Brenda Williams, PLA, ASLA, a principal with Quinn Evans, has been honored by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) with its 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. A leader in the preservation of cultural landscapes, Williams’ career has focused on historic landscapes, where she has championed the conservation, adaptation, and stewardship of culturally significant sites.
Williams’ portfolio in master planning and design spans the U.S. and reflects her broad-based expertise in enhancing the resilience of sensitive sites, ecological systems, historic properties, and sacred lands. She has guided the development of comprehensive cultural landscape reports for more than 40 national parks and national historic landmarks, working extensively for the National Park Service (NPS). For the Smithsonian Institution, she led the preparation of the environmental assessment for the modernization of the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. Her work to develop a master plan for the Iowa Blood Run Cultural Landscape won a national ASLA Honor Award, and her research for the South Manitou Island Historic Agricultural Landscape Report earned an ASLA National Merit Award.
Other award-winning projects include the cultural landscape report for the Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and the rehabilitation of the historic Peirce Mill in Washington, D.C. Williams was an early leader in the integration of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards into cultural landscape reports (CLRs), beginning with the first NPS combined CLR and environmental assessment (EA) for Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. She has also overseen combined CLRs/EAs for Hot Springs National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Minuteman Missile National Historical Park, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.
Williams’ leadership of the CLR for Historic Fort Snelling in Minnesota established a collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, including tribal scholars and elders, that informed the landscape design and interpretive elements. For the Pullman National Monument in Chicago, she is working with the NPS, the State of Illinois, and non-profit organizations to create an experience that will help visitors understand the integral role of the landscape in the site’s historic manufacturing operations.
Williams currently co-chairs the ASLA Leadership Group of the Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network. She is a member of the board of directors of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation, the preservation committee of Taliesin Preservation, Inc., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Williams holds a Master of Arts in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1995) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of Kentucky, Lexington (1988).
“Brenda’s remarkable career has led to the rehabilitation and protection of dozens of historic landscapes and landmarks,” says Alyson Steele, FAIA, LEED AP, executive vice president and chief design officer for Quinn Evans. “Her love of history and passion for research inform her leadership and her thoughtful, collaborative approach to planning and design. Brenda has been a champion for inclusion within the planning process, bringing diverse stakeholders to the table and demonstrating an empathetic understanding of human connections to landscapes. This well-deserved award recognizes her many accomplishments as well as her groundbreaking advocacy for the preservation of sensitive and important sites.”