Jul 24, 2019

Dean Ila Berman and the members of the Dean’s Advisory Board are pleased to announce that Reuben M. Rainey, FASLA (MLA 1978) has been selected as the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. This award recognizes exceptional graduates from the School of Architecture who have demonstrated creativity, innovation, leadership and vision through their distinguished body of work, within the professional, academic, civic, or artistic realms, as well as their service to the University of Virginia.

After an already distinguished career as a Professor of Comparative Religion at Middlebury College and Columbia University, Reuben came to the University of Virginia where he earned his MLA in 1978. Soon after graduating, he started teaching and then became the Chair of the department of landscape architecture in 1982. Through his remarkable teaching and mentorship, lasting pedagogical and curricular initiatives, and impactful contributions as a scholar and advocate for the discipline of landscape architecture, Reuben embodies the characteristics recognized by this award.

Reuben is a renowned and prolific writer who has authored and edited 7 books and over 30 articles. Selected essays have appeared in international periodicals in six different languages. From a passage from his book with Marc Treib, Dan Kiley Landscapes: The Poetry of Space (2009. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers), he described, “Kiley embraced a humanistic point of view. For him it was not ‘man and nature’ or ‘man with nature’ but ‘man is nature.’ He understood ecology and its influence on design, but never attempted to replicate the literal appearance of nature in his landscapes. Instead, he sought the principles of order and the processes behind the natural systems and transformed them.”  While Reuben was eloquently describing the fundamental principles guiding Kiley’s work, one can draw evident parallels to Reuben himself. Like Kiley, Reuben steadfastly believed in the role of nature and landscapes in the improvement of people’s lives and the building of healthy communities. This is evident in his pioneering work as a documentary filmmaker and co-executive producer of the PBS series, Garden Story: Inspiring Spaces, Healing Places (2005-06) on the cultural significance of American Gardens and in his more recent work as co-director of the School of Architecture’s Center for Design and Health, through which he works closely with the School of Medicine and the Department of Psychology on various research projects involving environmental psychology and the design of healthcare facilities. His recent book, Healthy Places, Healing Spaces (2018. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press) co-edited with Timothy Beatley and Carla Jones, presented a collection of essays that addresses an essential question also central to the Center for Design and Health’s mission: How can we design, plan and sustain built environments that will foster health and healing? Dean and Paley Professor for the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, Frederick Steiner, said of the title, “A timely, important book by an impressive roster of leaders in the field.”

In his article “Architecture and Landscape: Three Modes of Relationship,” published in Places Journal (1988, Vol 4, Issue 4), Reuben wrote, “…the precise mode a designer uses in fitting a building to the land or a park to its urban context is largely determined by an explicit or implicit view of the proper relationship between human beings and nature, a view that ultimately rests upon the values of the designer. Design, is, in essence, the giving of form to values” (emphasis added). Throughout his 40-year academic tenure at the School of Architecture, Reuben shared this sense of design’s civic agency to so many students. Recognized through five teaching awards during his career, including an All-University Teaching Award and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture’s ‘Career of Distinction’ Award, he has been an inspiration to his colleagues and to hundreds of alumni practicing throughout the world. In the late 1990s, he championed the creation of the “Common Course” – advocating for interdisciplinary teaching and learning well before it emerged as ubiquitous within academia. Now, over 20 years later, one of UVA School of Architecture’s greatest and lasting strengths is based on this pedagogical initiative of interdisciplinarity that Reuben was instrumental in establishing. Kenan Professor of Architecture Karen Van Lengen described, “Reuben’s importance to the School has emerged not through a singular act but by a wide range of seminal contributions that have embraced intellectual and creative projects, all of which have served to shape, both the form and content of the School.”

While Reuben’s scholarly accomplishments and extraordinary teaching, especially in his courses in history of landscape architecture and healthcare facility design, are marks of a lasting influence he has had on so many – his students, his colleagues, the School of Architecture, and the world at large – time and time again, Reuben is acknowledged for his exemplary character and positive spirit. Landscape architect JC Miller, who co-authored Robert Royston and Modern Public Gardens (2006. San Francisco: William Stout Publishers) with Reuben, noted, “[he] is one of the most genuine men I have ever met. His thoughtfulness leads to inclusiveness and brilliant ideas.” Karen Van Lengen continued, “His temperament of generosity, equity and elegance has been a uniquely positive force in the School. His example of humility, of patience and acceptance is exceptional and have provided the grounding for positive dialogue.” In this way, Reuben embodies the most essential values of the School of Architecture.

“It has been a great privilege and my good fortune to have spent half of my 80 years in our remarkable community of students, teachers, and staff dedicated to the creation of a just, sustainable, and beautiful environment embodying the deepest values of a democratic society. I am deeply honored by this recognition of my efforts to contribute to the mission of our extraordinary community,” said Reuben upon the announcement of the award.

The Dean’s Advisory Board at UVA School of Architecture is deeply thankful for all that Reuben has given to the development of the School, its programs, its faculty and staff, while also contributing extensively to the discipline of landscape architecture. In its centennial year, it is an honor to recognize Reuben Rainey’s noteworthy career and accomplishments. “Reuben Rainey’s sphere of influence is great and stretches far beyond the walls of Campbell Hall and the disciplines of design. In addition to his profound impact on so many in our community, throughout his distinguished career he has played an instrumental role in shaping our image of landscape architecture as a broad ranging and vital form of cultural expression. Reuben is a teacher, a scholar, a mentor, a leader, and a role model for human decency, deep commitment, and collegiality to which we all should aspire,” explained Advisory Board Vice Chair and alumnus, John A. Kett (MLA 1998).

Dean Ila Berman elaborated, “Reuben’s embedding of human life and culture within the environments and ecologies of which it is a part – where it should be – is perhaps why his understanding of landscape architecture and its significance is so critical. This thinking is intrinsic to both his scholarship and teaching where he has truly distinguished himself and been an enormously influential mentor to countless generations of students.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Reuben M. Rainey, William Stone Weedon Professor Emeritus, at the A-School’s Centennial Kick-Off Celebration, being held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on September 20, 2019.

Original Publication: UVA School of Architecture