Alumnus Jonathan Staker Wins the ASLA Jane Silverstein Ries Award

The Colorado Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has awarded Jonathan Staker (MLA ’17) the Jane Silverstein Ries Award, which recognizes those who demonstrate a pioneering sense of awareness and stewardship of land-use values in the Rocky Mountain region. Staker’s research on the Colorado Front Range and Western Slopes comes from his MLA Directed Research Project (DRP), the Colorado-Big Thompson Water Trail + Field Guide, which developed from work completed during his Architecture Research Travel Award (ARTA) grant in summer of 2016.

“My original ARTA trip was broadly focused on water supply and demand issues within the Colorado and Rio Grande River basins,” commented Staker. After interviewing stakeholders about the complexity and interconnections of water related problems, Staker focused his research on infrastructural diversion networks, such as reservoirs, pipelines and tunnels, which transport water, at times, hundreds of miles from a native watershed to other locations. Learning how population increases, as well as predicted climatic variability (less rain), can render regions within the Colorado Front Range even more dependent of trans-basin diversions, Staker returned to school in the autumn semester with renewed clarity: “My goal had shifted to learning all I could about a single diversion system. I wanted to find a way to utilize design as a means of illuminating the system while informing those who depend on it of its significance and fragility.”

In his final year of the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the Knowlton School, Staker worked under the guidance of Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Jacob Boswell to produce his directed research project, which highlights micro and macro relationships related to water in the Colorado Front Range and Western Slopes. In creating the Colorado-Big Thompson Water Trail + Field Guide, Staker’s goal was to “use Landscape Architecture and holistic design as a tool to design a public forum (a trail system) where ideas, policies and physical manifestations of this system can be better understood.” The accompanying field guide takes hikers along the system to specific points where certain relationships related to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, water policy, or water in the West can be best comprehended.

Staker’s work in the American West continues. He currently works for DHM Design, a Denver-based company with a large portfolio of ecological restorative/riparian habitat work in Colorado. “Currently, I am working on two riparian ecological restoration projects, one on the St. Vrain Creek in Lyons, Colorado and one closer to Denver on the South Platte River,” Staker commented. “Both rivers are affected by trans-basin diversions so my knowledge obtained during my DRP project definitely aids in my understanding of the work I am doing today.”

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