Meet Our Faculty: Jennifer Birkeland

Jennifer Birkeland, assistant professor, Department of Landscape Architecture

Academic focus: I am interested in teaching design studios that challenge the traditional boundaries of landscape and its integration with urbanism and collaboration with associated disciplines and how it can influence contemporary practice.

Previous positions: Partner at op-AL in Brooklyn, New York; visiting assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to academia I worked with a number of landscape architecture firms across the country: West 8 in NY, Olin in Philadelphia, and Ken Smith Landscape Architect in Irvine, Calif.

Academic background: B.S. Landscape Architecture from California Polytechnic University Pomona; M.L.A, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Last books read: “I’ll be gone in the Dark,” by Michelle McNamara and “The Landscape Imagination,” by James Corner.

What do you do when not working? I like to cook, read, and when near water you can find me on a paddleboard.

What gets you out of bed in the morning: The diversity within the field of design is what I love so much about it. There is never just one thing you do, it is a vast complex series of processes and systems and actors that always keep it interesting and something new to learn.

Current research projects? I just completed a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, where I was studying the Roman home, the “Domus.” I was very interested in understanding the relationships between the landscape imagery of their wall frescoes and the programs of that room in the home. There is a range of landscapes types which are represented and their “Trompe L'oeil” illusions of projecting the room into larger vistas or manicured gardens. This practice continued from the urban center of Rome, into the villas around Italy a century later.

What are three adjectives people might use to describe you? Friendly, creative and motivated

Course you’re most looking forward to teaching? Design studio is such a wonderful incubator to develop new ideas and challenging the way we look at the world. I also help to develop a digital fabrication course to incorporate new strategies of making and construction.

If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve? This is such a tricky question because of the vast nature of the profession of landscape architecture, there is so much that can be seen to fall under our attention. I would have to say I would like to help globally mitigate the effects of sea level rise along the coast line. There is obviously such a large arc of issues associated with climate change, and to provide relief would be a huge accomplishment.

What most excites you about Cornell CALS? Engaging with the tremendously talented and distinguished faculty, and working with the passionate and motivated students.

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