New York-based landscape architecture course, a first

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The Red Hook Grain Terminal in Brooklyn was once a bustling industrial and infrastructure hub. Built in 1922 as part of the Erie Canal system, the grain warehouse was once the third largest port in the United States.

But changes in transportation and labor costs eventually led to the closure of the terminal. Over the past 65 years, the abandoned site has changed hands several times.

The facility is one of many post-industrial sites in areas that are now prime real estate, and it poses difficult redevelopment questions, such as how to deal with historic contamination, how to fund redevelopment in a expensive area, what is best for the community and who exactly is the community. Redevelopment ideas include a concrete processing facility, a movie theater and a park.

Cornell landscape architecture students had the opportunity to work on solving these problems in a groundbreaking eight-week Urban Landscape Architecture Design studio and seminar delivered over the summer in New York City. It is the first entirely city-based course for Cornell’s landscape architecture program, ranked second nationally by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Jennifer Birkeland, assistant professor of landscape architecture, who taught the course, said the fact that students actually live in the city, rather than just visit, was a key learning element of the program.

“Landscape architecture is a crucial discipline in cities,” Birkeland said. “We deal with a lot more social justice issues, ensuring that all communities have access to open spaces and recreation, for example. And it’s something that’s constantly being discussed in New York’s five boroughs. »

In addition to the Red Hook Grain Terminal, which served as the base for student workshop projects, students visited dozens of other city sites, including the new Domino Park. The redevelopment on the site of the abandoned Domino Sugar refinery posed many of the same issues as those encountered at the grain terminal, and students were able to see a successful redevelopment that provides new housing and office space, as well as a waterfront park of 11 acres in Brooklyn. Williamsburg neighborhood.

The students also visited several landscape architecture firms in the city, where they spoke with Cornell alumni. Some of these professionals also participated in seminars with students and evaluated their grain terminal projects, which included strategies for dealing with industrial contamination and ideas on how to redevelop the site.

Sage Taber, a student in the Master of Landscape Architecture program, said the ability to take an intensive studio course without being distracted by other classes “exceeded all my hopes.

“It changed my academic career and defined my professional interests,” Taber said. “I loved the creative process and walked away from [Birkeland’s] studio wanting to push the field further.

Taber is particularly interested in the “symbiotic and evolutionary” intersection of nature and human infrastructure, and how these spaces can be designed to cope with climate change.

According Tim Bairdprofessor and chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, new course “is in perfect alignment” with President Martha E. Pollack New York City Vision Committee and his commitment to advancing the Ithaca-New York relationship.

“While we’ve always done studios in and around the city,” Baird said, “this direct, intensive field experience is a different animal and an unprecedented opportunity for our students.”

Krisy Gashler is a freelance writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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