Julie Bargmann wins the first ever Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Award


Julie Bargmann.

Photo: Barrett Doherty courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation

In an era of looming climate catastrophe and an emphasis on sustainable design practices, the importance of landscape architecture has never been more evident. Today, a new biennial award chose one of the discipline’s most intrepid and creative practitioners as its first recipient.

Today, the Cultural Landscape Foundation honors Julie Bargmann as the first laureate of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize. With this award, the University of Virginia professor of landscape architecture and founder of the DIRT studio will receive $ 100,000 from the Cultural Landscape Foundation as well as financial support for two years of public engagement activities.

A seven-member jury of landscape architects, town planners and academics hailed Bargmann as “a provocateur, critical practitioner and public intellectual”, and congratulated her on “her leadership in the world of ideas, its impact on the public landscape, its model of activist practice and its commitment to advancing landscape architecture.

Since earning her Masters in Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design over 30 years ago, Bargmann has focused her teaching and practice on the takeover of former industrial sites, which many others could have been viewed as hopelessly suffocated. His work at the AMD & ART Park salvage site from 1995 to 2002 is considered his defining moment and earned him the 2001 National Design Award from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum. In partnership with the EPA, it launched design studios focused on a dozen Superfund sites to safely reconnect toxic sites to their larger communities.

Core City Park in Detroit, designed by Bargmann and developed by Prince Concepts.

Photograph courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation

Working on sites ranging from abandoned mines to decommissioned auto factories, Bargmann often eschews conventional conservation methods, instead relying on an area’s history and the latest technology to find more site-specific solutions.

“Design is all about telling stories, and you can’t do that without going deep into the story and looking closely around you,” Bargmann told AD PRO. “Describing a landscape, fully and in depth, is where clients and communities enter the decision-making process of the next evolution of their place. “

Turtle Creek Water Works in Dallas.

Photo: Charles A. Birnbaum Courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation

This link with history is sometimes found in Bargmann’s projects in a very real and material sense. Salvaged rubble and rusted metal from the US Navy Yard in Philadelphia went into the design of the Urban Outfitters headquarters, saving a thousand cubic meters of landfill waste. His use of this sustainability practice as a design is also evidenced in Detroit’s Core City Park, where excavated elements of a 19th-century vault and fire station were turned into a finished park.

The headquarters of Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia, which was produced from salvage from a US shipyard.

Photo: Barrett Doherty courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation

In addition to her intention to use the award’s public engagement opportunities to ‘spread optimism’ in depopulated Rust Belt towns, Bargmann hopes her selection as the first Oberlander Prize winner can rally the rest. of his profession to meet the needs of the moment.

“My receipt of the award means that my colleagues must be fearless,” says Bargmann. “The discipline now always has an element of security, but, as Cornelia would say, with climate change [underway], now is not the time to have your head buried in the sand.


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