The Green New Deal Superstudio was an open call and nationwide conversation about how to translate the framework of the Green New Deal into design and planning projects. The initiative attracted some 3,000 participants from 180 studio courses at over 90 universities who explored decarbonization, jobs, and justice from a designer’s perspective and gave form to what this movement-led vision could mean for the future. This month, Landscape Architecture Magazine took a deep dive into the Green New Deal Superstudio, outlining the impetus, goals, and results of the initiative, and The University of Texas at Austin’s Landscape Architecture Program figured prominently in the article.
Among the hundreds of studios addressing the topic, Assistant Professor Maggie Hansen’s Spring 2021 studio “Prairie Time: Growing Dallas’ Green Quilt” was one of only three studios covered in-depth by the article. In addition to interviews with Hansen and Associate Professor Allan Shearer, the story also highlights projects completed by students Taylor Davis (MLA ’21) and Kristin Witte (MLA ‘ 21), whose project was also one of only 55 selected to serve as a representative sample of the initiative. Witte’s project was also displayed in an exhibit at the “Grounding the Green New Deal Summit” in the National Building Museum’s Great Hall on April 9.
“I am so delighted to see Taylor’s reflection on her work and Kristin’s project boards featured in this piece,” Hansen said. “Both were very intentional about picking up pieces of research done in previous semesters as the basis for their designs, and I think the depth of their investigations shows the strengths of UT’s landscape program.”
As article author Aaron King put it: “Some instructors had attempted to mitigate the complexity of their studios by narrowing their scope, or hyper-focusing on a subset of the Green New Deal’s three tenets, but Hansen’s studio was unapologetically ambitious (she uses the term ‘aspirational’). Students were asked to familiarize themselves with the Blackland Prairie ecology, frame the issue on which they would work, research and identify a site of intervention, and produce a design that considered jobs, justice, and decarbonization… [T]he projects shared at the review were thoughtful and well-presented, consistent in quality with the work of final-year graduate students.”
Working in dialogue with Dallas-based designers Gwen Cohen and Isaac Cohen of Studio Outside, Hansen’s Spring 2021 studio examined West Dallas and its history of material extraction for cement manufacturing—speculating on the potential of centering human actions of caretaking, alongside the dynamics of landscape materials and site, toward a more just and ecological future. Students developed specific proposals for reactivating fallow lands in Dallas and informed by the potential benefits and management of the Blackland Prairie.
Though not officially a part of the GND Superstudio, Hansen’s studio this semester builds upon the initial ideas explored in her GND studio. This time, they’re focusing on remediation through ideas of care and repair in another Dallas industrial landscape, South Dallas’ Cadillac Heights. For decades, the neighborhood faced increasing industrial activities, floods, pollution, and inadequate municipal services. In 2002, residents brought a civil suit to address the impacts of toxic industries and repeated flooding in their neighborhood from the Trinity River, noting the disproportionate burden of industrial zoning for communities of color. Since then, many residents have moved, so much of the neighborhood is vacant. To address this history of harm, the studio is exploring the potential of caring visions for the future for landscapes in the city that have suffered from this type of industrial contamination. Learn more about the Green New Deal Superstudio at https://www.gndsuperstudio.com/, and check out Landscape Architecture Magazine’s article about the initiative.
The primary organizers of the GND Superstudio include Barbara Deutsch, the CEO of the Landscape Architecture Foundation; Kate Orff, FASLA, the director of the Urban Design Program at Columbia University and a board member of LAf; Thaddeus Pawlowski, the director of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (CRCL) at Columbia University; Richard Weller, ASLA, the chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Penn’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design; and Billy Flemming, ASLA, the Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at the University of Pennsylvania, and a graduate of our Masters of Community & Regional Planning program.