The 2021 Oberlander Prize goes to Julie Bargmann

Landscape architect Julie Bargmann is the winner of the 2021 “Oberlander Prize” – the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of landscape architecture. The Prize, an initiative of TCLF – The Cultural Landscape Foundation – includes a $100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities focused on the laureate and landscape architecture. Not only Julie Bargmann’s focus on contaminated, neglected, and forgotten urban and post-industrial sites is that what made her stand out, but also her design approach that calls for activism and social commitment. 

“She has been a provocateur, a critical practitioner, and a public intellectual. She embodies the kind of activism required of landscape architects in an era of severe environmental challenges and persistent social inequities.” This is what The Oberlander Prize Jury notes of Julie Bargmann. Bargmann who is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, and the founder of D.I.R.T. (“Dump It Right There”) studio is the winner of the “Oberlander Prize” – the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of landscape architecture.

On October 14, 2021 the Cultural Landscape Foundation (“TCLF”) that is home to the Oberlander Prize, announced the news. According to TCLF, the prize, which includes a $100,000 award and is named for the late landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, is bestowed on a “talented, creative, courageous, and visionary recipient” who has “a significant body of built work that exemplifies the art of landscape architecture.” Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s President and CEO says: “The goal in establishing the Oberlander Prize was to increase the visibility, understanding, appreciation and conversation about landscape architecture.” He further states that “the selection of Julie Bargmann as the inaugural laureate, a provocateur and innovator, is an excellent way to engage the public and usher in this next phase of the Oberlander Prize.”

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The Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize for Julie Bargmann

Julie Bargmann earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master in Landscape Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (1987). In 1989-90 she was a Fellow in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome. Multi-disciplinary collaborations with architects, historians, engineers, hydrogeologists, artists, and the residents of the area in which she is working, are hallmarks of Julie Bargmann’s approach. For more than thirty years as a teacher and a landscape architect, she has principally focused on contaminated, neglected, and forgotten urban and post-industrial sites. “Unearthing the raw ingredients of design from waste and wastelands defines my life’s work. Both the pedagogy of my teaching and my methodology as a designer address the social and ecological imperatives to reclaim degraded land.

Integrating regenerative technologies with design propositions and built landscapes embodies my contribution to the discipline of landscape architecture.”, says Julie Bargmann. She first tested her design and teaching approaches through her work at mining and manufacturing sites. While at the University of Minnesota, she spent months examining mines in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

Julie Bargmann notes: “I studied and sometimes literally crawled through mining and manufacturing sites, many of them defunct. I wanted to see how they were being treated, and in most cases, I disagreed with what I witnessed. Restrictive reclamation policies, uninspired remediation practices, and shallow readings of former working sites – I became openly critical of all these things but was also inspired by them. They instilled in me the desire to offer design alternatives and led me to create experimental studios.” Julie Bargmann states: “That’s when I started to be angry about how the mines and the people who work there, past and present, were being treated.”

The projects of Julie Bargmann: Focusing on contaminated, neglected, and forgotten urban and post-industrial sites


One of her most important projects is the one at Vintondale Reclamation Park, Vintondale, PA (1995-2002) where she and her collaborators worked on a 35-acre site in Pennsylvania coal country to design of a natural filtration system to address years of pollution from mine runoff. According to notes from the website of her studio D.I.R.T. the Vintondale Reclamation Park project joined an interdisciplinary team of artists, designers, scientists, and historians with local communities, watershed groups, and state and federal agencies, to collaborate on a model redevelopment initiative for post-coal mining regions. Called “Acid Mine Drainage and Art: Testing the Waters,” this model of bioremediation earned Julie Bargmann the 2001 National Design Award by Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum and was the sole work of landscape architecture featured in 2002 at Documenta in Kassel, Germany.

The renowned jury: Tatiana Bilbao, Michel Desvigne and Walter Hood

 The seven members of the inaugural Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize jury includes leading landscape architects, urban planners, architects, academics, such as Dorothée Imbert, who currently holds the Hubert C. Schmidt ’38 Chair in landscape architecture and is the Director of the Knowlton School at The Ohio State University, Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, the renowned landscape architects Michel Desvigne, Gina Ford, Teresa Gali-Izard, Walter Hood, urbanist and landscape designer Aki Omi and Oberlander Prize Curator John Beardsley. According to Dorothée Imbert, who is the Chair of the Prize Jury, qualities that made Julie Bargmann stand out include: “her leadership in the world of ideas, her impact on the public landscape, her model of an activist practice, and her commitment to advancing landscape architecture both through teaching and design.”

Click here for more information about the Bavarian Landscape Architecture Prize 2020. In fact there are two winners.