Colgate M. Searle, Jr., is widely recognized for his long-term, continuous commitment to the landscape architecture profession through teaching and community-based, participatory environmental and ecological design projects. A symbiosis among academic service, professional practice and community service aptly characterizes his career. He is a professor of Landscape Architecture at RISD and former head of the department. He has been teaching a wide range of courses for over 30 years, within the departments of Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Experimental and Foundation Studies. He is the originator and teacher of the interdisciplinary course Field Ecology/Design Foundations and has served as chief critic for RISD's European Honors Program.
Searle is a registered landscape architect and principal in the landscape architectural design and planning firm of Searle and Searle, founded in 1975, and a fellow and trustee of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The firm has earned a reputation for award-winning work, especially in the areas of planning and restoration of environmentally sensitive lands and historic landscape rehabilitation. Searle has received numerous RIASLA design awards, as well as the RISD Alumni Council Arts Education Award. His current projects include the Wheeler School Farm Master Plan, Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, the Blackstone River Bike Path and the Roger Williams Park Botanical Garden. From his practice, he brings the complex issues of stewardship into classroom discussions and studio work.
Searle's research includes design for the 1-95 highway bridge corridor, culminating in a design proposal for an elevated highway reused as an armature for a new city district connecting neighborhoods. The RISD innovations studio Think Like a River applied watershed management understanding to abandoned industrial sites, from the river’s source to the tidal waters, sponsored by RISD and the RI Development Council. One River Project is a series of strategies that maximize mixed-use development at the water's edge, while providing public access and restoring and enhancing environmental and ecological health. The project is sponsored by RISD, the RI Economic Policy Council and grants from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Searle is also founding director of RISD/Earth University in Costa Rica. This ongoing collaboration works on issues ranging from the masterplan of their new campus to ubiquitous computing to designing products that use agricultural waste. This work has evolved into an annual research studio funded through The Fund for Sustainable Education. His current research is focused on the hill town of Castelvecchio Calvisio, damaged in the 2009 Abruzzo, Italy earthquakes.
Searle has lectured and been a guest critic at the Chinese Academy of the Arts in Hangzhou, the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, the Department of Landscape Architecture, Tsinghua University Beijing, the Seoul National University in Korea, Cornell University, Harvard University, Roger Williams University, Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, and the University of Maracaibo, Venezuela. He has been a visiting critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cornell University, Roger Williams University, Edinburgh College of Art and the RISD European Honors Program in Rome.