2021 Board Choice Award

Analysis, Planning, Research and Communications

CUT|FILL 2020: the first Open Space unConference for Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architect:

Ink Landscape Architects, PLLC

Project Team:

Event Platform hosted by QiqoChat Inc.
Open Space Technology Facilitation led by Heidi Nobantu Saul
Graphics + Social Media produced by Nicole Cohen, Associate ASLA, Landscape Designer
Videography by Ethan Yun


About the Project:

CUT|FILL 2020 was the first Open Space unConference for landscape architecture. It was a
paramedic response, a call for connection, and plan to convene a field yearning for critical
discourse. COVID-19 brought to the surface deep problems laying dormant in our civic spaces.
Our role is to make equitable and inclusive places. To do this, we must also work on ourselves.
Modeled on a non-hierarchical method for convening people around difficult topics, the critical
piece of communication was the question: Can we afford to be stagnant while the world is
Getting as many voices together and heard sets this project apart as a communications feat.
CUT|FILL brought together 550 students and professionals during an unprecedented global

Special Factors & Additional Information:

We were all in 2020, together. COVID-19 knocked our society onto its heels; it made us pause.
The attention towards racial injustice only amplified the need for landscape architects to take
an active role in the healing of our society. Could we afford to be stagnant while the world was
changing? The answer, we clearly know, is absolutely not.
The purpose of CUT|FILL was to identify the changes we want to make to our own profession
and also to take the first steps in doing so. We asked participants, “What are the challenges
and opportunities for the field of Landscape Architecture as we move forward in this
unprecedented time of a global pandemic and civil unrest from racial injustices?”
This project was a complex communications challenge with a six-week turnaround. Our
conference was different from any other conference in the field. Rather than having a preset
agenda, the event was a blank canvas for the participants to fill. The event was defined by the
call to action within the invitation. The key to success for CUT|FILL was to create space so
that as many voices as possible could be heard and to help everyone feel welcome. For this
reason, people showed up and were eager to participate in a two-day conference which had
no agenda. Everyone was free to move in and out of the conversations where they could learn
from or contribute to the most. This amounted to a transformative experience for those who
attended, and participants created over 170 pages of notes.
CUT|FILL was a project that built infrastructure for online collaboration, where participants
were invited to speak and share, pose questions, and ask for input. From concept to
implementation, this was a communications project at its core. It led to a powerful co-creation
of provocative thoughts, discussions, actions, and social and emotional change for our field.
We worked to communicate the vision for this event, however, the most important
communication was that which we enabled — conversations among the landscape architects
who stepped forward to connect with each other and learn in a personal and authentic way.

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