Now Landscape Architects Have Their Own Major International Prize

Portland open space sequence / Jeremy Bittermann

Since 1979, architects have been able to win the Pritzker Prize, known as the Nobel for architecture, receiving $100,000. And since 1989, architects can also win the Praemium Imperiale prize, which is awarded by the Imperial family of Japan on behalf of the Japan Art Association, receiving some $140,000.

Now, practicing landscape architects have their own grand international prize, which will be conferred biennially by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), based out of Washington, D.C. The prize will offer a $100,000 award and will involve two years of public engagement to honor the prize winner’s “creative, courageous, and visionary work.” The inaugural prize will be awarded in 2021.

According to Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, TCLF’s founder, president, and CEO, landscape architecture is worthy of its own high-profile international prize because it “is one of the most complex and, arguably, the least understood art forms. It challenges practitioners to be design innovators often while spanning the arts and sciences in addressing many of the most pressing social, environmental, and cultural issues in contemporary society.”

Interestingly, landscape architects aren’t the only ones eligible to win the prize. Landscape designers, artists, architects, planners, urban designers, and others who have “designed a significant body of landscape-architectural projects” will also be considered. This is in contrast to the only other international landscape architecture prize — the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award, bestowed by the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), which is only open to landscape architects.

TCLF board co-chair Joan Shafran and her husband Rob Haimes underwrote the prize with a gift of $1 million, which was then matched by the rest of the board and other donors. A $4.5 million campaign to endow the prize in perpetuity is now underway.

In other awards news: Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, the Merrill D. Peterson professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, is the winner of this year’s Vincent Scully Prize, which is bestowed by the National Building Museum (NBM). Meyer is only the second landscape architect to win; Laurie Olin, FASLA, won in 2017.

New urbanist planner and architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, who was chair of the awards jury, said “Meyer has produced an influential body of theory, interpretation, and criticism on landscape topics related to aesthetics, sustainability, culture, and social impact.”

On October 30, NBM will host a public event in Washington, D.C. — a conversation between Meyer and Thaïsa Way, program director of garden & landscape studies, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections.

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