Landscape Architecture student Constanza wants to help people develop ecological thinking

Foto: Tessa Posthuma de Boer

Published on

Constanza Gómez Guzmán (Master in Landscape Architecture): “I have been very interested in nature since I was young. Not just how it works, but the beauty of it. I was intrigued by how visual all the processes are: the bees going to the flowers, colourful fish swimming in the river – those are maybe my earliest memories.”

“In Mexico, where I grew up, we have a lot of social issues regarding inequality and the lack of support for indigenous communities, which are fading out along with our multicultural richness. When I was doing my Bachelor’s degree in Biology, I realised that with this knowledge I could do something not only for nature, but for society. For my graduation, I did an interdisciplinary project which fused biology and landscape architecture. We helped an otomí indigenous community restore the ecosystems that inspired their cosmovision, by planning for wildlife corridors: green connections between habitats, where native plants and animals can thrive, while also supporting human activities. In this way, their culture was kept alive and they were provided with the raw materials that constitute their traditional food, medicine, clothing, art and building supplies. It was there that I discovered the potential of using ecological knowledge and design to help communities.”

“I recently did an academic project for Westerpark, where I combined Aztec ancient wisdom with what I’ve learned here about water infrastructure and habitat diversity for specific species of animals and plants. This turned out to be very rich.”

“I have also found acceptance by being here. There is a sense of open-mindedness, especially in the AHK. In the field of ecology there’s this term ‘ecological niche’, which means that every species living on this planet has a role. The bees have this role, the ants have that role. I think when you find out your role, your ecological niche, it’s easier to take on the challenges that you’re presented with. You’re good at what you do, you contribute to society, and you’re happy – what else do you need? This is what acceptance gives you.”

Ecological thinking
“Now with the coronavirus, we’ve been really confronted with the fact that we have to do something ecologically. That’s also what I want to prove working in design: you can always do something. No matter where you are, you can do something from there.”

“I want to help more people develop ‘ecological thinking’.  That is my niche. And what I mean by ecological thinking is not just putting your trash in its place or recycling more, but really the awareness that the Earth functions as a single network. It’s about teamwork, not just between humans and disciplines, but between animals, plants, fungi, biological and chemical processes. When you feel and understand this connection, you will think twice before doing something that’s going to have environmental consequences.”

Humans of the Arts
There are approximately 3,000 students and 900 employees at the Amsterdam University of the Arts. Everyone has his or her own story. Those stories, whether they are connected with study/work or not, are the main focus in Humans of the Arts. Interview by Koen Caris.