Michael Van Valkenburgh
President and CEO
Michael’s love for the medium of landscape and his belief that the beauty of landscape is one of the most compelling tools for making the world a better place are evident in all the work he undertakes. Michael founded MVVA in 1982, and the firm’s early work focused on gardens, smaller urban landscapes, and explorations of how the power of landscape as a medium can move people. A decade later, MVVA began to take on projects at the wider scale of institutions and campuses as well as large and complex urban parks. Today, MVVA continues to work on a rich and contrasting array of landscapes at many scales, with Michael providing senior leadership on projects as diverse as the intimate Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA to the ambitious realignment of Toronto’s Don River estuary and the contiguous urban transformation along its renewed banks. Michael continues to lead MVVA’s oversight of all landscape projects on the Princeton University campus, and he is also heading up the design of a waterfront park in Boston to honor Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Michael grew up on a dairy farm in rural upstate New York, but has spent most of his life in cities and currently lives in Brooklyn just two blocks away from MVVA’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, which he has worked on since 1998. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and a Master of Fine Arts in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Michael closely oversees projects in both the Cambridge and New York offices, where he promotes collaboration and discovery through his inclusive working style and his love of creativity and personal expression.

Michael is the Charles Eliot Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He is a registered landscape architect in more than 25 states and in Canada, and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome as well as the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Michael received the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Environmental Design in 2003. MVVA’s design for Brooklyn Bridge Park was awarded the prestigious Brendan Gill Prize from the Municipal Art Society of New York in 2010, which is given to the work of art that best exemplifies and contributes to the vibrant life of New York City. Michael was the recipient of the 2010 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for contributions to the practice of architecture as an art, making him, after Dan Kiley, only the second landscape architect to be honored since the award's inception in 1955. In 2011, Michael received the ASLA Design Medal.

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