Getting to know the Rome Prize Fellowship in Landscape Architecture

The Rome Prize Fellowship in Landscape Architecture is an international fellowship which has been nurturing the discipline of landscape architecture in America for decades. The GCA is honored to collaborate with the American Academy in Rome to foster outstanding work in the field by providing an American student with one year of experience of study at the American Academy in Rome.

The fellowship, which includes geography, environmental design and planning, landscape and ecological urbanism, landscape history, sustainability, and ecological studies, was established in 1928 with contributions from GCA clubs. The fellowship provides American landscape architects with a special opportunity for advanced study, travel, and association with other fellows in Rome.

A recent recipient of this prestigious award is Alexa Vaughn. As the 2022-2023 Rome Prize Fellow in Landscape Architecture, Alexa—who is deaf–recently completed her year-long fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. While there, Vaughn examined—through the eyes of a Deaf American woman—the aesthetics of Deaf and disabled experiences of Rome from ancient to modern times with the purpose of shaping new methodology for accessibility and inclusion in the Eternal City.

She also looked beyond basic accessibility guidelines (Americans with Disabilities Act), by treating lived experience as expertise. Through the lenses of Universal Design and DeafSpace principles (design that accounts for the visual and hearing abilities of the deaf person), Vaughn imagined new modes of historic preservation in Rome without sacrificing the essence of place. Through visual studies, mixed-media sketches, sensory mapping, and storytelling, Vaughn celebrates Deaf and disabled experiences in Rome to grow collective understandings.

If you have 17 minutes, you will find it very inspiring to view Alexia’s video on the GCA website.  In this short film, Vaughn communicates via sign language and interviews deaf Italians, asking about their favorite parks, safety issues, and what “landscape” means to them. 

To locate this film, simply go into the members section of the GCA website and search for the Scholarship Committee Landing Page. On the right- hand side, you will see Scholarship Latest News. Click on the second entry from the top to see the entry about Alexa. At the bottom of her article, you will find the “play” button.

Alexa hopes that lessons from the past can shape modern methodology and she plans to continue her work by pursuing a PhD in Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA this fall.


by Lindsay D