Ron Henderson’s understanding of landscape architecture has been honed by research, teaching, and practice in North America, Asia, and Europe. In Henderson’s view, by looking at historical practices, “you could amplify the characteristics of individual tree species in the design of gardens and landscapes” to construct spaces that resonate in the memory of a culture. Henderson is participating in the Modern Art & Life session of “Foundations and Futures,” chaired by Michelangelo Sabatino.
Henderson is Professor and Director of the Landscape Architecture Program at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. Henderson has also taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Pennsylvania State University, Tsinghua University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Roger Williams University. He is a landscape architect and an architect with a degree in Architecture from the University of Notre Dame and concurrent graduate degrees in Landscape Architecture and Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to teaching, Henderson practices landscape architecture through L+A Landscape Architecture, the firm he founded in Newport, Rhode Island in 2000. L+A has won over 30 awards for projects spanning landscape architecture, architecture, and planning. Recent projects include the Memorial to the Abolition of the Slave Trade (Nantes, France), the landscape of the Elizabethan Theater at Chateau d'Hardelot (Condette, France), Gardens of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, Massachusetts), City Walk (Providence, Rhode Island) as well as consulting landscape architect on the Olympic Forest Park (Beijing, China) and the China Pavilion of the 2010 World Exposition (Shanghai, China).
Henderson’s projects investigate specific phenomena in the built and natural environment. He draws international inspiration through consideration of historical examples of how individuals, communities, and cultures interact with and perceive landscapes. Much of his research and subsequent inspiration originates in China and Japan, where he has taught, lectured, and researched. His 2012 book, The Gardens of Suzhou, explores seventeen classical Chinese gardens in the city of Suzhou, near Shanghai. He was a 2012 US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellow during which he investigated the cultural and botanical qualities of sakura, Japanese cherry trees. At the 2015 Public Space Forum in Newport, Rhode Island, Henderson gave a lecture titled “Horticultural Rituals and Public Space” where he drew upon his research in Asia. He explained that, “trees and the performance of landscape rituals derived from trees can become cultural markers or annual events that structure urban life.”
Henderson will turn to the role of trees in the modernist landscape in his talk during the Modern Art & Life session of “Foundations and Futures.” His title, “Gleditsia: The Finely Textured Canopy of Modernism,” refers to a genus of trees, the honey locust, that appear frequently in the landscapes of Columbus, Indiana and elsewhere in the mid-Twentieth-Century. The landscape architect, Dan Kiley, planted them at the Miller Garden, Irwin Conference Center, and the allées outside the Republic building. Henderson’s perspective, shaped by his research, teaching, and practice of landscape architecture, is sure to be insightful and thought-provoking.
Henderson anticipates that the Modern Art & Life session of “Foundations” and Futures will demonstrate the contribution that deep cultural and natural historical knowledge of trees can make to the spatial qualities and experience of landscapes and gardens.