Ken McCown was named the next head of the Department of Landscape Architecture for the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, effective July 1.
McCown was previously a professor and former chair in the Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Design at Iowa State University.
“Ken McCown arrives at the Fay Jones School as a nationally recognized designer and educator, and as an experienced administrator, with boundary crossing work accomplished in landscape architecture, architecture and urban design,” said Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School. “He also arrives with a purposeful commitment to advancing the cause of landscape architecture within the university, across the state, and into national and international territories.
“Landscape architecture, as an education and as a professional practice, is of vital importance to the current and future well-being of our state, region and nation. Professor McCown shares this vision, and I look forward to working with him to advance this mission of the school.”
MacKeith added, “I am very grateful to professor Carl Matthews, who led our search committee in this successful search.”
Matthews, professor and head of the Department of Interior Design, led the 11-member search committee that recommended McCown.
“The search committee shortlisted three impressive candidates from a pool of 13 applicants,” Matthews said. “We were looking for someone with strong leadership skills who could enrich the department’s research and creative culture, recruit top students, and cultivate a vision for the evolution of the department.”
McCown joins the Fay Jones School, which also includes the departments of architecture and interior design. In addition, the school also has two outreach components: the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Garvan Woodland Gardens, the university’s botanical garden in Hot Springs. It also partners with other universities and programs in the University of Arkansas Rome Center.
McCown received a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a Master of Architecture, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining Iowa State University, he was director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Downtown Design Center and a Lincy University Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Previously, he was at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he taught landscape architecture and architecture, including the architecture study abroad program in Finland, and was chair of the landscape architecture graduate program.
He had earlier appointments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Arizona State University, where he served on the faculty in the School of Design and School of Sustainability; and California Polytechnic State University, where he served as director of the Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II. McCown recently completed a decade of service to the Council of Educators of Landscape Architecture, serving as president, treasurer and regional director. He has also worked professionally as a designer, project manager and design consultant.
“I am excited to be a member of the community in the university and Arkansas. The faculty in the department and the Fay Jones School are dynamic and collaborative, and I hope to add to their energy and passion for making culturally meaningful, ecologically resilient and beautiful places for people to live, work and play,” McCown said.
“I also look forward to communicating the importance of landscape architecture to stakeholders and prospective students to help them see how the profession can help them make meaningful contributions to building sustainable communities. Landscape architecture is a grounded and creative field in which people learn to integrate the sciences with design thinking to make sustainable and resilient communities. The faculty and I are eager to grow the impacts of landscape architecture through teaching, research and outreach,” he said. “I have had great opportunities to work in conservation and preservation of historic buildings and cultural landscapes, urban and community design and in collaborative settings to design and plan for resilient communities. I will use this background to contribute to these efforts in the school to help it grow its research profile and community impact.”
McCown’s interdisciplinary project investigations of significance include the award-winning Taj Mahal National Park and Cultural Heritage District, urban design and winning competition entries into sustainable resort development in tropical and sub-tropical environments, and management and leadership of projects as director of the Richard and Dion Neutra VDL Research House II. He lectured to more than 100 schools and professional organizations about Richard Neutra’s work, including lecturing for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and the Nevada Preservation Foundation in Las Vegas.
His awards include an American Society of Landscape Architects award of honor from the state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas’ Mayor’s Urban Design Award for the Cedar Trail retrofit, an ASLA Central States Award for the Carson Parklet, two AIA Las Vegas awards for unbuilt architecture, the CELA Award for Outstanding Design Studio Teaching, and the State of Nevada AIA Service Award.
Two teams co-taught by McCown won national student awards from ASLA. Several students in his collaborative studios have won ASLA national awards, including Nicholas Glover’s “Biophones.”
Locations of exhibitions of the collaborative works authored by McCown include the Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Architecture Foundation and I-Space in Chicago, the Boston Architectural Center, the National Building Museum and The White House in Washington, D.C., the Storefront for Art & Architecture and Grace Gallery in New York City, Gallery 727 and the Pacific Design Center in the Los Angeles metro, Washington University in St. Louis, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, TN Probe in Osaka, Japan, and the Tallinn Architecture Biennale in Estonia.