Walter Hood: Conscious/Unconscious Landscapes

Oakland-based designer Walter Hood discusses his community-centered practice.

March 11, 2015

Recorded on December 2, 2014.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Walter Hood established Oakland’s multidisciplinary Hood Design Studio in 2003 with a focus on the urban public realm and a commitment to creating environments that reflect their place and time.

Arguing that “the park really doesn’t have any power anymore,” Hood takes a critical stance against the typologies of traditional landscape architecture and environmental design. He asks, “Can we stop talking about types… and talk about people’s relationship to things and places?” Guided by this emphasis, he creates richly layered, functional landscapes designed in collaboration with local communities.

Hood’s work often reveals the artifice of seemingly natural environments, expressing the contention that “in our landscape today, everything is hybridized.” In surveying more than a dozen of his firm’s projects, from temporary interventions to large-scale commissions, Hood demonstrates the range and scope of his innovative work. He also details processes and methods that encompass research into ecological history and sociology, as well as oral history interviews.

The urban transformations presented include the revitalization of Ali Baba Avenue in Opa-Locka, Florida as a pedestrian-oriented corridor; the activation of Pearl Street Alley as a gathering space in Philadelphia; and the “Witness Walls” installation in Nashville that honors the city’s role in the Civil Rights movement.

Hood also walks through significant landscape commissions for the grounds of the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park; the Solar Strand array of photovoltaic panels at the University of Buffalo; andnthe garden of the newly reopened Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City.

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