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In Profile: Sarah Gorney’s summer of growth at the Smithsonian Gardens

In Profile: Sarah Gorney’s summer of growth at the Smithsonian Gardens

While not exactly like a scene out of Night at the Museum, Sarah Gorney, a senior in Texas Tech’s Department of Landscape Architecture spent 12 weeks as the Smithsonian Gardens Landscape Architecture Intern in Washington, D.C. this summer. A native of Fairfax, Va., a D.C. suburb, her duties included preparation of designs, presentations, planning reports and more.

“My internship allowed me to see how the design process and contributing factors have been successfully applied in a stressful, urban environment,” Gorney said. “Landscape architecture is a synthesis between the built and natural environment, and the Smithsonian Gardens embody this concept to the fullest.”

Among her tasks were:

  • Conducting square footage studies
  • Helping coordinate and create cost estimates
  • Creating planting plans for multiple museums
  • Updating AutoCAD plans for the new bike racks around the National Mall
  • Preparing documents and plans for different projects, including the new National African American History and Culture Museum slated to open in 2015
  • Developing design concepts for multiple projects, including the redesign of the Calder sculpture area at the National American History Museum and the storage/work area at the Ripley Garden

Gorney had the opportunity to work one-on-one with Bill Donnelly, the Landscape Architect with Smithsonian Gardens and experience what he did first-hand. In addition, she attended design and construction meetings with architects, engineers, approving agencies and other parties.

While providing invaluable experience, the Smithsonian offered Gorney a different perspective of landscape architecture. Since the Smithsonian is part of the federal sector, there are different rules, regulations, design requirements and materials that are mandatory for each project, which are different from the private sector.

Moreover, Gorney’s internship should provide her with valuable experience in multiple areas she can apply in her future career. Receiving an opportunity to learn the landscape architecture ropes before entering the job market should make her transition from student to new hire more efficient. Her career goal is to be a licensed landscape architect with a focus on sustainable design, urban revitalization and ecological restoration.

Written by Faith Jurek

CONTACT: Charles Klein, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2011or



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