Lecture Recap :: Walter Hood


Photo by Anya Wilczynski
Lecture Recap :: Walter Hood
By Anya Wilczynski, BArch Candidate

The second of the Fall 2012 Student Lecture series this past Thursday, October 18, with an inspiring and engaging lecture from Walter Hood, principal of Hood Design in Oakland, CA. Mr. Hood, a landscape architect, is skilled at working with the urban public realm He is known for turning pavement into public community space.

Mr. Hood’s lecture, titled "Improvising within the seams of practice" focused on how to bring your personal passions back into your work. He discussed how, as designers we should see the mundane and everyday items that we take for granted (such as street signs and curbs) as public sculpture. When it comes to the commemorative pieces, we need to find a compromise between honoring the past while still moving forward.

Splashpad Park, Oakland, CA [Image From: http://wjhooddesign.com]
He showed many examples of his own work in landscape architecture, including Splashpad park, a urban green space that integrated public activities with the average highway overpass. In Mr. Hood’s design, he re-sculpted palm trees, brick, and grass to create an engaging space for the community to use. Some may be skeptical about a public space below an overpass. But I find the design of the park to be a refreshing oasis in a city of concrete and pavement.

Pittsburgh Garden Passage [Image From: http://wjhooddesign.com]
Another project that Mr. Hood worked on was the Pittsburgh Garden Passage "Curtain Call." This public walk way was designed to honor the people that lived in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA while also connecting with the nature around them. A rain garden was created and bordering that garden was a picture-covered “curtain”. These pictures of previous residents of the Hill district were embedded into the giant glass curtain that almost encloses the park.

Pittsburgh Garden Passage [Image From: http://wjhooddesign.com]
I personally find this form of honoring the past to be brilliant. Typically in America, we build monuments and statues to those we want to honor. But what about those community members who are left unrecognized? Those who repaired leaking roofs for neighbors or cooked meals for the elderly don’t have monuments dedicated to them. Everyone who lived in that community contributed to its history and Mr. Hood’s brilliant idea of including photographs of these community members honors them in such a special way. Every person becomes a special citizen in that community.

Photo by Anya Wilczynski
Walter Hood’s parting words to the audience are still resonating with me days after; he said, that it’s not about how we think about ourselves in the past, but how we want to think of ourselves in the future. That being said, I believe that our designs reflect our morals and vise versa. And if we want to have a more environment friendly and community friendly society, we need to design for it.