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Climate Council

At MorningStar Packing Company, Williams, CA

Learning. Discovery. Awareness. Change.

Van Alen Institute’s Climate Council is a platform for exchange for leading architects, landscape architects, engineers, planners, researchers, philanthropic partners, and other professionals. The Climate Council’s purpose is to investigate critical climate-related issues, inspire change-making design projects that can improve the environment and promote healthy communities, produce mindset changes regarding climate issues, and guide Van Alen’s innovative public programming, research, and design competitions.

Van Alen believes that a resilient environment is key to human well-being and the protection of critical natural systems. Therefore, the Climate Council will look beyond cities to our continent’s rapidly changing landscapes and ecosystems. Through carefully curated trips, participants will explore the effects of climate change and related environmental crises first-hand. With this exposure, they will be able to respond more effectively and proactively through their work and personal advocacy.

The Climate Council builds on Van Alen’s successful International Council model in that it fosters a collaborative and congenial setting for exploration and reflection away from the traditional practice.

The Council is led by Claire Weisz, Climate Council Co-Chair, Principal-in-Charge, WXY Studio  and Mark Johnson, Climate Council Co-Chair, President, Civitas. Other members include architects, landscape architects, engineers, environmentally minded companies, researchers, designers, and philanthropic partners.

Council Activities

Starting with the Council’s inaugural trip to the Central Valley region of California in July of 2018, members participate in hands-on investigative trips to a wide range of North American destinations that are undergoing or will undergo, substantial environmental change. From deserts to coastal estuaries, Council members will meet with individuals and organizations working at the forefront of climate change research and adaptation.

For more information, please contact Stacey Anderson, Associate Director, Business Development and Special Initiatives,, 212 924 7000.


Summer 2018: Sacramento Valley, California

July 17-19, 2018

Meeting Highlights:

  • Visit to General Produce Company, Sacramento, CA
  • Visit to Morning Star Packing Co., Williams, CA
  • Lunch and tour at Matchbook Wine Company, Zamora, CA, hosted by UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health
  • Panel Discussion and Q&A with local experts at the Innovation Institute for Food & Health, UC Davis
  • Tour of Russell Ranch (Agricultural Sustainability Institute), UC Davis
  • Site visit to Bowles Farm, near Los Banos in California’s San Joaquin Valley
  • Site visit to Naturipe Berry Growers, Watsonville, CA
  • Exploration at Alameda Creek, Fremont, CA
  • Visit to West Sacramento Urban Farms
  • Designing for the Future of Food: Workshop with local experts and students, UC Davis


      • Kishore Varanasi, CBT Architects
      • Amy Franceschini, Future Farmers (Guest of Alison Sant)
      • S. Bry Sarté, Sherwood Design Engineers
      • Steven Baumgartner, SmithGroup
      • Todd Kohli, SmithGroup
      • Gary Sorge, Stantec
      • Elias Rashmawi, Stantec
      • Chris Reed, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
      • Lisa Hollywood, Stoss Landscape Urbanism
      • Alison Sant, Studio for Urban Projects
      • Barbara Wilks, W Architecture + Landscape Architecture
      • Gregory Otto, Walter P Moore
      • Erik Verboon, Walter P Moore
      • Mark Yoes, WXY Studio
      • David van der Leer, Van Alen Institute
      • Chloe Stagaman, Van Alen Institute
      • Sahoko Yui, UC Davis
      • Kyeema Zerbe, Innovation Institute for Food + Health
      • Bridgette Johnson, Innovation Institute for Food + Health
      • Andrew Loeb, Historian