Adrienne Cortez ’95

Urban Landscape

By Donna Parker

When Adrienne Cortez, who received a double bachelor’s degree in Spanish and art history from Trinity in 1995, saw dozens of fire hydrants open and spraying children on her first fourth of July while living in New York City, it was the cool beginning of a long-term creative project, nyc: uncapped. Although the fire hydrant scene is iconic in our culture, Adrienne thought that there might be more environmentally sustainable options for escaping the heat, other than wasting thousands of gallons of water.
Adrienne notes that friends and colleagues living far from New York all referenced the fire hydrant spray scenes in Spike Lee’s film, “Do The Right Thing.”  “I received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, which is ironic because that’s exactly how Spike Lee funded some of his movies,” says this industrious landscape architect.

“It was really my first project as an independent landscape architect,” she said. Adrienne shared nyc: uncapped informally with the American Society of Landscape Architects at a recent convention in Chicago and is now following up with the City of New York hoping to develop a ‘pilot street’ to bring her sustainable ideas into real life.

“This is probably the most rewarding part of being a designer – that you dream up and scribble an idea on paper and it becomes a reality.”

Adrienne says people from more than 20 countries have logged on to www.nyc-uncapped.com (where you may check out her sustainable “uncapped” alternatives).

“I’ve received comments from people as far away as Australia.  They don’t have fire hydrants but still found the concept intriguing.  Also, a group of graduate students in New York invited me to collaborate on their work on public water usage.”

Adrienne, who moved to Dallas several years back, founded her own company, R & D Landscape Architecture, which is thriving.  She practices an environmentally-conscious lifestyle even in the land of suburban sprawl, residing in a walking-friendly neighborhood, limiting the need for a car.   She and her husband, Andrew Skola, are happily married, having been introduced by a mutual friend from junior high school.  Their vows were spoken in the Trinity Chapel.

“Former University Chaplain Reverend Judd officiated.  We knew as soon as we visited the chapel that it was the right place for our ceremony.  All of my bridesmaids were Trinity women.  Trinity figures prominently in my life – my parents, aunt, uncle and cousin are all alumni.”

“My professors Drs. John Hutton, Lisa Reitzes and Carolyn Valone – all in the department of art and art history - were all instrumental in the foundation of my architectural career.  We never looked at a piece of art in isolation.  There was always a historical context – politically, socially.”

Post Trinity, Adrienne also earned a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia. 

Adrienne’s work in landscape architecture satisfies an innate curiosity to explore sustainable solutions, which she has also employed on brownfield and green roof projects around the U.S. “Uncapped has been a great adventure for me. The same way that my Trinity professors taught me to approach a project is exactly the method I use now.  I try to bring that historical context to everything I do.” 

You may contact Adrienne at adrienne_cortez@hotmail.com.