More than ever, landscape architects are positioning themselves and the profession at the forefront of local and global movements to address the existing and emerging challenges of our built environments. From community organizing to civic leadership, from urban agriculture and green infrastructure to transit-oriented development, from underserved communities in the United States to informal communities of the Global South, landscape architecture as a discipline and a profession is striving to make our built environments more diverse, livable, just, and resilient.
At the University of Washington, we are adapting our curriculum to explore, examine, and address the complex social, environmental, political, and technological challenges of our time. Our program’s 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 at the intersections of urbanism, ecology, community, and design, we have crafted strong programs and an integrated curriculum that reflects the values and ethic of the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest.
With a deeply held belief in the mission of public education, our faculty and students engage design activism through service-learning studios that involve marginalized social groups in the planning and design of urban places. We teach students to critically assess and challenge the prevalent patterns of social and environmental injustice, as well as to become advocates for the voices and interests of marginalized communities, places, and landscapes.
Through our pioneering design/build program, our students learn practical skills to transform and restore communities and environments in highly challenging contexts. In recent years, students have worked directly with first generation immigrants, refugees, youths, native tribes, and people with disabilities to create gardens, plazas, playgrounds, infrastructure, and therapeutic spaces that community focused and environmentally conscious. Our Green Futures Lab explores new materials, methods, and technologies in ecological design and planning, as well as engaging the public in envisioning futures of our cities.
Through our global connections, students and faculty travel to China, Croatia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Scandinavia to learn from and work with local communities. Students are also actively involved in faculty research projects as well as volunteering opportunities with civic organizations serving local communities and the broader public. As one of five allied academic departments in the College of Built Environments, our students participate in a variety of initiatives and programs that expand the boundaries of the profession.
As a graduate of the department (MLA, 2002), I am immensely proud of our mission, focus, and approach to teaching the next generation of landscape architects and urban thinkers. I am also humbled by the deep care and dedication that our faculty and students employ in their teaching and learning.
In the face of the grand challenges of our time, landscape architecture is uniquely poised to make significant contributions to the society and the planet. 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 role as landscape architects is one that engages such profound complexity through the act of design, exploration, and civic engagement.
Ken Yocom, PhD. ASLA
Associate Professor & Chair