Louise Bordelon with her mountain bike on Porcupine Rim mountain bike trail in Moab, UT.

Louise Bordelon Makes Strides for Creating More Inclusive and Sustainable Landscapes

October 30, 2023

Louise Bordelon is a leader in landscape architecture education and a force for creating a more inclusive, environmental, and sustainable future. Bordelon stepped into the role of Landscape Architecture Department Chair in July 2020. In her time as Chair, Bordelon led the department through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Master of Landscape Architecture accreditation process and renewal. Now, Bordelon is turning her focus back toward research and teaching as she steps down from the Chair role. The College of Architecture and Planning would like to extend our thanks to Bordelon for her important work in leading our Landscape Architecture program. We look forward to seeing the impact she continues to make on our students and the landscape architecture profession.

“Landscape Architecture changes how we interface with the natural world. It has the ability to bring ecology and biodiversity back into our cities…bring people together and celebrate place and culture in ways that we really need,” said Bordelon in an interview about CU Denver’s Landscape Architecture program.

Bordelon grew up in South Africa, where she spent most of her childhood outdoors. Bordelon earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Cape Town and an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from the University of Pretoria. She also holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree and a PhD in Geography and Anthropology from Louisiana State University (LSU), where she was a Fulbright Scholar. 

Where Landscape Architecture and Mountain Biking Meet

Louise Bordenlon riding her mountain bike along a trial.

While attending LSU, Bordelon began racing road bikes. Eventually, she took up mountain biking, which is now both her hobby and a research interest, particularly in exploring gender and economic disparity within the mountain biking community.

“Drawing and writing are a lot like physical endurance—you have to work at them; you can’t run a marathon off the couch, and you can’t write a paper off the couch either. You have to repeat your activities again and again to master them,” said Bordelon. “Being a cyclist puts you on the paths and trails and allows you to understand places from a user perspective – totally unlike a site visit when you arrive and leave in a vehicle.”

The Future of Landscape Architecture

Louise Bordelon in standing along a gorge in Fruita, CO at the Colorado National Monument.

The landscape architecture research and curriculum at CU Denver is based on five core learning objectives: communication, content knowledge, design, ethics, and research.

Throughout the program, students experience and explore the landscape, working with not-for-profits, government agencies, and community groups. Students meet with communities and clients to better understand their needs, wants, and uses for their spaces. They interact with nature, learn about local and native plant life, and research how changes in our environment impact our landscapes over time.

“The practice of landscape architecture is essentially designing everything that is outside the building. So urban places, big parks, national parks, trails, master planning of communities, river systems, ecological restoration focused on how species co-habit and how we can work and live with systems,” said Bordelon.

The Landscape Architecture Department at CU Denver balances theory and practice to emphasize design to support human well-being and environmental balance.

Bordelon’s Next Steps

In Spring 2024, Bordelon will return her focus to research and her manuscript-in-progress, titled Neglected Narratives: Nature, Culture, and Colonialism on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which investigates and highlights untold stories of lesser-known minorities who inhabit this National Park. Bordelon will teach Studio 2, which will take students on a journey through some of Denver’s most iconic cultural landscapes with the charge to re-imagine their potential.

Also, keep an eye out for her chapter on barriers to women’s participation in mountain biking due out in an edited volume titled Mountain Biking and Society published by Taylor and Francis (forthcoming February 2024).