Ekdahl lecturer speaks about creating resilient and inclusive communities

It's important to build a strong community where you are. Never let yourself think that you are alone. (George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

Gina Ford, principal and co-founder of Agency Landscaping and Planning presented a lecture about designing for equity, resiliency and democracy as part of the Oscar S. Ekdahl Distinguished Lecture series in architecture and design on Wednesday.

During her lecture, Ford spoke about the shifting demographics in America and how design can help to understand the needs of changing communities.

“I think landscape architects are uniquely positioned to address some of the challenges,” Ford said.

Ford said that she hopes that her projects allow people to be interactive with their surrounding infrastructure. Ford shared about the major projects she worked on, including the Chicago Riverfront Project and the New Jersey Shore Project which she said focused on creating resilient public spaces that are engaging to the communities.

For the Chicago Riverfront project, Ford said the goal of the project was to bring a sense of community to everyone visiting the riverfront, which included creating more accessible facilities for disabled citizens. Ford said the task was a “challenging feat.”

“When you see it, it’s kind of a lot of activity in a short space,” Ford said. “It was really important to us that the planning result in both continuity and connectivity, but also placemaking.”

Ford said that celebrating collaboration and diversity in design is an important aspect of her career. At the core of her projects, she said the focus is about promoting inclusiveness in public spaces.

“When you embrace diversity, you embrace that everyone sees the world a little bit differently, and therefore design should embrace that,” said Ford.

Allyssa Gray, 3rd-year student in landscape architecture, said the Riverwalk project provided her with inspiration for a landscape design project she is currently working on while also giving her a closer look at what her future in design might hold.

“Seeing people come in that have worked on these projects is great because it gives you a deeper understanding,” Gray said. “You get to know the behind the scene areas of these types of projects.”

Blake Belanger, associate professor of landscape architecture and regional and community planning said that hosting the Ekdal Lecture series is important for students and faculty members in understanding the prominent topics in design.

“They bring in projects that are at the cutting edge of our discipline and they are really professionals that are leading the way in all industries,” Belanger said. “We are very fortunate to have this series.”