People from Buffalo are just different.
There- I said it!
There is a charm, a zeal and a certain glow that comes from people native to the Queen City- I mean, just take a look at our football fans! But, in all seriousness, prominent Buffalonians range from Presidents, to esteemed musicians, actors, and even writers. Adding to this illustrious list is the winner of the highest award in the 2021 National Preservation Awards Ceremony, Patricia O’Donnell!
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “The Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award is the highest national recognition. The award is made with the greatest care and only when there is indisputable evidence of superlative achievement over time in the preservation and interpretation of our cultural, architectural or maritime heritage, including buildings, architecture, districts, archeology, cultural landscapes, and objects of significance in the history and culture of the United States.” In the awards’ more than 60-year record, O’Donnell makes history by becoming the first landscape architect to receive this esteemed honor.
With a Bachelor of Science in Design and a concentration in Environmental Design from State University of New York College at Buffalo, O’Donnell found her beginnings in what would be a momentous and influential career in historic preservation as a landscape architect. Through continued education at the University of Illinois, she completed Masters in both Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning with a concentration in behavioral aspects of landscape architecture and historic preservation with an emphasis on the history, theories and practice of landscape preservation.
In 1987, O’Donnell founded her pioneering firm, Heritage Landscapes, in which she has completed over 600 cultural landscape preservation planning and implementation projects both nationally and internationally, including work done with the National Mall, several state capitals and iconic universities, as well as Buffalo’s prized landscapes, Olmsted parks, Richardson buildings, and many more! Her continued work for over 40 years has helped shape and establish the field of cultural landscape preservation in the United States with designs that go beyond just aesthetics, but also place importance on factors like inclusion, accessibility, and environmental and social justice. Her work has set national standards through work on 40 national historic landmarks and eight world heritage sites. Her current endeavors have a strong focus on climate change action and sustainability, exemplifying her prominence as an influential and innovative icon in her industry.
A major common ground for her work has been the importance of social justice and filling in those gaps in environmental action that were previously neglected in her field. Through past work done in Birmingham, she was able to enlarge the scope of civil right movement sites on the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List to include recognition of the public places where civil rights peaceful resistance events took place. In the realm of sustainability, she holds a strong belief that culture, and landscape are inseparable components of each other. She has worked with other leaders from across the world to advance actionable climate change solutions through contributions to the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 2023 Global Agenda, and the ICOMOS Sustainable Development Goals Focal Group.
Patricia is a visionary in her field and a woman who puts action to her words. Through years of work that brings the most important things into the field of landscape architecture and cultural landscape preservation and heritage, we can expect to continue to see her powerful strides toward a better world for us all. Upon receiving this award, she stated:
“It is thrilling to receive this professional recognition that reinforces my motivation to aid in solving the immense challenges and opportunities that can bring greater resilience and a brighter future to landscape heritage.”
While we just barely scratched the surface of her innumerable accomplishments, visit Heritage Landscapes’ website here for a full list of current and past projects and join the Buffalo Rising team in congratulating and celebrating the incredible work of fellow Buffalonian and superhero, Patricia O’Donnell.