Andropogon/Michael Vergason | Wynnewood, PA
University of Maryland
What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
I grew up working at my family's tree farm and garden center. The horticultural and design aspects of the job were enjoyable, so I applied to the University of Maryland's MLA program in 2009.
What one thing inspires you and your designs?
My Mennonite faith inspires me to prioritize good stewardship of the earth and justice for the communities in which I am designing.
What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Landscape architects have our own culture that prioritizes high-design and the sciences. We're not well equipped to share our ideas about beauty and sustainability to people who don't share our priorities. If landscape architects want to maximize our cultural and environmental impact, we'll need to communicate effectively with a broader range of people.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
The grass isn't greener at the other design firm.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I plan to lead a small design firm focused on beautiful, just, and sustainable work.
Contemporary landscape architecture is a broad and collaborative discipline. It blends art, science, and communication. It help communities to design the places that they share. It is savvy about the civic processes that are necessary to reshape the public realm.
Recently, American communities have been re-imagining their public spaces and removing pieces of artwork that do not represent their contemporary values. In several states, however, laws have been enacted to protect historical works of art that their host communities wish to remove. Monuments and memorials that promote the preferred histories of powerful people are protected under the law. Art is used as a tool of intimidation and an unwelcome reminder of painful histories. The public realm suffers.
Contemporary landscape architects have the skills and the expertise to unite artists, community members, and their political representatives to reshape under-performing and intimidating places so that they are useful and welcoming to everyone. They know the laws and the codes that regulate their work. And, if all else fails, they are creative enough to find ways of mitigating unwelcome scenery.