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December 18, 2023 Landscape Architecture Celebrates 15 Years

This fall, the School of Landscape Architecture celebrates its 15th anniversary at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The program began in 2008 as a collaboration between the College of Architecture and Design and the now Herbert College of Agriculture.

The inaugural class welcomed 10 students and has since graduated more than 150 professionals. Currently, the program supports over 40 full-time students, attracting candidates from a variety of backgrounds, as the curriculum delves into the breadth of the field.

Profile Picture of Gale Fulton
Fulton

“We are exposing students to the different career outcomes in landscape architecture,” said Director Gale Fulton. “We are enhancing our students’ education through the diverse research of our faculty, interdisciplinary projects across campus, and prioritizing regional travel which has led to students thinking about the potential of landscape architecture very differently than they do prior to starting the program.

As a part of its curriculum, the school provides significant opportunity and support for travel. This semester’s Landscapes in Transition studio, led by Assistant Professors Scottie McDaniel and Sarah Bolivar, took first-year students to Hot Springs, North Carolina, to engage in close studies of its landscapes. Fellow Chad Manley and Assistant Professor Faye Nixon’s second-year studio, Crafting Appalachia, visited sites across seven states where students met with a wide range of individuals and groups engaged in landscape-related projects across the Appalachian region.

The school has expanded its financial investment in students’ experience to include subsidizing the cost to attend the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) national conference. This semester, with additional support from the college and Tennessee ASLA chapter, the school funded more than 20 students’ travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where students experienced new landscapes, networked with professionals and alums, and learned about the expanded scope of contemporary landscape architecture.

“We are focused on tuning students into the world around them and inspiring them to see how important it is to travel and see landscapes and cities,” said Fulton. “Many of our students have not had the opportunity to travel to the places that we’re able to get them to, and we’re trying to extend the time of these trips so that they have time to slow down and see places more critically.”

Fulton credits the school’s diverse faculty and their research as an added benefit for students developing a broad understanding of the field. This fall, the school grew to house four full-time tenure-track professors, a fellow, and two lecturers. These new faculty are currently pursuing diverse research interests including:

Assistant Professor Andrew Madl has actively pursued publications since starting at UT. In spring 2021, he published his first book, Parametric Design for Landscape Architects: Computational Techniques and Workflows, describing computational workflows and processes in the study and design of landscape architecture. Madl is currently working on a graphic novel on speculative landscapes of the Southwest United States.

Earlier this semester, Madl co-facilitated the college’s bi-annual symposium, Speculative Landscapes: Conversations on Future Thinking. The symposium focused on how landscape architects and designers think about the future and their role as well as the implementation and evolution of the landscapes they conjure and construct.

McDaniel’s research focuses on land practices of the South with an emphasis on the southern highlands. Her recent exhibition, Rural Ways, featured recurrent Appalachian artifacts to give audiences a deeper understanding of embedded rural knowledge through hands-on materials. McDaniel is currently collaborating with the university’s Department of Geography and Sustainability on research related to the region.

Bolivar and Nixon joined the college earlier this semester. Prior to UT, Bolivar worked in private and public planning and design with AECOM and the Central Park Conservancy. Earlier this month, Bolivar was co-awarded a $40,000 grant from the Tennessee RiverLine and One Health Initiative for a collaborative project that will prototype floating wetland and shoreline modules along the Third Creek Greenway.

“Although I have only been here a few months, it’s evident how eager and ambitious people are to create social and ecological impact at multiple scales,” said Bolivar. “I have had opportunities to chat with people in ecology, sociology, engineering, and other departments. This collaborative and open culture reaffirms my commitment and excitement to be teaching at UT.”

Nixon came to the university after working as a landscape designer for the non-profit planning and design firm Kounkuey Design Initiative in Los Angeles and for the Oslo-based office of Snøhetta. She co-taught remotely for the school during the pandemic, and her positive experience later led her to apply for the full-time opportunity.

As a part of the Speculative Landscapes symposium, Nixon presented some of her early research ruminations into shifting nature-culture relations within the context of technologically mediated and virtual environments designed for immersive play.

Each of the faculty’s research efforts has already begun to develop connections across campus and in the community that will establish interdisciplinary studios and research initiatives.

“Our faculty are continuing the school’s commitment to shaping regional and local landscapes and cultures,” said Fulton. “Our growth has broadened the school’s research and teaching capabilities and, ultimately, will lead us to expand landscape architecture education at UT.”