Penny White Fund winners to study bees, glaciers and skateboarders

Nowhere is the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s commitment to holistic and innovative design solutions better illustrated than in the Penny White Fund’s 2014 prize winners. Launched in 1976 at the height of U.S. environmental awareness and legislative action, the Fund’s founding mission was to support GSD landscape architecture students in studying how the urban world intersects with the living landscape. Over the 40 years since the Fund’s inception, student projects have evolved to reflect MLA student Penny White’s vision of the symbiosis between the natural and built environments, and students’ increasing focus on understanding how urbanization fits into the living ecosystem.

The Fund’s Committee Chair, associate professor of landscape architecture Pierre Belanger, describes the GSD’s landscape architecture students as “keenly interested in understanding nature and scientific systems and eager to transcend the engineered and natural worlds.” Their Fund proposals demonstrate the role they embrace in not merely inhabiting the built environment, but in using landscape architecture to redesign and reinvent it. This year’s Fund winners, spanning the globe from Chile to Kuwait and including research on forest restoration, bee colony collapse and migrant workers’ role in the urban landscape, reflect that entrepreneurial, collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit.

The $50,000 Fund enables prize winners to do a deep dive for a year on a topic not typically available within the GSD’s academic curriculum, including science-based subjects like geomorphology, microclimatology, oceanography, fluid dynamics and soil mechanics. It also demonstrates the GSD’s holistic approach to design study and practice, along with a long-standing commitment to integrating environmental conservation and preservation through design, ecology and the natural sciences.  

True to Penny White’s ideal of a culture embracing the close relationship between natural systems and urban change, this year’s Fund winners address a rich scope of ecological systems, urbanization and landscape architecture challenges. Selected from over 50 project applications with nearly $150,000 in funding requests from graduate and postgraduate design students and teams, winning proposals were assessed for their originality and innovative contributions to critical issues. The selection committee included GSD faculty from the Department of Landscape Architecture, GSD students and past Fund prize recipients.  

The diversity of projects selected this year demonstrates the unique ability of landscape architecture to connect topics as seemingly disparate as hydrology, bee pollination and skateboarding. Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Penny White Fund, who will be awarded between $750 and $4,500 in project funding and present their research results in Fall 2014 and Spring 2015:

Dalal Alsayer (MDes ULE ’15) Hidden Space | Social Space: Migrant Workers and their Spaces in the GCC

Rebekah Armstrong (MLA I ’15) and Vanessa Moon (MLA I AP/MUP ’16) Green Desert: Acacia saligna and Atriplex nummularia in Region IV, Chile

Christopher Bennett (MDes ULE ’15) DredgeShed: Sand as Landscape, Sand as Commodity, Sand as Gold

Jasper Campshure (MArch ’15) Papas chilotas: The Agricultural Crop as the Basis for Establishing Hereditary Land Rights in the Chiloé Archipelago

Dane Carlson (MLA II ’15) Descent: following the kali gandaki down from the roof of the world

Manuel Colon Amador (MLA I AP ’14), Michalis Pirokka (MLA I AP ’15), and Hector Tarrido-Picart (MLA I AP/MAUD ’15) Urban Wild Lab: Remote Sensing Landscapes and Urban Ecologies

Danika Cooper (MLA I AP/MDes ULE ’15) Dust Kingdom: A Description of Dust in the American Southwest

Anya Domlesky (MLA I ’14) Surveying Environmental Landscape Modeling: Three Physical Modelers of Coastal Processes

Michelle Franco (MLA I ’15) We Ground Things Now, On Moving Foundations: Landscape Film in Theory & Practice

Christina Geros (MLA I AP/MAUD ’15) and Zannah Matson (MLA I ’15) Redefining Urban: Kotzebue, Alaska as a Case Study for the dual influences of settlement and junction

Stephanie Hsia (MLA I ’15) The Almond and the Bee: Investigating Landscape Interventions for the Greatest Pollination Quandary on Earth

Christopher Johnson (MArch I AP ’15) Recreational Squatting: Skate Culture and the Appropriation of Infrastructural Landscapes

Mikaela Pearson (MLA I AP ’14) and David Pearson (MArch II ’15) Unearthing Larrea tridentate: Micro-Mapping Extensive Fibrous Root Structures

Pablo Perez Ramos (DDes ‘15; MLA I AP ’12) Gardens of Impossibility: Comparative Study of Agricultural Landscape Morphologies in Arid Environments

Craig Reschke (MLA I AP ’15) with Ann Lui (MIT MArch ’14) Grafted Fields: Wrestling Dirt and Data from the Combine CommandCenter

Jennifer Saura (MLA I ’16) Landscapes of Resistance: Re-mapping Occupation in Post-crisis Spain

Phoebe White (MLA I ’14) Revealing Territories: The Historic and Projective Role of the Image in the Post-Glacial Swiss Alps

Image from Christopher Johnson’s proposal “Recreational Squatting: Skate Culture and the Appropriation of Infrastructural Landscape”