2023 Bill Millsap Fellowship

Introduction

The Bill Millsap Fellowship has provided an invaluable opportunity to explore the intersection of art and landscape architecture. Through travel, sketching, and professional networking, I have gained insights and experiences that will shape my future in the field. Working alongside Bill’s colleagues at Studio Outside lent me some insight into who he was as a founding partner and what this fellowship meant to him. It is a way to stay inspired, let out creativity, and express oneself. Throughout my senior year studying landscape architecture at Purdue, I embraced this philosophy.

Goals

  • Develop Appreciation of Midwest Architecture and Landscapes: Study notable works throughout the area.
  • Learn About the Area’s Natural Story: Visit parks and gardens to understand Indiana’s natural heritage.
  • Enhance Sketching Abilities: Conduct sketching studies of various landscapes.
  • Network and Learn at the ASLA Conference: Engage with professionals and attend sessions to gain field insights.
  • Integrate Capstone Project: Complete sketching studies on-site and study native flora and fauna.

Activities and Achievements

ASLA Conference 2023 – Minnesota

  • Networking: Connected with landscape architecture professionals and exchanged ideas.
  • Learning: Attended sessions on various aspects of landscape architecture, gaining new perspectives and inspiration.
  • Insights: Gained insights into innovative practices and current trends in the field.

Capstone Project

  • Site Visits: Traveled to Dune Harbor Park in Muskegon County, Michigan, to study native flora and fauna, integrating findings into my project.
  • Sketching Studies: Completed a series of sketching studies on-site, capturing the essence of the landscape.
  • Design Integration: Applied insights from site visits and sketches to enhance my capstone project’s design.

Sketching

  • Series of Studies: Conducted sketching studies at various Midwest locations.
  • Techniques and Skills: Improved my sketching techniques, focusing on capturing architectural and natural elements.
  • Locations Visited: Mohican State Park, Ohio; Big Pine Creek Trails, Indiana; Purdue University Campus; Holland, Michigan; Muskegon County, Michigan

Impact and Outcomes

Personal Growth:

  • Developed a deeper appreciation for the art within landscape architecture.
  • Enhanced sketching abilities, contributing to my design process and artistic expression.

Academic/Professional Impact:

  • Integrated new knowledge and skills into my academic projects, particularly my capstone.
  • Established valuable connections within the landscape architecture community through the ASLA conference.

Community/Organizational Impact:

  • Shared insights and sketches with peers and faculty, fostering a collaborative learning environment.
  • Contributed to the understanding and appreciation of the Midwest’s natural and architectural heritage.

Conclusion

This experience has inspired growth for me in a time where my academic career had the luxury of leaning into a more relaxed pace, allowing me to pursue art, travel, and get outside as much as possible. During this period, I had the opportunity to explore my creative interests more fully, immersing myself in various forms of artistic expression and gaining inspiration from the natural world. This balance between academic pursuits and personal exploration has been incredibly enriching, allowing me to develop a more holistic perspective on my work and life.

The Bill Millsap Fellowship has provided me with the opportunity to explore and appreciate the art of landscape architecture deeply, fostering both personal and professional growth. This fellowship has enabled me to delve into the nuanced intersections of art, ecology, and design within landscape architecture. It has opened doors to new learning experiences that have broadened my understanding and appreciation of the field. Through the fellowship, I have been able to connect with like-minded professionals and enthusiasts, exchanging ideas and insights that have further enriched my journey.

Attending the ASLA Conference was a major step in my professional development, as it was my first professional conference.  The event provided a platform to engage with leading experts, innovative projects, and emerging trends in landscape architecture. It offered a diverse array of sessions and workshops that expanded my knowledge and inspired my future work. Interacting with seasoned professionals and fellow attendees allowed me to gain valuable insights into the industry’s current challenges and opportunities, further igniting my passion for sustainable and impactful design. The conference experience underscored the importance of lifelong learning and staying connected with the broader landscape architecture community.

ASLA Conference Reflection

Sessions Attended Friday:

  • Preservation vs. Resilience at the Tidal Basin: Do We Have to Choose?
  • Cultivating Complexity at Brooklyn Bridge Park: Horticultural Diversity and Ecological Stewardship
  • Bucking the Trend: Fighting Sameness in Landscape Architectural Aesthetics and Representation

Sessions Attended Saturday:

  • General Session & ASLA Awards
  • Professional Portrait Studio
  • Expo
  • Watercolor session
  • Putting AI to Work Practical Application of AI in Landscape Architecture
  • The Overlooked Role of Residential Landscapes in Addressing the Biodiversity Loss Crisis

Favorite Sessions

One of my favorite sessions was “The Overlooked Role of Residential Landscapes in Addressing the Biodiversity Loss Crisis.” Kat Wyatt from Living Habitats and Christopher Ramage from Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design presented compelling data highlighting the severity of biodiversity loss in our country and actionable strategies to mitigate it. This topic resonates deeply with me, as I’ve observed significant biodiversity loss around my hometown due to the pervasive practice of mowing every inch of backyards and roadside grass strips. As a passionate advocate for native plantings, I seize every opportunity to promote this cause.

The presenters revealed that residential landscapes comprise approximately 40% of the total land area in the United States. They emphasized the substantial impact that a shift towards more biodiverse planting practices in residential areas could have. On the East Coast, the encroachment of residential properties on national forests has severely affected biodiversity. In contrast, Washington state, where national parks are less intruded upon by residential lands, demonstrates a higher degree of protected land that fosters biodiversity.

The session also delved into concepts such as matrices and the edge effect, explaining their relevance to biodiversity and residential landscape applications. The presenters issued a strong call to action, urging us to plant native and diverse species and to strive to connect habitats whenever possible. They encouraged us to educate our communities on the importance of biodiversity in residential landscapes.

Another session I found particularly engaging was “Preservation vs. Resilience at the Tidal Basin: Do We Have to Choose?” This project explores the design process of three firms working on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., home to the MLK, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials. The session piqued my interest due to the significant impact of flooding in recent years, exacerbated by climate change. Growing up with the Sandusky River running through our farm, we developed innovative methods to prevent flooding while preserving natural habitats, which made this topic particularly relevant to me.

The Tidal Basin project is a collaborative effort between Field Operations, Reed Hilderbrand, and Hood Design Studio. They addressed the inevitability of flooding and the approaches to manage it—whether through protection and preservation, allowing natural flooding, or a combination of both. The firms also navigated the stringent regulations in Washington, D.C. and engaged with the monuments’ national community.

Hood Design Studio employed a unique approach by creating comic book-style graphics to illustrate how various groups might experience the memorials and the tidal basin, informing their design. Reed Hilderbrand produced detailed sections showing potential boardwalks around the existing memorials, preserving the visitor experience at the Tidal Basin. The session also highlighted the historical significance of the site and the challenge of balancing conservation with progress, embracing change while preserving our national heritage.

Overall, this session left me inspired by the possibilities for adaptation in our evolving landscapes and the potential to honor history while embracing change.


Special Thanks

I want to express my gratitude to Lisa for bringing this scholarship to my attention and for her unwavering support throughout my internship and final year of college. Thank you to all the principals at Studio Outside for their overwhelming support and for giving me a glimpse into Bill’s philosophy about landscape architecture. Thank you to all my professors at Purdue for always going out of their way to educate us and make us responsible future designers. Finally, a huge thank you to AD EX for this amazing opportunity!


Rachael Herring enjoys working on botanic gardens and environmental restoration projects that draw from her background in horticulture and combine art and nature in meaningful ways for communities. Graduating from Purdue in May 2024 with a bachelor’s in landscape architecture and minor in horticulture, Rachael is excited to work in Houston, TX, post-graduation as a landscape designer pursuing licensure.

She received 2nd place in the College of Agriculture for her research poster at the 2024 Undergraduate Research Conference. The poster, titled “Restoring Ecology to a Natural Community Retreat at Dune Harbor Park Status,” features her community engagement research to support her senior Capstone design project in Muskegon, Michigan. The project, mentored by Dr. Aaron Thompson (HLA) and Patrick Lydon (National Parks Service), focuses on the transformation of a former sand quarry into Dune Harbor Park, presents a unique opportunity to restore over 300 acres of diverse ecosystems along Lake Michigan coast.

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