2018 University Olmsted Scholar
Landscape Architecture Foundation
10 May 2018
Photo courtesy Alexa Vaughn
Image: Alexa Vaughn
Alexa Vaughn is a first-generation, Deaf woman in higher education at UC Berkeley, where she has been a student for six years (B.A., 2016). She has specialized in designing landscapes for difference and dis/ability –using Universal Design principles –to go beyond basic ADA requirements. She constantly strives to grow in her role as landscape architect to discover new ways of creating beautiful and accessible landscapes that balance both form and function. She currently serves as vice president of ASLA at UC Berkeley and editor-in-chief of Ground Up Journal. In the near future, Alexa plans to acquire a PhD to continue her research on Universal Design applications to landscape, with special emphasis on designing for the Deaf community, and to continue in her studies of Deaf culture and American Sign Language. She hopes to contribute to the diversity of the field, working to remove systemic barriers through professional practice, teaching, and writing.
My passion as advocate to people of different identities has been emphasized in my work at UC Berkeley. I have specialized in designing for difference by educating myself about the social factors of design, as well as public policy, planning, and designing for dis/ability. The ADA has long been an afterthought in the design fields, and it is not enough to follow the bare minimum. I strive to apply principles of Universal Design, which go beyond the ADA in attempting to include everyone and every difference, to my studio projects. Last year, I completed a project entitled Crip the Campus Map, which was honored with a student research poster award. Upon overlaying the official UC Berkeley Campus Accessible Routes Map and Pathway Slopes Map, I found several major discrepancies between the two (56 instances), in which blue accessible routes were overlaid upon steep impassible slopes (over 14% grade, marked in red). Recently, my newfound Deaf identity has also played a part in my work, in my application of Gallaudet University’s DeafSpace Guidelines to landscape, particularly in one of my studio projects in which I designed The Center for the Deaf + Blind. Through these endeavors, I’ve realized the significant correlations between the design of inclusive landscapes, social equity, sustainability, and societal betterment.
- Alexa Vaughn