Jot Carpenter Teaching Award: Beth Meyer

In 2000, the American Society of Landscape Architects created The Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal to celebrate the outstanding life and career of Professor Jot D. Carpenter, FASLA, past president of the ASLA. This award, given annually, recognizes an individual who has made a sustained and significant contribution to landscape architecture education.

The School of Architecture at UVA is proud to announce that Elizabeth K. Meyer, Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture, is the 2017 recipient of the Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal. This prestigious award recognizes the many significant contributions Professor Meyer, FASLA, has made to the School of Architecture, UVA at-large and the international landscape architecture community, through her profound teaching, scholarship and mentorship. In his nominating letter, former student Keith McPeters, a principal at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol in Seattle, writes of Beth, “What is most significant to me is that Beth’s enthusiasm is matched by an intellectual and academic rigor that always reminds us that landscape architecture has its own history and a theory. It has a language and a literacy that must be learned. This constant reaffirmation of the fundamental role of landscape architecture may be her biggest legacy. Her teaching instilled this in me as a student. And I recognize it still twenty-some years later in younger colleagues and recent graduates whom Beth’s teaching has touched. Beth’s teaching, in word and deed, gives us all a common ground, a strong foundation, from which we can move forward in our own designing and thinking about landscape.”

Recognized internationally as one of the most critical thinkers and theorists in landscape architecture, Beth’s scholarship has shaped the intellectual development of students and colleagues for decades and has been awarded funds and support by the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Dumbarton Oaks, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and more. Her continued scholarship informs and is shaped by her A-School seminars, “Theories of Modern Landscape Architecture,” “Cultural Landscapes,” “Situating Sustainability,” “Representing Landscape: Critiques of the Visual,” etc. Reflecting on her classes and in particular her modern landscape architecture seminar, former colleague and Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Southern California, Alison B. Hirsch writes, “Her transformative theory course is known throughout the field via her publications that emerged from its content and from enthusiastic alumni reflection. The course has become so legendary that numerous faculty sit in each year and students often attend her lectures for a second or third time, realizing they can always gain more from their thoughtful nuance.”

Beth’s impact as a teacher is also seen in her studios. Broadly calling on students to imagine sites as culturally and ecologically significant, Beth’s studios aim to find alternative approaches to the current divide between design and preservation, history and ecology, innovation and conservation. Her studios are demanding, but inspiring, places for students to build their interpretive and critical thinking skills, to creatively envision design proposals and to express their work through the thoughtful and convincing communication of ideas. “Professor Meyer clearly believes in the value of her students’ work. Rather than solely playing the role of the critic, her engagement is more often that of a collaborator. She offers her sharp analysis and breadth of knowledge as a resource to the students, helping them to see how their work might relate to a broader profession. This is an empowering role, and motivates students to look beyond their immediate university surroundings for the relevance and value of their work,” states David Malda, a former student of Beth’s and a principal at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. He continues, “The discipline and rigor in conceptualizing, designing and explaining that is an integral part of Professor Meyer’s studio helps prepare students to be active contributors from the first days of practice.”

During her twenty-three years on the UVA School of Architecture faculty, Beth has received several awards for her teaching —the Council of Educators Award for junior faculty, the UVA All University Teaching Award, and the Raven Society Faculty Award. She is an inaugural member of the UVA Center for Teaching Excellence’s Academy of Teaching. UVA Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Julie Bargmann, expands, “Beth is recognized as a great educator at the A-School as well as across the University…she has ‘taught’ colleagues in other disciplines across Grounds about the significance of landscape architecture’s leadership role in complex environmental, socioecological and cultural contexts…If there is anyone, like Jot Carpenter, who has made an ‘indelible mark on landscape architecture education,’ it’s Elizabeth K. Meyer.”

In its seventeen years of recognizing excellence in teaching, Beth is the second woman to receive the Jot Carpenter Teaching Medal. The first recipient, Linda Jewell, a Professor Emeritus of the University of California Berkeley, hired Beth as an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Beth credits her, as well as Professor Harry W. Porter, the former Dean of the UVA School of Architecture, with supporting her efforts to integrate research and teaching throughout her design theory seminars and studios.  The faculty, students, staff and alumni of The School of Architecture warmly congratulate Beth on her much-deserved Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal which will be formally awarded at the American Society of Landscape Architect’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in October 2017.