Campus: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- June 11, 2003
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Landscape Architecture
Instructor Wins Coveted Rome Prize
A member of Cal Poly's landscape architecture faculty will take up residence
in Rome this fall as one of 31 winners of the 107th annual Rome Prize
Competition of the American Academy in Rome.
Lecturer Joseph Ragsdale won the prestigious award for a proposal to
study the relationship between the material surfaces that make up the
city of Rome and the "source landscapes" of those materials
-- industrial sites, quarries and working communities.
Ragsdale will spend 11 months in the Italian capital living and working
with the other 2003-2004 winners at the American Academy's 11-acre site
on Rome's highest hill. The other winners include architects, landscape
architects, visual artists, writers, composers, historic preservationists
and scholars with interests ranging from the ancient world to modern
"The Rome Prize is considered one of the most significant accolades
offered in the design and arts fields," said K. Richard Zweifel,
interim dean of Cal Poly's College of Architecture and Environmental
Design. "Joe's receipt of this award puts him in the company of
internationally recognized leaders in the arts and humanities."
Previous Rome Prize recipients include composer Samuel Barber, writer
Ralph Ellison and architects Michael Graves and Robert Venturi.
Rome has lived with its environment for more than 2,500 years, Ragsdale
said, and he hopes to find, in studying that relationship, new ideas
for solving some of the problems found in America's contemporary urban
He describes his project as investigating "two landscapes linked
by production -- one a source landscape of extraction and the other,
a surface landscape of additive urban form. The city of Rome and supporting
landscapes provide rich lessons for us to better understand how our
own depleted landscapes can be regenerated and rundown industrial areas
Ragsdale's professional work has included involvement in the site landscape
for the Getty Center in Los Angeles, design for the plazas and waterfront
at San Francisco's PacBell Park, and, most recently, work on urban revitalization
projects and Superfund toxic cleanup sites in several states.
"My current research and professional work focus on a proactive
role for landscape architecture in the regeneration of degraded post-industrial
sites," Ragsdale said, "including proposals for establishing
the next uses of and reconnecting communities to EPA Superfund sites.
Current remediation efforts primarily focus on excavating our problems
to a willing landfill or covering our problems with a cap. These efforts
do not go far enough to respect the historic legacies, the local ecologies
or the dedicated communities that are associated with these sites."
Ragsdale has been teaching at Cal Poly since January 2002. Before that
he taught at the University of Virginia, where he earned his master's
in landscape architecture in 2000. His graduate research on "post-industrial
terrain" won a national student research competition. He earned
his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture at UC Berkeley in 1991.
What became the American Academy in Rome was established in 1894 by
a group of prominent Americans to provide an opportunity for American
artists and scholars to pursue independent study in the ancient city,
and the academy has become what some consider America's leading overseas
center for advanced research in the arts and humanities. The Rome Prize
is awarded through an open competition juried by leading artists and
Media Contact: Ray Ladd (805) 756-7432, firstname.lastname@example.org