Cultural Landscapes Blog

The Charles F. Gillette Forum on landscape design will be presented November 3 and 4 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

"Making Beauty Sustainable" features four prominent designers and writers who explore the modern expression of ecological landscape design. The speakers are: Julia Czerniak (Professor and Associate Dean, School of Architecture, Syracuse University); Thomas Rainer (Principal, Rhodeside and Harwell and co-author of Planting in a Post-Wild World); Mary Lydecker (Senior Associate, Hargreaves Associates); Margie Ruddick (Principal, Margie Ruddick landscape and author of Wild by Design). 

The symposium honors the legacy of Charles F. Gillette, a leader in the field of landscape architecture, by engaging the public in a conversation about the importance of landscape design. For more information and to register, visit the website

On September 15, 2016, the Center for Cultural Landscapes presented a panel on "Confronting Race & Memory in the Charlottesville Heritage Landscape" as part of the Human/Ties forum. The panelists included UVA professors Lisa Woolfork (English), Kirt von Daacke (History), and John Mason (History). The panel was introduced by Mayor Mike Signer and moderator by Frank Dukes. NBC29 covered the panel in the days after the event. You can read an excerpt below and the full article here.

A panel of University of Virginia professors is helping people learn about Charlottesville’s history with race and heritage. The panel examined the history of race in the city along with the ongoing controversy over its confederate history. The theme can best be summed in a quote from one of the presenters:  "What happened in the past doesn't change, but how we understand it does." UVA Associate Professor John Mason spoke about the historical monuments with the Blue Ribbon Commission in Charlottesville. “The commission has been working very hard having hard but honest conversations. What the recommendation will be I can’t say but I can definitely say that I’ll fight really hard to connect the past with the present,” said Mason.  “These statues are silent on the long decades between the end of the war and the time they were constructed in the 1920s.” 

Other speakers chimed in with their views on how race history is mishandled, and how even today, the burden of moving past racial issues is on the wrong party. “I think that it becomes very tiresome when you come to the bereaved group and set them to be the ones to fix it,” said Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor at UVA. “White supremacy is the foundation on which this society was constructed up until 50 years ago,” said Mason. 

But the conversation moved from how Charlottesville got its problems to how the city and its allies can solve them. “Working to initiate a process of acknowledgement, reconciliation and repair with our own community at UVA and with the broader community we've embedded in for 200 years,” said Kirt von Daake, an associate professor and assistant dean at UVA. “One thing I can say is that we will recommend that young Charlottesvillians be taught their history,” said Mason.

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Bruce and Jacqueline Gupton hosted a reception for the UVA Community History, Planning and Design workshop class members and Gordonsville community members at their home, The Rocklands. The reception was an opportunity for students and community members to meet and discuss possible areas of research for the partnership. Speakers included Dean of the UVA School of Architecture Ila Berman and Gordonsville Mayor Bob Coiner. 

The workshop is part of the graduate Historic Preservation program and is taught by Director Andrew Johnston. This year, the workshop is partnering with the mayor, town council, and a variety of stakeholder groups of the town of Gordonsville, Virginia to explore ongoing challenges in their community, and propose possible futures from the varied perspectives of a range of disciplines.  

On Saturday, October 15 the workshop students, Professor Andrew Johnston, visiting Professor and UNESCO advisor Philippe Revault, and community members gathered at Christ Episcopal Church in Gordonsville for a design charrette. The charrette included a walking tour led by members of Historic Gordonsville Inc. and participation from over 25 Gordonsville community members, including Mayor Bob Coiner, Town Manager Deborah Kendall, Jacqueline and Bruce Gupton, UVA School of Architecture Professor Emeritus Theo van Groll and lecturer Pam Black, and many others. Philippe Revault, Professor Emeritus from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris la Villette, is a 2016-2017 UVA Innovations in Practice visiting professor who provided students guidance during the charrette. 

Part studio course and part seminar, the Community History Workshop is both an in-depth historical analysis of the architecture, urban form, and planning of a selected community, and a forum for speculative futures and plan making for the community, informed by a methodologically-driven in-depth analysis of the community in partnership with stakeholders. This heritage-focused course explores the existing significance of the built landscape as an element in, and an expression of, the social and cultural life of the community and as key for plan-making and design for the future.

The Maeder-York Family Fellowship in Landscape Studies is awarded annually to an emerging design talent whose work articulates the potentials for landscape as a medium of design in the public realm. This initiative is intended to recognize and foster emerging designers from across the design disciplines.

The 2017 Fellowship invites applications proposing design research projects engaging with the public realm, urbanization, and ecology of the greater Boston metropolitan area. The rich cultural, artistic, and academic setting offered by the Museum and the Boston area has long been a source of inspiration. The Maeder-York Family Fellowship in Landscape Studies represents a singular opportunity for creative exploration and interaction with a vibrant, active community. The Maeder-York Family Fellow in Landscape Studies will be in residence in one of the Renzo Piano-designed apartments at the Museum for two months during the summer of 2017.

The Fellowship Jury is comprised of international figures in landscape architecture and allied design disciplines. The two-stage competition process identifies a short-list of up to five finalists who will be invited to interviews with the competition jury.

Alan Berger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Anita Berrizbeitia, Harvard University
Julia Czerniak, Syracuse University
Elizabeth Meyer, University of Virginia
Alissa North, University of Toronto
Kelly Shannon, University of Southern California
Charles Waldheim, Ruettgers Curator of Landscape, Gardner Museum
Richard Weller, University of Pennsylvania

Applications are invited until December 1, 2016. For instructions on how to apply, visit the website

Preservation Virginia is pleased to host the 31st annual Virginia Preservation Conference, an event that brings together architects, builders, preservationists, government leaders, developers, lawyers, local planning officials and others from across the Commonwealth. 

This year’s conference will take place at The Paramount Theater and The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Sunday, October 16th and Monday, October 17th. Following the release of the third and final phase of Preservation Virginia's Economic Impact Study, the theme of the conference will revolve around expanded definitions of and the positive economic impacts and value of Heritage Tourism in Virginia.

As part of the conference program, the Center for Cultural Landscapes has partnered with The Cultural Landscape Foundation to present "Lawrence Halprin's Legacy: Charlottesville Mall" on Sunday, October 16 at 1:30pm. This tour, led by Beth Meyer (FASLA), Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, will introduce participants to reasons behind the pedestrian mall's success, from its design expression to the adjacent constructed environment, from political figures who stewarded the Mall for decades to the urban demographic changes that have occurred since the 1970s. The walk will start with a “tuning score” designed by UVA Dance Lecturer Katie Schetlick to prepare visitors for the tour’s walking experience. The event is free but registration is required. For more information on this tour or to register, click here

For full conference information or to register, click here

In a recent interview on PBS News Hour, Terry Tempest Williams commemorates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a meditation on what the parks symbolize in her personal life and how they help define what it means to be an American. You can read an excerpt below and the full interview here

JEFFREY BROWN: Terry Tempest Williams, author, naturalist and environmental activist, grew up in Utah surrounded by national parks.

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, Author, “The Hour of Land”: They were our backyard. And with our family business, laying pipe in the American West, it was this wonderful juxtaposition between intrusion in the land and protected land.

JEFFREY BROWN: The story of the land, right?

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS: So, I feel like the American West is in my bones in the deepest way. And I also felt conflicted at a really young age, because I saw my father, my uncle, my grandfather, my brothers digging trenches in the land.

And yet I saw prairie dogs on the side of the trenches. And my impulse was to protect them from the very destruction that was putting food around our table..

JEFFREY BROWN: One hundred years since the creation of the National Park Service, the contradictions and controversies over America’s public lands continue.

But there is no denying the popularity of the parks themselves, Great Smoky Mountains in the East, Yosemite in the West, Yellowstone, the oldest park, established in 1872, and so many more, large and small, natural landscapes and historic monuments, some 412 parks and sites in all.

And attendance records continue to be broken, with more than 300 million visits last year. In “The Hour of Land,” a Terry Tempest Williams, who still lives in Utah, has written part natural history, part memoir, part call for preservation.

The Center for Cultural Landscapes is proud to announce Genevieve Keller as the Distinguished Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. Genevieve Keller is a nationally known leader in historic preservation and cultural landscape practice and theory. Passionate about the relationship between people and place, Genevieve engages in public, private and academic practice combining a realistic assessment of political sensibilities with a firm belief in the power of visioning for inclusive, adaptive, and resilient historic places. Working with World Heritage Sites, National Parks, National Historic Landmarks, and National Register districts throughout the United States, Genevieve, along with J. Timothy Keller, FASLA, is co-founder of Land and Community Associates, an award-winning firm grounded in the collaborative and cross-disciplinary planning and landscape preservation initiatives that led to increased awareness and protection of significant landscapes in the United States. Her contributions in publication, most notably the internationally and nationally cited How To Evaluate and Nominate Designed Historic Landscapes and How To Evaluate and Nominate Rural Historic Landscapes, as well as contributions to Robert Stipe’s classic work on historic preservation A Richer Heritage and the National Trust’s book on rural conservation—Saving America’s Countryside—provide guidance to diverse individuals and groups involved in and advocating for landscape preservation, distinct communities, and historic places.

Genevieve graduated from Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia with honors in Latin American Studies, earned a Master of Architectural History from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, was a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and undertook post-graduate studies in landscape architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and University of Edinburgh. Genevieve served as Affiliate Associate Professor in the College of Design at Iowa State University from 1995 to 2015 where she co-directed outreach projects. She has taught landscape preservation courses at the University of Mary Washington, and as Visiting Professor in Architectural History at the University of Virginia School of Architecture taught courses in Community History and Historic Preservation Theory and Practice, and she coordinated the School of Architecture’s community-focused Vortex events in 2015 and 2016.

A recent article in UVA Today by Caroline Newman celebrates the legacy of Benjamin Howland, the late UVA landscape architecture professor who worked in the National Park Service for 30 years. As the NPS celebrates its 100th anniversary, Howland's papers, archived at UVA, shed light on some of its most famous sites. You can read an excerpt on the article below and the full piece online

professor who played a formative role in the University of Virginia’s landscape architecture program also left his mark on some of the United States’ greatest national treasures, including the White House, the Washington Monument and Yellowstone National Park. Before joining the UVA faculty in 1975, Benjamin Howland Jr. spent 30 years as a landscape architect in the National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th anniversary on Thursday. Howland’s papers, archived in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, offer behind-the-scenes insight into today’s parks, from Washington, D.C.’s historic landmarks to stunning, carefully preserved landscapes.

Howland arrived at UVA in the first year of the School of Architecture’s landscape architecture program and taught until his death in 1983. Today, an endowed lecture series and travel fellowship commemorate his influence on the program, along with a memorial tree outside the Lawn room that his daughter, Jane, occupied as a student. “Ben’s unbelievable expertise in connecting theory and practice is a major reason why, 45 years later, our program is in the top five nationally, competing with much older programs,” said Elizabeth Meyer, a professor of landscape architecture at UVA and a former student of Howland’s. Howland’s legacy also includes droves of students committed to public service, an ideal that he embraced as an architect and as a Marine during World War II, when he met his wife and fellow Marine, Susan. “He inspired many students to think about public service as well as private practice,” said Meyer, who cites Howland as the inspiration for her decision to teach at a public university. “That commitment to the public realm really came through Ben.”

As the National Park Service turns 100, UVA Today delved into Howland’s papers to learn more about his legacy.

With the Fall 2016 semester upon us, we have compiled a list of courses on cultural landscape topics across the University, many of which are taught by affiliate members of the Center for Cultural Landscapes. These courses give a sense of the breadth of disciplines and approaches that make up Landscape Studies, as well as the significant resources at UVA in this field across multiple departments. 

American Studies

AMST1559: Wilderness, Resource, and Real Estate

MW 2-3:15pm

Jessica Sewell

This course examines the physical and metaphorical landscape of America across time, exploring how we have shaped the landscape, used to it define ourselves as a nation, and asked it to serve as resource, religion, symbol, and setting.


ANTH5590: The Nature of Nature

M 4:30-7:00pm

James Igoe

Nature is a cultural construct paradoxically imagined as existing outside the realm of culture. As such Nature has a special kind of power. It is an unanswerable explanation for why things are as they are (e.g. That's just human nature).  And it is a place to escape unpleasant aspects of civilization (e.g. I'm looking forward getting back to Nature this weekend). Nature presents reality both as it supposedly is and as it ideally should be.  At the same time, in our present historical moment, a growing number of analysts are proclaiming "the end of Nature." In this seminar we will explore the evolution of Nature as a concept and a realm of reality, particularly with respect to various aspects of globalization. We will look at what kinds of work Nature has done over the years, what it may mean in other cultural contexts, and some of the implications of imagining that Nature is now coming to an end.

A recent article written by former UVA School of Architecture Professor Ethan Carr, published in the journal Nature in July 2016, traces the arc of influence in landscape creation and preservation from 'Capability' Brown to Frederick Law Olmsted and the US National Park Service. Professor Carr was instrumental in early conversations about the creation of a Center for Cultural Landscapes and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. You can read an excerpt below and access the full article here

A coincidence of commemorative dates makes this year an important one in the history of landscape design and scenic preservation. As the 300th anniversary of the birth of the landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is celebrated on one side of the Atlantic, the United States is marking the centenary of the National Park Service, the federal agency that acts as the steward of the nation's most iconic natural areas and historic shrines. The two are connected by the complex and evolving cultural construction of 'nature', its representations, its manifestations and its benefits.

Brown's landscape parks expressed the eighteenth-century's fascination with nature itself, which was increasingly the subject of scientific inquiry and a plethora of botanical and zoological discoveries. Nature offered templates for ordering society, too. When the poet Alexander Pope exhorted, “In all, let Nature never be forgot,” he was describing more than the new style of landscape gardening. Brown's composed scenes of pastoral greenswards and planted woodlands expressed picturesque aesthetic theory; they also imposed a more scientific and modern order on the land.