TUESDAY, NOV. 4, 12 - 1:30 PM in 121 Wurster Gallery - LUNCHTIME CONVERSATION WITH JANE WOLFF
Associate professor,Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
Fellow, University College
University of Toronto
Jane Wolff’s internationally recognized work investigates the complicated landscapes that emerge from interactions between natural processes and cultural interventions. Her subjects have ranged from the western Netherlands and the California Delta to post-Katrina New Orleans, the shoreline of San Francisco Bay and the metropolitan landscape of Toronto. Her design research projects articulate terms that make these difficult—and often contested—places legible to the wide range of audiences with a stake in the future, from experts and policy makers to politicians and citizens.
Jane Wolff is an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design and the former director of its landscape architecture program. Ms. Wolff earned her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in visual and environmental studies from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and her master’s degree (with distinction) in landscape architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a member of the Design Review Board of Waterfront Toronto and the board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation. Her work has been supported by two Fulbright scholarships and by grants from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Graham Foundation, the Great Valley Center, the LEF Foundation, Ohio State University, the University of Toronto, the Exploratorium and the Seed Fund of San Francisco. In 2006, she was Beatrix Farrand distinguished visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ms. Wolff’s work first came to public attention with Delta Primer: a field guide to the California Delta (William Stout Publishers, 2003), a book and deck of playing cards designed to develop shared language for the tangled circumstances of a largely invisible landscape at the centre of California’s economy and ecology. In his introduction to the book, Kevin Starr, then State Historian of California, wrote, “Both in terms of its method and its message, this breakthrough study advances…the cause of the Delta,…the cause of the overall environment of California, and the methodology of environmental science.” John King’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “so seductive that it drew me out to visit the weave of levees and sloughs east of Antioch for the first time in 14 years…” and went on to say, “[It] captures…the feeling I remembered from childhood fishing trips and adult drives…[and] offers pointers about the types of dilemma that confront every growing region in this ever-more-connected world.”
Delta Primer led to invitations to work with grassroots organizations advocating for landscape rehabilitation in post-Katrina New Orleans. In parallel with these efforts, Ms. Wolff and her academic colleagues Elise Shelley and Derek Hoeferlin developed Gutter to Gulf, a collaborative research and teaching project at the University of Toronto and Washington University. The initiative’s website, guttertogulf.com, has made essential information about the city’s hydrology and hydraulics available to broad audiences for the first time, and it has served as a significant resource for scholars and designers, most recently as base material for New Orleans’s Water Management Strategy. Ms. Wolff has lectured widely about her New Orleans endeavours in design and planning arenas, and her essays,“Cultural Landscapes and Dynamic Ecologies: ecology, infrastructure, policy and design in post-Katrina New Orleans” and “Pontchartrain Park + Gentilly Woods Landscape Manual” (Carol Reese, co-author), were published in Projective Ecologies, edited by Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister (Actar, 2014) and New Orleans Under Reconstruction, edited by Carol McMichael Reese, Michael Sorkin and Anthony Fontenot (Verso Books, 2014), respectively.
Since 2007, Ms. Wolff has worked with the Exploratorium of San Francisco to extend the museum’s longstanding focus on the basic sciences into environmental studies. Her project “Bay Lexicon,” a visual dictionary made up of illustrated flash cards, defines a working vocabulary for observing, exploring and coming to terms with the complicated environment of San Francisco Bay (http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/bay-observatory- gallery/bay-lexicon). Commissioned by curator Susan Schwartzenberg for the museum’s Bay Observatory, the project serves as a field guide for tours of the gallery and the shoreline beyond. In addition to preparing a book manuscript based on this material, Ms. Wolff is now conducting research for a project on Toronto’s visible and invisible landscapes and writing about her comparative observations of the landscapes of the western Netherlands and southern Louisiana.
For more information on the LAEP Lecture Series, go to: http://ced.berkeley.edu/events-media/lecture-series/land-lectures-2014/