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January 3, 2018
by Elana Grossman
"Topiary Tango." Courtesy of Mark Zlotsky.
Mark Zlotsky, 2017 Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant recipient. Courtesy of Mark Zlotsky.

The Center for Architecture and AIANY are pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant. The Scholarship Committee awarded $15,000 to Mark Zlotsky for his research project “Topiary Tango.” The purpose of the LeBrun Grant is to further the personal and professional development of an early- or mid-career architect through travel.

Zlotsky will travel internationally and domestically to study the intersection between topiary and architecture. He plans to document historic gardens through the British Isles, France, and Italy. Upon returning to the U.S., he will examine American reinterpretations of these European traditions. Zlotsky’s research project is propelled by his fascination with the Italian improvisational street theater form of the commedia dell’ arte, with its stock character types identifiable by their masks and gestures. He considers topiaries as living objects that can be changed and manipulated over time, similar to characters in a play or buildings in a neighborhood. Through his investigation, Zlotsky aims to shift the model for how we think about and produce our built environments.

Some English sites will include the historic Levens Hall, boasting the oldest topiary garden; Stiffkey, a village filled with informal designs; and the 20th-century Hidcote Manor Garden, known for the interior conditions created by systems of hedges. He also plans to analyze the French parterre geometries of Versailles, Chateau de Villandry, and Chateau de Vaux-le-Victome. In Italy, he will visit Palazzo Boboli, Villa Gamberaia, Villa Lante, and Giardino Giusti. In the U.S., Zlotsky will study Hunnewell Arboretum, a reaction to Italian gardens; Ladew Topiary Gardens, strongly influenced by English practices; and the contemporary Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden, established in 1988.

Zlotsky holds a B.Arch from the Syracuse School of Architecture, where he received the University Scholar Award and the Luther Gifford Prize. He is the Founder of Laboratory for Architectural Research and Design (LARD), a design collaborative involved in installations, performances, and design competitions. To learn more about LARD, please visit lardswork.com.

In partnership with AIANY, the Center for Architecture administers three scholarships and three grant awards to provide opportunities for incoming and current architecture students, and mid-career architecture and design professionals. For more information, please visit our Grants and Scholarships page.

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