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College of Environment and Design


This is a place for stories written by students about events happening in and around the College of Environment + Design.

image of exhibit in Circle Gallery


February 5, 2019    Carolina Angula, MLA student

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Prior to the guest lecture and exhibit opening at the Circle Gallery, Eric Groft, FASLA, Principal of Oehme, van Sweden sat with a class of second-year MLA students to talk about his career and the profession of landscape architecture.

In his introduction, Groft talked a little bit about his relationship with plants. Groft learned a lot about plants from working with people who had a passion for horticulture. During his time at the University of Virginia, he studied Rose and Eckbo, and his classes focused on hardscapes with little emphasis on vegetation. Though he didn’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial before entering the workforce, Groft explained that “it’s not what you know, it’s understanding what you don’t know that’s really important in your first job.” At Oehme, van Sweden, he found the relationship between architecture and horticulture to work together to create a well-balanced landscape. 

Groft kept his introduction brief so that students had time to ask him questions.

One student asked if the tide was changing in the profession of landscape architecture.

Groft replied that the roles aren’t really changing, but the profession is dealing more and more with the commercial sector and building new cities. Landscape architecture as a field is starting to lean towards urban planning. Questions such as “how many people can live in how much space?” are now what drive many landscape architects. The focus is on how to keep things urban and less about consuming land. People want to walk to work.

Another student asked what Groft’s design philosophy is.

Groft answered that it is to break geometry. He enjoys creating designs that are not symmetrical. To find inspiration for design, he recommends travelling as much as possible. While travelling, go to museums, plays, ballets, and musicals as well as interesting parks and landscapes. “We are masters of the universe. We have to know everything!” Groft exclaimed.

As the conversation was wrapping up, a student asked what he looks for when hiring someone onto the team.

Groft doesn’t compare when hiring—he will hire both MLAs and BLAs. Since landscape architecture is a social profession and is personality driven, he sometimes hires based on personality alone, without even looking at a portfolio. When he does look at a portfolio, he likes to see a diversity of work: sketches, hand drawings, and photography. Computer graphics gets “old and boring” after awhile, Groft said. “Everyone knows you can think. What I look for in a potential candidate is someone who knows their materials and knows how to put things together in a creative and diverse way.”

Be sure to visit the exhibit in the Circle Gallery. The show was created by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C. The exhibit in the Circle Gallery was funded by CE+D, Alex and Susan McAlister, and Marianne Cramer.

scholarship recipients

Neel Reid scholars visit peachtree garden club

December 7, 2018     Andie Culbertson, MLA student Read More ▼

The Neel Reid Scholarship was established in 1946 by Peachtree Garden Club member Mrs. Jesse Draper, along with Mr. Hunter Perry, in honor of Georgia architect Neel Reid. The intent of the scholarship is to “[spread] civic beauty and garden wisdom” by providing funding for tuition scholarships, graduate assistantships, research projects, and other funding that promotes and furthers education in landscape architecture.

On November 13th the six students who received the Neel Reid scholarship, along with Dean Sonia Hirt and Director of Development Jennifer Messer, traveled to the Atlanta Botanical Garden to visit members of the Peachtree Garden Club. The dean and students spoke to members about the importance of the scholarship to the college, and how the funding has helped grow the program, as well as further the education of each student recipient. Short introductions were followed by a lunch where students had the opportunity to speak with members of the club to personally thank them for scholarships, and discuss ambitions.

sarahs map from gis day

MLA student wins gis map contest

December 7, 2018 Andie Culbertson, MLA student

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On November 14th, UGA held its third annual GIS Day. The Main Library hosted the event, which was comprised of speakers, demonstrations, and internship opportunities, along with a featured map contest. Student maps were judged on creativity, technicality, and clarity of content. Master of Landscape Architecture students Sarah Hutchinson and Brandon Platt submitted entries created in a second-year studio class taught by Professors Alison Smith, Rosanna Rivero, and Alfie Vick. Hutchinson and Platt created maps showing overviews of existing conditions at a site that should be taken into account when designing for resilience.

The CED’s very own Sarah Hutchinson won the graduate category in the map contest with her entry (follow this link for a pdf) concerning the present conditions of the barrier islands, and potential dangers with the rising sea level.

‘Sea level is expected to rise 1.5’ by 2100 in the coastal Georgia region, submerging most of the barrier islands. The area is poised for development due to the growing shipping port near Savannah, touristic appeal of the unspoiled barrier islands, and military expansion at large bases such as Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. If nothing is done to prepare for the future, inundation and higher storm surge will threaten resources, and existing social inequalities will be exacerbated.’

- Quote from Hutchinson's winning entry

John Anderson, Greg Miller, Daniel Martin, Jon Calabria, David Spooner.

ASLA President, Greg Miller, FASLA, visits CED - STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

November 13, 2018     Matthew Quirey, MLA student

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“The Wisdom of Landscape Architecture and the Value of Connections”

One of my favorites notions presented at a recent lecture at CED was the “wisdom ladder,” described as a progression from knowledge through experience, perspective, foresight, and judgment that can lead us to wisdom and a deeper understanding in what we do as landscape architects.

On Monday, November 5, 2018, outgoing ASLA President Greg Miller visited CED as part of an on-going effort by ASLA to engage educational institutions and future practitioners. Our GSLA hosted the visit, which was made possible by the Georgia chapter of the ASLA. After touring the landscape architecture studios in the Jackson Street building and talking with students about current projects, Mr. Miller gave a lecture to a mixed audience of faculty and students. The lecture was entitled “The Wisdom of Landscape Architecture and the Value of Connections.” Using imagery and projects from of his home state of New Mexico, he illustrated his main talking points, which supported his thesis of the value of wisdom in design and the networks that are created across our discipline.

Simplifying the Complex

Miller talked about teaching sixth-graders about the profession of landscape architecture and discovering that a summary of key connections— people to people, people to nature, and people to natural systems—was the best way to present such a multi-faceted discipline. These three topics are an excellent distillation of what any landscape project aims to accomplish, and making these connections is at the heart of every project.

In addition to having served as ASLA president, Miller is the principle of MRWM Landscape Architecture in Albuquerque, NM. Using his perspective as a landscape architecture professional, he shared insights and gave advice for students as they try to enter the field and apply for employment at design firms. He presented findings of recent surveys sponsored by ASLA that showed what employers are looking for in new hires and compared that to what students felt were important skills to have. For employers of new hires, writing and hand graphics were among the top needed skills. Of note: Public speaking was not high on the list for employers but it was on recent graduates’ minds. Miller pointed out that firms would not put new hires in front of clients or public meetings in the first few years, which came as a relief to me. Instead, the ability to create fast concept sketches was more appreciated and he noted that having the ability to create many iterations of a design using sketches on trash paper was a skill still highly sought after by employers. He praised the students on the sketches he saw during his studio tour here and was happy that sketching and other hand graphics are still being taught at UGA. In his opinion, computer-generated designs, while essential to the process, often fail to capture the design process; whereas drawing and sketching actually shape it.

After the lecture, Miller and Daniel Martin (Director of Marketing at Permaloc and currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Landscape Architecture Foundation) joined students and faculty at a happy hour at Magnolia’s downtown.

image of the two artists


October 18, 2018     Andie Culbertson

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On October 3rd, guests had the opportunity to listen to visual artists Diane Kempler and Katherine Mitchell speak about their inspirations and processes behind their pieces in Nature Speaks, during the Circle Gallery opening.

artist speaking

Kempler opened the artists’ talks by speaking about her inspiration and an introduction to her works in Nature Speaks. Kempler’s interest in using molecules and bacteria began when she worked with Nicole Gerado, a biologist from Emory University, to educate students through art. Kempler uses clay, wood, porcelain and paint to create sculptures that resemble molecules, bacteria and fungi as if they had been seen under a microscope. She also combines images and seeds to “create a rich world of the botanical,” as well as expressing her interest in the idea of things disappearing.

students at opening

Mitchell’s works in Nature Speaks focus on using paintings and drawings to tell the story of her favorite tree in her yard, a white oak. When the tree became diseased, she began to render images of it. Mitchell combines her interest in geometry by placing circular grids over her drawings, and uses patterns to invoke the leaves of the tree. Many of her works are rendered using light blues, greys and whites in order to convey a ghost-like feeling, while moving away from her previous uses of greyscale.

Nature Speaks will be open in the Jackson Street Building Circle Gallery on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., until Dec. 7.

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