Member Stories: Krista Reimer

Jan 12, 2024 by SAH News
Krista Reimer, a woman with long brown hair and glasses

Krista Reimer practices landscape architecture full-time and is a part-time sessional lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia and has been a member of SAH since early 2023.

Can you tell us about your career path?

I began my post-secondary education in pure mathematics at the University of Manitoba and initially intended to become an academic mathematician. Along that trajectory, while completing a mathematics master’s degree at McGill University, I started to crave a materiality to my work as well as an endeavor that was more readily shared with others; mathematical work, while rewarding and enjoyable, quickly became esoteric.

When looking for gardening positions to take on while I figured out my next direction, I stumbled across the field of landscape architecture. I was excited to realize that through garden architecture, which is how I prefer to conceptualize the field, I could continue two significant aspects of mathematical work I was reluctant to give up. The first was my interest in formal and geometric ideas. The second was involvement in a practice for which one of the fundamental pursuits is the development of models which we use to make sense of and inhabit the world. I am very interested in gardens’ function as models, or in other words as compressed microcosms encapsulating and giving form to political, religious, or philosophical ideas. I went through the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Pennsylvania, and have been practicing since for offices in New York and Philadelphia. I currently work at the multidisciplinary design firm WRT in Philadelphia. The last several years I have also been teaching elective seminars to landscape architecture and architecture master’s students at the University of Pennsylvania, and to the extent possible, I keep up research on the side.


What interests you most about landscape history?

Knowing landscape history gives me context for my professional work. I see increasing this knowledge both as an obligation for responsible practice as well as enriching my creative practice. In terms of responsibility, every increase in my knowledge of landscape history enables me to better situate contemporary ideas, understand the values they embody, and to evaluate them for my own use. In terms of creativity, knowing history loosens the mind, and I see it as a vital way into imagining beyond the hegemony of today’s norms.


What projects are you currently working on?

In practice, I am managing a preservation effort for a neglected but significant regional garden that is starting to get attention again after decades of being overlooked. I am also involved with our office’s work renovating one of Philadelphia’s large early 20th-century parks. In my personal research, which is practice oriented, I am studying the history of ideas around metamorphosis and the grotesque in garden design and kin disciplines such as architecture, film, and literature. This is a recent focus within my ongoing interest in how notions of mutation and evolution are perceived, employed, and positioned in garden design to hold ideas about our societal transformations, (in)stabilities, and multiplicities.


What is your biggest challenge at this point in your career?

Balancing efforts to grow in both the professional and academic aspects of my career. I consider myself very lucky to be able to simultaneously pursue both, but time, as we all know, is limited.


How did you become involved with SAH?

I was looking for a larger disciplinary community to become active in. As a part-time lecturer and someone invested in my own research, I felt the need for a relatively academic community but also didn’t want to feel like an outsider as someone who isn’t a full-time academic. So, I was delighted when I read that, “Anyone with an interest in the history of the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life is welcome to join the Society of Architectural Historians.” Shortly thereafter, I saw the posting for the Contingent Faculty Committee, and I was really encouraged by this. I saw that SAH was not only open to me as a member, but they are also conscientious about their members in positions similar to mine.


Tell us about your work on the SAH Contingent Faculty Committee.

As a newly formed committee, our first work is to understand the breadth of contingent faculty membership in SAH as a basis for understanding how to support this subset of the members. Those of us on the committee all occupy “contingency” in very different ways. Recognizing this, we realized we needed to make sure we weren’t operating from any assumptions about what contingency meant for members. In addition to building our understanding of who the members the committee is in support of, we are also recognizing the need to create visibility for this portion of the membership and thinking about ways to do this.


Do you have a vision for how SAH should evolve in the future?

As a relatively new member, it would be imprudent for me to have a vision per se. For now, I am encouraged by SAH’s attention to their contingent faculty members, and I hope it continues in that direction. One thing I have noticed is that while continuing education credits are available for licensed architects at the annual conference, they are not available for licensed landscape architects. Expanding the continuing education credits to landscape architecture would be a great way to make active society membership more feasible to practitioners.


What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter your field?

Remain curious, focus on nurturing your creativity and work experience, build a humble confidence, and surround yourself with others who are committed to the same.