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Carol R. Johnson Officially Retires

Jul 26, 2016

Carol R. Johnson, our founder and leader, has officially retired from her long career as a leader in the field of landscape architecture. At a reception in her honor earlier this summer, Principal Harry Fuller remarked on her career, working with Carol, and her impact on the field.


Carol has practiced landscape architecture for over 55 years.

She is a pioneer in the field of modern Landscape Architecture, at a time when very few women practiced in the field, much less headed their own firm. Carol has been recognized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation as a pioneer for her efforts.

Carol was a member of the Boston Civic Design Commission for over 10 years; she received the ASLA Gold Medal, which is the society’s highest award. She was also the first American women to receive this honor.


Beyond these accomplishments, a few key projects show the extent of her work and impact on this city.

Carol transformed the Mystic River Reservation from a toxic landfill into a beautiful riverside park. This was also the first on-site soil mixing project in the U.S., and was long before “sustainable design” was part of the popular vernacular.


For Old Harbor Park in Dorchester, she oversaw a similarly dramatic transformation as part of the revitalization of the infamous Columbia Point Project.


At John F. Kennedy Park in Cambridge, she designed the only landscape memorial in the U.S. to the late president, and on an MBTA oil-soaked brownfield site.


Lechmere Canal and Park was transformed from a 19th century industrial waste canal into the centerpiece for the revitalization of East Cambridge.


She gained national recognition for the design of John Marshall Park in Washington DC. Some years after construction, she was asked to reshape the park into a national memorial to the Chief Justice.


She has worked on dozens of college campuses, including Wellesley, Williams, Harvard, Boston University, Bowdoin, Agnes Scott, Stetson College and Rollins.

She launched the firm’s international practice, with early work in Tehran and then by lecturing in Taiwan and China. These connections led to major works in Taiwan, China and Korea, as well as an exchange program with Russian landscape architects.

This is just a portion of the extensive list, that shows how through the practice of landscape architecture, Carol has left this world a far, far better place in so many ways. A goal that as landscape architects, and I suppose everyone here, aspires to in our own life’s work.


Carol has also brought literally dozens of people into the profession and taught, encouraged, cajoled, coached, critiqued, and sometimes just “put up with” us as we found our way through this profession. Many of these people have gone on to found and lead prominent firms of their own across the U.S., so her legacy really does extend far beyond her own projects to the far corners of our profession.

As landscape architects, she has taught us that:
– Simplicity is the hallmark of good design
– God is always in the details
– Egos have a habit of getting in the way of sound design
– And that “good enough” is not an acceptable state of affairs!!

All of these combined with her tenacious insistence on high-quality built work, still run through our practice every day. On behalf of our current staff, former staff, and other friends and colleagues who have come to celebrate her career today, I want to thank Carol for the profound and indelible influence she has had on our lives, the environment, and the profession; and wish her the very best in her retirement.