Young alumni landscape architects kick off spring session of annual lecture series

Media Contact: Tony LaRoche, 401-874-4894 |

KINGSTON, R.I. – Jan. 29, 2021 – The University of Rhode Island’s 28th annual Landscape Architecture Lecture Series continues this spring semester with a series of virtual lectures on the timely themes of activism, equity, and environmental justice.

“The fall lectures were very successful and the talks were watched by alumni in Boston, Pennsylvania and California,” said series organizer William Green, professor of landscape architecture. “The topic of activism, equity and environmental justice led to some very exciting, varied and diverse presentations. More of the same is coming this semester and we will be hearing from a diverse group of professionals working to engage and include a diverse segment of the population.”

As in the fall, the spring’s five lectures will be delivered remotely – streamed live on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Facebook, Youtube and Twitter platforms. The talks begin at 6 p.m. and are free and open to the public. For more information and to register for any of the lectures, visit the series webpage.

On Feb. 11, two URI alumni – Allison Desbonnet from Boston’s Copley Wolff Design Group and Steve Thompson of Terrence J. DeWan & Associates of Yarmouth, Maine, will talk about their work focusing on “Urban to Rural Renewal.”

Desbonnet ’14 has five years’ experience working on projects ranging from mixed-use developments to intensive green roofs. Desbonnet grew up in rural Connecticut and has carried her connection with the environment into projects focusing on resilient design and coastal mitigation strategies. Thompson ’13 joined DeWan & Associates in 2013 and has worked on site planning, photo simulations, rendering, construction documentation, and ArcGIS mapping.

On Feb. 18, the series will present Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and a past president of the American Planning Association. An award-winning planner with more than 30 years’ experience, Silver is internationally recognized for his leadership in the planning profession and his contributions to contemporary planning issues. As parks commissioner, Silver oversees management, planning and operations for nearly 30,000 acres of parkland, including parks, playgrounds, beaches, marinas, and wilderness areas.

On March 11, Jeff Hou, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, will speak on “Activism and Design.” Director of UW’s Urban Commons Lab, Hou’s research, teaching and practice center on community design, design activism, public space and democracy, and social and environmental justice. Hou’s career has spanned the Pacific, working with indigenous groups in Taiwan, neighborhood residents in Japan, villagers in China and immigrant groups in North American cities on projects ranging from conservation of wildlife habitats to design of urban opens spaces.

The April 8 lecture will feature Shannon Nichol, founding partner of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) in Seattle. Nichol, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, lectures internationally and judges for design awards. Her designs – including Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden in Chicago, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle, and Boston’s North End Parks – are recognized for being deeply embedded in their neighborhoods and natural contexts. Nichol and her partners received the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Architecture in 2011, and GGN was the recipient of the 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects’ Landscape Architecture Firm Award.

Closing out the series April 22 will be Elizabeth Kennedy, founder of Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architecture in Brooklyn, New York, and Jennifer Ward Souder of Greener by Design in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Kennedy formed her firm about 20 years ago with a $3,500 grant, and from modest beginnings has built a firm recognized for design excellence, thoughtful historic preservation, and innovative storm water management while employing a subtle but direct design approach on projects with strong back-stories. Kennedy will discuss examples of the firm’s recent interpretive, preservation and sustainable design work to show the firm’s journey toward full engagement in socially responsible landscape architecture.

Souder has worked for more than 20 years in the areas of urban planning and policy; design construction and operations; and landscape architecture with a focus on cultural heritage, sustainability and equity. While serving as director of capital projects/assistant director at the Queens Botanical Garden, she was responsible for guiding the garden’s Visitor Center, the first New York City public building to earn LEED® (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) Platinum certification, from planning through construction. With the Rutgers Center for Green Building, Souder has worked on regional and statewide projects related to sustainability and energy efficiency.

The series is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, URI College of Arts and Sciences, URI Library, the departments of Art and Art History and Landscape Architecture, and the Gaetano and Pasqualina Faella Endowment. General questions may be directed to (401) 874-2983 or to wagre@uri.edu.