Elizabeth Fain LaBombard Visits Landscapes that are Often Under-utilized on the Periphery of Rome

April 24, 2014
On periphery of Rome, view of Rainbow Magicland
Butterflies on abandoned site on periphery of Rome
On the periphery in Tor Tre Teste neighborhood
On the periphery of Rome
Looking at the periphery of Rome from the AAR terrace
Elizabeth Fain LaBombard at the Campidoglio conference
Diagram of public vs. arable land in Rome
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Elizabeth Fain LaBombard is the winner of the Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture and an Associate at James Corner Field Operations in New York City.

What part of the United States did you come from?

I am originally from Los Angeles but, when I am not in Rome, I live in New York City with my husband and two young sons.

Why did you apply for the Rome Prize?

I wanted a break from my career that has been primarily in professional practice and to have the time to reflect upon it and do research that I have always wanted to do.

Describe a particularly inspiring moment or location you've experienced in Rome thus far.

Where do I begin? I spend a lot of time on the periphery of the city and visit landscapes that are often under-utilized or contaminated. One time I was walking through a former dump site and found an area full of butterflies. They were feeding off of Senecio jacobea plants (common ragwort) that had spontaneously grown and had provided habitat for these butterflies who feed of their flowers from June to November. Most people view these landscapes as problematic, but the way in which wildlife and people are colonizing these areas have made them quite beautiful.

To what extent, if any, has your proposed project changed since your arrival?

Not much. I hear of people completely changing their project after they arrive and experience Rome. I had gotten really into my project prior to coming here and had done a lot of research in order to write my proposal, so it hasn’t changed significantly since my arrival.

Have you had any "eureka!" moments or unanticipated breakthroughs in the course of your work here?

Yes, many, and it usually happens between sorting through vast amounts of data and visiting actual places in Rome and outside of Rome. Working between the two and seeing how larger systems manifest themselves at a smaller scale in the landscape, is fascinating.

What aspect of your project are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to seeing it all come together for Open Studios in June.

What part of your project has been or do you anticipate will be the most challenging? Finding comprehensive and consistent data.

What's surprised you most about living in Rome?

That they have a newly opened theme park called “Rainbow Magicland”.

How have you managed the balance between your work (time in the studio/study) and engagement with Rome and Italy (travel, sightseeing, interactions with locals)?

It depends on the week but I usually spend about half the week out in Rome experiencing sites and meeting with people and the other half in my studio working and interpreting data.

How do you anticipate your Rome Prize Fellowship will influence future work?

I am not yet sure. I have learned an incredible amount through my research, the people at the Academy and the local Romans I have met and I know these experiences will profoundly shape how I approach my work after I leave the Academy.

What is your favorite spot at the Academy? or in Rome?

My studio. The space itself is amazing but the views are the best in Rome.