Visionary Landscape Architect And Urbanist Diana Balmori Has Died

“Landscape is becoming the main actor of the urban stage, not just a destination,” Balmori wrote in 2010’s A Landscape Manifesto.

Architect Diana Balmori died in her sleep on November 14, according to her firm’s website and a report from The Architect’s Newspaper.


The principal of Balmori Associates, a landscape architecture and urban design firm based in New York and founded in 1990, Balmori was an ardent believer in the power of landscapes to fortify cities against against climate change, to enrich everyday life, and to rehabilitate polluted areas.

“Landscape architecture is an agile tool kit for dealing with the complexity of the city,” she told Fast Company in 2013, when she was named to the magazine’s Most Creative People In Business list.

As an urban designer, Balmori flipped the notion of embedding nature into a city, and instead believed that cities should be embedded in nature. “The city needs to begin to work like nature,” she told the American Society of Landscape Architects. “That’s what embedding nature really means. All of its systems need to become like natural systems.”

Balmori and her firm have left their mark all across the world and in a range of urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. Some of her work includes living roofs in Manhattan; a 74-acre masterplan in Bilbao, Spain that introduces green space to the post-industrial city; a Minnesota park that stores storm water and protects against flooding; and Growanus, an experimental floating garden in the Gowanus Canal–an EPA Superfund site in Brooklyn–that cleanses pollution through natural plant systems.

Smithson floating island.

In addition to creating parks, gardens, masterplans, and infrastructural systems, Balmori authored Groundwork: Between Landscape and Architecture (Monacelli Press, 2011), with architect Joel Sanders, which argued that buildings and their surroundings should be conceived as one in order to help heal our environment. Meanwhile, A Landscape Manifesto (Yale University Press, 2010) outlined Balmori’s ethos as an architect and her philosophical approach to design–guidelines that she herself followed and a conceptual framework for other architects to use in their thinking.

Last year, Balmori turned her 25-point manifesto into a coloring book. In it, she wrote that, “All things in nature are constantly changing. Landscape architects need to design to allow for change, while seeking a new course that enhances the co-existence of humans with the rest of nature.” Wise words from a practitioner whose work and philosophy will likely endure for generations.


[All Photos: via]

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.