The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is well-known for its national design awards. Just this year, Margie Ruddick, ASLA, took home the prize for landscape architecture. But the museum also awards a People’s Design Award. This year, a pool of 20 finalists selected by the museum emphasizes “how innovative design can make a difference in our everyday lives.” The general public is asked to vote for their top pick by October 11.
Clearly our favorite to win is by Los Angeles-based landscape planner, Mia Lehrer, FASLA, who designed the Natural Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, an ecological laboratory. This space was created so that visitors could interact with local wildlife. “Butterflies, hummingbirds and other natural life make their home among the garden’s local plants, creating a window into the natural world.”
Lehrer told us that “the museum has a unique opportunity to take its mission to its front yard, where it can connect Angelinos to nature in the heart of the city and the museum’s collections and research.” She added, “it’s a place where scientists and educators from the Natural History Museum can also research and share the valuable knowledge they collect.”
She explained how the design is meant to enable visitors to meet species found in the city. “The fencing, seating, shade, drainage are expressed in such a way that visitors can understand the layers and value what creative design brings to urban nature.”
Reused urban materials are incorporated wherever possible. “Rebar is used to create a palm arbor and hummingbird feeder stands. Butterfly hedges are created from a framework of chain link fencing covered in flowering vines.”
Lehrer said the Nature Garden is important because it’s really a centerpiece in the museum’s broader educational efforts. “Garden exploration tours include bird walks and bug hunts. Scientists and educators set up a bee hotel, malaise trap, and critter cam video at the pond. Photos of butterflies, spiders, and zombie flies found throughout the region can then be uploaded to the museum Citizen Science program.”
Image credit: Mia Lehrer + Associates