Julie Bargmann turns Superfund sites into must-see destinations.

Julie Bargmann, 2021 Oberlander Prize laureate [Photo: ©Barrett Doherty/courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

Bargmann has specialised in work on ignored, environmentally challenged, and deeply polluted sites, bringing an ethos of recycling, remediation, and restore to locations others might even see as too far gone. In tasks just like the Vintondale Reclamation Park, constructed on a former coal mine’s dumping floor, and the retrofit of the Philadelphia Navy Yard into the headquarters of Urban Outfitters, Bargmann turns design tasks into environmental interventions, and vice versa.

City Outfitters, Philadelphia; Julie Bargmann, panorama architect [Photo: ©Charles A. Birnbaum/courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

Based in 1992, D.I.R.T.—which stands for Dump It Proper There—has typically reworked components of a web site’s earlier life into the brand new design, utilizing rubble and chunks of former buildings to attract connections to the previous. Bargmann’s work additionally emphasizes the significance of utilizing panorama design and ecological processes to filter and take away pollution from closely impacted postindustrial landscapes, together with Superfund sites—areas of land which have been designated by the Environmental Safety Company as hazardous to human well being and/or the setting.

[Image: courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

“To work with these poisonous and degraded sites, you need to look rigorously, and care about, the processes of their previous—industrial, social, environmental, and cultural,” Bargmann tells Quick Firm through electronic mail. “It’s solely while you perceive the flows and the tales possible their subsequent life. And the sites’ panorama narratives are the one option to interact the neighbors’ story.”

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander in 2007 [Photo: Susan Cohen/courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

The Oberlander Prize is being awarded by the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation as a landscape-focused counterpart to the $100,000 Pritzker Architecture Prize, thought to be structure’s prime honor. To be given each two years, the $100,000 Oberlander Prize will even embody two years of public engagement targeted on the laureate’s work. Named for the pioneering environmentalist and panorama architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who died earlier this yr at age 99, the prize was created to shine a highlight on a design occupation that’s typically disregarded as merely filling within the areas round structure tasks.


Certainly, the historical past of panorama structure has performed into that notion, with its roots in decorative garden design that was extra about aesthetics than efficiency. This, over time, has developed into a extra broadly thought-about observe, with panorama architects engaged on climate adaptation, regional water planning, and environmental justice, along with designing gardens and parks.

“The place the world is as we speak by way of local weather change, fairness, and what we all know, in a post-COVID world, the function that the general public realm performs in our on a regular basis lives, it’s extra essential than ever that we have to make seen the customarily invisible hand of the panorama architect,” says Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of the Cultural Panorama Basis. “With the prize we’re hoping to essentially elevate its visibility and a broader public understanding of what panorama structure is and what panorama architects do.”

Bargmann was chosen by a jury of designers, together with panorama architect and professor Dorothée Imbert, architect Tatiana Bilbao, panorama architect Gina Ford, and panorama architect Walter Hood.

Core Metropolis Park, Detroit [Photo: Prince Concepts/the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

Hood says Bargmann was chosen for her radical impression on the observe of panorama structure and her persistence in utilizing design to deal with broader points than pure aesthetics. “It’s not about getting the subsequent massive mission, however nonetheless investigating these concepts and points over a 25-year interval and having the ability to stick with it,” he says. “We don’t get rewarded numerous the instances for being constant.”

Bargmann’s work, Hood says, has pressured folks “to see panorama and the medium differently. I exploit the time period messy in my work. Julie afforded me that view that the work might be messy and will nonetheless be great.”

Turtle Creek Water Works, Dallas [Photo: ©Charles A. Birnbaum/courtesy the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

In advocating for the reclamation and remediation of closely polluted sites, Bargmann has lengthy been a provocateur, however she will also be playful. Her City Outfitters mission on the Philadelphia Navy Yard included the distinguished placement of two massive chunks of concrete from the location, which she nicknamed Betty and Barney Rubble, after cartoon characters from The Flintstones. Hood says that transfer impressed one in every of his personal tasks, Solar Strand in Buffalo, New York, just a few years in the past. “I received a consumer to permit us to do some massive Barney Rubble, too,” he says.

Bargmann’s method to panorama structure has pushed the sector past its ornamental roots. Hood says that whereas the occupation nonetheless has an extended option to go, Bargmann’s affect has pushed different designers to take a extra holistic view of what their tasks can do. “She’s all the time been that voice on the market within the wilderness doing the work, and I believe she is an inspiration for the long run,” Hood says.


Core Metropolis Park, Detroit [Photo: Prince Concepts/the Cultural Landscape Foundation]

Bargmann appears gratified by the award, and is hopeful that the eye might assist encourage extra designers to have interaction with the social and environmental challenges embedded inside the constructed setting. “On the market are 25 years’ value of my former college students who’ve ventured into this derelict territory with me and now they, together with different colleagues, are poised to nurture ugly duckling landscapes,” Bargmann says. “If I paraphrase Cornelia Oberlander, the award is a agency tug to tug your head out of the sand and to regenerate, with pleasure and optimism, these fallow landscapes.”