Andrea Cochran (CC ’76) received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Futures Council, recognizing lifelong design leaders for the contributions of their life and work to their profession for more than 40 years.
The council, which was founded to connect leaders within the built environment industry and share ideas about technology, sustainability, and the business of design, gathered at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta on November 6-7 for the 2023 Design Futures Council Leadership Summit on the Business of Design.
Cochran, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, is founder and principal of Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, an internationally recognized firm frequently featured in design publications as well as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Her work has garnered numerous design awards, most notably the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Architecture and the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Design Medal in 2014. A monograph of her firm’s work was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2009.
How Andie, as she calls herself, went from growing up in northwestern New Jersey to attending Rutgers Cook College, and worldwide acclaim in her field is a fascinating story.
“I wanted to go to art school but my parents told me that when I graduated from college I had to support myself,” she recalls. “They didn’t think I could do this as an artist so I decided to pursue a career as a veterinarian. I chose Rutgers for their program in Animal Science.
“When I arrived on the first day of school, I thought I would be able to sign up for my Animal Science classes, but I found out that you were supposed to pre-register during the summer. By this time, all of the freshman chemistry labs were full. I went to the dean’s office in tears with my parents, and I thought my life was over. The dean recommended that I take my Animal Science class the following year and take a one-credit survey class called Perspectives on Agriculture and the Environment. This class, he explained, featured guest lecturers from various disciplines.
“I followed his advice, and one of the speakers that year was the late Roy DeBoer, then head of the Landscape Architecture program. He introduced me to landscape architecture as the study of natural sciences and art. The following semester I took Environmental Design Analysis 101, and I enjoyed this class so much that I never took an Animal Science course and changed my major to Landscape Architecture.”
After graduating from Rutgers, she attended graduate school in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University, then went to work for a firm in Cambridge, Mass., that did landscape projects in the Middle East. She lived briefly in Athens, Greece, working for a firm that belonged to a Saudi Arabian architect. Wanting to return to the U.S. in 1981, she took a chance and relocated to California where she joined a firm in San Francisco, The Planning Collaborative (now located in Berkeley). Her employer was another Rutgers graduate, Jeffery Grote (RC ‘66).
In 1998, she founded Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture in San Francisco. Her projects include corporate headquarters, hotels, urban redevelopment, wineries, public spaces and parks, and high-end residential designs.
She summarizes her journey from simply wanting to study art to the present this way: “Landscape architecture has been a pathway for me to be an ‘artist of the land.’” It has been a way for me to combine my interests and craft a career in the arts and the environmental sciences.”