Speaker 1: About Our Honorees
Donna Walcavage, Principal, Landscape Architect; Stantec, New York. New York President's Award for Design Excellence in the Public Realm.
For nearly five decades, Donna has led key initiatives that have had a lasting impact on the social and physical fabric of New York City. Her belief that designing truly resilient cities requires a broad landscape scale vision is evident in all her projects, whether a streetscape, urban waterfront redevelopment, public open space, playground or bikeway. In addition, she thoroughly understands how cities work, including the design of a central infrastructure and the creation of social connections that encourage communities to come together, both essential in recovering from disasters.
Donna: The future of landscape architecture in New York City is based on taking the focus and the budgets we have to build a more resilient city, and make it not only safer but a better place to live.
Speaker 1: Donna's commitment to high quality, resilient, sustainable design is matched only by her passion for collaboration. She believes that public work demands public input, and that drives her dedication to ensure that community groups and public agencies play a critical role in her projects. Further, she has advanced the quality of public spaces by collaborating with artists such as Siah Armajani, Ryan Toll, and Xenobia Bailey, to make art an integral component of projects. While the late 1960s was an era of questioning whether landscape architects had a place in New York and similar cities, Donna's work in the following decades transformed these preconceptions by addressing the totality of the urban environment and its materials, transcending the idea that planting in undeveloped sites were the only realm for the practice.
Donna: Much of what was new in thinking about cities developed after the 1960s and 70s, and that includes good walkability and good public space. That's critical to big city building. It's amazing when I look at some of the old material we produce, how much of what we thought about then really has become part of lower Manhattan.
Speaker 1: Donna set a new standard demonstrating that landscape architects are the best profession to lead urban public space projects for parks, waterfronts, and streetscapes, traditionally directed by engineers. This shift in paradigm did not come with resistance, and Donna's advocacy for the profession as a partner to engineering solutions demonstrated that good design alters the public perception of projects. Today, landscape architects play a role in every major urban engineering project, and increasingly lead the design for streetscapes, where sustainable design and complete streets are finally in the foreground. Donna is a fellow of the American society of landscape architects, as well as the Urban Design Forum, and was recently honored as one of 2016's top women in real estate.