2017 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture

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Profile Rachel McQueen
Quadriga Landscape Architecture | Santa Rosa, CA
University of California, Berkeley



What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
Athletics. I’ve played sports my entire life. Soccer and dance showed me what site lines, angles and choreographing through space feels like. Trail running taught me about nature - microclimates, flora and fauna. Road running revealed the failures of urban renewal in my community, infrastructural shortcomings and inequality created by the built environment. Athletics made me a keen observer of my surroundings, determined to fix the problems I experienced and to pursue the successes. For me, landscape architecture was the profession that cared about everything that I did – movement, the environment, and access to and equity of space.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
Connecting the project to elements that lie outside of the limits of the site. This could be something literal like using the lines of a building to orient a space or more abstract like finding a rhythm in the geography of a surrounding watershed and recreating that in storm water systems, for example. Once this set of “rules” has been formed, the design follows and always relates to something greater than the sum of its parts.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Landscape architects are asked to solve some of the environment’s biggest problems yet are still misunderstood outside of the profession. We must define and publicize our profession to a world that routinely experiences our designs but still does not know what landscape architecture is.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Oftentimes, we work in a vacuum, surrounded only by other design professionals. To create spaces that are fully inclusive of the communities we are impacting we must include those voices at the design table. We have a responsibility, especially to marginalized and overlooked communities, to design for their success, not just for professional recognition.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Working to connect urban and rural communities through landscape architecture and community involvement. I was raised in a highly urban environment but currently live in a rural one. The working class seems to feel overlooked and forgotten about in both and I see power and opportunity in bringing these two groups together to tackle common issues.


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Global climate change is impacting local conditions everywhere – how should Landscape Architects respond?

Reconceive the agricultural landscape using hybridized shelterbelts to clean, absorb, and reduce emissions of animal based farming.

As the climate changes, the role of landscape architects must continue to expand. Landscape architecture will tackle territories that have been kept out of the profession. One of these sectors is agriculture. Modern landscape architecture and agriculture has been kept separate in both education and practice, to the detriment of both.

Current agricultural practices contribute to major losses in biodiversity. Agriculture is responsible for 80% of California’s water consumption while the remaining 20% is used by 40 million people. Livestock production is one of the fastest growing agricultural subsectors in developing countries and beef, in particular, is increasing due to consumer demands but, “requires twenty times more land and emits twenty times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than plant based sources.”

The agricultural industry, in partnership with landscape architects, is in a prime position to lead the world towards a more sustainable future. Often overlooked by urbanites, by adopting biodiverse practices, farms will become hubs for innovation and technology.


Shelterbelts, windbreaks created from vegetation to protect farms against wind erosion, have become synonymous with an agrarian landscape. This iconic landscape element can be redesigned into three typologies that respond to a changing climate.

Livestock production is responsible for 35% percent of total methane gas emissions. This shelterbelt typology utilizes plant material to combat the effects of these byproducts. In addition to planting grazing crops that have compounds that reduce methane in the rumen such as eremophila, biserrula, and melaleuca, the shelterbelt habitat for methane reduction is planted with species that neutralize off gassing. Rows of trees and hedges underplanted with graminoids and forbs influence emissions by transporting methane internally and altering redox soil conditions.

Water insecurity is a way of life across the globe for many living in regions exposed to drought. Water filtration through this shelterbelt typology will allow farms to participate in local hydrology conditions, reducing reliance on rivers and reservoirs. Farms would contribute to the health of regional water systems reducing reliance on water traveling across provinces for consumption. This shelterbelt would be planted with desert cactus and utilize soil systems that filter agricultural runoff. The cactus grown in these shelterbelts would then be harvested for its water cleansing mucilage.

Consumer engagement and education about the agricultural system is the third shelterbelt typology. Employing “rights of way” walks found in the United Kingdom as a precedent, shelterbelts as public walks grant access to farms through a connected network of paths, trails and elevated decks. Closing the consumer-farmer gap of the “farm to table” movement, the shelterbelt as public asset allows users to witness agrobiodiversity practices firsthand influencing domestic behavior.

Many shelterbelts were removed from the agrarian landscape in response to improvements in irrigation technologies. By reinventing these vegetated windbreaks as cohesive systems that help combat climate change, the rural environment will become the seat of innovation.

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