When the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture were looking to fill the inaugural Bickham Chair, they wanted someone who embodied the spirit of excellence for which the nation’s No. 2-ranked landscape architecture school is known. They found him in Dr. Austin Allen, a landscape architect and documentary filmmaker who has expertise in the areas of landscape and urbanism, design of public space, film studies, and public digital media. He’s also involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
“We are delighted that Dr. Allen is joining the School for this year, strengthening our work in community outreach and the rebuilding of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast,” says Elizabeth Mossop, director of the School of Landscape Architecture.
Allen, an associate professor and chair at the University of Colorado in Denver, is the first Bickham Chair at the Robert Reich School and is teaching courses that enable him to utilize his background both in landscape architecture and filmmaking. He is leading a graduate studio in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans this semester and will run an advanced design seminar on Caribbean urbanism in the Virgin Islands this summer.
“I love interdisciplinary approaches to learning,” said Allen, who received a B.A. in landscape architecture from Berkeley and a Ph.D in mass communications from Ohio University. “I like to integrate filmmaking into landscape architecture because through films we can look at ideas of spatial analysis and also learn how to better communicate through designs.”
Allen is an independent director of the Cleveland State University Prison Media Literacy Project. He is also currently working on a documentary entitled “In the Site of the Unseen,” on Frederick Law Olmsted and the impact of his work on diversity and African- American cultural life.
Allen is also very interested in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. He has been involved in rebuilding efforts there for the past few years, which is how he first encountered Mossop and students from the Reich School. Since coming to LSU he has focused most of his efforts on the Make It Right project in that area.
“It’s exciting to see the opportunity for creative design and to see the designs turned into reality,” he says.
Allen is enjoying Louisiana and is particularly impressed with the caliber of students in the Robert Reich School
“They are very sharp students and bring a wide, diverse set of ideas to the table,” he says. “I have been very pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”