Landscape Literacy

Giants of Landscape Architecture: Michael Van Valkenburgh

Michael Van Valkenburgh is an American landscape architect who has had the pleasure of working on a variety of projects across the globe. His designs include everything from public parks to private gardens, all influenced by his upbringing in an agricultural setting on a dairy farm. He was also a professor and Chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, though his extensive education stemmed from several schools, including Cornell University.

By participant/team Mark Frank and Chloe Carli as part of the Commons:Wikis Take Manhattan project on October 4, 2008.

Teardrop Park: By participant/team Mark Frank and Chloe Carli as part of the Commons:Wikis Take Manhattan project on October 4, 2008.

This well-versed designer focused his early career on seasonally dynamic hedge gardens and ice walks. His experimentation in design included using ice as a material in the landscape. Van Valkenburgh’s designs seek to explore the living qualities of the landscape medium and focus his designs on the qualities found at each project site. Van Valkenburgh also incorporates sustainability and ecological renewal into his designs, which serve to raise environmental awareness to visitors.

Van Valkenburgh’s notable works include urban landscape designs at Teardrop Park (pictured right) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (pictured above) as well as historic landscape restorations including Harvard Yard and Marion Square in Charleston, South Carolina.

Van Valkenburgh currently runs his own firm, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., with two offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, New York.