The bus ride from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough St at the Belltower is forty minutes of rumbling, bumpy discomfort. I know it well–every day for two semesters of my senior year at UNC, I moonlighted as a landscape architecture student here at NC State, under the tutelage of Fernando Magallanes.
One of those days–a crisp late October Tuesday, stands out most clearly. I had emailed Gene Bressler, FASLA, then the Department Head of Landscape Architecture, asking him if he’d deign to meet with me for 30 minutes to discuss my goals and aspirations. He, as he’s known to do, enthusiastically agreed. When asked if he wanted a coffee from Park Shops, he strangely told me that he’d never in his life drank coffee. That immediately struck me as strange. Weren’t all designers sleep-deprived caffeine addicts?
Gene welcomed me into the office, and though I can’t remember exactly what we discussed, I left feeling welcomed. The College of Design could be a place for me. Maybe even a place that defined who I would become?
Gene could have easily overlooked my email, and focused on more core departmental responsibilities. He could have simply sent me to Carla, or to a student. The fact that a department head took the time to leave his impression meant that, when the time was right, I applied to a single MLA program.
Three falls later, in the heart of a global pandemic, I matriculated. Gene was my first semester studio instructor, alongside Carla Delcambre. Building that damn chipboard model (A to B) immediately leveled the playing field–and it revealed what an inspiring bunch of students were in my cohort. Mothers, artists, community activists, Rhino wizards–today people I call my friends and peers. We are the last group of people to complete A to B as an introductory landscape studio project, and I am a better designer years later for it.
2023 is the 75th Anniversary of the College of Design. But, as US Secretary of War Elihu Root once said in an address, “No institution lives long unless it meets a human need.” The spirit and attitude of Gene Bressler has clearly permeated the culture housed in Brooks, Kamphoefner, and , and if it’s remembered and replicated, this is an institution that will live long indeed.