You're using an unsupported browser. This site may not look optimal.

Climate Council 2018: Central Valley Part I

July 17–19


Van Alen Institute welcomed  guest writer and council attendee Sahoko Yui, PhD, a lecturer in the University of California Davis and University of California Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Artist in Residence at Blake Garden, to provide background on the issues explored during the trip as well as  insight on the opportunities for design interventions. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that industrial agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the extent and widespread recognition of the impact of food on climate change, design efforts for system-wide change of food systems are in the early stages. Current design efforts to avert the negative impacts of food-related climate change primarily focus on local place-making (e.g. urban gardens) and have yet to expand design thinking to larger scales and broader impacts. While redesigning and improving local community food sources and management is important for resiliency, they do not address the larger systemic issues embedded in food systems that play a significant role in climate change and mitigation. Designers and planners are uniquely situated as professionals who think abstractly, broadly, and radically while applying their ideas practically and locally. It is appropriate that the Van Alen Climate Council gathered in California, the source of most of the nation’s produce production, to learn about the nation’s food system.


The Van Alen team shared key observations from the Council’s initial trip to the Central Valley with Architect’s Newspaper, honing in on the role of design in responding to food systems in the age of climate change.



Mark Johnson, Civitas (Council Co-Chair)
Claire Weisz,
WXY Studio (Council Co-Chair)
Steven Baumgartner, SmithGroup
S. Bry Sarté,
Sherwood Design Engineers
Amy Franceschini
, Future Farmers
Lisa Hollywood, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Bridgette Johnson, Innovation Institute for Food + Health
Todd Kohli, SmithGroup
Andrew Loeb, Historian
Gregory Otto, Walter P Moore
Chris Reed, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Alison Sant, Studio for Urban Projects
Gary Sorge, Stantec
Chloe Stagaman, Van Alen Institute
David van der Leer, Van Alen Institute
Kishore Varanasi, CBT Architects
Erik Verboon, Walter P Moore
Barbara Wilks, W Architecture + Landscape Architecture
Mark Yoes, WXY Studio
Sahoko Yui, UC Davis
Kyeema Zerbe, Innovation Institute for Food + Health

Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH) at UC Davis was Van Alen’s academic partner for the trip. IIFH professors joined Council members throughout the trip and participated in the panel session and concluding workshop.

Van Alen Institute’s Climate Council is a platform for exchange for leading architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners, researchers, philanthropic partners, and other professionals. The Climate Council’s purpose is to investigate critical climate-related issues, inspire change-making design projects that can improve the environment and promote healthy communities, produce mindset changes regarding climate issues, and guide Van Alen’s innovative public programming, research, and design competitions.

Van Alen believes that a resilient environment is key to human well-being and the protection of critical natural systems. Therefore, the Climate Council will look beyond cities to our continent’s rapidly changing landscapes and ecosystems. Through carefully curated trips, participants will explore the effects of climate change and related environmental crises first-hand. With this exposure, they will be able to respond more effectively and proactively through their work and personal advocacy.

The Climate Council builds on Van Alen’s successful International Council model in that it fosters a collaborative and congenial setting for exploration and reflection away from the traditional practice.

The Council is led by Claire Weisz, Climate Council Co-Chair, Principal-in-Charge, WXY Studio  and Mark Johnson, Climate Council Co-Chair, President, Civitas. Other members include architects, landscape architects, engineers, environmentally minded companies, researchers, designers, and philanthropic partners.