Mikyoung Kim is an international landscape architect who works throughout the United States, the Middle East and South Korea. Mikyoung’s diverse background in design and sculpture has shaped her body of work, blurring the boundaries between landscape architecture and environmental art. From children’s playgrounds to city parks and urban master plans, her work reflects a deep commitment to memorable place making that captures the public imagination.
“…Women have been masters of the landscape as far back as ancient times and have been stewards of the environment just as long…”
Mikyoung – your work is beautiful! Please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to become a landscape architect?
Before I became a landscape architect I studied music at a conservatory. I have always been interested in the choreography of space and the experience of the body in the landscape.
My mother was a ceramicist and ever since I was a child I played with clay. I think that connection to the earth influenced my interest in sculpting with the land.
For our readers outside the industry, please can you tell us a bit about the work of a landscape architect?
The work that landscape architects do is so diverse – that is what’s so great about the profession. The work that we do encompasses the realm of healing – healing the environment, healing the body and mind.
In most of our work we are focused on sustainable strategies in the city, shaping public space. For your readers, I can say that our work addresses the fabric of the city – wherever you are walking and engaging public space you are a part of the landscape.
What does your work involve on a day to day basis?
Every day is different. Some days I am in the office sketching ideas with our team, other days I am working with client groups collaborating on ideas for their projects, and many times I am on site reviewing specialty elements that have come on site and placing them on site.
Even tonight, we are going to the Prudential Plaza that we are designing in downtown Boston and programming a light animation. The work is exciting and diverse, and it keeps me on my toes!
Please can you talk us through some of your best known projects?
The two recent projects I found really meaningful to me are our Chongae River project in Seoul Korea and the Crown Sky Garden in Chicago.
The Chongae River project is one that redefines the centre of the city. It takes a highly polluted stream, cleanses the riverway and creates a green corridor that transforms the city.
The Crown Sky Garden is located in a paediatric hospital and is an important healing garden in this vertical hospital situated in downtown Chicago. We worked closely with the city to bring materials from the city into the garden, such as wood logs that were planted by Frederick Law Olmsted during the Columbian Exposition.
Great design is about the way it makes people feel. How you do you strike the right balance between form and function?
There really should not be a separation of the two in the design of the landscape. Form is function and innovation in form can transform engagement and experience.
There’s a huge international movement to encourage more girls and women to keep studying STEM subjects, but there’s a growing view that a STEAM approach (incorporating the arts) will be more successful. Why is the link with the arts so significant?
Landscape architecture is the ideal merging of ecology, science, and the artful design of space. Women have been masters of the landscape as far back as ancient times and have been stewards of the environment just as long.
What is your advice to girls and women who are interested in learning more about landscape architecture?
There could not be a more fortunate time for young women to become designers. I think it’s important to always be paying attention to the built environment and figure out what interests you about it. In landscape architecture it is the public nature of the work that can be very exciting, shaping the way in which families and city dwellers engage the city.
What projects do you have coming up and what are you excited about working on?
We are currently completing a project for the a learning centre at the Chicago Botanic Garden and an exciting new urban plaza in downtown Boston at the Prudential Centre.