Ten Months, One Quantum Leap
After more than three decades, one of the country’s smallest
graduate schools is still standing—and standing up for sustainable landscape
design and planning.
By Jane Roy Brown
“A cemetery is the perfect place to study geology, because
three kinds of rock are used in monuments,” says Richard Little, striding among
old marble and slate gravestones to a spot where upright granite monuments mark
the newest section of this graveyard in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Sixteen
men and women pause to scratch in notebooks as Little, a geologist and guest
lecturer, stops to point out examples of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary
For the members of the Conway School of Landscape Design
class of 2007, this is the second day of school and the first of a nine-day
road trip through the Connecticut River Watershed. Many of the students—10
women and 6 men, aged mid-20s to mid-50s—haven’t drawn since elementary school.
Until a week ago they were pursuing careers in disparate fields—software
engineering, kayaking instruction, and jewelry design, to name a few. Today
they are tagging along with Little to decipher the processes, from volcanoes to
glaciers, that shaped the local landscape.
The outing began in the classroom. Director Paul Cawood
Hellmund, ASLA, told the students that throughout the road-trip outings they
would be using sketchbooks to record the natural patterns and processes they
observed along the way. “As designers, you’ll be intervening in these patterns,”
After humorous exchanges earlier in the morning, the
students grow serious. Intervening in the patterns and processes of nature is
not something they take lightly.
Like the medical school injunction, “First, do no harm,” the
Conway School reminds students that what they do as designers affects a
landscape that supports a complex living system.
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