NY times article.
- Subject: [cg] NY times article.
- From: Lenny Librizzi <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 10:44:07 -0400
This article appeared in the House and Home section of the NYT on Thursday.
ACGA board member Daniel Winterbottom is highlighted with interest for
Landscape architects, rainwater harvesting, community gardens, etc.
New York Times
June 17, 2004
From the Ivory Tower, Lessons in the Dirt
By ANNE RAVER
A TEAM of landscape architecture students at the University of Washington
decided it was time for lunch. So they stopped capping a wall and headed
out of the garden they were building for the private Evergreen School in
this suburb north of Seattle.
"Wait, you can't leave now," said Daniel Winterbottom. "We have to set
those caps today, so we can grout tomorrow."
The students, grout all over their pants and boots, looked at him in
disbelief. But it is one of the easier lessons Mr. Winterbottom, a
landscape architect, teaches during the 10 breakneck weeks of his studio
class. The class is the last requirement in a three-year program that
ends, if his 15 graduating students learn to do without lunch, in a
At a time when the number of landscape architecture departments nationwide
is swelling â to 76 this year from 57 in 1986 â and baby boomers are
chucking law offices to learn where and how to plant an allÃe, Mr.
Winterbottom's class is one of a handful in the country to offer hands-on
If you build a wall, the theory goes, you learn how to talk to a
contractor who is building a wall for you. The contractor doesn't care how
beautifully you've drawn a wall, said Luanne Smith, a landscape architect
who teaches with Mr. Winterbottom, "he needs to know the length of the
wall, so he can bid the materials."
Mr. Winterbottom created the course a decade ago, when he realized that
students did not understand construction. And he already knew from
experience that sculpturing clay with your hands (or with a bulldozer)
informs design. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from
the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before taking a master's
degree in landscape architecture at Harvard.
This year, the project was to turn a soggy, poorly used lawn that sloped
down to a low wall into a far more useful, open landscape. Working with
$22,000 raised by Evergreen parents, the landscape class took down the
wall and then excavated the slope, building a little stone amphitheater
into the hill and a cedar arbor, with Japanese joinery, on top. The arbor,
with a big swinging bench, is planted with the first tentative vines of
A giant chessboard of light gray and charcoal concrete pavers (as in
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") inspires play. Informal plantings
of lavender, penstemon, ceanothus and iris attract butterflies and birds.
"We wanted some water, a sitting area, a place for contemplation," said
Margaret Wagner, the head of the school, which covers pre-kindergarten to
eighth grade. Mr. Winterbottom's team solicited ideas from teachers,
parents and students, but team members quickly realized they couldn't
please everyone. Parents wanted more paving so they could hold
fund-raisers; the teachers wanted a softer place, with plants.
"We wanted to build a whole rainwater collection system," said Michael
Merkle, a landscape student who has also worked for a few years with
landscape contractors. "But they were worried about standing water
attracting mosquitoes with West Nile virus." They went with a simpler
Then there were the budgetary considerations. The students skipped
building an expensive drainage system, but they decided to spend three
times as much on recycled plastic material for a deck as they would have
for lumber. "It lasts 25 years longer, so we went ahead with that," Mr.
Design-build landscape architecture courses are rare. The University of
Oregon and Temple University offer limited courses, but most universities
let the students learn construction on their own. Niall G. Kirkwood,
chairman of the landscape architecture department at Harvard Design
School, said liability was an issue. "But there's also a theoretical
objection that students can't learn the construction trade in a few
months," he said, "that it results in mediocre design work, kind of
Mr. Winterbottom is not looking for a perfect joint. "I think it's kind of
charming if it's off by an eighth of an inch, or the grout isn't quite
even," he said. The Evergreen garden, he added, would be $80,000 to
$100,000 if done by professionals.
While his students don't have the expertise to tackle a complicated
fountain, they often explore new technologies or materials. In the last 10
years they have transformed neglected public spaces and built innovative
gardens in schools or hospitals. In 1999, the class built three rooftop
gardens at Cancer Lifeline, a support center in Seattle. The students
created a deck, with a plant-covered arbor and copper gates in the form of
a tree, an arrangement that gives a sense of enclosure yet is open to the
Last year the class collaborated with students in art and industrial
design to build a public square and garden, the University Heights
Community Park and Community Garden, near the university. A rainwater
collection system waters the gardens there.
Another year it was a project at the University of Washington Medical
Center, where, in collaboration with fine arts students, his landscape
students created trellises covered with passion vines and wide, raised
beds full of herbs and perennials. Yet another class built what they
called the Garden of Eatin' from recycled materials and edible plants like
grape and kiwi vines, Asian pear trees, strawberry, blueberry and
But sometimes his students do nothing more complicated than teach a child
how to plant a hydrangea, or to figure out which plant goes where.
"This hole has to be three times as big as that plant," said Hannah Hoerr,
13, pointing to a hole she was digging at the Evergreen School and a fat,
blue hydrangea sitting nearby. "It's kind of clayey here, and that plant â
um, I can't remember its name â can grow here."
Someday, perhaps the landscape architects will be able to talk to
contractors too. Mr. Merkle said, "Some builder is going to come up and
say, `This can't be done,' and you can say, `Oh, yes it can. I've done
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