‘100 Women Campaign’ Nears Finish Line

The 100 Women Campaign continues to advance ever closer to the finish line, nearing the end of an endowment initiative that began in earnest just over five months ago when Cornelia Hahn Oberlander was announced as the namesake of TCLF’s new international prize in landscape architecture.    

Joining the campaign in recent weeks was IBI Group, which made its donation in honor of renowned landscape architect Carol R. Johnson. A true pioneer in the profession, Johnson was the very first subject of TCLF’s Pioneers of American Landscape Design® Oral History Project, having founded her firm in 1959 at a time when there were few women landscape architects in professional practice. Johnson’s inclusion in the 100 Women Campaign is also especially apt because, in her six decades of transforming urban spaces, campuses, industrial sites, and waterfronts into celebrated parks and public spaces, she has been a role model for myriad practitioners, especially younger women and minorities. IBI Group, a worldwide, multidisciplinary design firm, acquired Johnson’s practice in 2011, where the placemaking team continues to maintain her long-standing reputation for excellence in the design of both natural and urban environments.  

Carol R. Johnson (left) and Marilyn Melkonian
Carol R. Johnson (left) and Marilyn Melkonian -

Also joining the 100 Women Campaign was Marilyn Melkonian, the president and founder of Telesis Corporation, which plans, finances, and builds urban communities that are livable, beautiful, and diverse. Formerly a deputy assistant secretary for housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Carter, Ms. Melkonian also founded the National Housing Trust and serves as its chairperson emerita, as well as serving on the boards of Common Cause, the Eisenhower Foundation, and the Brookings Institution’s Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Her donation to the Oberlander Prize was made in memory of her longtime friend and mentor James van Sweden (1935–2013). As part of a reflection she submitted in 2010 for TCLF's oral history on van Sweden's life and career, she wrote the following: “Jim and I saw the spaces in between and around buildings as the important connections between sky and earth; serving, delighting, and connecting the people living there. His landscape architecture is the architecture on which neighborhoods regenerate… He has brought his special vision to unexpecting places in America’s urban neighborhoods, changing the less than ordinary into the extraordinary.”

The 100 Women Campaign is just one of many ways to support the Oberlander Prize, the first and only international landscape architecture prize that includes a US$100,000 award, along with two years of public engagement activities. The prize will be awarded every other year, beginning in 2021. Influential historian John Beardsley has been named the prize’s inaugural curator. The first Oberlander Prize Forum, Courageous by Design, will examine how women landscape architects are confronting the climate crisis in New York City and beyond, and is scheduled for June 17–18, 2020.