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A Transnational Perspective on Cultural Landscapes

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Like Joe himself, Christine Chung, the 2018 recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, places great value on service to her community and to the profession. Christine is a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Pennsylvania with an interest in urbanism and cultural landscapes. Christine has lived all over the world. She grew up in Auckland, Seoul, and Toronto and brings a transnational perspective to her work. As a landscape architect, she leverages the interdisciplinary nature of the discipline to explore how social and ecological movements can be supported through design and how historical preservation can safeguard the intangible qualities of communities’ cultures.

Living and working in Vancouver as an undergraduate, Christine became familiar with the rhythms of the city’s Chinatown. Though she had daily conversations and interactions with neighborhood residents and spaces, she had “a feeling that there was a city that we know, and then there was a city that we had forgotten, inhabited by those we had forgotten.” Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada, formed in the history of racism and segregation. Today, the neighborhood has been the subject of much debate as development and revitalization plans push its low-income, senior Chinese immigrants, First Nations, transients and otherwise marginalized people to the edges of the community. At the same time, the area is losing its cultural heritage; new developments are being welcomed in to attract a younger more affluent crowd as the community’s long term residents have settled in other districts of the Vancouver metropolitan area. The city has been active in protecting the physical manifestations of culture in its historic Chinatown district, but Christine advocates for the city to further acknowledge that there is more to the community than just its landmarks, but both the tangible and intangible cultural values of its people, tradition, and narratives.

In 2012, Christine employed the medium of documentary to bring attention into this crisis of culture. She co-created intangible: Heritage for the Future, a project that portrayed heritage as “not merely physical artefacts, but a fluid and living concept taking the form of oral histories, social practices, and street life in between buildings.” The film advanced the importance of protecting the community’s oldest members and their way of life as gentrification and diminishing spirit of place loomed over Chinatown’s cultural landscape. Doing so would promote not only community health, but a fuller and more productive city future. In 2013, Christine, in partnership with Creative Cultural Collaborations and Reconciliation Canada, co-created a mural depicting the cultural and historic connectivity of the First Nations, Chinese, and Japanese communities that converged in Vancouver’s historic Downtown Eastside.

christine-chung-supplemental-image-530pxChristine collaborating with local artists on the Radius mural

Now through her graduate work, Christine remains committed to demonstrating the capacity of landscape architecture to address issues of disinvestment, economic decentralization, and racial inequality in urban settings. Currently she is in collaboration with a team on a project that focuses on understanding the ongoing urban water crisis and water shutoffs in in the city of Detroit, which will be featured in Architectures of Refusal and  Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination journal of UrbanNext. The project considers how architectural design research can bring critical attention to social issues. According to the accompanying text, the project will be “an exploration of how the forces that are driving Detroit and the management of the water of Detroit are coming together to direct it through a neoliberal market driven logic that suggests that it is dismantling its black and poor neighborhoods.”By applying her professional experience and knowledge gained in the classroom, she aims to facilitate a basis of preventative health for neglected communities.

At PennDesign, Christine will continue to maintain a focus on urbanism and cultural landscapes. With the support of the 2018 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, she will commit greater attention to creative pursuits and social activism, which she believes to be two sides of the same coin. She is intent on expanding the definition of preservation beyond physical landscapes to include sustaining the cultural practices of urban communities.

Looking toward the future, Christine envisions a leadership role for landscape architects to “create momentum for ecological and social movements.”

 

 

June 26 Webinar: Olmsted Scholar Perspectives

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Please save-the-date to join us on Tuesday, June 26 3:00pm to 4:00pm EDT for a live Q2 webinar to hear past Olmsted Scholar National winners Azzurra Cox, Grant Fahlgren, and Erin Percevault share their personal and professional endeavors inside and outside of the office and how they balance these pursuits within the demands of their responsibilities as full-time designers in private practice.  If you would like to register, you can do so via this link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1869346080015245827.

These quarterly webinars are curated and inspired by the topics of interest of our Olmsted Scholars community. Last year we featured panel presentations on activism and advocacy, bridging academic and practice, and highlighted the professional journeys and challenges for three distinct and unique landscape architecture professionals in different stages in their career and perspectives in practice. We’ve featured past Olmsted Scholars as well as guests such as David Seiter from Future Green Studio, Gina Ford from SCAPE, and Billy Fleming from the Ian McHarg Center and co-founder of the Indivisible Project.

Erin Percevault, 2014 National Undergraduate Olmsted Scholar

Erin earned her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with Honors from Louisiana State University in 2015. After research work with the Coastal Sustainability Studio and the completion of her thesis on emerging energy landscapes, she went to Bhutan where she studied rural livelihoods and conservation practices with the School for Field Studies. She then joined Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and moved to NYC. Recent projects at NBW include Hudson Yards in NYC; the Gardens at the Jay Heritage Center; the Omega Institute Campus; and the Peabody Essex Museum. 

Grant Fahlgren, 2015 National Graduate Olmsted Scholar

Grant is a project designer at the award winning firm PFS Studio based in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2015 he was named the Graduate National Olmsted Scholar while obtaining his Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of British Columbia. His thesis research and Olmsted proposal on the potential of traditional ecological knowledge to inform adaptations to climate change has expanded into his professional practice through work with coastal First Nations communities, participation with the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects as a founding member of the Indigenous Issues Task Force, along with conference presentations and publications.

Azzurra Cox, 2016 National Graduate Olmsted Scholar

Azzurra Cox is a landscape architect passionate about cities and public space. Her interdisciplinary background in social theory and the humanities informs her approach to the discipline, including her interest in the power of landscape to shape and reflect collective social narratives. Azzurra holds an MLA from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a BA in Social Studies from Harvard College. Concurrent to independent creative projects and ongoing research on landscapes of memory in St. Louis, Azzurra is a Designer at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

We encourage you to spread the word to your colleagues, friends, and professional networks too! In the meantime, you can also check out our Q1 call from March featuring Wes Michaels from Spackman Mossop Michaels on the Caño Martin Peña Restoration Project in San Juan, Puerto Rico.