Interview with Megan Born

1) Briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your practice. What do you work on? What are the issues you aim to address in your profession? 

I am a registered landscape architect and urban designer at Field Operations, where I am currently leading projects in Baltimore and Washington DC, including the C&O Canal Plan, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab, and the Middle Branch Waterfront Masterplan.  I have previously acted as project manager for a number of Field Operations’ high-profile public realm projects, including the redesign of Nicollet Mall, a 1-mile long, 14-acre streetscape project in downtown Minneapolis, from the winning design competition entry through construction. I was also the lead designer of the winning competition entry for the Presidio Parklands project in San Francisco, Seattle’s Central Waterfront Framework Plan and Concept Design, and early concept studies for the High Line Spur in New York.

 My current projects on are inspiring me to tackle issues of climate change and resilience, particularly at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC, where the site faces daily tidal inundation as well as the increased threat of catastrophic flooding.  In Baltimore, I am working on a site that has seen decades of disinvestment; as such the work aims to address these structural inequities with design work that foregrounds environmental justice, equity planning, inclusive programming, and innovative public engagement.


2) What are your thoughts over the issues raised by the Waterless World competition? What do you think could be a central problem to be faced by our designers? 

Due to climate change, our futures will be determined by both an inundation and a scarcity of water—a paradox of ever-increasing intensity that is playing out in unique and highly differentiated circumstances around the globe. As such, certain places are drowning while others are desperate for water. What type of international and trans-global resource sharing is possible? Is this an effective solution, or are localized and distributed resource networks more sustainable and resilient?  I imagine this will be a central issue of the competition.  


3) Which tools & disciplines can come into play when designing a more water-aware built environment? Which elements can be used by our designers? 

As a landscape architect, I tend to define problems and existing conditions a series of interconnected systems, and imagine solutions as flexible, open-ended, and site-specific frameworks. This approach is certainly indebted to the work of Ian McHarg and James Corner. So I would encourage designers to develop systems-based and strategic approaches, paired with adaptable and flexible typologies.


4) Are there any reference projects you could suggest to inspire our community for this design challenge? Why did you choose this specific example? 

Rebuild By Design and Resilient By Design both offer a strong collection of innovative projects that address similar water-based resiliency issues.


5) In your experience, what does it take to win an architecture competition? 

Clear, simple, elegant ideas communicated in fresh and compelling ways.


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