Landscape architecture often goes unnoticed, because the interest of the general public is more easily attracted by emblematic buildings than by what surrounds them, even if most of us are more directly concerned with good landscape and urban architecture than with large skyscrapers elegant skylights or residential projects aimed at a small number of users.
Too often we neglect to look the context, which is exactly what we need, especially if we want our cities to be climate-ready and inclusive for all. This is the reason for the creation of the non-profit association known as The Cultural Landscape Foundation or TCLF, founded in 1998 to connect people to places and educate and engage the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identifying its value and encouraging accountability in those who administer it. According to Charles A. Birnbaum, President and CEO of TCLF: “The goal in creating the Oberlander Prize was to increase visibility, understanding, appreciation and conversation about landscape architecture. Selecting Julie Bargmann as the first recipient, provocative and innovative, is a great way to engage audiences and usher in this new phase of the Oberlander Prize.”
Julie Bargman, originally from Westwood, New Jersey, is a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and founder of the studio DIRT (“Dump It Right There”). She received a BFA in sculpture from Carnegie Mellon University and an MFA in landscape architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (1987). In 1989-90 she was a Fellow in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome. For more than 30 years, both teacher and landscape architect, Julie Bargmann has been mainly interested in contaminated, abandoned and forgotten urban and post-industrial sites. As Bargmann herself said: “Discovering the raw ingredients of design in waste and wasteland defines my life’s work. The pedagogy of my teaching and my methodology as a designer respond to the social and ecological imperatives to reclaim degraded lands. Integrating regenerative technologies into the proposals of design and built landscapes embodies my contribution to the discipline of landscape architecture”. Since she started teaching and founded the DIRT studio, she has created alternatives to counter the limitations of typical remediation (defined as “correcting a fault”) by proposing more dynamic modes of regeneration (or, “creating at new”). thousand dollar prize points out that Bargmann “embodies the kind of activism required of landscape architects in a time of severe environmental challenges and persistent social inequalities.”
Several of his projects are illustrated here. Vintondale Reclamation Park in Pennsylvania (1995-2002) is a 21-hectare site in Pennsylvania’s coal district where Bargmann and his team designed a natural filtration system to deal with years of pollution from mine runoff. Her most recent projects include Core City Park in Detroit (2019), which reuses materials found there to create something new because, as Julie Bargmann puts it: “There is enormous potential and sublime beauty in places that may appear, at first sight, to be ransacked. Sites, neighborhoods, entire cities, they are full of energy waiting to be recognized, liberated and reconstituted”.
Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize 2021
Winner: Julie Bargmann
Images: Courtesy of TCLF – see captions
Core City Park Detroit, MI, Spring 2021. Photo courtesy of Prince Concepts and The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Portrait: Julie Bargmann, winner of the 2021 Oberlander Prize. Photo ©Barrett Doherty courtesy of the Cultural Landscape Foundation
Learn more: Dirt Studio