David Zielnicki

David Zielnicki


School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture

What is your educational and professional background?

I received my post-professional Master of Landscape Architecture II degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in May, 2017. I also have my undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University. Going back to obtain my graduate degree was specifically to enable a future in teaching. Prior to graduate school, I worked as a landscape design intern at OLIN in Philadelphia and a landscape architect and project leader at West 8 urban design and landscape architecture in New York and Rotterdam. While at West 8, I was part of the design team for the Governors Island Park and Public Space in New York. I was also on the West 8 team developing Longwood Garden’s first physical master plan and subsequently, I worked on the landscape design renovation for Longwood Garden’s historic Main Fountain Garden.

Why landscape architecture?

I grew up in the Chicago area. My senior year of high school, our humanities teacher assigned us Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The descriptions of Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted designing and directing the construction of the fairgrounds and the exposition structures fascinated me. The impact of the book was doubled by my close proximity and familiarity with the remnants of the World's Columbian Exposition still in Chicago. After reading the book, I looked more into the life and work of Olmsted — I had no idea landscape architecture was a profession, but it seemed exciting. I switched from applying to graphic design and industrial design programs to applying for landscape architecture. I am quite glad that I did.

Why UBC?

UBC’s landscape architecture program is exceptional. The program gains a practical grounding in the large research institution from its historic roots in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. Its current position in the collaborative School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture demonstrates the program’s contemporary interest in interdisciplinary work and design-forward exploration. On top of all of this, the larger context of Vancouver is a great boon to young landscape architects. The combination of incredible natural assets with the unique urban culture of Vancouver is an ideal setting for exploring and pushing landscape architecture.

How do you think the field of landscape architecture will be different 100 years from now?

Looking back 100 years to the pre-war field of landscape architecture, we see a mix of professional work. There are the iconic, socially beneficial urban parks (Prospect Park, Stanley Park, etc.). At the same time, landscape architects in North America participated in the segregation of cities, furthered the unfair emphasis on a white, male, Western tradition, and gladly took commissions for the private properties of the world’s wealthiest capitalists. In the same way that we have largely progressed as a discipline from the social, cultural, and political agendas of practices going into the 20th century, by 2120 I would expect landscape architects to have fully established themselves as the discipline capable of negotiating ways of living with increasingly complex “natural” dynamics while promoting social equity and cultural diversity.

What is now a renewed, but timid and perhaps superficial interest in “natural” systems will need to be common practice in 100 years. This would suggest that landscape architects go beyond positions as the sub-consultant to an architect or developer, to positions leading the discussions around the issues of the day. This increasingly means that landscape architects need to build on the traditions of our discipline to be ahead of related disciplines in incorporating new technologies and finding ways of bypassing the tendency to service the personal interests of a small few. If landscape architects are to take on a true leadership position, there will be even more responsibility to provide equity in the access to natural resources and amenities. As importantly, landscape architecture as a mode of cultural expression will need to fully embrace the complexities of what cultural expression means to different people.

What item could you not live without?

While I try not to form dependencies for any particular item, I must admit a strong attachment to my bicycle(s). There is no better way to explore a new city.

Department/School profile