She collects toxic waste landfills, and she just won a grand prize for landscape architecture
Landscape architecture never quite got the adulation of Capital-A architecture, but maybe a new award can help change that – especially since it goes to a innovative designer who has been respectfully dubbed “the toxic beauty queen of brownfield remediation”.
The first winner of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize is Julie Bargmann, professor at the University of Virginia and founder of a studio called DIRT – Dump It Right There. The award, announced today by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, is intended to confer Pritzker Architecture Prize status, as well as a similar scholarship – $ 100,000 for the winner.
Bargman is funny, tough, committed environmentalist, and, well, feminine. The selection challenges old perceptions of landscape architecture as a stifling, male-dominated, service-oriented profession. Rather than designing gardens for stately mansions, Bargmann tackles poison dumps, Superfund sites, and wasteland she gleefully describes as “gnarly.”
“The most knotty!” exclaimed Bargmann in an interview with NPR. “The more knotty, the better.”
Born in New Jersey, Bargmann is no stranger to industrial sites. She redesigned abandoned train stations and quarries, landfills, abandoned factories and coal mines. In Detroit, she redeveloped an urban wooded area around an apartment complex using Quonset huts in designs inspired by John Coltrane’s score “Supreme Love.”
Maurice cox was head of Detroit’s planning and development department at the time (he currently holds the same position in Chicago). He remembers when Bargmann started another project in Detroit on what appeared to be a vacant parking lot.
âJulie has a classic notion that all sites have a story,â he told NPR. âShe asked the developer to get a backhoe and start digging in the dirt, to uncover the foundations of a farm that once resided on this land. And she scratched and scratched and used the foundation of that old house as part of the park, and come in and plant dozens and dozens of trees. And, you know, a whole urban place has been created. And Julie would tell you it was already there. All she had to do was dig it up.
Cox describes Bargmann as a visionary thinker whose life’s work revolves around finding the beauty that exists in marginal communities that respects and honors these places. âAnd that puts them at the center of public discourse on landscape architecture,â he adds.
“It’s not often that people who work on the fringes are recognized for their singular kind of genius, certainly not during their lifetime and certainly not at a point in their career when they have many years of influence,” Cox says. about Bargmann. to win. âSo it’s a smart decision on the part of this jury. If you’re trying to establish the primacy of that price, you do it, you know, causing a bit of a shock to the discipline.
In the jury quote, Bargmann is described as follows: âShe was a provocateur, a critical practitioner and a public intellectual. She embodies the kind of activism required of landscape architects at a time of severe environmental challenges and persistent social inequities.
Combination of activism and architecture gives new form to abandoned places
Dealing with such inequalities and poisoned junk spaces can be a melancholy endeavor, admits Bargmann. But she responds to the demands of her work with artistic optimism and engineering precision. (In the other direction too.)
In the former mining community of Vintondale, Pa., The designer used a passive treatment system to transform a toxic area into a public space for art and recreation.
âI always call it an eco-friendly washing machine because that’s what it is,â she says. âAnd so, you know, the liquid goes through the wetlands and then it’s released back into the creek. Basically what we’re doing is preventing the acid mine drainage from going into that creek and washing it out. So that was it amusing. “
Bargmann resists how these landscapes can end up being the object of a voyeuristic urban aesthetic – inevitably referred to as âruin pornâ.
And she is quick to admit that while nicknames like “Milkmaid Queen” can be catchy, a strong puff of sexism is involved. “I’m going to get calls and have to say, are you interested in the helmet chick?” Or are you interested in the job? she says.
The work only spreads. In a statement from the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Bargmann says that while she will continue to reclaim individual sites, she is increasingly drawn to larger canvases. âNamely, cities and post-industrial regions,â she said. âThere is enormous potential and sublime beauty in places that may at first glance appear to be trashed. Sites, neighborhoods, entire cities – they are full of energy waiting to be recognized, released and given a new shape.
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