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Welcome From the Department Head
Department Head Bill Sullivan 

Greetings from Champaign. The semester is now well underway—it feels like we are all going full-throttle teaching studios, seminars, and technology classes.

Below, you will read about the diverse and compelling Design Workshops that we are teaching this semester. In these courses, junior, senior, and graduate students are mixed in the studio and work together on a set of complex problems that require considerable analysis and innovative design interventions.

You can also read about some wonderful graduates of our program who have taken career paths that tap deeply into the skills and knowledge they learned at Illinois but that do not involve working for a landscape architecture firm. Their stories are surprising and inspirational.

We hope you’ll join us on May 3 for our annual Sasaki Day! We’ve planned an exciting, diverse, rich day celebrating design in a variety of forms. Shannon Nichol will fly in from her GGN offices in Seattle to deliver the keynote address. Our three Designers-in-Residence will exhibit their work at the Illini Union. And we will be announcing the winners of a design competition for a campus landscape intervention that honors some of the outstanding achievements of University of Illinois faculty. The competition is funded by the Chancellor’s Office and is part the University’s Sesquicentennial celebration.

If you happen to be in town, please do stop in our offices and say hello. We’d love to see you. And, if you have news to share, please send us an email. We always appreciate hearing from you.

Spring Design Workshops
Designer-in-Residence Katherine Kraszewska conversing with BLA student Cesar Campos 
Water and Policy in the Agricultural Landscape

Taught by Designer-in-Residence Katherine Kraszewska, students in this studio analyze the several agricultural communities in Illinois and other Midwest states to determine the extent of impact non-point water pollution within regional, national, and global contexts. Students are examining a range of political, social, economic, and environmental concerns that this topic covers and are developing resilient design solutions that can be applied on state, regional, and nationwide scales.

Steven Sears with MLA student Yu Lin 
After Arcadia

Taught by Steven Sears, "After Arcadia" investigates the post-wilderness, post-industrial exurban circumstances found in Hamilton County, Indiana, in order to design landscape strategies that promote innovative configurations, systems, and dynamics for a contemporary and sustainable built environment.

By exploring concepts like techno-ecology, dynamic equilibrium, and cultural identity, participants are developing specific case studies using existing and emerging technologies for sites in small towns, sprawling subdivisions, shopping nodes, manufacturing centers, agricultural zones, riparian corridors, and infrastructure rights of way.

Jessica Marie Henson comments on design proposals during a pin-up 
Wet and Dry: River Patterns and Human Interventions

Led by Jessica Marie Henson, students in this studio explore how humans have altered rivers to meet their needs in controlling scarcity or overflow of water. The course began with a seminar on four well known American rivers: the Colorado, the Los Angeles, the Missouri, and the Mississippi.

David Hays with MLA Nankun Xu 
Figuring Future Nature

Taught by David Hays, this studio asks, “What is the future of nature, and how might landscape architecture address that?”

The studio approaches the making and exhibiting of habitat dioramas as a practice of landscape architecture. Through interdisciplinary work in a range of traditional and experimental formats, participants are learning about the historical and technical development of dioramas and their contexts; locating habitat dioramas within the larger history of interior landscapes (contained spaces designed to appear larger than their physical limits); relating dioramas to problems of representation and aesthetics in contemporary landscape architecture; and developing a theory of future nature based on historical and contemporary models and projections. As a culmination of research and a demonstration of findings, participants will figure future nature through the design, construction, and exhibition of full-scale habitat dioramas.

Designer-in-Residence Brad Goetz with students 
Site Systems and Processes

This studio, taught by Designer-in-Residence Brad Goetz, began by introducing students to aerial imagery of their site, the 4,457-acre Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station (Will County, IL), 80% of which is designated a cooling lake. Students are learning about the legacy of extraction in the area, wetland hydrology, and contemporary landscape strategies. The studio's focus on site systems and processes helps students understand the complex systems associated with landscape as infrastructure, knowledge that will greatly enrich a studio visit to the site in early March. Students are utilizing drawing, especially digital drawing and modeling, to analyze and express time-based processes in the site and in the design proposal.

Sasaki Day 2017
Shannon Nichol, the 2017 Sasaki Day Lecturer 

Mark your calendar for this year's Sasaki Day which will take place on May 3, 2017! We are anticipating a wonderful lecture this year to be given by Shannon Nichol, one of the founding partners of GGN. Her designs, including Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, and Boston’s North End Parks, are widely recognized for being deeply embedded in their neighborhoods and natural contexts.

Shannon's recent and current projects include Lower Rainier Vista & Pedestrian Land Bridge at the University of Washington, India Basin Waterfront Park in San Francisco, Seattle Streetcar: City Center Connector, and Washington State’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Please hold the date and join us on campus for Shannon’s lecture and all of the Sasaki Day festivities on May 3, 2017. Read more about Nichol.

Alumni Stories

The Road Less Traveled:

Stories of alumni who have used their Landscape Architecture degrees in nontraditional ways

Chad W. Tyler (BLA 2004), Senior Exhibit Designer at Quatrefoil Associates 
Chad W. Tyler

Personally, creatively, and professionally, I’ve always been a sort of a vagabond, better yet, a flâneur—always in search of new avenues of creative opportunity and innovation.

Landscape Architecture at UIUC helped to define a purpose for my wandering; it was cemented in the first day of the sophomore design studio with Professor David Hays. We sat in a circle and, one by one, we described our reasons for pursuing a degree in landscape architecture: love of nature/hiking, interest in horticulture, the genius of the earthworks movement, etc. When the circle came back around, Professor Hays shared his collection of photographs from the set of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Suddenly, everything came into focus—our future degree wasn’t just applicable to the typical landscape architecture careers. No! With it we could create video games, design theater sets, choreograph performances, and engender behavior change in all sorts of ways and mediums!

I took this lesson to heart and have since found my career designing and fabricating environmental works for the theater and dance, public art, archaeological and anthropological dioramas for natural history museums, and multi-million dollar exhibitions for the aquariums, including children’s exhibits and habitats for cetaceans, invertebrates, and fish at the Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium.

At present, I use my daytime to design exhibitions for a variety of art, science, and history museums all around the nation. At night, I maintain an active studio practice, creating sculptures, public art installations, and the occasional scenic design. Within my work for museums, I am particularly interested in experience design as a spatial storytelling medium to affect the attitudes and behavior of the audience in ways that are measureable through evaluation. In the studio, I am particularly interested in the innate human obsession with animals; the theater of trophy hunting, model railroads, bonsai, and dollhouses; and the fictional worlds of Dido and Aeneas and An American in Paris.

Katarina Katsma (BLA 2011), Writer/Editor for Landscape Architecture Magazine 
Katarina Katsma

I’ve always been interested in writing, though I never saw it as a viable career option. When I started off at U of I, I was convinced I needed a diploma that would guarantee me a job, so I found myself in engineering. That didn’t last long, and I soon found myself looking at alternative majors. Landscape architecture was exciting, as it seemingly combined everything I was interested in: nature, art, design, analytical thinking, and psychology. And I am still passionate about the profession, despite not exactly following the standard career path.

I think that’s what was so scary about making the jump to Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM). If I didn’t get a job designing a landscape or working CAD, what was all that time and money I spent on my degree for? If a year from now, I realized I wanted to design rather than write, would anyone hire me? Do you lose those skills?

In the end I decided I needed to follow this opportunity and see where it would lead me. I think that gamble has paid off. Working at LAM has opened a lot of doors that I wouldn’t normally have had access to this early in my career. I’ve spoken with some truly amazing people and learned so many things about the profession, all of which was built upon my strong foundation education. It really is the perfect mix of my interests, an opportunity I might not have had if not for my time spent at U of I.

Christopher Carl (MLA 2013), Artist-Landscape Designer, New American Gardening (NewAG) 
Christopher Carl

I work with an arts non-profit, Fort Gondo, that owns multiple distressed buildings and empty lots on a city block that we call G-CADD in Granite City, Illinois. The block is typical of most post-industrial cities in that it is largely vacant, dilapidated, and has a legacy of industrial contamination. In other words, a perfect location to explore how art and design, especially landscape design, can be instrumental in revitalizing post-industrial urban land.

New American Gardening or NewAG is entering its third season at G-CADD and aims to synthesize landscape design and urban agriculture to transform G-CADD into an ecologically productive landscape. Our current pilot project is exploring the possibility of native plant installations and stormwater controls as viable alternatives for occupying underutilized urban land. We hope to use native plant production and landscape design as revenue streams for supporting non-profit innovation and stewardship programs. Toward this end, we are in the midst of building 800 sq. ft. of greenhouse space and have partnered with the City of Granite City, The Sierra Club, Madison County Transit, and the Cool Cities Sustainability Committee to install a native plant propagation and demonstration garden in Downtown Granite City.

I think it is imperative that landscape architects and designers work toward innovating professional practice. There is valuable work to be done that exists outside of the multi-million dollar development or on the properties and estates of the well-to-do. This statement is not meant to be a criticism of those kinds of projects—they are indispensable as models and inspiration—but we need people to take different kinds of risks and redefine what it means to be successful.

CB Fellerhoff (MLA 2005), Project Planner and Designer, Sprinkle Consulting, Tampa, FL; pictured with son Daniel 
CB Fellerhoff

I work as a planner and designer for a firm that specializes in active transportation. My own interests and market conditions led to the bulk of my work ending up being oriented towards bicycle and pedestrian transportation.

I work in all aspects of planning, design, and operations: from long range plans, facility design, and operational and safety audits of existing conditions, to writing design guidance for local and national agencies. I have been an instructor in a federal training program on bike and ped facility design (including multiple presentations to IDOT staff in Springfield and Schaumburg). Our clients are cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, state DOTs, and the federal government.

I really enjoy design and seeing people use the facilities I helped put in place. There is trail and cycle track (similar to a bike lane but with something more than a stripe separating the bikes from motor vehicles) we worked on in St. Petersburg, Florida. The alignment generally follows the grade of an old railroad line and then a street, but there is one specific point where we deviated from that to accommodate a pocket park. This was my idea, and I also drafted the curve within the CAD drawing (something I don’t do that often). It was a big deal to me see that curve appear on Google Earth, and to know that as infrastructure, it would likely persist for an incredibly long time. It was also gratifying to open up a GIS file I was working with on a different project in the same neighborhood, and to find my curve faithfully rendered (likely traced from a satellite image) into data and given back to me. But it was a huge deal when I took my son on a bike ride there, and watched him (a not-very coordinated boy who enjoys directing the movements of others and whom I taught to ride a bike) pedal through the curve that I drew before he was born.

Another type of work I have found very interesting lately is identifying route systems for biking and walking and the wayfinding structures to direct people through them. In several Florida communities, we have worked to reveal and promote opportunities to get around by biking or walking by highlighting existing low-stress connections between points of interest. These networks are often tens of mile long in total, but we propose very little new construction—our work is primarily about showing people how they can already get around. I also worked on writing the guidance document for how signs for the US Bike Route System should be posted, especially as they overlap and intersect with each other route systems, including US and state highways and local bike route systems. Once established, these guidelines are very persistent and consulted by countless individual designers for application on projects across the country, so it’s a way to leave an imprint on a very broad landscape, and to contribute to people’s everyday experience in a way widespread and long-lasting, but it’s achieved in a way that’s more like writing a code than building an enclosure.

Transportation infrastructure design is very satisfying and interesting. It involves directing people’s behavior in very overt ways, like an almost coercive form of choreography, but it falls apart if it asks them to do things that they are disinclined to do. The tools it uses are un-subtle (if you think about it, a STOP sign is like someone shouting at you), but at the same time, if it is successful and deployed in a way that reinforces what most people would likely do anyway, people comply with it while almost forgetting it’s there.

The satisfaction I find in working with infrastructure is something that my Illinois education helped cement. I definitely had that inclination when I came to the U of I, but so much of the teaching and research focus of the faculty was oriented towards facilitating thoughtful experience of ordinary and functional landscapes, and finding the inherent aesthetics and opportunities for engaging people in the systems that govern them. Faculty like Bob Riley, Terry Harkness, David Hays, Amita Sinha, and Dianne Harris helped my classmates and me understand that landscapes include broad cultural and “natural” systems, that a static visual experience is not often the defining one for many landscapes, and that engaging people with those systems in ways that may not even tangibly alter their form is still a form of design. The faculty who taught the more “nuts-and-bolts” technical classes (Gary Kesler and Carol Emmerling-DiNovo) were likewise very effective in providing us with the tools to make it all work, whether in service of projects ordinary, spectacular, or spectacularly ordinary.