Image: Taran Aanderaa and Vaar Bothner, two exchange students from Norway who studied abroad at CED in 2016.
When Norwegian natives Vaar Bothner and Taran Aanderaa came to the College of Environmental Design as exchange students in 2016, they intended to learn from CED’s faculty and their fellow students about landscape architecture’s role in combating climate change. After a semester of studying abroad, they returned back home with a new term added to their English vocabulary: resilience. Resilience, or more specifically resilient design, is a concept that emphasizes the intentional design of buildings, communities, and landscapes in response to an ever-changing world — specifically to climate change.
Through coursework and studio classes, Bothner and Aanderaa’s findings helped inform crucial thesis work for their master’s degrees, which they completed in 2017. Soon after, their work on resilience, climate change, and adaptive shorelines became the focal point of media attention in Norway -- including an appearance on the popular TV show “God Morgen Norge” (Good Morning Norway), where they explained the connection between natural stormwater management and resilient design. Now both working as landscape architects, we caught up with Bothner and Aanderaa since their time at CED. Below is an Q&A interview with the duo.
Question: Could you tell me about the scope of your work before coming to Berkeley?
Bothner and Aanderaa: We were both studying landscape architecture at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and had just finished our third year when we applied for an exchange to UC Berkeley. One of the main reasons that we wanted to study landscape architecture was our interest, but also our concern about a rapidly changing climate and how to preserve natural resources. While studying, we tried to implement these topics in all possible studio courses. Our common interests on the topic is actually what brought us together as friends, and also partners after our stay at UC Berkeley.
Q: What initially attracted you to the program here, and what new discoveries did you learn?
B&A: Learning how landscape architects address climate change and the degradation of natural ecosystems was essential when choosing an exchange program. We already knew about the widely recognized academic community at Berkeley, and reading more about the studio courses made it clear that this would be the perfect place to expand our knowledge. As our university did not have an exchange agreement with Berkeley, we were more than happy when we actually got in.
We specifically chose courses and studios that had a distinct focus on ecology and climate change. Associate Professor Kristina Hill’s courses and studio were of high relevance to us -- she has been a role model within landscape architecture since the first lecture. Assistant Professor Iryna Dronova and lecturer Brian Jencek were also important in expanding and shaping our understanding of the connection between landscape architecture, healthy ecosystems ,and climate resilient communities.
“Resilience” was a concept we were introduced to at Berkeley, and that later formed the foundation for our own research while writing our master’s thesis. In the face of climate change, resilience can be used as a way of understanding complexity and how to prepare for the unexpected. We also gained greater insight in the significance of healthy ecosystems when addressing issues related to climate change, such as sea level rise, stormwater management, and rising temperatures.
Q: You were featured on Norwegian radio and television for your research on resilience after moving back to Norway. Could you explain how that happened?
B&A: We found lots of inspiration at UC Berkeley, and therefore decided to write our master’s thesis together after returning to Norway. Using resilience as a framework, we did research on how to prepare Norwegian cities and towns for a changing climate. Theory and examples from lectures at Berkeley helped make this a convincing and innovative piece of work that brought a lot of attention to our research on the day of our thesis presentation.
Later, we won the prize for best master’s thesis of the year from Statsbygg, which is the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property, and were nominated for another prize called Aspelin Ramm at Oslo Urban Arena. Repeated storm events in Norway in 2016 and 2017 contributed to stress the importance of this work, and we were invited to national TV and radio to explain about our research and suggested solutions to climate related problems.
The past year we have visited different universities, public institutions, and landscape offices and talked about topics related to our master thesis.
Q: What are your next career goals?
B&A: We finished studying in 2017 and are now working for different companies. We are grateful for being able to bring new ideas to our workplaces and continue to learn, teach, inspire and develop our knowledge within these important topics. We are happy to learn that a broad aspect of people find our work interesting and that we are able to take a part in the vast project of “saving our planet.” We hope that the future brings us together in new, exciting projects.