Campus & Community

School of Design names Loeb fellowship class for 2007-08

long read

The following midcareer practitioners, whose work is dedicated to the improvement of the built and natural environment, will be in residence as Loeb Fellows at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) for the upcoming academic year.

Kevin Cavenaugh is a designer and developer from Portland, Ore. He has created a practice based on the principle of wearing as many hats as possible in the construction of a building, serving as developer, designer, long-term owner, and property manager. Most recently, Cavenaugh completed three buildings in Portland neighborhoods that use unconventional materials, exhibit strong environmental sensitivity, and bring lively uses to the street. His most recent building, which is still under construction, includes such innovations as a well that brings water from 300 feet below ground (thus requiring less energy to heat it and cool it), an edible green roof that will serve as a food source for the fourth-floor restaurant in the building, an arcade to reflect other buildings in the neighborhood, and sliding window-shading panels designed by 26 different artists. Cavenaugh will study urban planning principles, especially the regulatory framework that tends to dampen innovative ideas, and landscape architecture.

Janet Echelman is an artist who sculpts public space. Her studios are located in New York City and Boston, and her work has been installed in a dozen countries throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. She takes much of her inspiration from the site where the work is placed and the history and culture of those places. Her most recent major works include a monumental wind sculpture made of steel and netting in Porto, Portugal, and an artificial “island” in the Hudson River, which is an intimate community memorial for Sept. 11. Her newest commission is an environmental sculpture for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. She serves on the National Council of the Public Art Network and is active in matters of public art policy at the national level. As a Loeb Fellow, Echelman will study urban planning and landscape architecture. She will also spend time in the areas of philosophy, theology, and environmental science in an effort to better understand how to read the places and the cultures where her work is placed.

Eric “T” Fleisher is the director of horticulture at Battery Park City Parks Conservancy (BPCPC) in lower Manhattan. A national leader in the field of sustainable horticulture, Fleisher has brought this 37-acre oasis of parkland on the Hudson River to the forefront as the only public garden space in New York City to be maintained completely organically. His methods are based on the development of balanced soil ecology, with an emphasis on composting, water conservation, and the use of nontoxic means of pest and disease control. Fleisher designed the soil specifications for the BPCPC’s Irish Hunger Memorial, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and — in collaboration with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates — Teardrop Park. A frequent lecturer on sustainable practices, Fleisher also serves as a consultant to the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston and Bowdoin College, among other organizations. As a Loeb Fellow, Fleisher will further his techniques in the context of urban planning and landscape architecture with the aim of proving their transferability to other public park systems.

Moises Gonzales is a planner who works in Sandoval County north of Albuquerque, N.M. He grew up in one of the many land grant communities (known as ejidos) of New Mexico. Gonzales spent the early part of his career dealing with rural issues and the preservation of cultural amenities and traditions in his and similar small settlements with strong ethnic connections to the earliest history of the state. More recently, he has been focusing on urban planning issues, out of the conviction that if the city of Albuquerque becomes a more vibrant and exciting place, fewer people will want to flee to the sprawling suburbs. Gov. Bill Richardson has appointed Gonzales to the “Our Futures, Our Communities” Task Force on Smart Growth. Gonzales’ work in Sandoval County has focused on new zoning and planning regimens that will encourage increased density within the city of Albuquerque and more concentration of development around transit nodes. At the GSD, Gonzales will study patterns of urban development around the world, with a concentration on methods others have used to protect fragile natural landscapes and limit sprawl.

Edward Lifson is the producer and host of the public radio show “Hello Beautiful.” Based in Chicago, the show explores architecture, design, and urban issues every Sunday morning and has a loyal and growing audience. Lifson’s goal is to convince an ever-widening group of people that they should care about the built environment. He believes journalists have a responsibility to bring conversations about design to the public in an interesting and revealing way. As a result, he does not simply review built structures on his show, but speaks about projects that are in the planning stage; related issues such as public spaces, landscape, transportation, and environment; and important preservation issues. He hopes that his show will equip people not only to have opinions about architecture and design, but to get involved to work for better results in the physical environment that impacts them. He has been a war correspondent and was the National Public Radio bureau chief in Berlin while the city was being rebuilt after the wall came down.

At Harvard, Lifson will study the history and theory of architecture as well as urban planning and landscape architecture principles. He is particularly interested in learning more about sustainable design. After the fellowship, he plans to create a new national show about architecture, design, and culture for public radio.

Douglas Meffert is a scientist and community activist. The first Loeb Fellow from New Orleans, Meffert was trained as an environmental scientist at the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research. But much of his work, both in New Orleans and elsewhere, has been with community groups that have a stake in the health and renewal of their neighborhoods. He believes that, especially in fragile environments like New Orleans, the issues of urban sustainability and natural systems sustainability are integrally related. Meffert is one of three individuals who have conceived of “RiverSphere,” a multiuse facility that will simultaneously undertake research, education, and celebrations about our rivers. He co-chaired the sustainability subcommittee of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission and has worked with several neighborhood groups on plans for their renewal. He is also involved in the international arena as the New Orleans coordinator for the U.N.’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Urban Biosphere Program and the director of a project through the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership — both of which are working to improve information sharing and joint research among cities of the world that face these natural disaster threats. At the GSD, Meffert will work on further refining his model for urban and natural sustainability and will also study urban design and landscape architecture.

Christine Saum is a licensed architect and works for the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) — the public agency that conducts planning for all federal facilities in the Washington, D.C., region. She is director of the Urban Design and Plan Review Division, attempting to bring a high level of design excellence to the federal presence in Washington, D.C. Prior to her work at NCPC, Saum served for 10 years as director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a project of the National Endowment of the Arts. In all of this work, Saum has focused on creating vibrant downtowns and on helping people understand issues of urban design and how they can work for better-built environments in their own communities. Most recently, she has been distressed by the sprawl of the federal government outward from Washington, D.C. At Harvard, Saum will study urban and regional planning as well as sustainable development, focusing particularly on ways of sustaining business and agriculture in smaller communities so they can resist the powerful market forces of ever-expanding residential development.

Deidre Schmidt is a developer in Minneapolis. She works for a small, creative firm (Brighton Development Corporation) that has almost single-handedly turned around a neighborhood near the river through renovations to historic buildings. The firm has also inserted new construction on vacant sites. She has worked particularly hard to create affordable housing in neighborhoods where the potential for gentrification could have destroyed any diversity that existed. While she is an expert in the various forms of assistance that help create affordable housing, she is not satisfied with them and has spent the past decade working with new approaches that reduce complexity and save money. She is very interested in neighborhoods and in how new (or even substantially renovated) properties can be integrated into those places both physically and socially. Schmidt also has an interest in housing and urbanization in developing countries. At the GSD she will study urban design and architecture as well as innovative city planning strategies.

Lonni Tanner consults for companies, foundations, and nonprofits, using design to draw public attention to the difficult conditions of inner-city poor families and to energize donors to contribute to the solution of those problems. For 11 years, she served as director of special projects for the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City, where she amassed donations of more than $50 million in cash, goods, and services on behalf of innovative poverty-fighting projects. Tanner persuaded some of the nation’s leading architects to design 31 award-winning libraries in public elementary schools. She reimagined the design of soup kitchens, science labs, child-care centers, and playgrounds. She found innovative ways to affordably furnish apartments for formerly homeless families and inspired the use of “emergency culture vehicles” to break the monotony of gloom among refugees living is resource-poor neighborhoods. At Harvard, she will study design, education, urban planning, and real-estate development.

Camilla Ween lives in London and works on land use planning and transportation issues. Originally trained as an architect, she now serves as interim head of land use planning at Transport for London (TfL). She works closely with the mayor’s office, the Greater London Authority, and the London Development Agency. Ween has been involved in the development of master plans for the urban areas surrounding the Waterloo, King’s Cross, Elephant & Castle, and Victoria tube stations. She also serves as the TfL representative to four local business improvement districts, several regeneration partnerships and agencies, and several international groups. Ween is particularly committed to ensuring that large developments integrate with the surrounding communities, deliver benefits beyond their boundaries, and do not build real or virtual walls around themselves. Public transport capacity and access are vital keys to the success of a development, and she works with the promoters to leverage transport benefits for the local communities, including provision of improved facilities for bicycle riders and pedestrians. At the GSD she will study urban design, with particular emphasis on approaches to the redevelopment of urban areas, the integration of public transport and the “softer” forms of transport, and the creation of high-quality public spaces.