Design with Nature, Not Las Vegas - Lucinda Sanders' Keynote Lecture at NJASLA

Lucinda Sanders, FASLA, CEO and Partner at OLIN, presented Design with Nature Not Las Vegas at NJASLA 2019 Meeting - Design + Nature: A Celebration of Ian McHarg.

Earthrise (1968) courtesy of NASA.

Earthrise (1968) courtesy of NASA.

In her keynote lecture, Design with Nature, Not Las Vegas, Sanders took the audience on a journey beginning with the findings from her recent research on transformational leadership, a theory distinct from transactional leadership. Her premise is that landscape architects have the capacity and obligation to be transformational leaders because of the distinctive way they see the world:

As strange or obvious as it may sound, these preferences and ways of viewing the world are unique and in many instances are ahead of the curve. Every time we advocate an idea for a better future, our clients and students stand to become the early adopters of this future. I feel that it is particularly important to know and understand this in the present era of the Anthropocene because it might influence how we show up as professionals, as teachers, and as advocates.

Using this premise, she examined her early years studying under Ian McHarg learning what became known as ‘The Method’ and went on to reference McHarg’s own reflections written nearly three decades later on the transformational influence of Design with Nature. McHarg himself wrote that “it is appropriate to note that leadership did not emerge from the establishment” (Design with Nature, Preface, 1991). If this is true, from what well does transformational leadership come? Sanders illustrated that McHarg’s method really emanates from a worldview, and then provided an overview of what it has meant for OLIN to seek companions who share this view in order to constantly evolve and design with nature over the four decades of practice. By not remaining static, OLIN has provided leadership that has been transformational to the profession and to the places we work. She ended her presentation with eight challenges relating to design with nature that have been on her mind lately. Sanders believes that as landscape architects we must not forget our ideology; we must act on these challenges relying on the unique identity of our world view.