2016 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture


Anina Gerchick Anina Gerchick
Athens, GA
The City College of New York

Website | LinkedIn


What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
I was looking for a way to extend my work in fine arts into the public realm and address critical issues of climate change and growing global urbanization. I saw landscape architecture as a broad discipline that could link to the practice of public art.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
I have been drawn to questions of what enlivens public space. Often water is part of my design since its presence has so much impact; both to improve communities by reviving and revealing buried waterways, and, with the climate threats of flooding, to elicit broad design thinking that attempts to mitigate and adapt to it.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Making cities great places to live for the globally growing urban population. Many more people will be living in cities within the next 50 years and Landscape architecture is a disciple that can impact the development of cities and create living conditions to welcome and sustain populations.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Collaboration is key. I have experienced that working in situations that encourage collaboration and contribution of numbers of people. Richer and more feasible ideas and designs are developed, and the possibility or likelihood of realizing a project is improved.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I would like to see myself harnessing the communication potential of Public Art or contributing to the fruition of design of projects that reach construction.


Anina Gerchick
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What change would you make to your region if money were no object?

Reclaim rail in the southeast- Georgia's vast network of tracks. Relieve traffic woes, enable intercity travel, re-purpose roads for bikes

Reclaim the Rails

Throughout the history of the Southeast, Georgia has been the leader in transportation systems. In 1836 a railroad was built which connected the markets of the Southeast and the Midwest. The site of its origin was called the 'Zero Mile Post'. It became the city initially called "Terminus" which is now Atlanta. That regional rail system expanded through the mid twentieth century and presently spans 5000 miles of track connecting four states transporting a share of Georgia's freight. Goods travel from hubs like the port of Savannah and the Hartsfield ā€Jackson International Airport.

The Interstate Highway System that developed in the 1950s diverted rails's dominance. Dependence on the automobile grew and created traffic and environmental degradation along with expanded suburbs. Formerly the capitol of a regional rail system, Atlanta is now infamous for it's complex road infrastructure, "Spaghetti Junction"- a dizzying convergence of three large highways. Traffic volume minimally impacted by Atlanta's MARTA subway system because the service is very limited. It does not begin to displace road traffic and does nothing to address truck freight or passenger travel between cities.

Still, there are miles of track connecting cities and towns throughout the state, and there is hope that they can be the foundation of an extensive network of multi-modal passenger transit options, and decreased reliance on trucking. The EPA and Georgia Department of Transportation completed studies of impacts of rail development for several routes between cities, so with funding and political will, inter-city passenger rail plans realizable.

While some unused track around Atlanta has been re-dedicated to "greenbelt" bike and pedestrian use, my top priority is for the refurbishment of track to support inter-city ( high speed ) passenger service. This would decrease the paralyzing dependence on car, bus and truck transport, which degrades the environment and hobbles mobility. Significant diversion of traffic from roads also enables bike only commuter roads. A model for this exists in Germany which has opened part of a bicycle highway that will eventually span 62 miles, connecting 10 cities and four universities.

There are numerous land use issues and opportunities to be designed in this scenario.

It is necessary to re-design level crossings where trains meet roads, and add stations and port hubs where people and freight transfer to boat, bike, car, train, and air. Rail rights-of-way, track and bridge structures, barrier systems, station parking and commercial and community facilities, require integrated design. The same containers that are transported on the giant cargo ships that unload in Savannah can be loaded onto trains and used to build new stations along routes.

Use of bikes and walking to access trains require adequate sidewalks and bike routes be incorporated into overall planning of station access and parking decks.

The revival and modernization of the state rail system would spur improvements to the environment, create jobs and redirect land use from autos to people.