For four decades, Lynda H. Schneekloth has connected activism, design practice, applied research, teaching, scholarship, and academic service with deep theoretical work on the fundamental dynamics of professional and citizen engagement in the practice of “placemaking.” Schneekloth has thought deeply and strategically about working in the world even as she embraced the long-haul labor of healing that world. In the process she has helped expand the knowledge in our field, made a tangible impact on the “beloved places” she has cared about, and nurtured a generation of skillful and critical practitioners.
One of the key themes throughout her work has been about how the expert knowledge of designers and other professionals is brought into democratic dialogue with the specific and situated knowledge of citizens who inhabit particular places to produce environments that support a more humane and healthy way of life. She has explored, in parallel, the role of the human imagination in the production of places and ways of life.
The arc of Schneekloth’s career spans both methods of environmental design through programming, POE, empirical research, theoretical exploration, and planning/design practice, and subjects of engagement including children’s environments, urban regeneration, remediation of toxic sites and reuse of brownfields, protection of urban waterfronts and regional watersheds, rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings, and most recently remaking our built environment and systems of energy production to blunt the advance of global climate change.
Schneekloth’s practice re-conceptualizes and reimagines the possibilities for the future, seeing industrial wastelands as parks, grain silos as monumental landscapes, and border lands as communities. The imaginal is always an essential element in the advancement of the inevitably human utopian project through environmental design. In recent years, she has encouraged us to deepen our research and theory on the “environment” as presented at EDRA in Vancouver, and most recently, pushed the organization to address the most critical human/environment issue we will ever face – climate change.
Schneekloth has found many ways to re-imagine and to care for the place she has made her home – Buffalo and its region. Her legacies include Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, a potent organization devoted to repairing and protecting waterfronts, waterways, and watershed; the Western New York Environmental Alliance, now an active voice for regional environmental issues; a broad public appreciation of the value of Buffalo’s massive ensemble of riverfront grain elevators; the currency in Buffalo Niagara planning of the idea of “green infrastructure;” and the growth of the Niagara Greenway Trail, a result of the community negotiations for the FERC relicensing of the Niagara Power Project.
At other times this practice of care has been extended to other beloved places: Monteverde, Costa Rica, where she has directed the Sustainable Futures Institute; Roanoke, VA, where Schneekloth worked with the Roanoke Neighborhood Partnership and the First Baptist Church; and others around the world.
On each project practice has translated into knowledge and knowledge into practice. Schneekloth is author or editor of six books on topics including Olmsted Parks, regional heritage, reuse of institutional buildings and grounds, and grain elevators as well as co-author on the foundational Placemaking: The Art and Practice of Building Communities and co-editor of the seminal work on type, Ordering Space.
Finally, her practice has embraced the work of the Environmental Design Research Association – her intellectual home – serving as EDRA Chair in 1986-7 (the first woman to do so) when the EDRA publication series, Advances in Environment, Behavior, and Design was initiated. She has served on awards juries and search committees, and continues to actively participate in the on-going dialogue about people and places that gives life to EDRA.