Grace Farms Hosts First Ever Earth Equity and Design for Freedom Landscapes Forum

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Full-day event will feature panels, breakout discussions, and guided walks and will bring together industry leaders across the architecture, design, and landscape fields

Keynote with Karenna Gore, founder and executive director of the
Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York

On Thursday, May 26, Grace Farms will host the first Earth Equity and Design for Freedom Landscapes Forum bringing together landscape architects and garden enthusiasts to explore how they can utilize sustainable materials free of forced and child labor to create landscapes that are better for people and the planet. This daylong event will feature panels, breakout sessions, and guided walks and is hosted in partnership with Edwina von Gal, founder of the Perfect Earth Project, and Louis Fusco, PLA, principal, with the Connecticut ASLA. The keynote conversation will be presented by Karenna Gore, founder and executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Joy Harjo, internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, will open the event  with a recorded poem and reflection.

The Landscapes Forum builds on the success of the Design for Freedom Summit held at Grace Farms in March. Design for Freedom is a new movement, launched by Grace Farms CEO and Founder Sharon Prince, to design and build a more humane future by removing forced labor from the building materials supply chain.

“The Earth Equity Landscapes Forum at Grace Farms marks a moment to extend the Design for Freedom concept into the landscape, as well as take care of the Earth,” said Creative Director and Chief Advancement Officer at Grace Farms Foundation Chelsea Thatcher. “We’re looking at building sites as a whole, both for biodiversity, nature-based solutions, and installing landscapes with materials that are free of forced labor. We are grateful to Perfect Earth Equity for linking arms with us in the work to create this important paradigm shift.”

“There is a tremendous opportunity for landscape professionals to lead the way by making a shared commitment to designing, installing and maintaining projects that listen to nature,” said Perfect Earth Founder Edwina von Gal. “The Landscapes Forum will highlight the work we can all do to create more natural, chemical-free landscapes while also choosing sustainable and ethical materials that can protect both people and the environment.”

The Forum will kick off with a panel on the Ethical Role of Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design Professionals and feature Richard Roark, partner at OLIN, the firm that designed Grace Farms’ meadows and landscapes; Sierra Bainbridge, managing director at MASS Design; Tamar Warburg, director of sustainability and resilience at SASAKI; and Editor-in-Chief of Landscape Architecture magazine Jennifer Reut. The event will also feature specialized guided tours of Grace Farms, focusing on its expansive and biodiverse landscape led by OLIN and exploration of the native meadows with the Perfect Earth Project and Pennington Gray.

To advance the work of the Design for Freedom movement which aims to improve material transparency and encourage ethical materials choices, the Forum will also include the panel Material Choices We Make. Featured speakers are Gabe Guilliams, principal of Burro Happold; James Slade, founding principal of Slade Architecture; Sculptor Darrell Petit from Stony Creek Quarry, and Founder of UMA-Design Luciana Varkulja.

Signe Nielsen, Founding Principal of MNLA, who is also the recipient of more than 100 national and local design awards for public open space, has provided an opening frame for the panel to consider, noting “Design for Freedom reminds me of dropping a pebble in a pond where the ripples emanate outward. By including landscape architects into this important … initiative, [we] can influence an even broader audience … In the collaboration among the design disciplines, new ideas and ways of thinking can be catalyzed. In turn, clients can be engaged to implement these ideas with the understanding of the importance of the underlying principles at the heart of Design for Freedom. And thus the ripples are magnified.”

Parks and public spaces provide access to landscapes and landscape architecture that is open and accessible to all. Grace Farms, which was designed as a new kind of public space, where people of all ages and backgrounds have access to nature, believes environments that reconnect us to nature are increasingly important to our well-being. In the afternoon panel, the Role of Public Gardens, we will convene design experts to address the centrality of these spaces to our lives, They include: Penn Marchael, founder of Pennington GrayRebecca McMackin, director of horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park; Warrie Price, founder of the The Battery Conservancy; and Paul Tukey, Director of Environmental Stewardship of the Glenstone Museum.

The Design for Freedom Earth Equity Landscapes Forum is open to the public. Registration is open on Grace Farms’ website.

6 LA CES credits HSW are available and APLD credits are pending.