Designing Natures Now: Curators’ Talk

Designing Natures Now: Curators’ Talk

How do you “design” a planet? Whether humanity fully understands it or not, we are deeply implicated in the workings of the Earth System. How do we get good at it? Richard Weller, Karen M’Closkey, Billy Fleming, Fritz Steiner, and William Whitaker, the curatorial team for Design With Nature Now, talk about the background and development of the exhibition, the curatorial concept, and prospects for the future.

Billy Fleming (PhD’17) is the Wilks Family Director for The Ian L. McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Most recently, he co-authored The Indivisible Guide—a progressive, grassroots organization with more than 6,000 groups—and co-created Data Refuge, an international consortium of scientists, librarians, and programmers working to preserve vital the environmental data at risk of erasure during the Trump Administration. Before coming to Penn, Fleming worked on urban policy development in the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama Administration. There, he worked on a variety of urban initiatives, including the inter-agency Sustainable Communities Initiative, the Promise Zones program, and the landmark Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.

Karen M'Closkey is associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and co-founder of PEG office of landscape + architecture, an award-winning design and research practice based in Philadelphia. She is author of Unearthed: The Landscapes of Hargreaves Associates (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), which received the J.B. Jackson Book Award from the Foundation for Landscape Studies, "Structuring Relations: From Montage to Model in Composite Imaging," in Composite Landscapes: Photomontage and Landscape Architecture (Charles Waldheim and Andrea Hansen, eds.), "Synthetic Patterns: Fabricating Landscapes in the Age of ‘Green,'" Journal of Landscape Architecture (Spring 2013), and co-author with Keith VanDerSys of Dynamic Patterns: Visualizing Landscapes in a Digital Age (Routledge). 

Fritz Steiner is dean and Paley Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and co-executive director of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology. Most recently, he served as Dean of the School of Architecture and Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin for 15 years. He previously taught at Penn and the following institutions: Arizona State University, Washington State University, the University of Colorado at Denver. He was a visiting professor of landscape architecture at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Dean Steiner was a Fulbright-Hays scholar at Wageningen University, The Netherlands and a Rome Prize Fellow in Historic Preservation at the American Academy in Rome. During 2013-2014, he was the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. He is a Fellow of both the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, and a Scholar at the Penn Institute for Urban Research. Dean Steiner helped establish the Sustainable SITES Initiative, the first program of its kind to offer a systematic, comprehensive rating system designed to define sustainable land development and management, and holds the SITES Professional (SITES AP) credential.

Richard Weller is the co-executive director of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism, and professor and chair of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Throughout his career he has worked simultaneously as an academic and a consultant specializing in the formative stages of projects ranging from gardens to plazas, memorials, museums, suburbs and waterfronts. He is former director of the design firm Room 4.1.3 and the Australian Urban Design Research Center. His research projects have involved scenario planning for cities, megaregions and nations. His current research concerns urbanization in the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In over 30 years practice he has received a consistent stream of international design competition awards at all scales of landscape architecture and urban design. He has published 4 books and over 90 single-authored papers. Weller sits on the board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) in Washington and is the founder and Creative Director of the interdisciplinary journal of landscape architecture LA+. He teaches in three subject areas: advanced design studios at all scales, urban design history and theory, and historical and contemporary ideas of Nature. Weller’s designs, research and writing can be found on his website.

William Whitaker is curator of the Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. He is coauthor (with George Marcus) of The Houses of Louis I. Kahn and recipient of the 2014 Literary Award of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Trained as an architect at Penn and the University of New Mexico, Whitaker works most closely with the archival collections of Louis I. Kahn, Lawrence Halprin, and the partnership of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, in support of teaching, scholarship, preservation, and public engagement. Whitaker is co-organizer for “Design With Nature Now” – a major program of exhibitions, conference, and public programs that highlight the dynamic and visionary approaches to landscape design and development in the face of climate change and global urbanization.

Admission is free for all.