Anna Bierbrauer

Position title: Assistant Professor


Research and Professional Intro 

Anna Bierbrauer is an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture. Her research combines political ecology, environmental history, critical physical geography, and geospatial data into the landscape architecture and planning professions to understand current and historical equity issues related to urban vegetation. She seeks to understand how power dynamics, cultural values, and changing climates challenge current values, approaches, and management of urban and regional landscapes. Past landscape architecture and design projects stretched from a mobile education station about stormwater to urban streetscape and green infrastructure designs, and from federal natural resources management policy to historical garden maintenance plans and residential garden design. Anna enjoys working collaboratively to further interdisciplinary dialogue about changing landscapes, our connection to the world around us, and untold histories. She received her Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota and her Ph.D. in Geography, Planning, and Design from University of Colorado – Denver.

Research Interests and Agenda 

Broadly, I am interested in understanding how power dynamics, cultural values, and changing climates challenge current values, approaches, and management of urban and regional landscapes. I want to investigate these broad topics through collaboration with local and regional community members, local landscape professionals, colleagues at UW and the UW Arboretum, and students in research studios. I am interested in teaching courses and developing collaborations related to equity and urban vegetation patterns, critically examining dominant cultural values and their definition of/relationship to landscape, and plants, and new ecologies of our changing climate.

Dissertation Research 

She conducted a case study of Denver, Colorado focused on urban vegetation as a material cultural artifact with which to understand the historical and political contexts, prevailing scientific ideas, evolving design trends, and the presence of underlying water development infrastructure. In the semi-arid climate of the US West, vegetation dependent on supplemental irrigation revealed the relationship between the provision of water, the promotion of design and planning professionals, and the priorities of the state. The study used personal and municipal archives of design and planning professionals, municipal geospatial datasets, and historical demographic data, to establish a thick history of Denver’s material landscape from 1902-1980. Spatial distribution patterns, professional rhetoric, and water resource development were tracked over time to assess how and where vegetation served as a tool of financial, political, and urban development interests. Analysis of the location, species, and rationale for design and planning decisions provided a historical-geographical perspective on how design and planning professionals influenced the ongoing production of urban nature in a semi-arid area, and who this production benefited or disadvantaged.