All eyes on the prize

John Beardsley will curate inaugural Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize

John Beardsley is an art historian and museum curator who has written numerous books on landscape architecture. (Ronda Ann Gregorio/Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has named writer and art historian John Beardsley as curator of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Prize. The biennial award is the first-ever international landscape architecture prize to give recipients a $100,000 cash prize and two years of public engagement activities.

Named after lauded German-born, British Columbia-based landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the inaugural prize will be awarded in 2021.

Beardsley, who holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Virginia, is the author of several books including Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape (2006) and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995), the latter of which profiles Helen Martins, Simon Rodia, and many others. From 1974 to 1978, Beardsley acted as a curator at the Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and at the Corcoran Gallery, also in Washington, from 1981 to 1989. He has organized and co-organized numerous acclaimed exhibitions including The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, which showed at both the Whitney Museum of American Art and at the Museum of Fine Art Houston.



In addition to his curatorial roles, Beardsley has held teaching positions in the landscape design departments of Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, Beardsley served as director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.

In his new role as curator of the Oberlander Prize, Beardsley will craft the prize’s intellectual content, support the jury process, and have an integral role in developing public engagement programs. As TCLF notes, these programs “are key to reaching the goal of increasing the recognition, visibility, and legibility of landscape architecture as a global, cultural, and professional practice.”

“I am thrilled that John Beardsley has agreed to be the Oberlander Prize Curator,” said Elizabeth K. Meyer, chair of the Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee, in a press statement. In addition to developing the inaugural curator role and selecting Beardsley to fill it, the committee will assist Beardsley in his various responsibilities.

“The Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee quickly and unanimously agreed that he would be the perfect person to lead the Prize process in its early years,” added Meyer. “John’s knowledge of the cultures of landscape studies, landscape architectural history, and contemporary landscape architecture practice is both broad and deep. The landscape architecture community, and the cultures of landscape, are indebted to John for taking on this momentous new program.”

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