More than a century after the advent of Urban Parks Movement in America, landscape architects are again in the forefront of a global movement to reshape cities and regions. From green infrastructure to urban agriculture, from bicycle networks to walkable cities, from underserved communities in the United States to informal settlements in the Global South, landscape architecture is playing an increasingly important role in making the built environments more livable, inspiring, just, and resilient.
At the University of Washington, we strive to create a program that meets the complex social, environmental, political, and aesthetic challenges of our time. Our program’s emphasis on urban ecological design addresses the multiple dimensions of today’s environmental challenges – infrastructure, culture, ecological literacy, and human and environmental health. With our focus on the intersection of urbanism, ecology, and design, we developed distinct programs that reflect the values and ethic of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
Building on the civic legacy of the city, faculty and students practice design activism through service-learning studios that involve marginalized social groups in design and planning of urban spaces. We train students to challenge the predominant patterns of social and environmental injustice and to become advocates of the voices and interests of marginalized communities and landscapes.
Through our pioneering design/build program, our students acquire practical skills to transform and restore communities and environments in some of the most challenging contexts. They worked with immigrants, refugees, youths, native tribes and people with disabilities to create gardens, plazas, playgrounds, infrastructure, and therapeutic spaces that heal body and mind. Our Green Future Lab explore new materials, methods, and technologies in green design, as well as engaging the public in envisioning futures of our cities.
Through our global connections, students and faculty travel to China, Croatia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and Scandinavia to learn from and work with local communities. Students are also actively involved in faculty research projects as well as volunteering opportunities with civic organizations serving local communities and the broader public. As one of four allied academic departments in the College of Built Environments, our students participate in a variety of initiatives and programs that expand the boundaries of the profession.
In the face of the grand challenges of our time, landscape architecture is uniquely poised to make significant contributions to the society and the planet. At the University of Washington, our vision of landscape architecture is one that embodies, reveals, and builds on the cultural, ecological, and aesthetic complexity of today’s environment. Our role as landscape architects is one that engages such profound complexity through the act of design, exploration, and civic engagement.
Jeff Hou, PhD. ASLA
Professor & Chair