Designing the 22nd Century Dallas - SWA Internship Program 2015

For nearly 40 years SWA has conducted a summer program to train focused groups of students in landscape architecture, planning and urban design.  Each summer, our students spend four weeks in studio focusing on a collective design problem enhanced with speakers and weekly critiques featuring distinguished design professionals, public officials, local stakeholders and residents.  For the first time in over a decade, Dallas will serve as the laboratory within which the students will explore, experiment, and invent.  The timing could not be more appropriate as Dallas sits at the precipice of a number of decisions tremendously influencing the structure and vibrancy of the city we and the next generation will call home.

The curriculum of this program is ambitious.  What is a 22nd Century Dallas?  What does this mean aesthetically, functionally, infrastructurally, environmentally, socially, economically, etc.?  The students will be faced with the myriad issues plaguing the city and must creatively respond, crafting meaningful and inspiring proposals.  To help them navigate through this complex and overwhelming environment, we have focused their attention on three study zones best exemplifying the diverse issues facing the urban core.

Zone 01 consists of the I-345 corridor and the neighborhoods most impacted by its presence.  The students will be faced with the high levels of vacancy, expansive surface parking lots, other underutilized/residual land, and conflicting scales of development that characterize this territory.  Ultimately, they will be challenged to explore how to negotiate these issues in order to catalyze growth and connectivity between such disparate neighborhoods.

Zone 02 focuses attention on Union Station and the role of public transit infrastructure on the future growth and development of the urban core.  This area includes the Civic Core and extends west to the Trinity River.  Issues of under-programmed and under-designed public space plague the area, and connection to the Trinity suffer from a string of residual and vacant parcels resulting from the mix of highway infrastructure.  Proposals for this area will be asked to consider how to leverage the areas existing potential, enabling its transformation into a prominent node within the city while facilitating a connection to the river.

Lastly, Zone 03 directs their attention to the Cedars/Southside neighborhood, where the students will be most directly exposed to the cities rich layers of history.  Poor pedestrian connectivity to the urban core in this area results from the cavernous I-30 corridor and the imposing back of house operations of the Convention Center and City Hall.  Years of disinvestment and marginalization have resulted in large numbers of vacant and derelict residential and industrial land.  For this unique set of conditions, the students will be challenged with how to catalyze urban growth and infrastructure development, while negotiating issues of gentrification, historic preservation, and the goal of maintaining and celebrating the neighborhoods unique character.

Sunday June 28th this process begins, and the four weeks will undoubtedly pass in the blink of an eye.  I would like to use this as an opportunity to invite those of you who are passionate about the city and its betterment to join us in the process, share a drink, discuss ideas, and engender the passion and love we all have for this great city in each of our seven guests.

Author: Donny Zellefrow is a Landscape/Urban Designer and Dallas transplant, having recently celebrated his first year in the Big D.  He diverse interests range from exploring the complex interrelationship between landscape and infrastructure to graphic representation and computational modeling.  He's an avid soccer player, and over the years has been compared to the likeness of Owen Wilson, Ellen Degeneres, and most recently, Ryan Gosling.

Author: Donny Zellefrow is a Landscape/Urban Designer and Dallas transplant, having recently celebrated his first year in the Big D.  He diverse interests range from exploring the complex interrelationship between landscape and infrastructure to graphic representation and computational modeling.  He's an avid soccer player, and over the years has been compared to the likeness of Owen Wilson, Ellen Degeneres, and most recently, Ryan Gosling.


Bios for each student can be found below.

Johanna Cairns – Master of Landscape Architecture – Harvard Graduate School of Design

After graduating with a B.A. in Modern Dance and Women’s Studies from Hollins University, I moved to New York City. There I co-wrote, choreographed and performed with Daniel Clifton Dance Company as well as produced my own video works. I left New York City to study engineering, a discipline that provided me with the skills to implement physical change in the world. I found, however, that my inclination was to engage more creatively with materials, people and systems. I received an MFA from University of Maine and experimented with materiality and social systems, which resulted in creative community development, performance and furniture design.

 Each turn on this eclectic path has been led by my desire to develop new practices of understanding and relating to the world. Landscape architecture has allowed me to combine all of my interests together and engage with the world from several points. I joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design MLA 1 program this year with the goal to design ecologically sustainable and culturally vibrant communities. I am overjoyed to be a part of the SWA internship program as it will be a key facet in my development as a designer and collaborator.

Lorenzo Centioni – Master in Advanced Architectural Design – University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

I am an italian architectural student born in Rome, Italy.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in architecture at “Università degli studi di Roma tre”, I decided to move to UK to pursue my postgraduate studies at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  I am currently enrolled in the two years master in Advanced Architectural Design working on projects in different scales and focusing on urban design.  I would describe myself as a lover of the cities in fact I am really keen to understand the dynamics of the evolving city as well as to find solutions to the current issues through architecture and urban design.

The opportunity that SWA is giving to students coming from different academic background, is unique and essential.  As a citizen of Rome, “the eternal city” I have developed a strong awareness of what are the factors that make a city livable and vibrant and above all what has to be avoided in order to pursue this.

Studying and working in USA is an amazing way to have a look on what is happening overseas in order to take example and compare it with the situation in Europe.

Heena Gajjar – Master of Landscape Architecture – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

I was born in Pune, India. I grew up admiring my father’s knowledge and application of the healing values of medicinal plants and herbs as a medical practitioner of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian discipline meaning ‘the science of life’ and believing in maintaining a holistic balance of the primary elements as the basis of complete wellbeing.

My initial admiration for plants turned to a reverence for ecology and in my academic conditioning I have attempted the prospects of achieving this holistic balance in all my architecture and landscape explorations.

A graduation in Architecture, four years of professional experience in India and the urge to understand the theories of cultural heritage and urban ecology landed me at the master’s program in landscape architecture at UIUC.

My design study and research is aimed towards understanding the relationship between nature and culture, where I consider culture as an interpretation and response to the natural order. I believe in a design that is grounded in research and I value the role of landscape as a matrix binding the social, cultural and ecological systems and its thoughtful interpretation and application as my responsibility towards a sustainable future course.

At SWA, I look forward to share my theories and beliefs and learn from an elite group the working methodologies and applications into practice.

Siyang (Autumn) Jing – Master of Landscape Architecture – University of Pennsylvania

I studied architecture in the best art academy in China, and now I am a landscape architecture student in UPenn.

I feel very excited in the stimulating academic environment in Penn. The distinctive way of thinking the social and environmental problems in the large context of urbanization fires me to research and explore in both innovative and productive way. What I find most important in landscape architecture design is the ability to find the most powerful issue in a sea of information and thread them logically to produce economic, cultural and ecological benefits.

My experience of NGO post-earthquake redesign and reconstruction on site and the long term attentions on tough social issues in China cultivate me to be reflective and responsible to the world, especially vulnerable groups in society.  In addition, the 18-year art background cultured me to think critically and creatively in more than one mind-set. On the other hand, the experience of travelling more than 80 places in Europe, Asia and America gave me a lot of inspirations and enrich my design process.

I am so lucky to be an intern in SWA, which provides me the opportunity to learn from diversified friends and lifted myself in multidisciplinary environment.  The time in SWA will certainly be unforgettable in my lifetime.

Ruichao Li – Master of Landscape Architecture – Harvard Graduate School of Design

I’m currently pursuing my Master Degree of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Before I came to the States, I got my Bachelor Degree of Architecture in Chongqing University, China. In addition, I once worked for Kengo Kuma Associates and Junya Ishigami Associates in Tokyo, Japan. The interweaving ways of thinking from both Landscape Architecture and Architecture offers me a special perspective to observe the world.

I hope to explore more about the unknown world as a designer, from macro scale to micro detail, experiencing integration of design with complex ecological, social and economic factors. I’m so excited to get the opportunity to become a member in SWA’s summer program. I’m looking forward to knowing more about what landscape architects are able to do to shape the living environment.

John Wischmeyer – Master of Landscape Architecture – Ohio State University

I am currently pursuing an MLA degree at The Ohio State University, and have completed two years of the program. I am originally from Ohio where I was brought up working on a large-scale commercial farm, but have spent time working and living around the country (and world). I received my Bachelor of Urban Planning from the University of Cincinnati. The series of events that lead me to the study of landscape architecture have been diverse and inspiring. Two experiences during my time in undergrad were foundations in this series. The first was a study abroad in Recife, Brazil where I worked with the city’s architecture and planning office to develop strategies for the influx of tourism in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. The second was a trip to Cameroon where I helped a mountain village install a water filtration system. These two experiences, while both very different, both dealt with how people use, live and thrive in their surroundings. After undergrad, I spent a couple of years living in Washington, DC where I had a chance encounter with a landscape architect and saw how the profession was applied in the city and the rest is history. I am very excited to work with my fellow cohort and the talented people at SWA. Like my experiences, I want my designs to be exciting, immersive, and give the user a greater appreciation for their surroundings.

Tian Wu – Master of Landscape Architecture – Ohio State University

I am a transfer student from China, after study two years of Art and design I decide to study in Landscape Architecture and about finishing my Bachelor degree in Ohio State University.

I have a wider range of interests and ken of knowledge, more receptive to new ideas and adept at capturing unique potential creation. My diverse background, culture and language skills, advanced hand sketching, graphic, software, and design abilities set me apart from my counterparts and would label me an asset to the SWA team. Like a clothes designer is the designer of the body, landscape architecture is the designer of the earth.  Explore different kinds of scale projects and to learn how to establish stainability environment and space.

I am grateful for the SWA internship opportunity, bridging the gap of knowledge and experience needed for me to become an indispensable member in creating a brighter future for the world.

Donny Zellefrow

Donny Zellefrow is a Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, and Dallas transplant having recently celebrated his first year in the Big D. He diverse interests range from exploring the complex interrelationship between landscape and infrastructure to graphic representation and computational modeling. He's an avid soccer player, and over the years has been compared to the likeness of Owen Wilson, Ellen Degeneres, and most recently, Ryan Gosling.