Landscape Architecture Lecture Series continues Dec. 3 with talk about using water to mitigate environmental conditions

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 20, 2015 – Two University of Rhode Island alumni who have gone on to accomplished careers as landscape architects will return to campus next month to talk about something all around us: water.

Erin Muir, founding partner of The Figure Ground Studio, and Nicholas Healy, an associate with Carol R. Johnson and Associates in Boston, will talk about using water to mitigate environmental conditions.

Their talk, “Covering Ground from Portland to Abu Dhabi: Young Practitioners Reflect on Water, Resilience and Design,” will start at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3 in Weaver Auditorium in the Coastal Institute building, 1 Greenhouse Road, on URI’s Kingston campus. The talk, free and open to the public, reflects on how water has become a critical component in landscape architecture practices today.

Healy and Muir graduated from URI with degrees in landscape architecture – Healy in 2003, Muir in 2001. The two will also discuss their years as students at the University and their career paths.

“It is a great pleasure to welcome back alumni whose careers have blossomed and are quite diverse,” said William A. Green, chair of URI’s Landscape Architecture?Department. “For current students, it is equally special, for they will hear from two accomplished practitioners who sat in the same seats that this year’s students are occupying.”

Healy is expected to talk about his experience working on a project in Shams Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where temperatures can soar to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. He says he explored ways to use water from the Arabian Sea to cool the air at parks and other outdoor sites. One solution was creating a way to spray a light mist onto the area.

“I’ll touch on some of the passive design and engineering technologies we incorporated in the Shams project,” he says, “and how they help create comfortable, exciting outdoor spaces.”

Over the years, Healy has also worked on local and regional projects at colleges and universities, public parks, private urban developments, cemeteries and U.S. embassies. His responsibilities have included design development, presentation drawings, contract documentation, specifications and cost estimating, with a primary focus on project management and construction administration and supervision.

Muir, a native of Rhode Island who now lives in Cold Spring, N.Y., will talk about small-scale resilient design, including storm water control and treatment in urban communities. She will also discuss the use of gray water, which is wastewater from household sinks, showers and washing machines.

Her work has focused mostly on sustainability and storm water management. She was co-organizer of Soak It Up, a group that looks at the use of plants to mitigate wastewater. She is certified in permaculture design, which is centered on creating highly developed ecosystems.

Other speakers in the series are:

• Toby Wolf, principal of Wolf Landscape Architecture, on “Just Enough Wildness: Designing Places that Connect People with the Natural World,” (March 3).

• Chris Reed of STOSS Landscape Urbanism, on a topic to be determined, (March 31).

• Emily McCoy of Andropogon Associates, on “Craft, Research and Practice: Performance-Based Design in Landscape Architecture,” (April 14).

• Catherine Seavitt, principal of the Catherine Seavitt Studio, on “Shifting Sands: Sedimentary cycles for Jamaica Bay,” (April 28).

All talks are free, open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. in Weaver Auditorium of the URI Coastal Institute in Kingston.

The URI Landscape Architecture series is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Bartlett Tree Experts and the URI College of Arts and Sciences. The Catherine Seavitt lecture is co-sponsored by Rhode Island Sea Grant. For more information about the series, contact the URI Department of Landscape Architecture at 401-874-2983 or Professor Green at

Photos above:

Erin Muir, founding partner of The Figure Ground Studio, and Nicholas Healy, an associate with Carol R. Johnson and Associates in Boston. Photos courtesy of Erin Muir and Nicholas Healy.

One of Muir’s projects: A horse farm in Sherwood, Ore., where pollinator-friendly perennial gardens and a wildflower meadow replaced a lawn. Photo courtesy of Erin Muir.