• Thaïsa Way



    PI, "Democracy and Landscape: race, identity, and difference" A Mellon supported initiative hosted at Dumbarton Oaks












    image taken by Sahar Coston-Hardy, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC

    I am so honored to continue to serve as Director of Garden & Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks and to leading our "Democracy and Landscape: Race, Identity, and Difference" initiaitve funded by the Mellon Foundation. I have the opportunity in these roles to collaborate with scholars, teachers, and leaders to rethink the critical role of the public realm to democracy and future environmental and cultural health and wellbeing, through the lens of history and its counter narratives.


    For some sweet words from my colleagues on my retirement- read here.


    Two years ago, I was thrilled to collaborate with Dr. Andrea Roberts (UVa) to host the 2022 NEH Summer Institute "Towards a Peoples Landscape History: Part 1/ Black and Indigneous Histories of the Nation's Capital". We hosted 23 faculty from across the country at Dumbarton Oaks for three weeks to develop resources and approaches to thinking and teaching critical place studies. In 2024 we teamed up with Kathryn Howell (UMD) and Meghan Gough (VCU) to host a second Institute, this time in Richmond, VA with another 23 faculty.


    In this time of reflection and re-assessment, we must also re-imagine futures. In that light here are a few pieces which I have either written or to which I have contributed... for thought and tco further important discussions:


    “Who is the public for whom we design? And who are we to design for such a public?” in Harvard Design Magazine 49: F/W 2021.

    With David Karmon, “Roundtable: Rethinking Urban Landscapes” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 81, no. 3 (September 2022), 268–298,


    “All Ours: The Theft of A Historic Site for Free Expression Casts Light On The Value Of Public Space In A Democratic Society” with photography by Sahar Coston-Hardy, Landscape Architecture Magazine, July, 2020: https://landscapearchitecturemagazine.org/tag/thaisa-way/. Awarded Bradford Williams Medal by American Society of Landscape Architects, 2021.


    Why history is critical for designers and design pedagogy; https://www.platformspace.net/home/why-history-for-designers-part-1


    On access to public space/ public landscapes: https://www.curbed.com/2020/3/27/21191714/coronavirus-public-spaces-parks-hiking-trails


    On access and public parks in cities: https://theconversation.com/parks-help-cities-but-only-if-people-use-them-103474


    On Earth Day thinking about Environmental Justice: https://crosscut.com/2017/04/marching-for-science-seattle-earth-day-read-this-first-uw


    On universities and cities working together: https://www.washington.edu/news/2015/10/27/uw-initiative-aims-to-tackle-city-regions-most-pressing-urban-issues/ See also Urban@UW: https://depts.washington.edu/urbanuw/about/about-urbanuw/


    About my academic role and contributions:


    I am delighted to contribute as the Director of the Garden & Landscapes Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, a research institute of Harvard University dedicated to the stewardship of research in the three areas of study: Byzantine Studies, Pre-Columbian Studies, and Garden & Landscape Studies. In this role I also get to lead a Mellon Humanities in Place Initiative titled "Democracy and Landscape: Race, Identity, and Difference" I want to begin by thanking the Mellon Foundation and all those who are partnering with me on this project including my advisory board (some now moved on but all have contributed) : NDB Connolly, Eric Avila, Willow Lung Amman, Michelle Wilkinson, Justin Garrett Moore, Alice Nash, and Dell Upton and our newest advisors, Gabrielle Tayac, Sara Lopez, and Andrea Roberts.


    As Director of Urban@UW, I was privileged to partner with incredible faculty, staff, and students to catalyze research on urban challenges and opportunities at the UW. We do this work in collaboration with our communities, drawing on the deep knowledge and experience of Seattle's urban professionals and practitioners, and those in many other cities, to foster the growth of resilient, healthy, affordable, and just cities, from Seattle to the metropolitan regions far and wide. To achieve this we convene, educate, instigate, and accelerate inclusive data-driven innovations for the future of cities.


    At UW I was honored to serve in faculty senate leadership. This was amazing work and I am extremely grateful to those who are following to focus on the challenges of diversity, academic freedom, and the role of the public university in the 21st century. Thank you to those who are carrying the work on, including the faculty disciplinary process (Zoe Barsness and Michael Townsend), UW Faculty 2050 (Joe Janes and Robin Angotti), and the important diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and policies (Rickey Hall, Ed Taylor, Chadwick Allen, and so many others).


    Dumbarton Oaks is a remarkable place to be right now offering an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to shaping the discipline of landscape, environmental, and place-based histories. I bring to this my curiosity about the built environment and place alongside a deep commitment to asking questions of difference and diversity in our public realm and what role design might play. This work began at Dumbarton Oaks with a colloquium on "Landscapes of Enslavement" in 2019 followed by a Spring Symposium "Segregation and Resistance in America's Urban Landscapes" in 2020 and in partnership with Drs. Michelle Daigle and Heather Dorries (University of Toronto) "Land Back" in Spring 2021. In 2022 Dell Upton (UCLA) and Stephen Daniels (University of Nottingham) worked with me on a symposium "Landscapes in the Making". Now in 2023 we are planning for a symposium on "Environmental Histories of the Black Atlantic" led by Nathan Connolly (JHU) and Oscar de la Torre (UNC).


    For up to date cv click here


  • Research & Teaching

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    Research- a summary

    scholarship of landscape history

    My scholarship, built on the scholarship of so many others, is framed by feminist histories of design and in particular the role of women as professionals and practitioners. I have sought to contribute to the growing body of scholarship with my book Unbounded Practices: Women, Landscape Architecture, and Early Twentieth Century Design (2009, University of Virginia Press, 2013, paperback edition) and more recently chapters, essays, and encyclopedia entries.


    My recent work has explored the emerging scholarship on issues of race, gender, and urban landscapes. This engages issues of social movements, equity, and environmental justice within an historic framework. This includes re-thinking about questions of race, gender, segregation, and resistance in the practice of landscape architecture in the past two hundred years. It is complex. The idea of a thick section frames much of my work in the past decade with an essay soon to be featured in LUNCH, a journal curated at the University of Virginia School of Architecture.


    This work was the grounding for a collaborative project with Dr. Andrea Roberts (UVa) to host the 2022 NEH Summer Institute "Towards a Peoples Landscape History: Part 1/ Black and Indigneous Histories of the Nation's Capital". We hosted 23 faculty from across the country exploring how to teach and research place-based histories contributing to critical place studies.


    Recent work:

    Co-editor with Eric Avila, UCLA, Segregation and Resistance in American Landscapes, Trustees of Harvard University/ Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscapes Studies Series, 2023.


    “Design and the Humanities” eds. Adrian Parr and Santiago Zabala, Outspoken: A Manifesto for the 21st Century, McGill-Queen University Press, forthcoming spring 2023.


    Editor, Garden as Art: Beatrix Farrand and Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees of Harvard University/ Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscapes Studies Series, Spring 2022.


    with Ken Yocom, “Infrastructural Wilderness: Seattle and the Binding of of City and Region” eds Nik Janos and Corina McKendry, Urban Cascadia and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice, UW Press, 304 pages, 2021: 72-90.


    “Urban Site as Collective Knowledge” second edition, eds Andrea Kahn & Carol Burns, Site Matters: Strategies for Uncertainty Through Planning and Design, Routledge Press, 2021: 213-223.


    Editor, River Cities: City Rivers, Trustees of GGN Landscapes 1999-2018, Timber Press, 2018, 296 pages.


    Essay on a thick sections reading of Gas Works Park by Haag and Associates, here.


    Why History for Designers- in two parts; here


    Review of my book on Richard Haag, here


    Review of GGN book; https://dirt.asla.org/2019/01/07/ggn-re-envisions-the-monograph/


    And see; https://womenalsoknowhistory.com/about/


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    Teaching- a summary

    bringing history to design thinking

    I am honored to be recognized with the 2020 CELA Outstanding Educator Award. Thank you to students and colleagues as this is deep team work.

    My teaching engages all of the research areas within the context of how do the questions frame pedagogy and how best do I help students build a foundation to launch careers that address these questions. This includes lecture courses, seminars, studios, and workshop. My courses are in the history of cities and urban landscapes, the development of the profession of landscape architecture, and the ideas around creativity and innovation. I am pleased to have just had an essay accepted for publication on the importance of history in design pedagogy- stay tuned. It matters more than ever right now.



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    drawing as a way of thinking

    Launched a number of years ago, our Department of Landscape Architecture joined forces with Seattle’s GGN firm to lead a series of weekend workshops, that focuses on representation in design. Drawing is a means of thinking and it is a language of dialogue. Drawing is a language that expands and enhances our visions for the future of our landscapes and as such calls for a robust and rigorous investigation and exploration. The weekend long workshops led by inspiring leaders in the design fields are posing and answering questions around how we draw, what we draw, and how we read drawings. Each of these experiences informs design as process and development and shapes how our communities understand and respond to design ideas and visions. See more at: http://be.uw.edu/design-in-drawing/

  • Approaches to Scholarship


    Feminist histories, urban narratives, design and theory

    Feminist Histories and Counter Narratives


    My interest in the narratives of women and others often pushed to the margins in landscape architecture has led to research engaging issues of gender, race, design, and social history in distinct ways. My dissertation was transformed, translated, altered, modified to become Unbounded Practice: Women in Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century. The book explores the narrative of landscape architectural history within the larger framework of the emerging profession in the twentieth century.


    Building on these explorations I have concentrated on how collective narratives of practice might inform the broader domain of landscape architecture history.I was a Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation Fellow in 2008 and was invited by the Foundation to present my research at the Guggenheim Museum (New York) in June 2009. The paper, “Constellations and Collective Histories: Women and Landscape Architecture,” described how a collective narrative expands our understanding and reading of the past and present, and by implication, the future.


    My current scholarship explores histories of the public realm as manifested in urban landscapes, from the street to the park to the civic plaza.I am interested in how these places are imagined, designed, and used through the lens of practice and performance. This work is grounding my leadership at Dumbarton Oaks and most specifically my engagement in the Landscape Studies Initiative "Democracy and the Urban Landscape: Race, Identity, and Difference," made possible by the Mellon Foundation.


    For a blog / media posts:





    About Marjorie Sewell Cautley and Phipps Houses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWNpR0F2hMs


    Op-Ed on Environmental Justice and Earth Day

    Urban@UW and Collaborative Urban Research


    Urban@UW is an initiative of the Office of Research at UW to foster a community of urban researchers, teachers, and practitioners. As the founding director, I teamed with faculty, students, and civic leaders to build the scaffold to nurture a growing community across the academy and the region committed to addressing the grand challenges of urbanism in the 21st century.


    While my research is primarily focused on histories, I have sought to contribute to the discourses around sustainable design and urbanisms. This began with a project that I and Margaret O’Mara in the History Department at UW developed in 2010, Now Urbanism: City Building in the 21st Century and Beyond. We were awarded a John E. Sawyer Seminar on Comparative Cultures funded by the Mellon Foundation with significant support from the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the College of Built Environments, and the College of Arts & Sciences (September, 2010 - December, 2012.) The project hosted nine monthly three-day symposiums on perspectives on urbanism for a year followed by quarterly workshops for faculty and practitioners. At the end of the two-year period we had engaged over 100 faculty participants and 1500 public attendees in the urban- oriented discussions.


    The project framed new avenues of investigation through trans-disciplinary scholarship and practice and more specifically, the role of digital tools to enrich historical investigations and analysis. It generated a larger project: the UW Cities Collaboratory with the shared framework that considers cities as sites and agents of economic expansion, social interaction, political development, and cultural and intellectual incubation.To address these complexities, we must bring the best minds and ideas to the table


    Today that work is at the foundation of Urban@UW (more information above). It remains a deeply interdisciplinary focused on collective impact and the generation of knowledge at the intersections of disciplines. Thank you to Rachel Berney and others who continue the leadership and work.




    Now Urbanism


    The Conversation: Parks, Access, and Equity



    An annotated list of related and interesting projects others are leading....click here

    more details...

    For more publications, lectures, and professional engagement, you can read the cv linked above or check out my faculty webpage

  • Landscape Architecture Histories

    Exploring the histories of built environments

    Describing a discipline

    History of landscape architecture is a complex endeavor as it engages narratives of our built environments, in their entirety and spans the entirety of human's existence,at least in theory. It is also the history of settlements on the land, making of place in the landscape. Thus it is about the history of cities, or the process of urbanization, by which cities are generated. Or it can mean the history of the profession of Landscape Architecture beginning with the emergence of design disciplines or professions in the Rennaissance. For others it is more recent, in the history of the profession that we know today, thus beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. For most it is a combination of these- a history of intentional design, making of the first settlements and cities, all the way through what we call a profession today in the 21st century.


    In my research, landscape history engages multiple and diverse narratives about human relationships to landscape and our efforts to design, shape, manipulate landscape as a spatial medium for pleasure, for production, and for settlement. For my research, it is the intentionally spatial nature of designed landscapes that interest me rather than the production for example of agriculture which is generally focused on what can be produced, not how the land is shaped or formed. Cities and urban landscapes (streets, buildings, neighborhoods, transportation systems, infrastructural networks....) play critical roles as designed landscapes as do gardens, parks, and national parks. Together, as a whole, these designed landscapes frame our existence, our past, present, and futures on the planet aesthetically, socially, culturally, economically, politically, .... Furthermore I am intriqued by the designers, who imagines the design and how is it constructed? used and received? How do designed landscapes shape how we live in the world, an increasingly urban world? How can design foster civil society and sustainable life habits?


    Here in the USA, there are a select few organizations of landscape historians or landscape architectural historians, each offering a different framework:


    Landscape History Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians


    Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Studies


    Library of American Landscape History


    Foundation for Landscape Studies


    Society for Landscape Studies


    There are regionally based groups that focus on education, outreach, and preservation practice:


    California Garden and Landscape History Society


    New England Landscape Design & History Association


    Southern Garden History Society


    There are also excellent associations that support the work of landcape historians, particularly in research of preservation issues:


    The Cultural Landscape Foundation


    Garden Conservancy




    This is by no means a comprehensive list but provides a sense of the breadth and depth of current research, pedagogy, and engagement within the broad discipline and practice of landscape history. There are more organizations and associations in Europe, and around the world.


    Teaching and researching history and design from within the College of Built Environments at the UW offers a means to bridge practice and theory, to study our past in order to define our potential futures as designers, planners, and visionaries (paraphrased from Confucius).





    an initiative of the UW Office of Research

    The University of Washington launched a collaborative initiative in urban research and practice—Urban@UW—that brings together diverse disciplines and practices to foster healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable urban futures. Urban@UW positions the University of Washington as a model urban university across all three of its campuses (Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell) and the region. It also sites the College of Built Environments at the center of the transformation of the research university, as most recently evidenced in the designation of the UW as a Carnegie Community Engaged Institution. And together this work fosters the growth of Seattle as a model city—sustainable, efficient, resilient, livable, healthy, and equitable—building knowledge that can be used in cities and metropolitan regions around the globe.


    Cities are complex systems that result from the dynamic interaction of people, the natural and built environments, landforms and land use, transportation, culture, and economic development. History, the environment, human choice, and social institutions all shape the trajectory of how cities have developed and what they will become. Many disciplines intersect in the study of cities and colleges and schools across the university are already contributing to the collaborative focus of Urban@UW. Research in the humanities explores the multiple meanings, ideas and representations of cities and citizens in the past and present, and imagined in the future. Environmental scientists provide a path for mitigating the adverse effects of human activities on the ecosystem. Social scientists generate knowledge of how cities are socially, spatially and culturally created and understood. Engineers, statisticians, and computer scientists harness new sources of data to advance our fundamental understanding of these dynamic interactions. Urban designers and planners use this knowledge to design and construct livable and resilient urban environments. Finally, the professions of social work, education, nursing, medicine, law, and public health among others address how we foster and grow healthy and socially just communities.



  • “Study the past if you would define the future.”
    ― Confucius

    Book Projects


    co-Editor with Eric Avila, UCLA, Segregation and Resistance in American Landscapes, Trustees of Harvard University/ Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscapes Studies Series, forthcoming 2023.


    Editor, Garden as Art: Beatrix Farrand and Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees of Harvard University/ Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscapes Studies Series, 2022.


    Landscape Architect A.E. Bye: Sculpting the Earth, Modern Landscape Design Series, Library of American Landscape History & W.W. Norton Publishing, pending approval.


    GGN: 1999-2018, Timber Press, 2018


    River Cities: City Rivers, edited collection, Harvard University/ Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscapes Studies, 2018.


    From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design: the Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag, 2015, University of Washington Press. See a trailer by clicking here

    For an interview at Seattle Town Hall between Thaisa Way and Richard Haag, see



    with Jeff Hou, Ben Spencer, and Ken Yocom, eds. Now Urbanism: The Future City Is Here, 2014, Routledge Publishing.


    Unbounded Practice: Women and Landscape Architecture in the early Twentieth Century. University of Virginia Press, 2009, 288 pages (**paperback Fall 2013).




    GGN: 1999-2018 narrates two decades of design practice by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) , a landscape architecture firm based in Seattle, Washington. GGN was founded in 1999 by Jennifer Guthrie, Shannon Nichol, and Kathryn Gustafson, and it is world-renowned for designing high-use landscapes in complex, urban contexts. GGN: Landscapes 1999-2018 is the first book devoted to their ground-breaking work. It surveys some of their most important achievements including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle, Washington; the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois; and the Venice Biennale in Italy. Packed with practical design lessons and inspiration, this is a must-have resource for design students and professionals, and fans of beautifully designed public spaces.


    River Cities/ City Rivers is a collection of essays presented at the annual Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium of the same name. The essays explore the role of river landscapes in the development of a city, and in turn, the role of urbanism on the river's landscape. Authors include designers, historians, geographers, and humanists, as a means to investigate the boundaries of the academy and professional practice as well as the contributions of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of cities and their histories. The discourse builds on the emerging domain of urban environmental histories, with scholars in history, geography, urban studies, environmental history, and now designers. (https://dirt.asla.org/2015/05/21/river-cities-offer-lessons-on-how-to-adapt/)


    From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design: the Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag, is in part a monograph on his work as a landscape architect and founder of the Landscape Architecture program at the University of Washington, and in part on the emergence of urban ecological design as a framework for practice in the 21st century. While numerous essays note Haag's designs for the post industrial landscapes of Gas Works Park and Bloedel Reserve, there is little else published. My book offers a critical examination of Haag's praxis positioned within the histories of ecological design, post industrial landscape theory, and the discourses of modernism.


    A co-edited book with Jeff Hou, Ben Spencer, and Ken Yocom titled Now Urbanism: The Future City is a collection of essays by practitioners and researchers drawing on a continued interest in how history and theory contribute to stronger and more resilient futures. This research focus builds on the practice, teaching, and research of the UW faculty in compelling ways.


    Unbounded Practice: Women in Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century, explores the narrative of landscape architectural history within the larger framework of the emerging profession in the twentieth century. The book was selected to be the Faculty Book Award in the department of Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia and was awarded the 2009 Faculty Award for Completed Work by the UW College of Built Environments. In 2010 it was awarded the John Brinkerhoff Jackson Award by the Landscape Studies Foundation



  • More on Teaching

    Design, history, and theory

    Design Studios

    College of Built Environments, University of Washington

    Lake 2 Bay: The Healthiest Neighborhood in the World, an Urban Design Advanced Studio for LARCH and ARCH graduate students, Fall 2014.


    Introductory Design Studio, taught with Julie Parrett, Fall 2012. LARC 323 Planting Design (Introduction to Trees), Fall 2012.


    Acqua Romane: Re-imagining the urban waterfront, Studio taught at the UW Rome Center with Rob Corser and Ann Huppert, Architecture, UW Rome Center, Rome, Italy. Fall 2011.


    InBEtween Climate and Built Environments: Designing for Urgent Change on the Pacific Rim, Collaboratively led with Ken Tadashi Oshima, Architecture, including travel to Japan for 12 days with students, Spring 2011.


    Design Thesis Studio, Collaboratively led with Julie Parrett, Winter 2010. LARC 507 Landscape & Art /The Japanese Garden as Cultural Translation, Spring 2009.


    Design Foundation Studio, Fall 2007/ 2008 /2012 (Jointly taught).


    State University of New York: College of Environmental Science & Forestry

    Design Studio I: Site Inventory and Analysis, Fall 2006 (Jointly taught).


    Foundations Design Studio II, Spring 2006/ 2007 (Jointly taught).


    Foundations Design Studio I, Fall 2005/ 2006. (Jointly taught).

    Lecture Courses and Seminars

    Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections/ Graduate School of Design, Harvard University


    “Garden/ Archives/ Plants” J-Term GSD, Harvard University, Winter, 2023.


    “Race and Gender: Shaping the Design professions, disciplines, and practices” Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Fall 2022

    “Garden and Landscape Studies Graduate Workshop: Methods and Historiography: Public realm and Public health” Virtual Graduate Student Workshop, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees of Harvard University, 2021

    “Garden and Landscape Studies Graduate Workshop: Methods and Historiography: Public realm and the Urban Landscape” Virtual Graduate Student Workshop, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees of Harvard University, 2020.


    College of Built Environments, University of Washington

    Contested Landscapes: Places of memories and histories, graduate seminar. Spring 2019.


    Urban Environmental History: An American Context, Winter 2013, 2018.


    Introduction to Faculty Research, Fall 2012.


    History of Urban Design, Fall 2009/ Spring 2012.


    History of Roman Urbanism: Architecture and Landscape, with Ann Huppert, Architecture, UW Rome Center, Rome, Italy. Fall 2011.


    Advanced Communication: Graphic Representation, with Rob Corser, Architecture, UW Rome Center, Rome, Italy. Fall 2011.


    History of Landscape Architecture, Fall 2008/ 2009/ 2010/ 2012.


    History of Landscape Architecture Graduate Seminar, Fall 2008/ 2009/ 2010.


    History of Modern Landscape Architecture, Winter 2008/ 2009/ 2011/2012/2013


    Modern Landscape Architecture Graduate Seminar, Winter 2008/ 2009/ 2011/2012/2013.


    Scholarship and Inquiry: Theory in Landscape Architecture, Winter 2011.


    Architecture & Landscape, Spring 2009/ Spring 2010/ 2011.


    Research Methods in Landscape Architecture, Winter 2008.


    Cultural Landscapes and Vernacular Architecture, Spring 2008.


    Urban Agriculture: Readings, Winter 2008 (MLA research group).


    Teaching / Design Critique, Autumn 2007.


    State University of New York: College of Environmental Science & Forestry

    Research Methods in Landscape Architecture, Spring 2006/ 2007.


    Modernist Manifestos in Landscape Architecture, Spring 2006.


    Modernisms in Landscape Architecture, Fall 2005.


    Architecture Across Cultures, Spring 2007.


    Off Campus Design Studio (Japan) Spring/Summer 2007.


    Aesthetics of Sustainable Design, Spring 2007.

  • How to contact me

    GLS, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

    1703 32nd Street NW

    Washington DC 2007

    Wayt01@doaks.org / 202 339 6461