MLA team wins 2017 ASLA Student Award

Dandi Zhang (MLA ’17), Chenyuan Gu (MLA ’17), and William Baumgardner (MLA ’18) at the final review for the spring 2017 studio "Kuala Lumpur / Discovering Traces."

A team of Harvard University Graduate School of Design landscape architecture students and recent graduates has been honored with a 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects (ALSA) Student Award in the Residential Design Category. Current MLA student William Baumgardner (MLA ’18) joins Chenyuan Gu (MLA ’17) and Dandi Zhang (MLA ’17) among a group of 28 individuals and teams recognized by the ASLA in its student category. The awards honor the “top work of landscape architecture students in the U.S. and around the world.”

STU-1602 Final Review Kuala Lumpur / Discovering Traces Instructors: Spela Videcnik Rok Oman David Rubin
Final review presentations for “Kuala Lumpur / Discovering Traces.”

Entitled “Micro-Infrastructure as Community Preservation: Kampung Baru,” the group’s submission grew out of work for the spring 2017 option studio “Kuala Lumpur / Discovering Traces,” the second in a series of three studios at the GSD sponsored by the global design, engineering, and construction company AECOM and focusing on emerging urban conditions in Asia. The studio was led by design critics in architecture, Špela Videcnik and Rok Oman, and design critic in landscape architecture, David Rubin (MLA ‘90), who also served as faculty advisors on the ASLA submission. Hanif Kara, professor in practice of architectural technology, provided guidance related to structural engineering.

The project proposes a new residential scheme for Kampung Baru, a Malay enclave located directly adjacent to Kuala Lumpur City Center. Founded by the British Empire in 1900, the area now sits at the nexus of Kuala Lumpur’s development path, surrounded by new projects and monumental high-rises, including the looming Petronas Towers.

Kuala Lumpur Studio Report Trip Photo
Students and faculty at the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s “muddy confluence,” where the Klang and Gombak Rivers meet. Photo by David Rubin.

As part of the studio, Baumgardner, Gu, and Zhang traveled to Kuala Lumpur in the spring of 2017 to study the city and its surrounding area firsthand, meet with design leaders and local officials, and present initial findings. The group was also connected with a Malaysian student from Kampung Baru, who led them on a tour of the area and served as a translator for impromptu conversations with locals, many of whom came from families that have lived there for generations.

Their resulting proposal approaches the area on a parcel level, creating new public spaces from vacant lots and bringing the community into the development process as a way of maintaining Kampung Baru’s distinctive neighborhood identities. “Given the way people use space in this culture, both horizontally and vertically, I could imagine this proposal working in a heartbeat,” wrote the ASLA Awards Jury in their comments.

Project images courtesy of Baumgardner, Gu, and Zhang.
The proposed developments aim to keep Kampung Baru’s low-rise language. Image courtesy of Baumgardner, Gu, and Zhang.

Baumgardner, Gu, and Zhang will receive their award at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Los Angeles on October 23, 2017. The project is also featured in the September issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM), currently available for free viewing.

In addition to the student team, a number of GSD alumni and faculty have been honored recently with 2017 ASLA Professional Awards. Earlier this year, ASLA announced that Gary Hilderbrand (MLA ’85), professor in practice of landscape architecture, will receive the 2017 Design Medal, and Loeb Fellowship alumnus Charles Birnbaum (LF ’98) will receive the 2017 ASLA Medal. They will join the GSD student team in Los Angeles to receive their awards.

A new exhibition on the work of the spring 2017 GSD studio “Kuala Lumpur / Discovering Traces,” including the ASLA Student Award-winning project, is currently on display at the Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The GSD and AECOM are also hosting an accompanying forum at the site on September 28, 2017, featuring presentations by Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, and Sean Chiao (MAUD ’88), president, Asia Pacific, AECOM. A studio report documenting projects and themes from the course will be released in October.