Industry City by Mathews Nielsen.

Women in Landscape Architecture

On 11.29.16, AIANY’s Global Dialogues and Women in Architecture Committees hosted the fourth annual “Leaning Out” lecture, a series focusing on women in the industry, with a discussion of women in landscape architecture. Dan Gallagher, AIA, and Hana Kassem, AIA, LEED AP, moderated the discussion, and AIANY 2016 President Carol Loewenson, FAIA, LEED AP, provided introductory remarks.

The participants included Laura Starr, FASLA, LEED AP, partner at Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners; Kim Mathews, RLA, FASLA, founding partner of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects; Andrea Cochran, FASLA, principal at Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture; and Pamela Burton, FASLA, LEED AP, president of Pamela Burton & Company.

The discussion began with the participants providing a brief overview of how they became landscape architects, the focus of their firms, and a selection of exemplary projects. Starr provided a particularly nuanced explanation of the overall goal of landscape architecture: “Landscape architecture is a really complex effort to create a sense of infinity and the feelings that go along with that.” Cochran agreed and chimed in that, while having a background in architecture is of use, it does not inspire the types of emotions that need to be channeled in landscape architecture to create something truly beautiful.

From there, the discussion turned to the topic of gender in the field. All four participants agreed that landscape architecture is friendlier to women, citing the long history of gardening as a pastime in women’s domain. Cochran, however, did mention that, post-World War II, the field became less hospitable to women,.

The panelists went on to note that there can be a lack of understanding between architects and landscape architects. They attributed this to the dynamic nature of their work, which must take into account temporality and various factors of the natural world that architecture does not. “Time and nurturing are fundamental,” Starr said. “If you don’t maintain a landscape, it will die.”

Mathews agreed, noting a large amount of trust from clients and other architects in the landscape architect’s expertise and sense of timing is needed to create a truly great project. Mistrust or unfamiliarity with a landscape architect’s expertise can sometimes result in the landscape architect losing power to participate, particularly in full-service firms. Everyone agreed this was one of the most frustrating aspects of their job, as the differences between landscape architecture and architecture are not that great. “Landscape is architecture,” Burton said. “The sky is the ceiling, hedges are walls. There’s balance, there’s uncertainty. It begins with proportions, passages, and narratives.”

Event: Leaning Out IV | Women in Landscape Architecture
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.29.16
Speakers: Laura Starr, FASLA, LEED AP, Partner, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners; Pamela Burton, FASLA, LEED AP, Associate Principal and President, Pamela Burton & Company; Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Principal, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture; Kim Mathews, RLA, FASLA, Principal, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
Organized by: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee and AIANY Women in Architecture Committee