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Landscape Architecture Alum Wins Prestigious 2020 ASLA Design Award

Another alum from the School of Landscape Architecture at Academy of Art University is once again recognized by the industry experts, wininng the Student Merit Award from the Northern California American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

Zichun (Ritta) Lei, who graduated from the MFA program at the School of Landscape Architecture in 2019, won this prestigious award with her MFA thesis project, Resilient Shoreline – San Leandro Bay Sponge City, from the fierce competition with contestants from well-established schools of landscape architecture, including the University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, and more.

Landscape Architecture

A Vision of the Future

Because of the development of coastal cities and global warming, the sea level has been rising and adversely impacting people’s day-to-day life, especially for those who are living in coastal areas. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most impacted areas.

As one of the most important coastal zones in the U.S., the Bay Area has been experiencing the threat of rising sea levels and will be experiencing more severe issues in the next 80 years. According to Lei’s research, the sea level rise and storm surge are projected to generate at least a 6 feet water level change in the Bay Area by 2100.

Landscape Architecture

To discover the solution for this imminent threat, Lei traced the roots of the problem and found out that this rising problem is because of the lack of natural protection. As a consequence of the urban development and bay fill construction, San Francisco has lost 95% marshland ecology throughout history, which served as the natural sponge to absorb the overflow seawater.

The Sponge City project starts from San Leandro Bay as a prototype and is designed to manifest Lei’s forward-looking vision, outline a long-term solution to protect, adapt, and restore nature in the Bay Area, as well as come up with a sustainable and resilient urban development plan.

Your Future Starts Here

Landscape Architecture

Each year, the jury from the ASLA committee evaluates numerous entrants by various criteria, including the quality of design, design context, environmental sensitivity and sustainability, and design value to the client and other designers.  

The winning projects are indications of the future of the landscape architecture profession, and the School of Landscape Architecture at Academy has been leading this curve. 

During the previous years, other alumni from the BFA and MFA programs have also been recognized by ASLA, such as Eric Arneson (BFA 16) who won an Honor Award in the General Design category for his Bendway Park project, and Nahal Sohbati (MFA 17) who won the Award of Excellence in Student Community Service for her Ridge Lane project.

“When I started at the Academy, I knew nothing about landscape architecture; I had a bachelor’s in interior design,” Sohbati explained. “Everything I applied to this project, I learned through the school. Everything I learned, I owe it to the Academy, to my instructors and my director.”

Students from the School of Landscape Architecture have also been recognized by other reputable industry awards including the SF Flower and Garden Show Awards.

Landscape Architecture

The School of Landscape Architecture is dedicated to providing its students with a wide range of professional training to help them succeed in their future careers. Students will learn both academic and technical knowledge, ranging from advanced digital graphics, ecological foundations of design, sustainable designs, grading, and drainage to the communications and collaboration with the client and other designers, etc.

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