Ronnie Siegel, principal of Swire Siegel, Landscape Architects, has over forty years of experience as a landscape architect working in the states of New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and California, and completing over 150 projects. She has studied at Dartmouth College, and the University of Manchester, England, received a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ronnie began her career working for Philip N. Winslow on the very first historic master plan of a landscape in the U.S., the restoration of a 33-acre area called the Ramble in the heart of Central Park in New York City. Ronnie’s drawings for this project helped inspire the beginnings in 1979 of what continued to be a 30 year long phased renovation of the entire 840 acres of Central Park.
In New York in the 1980’s, Ronnie opened her firm Swire Siegel, Landscape Architects and focused on urban park projects with an effort to bring nature and outdoor recreation back into the densely built urban setting. In 1987, she moved her firm to California where her main focus expanded to outdoor play and learning environments for children of all ages in parks, preschools, and elementary through high school campuses. Her goal was to bring attention to the lack of nature in the lives of children in and around urban areas and to increase green space and change the predominantly paved school campuses into nature-filled environments that support both play and learning.
Ronnie enjoyed a 30-year collaboration with child development professionals at the Child Educational Center in La Canada Flintridge where she learned what was needed to translate child development knowledge to the outdoor play environment’s design. She was the landscape architect component helping in a small way to support the formation of the Outdoor Classroom project that has served over 1000 preschools in the Los Angeles area and inspired change around the country. See: https://www.outdoorclassroomproject.org/ . Independently she has given invited talks and held workshops around the world.
Swire Siegel’s overriding philosophy grew out of the “Design with Nature” movement begun by the late Ian McHarg, which has become the basis of ecological planning today. In light of such pressing environmental issues as global warming and increasing pollution of air and water all over the world, Ronnie believes that adhering to this design philosophy is critical to the survival of the human species. The firm’s overriding goal is to create artistic designs that achieve functionality while adhering to a harmonious relationship with the natural environment. To this end, Swire Siegel specializes in the use of native plants and plants with low water requirements; methods to capture and recharge storm water; and the use of recycled, locally sourced, and natural materials.
Intermixed throughout her career as a landscape architect, Ronnie has expressed herself through environmental art works by creating drawings for spatial works on paper and by melding art forms such as photography, drawing, and 3D design using natural materials in a process similar to what is used to create a landscape.
During the period of isolation during the global coronavirus pandemic, Ronnie worked on her first children’s book, DISPLACED: A Story About Climate Change and How Displaced Animals Ring the Alarm as a way to express the parallels between the surreal world covid-19 created and the prospects of one that might be created by climate change.
Siegel has demonstrated her concern for the environment not only through her landscape architecture and artwork but also through her life’s practices. Her studio has been powered, heated, and cooled using solar power since 2007. She designed a collection system for rainwater in cisterns with a capacity to store 5000 gallons for irrigation purposes and most of the storm water not collected in cisterns is retained and recharged on site through porous paving and retention basins. In the last 6 years, she has driven either an electric car powered by her solar panels or a hybrid vehicle and hopes to go all electric in the near future.
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Westridge School for Girls High School Science Building and Grounds
As the landscape architect consultant to Pica + Sullivan Architects, this project was awarded Platinum Leed and USGBC award for innovation in design.
As the landscape architect consultant to Harley Ellis Devereaux this project was the recipient of Pasadena Arts Council’s Gold Crown Award; Gold LEED Certification; Best Overall Award, Flex Your Power; Learning By Design Citation of Excellence Award; Southern California Concrete Producers Cornerstone Concrete Excellence Award; Pasadena Beautiful Foundation Honor Award; The Soroptimist International of Altadena/Pasadena Annual Service Award; Design Share Awards, Merit Award; AIA Pasadena & Foothill, Merit Award.
Native Plant Garden in the Sunset Demonstration Gardens at the Los Angeles Arboretum
Commendation award given by the City of Los Angeles in recognition of the dedicated service to the affairs of the community and of the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all of the citizens of Los Angeles County.
Memorial Park Playground
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
The American Public Works Association’s award recognizing the artistic elements enhancing children’s imaginary play, project funding, and construction phasing to achieve the renovation.
Native Plant Garden and Children’s Play Areas on the Paradise Canyon Elementary School Campus
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
Parent Teachers Association Founders Day Award for contribution to the establishment of nature play areas for Paradise Canyon Elementary School and in recognition of the outstanding service to children and youth.
Child Educational Center’s Outdoor Play and Learning Spaces
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
President’s Award for longstanding service, generosity of spirit, and commitment to the Outdoor Classroom.
Sunset Magazine Garden Design Competition-Award of Excellence in design.
- Native Plant Garden at the Los Angeles Arboretum, Sunset Magazine.
- Historic Landscape Study and Master Plan of the Ramble in Central Park exhibited at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design; at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York.
- Waterworks on the Hudson River in New York City exhibited at FIT, NY, NY.
Conference and Workshop Presentations
- Ronnie Siegel, Landscape Architect, and Dr. Roberta Goldberg, Child Psychologist, The Frostig Center, “The Design of Outdoor Play Environments That Stimulate STEM Learning”, Early Childhood STEM Institute’s conference in San Diego, 2013.
- Ronnie Siegel, Landscape Architect,“Designing Play Environments for Preschool Age Children”, guest lecture at Cal Poly Pomona, 2013.
- Ronnie Siegel, Landscape Architect, and Dr. Roberta Goldberg, Child Psychologist, The Frostig Center, “Designing Environments to Include Children With Special Needs”, University of California at Berkeley, 2012.
- Ronnie Siegel, Landscape Architect, and Dr. Roberta Goldberg, Child Psychologist, The Frostig Center, “The Design of Outdoor Play Environments That Enhance Math and Science Learning”, Early Childhood Math and Science Institute’s second conference in Pasadena, 2012.
- Ronnie Siegel, “The Design of Outdoor Play Environments That Enhance Math and Science Learning”, Early Childhood Math and Science Institute’s first conference in Pasadena, 2011.
- Ronnie Siegel, Training Workshops for Head Start Teachers, “How to Set up and Maintain a Children’s Vegetable Garden”, January-April 2011.
- Ronnie Siegel, Workshop presenter for the Outdoor Classroom initiative funded by the Orfela Foundation and located in Santa Barbara County to instruct preschools and early childhood educators how to design the outdoors to encourage healthful, creative, and educational play, 2009.
- Ronnie Siegel, Landscape Architect, and Dr. Roberta Goldberg, Child Psychologist, The Frostig Center, “Re-Ranging the Free Range of Childhood: A Case Study of Preserving Open Space for Children in an Urban Neighborhood”, World Forum on Nature Education at Arbor Day Farm; Nebraska City, Nebraska, July 2008.
- Ronnie Siegel, “Designing the Preschool Outdoor Play Environment in Southern California”, Children In Nature- A Country Forum at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia, November 2007.
- Ronnie Siegel, “Nature, Playgrounds, and the Outdoor Classroom”, The Outdoor Classroom Project at the Child Educational Center in La Canada Flintridge, California, a series of 20 workshops from 2003-2008.
- Ronnie Siegel, “Designing Children’s Play Spaces”, Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, La Canada Flintridge, CA, 2008.
- Ronnie Siegel, “Encouraging Children’s Creative Play by Design”, Kiwanis Club of La Cañada Flintridge, CA, 2000.
- Union Station Homeless Services-donation of the design along with Picture Perfect Construction’s donation of labor and materials to renovate a courtyard seating area for the family center in Pasadena, CA.
- ASLA Southern California Climate Action Representative, 2020- present.
- City of La Cañada Flintridge Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Local Water Issues, 2009-2016.
- City of La Cañada Flintridge General Plan Advisory Commission, 2008-2012.
- Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, 1977 to present.