LandGSD Lecture: Kees Lokman, “Contested Terrain: In Search of Niagara”

“Contested Terrain: In Search of Niagara” is the third and final lecture in the “Critical Conversations: Beyond the GSD” series sponsored by LANDGSD that invites recent graduates of the Advanced Studies Program to return and discuss the evolution of their research in the years following graduation.

Niagara Falls is defined by its geography, whether developments have been working with or against it. Destined to fulfill visions of both beauty and progress; this much contested geography symbolizes par excellence our changing attitudes towards nature and technology.

After World War I—far from realizing the utopian promise of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901—Niagara became victim of its own success. Left behind in the wake of modernization, Niagara quickly changed from icon of the natural sublime to a heavy industrialized landscape and mass tourism destination. Moreover, mid-twentieth century urban renewal and large-scale infrastructural projects drastically restructured the physical and mental perception of Niagara. Transformation has become synonymous to Niagara. Amidst this continuous process of change, Niagara has grown into a captivating juxtaposition of industry, consumerism, failed utopias, infrastructure, and manufactured nature. Drawing connections between landscape as a medium and landscape as an ideology, this research touches on the importance of Niagara as (1) an imaginary geography (cultural construct); (2) a geography of flows (water, energy and waste), and; (3) a landscape of consumption (tourism and leisure).

Kees Lokman is assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Science (2005) and a Master of Science (2006) in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design from Wageningen University, and graduated with distinction from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design Master of Design Studies program (2012). Prior to joining the Sam Fox School, Kees was adjunct assistant professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology (Fall 2009) and faculty member of Archeworks (2008-2010), a hands-on, alternative design school in Chicago. 

Kees is founder of Parallax Landscape, a collaborative and interdisciplinary design and research platform that explores design challenges related to water and food shortages, depleting energy resources, climate change, and ongoing urbanization. The work focuses on urban strategies that have the capacity to link each site’s unique character to ecologies, infrastructures, and economies on larger scales. Working with collaborators from a variety of specialties, Lokman has received several international prizes and mentions in design competitions, including Beehaviour (2013), Transiting Cities – Low Carbon Futures (2012), Meta[bolic] Park (2012), The Chicago Constellation (2011), Indianapolis Monument Nexus (2011), and The Four Mile Farm (2009). 

Kees has received various grants and scholarships, including the Sam Fox School Creative Activities Research Grant (2013), the Graduate School of Design Penny White Award (2011) and scholarships from the Mondriaan Fund (2010 and 2011) and the Hendrik Muller Funds (2010). Prior to his teaching career, Kees worked at the offices of plantsman Piet Oudolf in the Netherlands and at Terry Guen Design Associates in Chicago.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the events office two weeks in advance at 617 496 2414 or [email protected]


Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].