The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum has announced its 2018 award winners. Among the 10 winners for a variety of design disciplines, MIT planning and landscape architecture professor Anne Whiston Spirn, FASLA, took home the award for “design mind” and Mikyoung Kim Design won for landscape design.
Spirn, who is the Cecil and Ida Green distinguished professor of landscape architecture and planning at MIT, is author of the seminal book The Granite Garden, which is now seen as the foundation of the ecological urbanism and landscape urbanism planning and design movements.
The Cooper Hewitt writes that Spirn’s “writings and action research have brought forth a new state of mind among designers and the general public—provoking the integration of city and nature, advancing design theory and practice, and transforming how people see and act.”
In an 2015 interview to mark the 30th anniversary of The Granite Garden, Spirn discussed progress since the book’s release and where we still come up short:
“We’ve made enormous progress, particularly with water. Ironically, we’ve done less well on climate and air quality. I say ironically, because there’s so much awareness of climate change these days. There’s been a lot of attention paid to design proposals aimed at adapting to rising sea levels, but less to the enormous potential that the design of cities holds for reducing the factors that contribute to climate change in the first place. We need to truly re-imagine the way we design cities.”
Spirn is also the author of The Eye is a Door: Landscape, Photography, and the Art of Discovery (2014), Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field (2011), and The Language of Landscape (1988).
And for 30 years, Spirn led the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, an “investigation into how to improve environmental equality and social equity at the same time.” On this work, Spirn said:
“The West Philadelphia Landscape Project was a laboratory for working out ideas about the language of landscape and landscape literacy. It was extraordinary working with 12- and 13-year-olds in Mill Creek, a low-income African-American neighborhood in West Philly, as they learned how to read that landscape.” Learn more about Spirn.
Mikyoung Kim, FASLA, founding principal of Mikyoung Kim Design, was recognized for an “exceptional body of award-winning work that redefines the discipline of landscape architecture and inhabits the intersection of art and science.” Kim leads the firm along with Bryan Chou, ASLA, design leader, and Ian Downing, ASLA, technical leader.
Mikyoung Kim Design works at all scales — from big-picture master plans and large urban parks to bespoke residential spaces and art installations. The firm designs unique places that are not only sustainable and resilient but also magnets for people, especially kids. The firm makes memorable use of materials, transforming them through an intensive, creative process.
Mikyoung Kim Design is perhaps most well-known for its ChonGae Canal Source Point Park in Seoul, South Korea, along the banks of the restored Cheonggyecheon stream. The park became a model for stream and river restoration in a number of other cities. An environmental and cultural asset once buried in the name of progress was unearthed and saved.
The firm has also won acclaim for its inventive Crown Sky Garden at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
In a recent interview, Kim explained how they needed to design a healing space without exposing the patients, who had compromised immune systems, to water or soil:
“We had to put aside our preconceived notions of what healing gardens are and really start to abstract nature in order to create this indoor experience for these families and patients.”
She also explained how innovative materials helped forge the connections to nature everyone wanted:
“Throughout our design process, we worked closely with different constituents. We worked with families and patients and brought two options. We brought an option that used more natural materials, and then we brought in a design that had more innovative materials — materials people hadn’t seen before — more contemporary materials built in innovative ways. I’d say 99-percent of kids were drawn to those. They said, ‘Cool, that’s amazing. I’ve never seen that before.'” Learn more about Mikyoung Kim Design.
Also worth noting: WEISS/MANFREDI, an architecture firm known for its multi-disciplinary approach, won for architecture design. WEISS/MANFREDI collaborated with Thomas Balsley Associates to create the award-winning Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, a model for resilient landscape design, in Queens, New York City, and also designed the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington.