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Climate Council 2019: Central Valley Part II

January 9–11

Photos by Lisa Richmond & Stephen Baumgartner

Van Alan invited Sahoko Yui, PhD, lecturer in the University of California Davis and University of California Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Artist in Residence at Blake Garden, to join the Climate Council’s expedition and chronicle their learning. Continue reading for an account of the Council’s journey – their conversations and revelations – as they sought to apply design thinking to a system, under-explored by this critical discipline.



Founding Climate Council Member, Steven Baumgartner (SmithGroup), was invited to write a testimonial chronicling this observations and takeaways from the Council’s second trip to the Central Valley:

In April 2018, I was asked to join the Van Alen Institute’s Climate Council – a unique collection of system thinkers and designers (architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners and researchers). The council’s mission is to investigate critical issues of climate change that could be alleviated by design and recommend pathways where design can advance our built environment for more sustainable, resilient and thriving communities.


Photo by Lisa Richmond

Mark Johnson, Civitas (Council Co-Chair)
Claire Weisz,
WXY Studio (Council Co-Chair)
Stacey Anderson, Van Alen Institute
Steven Baumgartner, SmithGroup
Elissa Black, Interim Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
S. Bry Sarté, Sherwood Design Engineers
Pamela Conrad, CMG Landscape Architects
Jared Della Valle, Board Chair, Van Alen Institute
Todd Kohli, SmithGroup
William Menking, Architect’s Newspaper
Chris Reed, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Rupal Sanghvi, HealthxDesign
Gary Sorge, Stantec
Erik Verboon, Walter P Moore
Amy Whitesides, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Barbara Wilks, W Architecture + Landscape Architecture
Mark Yoes, WXY Studio
Sahoko Yui, UC Davis

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.