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James Corner is a landscape architect and theorist with numerous works to his credit which explore the contemporary meaning of architectural landscaping, with a focus on "developing innovative approaches toward landscape architectural design and urbanism." His designs of note include Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island and the High Line in Manhattan, both in New York City.
Corner is a professionally registered landscape architect and the principal of James Corner Field Operations, a landscape architecture and urban design practice based in New York City and Philadelphia.
Born in 1961, Corner received a Bachelor's degree with first class honors in 1983 at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. He then received a Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Certificate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. He was employed by Wallace, Roberts and Todd on the New Jersey Hudson River Waterfront Development; for Richard Rogers and Partners on the redevelopment of the Royal Docks in London; and for William Gillespie and Partners on the design and implementation of the International Garden Festival Park in Liverpool.
Corner began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 where he taught courses in media and theory, as well as design studios. He was elected Chair of the Landscape Architecture Department in 2000. As a professor, Corner's landscape design and environmental research and teaching interests are based upon "developing innovative approaches toward landscape architectural design and urbanism." He has also served as a visiting professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1998 and at the KTH School of Architecture in Stockholm, Sweden in 1999.
Corner's practice, Field Operations, was initially formed in collaboration with architect Stan Allen, but the partners chose to focus on their individual practices in 2005. The firm is at the forefront of the landscape urbanism movement, an interdisciplinary approach that, in theory, amalgamates a wide range of disciplines including landscape architecture, urban design, landscape ecology, and engineering, among other subjects. Corner argues that it is an approach that focuses on process rather than a style and that it marks a productive attitude toward indeterminacy, open-endedness, inter-mixing, and cross-disciplinarity.
Corner's designs bring back the open spaces of the natural wild with a rough, natural, and ecologically sound approach; this could be compared to the works of Frederick Law Olmsted, except more unbridled.
A new aspect of Corner's approach, one that was responsible for his receiving the Chrysler Design Institute Award in 2000, is his plan of working with graphic artists, photographers, and other artists from various fields. An example of this is the project Corner and photographer Alex MacLean completed when they published their Taking Measures Across the American Landscape which is a journey to explore the types of landscapes in the United States through essays and map drawings by Corner and aerial photos taken by McLean.
James Corner was the first landscape architect to receive many of the awards that he has won. In 1996, Corner received the G. Holmes Perkins Award for "distinguished and innovative teachings and methods of instruction in design". The following year, in 1997, he was the first recipient of the Jens Jensen Professorship in Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Architecture and in 2000 he was the second landscape architect, after Achva Benzinberg Stein, to be chosen for the Daimler-Chrysler Award, which recognizes and promotes innovative design.
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