We build cultural landscapes.
We tell landscape stories.
We interpret the landscapes between.
Based in Tbilisi, Georgia—a region of geological and geographic intensity—Isthmus Group is a landscape architecture and planning practice that looks to merge research with making, practice with poetics, and narratives with topographies.
Founded in 2019 by Sarah Cowles, Isthmus Group grounds a global practice in the tectonic relief of the Transcaucasian Isthmus—an intermediary geography between Europe and Asia. Through a reading of histories, geographies, and ecology, we look to configure new landscape publics across the region.
Isthmus Group works with a wide range of clients—from municipalities to institutions to community groups to developers to private owners—to guide the design and visioning process. Accordingly, our projects cut across scales as well as received spatial configurations.
Isthmus is a collaborative platform that aims to construct textual geographies, provoke new landscape rituals, and inhabit the geological time of Transcaucasia—a territorial interval between the Black and Caspian Seas. A place marked by deep relief, the tensions of geotectonics and geopolitics, where continents and cultures collide, where tongues and ecotones carry the remnants of inscrutable ideologies, where feudal assemblages and soviet land-uses meet, and where the earth feels testy, young, and is literally unfolding. It is all a great geological trick, and our work is to harvest a grammar and vocabulary—of objects, rites, rituals, words, practices, landscapes, and itineraries--for interpreting its baroque relief.
Sarah Cowles is a founding partner of Isthmus Group LLC. For Cowles, every site project is a forum to negotiate and invent new relationships of ecology and culture. She begins with the given, the site and its history, layering new elements that amplify the inherent intelligence of the site to construct new landscape identities and stories. Her expertise in landscape planning and design spans a range of scales, including master planning for cultural institutions, ecological rehabilitation of industrial, natural disaster, and mining sites, and urban and residential landscape design. Her prior experience includes practice with TLS Landscape Architecture, where she coordinated site design of the US Consulate in Guangzhou, and large-scale urban redevelopment projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Treasure Island and Hunters Point Shipyard.
As a professor of Landscape Architecture in professional programs in the United States, she has held positions at The Ohio State University, Washington University, and most recently, The University of Southern California. Her courses and studios include the technical and the pragmatic to the inventive and theoretical. In 2012, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Urban Design at the Tbilisi State Academy of the Arts.
She is a frequent contributor to Landscape Architecture Magazine, and the author of “Market Imperatives” in The Archive of Transition, a collection of photographs and essays on post-Soviet culture and urbanism of Tbilisi.Cowles received her Master of Landscape Architecture from Harvard University’s GSD and her BFA from the California College of the Arts.
David’s passion for the history and landscape of Georgia brought him through many different professions across the country. His diverse experience working throughout Georgia and his interest in nature, society, and infrastructure led him to the field of landscape architecture, which he sees as a hands-on opportunity to create a better future for Georgia.
He studied Economics at the Georgia Technical University (GTU) in Tbilisi before enrolling at the Alliance Francaise and the Institute Montarry in Paris. On returning to Georgia he worked at VTB Bank and covered special events and on-site television broadcasting for TV Imedia. Dato’s management experience spans several sectors, including media production, international trade, construction material sales and distribution, agricultural production, and ski instruction. He holds diplomas in waste management and safety and security from GTU.
Mako Kapanadze holds a BA in Architecture from the Academy of Arts, Faculty of Architecture and an MA at the Center of Contemporary Art, Tbilisi. Her work has focused on an artistic approach to blending architecture with site analysis. Her interest in landscape architecture derives from the exploration of transitive spaces where the natural and artificial communicate with one another as two different phenomena to create hybrids. This is a challenge to rethink design from a different perspective, equivalent to the different scales of the site. Before joining ISTHMUS, Mako worked in urban planning.
Designer and Horticultural Specialist
Christian Moore is a designer and plantsman with a keen interest in endemic plant species and their relation to rural and peri-urban development. Moore is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University where he received his B.S. in Landscape Architecture and Origins of Western Thought. Moore’s thesis work compared agricultural development in the temperate grasslands of the former Soviet Union and the United States; his combined fieldwork in Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and the American Great Plains was the subject of the Spring 2019 OUTPOSTED exhibition at the Knowlton School.
Prior to joining Isthmus, Moore interned at the Schau- und Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof in Germany where he studied ecological planting design under Cassian Schmidt. He has been the recipient of multiple awards from the Garden Club of America and was recently named a National Olmsted Scholar Finalist by the Landscape Architecture Foundation.
- Isthmus Group Landscape Architecture
- Barnovi St. 71
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- +995 595 00 55 31