Meet the Faculty: Tim Baird


Tim Baird, professor and chair, landscape architecture

Academic focus: My teaching focuses on design studios that address urban vacancy and the opportunities they provide for regeneration through the use of urban agriculture and other performative operations as well as seminars in landscape materiality. I combine teaching with the part time practice of landscape architecture and I attempt to bring this professional experience to the classroom in order to strengthen the bond between practice and the academy so students can begin to understand the interrelationship of the theoretical with the pragmatic.

Previous positions: Professor of Landscape Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University; Richard Trott Distinguished Visiting Professor, The Ohio State University; assistant professor of Landscape Architecture, Texas Tech University; associate, Hargreaves Associates, San Francisco, CA; senior landscape architect, Peter Walker and Partners, San Francisco, CA; senior landscape architect, Hanna/Olin, Ltd., Philadelphia, PA; visiting professor of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University; visiting professor of landscape architecture, University of Pennsylvania; Landscape Architecture Section Head, Kuwait City, Kuwait; visiting professor of landscape architecture, Louisiana State University; landscape architect, Collins DuTot Partnership, Philadelphia, PA.

Academic background: BLA, Louisiana State University; MLA, University of Pennsylvania.

Last books read: “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story,” by Rick Bragg; “Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon,” by Larry Tye; “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll,” by Peter Guralnick; :Al Franken: Giant of the Senate,” by Al Franken; “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

What do you do when not working? Exercise, watch movies, dine out, read for pleasure

What gets you out of bed in the morning? The opportunity to work with new and energetic colleagues and bright and passionate students in a new university and locale; building on the rich legacy and history of the landscape architecture department and its past leadership to continue to improve and advance the program.

Current research projects: I’m looking at material expression in the designed landscape and how there seems to be periods since Modernism where designers were more experimental and innovative in their choices and assemblies that contrast with periods when the status quo was the norm. This project begins with a review of the work of American Modernist landscape architects, and the French Modernists who heavily influenced them, and carries through to contemporary designers, their landscapes, and the influences behind the development of the materiality of their body of work.

My design practice with Landworks Studio, Inc. in Boston is interwoven with my material research and teaching and when it doesn’t conflict with my academic duties, I am able to work on a variety of landscape projects at a multitude of scales and contexts. My current involvement includes a master landscape plan for West Chester University outside Philadelphia. I began work in the early analysis and site data collection phase and continued through conceptual studies and we are now reviewing a 200-page final report to the university trustees.

Courses you’re most looking forward to teaching? Design studios in cities such as Buffalo or New York that focus on vacant land and the possibilities they present to designers in their effort to make them productive and useful again. These studios will build on the work I’ve done in Philadelphia during the past ten years with my Penn State students that recently resulted in my receiving a grant from the Knight Foundation to implement a prototype reclamation of two vacant properties. I’m also interested in possibly a graduate seminar on the ways landscape architects have integrated material expression in their work since the Modernist era.

What movie about your field gets it completely wrong? The field of landscape architecture is often misunderstood by the general public and popular movies that portray landscape architects properly, or not, are few and far between. Most movies that actually have a landscape architect as a character do not devote much time to its development; there are movies with gardeners, garden designers, and contractors who build landscapes, all valid areas of focus within the profession, but most fail to fully describe what it is that we as landscape architects do today. Jude Law as the landscape architect in Breaking and Entering is one that does, in fact, portray the profession in a more contemporary way. The issue with public understanding of landscape architecture has been a problem since Olmsted’s time and he was concerned that the title landscape architect would be confusing. It certainly has been and it was a topic covered in an article I co-authored in Landscape Review a few years ago that describes the trajectory of landscape architecture from occupation to profession through a sociological lens and presents some possible reasons for our field lagging behind others like architecture and engineering in terms of public acceptance and understanding.  The good news is that the field is today taking a leading role in the design and implementation of highly visible projects, from the scale of ecological infrastructure to park and open space design to gardens. In 2005 the New York Museum of Modern Art mounted its first ever exhibition on contemporary landscape architecture, Groundswell: Constructing the Contemporary Landscape, that was a watershed moment for landscape architecture that continues to resonate within and outside the field today.

What most excites you about Cornell CALS? The opportunity to forge new relationships with colleagues in the department and across the college and university; learning more about the disciplines and faculty colleagues in CALS; the possibility of collaboration with these new colleagues.

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