Landscape architecture is at the forefront of design and planning disciplines when it comes to protecting and restoring ecosystems and human habitats. In the 19th Centuries, American landscape architects created urban open spaces that transformed overcrowded cities into livable places. In the late 20th and 21st Centuries, landscape architects are faced with a new set of grand challenges that include climate change, urbanization, global justice, and sustainability.
At the University of Washington, we strive to create a program that meets the complex social, environmental, political, and aesthetic challenges of our time. Our program emphasis on urban ecological design addresses the multiple dimensions of today's environmental challenges - infrastructure, culture, ecological literacy, and human and environmental health. With our focus on the intersection of urbanism, ecology, and design, we developed distinct programs that reflect the unique characteristics and assets of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
Building on the civic legacy of the city, faculty and students practice design activism through service-learning studios that involve marginalized social groups in design and planning of urban spaces. We train students to challenge the predominant patterns of environmental injustice and to become advocates of the voices and interests of marginalized communities and landscapes.
Through our pioneering design/build program, our students are armed with practical skills to transform and restore environments one site at a time. They worked with immigrants, refugees, youths, native tribes and people with disabilities to create gardens, plazas, playgrounds, and therapeutic spaces that heal body and mind. Our Green Future Lab explore new materials, methods, and technologies in green design, as well as engaging the public in envisioning future planning of our cities.
Taking advantage of our global/local connections, students and faculty travel to Bosnia, Canada, China, Copenhagen, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, South Korea, and Taiwan, as well as New Orleans and Eastern Washington to engage in cross-cultural learning and work with local communities to improve their environment.
As one of four allied academic departments in the College of Built Environments, our students participate in a variety of initiatives and programs such as the Urban Ecology Lab, the BE Lab programs, and interdisciplinary certificate programs in urban design and historic preservation planning. In addition, students are involved in research projects led by faculty as well as volunteering opportunities with civic organizations serving local communities and the broader public.
Our diverse faculty members push the intellectual boundaries of the profession through their specialized research in landscape history, design theory, creativity, children and youths, design activism, ethics, environmental psychology, and urbanism. They also engage in extensive services and involvement with professional societies, city review boards, advocacy organizations, and community groups.
In the face of the grand challenges of our time, landscape architecture like many other professions is in need of refocusing and rejuvenation. At the University of Washington, our vision of landscape architecture is one that embodies, reveals, and builds on the cultural, ecological, and aesthetic complexity of today's environment. Our identity as landscape architects is one that harnesses and nurtures such profound complexity through the act of design, exploration, and civic engagement.
Jeff Hou, PhD