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Class Acts: Natia Kapanadze

This profile originally appeared as part of WashU’s Class Acts series in spring 2020

Born and raised in the Republic of Georgia, Kapanadze studied landscape architecture at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, then spent two years on staff at the National Botanical Garden. She supervised plantings, coordinated events, and helped organize the garden’s first national Green Expo.

But “landscape architecture is a fairly new field in Georgia,” she says. Projects were typically limited in scale: the park, the yard, the patio. “The mindset was very narrow. I wanted to expand it. I wanted to experience new environments and different communities.”

As a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate in the Sam Fox School, Kapanadze has turned her sights to the scale of the street, the river, the watershed. Last fall, she won an American Society of Landscape Architects student merit award for a speculative project that would use strategic regrading and plantings at the Ohio and Mississippi river confluence to reduce nitrogen flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

With classmate Samuel Bell-Hart, Kapanadze also spent months investigating how the Public Land Survey System (a.k.a. the Jeffersonian Grid) has reshaped sedimentation and settlement patterns across the upper Mississippi. The resulting maps, laser-scored onto plexiglass, were featured in a pop-up exhibition atop a Continental Cement Company silo on the river north of downtown.

Other projects include designing information boards for the University’s Office of Sustainability and producing videos in conjunction with the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum exhibition Ai Weiwei: Bare Life. With classmate Lauren McDaniel, Kapanadze organized a screening of videos, created for assistant professor Eric Ellingsen’s Visualizing Ecological Processes course, at the Griot Museum of Black History. Her degree project, “Soundscapes,” investigates ways to re-introduce natural sounds into urban environments currently dominated by traffic noise.

“WashU is very experimental,” she says. “It offers a set of tools and techniques but also allows you to explore your own interests—and not only at the theoretical level. You can go out to the floodplains, study the confluences, and see how the city is divided. It’s a great place to get a broad understanding of the field.”