College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Landscape Architecture

Mr. Jack Sullivan: Current Research and Area of Study

Jack Sullivan reviewing student presentations given in Baltimore, MD.

Learn more about all the great community work Jack Sullivan has been working on here at the University of Maryland.

           Jack Sullivan is a licensed landscape architect and an associate professor at the University of Maryland. He provides a unique perspective on how “urban nature” adds a wonderful dimension to his career, helping him and other designers understand and appreciate the value of the relationship between humans and their natural environment. 
            Sullivan has engaged in several projects over the past several years that have allowed him to engage with many different communities in Maryland. He has worked with graduate and undergraduate students on a variety of urban landscape projects, including studio and service-learning courses, volunteer work and design competitions. Last summer, he and MLA candidate Katelin Posthuma were part of an interdisciplinary team that won the “Most Resilient Concept” award in the Baltimore “B-more Resilient Competition” and, since 2011, he has advised MLA students who have participated on award-winning design teams for local and national urban design competitions.
            Most of the work Sullivan continues to do is in West Baltimore. He believes that this part of the city has many opportunities to think about urban development on different scales, with varying forms of community engagement, to heal troubled low-income neighborhoods that have heightened crime problems. “It’s important to bring nature into these communities as much as possible” Sullivan states, “especially where a sense of community confidence and well-being can be achieved through urban design and landscape architecture.” 
           Sullivan has been working with the Newborn Holistic Ministry (now renamed Intersection of Change) in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Last fall semester, Sullivan and his students in the fourth-year Urban Design Studio familiarized themselves with the area through site visits, meetings with community leaders, GIS data, and the assessment of earlier Baltimore City master plans. As their study developed, it also grew to include the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods that border Sandtown-Winchester. Their goals to enhance the neighborhood through landscape architecture required working with the community and asking its citizens what they need. “We want to take their suggestions and creatively configure those into design proposals for a socially just, economically viable, and environmentally enriched urban landscape” Sullivan explains. This has been an opportunity for Sullivan and his students to integrate nature with this community, to uplift its citizens by improving the quality of their physical environment and to enhance their lives with healthier school environments, better access to fresh food, and safer streets, parks and playgrounds.
            Sullivan is also working on creating a healing garden at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. This facility, which is a consolidation of Army and Navy medical resources, provides treatment for military personnel who require physical and psychological therapy and long-term residency for Wounded Warriors and their families. The project came about as a result of a navy medical doctor who was working with holistic alternatives to traditional medicine, especially for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other severe medical conditions. Sullivan was invited to participate in a grant proposal, funded by the TKF Foundation, to develop plans for a healing garden and participate with medical experts on research that will quantify the effect of designed therapeutic landscapes to reduce stress and improve the healing process. In collaboration with graduate students and his professional colleagues, he has proposed an outdoor space where people will be connected to nature, yet protected from perceived harm. It will be a place for finding personal closure by serving as the ultimate meditative space for reflection and spiritual renewal. “It’s a way to get out from under oppressive thoughts and explore new perspectives” Sullivan explains. 
            The healing garden would provide space for military personnel to confront their post-war problems and reenter into civilian life more comfortably. The garden is located along the ravine of a small stream that, as part of the “healing process”, will be restored after years of erosion due to advancing urbanization through suburban growth. Close to the stream, which will be made accessible to disabled veterans, a gathering space called the Communal Pavilion will accommodate social interaction with family members, therapists, and military friends. High above the stream, a Commemorative Structure will offer a more private respite for personal reflection and to honor those who have died in combat. It will be a place of refuge and prospect, offering a protected place to rest and an overall view of the woodland garden. “Nature helps to provide that sense of stability but it may not be perfect for everyone, especially if “nature” seems at all threatening to a troubled veteran. This is what the research will tell us”.

Above: Dedication day at the Garden of Remembrance and Reflection.

Sullivan and his students were instrumental in the design for the Garden of Reflection and Remembrance, which is located outside the University Chapel, overlooking the dell near the south campus entrance. This healing garden was initiated by Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, the Director of the Stamp Student Union, following two distressing incidents in 2001— the 9/11 attacks and a devastating tornado on campus. The garden, which includes a meditative labyrinth walk, fountains, and communally shared journals, was also supported with funding from the TKF Foundation. Sullivan encourages the campus community to take advantage of this shared quiet and reflective space.
Sullivan continues to work closely with key personnel at the TKF Foundation and together they are exploring ways to bring the healing qualities of designed outdoor spaces into urban communities that are often denied direct and immediate access to nature. Sullivan has an unmatchable passion for instilling nature into all communities and his work reflects how landscape architects happily meet the challenge of providing all individuals with strong and meaningful connections with nature.
Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2017.