Faculty Fanfare: Katya Crawford


UNM Professor of Landscape Architecture Katya Crawford has published an essay celebrating the importance of landscape architecture design competitions in the LA+ Journal.


The essay, “Let’s smoke, walk and enter competitions,” explores the thrill of competitions, whether entrants win or not. It points to well known landscape architecture projects that might not have been built if not for design competitions that generated ideas for their creation.


“Design competitions in landscape architecture have profoundly changed the cities in which we live. For example, it is hard to imagine Manhattan without Central Park (and now the High Line), both of which were born out of an international design competition,” said Crawford, who is the chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at UNM’s School of Architecture and Planning.


The publication in the Spring 2023 issue comes after Crawford and UNM Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Kathleen Kambic wrote a manuscript for UNM Press about design competitions in landscape architecture and how important they are in furthering the profession. The work also considers how competitions can be used as a framework for teaching landscape architecture. 


Crawford works with students to enter competitions, and UNM students and faculty have placed in more than 20 competitions since 2010. 


“We are proud of that, and it connects us to a global design discourse about simple, creative and innovative ways to make the world a more livable place,” she said.


The work is important now because “design competitions take on the most pressing and complex issues of our time—such as the plethora of social and environmental justice issues connected to the climate crisis,” Crawford said.


“Design competitions also provide a platform to push the traditional boundaries of landscape architecture as well as harness joy and wonder. A great example is the work being done by Kate Orff and her firm SCAPE with their project Living Breakwaters. Living Breakwaters started as a competition and is now being built off the coast of Staten Island in New York. The project essentially creates a living seawall to mitigate sea level rise and hurricane surges while providing habitat for oysters and fish,” she said.


Crawford, whose research explores the ephemeral landscape and its power to engage and reveal social and environmental systems, said landscape architecture plays a pivotal role in improving the spaces around us.


“I think of landscape architecture as a 21st century superhero. My hope is that more folks discover the field of landscape architecture and join us in our quest to make more livable, sustainable and beautiful places for all the world’s inhabitants,” Crawford said.