Little Island, New York, NY
Oberlander Prize Forums

Courageous by Design October 15, 2021

New York City, NY



The future for landscape architecture is immense. And if landscape architects don't take the opportunity at this point, while our governments are waffling on climate change, if they don't learn this climate change inside-out, namely storm-water management, limiting footprints, using plants that don't need much maintenance or water, if they don't seize that opportunity, then the landscape architects are asleep under the ground.

-Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, TCLF Oral History (2008)

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s declaration—a challenge to her fellow landscape architects—is the impetus for an October 2021 symposium about the role of the profession of landscape architecture in addressing climate change. Oberlander is the namesake of the new Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, which was conceived by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) to honor designers who, like Oberlander, are “exceptionally talented, creative, courageous, and visionary.” Addressing climate change was a core focus of Oberlander’s practice for more than 30 years, and the symposium will serve as the inaugural Oberlander Prize Forum, the first of many fora to be developed in association with the newly established Oberlander Prize.

Oyster-tecture section
Oyster-tecture section - Image by ScapeStudio

Organized and presented by TCLF, this daylong symposium will focus on New York City just as the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP) is actively engaging with communities throughout the five boroughs to advance their own zoning and land use strategies in an effort to “reduce flood risks and support the city’s vitality and resiliency through long-term adaptive planning.”

The symposium will feature leading women landscape architects, as well as allied professionals, whose work is creative, courageous, and timely. These practitioners are inventing and deploying new tools, techniques, and technologies to meet the challenges of the current climate crisis in New York City and beyond. Speakers will include:

  • Elizabeth K. Meyer, FASLA, Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture
  • Martha Schwartz, FASLA, Hon. RIBA, Hon. RDI, Senior Partner, Martha Schwartz Partners, London, UK, Brooklyn, NY, and Shanghai, PR China
  • Kate Orff, RLA, FASLA, Founding Principal, SCAPE, New York, NY, and New Orleans, LA
  • Lisa Switkin, FAAR, ASLA, Senior Principal, James Corner Field Operations, New York, NY
  • Heather M. Morgan, RLA, Director of Climate Risk Adaptation, AECOM Metro New York
  • Signe Nielsen, RLA, FASLA, Principal, MNLA, New York, NY
  • Annette P. Wilkus, FASLA, Founder, SiteWorks Landscape Architecture, New York, NY
  • Rebecca McMackin, Director of Horticulture, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY
  • Edwina von Gal, Founder / President, Perfect Earth Project, East Hampton, NY
  • Barbara Wilks, FASLA, FAIA, Principal and Founder, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, New York, NY
  • John Beardsley, Curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  • Mary Margaret Jones, President and CEO, Hargreaves Jones, New York, NY
  • Amy L. Freitag, Executive Director, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, New York, NY
  • Miranda K. S. Massie, Director, The Climate Museum, New York, NY
  • Olivia Georgia, Executive Director, City as Living Laboratory, New York, NY

In contemplating the role that ecological systems and cultural lifeways can play in the future of our cities in the wake of the undeniable climate crisis, the speakers will also address another of Oberlander’s challenges, namely to uplift the profession to new heights and to understand that the profession can't stand still because there are new waves of happenings in the world, such as understanding climate change, scarcity of water, and scarcity of land. Therefore, our designs have to change accordingly.”  

Like Oberlander, who stated that “with risk-taking comes responsibility and the responsibility comes with research,” these practitioners and educators all value and rely upon research and science as much as planning and design.

A reception the evening prior will offer speakers and attendees a chance to mingle and initiate conversations about the day ahead.