Peter Walker Is a Visionary in Urban Development

The Urban Land Institute (ULI), an organization with some 30,000 members in the fields of land use and development, recently presented Peter Walker, FASLA, world renowned landscape architect and founder of PWP Landscape Architecture, with the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Walker, the first landscape architect to win, is now in excellent company. The $100,000 prize, which was first awarded in 2000, has gone to Senator Patrick Moynihan, His Highness the Aga Kahn, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, architectural historian Vincent Scully, and NYC planning chief Amanda Burden. According to ULI, the prize “recognizes a person or a person representing an institution whose career demonstrates a commitment to the highest standards of responsible development.”

Upon receiving the prize, Walker said: “landscape architects spend all their time trying to make public open space. That’s what we do, so I hope I’m not the last winner.” He added that landscape architects are “trying to make spaces that work, spaces that are beautiful, and if we’re lucky and we have the right client and a little budget, to try and make something which is memorable.” He noted, though, that to this day, “most landscape architects are not the top of the power structure” so pushing for quality public space is still a challenge.

Ronald Altoon, a member of the Nichols Prize jury, noted that the selection of Walker “underscores the importance of landscape architecture and its essential role in constructing public space that fosters a sense of community.” He said, “Peter is the first landscape architect to win this prize and I think there is no better professional to represent the landscape architecture community in this pool of truly accomplished individuals. Peter is recognized as one of the most accomplished and influential landscape architects of his time, forging the renaissance of landscape architecture as a discipline. The scope of his work is expansive, ranging from the design of small gardens to the planning of cities around the world. His work process is dynamic. He listens and adapts to context and community with a subtle approach that imbues a very tangible stimulation in the spaces he creates.”

With architect Michael Arad, Walker was the co-designer of the National September 11 Memorial, “Reflecting Absence,” in New York City. His firm also recently beat out a number of top landscape architecture firms to win a major commission on the National Mall: PWP Landscape Architecture will now work with Rogers Marvel Architects to redesign Constitution Gardens. PWP has completed many more beloved, award-winning projects since the 1970s, including the Tanner Fountain at Harvard University. (Walker also previously started two other major landscape architecture practices: Sasaki, Walker Associates and SWA Group, before spinning off his own firm). For his many years exemplifying design excellence, Walker won the ASLA Design Medal, and his firm, the ASLA Landscape Architecture Firm Award, in 2012.

Beyond his practice, Walker is also known as a teacher. He was head of both the landscape architecture departments at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and the University of California, Berkeley. And now he’s teaching the business and policy worlds about design, too. The image above is taken from a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek featuring the world’s leading designers. Walker, again, was the only landscape architect in the mix.

Check out a book about his firm’s work.

Image credit: Peter Walker / Bloomberg Businessweek

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