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Courtesy of LABash

March 5, 2020

Cornell to Host 50th Annual Landscape Architecture Conference, First Ever in New York

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Many Cornellians associate Libe Slope with the treacherous walk up the hill from west campus. But for landscape architecture students, it has become an emblem of the beauty within Ithaca’s landscape.

The slope is also the inspiration behind the 50th annual LABash — an annual, student-run landscape architecture conference, which Cornell is hosting for the first time in April.

LABash brings together landscape architecture students and professionals from across the country for a weekend-long conference that offers a variety of educational workshops, keynote speakers, career-building opportunities and social events.

This year’s conference is the first-ever to be held in New York state and dons the theme “Rise Above Run” — reflecting the slope formula and calling to challenge students and professionals to use design to “rise above” prominent issues such as climate change.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Kiki Shinsato ’22 and Molly Davis ’20, the LABash co-executive directors, helped select five keynote speakers, each representing different ideologies and companies within landscape architecture.

The planning committee encouraged the keynote speakers to weave the “Rise Above Run” ethos into their experiences, Davis said. Beyond environmental and social justice issues, one speaker will discuss how to “rise above” burnout in a studio workplace.

According to Shinsato and Davis, the conference hopes to bring awareness to the wide scope of landscape architecture study, which offers a range of professional opportunities and concentrations. 

The conference will offer a more science-centered focus, because the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences houses Cornell’s landscape architecture major — a feature that distinguishes it from landscape architecture programs at other universities.

Davis believed that students majoring in City and Regional Planning or Architecture in the College of Art, Architecture and Planning will also find the conference useful.

“There’s so many opportunities, and so much more to learn, even if you think you know what it’s all about” Davis said.

Within the field of landscape architecture and the coursework within the major, Shinsato and Davis recognized the urgency of pushing discussions on climate change, which the conference will address.

“I think that our department does a good job of incorporating sustainability education into our course sequence,” Davis said. “For example, this studio that I’m in right now is about climate adaptive design strategies.”

Davis called the conference a “huge deal” for the landscape architecture department and its students, because it will give Cornell’s program — small compared to the departments at other universities — a name in the field.    

“We struggled to gain exposure and to make other people aware of our program,” Davis said. “I think this is a really big step in us kind of promoting our department to the larger ones that kind of takeover.”

Last year’s LABash conference took place at the University of Georgia, which was themed “Find Your Roots.” Cornell’s upcoming landscape architecture conference will take place from April 2 to 4.