Birds + Climate Change


Course Instructor

Mackenzie Waller

Course Date

Winter 2020

Course Type

Undergraduate + Graduate Studio

As climate change becomes an increasing challenge there is still opportunity and hope for ensuring resiliency for our birds and the natural world. National Audubon’s Climate Report suggests about 2/3 of the birds in peril can be helped by acting now.This provides hope and a pathway for action.

The Birds + Climate Change Studio worked in partnership with the Tahoma Audubon Society at their small wetland park site in the South Puget Sound region, Adriana Hess Audubon Center. We tasked students with a series of questions. How can design balance the intersection of habitat specific solutions and urban public space? How might the Audubon Society create bird habitat while still ensuring the safety of park visitors? How can we creatively incorporate traditional park elements with natural habitat spaces and stormwater management?

This document attempts to capture the outcomes of these studio investigations across scales, from regional to small fabricated prototypes.

Download the PDF
View the studio report online

Equitable Public Space, Environmental Justice Through Policy and Design

Equitable Public Space, Environmental Justice Through Policy and Design (PDF) is a practical guide for community and civic leaders, city planners, policy makers, designers and project managers to address public space inequities and disparities in community conditions within the built environment. This guide explores the question of how the myriad benefits offered by public and green space can be fairly distributed and tailored to the specific needs and desires of a community, while also ensuring that people who most need these benefits are able to “stay in place” to experience them. Green Futures Lab Interns Adam Carreau (MLA ’19) and Margot Chalmers (MLA ’18) probed this question, identifying and illustrating the documented benefits of public space and access to nature, and exploring the potential pitfalls of implementing policies, plans and places without leadership from the communities being impacted.

In this document, Adam and Margot present considered perspectives on social equity in the dynamic urban context; potentials and case studies of tensions between efforts to uplift neighborhoods and unintended resulting displacement, processes for community participation, empowerment and stabilization; and tools and case study lessons that planners, designers and citizen activists can employ to equitably promote community health, prosperity, and well-being

Equitable Public Space, Environmental Justice Through Policy and Design (PDF)

2018 Building New Global Connections | Croatia Design/Build

This story originally appeared on College of Built Environments website on October 23, 2019. You can see the original story here.

The UW Landscape Architecture Croatia Design/Build program gives students the unique opportunity to make a lasting, physical impact in their host community. Professor Daniel Winterbottom, an expert in the creation of healing and therapeutic gardens, leads the program.

American and Croatian teammates together after final construction of the reflexology path.

With Professor Winterbottom as their guide, students explore the role of restorative landscapes in the built environment through hands-on learning. They study the history of healthcare in Croatia while also exploring the unique culture, food, and architecture heritage of the region. Finally, the students gain practical experience, working together to solve a real-world design/build problem. Last year, students were tasked with creating a new outdoor physical therapy rehabilitation space at the “Prim. Dr. Martin Horvat” Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital.

Located just outside the city of Rovinj, on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, the hospital is among the oldest orthopedic-rehabilitation institutes. It specializes in offering modern hydrotherapy treatments to patients coming from throughout Europe. The close proximity to the temperate waters of the Adriatic Sea allows the hospital to offer both indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy facilities during much of the year. For the students, this means having the opportunity to design a functional, therapeutic outdoor space to serve both patients and staff. The build portion of the program further allows students to become adept with key landscape construction techniques, materials, and project management approaches – skills that often aren’t practically addressed in a traditional classroom setting.

Professor Winterbottom leads a workshop on techniques for hand representation.

For Elizabeth Lange, a Master of Landscape Architecture Student, the most memorable part of the experience was the opportunity to build strong connections and foster teamwork with her fellow American and Croatian classmates.

“Every day it was a lot of work and long days, but it was fun to be with the people in the program and learn new things,” she shared. “I became very close with my classmates because of this program.”

Elizabeth also felt that the unique opportunity to participate in a design/build program was particularly useful for rounding out her educational experience, especially as she prepares to enter professional practice in the near future.

“A design build program forces you to think about your design and the practicality of it,” she explained. “In design school, we don’t normally construct what we design, so the sky is the limit in some sense, but in a design/build that isn’t the case. You can think of grand ideas but then you also have to factor in the budget and feasibility of it in order for it to work in the real world. I think that is an important thing to experience in school going forward.”

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the study abroad experience is the way in which it allows students to frame their own life and experiences in the context of a broader perspective.

For Elizabeth, her time in Croatia gave her valuable personal insights and allowed her to build stronger relationships with others – both key hallmarks of a successful study abroad experience.

“I learned a lot about myself and my abilities during this program through my relationship with my friends and through the relationship of design,” Elizabeth shared.


Photo credits: Rhiannon Neuville and the 2018 Croatia Design Build class.

2018 Design+Build in Dals Langed, Sweden

In collaboration with students from HDK-Steneby, a design and crafts school located in Dals Långed, 15 students from University of Washington’s College of Built Environments, led by Professor Daniel Winterbottom, worked with the local immigrant and refugee community to create a community garden intended to improve well-being, alleviate the stresses of the integration process and connect this group with the broader community. The project goal was to create a deeper level of trust, connection and mutual respect between longtime residents and new arrivals.

The result of this project—a new public space—should greatly increase the quality of life for local residents, as it fills a need which was not previously supported by any of the existing spaces in Dals Långed: an outside meeting place where people of different ages, cultures and interests can meet and come together.

Course Details

Interdisciplinary Undergraduate + Graduate Studio
Study Abroad in Dals Langed, Sweden
Summer 2018
Instructor: Daniel Winterbottom

Sensol Modular Crosswalk project selected for Amazon Catalyst Fellowship

In July, seven new teams were selected as Amazon Catalyst Fellows. The teams are a mix of UW faculty, students, and staff from eleven departments across campus. Each team received funding to pursue a big idea focused on one of this round’s themes: Computational Social Science or Urban Transportation. One winning team features CBE students, Janie Bube, Graduate Student, Landscape Architecture and Emma Petersen, Graduate Student, Landscape Architecture.

Janie Bube and Emma Petersen pose with Sensol Modular Crosswalk sign

Summary: An off-the-grid LED and solar crosswalk that lights up directly under the pedestrian as they cross to increase awareness and commuter cooperation.

Description: Crossing a street is often a fraught affair for a pedestrian when there is no traffic light, even when they are at a crosswalk. Will drivers see them? And even if they do, will they stop? A cross-disciplinary team of graduates and undergraduates is designing and building the SENSOL Modular Crosswalk, a hybrid solar and LED crosswalk. The hybrid system will power luminaires embedded in a temporary, modular speed bump like structure. This will improve safety and visibility without permanently changing roadways. The SENSOL crosswalks will be triggered when feet, wheelchairs, or bicycles pass over them, illuminating their exact location, visible at both a distance and up close by cars, bicycles, buses, and other pedestrians.

sensol crosswalk diagram

Team Members

  • Janie Bube, Graduate Student, UW Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Emma Petersen, Graduate Student, UW Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Delvin Higgins, Undergraduate Student, UW Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering
  • Danny Wadhwani, Undergraduate Student, UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Emily Whelan, Undergraduate Student, UW Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Colton Brailsford, Undergraduate Student, UW Department of Community, Environment & Planning 

The Wild City

The following article was written by MLA student Sarah Bartosh for The Field, the ASLA Professional Practice Networks’ Blog.

two children standing before an abstract cityscape

Sarah Bartosh is currently a master’s of landscape architecture student at the University of Washington. She received her Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and then went on to work for Growing Up Boulder, Boulder’s child- and youth-friendly city initiative. She also worked with the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program to lead Seattle’s Playful Learning Landscapes Pilot Project.
– Amy Wagenfeld, Affil. ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network Co-Communications Director

With one quarter left of my MLA, I would like to pose this question to our profession: how can we challenge the way that we think about designing for children’s connection with nature in our increasingly urban environments?

Just as we are challenging many other spaces we design, I believe it is time we begin to do the same for nature play. As landscape architects, we are some of the most progressive and game-changing thinkers. We are constantly questioning the role of built environments, how they can address pressing climate issues, and how they can foster relationships between humans and the world around them. Yet, when it comes to children’s environments, we often settle for adding a few logs in a park, and call it “nature play.” I recognize and respect that this is a result of the many legal barriers that prevent us from creating bolder, designated spaces for children to connect to nature. This article suggests a way to think beyond these barriers.

Our relationship with nature can be explored through multiple spectrums. The first spectrum is domestic to wild experiences. In their book The Rediscovery of the Wild (2013), eco-psychologists Peter Kahn and Patricia H. Hasbach explain these two ideas. They suggest:

Many people who currently advocate for the importance of nature in human lives focus on what’s close at hand: domestic, nearby, everyday nature…the other part is wild nature. Wildness often involves that which is big, untamed, unmanaged, not encompassed, and self-organizing, and unencumbered and unmediated by technological artifice.

These ideas are translatable into design. I see domestic nature experiences as something that humans consciously control, such as when we tell our dogs to roll over. The dog is a product of nature, but our conscious decision to train this dog, and have control over it, makes for a domestic experience. Domesticated and controlled experiences can provide people with a false sense of holding ultimate power over nature and our environment. Yes, we shape our world, but we do not control it. I believe that thinking like this can put humanity into a precarious position, and can cultivate a partial, distorted image of what nature is, especially if it comprises the majority of our experiences.

On the other hand, when we experience wild nature, humans are reminded that we lack control over our environment. Through wild experiences, we begin to understand that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. When we experience the wild, we feel awe in its most pure form.

Considering this spectrum of domestic and wild experiences in design will empower landscape architects to provide experiences that may lead to deeper connections and understanding in their designs. Designing naturalized play spaces in the 21st century is simply not enough. For instance, in E.O. Wilson’s autobiography, Naturalist (1994), he describes how when he was nine years old, he “pulled away the bark of a rotting tree stump” and discovered “a seething mass of citronella ants” that “left a vivid and lasting impression on me.” In 1938, when Wilson was nine, there were no defined nature play areas like there are today. In fact, the type of playground that we think of today did not even exist in 1938. While pulling bark from a rotting tree stump, Wilson was simply out in the woods, immersed in nature, which is drastically different than spaces that we assume could be the stage for this similarly life-changing experience today. When we try to transfer this experience to today’s environment, the response does not add up to the same sum.

A wild experience helps us understand that our interactions with nature can, and should, take many forms and approaches. As an outcome, wild experiences allow relationship building with nature in which we recognize our part in a greater system and are inherently more empathic. In thinking of a wild experience, our immediate internal vision may be making eye contact with a moose in the backcountry, viewing the Milky Way, or climbing above the tree line to gaze upon an entire mountain range. While these experiences are truly wild, I believe we can create experiences for children with the possibility of producing similar results in an urban environment, likely the least “wild” of environments. By providing the wild version of an urban environment, we push what is possible for the results of children interacting with nature in cities.

I recognize that saying that we can design wild experiences in cities is littered with oxymorons. But if the point of wanting to create wild experiences in nature is to build a more holistic understanding and empathic relationship with nature, then there is a way that we can start to do this. We need to start by asking, why do we need to insist that a child’s connection with nature in a city needs to exist in a designated “nature play” area? Do children have to be engaged in organized play to foster a connection? Does balancing on a log and playing with sand or other loose parts allow children to understand their place in a greater system? How would a child’s relationship with the natural world change if everyday spaces in our cities provided them with safe opportunities to connect with the wildness of nature that is inherently all around them?

By asking these questions, we start to rethink what is possible, and we approach a more realistic vision for recreating E.O. Wilson’s ant discovery in the 21st century. He found the ants so fascinating because he was regularly exposed to them and could slowly build the connections between the world around them, and find the wildness within them. Of all the pieces that make up building a relationship with nature, constant exposure is the most critical. Alternatively, can bus stops, rain gardens, sidewalks, and all of the spaces in between be the stage for a child to understand the wildness of our cities? I think yes.

We can look to the projects developed by developmental psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and the Learning Landscapes initiative to understand how everyday public spaces can be transformed into more meaningful places for children. One project, Urban Thinkscape, transformed a bus stop and adjacent lot into a hub for playful learning while families were waiting for public transportation. What would that project look like if these learning opportunities were focused on the nature that is all around them?

We need to start thinking about how we can use our skills to create experiences that connect children to nature beyond nature play places. If strict regulations curtail the ability to create robust nature experiences, we need to start thinking about how we can create these connections elsewhere, in unexpected ways, in children’s everyday experiences.

Drawing in Design: Student Perspectives

Drawing in Design is a quarterly series of public lectures and weekend workshops for students that focus on representation in design and bring leading landscape architects and designers from across the country to our Department.

Student Perspective: Allison Ong, MLA

The workshop
Alan Maskin started with a presentation about his personal history and relationship with drawing, some of his work, and inspirations. On Saturday we spent the first half of the day doing some very quick exercises, which forced us to think about lineweights, shadows, perspective, and section. The rest of the weekend was spent on a group project that we worked on furiously through Sunday afternoon.

The workshop challenged us both technically and emotionally. On the technical side, we were constantly working at a large scale. At no point was the paper I was working on any smaller than 2’ x 4’. We worked in mediums I am uncomfortable and inexperienced with such as chalk and collage. On the emotional side I was constantly struggling with hesitation to make permanent marks, fear of messing up, anxiety about whether I could come up with anything original and creative, etc. It was really a weekend-long deep-sea dive into the wringer of drawing. Yet through all of these challenges our instructors created a very comfortable and supportive environment.

Why drawing is important to being a designer
Drawing is a way of communicating. Like any language, you get more fluent at using and understanding it through study and practice, which is what we did during the workshop. I think drawing is especially important for designers because it can convey an idea immediately and often with more persuasive detail than can a verbal or written explanation.

My experience as a student
Typically in the landscape architecture department, the only time we see professionals is for reviews and critiques. It felt very refreshing to work together with students and professionals from other disciplines. As landscape architects, we know that we will work with architects, planners, engineers, construction management, etc. once we are professionals. However, as students we rarely have the opportunity to interact with any of these groups.

This experience gave us an opportunity to work side-by-side as equals, which was really liberating. The weekend served as an inspiring reminder of the practical and impractical applications of our schoolwork as well as a reminder of the joy of creativity.

Student Perspective: Jean Ni, MLA

The workshop
We began with a Friday night lecture filled with inspirational ideas and images. Saturday began with several rapid-fire warm-up exercises, then transitioned into our 6-person collaborations on a larger project. I often get lost in the computer programs that are essential to creating graphic documents in school, and the weekend was a wonderful break to allow full exploration in the single medium of hand drawing. Some moments transported me back to elementary school-level exploration and play with materials, methods, and interactions with my team. This course felt like a no-stakes, fun, and experimental form of visual play and intellectual expansion. It is important for me to get outside of the academic pressures and that I often impose on myself during studio work, and develop skills while remembering that I actually enjoy drawing.

Why drawing is important to being a designer
Drawing is a way to communicate your ideas with others – being able to see rather than hear or read what someone is proposing is an effective way to share what is mentally perceived in your brain.

My experience as a student
I value interdisciplinary work in my everyday academic work, but have often sought this out in departments even outside of landscape architecture. It was great to engage with people in different specialties especially from CBE. I made some great contacts, got to know other people better, and enjoyed working outside of landscape architecture. Thanks to Olson Kundig and GGN for engaging with the UW students in this! It was awesome to work with professionals in the field and see their drawing process in the midst of our own.

Learn more Drawing in Design and watch previous lectures here.

Students draw from Canadian context

For one week in mid-June, students explored the similarities and differences between US and Canadian urban environments as they visited three Canadian cities: Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa.

The field study was led by Fritz Wagner, Professor Emeritus in the departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design & Planning and Dr. Regent Cabana, an Affiliate Professor (from New Orleans). They led a group of students from academic disciplines including urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and real estate.

The experience helped students to gain a better understanding of economic, political, social, cultural, and urban issues within the Canadian context. They met with a number of professors from regional universities, government officials, and other urban experts who gave lectures and walking tours.  The course examined similarities and differences between US and Canadian cities while investigating current urban issues confronting communities in French-speaking Québec and Ottawa. Students studied the physical layout of cities, urban design, urban growth, central neighborhood revitalization projects, local governance, and historic preservation.  Students were required to keep a daily journal and write a comparative paper on a topic related to urban issues encountered in Canada.


Liquid lands: investigating the estuaries of the Salish Sea

graphic banner of a city plan with street layouts and rivers in red and orange shades and the title Cartographic Imaginations

Course Instructor

Ken Yocom

Course Date

Academic Year

Course Type

LARCH 598 + 702
Capstone Studio

Liquid Lands is a project of design, science, and communication that builds on and consolidates emerging methods in design research and representation practices across a broad range of disciplines accessing approaches and epistemological frameworks from landscape architecture, critical cartography, art, geography, and museology. It communicates the complex research of the Salish Sea to the geographic locations of the most substantive inputs into the ecosystem, riverine estuaries. While extensive, the scope is grounded in place, excavating and reassembling the nature of these watery lands to bring new light, perspective, and questions to how we understand nature and our role within it.

Learn more about the liquid lands studio and the rest of the Cartographic Imaginations studio series at

Gambling on Green: A Playground Renovation in Las Vegas, Nevada

The following article was written by MLA student Lauren Iversen for The Field, the ASLA Professional Practice Networks’ Blog.

Under my wide brimmed hat, with sweat dripping, I added paint, stroke by stroke, to the long wall. My legs burned sitting on the decomposed granite roasting in the hot sun. I sipped Cool Blue Frost Gatorade, hunger dissipated by 110° heat. A giant cottonwood shaded the playground in the afternoon, but at midday there was nowhere to hide. I looked behind me. Pavers in bright pink and green lay scattered about. Soon I would have to muster the energy to dig up the remaining pavers, wincing at the first attempt to lay a labyrinth. Next to the pavers, the newly planted Desert King fig reflected bright green fruit, leaves wilted trying to send all its efforts in the heat to its future. “Will these figs be around when the kids come back for school?” “Will I ever finish painting this wall?” Why did I get myself into this mess?”

In the 2017-2018 school year I found myself leading efforts to reimagine a field that had succumbed to sand from the desert heat. Working as a second-grade teacher with a BLA, a culmination of timing and tenacity led to a moment that morphed into an actual plan to build the playground. With my background, I embodied the role of designer, fundraiser, project manager, and community advocate. So, how do you build a playground without any money? In the end, the WHY was more important than HOW; therefore, it got done.


1. In 2017, Nevada schools ranked at 51st for best schools in the nation—as in, the absolute worst. Something had to be done, all options on the table. At my school, over 90% of children received free and reduced lunches. A minority community, parents worked demanding jobs in the thriving entertainment industries to provide for their children. The city provided little in return. From 2016 to 2018, the Clark County School District had a $60 million funding deficit [i, ii]. In 2017 the district spent $4,096 less per student than the national average [iii]. Our school was focused on improving education, trying its best to not lose teachers and resources due to the budget deficit. Clearly, no money was available for playground infrastructure.

2. Urban environments such as our school neighborhood are stressful for children. Children often have limited zones for exploration and discovery, with little or no access to nature. During my time at the school, students had no walking access to nearby parks. Many had never visited the plentiful wilderness around Las Vegas, like the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area just 15 miles west.

3. I asked myself which came first: the unruly child or limited recess? With increasing pressure for under-performing schools to improve, administrators are forced to limit recess to focus on core subjects. At my school, teachers became frustrated by students playing in the bathroom, their inattention, and extreme energy in the classroom. Children need unstructured play time between academics, for both physical and mental health. Could a better play environment make up for these challenges? I couldn’t say for sure, but perhaps it could maximize play time, provide outdoor classroom space, and increase nature views from the classroom window. Ideally, it would reduce student stress and disruptive behaviors.


1. A community project needs relationships and money. Fundraising came through a Youth Neighborhood Association Partnership Program (YNAPP) grant, finding community partners, and utilizing the supportive internal school community. My Principal’s support and trust in the project was critical, and my Teach for America colleagues supported efforts by helping build the project and connect me to community partners. These key relationships meant finding enough money and resources to complete the project.

Plan for Kindergarten Playground, used to gather community support / image: Lauren Iversen
2. Right place, right timing. In my role, I had an interesting perspective on the physical environment of the school and the daily activity of the school. My interests were matched by a rare group of students endlessly motivated to see positive change in the school. These students from the Kindness Club were the big drivers of success for this project. They spread kindness by distributing hot cocoa on chilly mornings and collecting trash after wind storms. They initiated the mural project and canvassed classrooms with posters to describe their ideas. Their passion for positive change was inspiration to pursue a more involved playground project. I am thankful for their attitudes and willingness to stick with a project to the end.
Kindness Club students gathered opinions and data on school playground climate / image: Lauren Iversen

My background in landscape architecture provided tools to create plans and design. Using playground design principles intended to improve students’ physical and mental health was a goal. Varied types of balance beams were cheap and easy to build. A labyrinth could be a beautiful discovery, surrounded by native plants and a colorful mural. Incorporating sensory elements like a large xylophone and fruit trees stimulate and appeal to children.

Design decisions made to expand whole child play opportunities / image: Lauren Iversen

3. Commitment. At some point during grant funding interviews, I realized that I was committed to this project. The students who were involved were dependent on me to help make their goals come to life. I realized my decisions would make or break the project, a responsibility I felt immensely. However stressful, the students were committed and excited, as was I to meet their expectations.

Fig fruiting on newly planted tree from YNAPP grant funding, with the student-painted mural in the background / image: Lauren Iversen

I left the school at the end of the summer to pursue an MLA, knowing there are other needed outdoor projects I could not initiate. There was a group of children I knew I would never see again, those who made me laugh until my sides hurt, and I miss them. I hope that what I left was a catalyst for change. There is movement in Las Vegas for more positive outdoor environments by many hard-working groups and individuals. This playground project taught me about advocating for natural spaces and play space for children. It taught me to be intuitive, innovative, resourceful, and community-oriented. What I accomplished is not ground-breaking, it was about making a positive change. It is not easy to change large institutions. It requires boldness and confidence in the face of adversity, grassroots passion, and smiling kids. I hope others will be motivated by the efforts of these students to continue the path towards environmental equality for all children.

[i] Pak-Harvey, Amelia. “$60M Impact of Tax Breaks on Nevada Schools Stirs Debate.” Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11 Dec. 2018.

[ii] Pak-Harvey, Amelia. “Clark County Schools Cut More than 550 Jobs to Erase Deficit.” Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 22 June 2018.

[iii] Turner, Cory, et al. “Why America’s Schools Have A Money Problem.” NPR, NPR, 18 Apr. 2016.

Lauren Iversen is a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) student at the University of Washington.

This article was written by Lauren Iversen. It originally appeared in The Field, the ASLA Professional Practice Networks’ Blog on April 4, 2019. For the original article, visit