Interview with Nicole Rebeck-Stout
Do you have a favorite iconic space?
When I was visiting Millennium Park in Chicago, I wandered into Lurie Garden on a pleasant autumn afternoon. Often called the secret garden, it was teeming with life, full of native plants and I immediately fell in love with it not only because it was beautiful but because of its habitat performative qualities too. Coupled with my activism for urban agriculture and urban watershed management, this experience at Lurie Garden revealed that the function of landscape does not need to sacrifice quality design. This realization drove me to pursue a graduate degree in landscape architecture. I wanted to understand how you create spaces like it that offer people moments of joy and inspiration. During graduate school, I had the opportunity to study Lurie Garden and apply lessons learned about landscape storytelling and performative design in my own design process.
What is the most important design element that makes for a successful space?
As landscape architects, we are always thinking about placemaking and creating those memorable moments when designing a space. What is the “selfie spot” or the iconic landmark where people are going to tell their friends to meet them? It sounds silly but it’s a key element to placemaking and to establishing a space’s brand. This spot is the memorable location, the place marker that is immediately recognized when scrolling through Instagram. Not only do these elements provide a practical purpose for wayfinding and navigating a space, they also embed into in people’s memories and provide delight.
What is the greatest challenge facing landscape architects today?
This past year has amplified the need for all of us to contribute to building an equitable society on both a personal and professional level. We each address this challenge in different ways. For me, I’ve had the privilege to play a role in coordinating the firm’s grassroots equity, diversity and inclusion framework which was adopted by the Board of Directors as a strategic initiative for 2021. It will influence all aspects of Design Workshop from the hiring of talent and staffing of projects to community engagement and project strategy. On a project level, the issue of equity is paramount in the creation of the Adam’s County Comprehensive Plan. Together with Adams County, we are working to create what we call 20-minute neighborhoods where most essential services – grocery stores, childcare centers, schools, parks – are within a 20-minute walk, bike or public transportation trip. This ensures an equitable distribution of services to all demographics and residents improving livability (or quality of life) for all.