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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Oct. 20, 2006

Engler is fall presidential lecturer

by Teddi Barron, News Service

There's more to landscape architecture than moving dirt and planting flowers. It's an intellectual field and a critical activity that grounds our lives in place, says Mira Engler.

The landscape architecture professor will discuss her ideas on critical design and present examples of her work during the fall Presidential University Lecture. "Critical Landscapes: From Pork Barrels to Otherworldly Dumps and Gardens," will begin at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, in the Memorial Union Sun Room. A reception and poster display will precede the lecture at 7 p.m. in the South Ballroom.

Engler says landscape architecture exercises practical, ecological, socio-political and aesthetic sensibilities with critical judgment to create productive, healthy and enjoyable places for human use.

"In critical landscape practice, designers are critics, and physical design is in itself a mode of criticism," Engler said. "All human space -- particularly public space -- is infused with activity and intentions, tension and conflict, freedom and oppression, politics and ideology."

She says critical design probes beyond why a place is shaped the way it is or how it functions.

"Critical design also asks what is the message behind the form or space? Whose aesthetics are used? Who is included in this place? Who is excluded? Who will benefit from it? What did we give up to make this place?" Engler said.

During her presentation, Engler will demonstrate this mode of inquiry in her built and theoretical works of the past 10 years.

That work has achieved national and international recognition. Her "Otherworld Garden" design was one of 14 chosen for the 2004 Westonbirt Festival of the Garden in the United Kingdom. Her proposal for rehabilitating the Hiriya landfill in Israel was part of an exhibition on "Reclaiming Metaphors Out of the Dump" at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 1999. Engler earned national awards for "Rural Reliquaries" in the American Society of Landscape Architects' Visionary and Unbuilt Landscapes Competition in 1995, and for "Outdoor Waste Furniture Show" in the ASLA's 1994 Movable Landscape and Site Furnishing Competition.

Her 2004 book, Designing America's Waste Landscapes, considers the significance of closed landfills and sewage plants and offers new uses.

Engler has a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, and a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in architecture and urban design from the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Presidential University Lecture Series highlights faculty excellence in learning, discovery and engagement. Faculty members are chosen by president Gregory Geoffroy.

Mira Engler

Professor of landscape architecture Mira Engler will present the fall presidential lecture on Nov. 6. Photo by Bob Elbert.


"Critical Landscapes: From Pork Barrels to Otherworldly Dumps and Gardens"

  • 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6
  • Memorial Union Sun Room
  • 7 p.m. reception and poster display in the South Ballroom