Interview: Jung Hwa Kim | University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Interview: Jung Hwa Kim |  University of Nevada, Las Vegas

For Jung Hwa Kim, who joined UNLV in the fall of 2022, the idea that landscape architecture combines art and science was of great importance in determining the career field she chose to pursue.

“As a child, I enjoyed working with numbers in mathematics, even though I don’t consider myself a mathematics expert,” Kim says. “I had a passion for drawing as well, although I was not completely confident in my artistic abilities. In addition, I had a deep love for geography and history. So, I went on a quest to find something that would fill these interests and found landscape architecture, which turned out to be a truly interdisciplinary field.

Kim is a historian and landscape architect in the UNLV School of Architecture with an interest in 19th- and 20th-century garden and open space art. Her studies have been funded by distinguished institutions such as the Korean Ministry of Education, the National Research Foundation of South Korea, the Robert H.

After obtaining a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. Kim holds a degree from Seoul National University and has worked as a landscape architect for several design firms in Seoul. She has also taught at Gachon University, Seoul University, and Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul.

What were some of your professional experiences before coming to UNLV?

Before joining UNLV, I had the privilege of spending time in Berlin, Germany, where I worked as a postdoctoral fellow in 4A_LAB, an interdisciplinary program with the theme “Plants,” at the Kunsthistorisches Florence (Max Planck Institute for the History of Art in Florence). During this period, I undertook a research project entitled “Forests and Invented Forests: Tree Groups, Displays, and Networks in the First Korean Arboretum, 1922-1948.” This project investigated the historical foundations and ideals that influenced the concept of scientific forestry, not only in eighteenth-century Germany, but also in nineteenth-century Japan. I also studied how the first Korean nursery succeeded in conveying the principles of scientific forestry through landscape design.

Between 2008 and 2012, I worked for several design firms in Seoul, South Korea, as a landscape architect. Among the variety of projects to which I have contributed, a particular highlight is Seoul Park in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Here I dedicated myself to formulating a balanced plan that combined vernacular and international landscape elements. This design aims to create a space that resonates with both ethnic Koreans living in post-Soviet countries and the local Uzbek community.

Tell us about something in your office and what it represents to you.

All the interesting drawings surrounding me are from the landscape architecture design studio for third year students. For the fall 2023 semester, my students are working on the future development of the North Belt Trail, which is currently in the design process and expected to be completed within the next five years. In collaboration with the City of North Las Vegas Parks and Recreation Department team, they have completed the site analysis and are now moving on to the master plan and detailed design processes. Since I see them three times a week in the studio, their passion for design and concern for the environment are very inspiring and help me discover research topics around Las Vegas.

What is the biggest misconception about your field/job?

Although understanding of landscape architecture is increasing, some people still view this field as only a technical field, such as garden maintenance. Landscape architecture involves the planning, design, management and history of natural and designed environments. Additionally, it is now classified as a STEM field, with a focus on mitigating climate change, improving urban forests, reducing urban heat, and addressing water shortages. Once you learn more about landscape architecture, I am sure you will become a great supporter of this field.

Is this what you thought you would do when you grew up?

If you are talking about a career in education, then yes, that has always been my dream. I aspired to be an elementary school teacher, and was likely influenced by the many outstanding teachers I was fortunate to meet in my life. However, if you are asking if I see myself becoming a professor, the answer is no! I thought the professors were all articulate and open-minded individuals, although I realized that was not always the case. However, I considered a professorship because it often provides the most direct means of supporting research, even when that research does not immediately translate into financial gain or the creation of tangible products.

When you’re out in the community or traveling, what’s the biggest misconception you encounter about UNLV?

There are two common misconceptions I encounter. First, many people tend to think that Las Vegas consists only of casinos and entertainment companies, with no notable institution of higher learning like UNLV. Second, there is a preconceived notion that I would face significant challenges in teaching and research at UNLV. However, people are always surprised when they discover the incredible diversity of our students, faculty, and staff, and the large presence of international and Korean faculty at UNLV.

Name someone on campus you want to thank.

Of course, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Dr. Jihee Lee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering. Dr. Lee played a pivotal role in helping me settle into campus life and adjust to the vibrant Las Vegas community. When I initially had concerns about teaching during my first year, she reassured me by sharing her experiences of the welcoming, kind and friendly nature of the students. During times when I was having difficulty navigating the new social systems here, she introduced me to beautiful, peaceful places, which helped me focus on the positive aspects of living here.

I am sincerely grateful for her invaluable support. Of course, she’s not the only one. If I only had one person (that I could) thank on campus, I wouldn’t stay. I would like to express my gratitude to the many wonderful individuals I have met at UNLV and say, “Thank you!”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept the fact that you are experimental. Each of your mistakes, missteps, and failures will ultimately serve as valuable lessons that will contribute to your personal growth. Keep your chin up and always anticipate the next opportunity to shine!

(Tags for translation) Personal files of faculty and staff

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