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Saturday, September 19, 2020

URI Landscape series kicks off on September 24

28th annual Landscape Architecture Lecture Series to focus on activism, equity and environmental justice

Tony LaRoche

The University of Rhode Island’s 28th annual Landscape Architecture Lecture Series will focus on a timely theme – activism, equity and environmental justice.

“It is about inclusion and how designers engage the public and are able to reach underrepresented communities,” said William Green, professor of landscape architecture and series organizer. “Can we design parks, urban plazas, streets, and gathering places that are accessible and welcoming to a diverse community?

“Design requires engagement with a diverse population and methods that reach out and are delivered to different groups and individuals,” Green added. 

“It is about designers who may be activists, proponents and sensitive to the needs of a widely disparate public. These landscape architects are asked to report on their experiences and share how they design public spaces with these community groups in mind.”

This fall’s five lectures will be delivered remotely – streamed live on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Facebook, Youtube and Twitter platforms. The talks begin at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public. For more information, visit to the series webpage.

The series kicks off Thursday, Sept. 24, with two Massachusetts landscape architects with two decades of design experience for public spaces. Cheri Ruane, vice president and practice leader of landscape architecture at Weston & Sampson Design in Reading, and Danielle Desilets, a senior associate with Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture in Boston, will speak on “Equity and Inclusion in Public Engagement.”

Ruane, a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and past president of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, heads the design studio at Weston & Sampson and has more than 20 years’ experience in public design, including facilitating community participation. 

While working with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, she was involved in the restoration of the city’s historic parks system, the Emerald Necklace. During design work at Lincoln Park in Somerville, she brought together local residents and students to develop a park noted for providing much needed fields and play areas and enhancing the neighborhood’s sense of place.

In her 20 years in landscape architecture, Desilets has focused on historic and cultural landscape preservation, campus planning and design, and passive park and trail design. A 1999 graduate of URI, she has been project manager on a wide variety of projects from trail system planning to design for accessibility and sustainability. 

At Kyle Zick, she has managed more than 25 public park and open space projects, including the revitalization of the 6-acre Medal of Honor Park in South Boston that includes an expansive playground, open greens and the nation’s first memorial for Vietnam veterans. 

She also has taken part in National Parks Service projects, including the trail plan for Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 2017, she was project manager for URI’s Landscape Master Plan.

On Oct. 8, Autumn Visconti, senior landscape architect at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in Copenhagen, New York City and London, will speak on “BIG in the Public Realm.” Visconti heads BIG’s East Side Coastal Resiliency and the Brooklyn-Queens Park projects. Her approach is devoted to building projects through a clear and concise methodology in better preparing cities and communities for climate adaptation.

On Oct. 22, four landscape architects from South Africa – Graham Young, Tarna Klitzner, Anthony Wain and Lesego Bantsheng – will discuss “Rethinking Heritage, Culture and Violence Prevention.” Young, who recently retired after a 30-year academic career at the University of Pretoria, focuses on urban design and environmental planning in his practice and is the secretary general of the International Federation of Landscape Architects, Africa. 

Klitzner is a principal at Tarna Klitzner Landscape Architects, whose work includes public, community and private projects. Wain, director of Planning Partners in Cape Town, has been a horticultural scientist and landscape architect for 36 years with experience in 21 countries. And Bantsheng is co-founder of Uhuru Heritage, which is geared to molding current and future societies.

On Nov. 5, Diana Fernandez, associate landscape architect at Sasaki in Watertown, Massachusetts, will speak on “Heterogeneous Futures: Design Thinking Alternatives for Anthropologically and Ecologically Diverse Landscapes.” Since graduating from Temple University in 2012, Fernandez has strived to be a voice for her generation of landscape architects and a mentor to her peers, while also advocating for diversity in design and urban policy. 

Her projects have included revitalization of the Wilmington Waterfront Promenade, part of the Port of Los Angeles. In June, the ASLA awarded Fernandez its inaugural Emerging Professionals Medal.

On Nov. 19, Signe Nielsen, founding principal of Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects in New York City, will speak on “Pier 42: A Just and Resilient Future.” Nielsen, a practicing landscape architect and urban designer in New York since 1978, has been the recipient of more than 100 national and local design awards for public open space projects. 

An ASLA fellow, her work has renewed the environmental integrity and transformed the quality of spaces for those who live, work and play in the urban realm.  She is also a professor of urban design and landscape architecture at Pratt Institute and serves as president for the Public Design Commission of the City of New York.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, URI College of Arts and Sciences, URI Library, Departments of Landscape Architecture and Art and Art History, Bartlett Tree Experts, and the Gaetano and Pasqualina Faella Endowment.