Luminary Landscapes

The Cultural Landscape Foundation launches major international design prize

The International Landscape Architecture Prize will honor the best individuals or collectives in the field today. Shown Here: Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain in Portland, OR by Lawrence Halprin with Angela Danadjieva in 1970. (Jeremy-Bittermann/ Courtesy TCLF)

A major landscape architecture scholarship has just hit the scene—one that’s been in the works for the past five years.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) announced today that it will establish an international prize, offered up biennially, in which recipients will enjoy a $100,000 award and two full years of public engagement opportunities. Landscape architects, artists, and architects, as well as urban planners and designers, are encouraged to apply for the inaugural prize, set to be chosen in 2021. 

“Landscape architecture is one of the most complex and, arguably, the least understood art forms,” said TCLF founder, president, and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum in a statement. “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.” 

Photo of Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park by WEISS/MANFREDI

Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park by SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI with Arup (Courtesy WEISS/MANFREDI)

Unlike the vast world of architectural prizes that cater to both emerging and seasoned practitioners, there aren’t many programs honoring the work of great landscape architects. As Birnbaum points out above, designing a park or tree-filled plaza in a major urban area is a huge undertaking that involves deep knowledge of many intricate systems, both manmade and natural. Many of the most successful parks in the United States were completed only after an extensive community engagement process and serious research on the surrounding region

With a goal of becoming as relevant as the Pritzker Prize or the Nasher Sculpture Prize, The Cultural Landscape Foundation aims to use the prize to elevate the field and promote “informed stewardship among landscape architects, and the arts and design communities more broadly.” The Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy nonprofit has been working on setting up the program since 2014 and recently secured a $1 million donation by TCLF co-chair Joan Safran and her husband Rob Haimes. The rest of the board collectively matched their gift to set up a $4.5 million endowment. 

In addition to offering the profession a prestigious new prize, TCLF also wants to enhance critical discussion on the subject of landscape architecture, so that the public can better understand the role of design. According to the website, the prize will also support a “biennial examination of the state of landscape architecture through the lens of a specific practitioner or team.” Therefore, the individual or group chosen will represent the best of the industry today. 

A number of big-name landscape architects advised on the creation of the prize including Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC, Adriaan Geuze, founding partner and design director of West 8, as well as Gary Hilderbrand of Reed Hilderbrand, and Laurie Olin of OLIN. Submissions will be reviewed by a high-profile set of designers, educators, critics, and historians, though no jurors have been chosen as of yet. Five members of the Prize Advisory Committee will be selected each cycle to determine the winner while an independent curator will oversee the program. 

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