Company Profile: James Corner Field Operations

James Corner Field Operations

Landscape Architects Network Features a company profile of James Corner Field Operations. James Corner Field Operations is a leading-edge landscape architecture and urban design firm based in New York City that describes themselves on their website as ‘committed to the innovative design of public spaces’. One of the company’s most famous projects is the High Line in New York, which was designed in cooperation with architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and planting designer Piet Oudolf, and which has become a major tourist and residents’ attraction since its opening in June 2009 (Section 1 was opened in 2009; section 2 followed in June 2011, and the 3rd and northernmost section was finalised in September of 2014). The High Line is a 1.5-mile-long public park built on unused elevated rail tracks; it has become so successful that it now pulls in over six million visitors every year.

The Highline is a great example of a planting scheme increasing biodiversity in an urban area; credit:

The Highline is a great example of a planting scheme increasing biodiversity in an urban area; credit:

James Corner Field Operations

The company was founded by the Briton James Corner, who studied landscape architecture in Manchester and Pennsylvania in the 1980s. He has always combined his professional practice with intense teaching and writing, and a focus on post-industrial landscapes. James Corner was chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design from 2000-2012, and is currently a professor emeritus in the department. James Corner’s work has been recognised – among many others – with the National Design Award in 2010, the Architecture Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004, and the D&AD Black Pencil Award for the High Line in 2010.

Philadelphia Navy Yards – Central Green

Philadelphia Navy Yards – Central Green. Credit: © Halkin Mason Photography

One of the Capability Browns of Today

Corner’s work is renowned for innovative and bold contemporary design, with a special interest in designing a vibrant and dynamic public realm in cities. His designs bring back the open spaces of the natural wild into public realms – with a rough, natural, and ecologically-sound approach.   “There is always a danger that landscape architecture can actually kill a place, through the deployment of clichéd design moves. The design of the High Line was very much inspired by what we first encountered there – the wildness.”; Corner.   In an article published in the UK’s ‚‘The Telegraph’ in April 2016, James Corner has been compared to Lancelot ‚‘Capability’ Brown, one of the great English 18th-century landscape architects. The Brownian mindset was to enhance or alter the identity of large areas of land, rather than just decorate what is already there. In James Corner’s 21st-century projects, this would translate into renovating and regenerating existing infrastructure such as ex-docklands, derelict buildings, neglected riverfronts and decayed city centres. Integrating water into the design is also one of James Corner’s specialisms, similar to Brown’s.

Dock Street Roof Terrace, by James Corner Field Operations

Dock Street Roof Terrace, by James Corner Field Operations

Cross-disciplinary Approach

Field Operations is at the forefront of the Landscape Urbanism movement, an interdisciplinary approach that combines a wide range of disciplines including landscape architecture, urban design, landscape ecology, and engineering. Corner argues that it is an approach that focuses on process rather than a style. James Corner Field Operations also likes bringing in experts from various fields, such as artists and photographers. This cross-disciplinary approach led to one of his most celebrated books, Taking Measures Across the American Landscape’, in which he and aerial photographer Alex MacLean explore the American landscape from a design perspective. His team comprises over 50 professionals.

Dock Street Roof Terrace, by James Corner Field Operations

Dock Street Roof Terrace, by James Corner Field Operations

Imagination and Immensity In his 2014 collection of essays titled ‘The Landscape Imagination’, he states the following: “Landscape architecture has a profound role to play in the reconstitution of meaning and value in our modern cities and communities.” Thus the role of landscape architects is to influence urban, social and environmental developments by appealing to the collective imagination, resulting in the creation of places that enchant rather than being showy.   “Intimate immensity is what it’s like to be in a forest where things are immediate and intimate and tactile, but at the same time you are in the big space of the forest, and the forest seems immense.“; Corner.   The Public Realm Takes Center Stage The reference to ‘place’ is always at the forefront of James Corner Field Operations’ work. To him, cities should be seen as landscapes; at the same time, landscapes can create new forms of city-making. The realisation of this approach can be seen in one of his recent projects – a spectacular design for a newly-built city in China’s Shenzhen, where the company runs another office. The site spans across 4500 acres of reclaimed land surrounding Qianhai Harbor and will be home to 2 million people.

© James Corner Field Operations

He argues that typically, the public realm is a leftover; a residue. What they have achieved in the design for the Shenzhen project is that the public realm shapes and frames the city – rather than the city purely being shaped by the streets, blocks and buildings, and the public realm being the leftover space.   “It’s been well demonstrated that the design of good public spaces enhances the economic value of everything around it.”; Corner.   Further important public-realm projects designed by Field Operations include:

  • South Park Plaza at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
  • Shelby’s Farm Park, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tongva Park, Santa Monica
  • Navy Pier, Chicago
  • Public Square, Cleveland
  • Race Street Pier, Philadelphia
  • Salisbury Gardens, Hong Kong
  • Presidio New Parklands, San Francisco
  • False Creek, Vancouver

Here is a short list of awards Field Operations has won (the full list can be found on

  • ASLA NY Award, The Underline Miami, Honor Award, 2016
  • APA National Planning Achievement Award: Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square, 2015
  • ASLA NY Award, High Line at the Rail Yards, Honor Award, 2015
  • Los Angeles Architectural Award, Landscape Architecture: Public Open Space category, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square, 2014
  • National Design Award, 2010
  • D&AD Black Pencil Award, High Line, 2010
  • Time Magazine “Ten Most Influential Designers,” 2007
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters, Award in Architecture, 2004
  • Daimler-Chrysler Design Award for Innovation in Design, 2000

Want to learn more about James Corner Field Operations?

Have you been inspired by Field Operations’ innovative designs? Check out their website at for more information. It also features James Corner’s various publications, including a book about the High Line. Direct Information for James Corner Field Operations: Company Name: James Corner Field Operations Founder & CEO: James Corner Senior Principals: Lisa Tziona Switkin, Richard Kennedy Year of Foundation: 1998 Address (main office): 475 10th avenue, 9th fl, New York, NY 10018 Global offices: San Francisco, London, Shenzhen Website: E-mail Contact: info[at] Social Networks: Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn

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