Ms. Ruddick is a champion of “wild” landscapes, creating ecologically sensitive places with a strong sense of balance, rhythm and design. One of her New York City landscapes is Queen’s Plaza, located next to Queens Boulevard, the former “boulevard of death” . New York City has undertaken design work to make Queens Boulevard more pedestrian and cycling friendly, and Ms. Ruddick created a park below a tangle of elevated railway tracks at the plaza. And it is ingenious~realizing that there was not a budget for installed irrigation, Ms. Ruddick installed wetlands that create a cooler micro-climate, and slightly raised the elevation to lessen the impact of the screeching trains overhead. That elevation resulted in a 25 percent reduction in train noise. Chunky curbs and pavers by artist Michael Singer delight in providing an allegory to the web of railroad tracks and provide detail to the pathways.
Ms. Ruddick moves easily between projects of different scales. She has also worked in China and in India and described the philosophy and intent behind two projects: Living Water Park in Chengdu Sichuan province, and Shillim in India.
Working with local landscape designers Living Water Park was designed to be a water purifying system, and also utilized local plants. The park itself has a delightful blend of traditional Chinese gardening and a more natural approach, with places for children to wade and to play.
She also described her work in Shillim at Western Ghats India. In a long term project over two decades Ms. Ruddick restored through plantings the original treed canopy, respected local sacred groves, and sited buildings in the landscape. A 2,500 acre resort owned UNESCO World Heritage landscape, 100,0000 local trees were planted and nurtured by locals to recreate the treed forest lost decades ago.
Margie Ruddick has done much of her work as a partnership with architects, and values working in a team setting. She is a fan of the incremental process, where “serendipity” and site discoveries inform the design and implementation. She sees the connectiveness of landscapes as vital, and notes that with climate change plants and trees that might have been able to grow no longer can. In talking about the storms that are now bringing large trees down, Margie advocates for hardier species more suitable for the changing climate. She is a fan of the aspen tree for its versatility, quick growth, and adaptability. And she is no native plant purist~she believes in mixing up plants that are hardy to the current climate, and bringing scale to any project through design.
When asked about her thought for the new Jericho Lands, Margie talked about the importance of creating a sustainable site plan that links to transportation options and to the beach, “using landscape as a business proposition” to create linkages, recreation areas, and places to sit throughout the design. The importance of “procession” in the planning of the site, having spaces that were both open and enclosed, as well as spaces and pathways that emphasized the contouring and sky views were key to her vision.
Margie Ruddick’s vision is best described as “new luxury” which she defines as “the luxury in being out in the landscape, reconnecting with nature, and connecting with the people who live there”.
You can take a look at the YouTube video below with Margie Ruddick and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan discussing the work on Queens Boulevard and Queens Plaza that transformed the street and created a new people place.