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Olmsted Scholar Feature: 7 Design Resolutions for 2012

By Chelsea Vargas, 2011 University Olmsted Scholar

January is always a great time for a little self-improvement. In celebration of a new year and my final semester in my MLA program, I’ve made 7 design resolutions for 2012 — things I hope to keep in mind as I finish up my time as a student and transition to the working world.

1. Observe. It can be easy to get tangled up in studio and classes and forget about the world we live in. This year I want to be extra careful to observe the world around me: how people use space, how plants adjust to their conditions, how materials weather, how light changes.

2. Draw draw draw! And take pictures, write, make maps. Being able to think and communicate visually is an incredibly valuable skill that should be practiced. And drawing is a great way to observe more deeply and keep a record of sights and experiences.

3. Listen, read, watch, converse. In addition to my own observations, I want to know about what other people — in other fields, in other places, from other times — are seeing and experiencing. I want to be able to design for people and with people, not just myself.

4. Cultivate intuition. I hugely value my analytical mind, but this year I’d like to develop my intuition as well. Rationality and intuition make a great team.

5. Push harder. This year I want to push my ideas, drawings, materials, and tools to their limits. I want to make bold statements and draw bold lines. I want to test boundaries, even if that means pushing too far every now and then.

6. Shake things up. I hope to use old tools in new ways, switch from drawings to models, argue the other side, and put things where they don’t belong. Nothing like a little disruption to help me see things differently.

7. Make stuff. This is my most important resolution of all. This year, I will make drawings and models. I want to commit to an idea and execute it. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, but things really get exciting once you actually make something.

In May, Chelsea will graduate from The University of Texas at Austin’s Masters of Landscape Architecture program. She looks forward to beginning a professional career in landscape architecture in the fall, following a summer trip to Japan where she will study materiality and abstraction in Mirei Shigemori’s Kyoto gardens. 

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