ASLA Olmsted Medal Awarded to von Tscharner


By the Back Bay Sun Staff


Last week, Renata von Tscharner, founder and president of the Charles River Conservancy (CRC), received the 2013 Olmsted Medal Architects (ASLA) on the final day of its national annual meeting, which was held in Boston.

Named in honor of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the medal recognizes individuals, organizations, agencies or programs outside the profession of landscape architecture for environmental leadership, vision and stewardship. Established in 1990, one medal is awarded annually. Notable past recipients include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Robert Kennedy Jr., former President Jimmy Carter and Roslynn Carter, and the Trustees of Reservations, among others.

Formally trained as an architect and urban designer in Switzerland, von Tscharner founded the Charles River Conservancy in 2000, a non-profit organization dedicated to the stewardship, renewal and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River—from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam. Under her leadership, the Conservancy has enlisted more than 23,000 landscape volunteers who have contributed more than $1.5 million of donated labor to improve the health, safety, and beauty of the urban parklands along the Charles. She is a steadfast advocate for improvements.  “Fredrick Law Olmsted has been an inspiration to my work on behalf of the Charles River parklands,” said von Tscharner. “This extraordinary public space holds so much unrealized potential and it is essential to the quality of life we enjoy in the Boston area; we must ensure that future generations will inherit a world-class riverfront park along the Charles.”

Von Tscharner was nominated by several prominent Boston-area landscape architects, including Kathleen Ogden, former president of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects; Pierre Bélanger, associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; and Craig Halvorson, founding principal of Halvorson Design Partnership.

In his nomination letter, Halvorson wrote “Renata has continued to build on the visions of Charles Eliot and Frederick Law Olmsted by re-investing in their important parklands and inspiring others to get involved in their river. Through her commitment to the Conservancy, Renata models the Olmsted Medal’s principles of environmental leadership.”

In her acceptance speech she explored what 19th-century landscape architect Olmsted might design today along the Charles. “I think a skate park mitigating toxic soil would have been on his list, and definitely bridge underpasses to provide un-interrupted use of the riverfront pathways for bicyclists and runners,” said von Tscharner. “Just like the Emerald Necklace was a sewage project, the transportation infrastructure work on the bridges lends the opportunity to create safer and separate paths.”

To the some 300 “fellow park-builders” in the room she concluded, “I look forward to working together to continue Olmsted’s legacy along the Charles.”

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