Olin delivers Whittemore Lecture

Olin delivers Whittemore Lecture on Landscape Architecture March 26

Laurie Olin, founding partner of the landscape architecture and urban design firm OLIN, delivers this year's Whittemore Lecture on Tuesday, March 26, at 5 p.m. in Rackham Amphitheater. The title of his lecture is "Sustainable Cities: New Name, Old Topic."

His firm received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Design in 2008, and in 2010 was on the winning team in the competition to design the new United States Embassy in London with architects KieranTimberlake. He is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, an American Academy of Rome Fellow, an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 1999 Wyck-Strickland Award recipient, and a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

Olin won the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture in 1972, was the recipient of the 1998 Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has written widely on the history and theory of architecture and landscape, receiving the Bradford Williams medal for best writing on Landscape Architecture. Olin co-authored La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany, which includes a historical essay, along with photographs, sketches, and a critical analysis of the early 20th century garden in Italy.

Across the Open Field (2000), is both a memoir and series of essays on the evolution of the English landscape. He is also the author of Transforming the Commonplace (1996) and Vizcaya: An American Villa and Its Makers (2006, with Witold Rybczynski), on James Deering's mansion in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Practice, Practice, Practice, Research, Practice

Most practitioners working in the private sector spend a considerable amount of their time working on projects that are often framed as problems to be solved for clients, things to be planned, designed, and built. Commonly these have budgets that appear to be limited to the time necessary for such activity and are done against deadlines and schedules for permits and funding. This work takes place in a tumultuous world of commerce, governance, and civil (or not so) discourse that establishes priorities and budgets.

Most academics in addition to teaching are generally expected to perform research and scholarship in their field of discipline, in part to advance and develop theory and understanding in their field, and in part to develop new knowledge and to frame questions so as to advance a field in its capabilities and potential for aiding society

Personal experience over the past 40 years has indicated that university administrators and most faculty personnel and tenure committees within the graduate schools and colleges at every institution believe that not much that would pass for research goes on in practice. On the contrary, a surprising amount of practice actually consists of long research experiments (in real time). For the majority of practitioners, theory rarely leads to practice, but on the contrary, it is practice that provides the material and developments for theory. The cumulative and historic experiments that are called practice in considerable part constitute the substance and content of what academics have to reflect upon, argue about, and teach, even if only in opposition to them. Independent work and projects from the past four decades are used as examples of the nature and variety of research undertaken by Olin and his firm in the course of practice.