Landscape Architect Kathryn Gustafson
The Sky Is Mine More Intelligent Life
American-born Kathryn Gustafson is called the ‘grande dame’ of landscape architecture.
Gustafson has a dozen projects around the globe, run either by her firm of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, covering America and Asia from Seattle, or by Gustafson Porter, her European practice, whose walls in Kentish Town, north London, are hung with plaster moulds of her original clay designs.
She is a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a medallist of the French Academy of Architecture, and a recipient, from the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, of the Sckell Ring of Honour, which sits on her small hand like a heavy gold knuckle-duster.
Most recently, Gustafson’s Seattle firm won the Landscape Architecture Award in the 2011 Cooper-Hewitt National Awards.
More Intelligent Life informs that Gustafson is working with British architect Norman (Lord) Foster developing six blocks of downtown Washington DC, reinstating an expanding the original 18th-century alleyways that ran between them.
“Each project takes five years on average,” she says. “You get to know a city very well.” She is also working there with Adjaye, on an African-American museum, due to open as part of the Smithsonian in 2015; it will have a “rain garden” and a pool symbolising the ocean crossed by the slave ships.
Critics and curators say that Gustafson’s greatest contribution is the re-introduction of the human body to site design. She agrees: ‘For me, the form of the land and the form of the body come together somehow.” A former fashion student and 1970s design professional, critics maintain that the sensual draping of clothes has strongly influenced her landscape work.
Urban Parking Garage in Bloom
Lurie Garden Chicago website
The Lurie Garden, built by Gustafson Gutherie Nichol Ltd, in Millennium Park is an urban oasis emerging from a harmonious blend of symbolism, landscape design and ecological sensitivity. Its design pays homage to Chicago’s transformation from flat marshland to innovative green city, or “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden).