Current Work: Walter Hood

Current Work
Walter Hood, Hood Design Studio
Recorded: December 2, 2014

Walter Hood established multi-disciplinary, Oakland-based Hood Design Studio in 2003 with a focus on the urban public realm and a commitment to creating environments that reflect their place and time. Arguing “the park really doesn’t have any power anymore,” Hood takes a critical stance against the typologies of traditional landscape architecture and environmental design and asks: “Can we stop talking about types…and talk about people’s relationship to things and places?” Guided by this emphasis, he creates richly layered and functional landscapes designed in collaboration with local communities and reflecting the needs of their users.

Hood’s work often reveals the artifice of seemingly natural environments, and the title of his lecture, “Conscious/Unconscious Landscapes,” expresses the contention that “in our landscape today, everything is hybridized.” In surveying more than a dozen of his firm’s projects, from temporary interventions to large-scale commissions, Hood demonstrates the range and scope of his innovative work. He also details process and methods that encompass research of ecological history, sociological study of the environment prescribing behavior, and oral history interviews. Working at the intersection of art and design, the urban transformations presented include the revitalization of Ali Baba Avenue in Opa-Locka, Florida as a pedestrian-oriented corridor, the activation of Pearl Street Alley as a gathering space in Philadelphia, and the “Witness Walls” installation in Nashville that honors the city’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Hood further walks through significant landscape commissions for the grounds of the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Solar Strand array of photovoltaic panels at the University of Buffalo, and the garden of the newly reopened Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City.

Following the lecture, Hood sat down for a conversation with architect and urbanist Michael Sorkin of Michael Sorkin Studio to discuss reliance on “one size fits all” solutions in the profession, the value of social practice art, and why investment in urban edges matters.

The Current Work series invites significant international figures who powerfully influence contemporary architectural practice and shape the future of the built environment to present their work and ideas to a public audience.