Joseph Ragsdale, ASLA FAAR
Originally from Davis California, Professor Ragsdale holds a fondness for the state that has kept him returning to both practice and teach along the coast. His development as a designer originally began at the University of California Berkeley, and continued while working as a licensed landscape architect in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. Before returning to further his education, Joseph worked on the design of the new Getty Museum and Pac Bell Park (AT&T Park). He then received a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Virginia.
Professor Ragsdale’s strong interest in post-industrial and urban design ultimately led him to the D.I.R.T studio in Virginia where he worked as an Associate Principal alongside his mentor Julie Bargmann. Among a variety of notable projects, he focused largely on the revitalization and regeneration of polluted and toxic industrial sites. Ragsdale explained that the "productive and working landscapes" were compelling because they have so many dimensions; they have an issue that needs to be addressed, a history and a character that defines it. As he mentioned in a recent New Times article, these sites are usually covered up or hauled off to a landfill, rather than being dealt with through better efforts.
Joseph has continuously taught or been a lecturer of landscape architecture for several years because of his desire to give back to the landscape architecture community and the landscape. He feels that there is an opportunity to grow and refine his own voice while educating and working with the students. Specifically, Ragsdale's passion for teaching includes the urban studio because of the complexity of the issues. He explained "it’s really about seeing that each place has a distinct quality, character, palette of materials, features, etc.… that makes it special." Professor Ragsdale hopes to help students understand that the site should be embraced rather than a place that is disguised or replaced with insignificant forms and materials. There should be a connection between the place; its elements, and the design.
Details of materials also played a role when Professor Ragsdale was awarded the coveted Rome Prize from the American Academy of Rome in 2003. The annual prize is one of thirty awarded to a broad range of extraordinary people from the arts and humanities, and was described by Ragsdale as being the "pinnacle of his career" and a very humbling experience. His research at the Academy focused on the Roman quarries, the "negative landscape" and the communities that surrounded them. A compilation of books, made by the professor, demonstrates the extensiveness of his yearlong study.