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ISU landscape architecture professor receives 2015 Pomerantz faculty enrichment award

April 01, 2015

Associate Professor Heidi Hohmann


AMES, Iowa — Heidi Hohmann, associate professor and director of graduate education in the Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture, is the recipient of the 2015 award from the Marvin A. Pomerantz Endowment for Faculty Enrichment.

Administered through the ISU Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, the Pomerantz award recognizes faculty who are outstanding in the areas of teaching, research, or extension and outreach and includes $3,500 to support the recipient's scholarly work. Awards are made on a rotating basis among Iowa State’s academic colleges.

Hohmann's combined strengths as a teacher, scholar, practitioner and researcher make her well suited for the Pomerantz award, said Kevin Kane, associate dean for research in the ISU College of Design.

"Heidi is a unique academic in that she both truly believes in collaboration and has the record to demonstrate those partnerships," Kane said.

"She teaches design outreach courses with colleagues and regularly works with the National Park Service to conduct cultural landscape surveys and develop management plans. She is well respected locally, regionally and nationally by landscape architecture firms and has established relationships that benefit the landscape architecture department and the College of Design," he said.

An 1883 map of the Minneapolis park system as proposed by landscape architect Horace Cleveland.

Park system research
Hohmann will use the award funds to support work on a proposed book about the history of the Minneapolis park system. She already has completed a significant amount of archival research and field documentation, she said. She plans to hire an undergraduate research assistant to help produce digital graphic analyses and 3-D models of the park system and the way it has been developed over time.

"A lot of research has been done on urban parks on the East and West Coasts, but the Minneapolis system has been overlooked by design historians," Hohmann said. "I grew up in the Twin Cities, so documenting the significance of this example of the American Park Movement is important to me. The Pomerantz award will help me move this work forward."

Bromide Springs Pavilion, Platt Historic District, Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Sulphur, Okla., circa 1937.

In addition to her Minneapolis park system research, Hohmann has worked on a variety of national park landscape histories, including a cultural landscape report, treatment plan and successful National Historic Landmark nomination for the Platt Historic District of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Okla. She currently is working on cultural landscape studies for the area's Veterans Lake and Arbuckle District, and recently conducted a cultural landscape inventory for the 23-mile-long Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument.

Closer to home, Hohmann has developed a cultural landscape assessment for Fort Des Moines, the decommissioned US Army post located on Army Post Road, and completed a historic landscape management plan for Brucemore, a National Trust for Historic Preservation property in Cedar Rapids. She has also led landscape architecture studio outreach projects that have produced designs for parks, gardens and cemeteries in LeMars, Charles City, Perry and other Iowa communities.

"I have always been a history geek, and practicing historic landscape preservation lets me go back in time. I guess what I do is a form of time travel," Hohmann explained.

"I'd like to think I'm helping to conserve our history and culture. History is not just contained in buildings and museum cases; it's also written on and in the landscape. Preserving our landscape history, so that you can see, smell and viscerally understand the places—not just the objects—of the past is a way to make history more real to us today," she said. "Saving these landscapes and helping people 'read' the historic landcape is fun and rewarding."

Hohmann teaching the landscape architecture department's Traveling Savanna Studio.

Commitment to teaching
Hohmann has taught landscape architectural history, cultural landscape studies, Midwestern landscape studies, site planning and design and urban design, as well as supervised a number of master's theses and independent study projects.

Soon after her arrival at Iowa State in 2000, Hohmann was one of the first three faculty members to lead the landscape architecture department's Traveling Savanna Studio, now a signature component of the undergraduate curriculum. In this semester-long learning community, second-year students spend six weeks traveling across the savanna region of the United States engaged in hands-on, immersive experiences, including visits to many of the same parks Hohmann has studied.

Hohmann enjoys the multiple facets of teaching and working with students, and incorporates her research whenever possible in the classroom. She aims to make history interesting to students who profess to be bored by it and to help students advance their designs in the studio, she said.

Hohmann enjoys working one-on-one
with students.

Her time spent one-on-one with students reminds Hohmann of the years she worked in offices mentoring younger employees.

"I've worked for a nonprofit, a small woman-owned firm, a multinational corporation and the federal government, and I feel this range of experience helps me explain to students what their future career options might be in landscape architecture," she said.

Known for her tough critiques, Hohmann hopes to challenge her students while providing valuable feedback and support.

"I enjoy working with students because they are at a formative age when they are learning to see things in a different way. Studio- and field-based education gives them the opportunity to deeply explore ideas and options and practice making choices," Hohmann said. "The opportunity to help guide these choices in intense, one-on-one interactions with students is one of the best parts about teaching design."

In 2013, the national publication DesignIntelligence named Hohmann one of the 30 most admired design educators in the nation.

Path to landscape architecture
Hohmann can draw on her own formative experiences to help guide current students as well. Her passions for design and the natural world led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture. After taking a freshman-level pre-horticulture course in which the professor bemoaned the lack of landscape architecture jobs available, however, she turned to her interest in science and received a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University in 1986.

Completing a senior project on sub-cellular plant functions that involved long hours in a basement lab and teaching two years post-graduation as an English language instructor in China, Hohmann realized two things: she enjoyed teaching but didn't want to spend the rest of her life looking at cells through a microscope.

Hohmann returned to "the field with no jobs" and completed a master's degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University in 1993. And she now has a distinguished 20-year record in public and private practice and higher education that includes stints as a science educator for the Science Museum of Minnesota; a historical landscape architect with the National Park Service in Boston; project manager at a landscape architecture and preservation planning firm now known as Heritage Landscapes in Burlington, Vt., and Westport, Conn.; and an urban designer for URS Corporation in Minneapolis.

Since joining the Iowa State faculty, Hohmann has served as the associate chair, interim program director and interim chair of the landscape architecture department in addition to her teaching and research activities.

"When I look back on my career path—from science to design—on the one hand, it all seems pretty random. But on the other hand, I see that each turn on the path happened when I followed an interest; I can see certain threads that tie everything together," Hohmann reflected.

"And while I don't expect students to necessarily love the same weird stuff that I'm interested in, I hope that my enthusiasm for what I do rubs off on them a little. So that they can have the confidence to follow their own seemingly random interests in a way that may help them find their own successful path in work and life."

Heidi Hohmann, Landscape Architecture, (515) 294-8938,
Emily Elveru, Design Communications, (612) 859-2623,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,