Kona A. Gray Wows Audience at Annual Edward D. Stone, Jr. Lecture

Monday, March 11, 2024
By: Tatiana Rodriguez

The University of Florida Department of Landscape Architecture held its ninth annual Edward D. Stone, Jr. lecture this past Wednesday as part of its 90th anniversary celebration. The keynote speaker was Kona A. Gray, who discussed grounded landscapes and how we can celebrate the environment and create spaces that support the surrounding nature rather than damage it.

Edward D. Stone, Jr. taught extensively at the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning for several decades, while also founding the firm EDSA in Fort Lauderdale in 1960. The fact Gray is a principal at EDSA and has been with the company for more than a quarter of a century made this moment even more impactful for the keynote speaker.

“One of the main reasons why I am still in landscape architecture is because of the legacy of Edward,” Gray said. “He taught us so much about the reason why we should care for the environment. He was always such a great inspiration, a great leader and a wonderful person to emulate.”

In his lecture, Gray explained that, before beginning design work, he gets to know the place that he is working in first. He considers the people, the land, and the culture, while simultaneously discovering what the people need and how he can best support them. He said that he “focuses on the people and the land to inform the master plan.”

Gray also highlighted several books throughout the presentation that have inspired him and motivated his work. These included: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek, “The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild” by Enric Sala, and “Design with Nature” by Ian McHarg.

The key takeaway from Gray’s lecture was that understanding cultures makes it easier to design for people, animals, and the environment. Taking time to learn about a place and community allows for spaces to be designed that are based on contextual heritage and offer innovative solutions. He considers how he can redesign nature and create functional environments celebrating the land.

Lily Crawford, a junior landscape architecture major, said that this was the first lecture series she attended, but that it made her excited to attend future events and learn more about what’s happening in the field firsthand as she picks up on different design approaches.

“Watching and interacting with Kona and knowing there are always professionals here to support us is really special to me because we always know that there’s going to be this fundamental support that comes from people in the industry,” Crawford said.

In remembrance of Stone and his numerous contributions to the fields of landscape architecture and land planning, this lecture series is held annually in his honor to highlight meaningful subjects in the field.

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