Mar 10th 2021

Landscape Architecture Students Receive ILASLA Awards

Every year the Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects recognizes high-achieving and active landscape architecture students for their contributions to the profession during their school years. For 2021 two Illinois Institute of Technology students are recipients: Jing Yao (M.L.A.+U Candidate) and Meg Schroeder (M.ARCH./M.L.A.+U Candidate).

For Yao, who received an Honor Award from ILASLA, the award comes in his final semester studying landscape architecture at the College of Architecture. Yao came to Illinois Tech from his native China, where his interest in landscape architecture was informed by the stone gardens of the countryside.

“I used to travel across the landscape with my parents when I was 12 years old, and it was my first time seeing the traditional Chinese landscape; I thought it was so beautiful and I wanted to live there,” says Yao. “So it was that small dream in my childhood that made me choose to study landscape architecture.”

Yao was recognized in part for his work on a studio that investigated the possibility of creating a botanical garden on the dried bed of Lake Texcoco outside Mexico City and the potential impact it would have on the area.

“The most important thing I learned from that project was the importance of the native plants,” says Yao. “We learned about the plants in Mexico City and how those plants would influence the landscape and the wildlife.”

Schroeder, meanwhile, is finishing up the Master of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture dual-degree program and is a recipient of an ILASLA Merit Award. Before studying architecture, she completed her undergraduate studies in chemistry but wanted to work in a more creative field.

“I just wanted to combine my interests in math, science, plants, and art into a creative and challenging career; I did not feel challenged by the laboratory work that I was doing for three years after my undergrad,” says Schroeder. “My mom is a very math-and-logic-oriented person, but somehow, she started a container gardening business. I worked for her countless number of summers, so there's a deep interest in plants and gardening in my family, which got me thinking about landscape architecture.”

Having gravitated toward projects that focus heavily on tree plantings, Schroeder was awarded for her work that emphasizes the strategic planting of tree species in Chicago’s urban environs. This includes the addition of vivid and hearty tree varieties such as sassafras and sumac trees to the El Paseo Trail in Pilsen, as well as a proposal to bring native tree species of the rural Great Lakes region to Lake Shore Park downtown.

“The idea was to create a connection between the lake and the water pumping station there, while creating a new kind of experience in this dense urban area. I zoomed way out and started to look at the dominant species around the ecoregions around the Great Lakes,” says Schroeder. “I’m just obsessed with trees and bringing as many trees into the city as possible.”