Judy Cunningham

Judy CunninghamJudy Cunningham


For the last 33 years, MESA has had the pleasure of having NorthPark Center as a client. The only challenge they present to us is to outdo the previous year’s designs by keeping…

With this particular landscape architecture project, what was the most difficult issue your firm faced or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought and unique approaches in the project?

For the last 33 years, MESA has had the pleasure of having NorthPark Center as a client. The only challenge they present to us is to outdo the previous year’s designs by keeping up to date with new plant species and staying a step ahead of the current trends for interior planting design. Because of the relationship with the client, the new design for the expansion of the mall and interior courtyards came as no surprise. MESA was charged with designing a courtyard space that would knit seamlessly with the original architecture and landscape designed by E. G. Hamilton and Lawrence Halprin. In addition, the design needed to fulfill the programming needs of large outdoor events, maintain the circulation and scale needed to make the garden an oasis for the center’s patrons, and act as a living work of art, in keeping with the legacy of modern art present at the center.


In general, do you feel that the role of the landscape architect is changing on similar building types? Did this project expand or evolve your role as a landscape architect in any way?

Yes, retail developers are becoming more aware of the important role that the interior and exterior landscape plays in providing an attractive shopping atmosphere for their centers. NorthPark has been a model of excellent design for shopping centers around the world since it was first envisioned ¬by Raymond Nasher. Early in her career, Judy Cunningham, a founding principle of MESA, began working as a landscape consultant for NorthPark. Under the tutelage of Richard Vignola, the original landscape designer from Lawrence Halprin and Associates, Judy gained insight and experience that helped define her as an expert in interior landscape design. Her exposure while at the center ultimately led her to partner in the formation of MESA.

How is your installation or project possible today in a way that it may not have been in the past, and how have current trends or thoughts in landscape architecture inspired new creative solutions?

Since this is an ongoing project, with planting being changed out four times a year, we are continually searching out the new trends in design. Our biggest asset in staying current is our relationship with the growers and brokers of tropical plants in Florida. New technologies within the cultivation industries have provided new varieties and cultivars in quantities that were not available until now. Our relationship with the nurseries in Florida allows us to gain early access to new cultivars while providing a platform for growers to showcase their new crops.


In the context of this project, how is your office and your design process being influenced by current thoughts in academic curricula? In turn, are your current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

NorthPark has presented many learning opportunities. The multiple displays, both on the interior and exterior, allow us to experiment with new and different plant materials. MESA works with the academic community by sharing the experience and knowledge gained from projects like NorthPark.

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