build, Water + Life Museums, Hemet, photo by Tom Lamb.

Author Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, designs for community with a reverence for light, space, and sustainability in the pursuit of beauty and joy, from his AIA-award-winning office, Lehrer Architects, in Los Angeles. Lehrer was President of AIA/Los Angeles in 1999, has been on the faculty at University of Southern California since 1986, and regularly sits on academic and professional AIA design juries around the country. He currently serves on the GSD Alumni Council, and is the Vice President of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles.


An Architect’s Lifelong Relationship with Architecture and Landscape

For me, the dialogue between architecture and landscape began long before I had any idea that two such discrete disciplines even existed. Growing up next to Griffith Park in Los Angeles, I carved forts out of the bushes on the canyon hillsides where I lived. The smell of the chaparral oil that stained my hands followed me as I ran down the hill to my mother’s daily call for “Dinnertime!”

As a child, I was surrounded by great landscapes and spectacular architecture, as I came to appreciate years later. Neutra’s Lovell House was just over the ridge behind our house; Wright’s Ennis House lined a ridge one canyon over; and Schindler’s Shrage House, with a garden by Neutra, was atop the hill on the other side of our canyon. A great Soriano house was just up the street at the edge of the Park, and Barnsdall Park was a mile away. Growing up, architecture, landscape, native flora, and joy were givens in my day-to-day existence. The inseparable connection of architecture to landscape was not something I thought about as a kid. It just was. I decided to be an architect when I was eight. I was in love with a girl whose father (S. Kenneth Johnson, the “J” of DMJM) was an architect. She brought plans of a high school he designed to share with our third-grade class. And that was it.

By the age of ten, I was entranced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings and seduced by his line: how the line of the building would become the line of the foliage, then extend to become the line of the topography, and continue as the picture frame. This sublime integration was the font of my sensibility about architecture and landscape. Both were orchestrated, inseparably, by the construction lines that organized Wright’s plans and elevations. Beginning with drawing, Wright melded the two—architecture and landscape—into the apotheosis of place.

While I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, this sensibility incubated organically within me. Marc Treib and Ron Herman’s course on the Japanese landscape was transformative. At Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, this integration would become a way of life. On my first day there, I set eyes on this beautiful woman—a landscape architecture student, as it turned out. After flirting for three months, we got together. Love, again, shaped my life as an architect. I was 22, not looking to marry; but I knew I had met my wife, Mia, so we married several months later. It was 1976.

That year, Peter Walker returned to Harvard with Martha Schwartz. Pete’s work was becoming the canon of contemporary landscape architecture; Martha’s work would soon become the iconoclastic canon. We all became best friends. What would become a lifelong conversation among the four of us about landscape, art, architecture, and family, began over the course of the following three years. We discussed the prevailing conflicts between “design” and environmental issues, and the imperative to synthesize them. This formative idea informs us to this day.

Pete exposed us to his newfound obsession for minimalism, the classicism of Le Notre, the critical nature of the ground plane, and the landscape idea of parterre, that is, the design on that ground plane. We also learned that the domain of landscape is not a subservient one to the domain of architecture, rather the yin to its yang.

We looked at so much work, from Carl Andre and Donald Judd to Sol LeWitt, Walter de Maria, and Richard Long. Fundamental understandings emerged about flatness and the orchestration of the ground plane to make “place.” We visited art galleries and arboreta. Observing Mia’s study of plants, I also began to understand what differentiated the architect from the landscape architect. The tectonic rudiments, while similar in abstract spacemaking possibilities, were also different. The ceiling, for instance, is virtually always the sky in landscape. Forming the larger space of the landscape could be very different from shaping architectural space. While Pete and Martha often created landscapes without plants, the sensibility was virtually always grounded in the landscape ideal of nature.

There are a few living architects—and a bunch of dead ones—who occupy a portion of my brain as an architect: Frank Gehry and Richard Meier are top among them. The lessons of their work are seared into my brain, as they are to so many architects. My year working with Frank Gehry, twenty-four years ago, is undoubtedly the most important of my training.

The mentor whose oeuvre has most differentiated me as an architect is Pete Walker. Thirty years of ongoing conversation about everything related to design—coupled with occasional projects together—have, I believe, marked my work.


Lehrer Architects Office, Los Angeles, photos by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

The design of my own studio, Lehrer Architects LA in Silver Lake, is a robust expression of my values as an architect. It has many influences: from Gehry, a place that spatially and functionally celebrates making and work; from Meier, rigorous spatial zoning that results in visceral clarity in light; from LeWitt, Judd, Irwin, Stella, et al., saturated, sensual minimalism. But I think the defining differences can be found in lessons learned from Walker. When I saw the layout of his office in Berkeley twelve years ago, it struck me as amazingly simple and smart: a bunch of finger desks coming off a wall. That is where our design started.

Formally, the office design is about a serially organized ground plane with desks extruded vertically from it. Inside and out are one, courtesy of the ground plane and its flatness. It is blasted with natural light. These relationships are real, palpable, and, for me, not negotiable. Indoor/out working space—light, air, and sound—is essential to the good life. Whether it’s the hum of our team working, the little kids playing in the nursery school next door, the sound of cars down the street, or the birds above, this is what life is about. This “groundedness” grounds my architecture.


Water + Life Museums, Hemet, photo by Tom Lamb.

Our work always aspires to be about architecture and landscape. The Water + Life Museums Campus, designed with Mark Gangi, AIA, and Mia Lehrer and Associates (M+LA), exemplifies this. Set in the desert against a two-mile-long dam, the buildings have to stand their ground as they transform it. The ground itself is orchestrated to bring inside out and outside  in. Using the detritus of the dam construction, the ground of the campus becomes one with the dam.


Temple Bat Yahm, Newport Beach, photo by Marvin Rand.

At Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach (with M+LA), the entire new campus is centered on the Ark in the new chapel. It is conceived as a collection of architectural and landscape set-pieces, including the Parking Park, gardens, and courtyards. Processional allées and important axes are vividly expressed as parterre.

There is always so much talk about transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or some other “-inary” way of describing desirable practices. I think “architect” and “landscape architect” are really disciplines and titles of desire. As the quintessential synthesizers, “trans-”this and “inter-”that is what we do, and have always done. If we aren’t fundamentally “urbanists” in what we do, we are probably not doing the right thing.


Water + Life Museums, Hemet, photo by Tom Lamb.

On the other hand, I know that my sustained relationship to landscape architecture, as described above, is a result of studying, living, loving, arguing, and making architecture, landscape architecture, and family with my wife, Mia, for more than thirty years. Ours is figuratively and literally a marriage of disciplines. This is our daily bill of fare. Just this morning at breakfast, Mia pulled out a drawing of a park she is working on under a bridge and we talked about it, discussing the gang issues, the community meetings, and the exquisite possibilities of this particular design problem.

The potential domain of the landscape architect is ultimately much broader than that of the architect. This domain is the glue that binds, the great connective tissue: issues of broad infrastructure, watershed management, local projects writ into large ecosystems, great streets, and urban space. Ironically, in the academy and often in the world beyond, landscape architecture as a profession exists in the shadow of architecture. Its success will come from its internal strength and by developing strong, bright, and capable advocates. My peers and mentors are such (all too rare) exemplars.

As architects, our ability to orchestrate places of consequence begins with our embrace—marriage isn’t always possible—of our kindred discipline, landscape architecture.


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The View from the Landscape

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[Originally published 2nd quarter 2008, in arcCA 08.2, “Landscape + Architecture.”]


Office of Cheryl Barton, Landscape Stratigraphy.

Office of Cheryl Barton, Landscape Stratigraphy.

arcCA asked a dozen and a half prominent California landscape architects two questions:

1. What is one thing you would like architects to know that would facilitate the relationship between the two professions? (Please don’t say, “Be sure to get the landscape architect on board from the beginning of the project.” That one will find its way into the magazine elsewhere.) Your answer needn’t be the most important thing architects should know, although it could be. But it could also be some usefully quirky thing.

2. What do you consider the two or three most important questions or ideas or concerns motivating landscape architecture today?

Here are their responses.



Office of Cheryl Barton, Corporate Headquarters, San Francisco, with Robert A.M. Stern and Gensler, photo by Cheryl Barton.

Cheryl Barton, FASLA, FAAR
Office of Cheryl Barton 

Landscape is a noun, not a verb; it does not end in “-ing.”

Landscape is not “parsley ‘round the pig,” as the Brits would say. It is the foundation for the built environment, not an appliqué after a building is conceived and constructed.

Landscape occupies that critical juncture between nature and culture. It is a potent and symbolic medium that can transform ideas and attitudes as well as place.

A site is not a tabula rasa; sites are deeply layered with a cultural and natural landscape stratigraphy that informs the design narrative. Landscapes encode multiple ideas in many planes occupying the same spacetime.


Pamela Burton & Co., Carbon Beach House, with Richard Meier & Partners, photo by Bruce Botnick.

Pamela Burton, FASLA
Pamela Burton & Company

Architects work in the vertical realm at a macro scale; for them, the elevation of a building twenty feet tall isn’t large enough. Landscape architects work in the horizontal realm at a micro scale; for them, a twenty-inch grade change is a lot.

At the conception of the design process, it is crucial for the architect and landscape architect to understand and agree conceptually on the design approach. Good architects care about how their buildings are integrated into the landscape, and it is beneficial to all when architects and landscape architects understand that they are a convergence of the same process. We always think of the phrase from the musical Oklahoma, “Oh, the farmer (landscape architect) and the cowboy (architect) should be friends!”

Landscape architects must go beyond the pragmatic function of anchoring buildings to a site to enliven the sensory perceptions of people visiting the building. It is our role to challenge how one perceives exterior space by conceptually defining how people see and move through a landscape. Landscape has the possibility of charging all of our senses and evoking memories and emotional responses. Landscape is about a sense of personal wellbeing, a sense of beauty, and a sense of pleasure. Landscape is about making people feel comfortable in spaces with their families, with their friends, and with themselves.

Sustainability should not be promoted at the expense of great design; they can and should be compatible. The success and value of spaces are not always seen immediately; they are felt. In order to make a space resonant, proportions of spaces and the shadows defining edges are as important as how a space is used.


Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, Walden Studios, Alexander Valley,
with Jensen & Macy Architects, photo by Marion Brenner.

Andrea Cochran, FASLA
Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture

Landscape architects almost always understand grading—particularly site grading—better than architects. Many architects do not believe this.

Plants need dirt and water to grow, and it is very hard to make a vertical green wall. Plants are living and cannot be used in the same manner as architectural building materials.

It is helpful to explain at the onset of the project the basic tenets of the design for the building. Certain relationships are important to identify to the landscape architect, so that connections between interior and exterior spaces are appropriately addressed in the landscape design. What relationships are important to enhance or separate? What is the circulation
concept for the site? Provide locations for all building openings. Explain the materials envisioned for the building.

Architects forget they have “lived” with the building for a long time, and some buildings are difficult to understand through plans and elevations. Computer or real models are a help.

Finally, it is important to keep the landscape architect apprised of changes in the building design and the work of other consultants. Sometimes junior staff members forget to provide timely updates.

The most important concerns today are water conservation and using sustainable materials.


Comstock Studio and Robert Irwin, Palm installation, LA County Museum of Art, photo by Alfonso E. Perez-Gonzalez, licensed under CC-BY-2.0.

Paul Comstock, ASLA, Vice President and Managing Principal
ValleyCrest Design Group/Comstock Studio

Oh! How fun! “What architects should know” is a favorite topic among my colleagues across the globe. First off, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Landscape architects must be willing
to learn about the whole architectural process, and architects to further understand the “World of Natural Changes.” A successful relationship depends on participation in and knowledge of each project phase: from the chrysalis concept through construction, and metamorphosis into delivered landscape.

Second, dealing with growing, vibrant but perishable, organisms means that we work with life cycles that can operate independently of construction spreadsheets and critical path timelines. As landscape architects, we create environmental expressions requiring sun, moon, seasonal, and climatic cycles based in universal time. As partners to Mother Nature, we think differently about project time.

A fantastic teacher of mine, architect Francisco Behr, AIA, said simply, “Try thinking of it (the design solution) in different ways.” And the “it” is this: there is really one important concern: the classic Ethos vs. Epistemology Drama, starring Sustainability. Most designers seek a balance between being green and making the project happen without compromising the soul of the design. But, to do that, we need to re-baseline our aesthetic and create new norms to build a better, more brilliant tomorrow.


CMG, Mint Plaza, San Francisco, photo by Sharon Risedorph.

Kevin Conger, ASLA
CMG Landscape Architecture

Consider the landscape as a performance based, functioning system, and strive to get maximum value from the entire landscape. Like the building, performance drives much of the decisions in a successful landscape and should take priority over consideration of style or aesthetics or preconceptions about soft or hard materials. Performance should also drive budget decisions regarding the landscape.

Landscape Urbanism: How do we make constructed environments that are dynamic, sustainable, functional, durable, inspirational, beautiful, social, and which embody ideas like democracy? Part of the solution to this is to move beyond design of the formal landscape and into issues of systems design, policy, politics, economics, etc…


T. Delaney, Inc.—Seam Studio, “Garden Play,” Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma, photo by Lucas Fladzinski.

Topher Delaney
T. Delaney, Inc.—Seam Studio

One word: Threshold.

Physical, as well as in terms of expectations. The Alhambra, Palladian villas, the Salk Institute, all are connected to the landscape, descending or ascending. Where is the envelope? Before you stamp it, where is it?

I’m not a supporter of the demarcation of professional boundaries. Architects should do landscape architecture and vice versa. You should really know the whole thing—how the envelope goes together.

Extend beyond the limit of the threshold. Whether in your own right, in your own studio, or joining in with landscape architects, gardeners, civil engineers, architects should address that extension.


Nancy Goslee-Power & Associates, Beverly Hills Residence, photo by Marcia Lee.

Nancy Power with Joanna Hankamer, Senior Associate
Nancy Goslee-Power & Associates

Landscape architects are designers, not “landscapers.”

[JH] Landscape design has an inherent logic that is fundamentally different from that of architecture. Many architects want to architecturalize landscapes and gardens. I would advise architects to respect and trust that successful landscape and garden design comes from a different sensibility, training, and lineage, and that landscape and garden design is space design in a different realm from theirs, with some different rules. Architects could better their collaborations by trusting landscape designers to collaborate on the design of the whole outdoor environment. Landscape designers are often asked to “green it up” or “specify the plants,” which is like asking an architect to specify the materials for a building that will be designed by others. The materials of our discipline—plants, stone, water, dirt, wood, steel, concrete—are specified during the process of space design, according to rules of form, texture, light, color, movement, climate, growth, and entropy and within an understanding of human physical, sensual, and spiritual interaction with those materials.

[NP] This quotation from Thomas Jefferson says exactly what I believe and feel: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” Nothing makes me happier than when I see all sorts of people so happy to be in gardens that I have designed. I design with their comfort and joy at the top of my list; I do not design just to make an artistic statement. The garden is the mezzanine between heaven and earth. It can be a spiritual and healing place, and our society is desperate for good habitable spaces. My life-long goal is to build as many as I possibly can, including the greening of public elementary schools and introducing the joy of growing your own food and flowers to children. It is no surprise that Paradise in all religions is always described as a garden.

The most important concerns motivating landscape architecture today are:

1. Nature deprivation in our culture, specifically urban and suburban culture.

2. To educate developers on the importance of landscape in our environments.

3. Our discipline’s role in sustainability and contemporary environmentalism.

4. To influence the multi-disciplinary conversations about green urbanism, green infrastructure, and landscape urbanism.

5. To correct architects’ perceptions of our field so that we can better influence our built environments.



Fritz Haeg, Edible Estates Regional Prototype Garden #4: London, 2007, commissioned by Tate
Modern, photo by Heiko Prigge.

Fritz Haeg

I am actually not a landscape architect; my background is in architecture, but most current projects are commissioned by art museums.) Architects by nature tend to be focused on buildings. This may seem obvious and simplistic, but I do not think it necessarily has to be this way. I imagine a future system of architecture education that views a building as one of many possible responses to a design challenge/problem. I like the idea of an architecture of removal, in which we become more strategic about removing structures and considering how little building we actually need to thrive as humans. In a system like this, landscape becomes the privileged form of human development, not buildings.

How can we develop open urban spaces that are more than just high maintenance, ornamental, vanity landscapes? What functions can we assign our open spaces that might also have pleasurable aspects, such as food producing urban farms and dirt cleansing phytoremediation gardens?


EDAW, Tokyo Midtown © EDAW 2008, photo by David Lloyd.

Steve Hanson, ASLA

Well, my flippant answer would be that the world isn’t flat—but of course there are many architects with a great sensitivity to site and grading—and even some landscape architects without it. But, really, from the perspective of buildings, I wish more architects understood the power of landscape to make buildings better. And often it comes back to grading. A recent example is with an urban project that is meant to define a central open space, yet the building elevations have already been set. That can be very limiting.

This will sound very old fashioned, but I think it’s very important to have a big idea, and I mean a design idea—an idea that conveys meaning, sense of place, culture, whatever. This is more important than ever in the current professional climate (pardon the pun) where so many of the metrics for success are based on non-design criteria. Sustainability is essential, but it isn’t a design idea or a replacement for one.


ah’bé, Southpark Streetscape, Los Angeles, photo by Jack Coyier.

Calvin Abe, FASLA
ah’bé::landscape architects | environmental planners

I would like architects to know that “the grass is greener” on this side and that all architects are welcome to practice within the context of our profession. Our profession is about engaging society and healing the planet, so there is a lot of work to be done. We need more talented people using landscape as their medium of expression.

I like to think of our practice as designing and developing “green infrastructure” for the planet. As landscape architects, we are now engaged in the regeneration of the damaged industrial landscape. We are not returning this land to uninterrupted nature, but we are healing and transforming it into a more socially balanced and environmentally sustainable system. Our profession has entered a phase in which we are designing for urban recovery.

How can landscape architects elevate the public’s understanding of how we are generating solutions to environmental issues through our work?


Sasaki Associates, Inc., UC Davis Segundo Commons, photo by Tim Rue.

Jim Jacobs, ASLA,Principal Landscape Architect
Sasaki Associates, Inc.

The biggest challenge is getting architects to truly understand the value that landscape architects bring to a team and the full breadth of scope a landscape architect can offer above just documenting plant material. Landscape architects are formally trained, licensed professionals with specific skill at understanding the broader environmental issues and context of a site. They can offer valuable input in the early site planning and building location phases. This input can establish a stronger, more comprehensive relationship of indoor and outdoor programming, with particular attention to the overall site context, constraints, and
topographic issues. And landscape architects are not “landscapers.”

Landscape architecture, at least in the U.S., is stuck somewhere in the past. We must ask how to define current landscapes without characterizing them as having a resemblance to a Picturesque or Modern style. What does it mean to be contemporary?

I was thinking about urban parks and open spaces and how we have neglected to think holistically about the changing demographic. How are the urban open spaces we design actually more useable, more sustainable, for those who don’t have the option of escaping the city? As stewards of the land, how are we helping to fulfill this newfound quest to be sustainable? We truly have a lot of thinking to do.


Tom Leader Studio, “compost,” installation at Ohio State University, photo by Sara Peschel.

Tom Leader, ASLA
Tom Leader Studio

Why torture a plant?

Not that anyone needs to coddle the opportunistic rascals. It’s just that architecturally obsessing over them is so bourgeois, apologetic, and “cart before the horse.” So many architects are dying to cover their problematic walls, roofs, and obscure lobby niches with thick, luxuriant growth that they must have seen in some Merchant Ivory film or in Hair Club for Men commercials. “The building is all about landscape!” Whatever you say. Most plants object to this treatment and with good reason, since they prefer to grow out of the ground, where they can be with their other friends and congenial microbes. If you want biomass for your wall, what about something easier like twig bundles, fake orchids, or RyKrisp?

Wuthering Urbanism

After a second round of Manhattans and wasabi peas in the office, we sometimes speculate on the yearning, the thwarted passion for an “ism,” indeed, to achieve “IsmIsm.” God knows, poor Heathcliff spent his whole life struggling against his lack of pedigree in order to gain love and acceptance. It is less known that he was also the first landscape architect to search for a higher purpose. We all owe him a debt. But most of his papers were lost when the castle was struck by lightning, and consequently he left few clues as to the precise meaning of “landscape urbanism.” Scattered among the ashes, we do find cryptic mention of some vacant lots in Detroit and an unexecuted design for a wooden bicycle. Also some quantity-based ideas for book titles such as “1,000 Plateaus,” “1,000,000 Trees,” “700 Impact Head Sprinklers,” and “467,988 Stop Signs.” Modern day believers remain undeterred, and we support their efforts to bring some mysticism and unrequited lust to the field.


SWA Group, Lewis Avenue, Las Vegas; photo by Tom Fox/SWA Group.

Marco Esposito, ASLA
SWA Group

The project site limit of work is always bigger than we think. Not only in terms of understanding and establishing design integrity, but also in setting up the clearest people and vehicle flows, accommodating storm water, marshalling utilities to least-visible locations and exploring non-obvious opportunities to improve the experience for everyone on the property and surrounding community. Can the adjacent street be narrowed and enhanced to become the front of the project and valuable outdoor space? Can various people and vehicle entrances be consolidated? What about that windowless one-story building . . . can we better use that space?

Using Land Carefully and Cleverly

The resource that landscape architects have the most influence over—land—is very precious and getting more so all the time. With 57 million square miles of land and 6.7 billion people, the planet has only 5.5 acres for each of us, including wild lands, agricultural and pasture lands and towns and cities. With towns and cities about 2% of the land surface, are we using sites carefully and cleverly? Can the design team work together to invite a few more (or many more) people to each project in a compelling way? Can we design for another 1-2 increments of growth? Every time we use land carefully, we reduce the use of fossil fuels and protect natural resources.

Making Existing Towns and Cities Ever More Livable

We’re in the midst of a real estate dynamic in this direction, and keeping it going in this direction is a satisfying and worthy landscape architectural endeavor.

Sheer Beauty

As review processes grow in complexity, with ever more inflexible standards and requirements, the challenge to push through built projects that are truly beautiful may not be motivating but sure requires motivation!


Katherine Spitz Associates, Inc., West Hollywood Garden, photo by Steve Lacap.

Katherine Spitz, AIA, ASLA
Katherine Spitz Associates, Inc., Landscape Architecture and Planning

I want to remind architects that the art of landscape and the art of building have a long, interconnected history. Architectural education rarely addresses the rich and complex history of landscape design. Although many architects imbue their buildings with precedent and meaning, landscape remains the “leftover”—a bit of greenery around a building, a stereotypical plane of turf, or a planter with bamboo. My dream is that architects would expand their knowledge of history to include landscape, and that their understanding the precedents and principles of landscape architectural history would break down the conceptual barriers between building and site design.

First, landscape architecture and architecture will need to become more regional and site specific. What makes sense in temperate New England will not make sense in the arid West, for example, which standards like LEED will need to better address. Response to the local environment will generate profound change in the look of our buildings and landscapes, especially in the civic and institutional realms. I look forward to this as a tremendous opportunity to develop radically creative, meaningful, and diverse designs. Second, the motivation to sit lightly on the land will alter our perception of the role of landscape architecture in site development. Landscape architects must become more involved in siting concepts, building orientation, and landscape strategies during the design process.


GLS Landscape | Architecture, UC Berkeley Units 1 & 2, EHDD, photo by Patrick Argast.

Gary Strang, AIA, ASLA
GLS Landscape | Architecture

I would like architects to consider that there is a stratum of architectural precedent, especially relevant for our time, whereby buildings enter into an equal dialogue with the landscape. Examples might be Machu Picchu, La Mesquita in Cordoba (The Court of the Oranges), Jefferson at UVA, Wright at Taliesin West, Scarpa at Brion Cemetery, Kahn at Salk Institute, much of the work of Richard Neutra, perhaps the San Francisco Art Institute by Paffard Keatinge-Clay. There are many others, but the architectural press has rarely reported on the entire story.

I would refer architects to the full text of Kenneth Frampton’s keynote address to the UIA in 1999 in Beijing entitled “Seven Points for the Millennium: An Untimely Manifesto.” It is especially powerful coming from one who has a connoisseur’s lifelong appreciation for the sculptural object:

“. . . the design of landscape is of greater critical consequence than architecture on its own . . . . I am convinced that architectural and planning schools . . . should give much greater emphasis to the cultivation of landscape as an overarching system rather than concentrating exclusively, as they have tended to do up to now, on the design of buildings as aesthetic objects.”

Landscape architecture at its best is concerned with the artistic expression of the relationship between people and nature and, by extension, between technology and nature. If one considers that the numbers of people and the extent of technology are unprecedented in human history, then the artistic potential should be limitless, and this should be a very exciting time. The large extent to which buildings have become open and transparent, while the landscape has become more constructed, has led to a much larger area of overlap between architects and landscape architects, and a situation in which the intertwining of nature and technology will lead to new forms and solutions.

On the other hand, landscape architects can read landscapes the way architects read cities and buildings, and clearly there is cause for alarm in regard to the health of natural systems, in terms of climate change, invasive species, and so on. As one who studies natural systems, it is hard not to feel like an engineer walking into a masonry building with diagonal cracks that have been painted over.

The revolution that has occurred in architecture in regard to mechanical engineering is awaiting its corollary in landscape architecture, that is, a revolution in civil engineering.


PWP Landscape Architecture, Saitama Sky Forest Plaza, Tokyo, with NTT UD Architects, photo courtesy PWP Landscape Architecture.

Peter Walker, FASLA
PWP Landscape Architecture

Fine landscapes like fine architecture require an appropriate level of budget.

Sustainability is the result of skillful maintenance.

You should put a $200 tree in a $2,000 hole, not the other way around.

The most important part of almost all fine landscapes is the plantings that are alive, and therefore, require care. Like children, without this care, they won’t amount to much.


Lutsko Associates Landscape, 897 N. Market Sustainability Gardens, Redding, CA,
photography by Marion Brenner.

Ron Lutsko, Jr.
Lutsko Associates landscape

Each discipline should better understand the other; a narrow perspective in either frustrates the other. This applies to an historic perspective as well as current topics. Architecture has a relatively linear historic evolution, focusing on the building/building complex, while landscape has encompassed many areas of thought (architecture, ecology, art, etc.), and the importance of each has shifted over time. Landscape can thus be more difficult to define concisely. Unfortunately, most design educations do not focus sufficiently on the parallel discipline, and thus self-education is imperative to functioning fluidly in collaborative work: architects should study landscape, and landscape architects should study architecture.

Of prime importance today are the relationships between people and nature, design and ecology. Nature must be incorporated into everyday life, taking us beyond the notion of a preserved, museum-like display separate from people. This must be done in the form of high design (not mimicking nature), creating stellar living spaces that put us back in touch with our place in the natural world. Art, architecture, human health and comfort, resource conservation and habitat development all fall within this larger goal.


Mia Lehrer + Associates, Civitas, Inc. and Wenk Associates, LA State Historic Park connection.

Mia Lehrer, FASLA, and Esther Margulies, ASLA, Partners
Mia Lehrer + Associates

Architects need to expand their comfort zone. It is safer to promote a natural aesthetic to public agencies and developers, but we need support from the design team in promoting daring materials and new ways of developing the landscape. Owners look to the architect to provide design leadership.

The desperate need for open space in many areas of Los Angeles cannot be solved by public agencies alone. We need to contribute to the public open space network instead of designing private courtyards for the privileged few. We cannot continue to cover the earth with green buildings and parking lots for hybrids. When a building and its parking cover more land than they need to, we reduce ground water resources and require more drainage infrastructure and water treatment plants. We must build taller and leave more of the earth permeable.

Landscape architects historically took on the scale of infrastructure in development beyond the urbanized city. Now that our cities have overgrown the infrastructure, and neighborhoods, schools, and parks are surrounded by freeways and cut off by drainage channels, we must look at systems of delivery, conveyance, and evacuation at the scale of the city and the region. One of our preoccupations is the implementation of such large scale, longterm projects, educating the community, government agencies, and elected officials. 

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The 9/11 Memorial and Its Precedents

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Peter Walker, 9/11 Memorial, Monterey Design Conference

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Peter Walker, 9/11 Memorial, Monterey Design Conference
In this 60-minute video, filmed live as part of the AIA California Council’s 2011 Monterey Design Conference, Peter Walker, FASLA, reviews his work on the landscape architecture of one of the most significant new projects in the United States: the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Walker puts the Memorial’s design in the context of his firm’s previous work on several notable projects. He examines the special techniques he has helped to develop in order to implement his vision, as well as the art and design that helped inspire the vision itself. Finally, he provides a detailed account of how the Memorial came to exist in its current form: what challenges were overcome, what concepts changed, and how he helped to create a unique landmark that not only remembers a tragedy, but also helps a city and a nation come to terms with it.

Click here to preview the online course or to register.

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MDC Welcomes Global Grounds Changer Peter Walker, FASLA

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Rem Koolhaas, Norman Foster, I. M. Pei and Yoshio Taniguchi are just a short list of architects that Peter Walker, FASLA, has collaborated with on projects during fifty years as a landscape architect.

This year, he’ll bring his insights to the Monterey Design Conference as a speaker.

How can what he has to say influence current institutional commissions you have. . .

How can what he has to say influence current institutional commissions you have now or plan to compete for in the future? Spend three days at the MDC, pick-up all your continuing education requirements, share an informal meal with Walker and find out.

Amongst Walker’s extraordinary body of work is “Reflecting Absence” the National September 11 Memorial, designed with architect Michael Arad.

Outside of the United States, Walker designed Millennium Park for Sydney, Australia’s 2000 Olympics, was commissioned by Novartis, the pharmaceutical company for its stellar campus in Switzerland, and has generated Saitama Plaza and Harima Town Park in Japan, as well as working in Berlin.

Walker is the founder of PWP Landscape Architecture and the winner of the 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Architecture. In addition to other academic appointments, he chaired the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Don’t miss out on continuing education units that are, literally, a walk on the beach.

Read our MDC exclusive interview with MDC 2011 speaker Tom Kundig, FAIA.

Who else will speak? Hint: Dr. Dickson Despommier, PhD, Jeanne Gang, FAIA LEED AP, Mark Lee, founder and Principal Johnston Marklee, are several.

Why are so many architects privately giving kudos to Mark Mack?

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MDC Registration Now Available – 6/8/11

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Join us for the 2011 Monterey Design Conference for presentations from extraordinary speakers, to engage in informal conversations with your colleagues that can only happen in the relaxing setting that is Asilomar.

The AIACC is pleased to present individuals whose stories and lives inspire those who imagine, design and create communities.

Come to Monterey as an opportunity to be a participant in the dialog about design.

Featured Speakers
Moderator, Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA
Dr. Dickson Despommier, PhD
Jeanne Gang, FAIA, LEED AP
Tom Kundig, FAIA
Frank Barkow & Regina Leibinger
David Salmela, FAIA
Brigitte Shim, FAIA
Peter Walker, FASLA
Social Media Panel
Moderator, Cliff Pearson
Yosh Asato
Amanda Dameron
Cliff Pearson

For more details and information about the speakers, conference content, and continuing education details visit the conference page

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MDC Speakers

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Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA,
Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA, is editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT magazine and editorial director of publisher Hanley Wood’s commercial design group of five media brands: Architect, Architectural Lighting, Eco-Structure, Metalmag, and Pro AV. In 2009, Architect was a National Magazine Awards finalist in the general excellence category for magazines with a circulation of less than 100,000. 

Prior to joining Hanley Wood, Mr. Cramer served as the first fulltime curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). During his four-year tenure there, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin commended Cramer for bringing “intellectual heft” to CAF’s exhibitions and public programs, and the initiatives under his direction received support from organizations such as Altria, the Boeing Corporation, Fannie Mae, the Graham Foundation, Sara Lee, the McCormick-Tribune Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Dickson Despommier, PhD
Dr. Despommier, is a full-time professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Dr. Despommier, is also the director of the Vertical Farm Project which addresses issues related to urban agriculture, environmental disturbance, and the restoration of damaged ecosystems. The project was started in 1999 as a classroom activity in Dr. Despommier’s Medical Ecology course. 

During the ten years that followed, numerous articles in the popular press (NY Science Times, Popular Science, New York Magazine, Time Magazine, Scientific American) and interviews on and radio and television shows (including the Colbert Report) have featured his concept of farming in buildings situated inside the city limits. So far, over 82 graduate students (mostly from the Mailman School of Public Health) have participated in generating a wealth of supportive studies that are posted on the vertical farm website.

Borja Ferrater
Between 1995 and 1999 Borja Ferrater studied biology at Temple University in Philadelphia and at the University of Navarre. In September 2005 he graduated with honors as an architect from the International University of Catalonia, his final project being “Skyscrapers in Athens.” He was a visiting student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc, Los Angeles) and participated in the Alvar Aalto Symposium (2000) as well as in the “Days of Oris 2005” symposium in Zagreb, Croacia.
Jeanne Gang, FAIA, LEED AP
Jeanne Gang is founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, a rising international practice whose work confronts pressing contemporary issues. The transformative potential of her work is exemplifed by such recent projects as Chicago’s 82-story Aqua Tower, the O2 high-rise in Hyderabad, India, and the Northerly Island framework plan. Published and exhibited widely, Jeanne’s work has been shown at the International Venice Biennale, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Building Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. She is also an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology where her studios have focused on megacities and material technologies.
Tom Kundig, FAIA
Tom Kundig is one of the most recognized architects in North America. He has received over thirty-seven AIA awards – four of them national Honor Awards – as well as some of our nation’s highest design awards, including a National Design Award in Architecture Design from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt and an Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Tom Kundig: Houses is one of Princeton Architectural Press’s bestselling architecture books of all time, and they will publish a new book of his work, Tom Kundig Houses 2, this fall.
Michael Maltzan, FAIA
Michael Maltzan, FAIA, is the principal of Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture. Founded in 1995, the practice is focused on creating architecture that is a catalyst for new experience and an agent for change. Through a shared belief in architecture’s role in our cities, this work, from MoMA to Skid Row, creates new connections across a range of scales and programs. Michael Maltzan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Architecture degree with a Letter of Distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His work has been recognized with numerous accolades and has been featured in publications worldwide.
David Salmela, FAIA
Salmela has won 15 Minnesota Honor Awards, been elected to the AIA College of Fellows and won two AIA Honor Awards in 2005. David Salmela, FAIA, practices in Duluth, Minnesota. He has worked in architecture since 1969 and has lived in Minnesota all of his life. Projects which represent his broad assembly of work are Brandenburg’s Ravenwood Studio in Ely, MN, and the Emerson Sauna in rural Duluth, MN. They both won National AIA Honor Awards for architecture in 1998 and 2005, respectively. Also, a 2005 National AIA Honor Award winner for Regional and Urban Design was the Jackson Meadow Development in Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota. Overall, David has won 50 regional and national design awards. In 2005 the monograph, Salmela/Architect by University of Minnesota Dean of the College of Design, Thomas Fisher, was published. David’s work has been featured, nationally and internationally, in Abitare, Architectural Record, Architectural Review, Graphis, Architecture, ID, Monocle, Hauser and Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture. In 2007 David received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Minnesota.
Brigitte Shim, FAIA
Brigitte Shim is a principal of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects in Toronto, an architecture and design firm interested in the integration of furniture, architecture and landscape. Their built architectural work has been honoured with eight Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Governor-General’s Medals and Awards for Architecture along with AIA, American Wood Council, Canadian Wood Council, Architectural Record Interiors, and I.D. Magazine Design Review award. Their unbuilt projects have received a P/A Award Citation and a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence. Furniture designed by their firm has won awards and represented Canadian design in international exhibitions and her architectural designs have been published widely in the U.S., Europe and Eurasia. In 2002, Brigitte Shim and her partner Howard Sutcliffe were recipients of the Toronto Arts Award for Architecture and Design.
Peter Walker, FASLA
Peter Walker attended Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he received his masters in Landscape Architecture in 1957, and won the school’s Weidenman Prize that year. In 1983, he formed Peter Walker and Partners and has developed a world-class interdisciplinary firm that employs around thirty to forty landscape architects well trained in the field. Peter Walker was also a co-author of Invisible Gardens, which touches on the modernist movement in America and the comparison of other landscapes to those in Europe. Peter Walker and Partners has developed many beautiful and successful landscapes in the Americas as well as internationally. One of his team’s projects that is currently being worked on is the World Trade Center Memorial in New York, New York. Although it is not complete and cannot be deemed a successful project quite yet, his team did win the honor of first place in the contest of designers across the globe.
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