Q:You grew up in Erie, Pa. Did your proximity to the
environment surrounding Lake Erie
influence your decision to pursue
A:The deterioration of Lake Erie greatly informed my career
trajectory. At an early age I understood
that humans were dangerously out of
sync with their habitat, and that the
quality of environments and places has
a profound effect on people. I felt
compelled to intervene.
Q:How did your time at Bucknell help develop that
need to intervene?
A:At Bucknell, I majored in fine arts, with an informal minor in geology.
I saw the work of the environmental
artists, Robert Smithson, Robert Irwin
and others, who were interacting with
the landscape in ways that made it more
visible. It was not just art; it was
something more. They brought attention
to the environment. That integration of
art and science was critical for me.
Q: It sounds like a formative time.
A:It was. During my senior year, I saw the work of Dan Kiley in a
20th-century architecture class and
attended a lecture by Ian McHarg.
These were the first times I heard the
expression “landscape architect.” It was
eye-opening. In different ways, their
work focused people’s attention on the
landscape and inspired greater
environmental stewardship — that
really spoke to me.
Q:Can you talk about your design philosophy and how it relates to
A:We’re at a tipping point as a planet, and we can deal with that
as an art, or as science, or one can
combine the two perspectives — which is
what I do. I am interested in going beyond
sustainable to resilient. Sustainable infers
holding our own. Resilient means doing
something to make a site, a landscape or
the planet more resilient to whatever
changes the Anthropocene Era brings to
us. Sustaining beauty — the art and
design of it all — is fundamental to
engaging humans in seeing and caring
Q:Could you name a few projects that stand out as favorites?
A:The South Lawn at the University of Virginia, a contemporary
Q:Can you tell me about where you live?
version of Thomas Jefferson’s thinking
about landscape. A scrappy little park in
Portland, Ore., called The Fields. It had
a very low budget and a very simple
design, yet it has become the front yard
for The Pearl neighborhood. The Faculty
Terrace at Stanford Law School that
has been voted one of the best places
on campus. We’re currently working on
a self-supporting ecodistrict in Reno,
Nev. A four-block area of the city will
have its own urban forest, wastewater
treatment and energy systems. It’s a
model for how cities can adapt to the
A:I live in an urban observatory — a modernist flat high above the
street in downtown San Francisco. The
view encompasses a landscape
panorama from southeast to northwest.
It is open to the sky, the bay and the city
and overlooks a park. We experience
climate patterns and urban street life
simultaneously. On a daily basis I’m
immersed in the landscape where I work.
To see photos of some of Barton’s
favorite projects, check out the
Bucknell Magazine app or go to bucknell.
By Sherri Kimmel
Cheryl Barton ’68 is an internationally known leader in the shift toward resilient
futures through landscape architecture and green urbanism. Barton heads up an
eponymous 10-person urban planning and design firm in San Francisco. She is a
fellow of the American Academy in Rome and fellow and past president of the
American Society of Landscape Architects.
Cheryl Barton ’68