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Endowments at UVA

Merrill D. Peterson Professorship in the School of Architecture


The Merrill D. Peterson Professorship in the School of Architecture was created through the generosity of Bahman Batmanghelidj, a devoted friend of the University and a longtime admirer of Thomas Jefferson. As a result of Jefferson's commitment to innovation and strong design principles and his sensitivity to the landscape, the Academical Village is the only university setting on the United Nations' World Heritage List. The professorship serves as a tribute to Merrill D. Peterson, U.Va. professor emeritus of history and one of the country's foremost Jeffersonian scholars. In 1961 Professor Peterson was the recipient of the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's gold medal for his book The Jefferson Image in the American Mind.

In January 2014, Elizabeth K. Meyer was elected the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture, appointed dean of the School of Architecture and was elected the Elson Professorship in Architecture in July 2014.

Meyer, a landscape architect, theorist and critic, joined the UVA faculty in 1993, and has served as Landscape Architecture Department Chair and Director of the Graduate Landscape Architecture Program. Previously, Meyer taught at Harvard Graduate School of Design and Cornell University. For the last three years, “DesignIntelligence” has recognized Meyer as one of the most admired design educators in the United States. Her teaching and scholarship have garnered honors, grants, and awards from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Virginia.

A Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Meyer is a registered landscape architect who worked for EDAW Alexandria and Hanna/Olin (now, Olin Partnership) in Philadelphia before beginning her academic career. Since then, she has consulted with several landscape architecture firms including Chris Counts Studio, Michael Vergason and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and continues to advise firms working on significant historic and cultural landscapes. Meyer was part of the MVVA Team that won the City Arch River competition in 2010 that focused on revitalizing the context around the St. Louis Gateway Arch Grounds, a modernist landmark designed by Eero Saarinen and Daniel Kiley. She has served on ten national design competition juries over the past twenty years; most recently she served on the jury for “Rethink. Restore. Rebuild,” the Trust for the National Mall’s design competition for three sites within the monumental core landscape. In 2012, President Obama appointed her to the US Commission of Fine Arts, the design review board for Washington, D.C.’s monumental core as well as major public buildings and public spaces within the boundaries of the 1902 McMillan Commission plan for the District of Columbia.

Meyer’s teaching and scholarly interests focus on three areas: the re-discovery and examination of modern landscape theory, the establishment of a robust contemporary practice of landscape criticism, and the idea of design as site interpretation (sites replete with cultural layers as well as natural processes). She is completing a book focused on these concerns, “Groundwork. Practices of Modern Landscape Architecture,” with support from the UVA School of Architecture Dean’s Office, the Graham Foundation, and a Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship.

Meyer’s theoretical writings interrogate landscape modernity as well as the contemporary conditions of landscape design. While addressing divergent topics, Meyer’s theoretical approach is simultaneously grounded in the particularities of built works and engaged with cultural theory and environmental history. Her most recent publications include a manifesto, “Sustaining Beauty,” exploring the entanglement of aesthetics, environmental ethics, and lived experience. In critical essays of new projects in New Zealand, “Slow Landscapes,” and Australia, “Grafting, Splicing, Hybridizing: Strange Beauties of the Australian Garden,” she has probed the affective and ecological performance of landscape immersion and experience.

This research informs Meyer’s teaching in her lecture course “Theories of Modern Landscape Architecture” that is a core of the Department’s History and Theory offerings, as well as in seminar electives such as “Cultural Landscapes,” “Topics in Contemporary Landscape Theory.” Recent seminar subjects have included “Public Space,” “Situating Sustainability,” “Representing Landscape: Critiques of the Visual” and “The Legacy of Lawrence Halprin.” Meyer has helped shape the landscape architecture core studio sequence through her first year studio teaching about “Sites and Cities,” “Site as Program,” and “The Urban Forest as Civic Space” that were the subjects of several travel studios to Barcelona between 2001-2008. More recently, Meyer has taught advanced studios that speculate about “Landscape Additions” to significant designed landscapes. These studios called on students to imagine sites as culturally and ecologically significant, and to create alternative approaches to the current divide between design and preservation, history and ecology, innovation and conservation. Meyer oversaw the formation of a new transdisciplinary Center for Cultural Landscapes, which is operating in the School of Architecture. They hosted a series of roundtable discussions at OpenGrounds last year, and are hosting a symposium on “Race and Public Space” in March of 2017.

History of Past Recipients and Projects