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LAF Fellowship Spotlight: Innovating New Models of Practice

LAF Fellow Diana Fernandez presents on a BSLA panel with two other panelists
LAF Fellow Diana Fernandez (left) participates in a Boston Society of Landscape Architects panel


Members of the 2019-2020 cohort of the LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership are entering their second residency in Washington, D.C. this weekend, a time to gather and focus on exploring their big ideas and advancing their proposed projects. The Fellows will present the culmination of their work at LAF’s Innovation + Leadership Symposium in the spring of 2020 in Washington, DC. In the meantime, LAF is profiling each Fellow to share more about their progress and personal journeys.


Diana Fernandez is a member of the 2019-2020 cohort of the LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership. As she approaches the work of the fellowship, she draws inspiration from the collective ingenuity of the people for whom she designs spaces. Their resilience, both social and environmental, and their constant reframing of place and beauty are what Diana turns to when she needs a dose of motivation and creativity. She finds herself drawn to the public realm and places where multiple identities exist in harmony. Through her work as an LAF Fellow, Diana is looking to channel the collective energies of these communities and of her cohort to help build a better world through design.

Diana’s project is building on the current movement of landscape architecture toward incorporating social, cultural, and linguistic knowledge as critical aspects of the design process. In her eyes, this is the most recent step in the discipline’s progression of innovating practice models, from national replications to modernism to landscape ecology. She is working to add to the resources available for this new model of knowledge sharing, much like the landscape ecology movement had the seminal works such as Design with Nature and Ecological Design and Planning to turn to as a reference. Diana wants to promote the design of landscapes that truly reflect the collective experiences of the people who inhabit them. Currently, she has identified the creation of a collection of case studies and the authoring of a manuscript as the best way to advocate for a new design paradigm. To this end, she is exposing herself to as many public spaces as possible across the United States, experiencing the physical characteristics of each space and observing who these landscapes engage.

For Diana, the LAF Fellowship offers a launching pad for what she hopes will be her life’s work. Through her practice, she has been testing these ideas across multiple scales, from design competitions to built work. The work she has done in the fellowship is already affecting her design process, community engagement strategies, and the character of her representations, but the impact of the program does not end at the edge of practice. The support and collective experience of her cohort have offered new perspectives while also unlocking new connections, opening up access to a diverse array of practitioners that Diana has used to push her thinking even farther.

With the second residency fast approaching, Diana is continuing to make progress on refining her research and asking what’s next. She looks forward to the dynamism generated when the cohort and facilitators all gather in the same physical space with a shared focus.

UPDATE: You can watch Diana's presentation from the 2020 LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium here.

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Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.