Master of Landscape Architecture student Taylor Davis (MLA ’20) was recently selected to participate in Design Workshop’s Dr. Charles Fountain Internship Program, where she gained real-world experience in Design Workshop’s interdisciplinary design office. Taylor was also a student panelist in the Center for American Architecture and Design’s Climate Justice Symposium earlier this semester. We recently caught up with Taylor to learn more about her passions, the Design Workshop internship, and her experience as a graduate student in UTSOA’s Landscape Architecture program.
Tell us a bit about your background and personal interests.
I come from a gardening background, and I spent most of my early career in urban gardening and garden education, mostly in the Bay Area and Northern California. I went to school at UC Santa Cruz, which is in the Redwood forest. I’ve always been drawn to nature and natural environments, and that was something I felt I missed out on growing up in Los Angeles. I’m also heavily invested in art, although I never felt like I was a creative person until I decided to pursue Landscape Architecture. One of my personal projects is curating group art shows for femme-identifying BIPOC artists to provide them with a platform to showcase their work and tell their stories.
What initially got you interested in landscape architecture?
When I was living in San Francisco, I worked for an AmeriCorps program called Education Outside. This program placed me in a public K-8 Spanish immersion school. This school’s garden had little to offer in terms of being an immersive and educating outdoor classroom. It was one of the first spaces I had the opportunity to shape on my own, and I had a lot of work to do. I made a quick site plan in my journal, made a plant list, and grew the space over the course of 2 years. By that point, I had been working on farms and gardens for years, but never had the opportunity to fully envision a space and watch it come to life. I realized that what I actually loved about the process was creating spaces that are important because of how they are used by the community. From there, Landscape Architecture became a framework through which I could also start to understand issues that are pressing to marginalized communities such as access to nature, climate change, and urban displacement.
What appealed to you UTSOA’s Landscape Architecture program? What have been some of your favorite things about UTSOA and/or the program?
UTSOA appealed to me because of the success of its graduates. Alumni from the Landscape Architecture program have found success not only in Texas but all over the country. Not only that, they’ve also been able to pursue different career paths within the field itself: from large-scale projects to smaller ones, opportunities in government as well as private firms, some who are self-employed, and others who pursued more research-based work. There are so many more options than I initially imagined and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to explore them in more depth.
Some of my favorite things about our school’s program have been all the extracurricular opportunities that have allowed me to travel and meet other students around the country. Design Futures was one of those amazing experiences where I got to connect with other students and to learn and work with some amazing professions in this field that I have come to admire.
Tell us a bit about the Design Workshop Charles Fountain internship program. What’s the experience been like thus far? What are you working on?
The Dr. Charles Fountain internship program is an amazing opportunity organized by Design Workshop to recruit BIPOC Landscape Architecture students into the field. There were fourteen interns in the program, all working from different Design Workshop offices around the country. During the last six weeks of the internship, we came together to work on a Masterplan proposal for Adam’s County, Colorado. We were tasked with creating a plan to engage with stakeholders, and then to use that information to create a series of proposals that would address issues most important to them. We used this information combined with some rigorous collection of inventory and analysis and presented our proposals to our client and stakeholders in Adam’s County as well as to all the employees at Design Workshop.
This experience taught me a lot about what goes into creating a successful design intervention that will be utilized by many different groups of people. As a project manager on this project, it really taught me the value of collaboration and the importance of understanding what people’s strengths are and supporting them in their tasks.
What classes or studios have you found particularly interesting or impactful? Tell us about them.
I have taken so many different courses that have played a role in advancing my design practice. Cultural Landscapes and Ethnographic Methods with Sara Lopez taught me the ways in which humans have created space and how that placemaking has effects on our social systems. Having almost little to no artistic experience, John Blood’s Architectural Drawing class forced me to close my computer and use analog drawing methods to help me iterate and work through ideas visually.
Currently, I am in Maggie Hansen’s Advanced Studio “Prairie Time: Growing Dallas’ Green Quilt.” This studio is personal to me because I spent my early childhood in Dallas, it's where my father was born and raised, and our family history there goes back to the late 19th century. My project for this studio is focused on the historic 10th St. Freedmen’s District in Oak Cliff, settled by those who had been recently freed from slavery in 1887. I’m interested in the ways in which historic preservation practices, landscape preservation, restoration practices, and architectural interventions can work in tandem to provide opportunities to remember the past in a meaningful way while also creating spaces for socio-economic development in the Black community.
Are there specific areas within the field that you’re interested in pursuing? What and why?
I see the work I pursue in this field to be heavily based at the public urban and community scale. I believe that our work can be of service to some of the most disinvested and marginalized communities by integrating nature into the urban fabric. Along those lines, I am interested in furthering processes of community-based design. This is a process that brings in the members of the community we are working in as team members and co-creators in our projects so that our proposals are relevant and meaningful.