Dec 6th 2021

​Cherry Blossom Season Comes Early Thanks to Professor’s Award-Winning Exhibition

“Sakura Orihon,” an exhibition by Professor and Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program Director Ron Henderson, received an Honors Award in Communications from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in November 2021. The chapter grants the award to projects that innovatively communicate landscape architecture techniques, history, theory, or practice.

First installed at the United States National Arboretum in 2018, “Sakura Orihon” is a collection of accordion-fold sketchbooks documenting Henderson’s travels through Japan, from south to north. The sketchbooks detail cherry blossom culture in Japan, the nation’s oldest and most venerable cherry trees, and horticultural practices such as branch crutching and rope tenting that support and maintain the trees.

“Trees are living history around which cultures are viewed,” says Henderson. “The sometimes extreme lengths taken to revitalize plant specimens that, in many cultures, would be removed, is a reminder of the tenacious spirit in all living things and the responsibility of humankind to steward these life forces.”

The exhibition stems from Henderson’s National Endowment of the Arts and Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellowship in Japan, though Henderson has worked using the medium of accordion-fold sketchbooks—called orihon—since 1994.

“We felt that the interaction with the exhibit was well portrayed, and we really could feel the visitors' experience,” says the RIASLA awards jury. “The layout and overall curating was well executed, and the journey of sketching and research since 1994 is amazing and shown through the heart of the final outcome.”

In addition to the honor from RIASLA, “Sakura Orihon” will be reinstalled at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., for the fourth year since 2018. The exhibition will run from February through March 2022, and is part of the arboretum’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates Japan’s 1912 donation of cherry trees to the United States, which were planted in the nation’s capital.

Photo by Olivia Anderson. Exhibition design by Travis Rothe, former adjunct professor and former director of design communications for the College of Architecture.