University of Oregon

College of Design

Landscape, architecture students gain hands-on experience at historic Pennsylvania site

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sue and Mort Fuller made The Field School and Center for Productive Landscapes at Overlook possible with a generous investment.

A dozen University of Oregon students are in the midst of a new month-long UO program in northeastern Pennsylvania that offers opportunities to conduct research and participate in hands-on learning projects while living at a historical estate.

Sue and Mort Fuller of New York funded the field school at Overlook, the Fuller family’s property in Dalton, Pennsylvania, that has been in the Fuller family for more than a century. Officially known as The Field School and Center for Productive Landscapes at Overlook, the program provides opportunities for students in the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts to deepen their understanding of the role landscape plays in sustaining culture. The program covers operating costs of the four-week field school for five years, including students’ transportation and room and board.

Students take notes while Laura Francois of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm explains operations of the farm in Greenpoint Brooklyn.
Above: Students take notes while Laura Francois of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm explains operations of the farm in Greenpoint Brooklyn. Photograph by Adjunct Instructor Lauren Schwartz.

The Overlook field school is the first of its kind for UO’s Department of Landscape Architecture. It will provide students with opportunities for experiential research and hands-on design at a site steeped in history and in an environment very different from Oregon and the West.
“This immersion in the landscapes of the East Coast is an incredible opportunity for our students,” said Associate Professor Roxi Thoren, director of the new program. “The opportunity for exchange between our university and this historic property is unique. We’re thrilled that our students are part of this groundbreaking work that the Fullers are making possible.”

Seven graduate and five undergraduate students – a mix of landscape architecture and architecture majors – are attending the inaugural field school, which includes talks from local agriculture and conservation experts; a seminar on food systems; visits to local farms, community gardens, farm markets and farming research centers; and a design course testing ideas about food production through hypothetical designs for the Overlook property.

The students will visit key East Coast landscape architectural sites and design firms. In New York, they will tour the High Line and parks throughout Battery Park, the World Trade Center memorial, Brooklyn Bridge Piers parks, and Central Park. They will also visit nearby Stone Barns, a sustainable farm focused on training a new generation of farmers, and Storm King, an estate converted to a site-specific art park. In Philadelphia they’ll visit parks, urban farms, and both Reading Terminal Market, a retail market, as well as the Philadelphia region’s wholesale produce market. In Washington, they’ll explore Dumbarton Oaks, the National Mall, Eastern Market and nearby Gettysburg National Park.

“Our students are able to visit parks and gardens that they study in their landscape architectural history and theory courses,” Thoren said. “They are also able to visit all levels of the food system, from conventional and innovative farms, to places where food is processed, to both wholesale and retail markets. Combined with the seminar on food systems, our students will be prepared to help envision the next generation of more local, sustainable food systems.”

Pictured from left are Matt Potteiger (Syracuse University professor and Overlook 2012 scholar in residence), Emily Meharg, Andrew Louw, Laura Perkins, Kareth Whitchurch, Roxi Thoren (UO associate professor and Overlook program director), Shannon Arms, and Andria Truax.
Above: The students listen as Laura Perkins, head gardener for Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture north of Manhattan, discusses how she manages the "natural" areas of the property not in agricultural production. Pictured from left are Matt Potteiger (Syracuse University professor and Overlook 2012 scholar in residence), Emily Meharg, Andrew Louw, Laura Perkins, Kareth Whitchurch, Roxi Thoren (UO associate professor and Overlook program director), Shannon Arms, and Andria Truax. Photograph by Lauren Schwartz.

The field school features an annual Scholar in Residence, a position filled this year by Matthew Potteiger. A professor in the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at State University of New York, Syracuse, he brings decades of experience in teaching, researching, and community activity in food systems.

The Overlook program will also bring to Eugene annual lectures by international leaders in the field of landscape sustainability. Thomas Woltz, FASLA, principal at the landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz – which has offices in New York and Virginia – will give the inaugural talk in October 2012. Woltz heads the Conservation Agriculture Studio within Nelson Byrd Woltz.

“We’re so grateful for the Fullers’ generosity,” said Frances Bronet, dean of A&AA. “Experiential learning for university students is critical. Sue and Mort have created an opportunity for our students to apply academics in a location that is historically connected to landscape architecture.”

The Overlook property was originally designed in the early 20th century by the iconic firm of Frederick Law Olmsted & Sons. Considered by many to be the father of American landscape design, Olmsted is known for his work on Central Park and the U.S. Capitol Grounds.

Sue Fuller grew up in Salem, Oregon, and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1971 with a degree in journalism. She went on to start Stanton Langfitt Advertising in Portland, Oregon. Mort Fuller is Chairman of the Board of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI), a regional railroad holding company. GWI owns and operates freight railroads and provides railcar switching services in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Belgium. GWI's 66 railroads are organized in ten regions, with more than 7,600 miles of owned and leased track. Corporate headquarters are in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Pictured from left are Emily Meharg, Audrey McLaughlin, Laura Perkins (head gardener), Andria Truax, Shelby Fraga, Meseret Tegenu, Stephanie Woirol, and Kareth Whitchurch
Above: Beekeeper Dan Carr explains the ecology of a beehive and how he manages the Stone Barns colony. Pictured from left are Emily Meharg, Audrey McLaughlin, Laura Perkins (head gardener), Andria Truax, Shelby Fraga, Meseret Tegenu, Stephanie Woirol, and Kareth Whitchurch. Photograph by Lauren Schwartz.

At Storm King Art Center
Above: At Storm King Art Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, the group approaches the sculpture Momo Taro by Isamu Noguchi. Pictured from left are Audrey McLaughlin, Elizabeth Auvil, Shannon Arms, Andria Truax, Shelby Fraga, Kareth Whitchurch, Emily Meharg, Stephanie Woirol, Roxi Thoren, Sydney Powell, and Andrew Louw. Photograph by Lauren Schwartz.

Students with a sourced meal
Above: Every Wednesday, pairs of students prepare a dish for dinner. They research the ingredients of their dishes, revealing the journey from landscape to plate. Pictured from left are Tristan Fields, Meseret Tegenu, Emily Meharg, Stephanie Woirol, Elizabeth Auvil, Shannon Arms, Shelby Fraga, Kareth Whitchurch, Audrey McLaughlin, Andria Truax, Andrew Louw, and Sydney Powell. Photograph by Lauren Schwartz.