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  • Landscape Architecture
Maria C. Taylor, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Landscape Architecture

Academic focus:

History/theory of landscape design, urbanism and architecture; focus on urban ecological design and 20th century politics of everyday environments.

Research summary:

I am a historian and theorist of international urban and landscape design and planning in the modern period, with thematic focus on society-nature relations, industrial and post-industrial site design and remediation, urban afforestation and greening, and the history and theory of applied micro- or urban-scale climatology. My current writing and research projects focus on the historical development of urban greening and environmental politics across the USSR, particularly in Siberia and Central Asia. I am interested in the past, present and future dimensions of using plants and spatial interventions to mitigate dust, smoke, gas and noise among other industrial and environmental hazards, and more broadly the impact of the 20th century Cold War on environmental and climate justice challenges.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Read speculative fiction/scifi, spend time outdoors, cook, ogle e-bike options.

What are three adjectives people might use to describe you?

(Overly) thoughtful, curious, from Colorado.

What (specifically) brought you to Cornell CALS?

I’m glad to be in a landscape department, and I appreciate the potential to connect with students, faculty and programs both across regions of expertise and disciplinary divides.

What do you think is important for people to understand about your field?

There are relatively few historians of landscape architecture, much less Eurasian regional specialists of city and landscape planning, but the questions we dig into are relevant and consequential for a broad range of societies and challenges.

Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field?

It was a chance to put all my interests together in a purposeful way (learning languages, attention to place and history, critical thinking, interest in urban form and environmental experience).

What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered about Cornell and/or Ithaca so far?

The morning weather calls for “pop-up showers.” Also, I’m loving the depth and breadth of environmental education available in Ithaca.

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?

How to counteract centuries of inequitable resource, property and wealth distribution (e.g., locating parks and other environmental amenities near exclusive residential areas) and make cities both “sustainable” and “just.” (Bonus problem: figure out how to describe this kind of goals without buzzwords that everyone is tired of!)

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