Landscape architect whose designs reclaim toxic sites wins international award
THE WASHINGTON POST – Landscape architect Julie Bargmann, who for 30 years has transformed post-industrial and sometimes toxic sites into inviting spaces, is the winner of the first Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, a biennial award of $ 100,000 awarded by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.
Bargmann is a professor at the University of Virginia and founder of the Dump It Right There (DIRT) studio, best known for his designs that reinvent contaminated and neglected urban sites.
His notable projects include the headquarters of Urban Outfitters at the United States Navy Yard in Philadelphia, winner of an Honorary Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2014 for its innovative salvage strategy that reused pieces of concrete, preventing them from becoming landfills. His design for Vintondale Reclamation Park, a 35-acre site in Vintondale, Pa., Included a natural water filtration system and won the 2001 National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
The Oberlander jury described Bergmann as “a provocateur, a critical practitioner and a public intellectual”. The jury cited his approach to environmental awareness and social justice as important for our time.
Bargmann, 63, said she was satisfied with both the award – which highlights her work on transforming difficult spaces – and her association with Canadian designer Oberlander, a pioneer in the field who died in May. at the age of 99. Notable Oberlander creations include the National Gallery. of Canada in Ottawa, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin and Robson Square and the Vancouver Public Library. She was one of the first advocates for green roofs and pushed the field to tackle social issues and climate change.
“Cornelia kicked the ass for 99 years,” said Bargmann, recalling seeing Oberlander at a conference just a few years ago.
“She said, ‘I just quit alpine skiing. I can only do cross country, ”said Bargmann, adding that she turned to her colleagues and said:“ I want to be like Cornelia when I grow up. “
The Oberlander Prize aims to raise the public profile of landscape architecture by honoring a living practitioner who is creative, courageous and visionary, according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, an education and advocacy organization that will host public events highlighting highlight the work of the laureate and the practice of landscape architecture.
The inaugural Oberlander Prize Forum takes place today at Highline Stages in New York City and focuses on landscape architects leading efforts to address the climate crisis.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Bargmann graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in sculpture. She received an MA in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University and was a member of the American Academy in Rome.
A storyteller at heart, Bargmann is drawn to post-industrial sites because of their complexity and rich history. Rather than correcting or disguising their often troubled stories, she incorporates them into what she calls the Next Shift. Bargmann engages historians, commissions social and cultural reports as well as environmental studies, and incorporates the results into his plans. This practice reuses materials from the site, including brick, concrete and metal.
“These sites were so full of conflicts and stories,” she said, explaining her practice. “You go to a coal mining site, you start to wonder what it was like, what was it like to work here, what were the machines and how did they work?
“I made the argument that these were cultural landscapes,” she said. “This is the next step in the process, regeneration. It’s the next shift.
Embedded in her approach is a sense of optimism that translates into an accessible and inviting vibe, she said. Its design for Core City Park in Detroit, for example, transformed a parking lot into a lush urban park. Bargmann recovered parts from a 19e A century-old fire station that once occupied the site and an old bank vault that had been buried under the asphalt, reusing the stone for benches. Her goal, she said, was for the park to exude optimism.
“If you do something exudes optimism, it’s accessible and welcoming,” she said.