WILA Interview Series: Influences

image: Kristina Snyder

image: Kristina Snyder

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN leadership team developed 17 interview questions, and then found willing landscape architects to participate in the interview process. The following is an in-depth look at responses to the third group of interview questions, asking how respondents felt their gender influenced challenges in their work and/or informed their design work.

Many of our respondents indicated that they had experienced issues with being heard on the job (both at the construction site and in the conference room). Most respond to this challenge by making sure they had their own voice and standing up for their ideas. Several also indicated that they did not feel that gender played a role in their design work, attributing any influences in design (either approach or aesthetic) to personality instead. On the other hand, quite a few mentioned that a focus on collaboration and consensus building in their work was directly related to gender.

Each person’s experience is highly personal, but in sharing, discussing, and being open about our influences and experiences as a profession we become familiar with different ways of approaching similar situations in the future and ultimately push forward the best design for each project.

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The Gardens of August: Wyndygoul

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900 image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900
image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Part of a Research, Reachout & Restore series on historic and cultural landscapes

A century after the start of the First World War and 53 years since The Guns of August was published, the garden where Barbara Tuchman wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning work reveals itself.

Barbara Tuchman’s daughter once mentioned the garden to me in passing, recalling a Japanese maple—or was it a weeping cherry, with layered limbs cascading over stone walls onto the smooth surface of the pond? It was her grandfather’s, Maurice Wertheim’s, garden. This frugal recollection, like a grudging haiku, conjured an elegant landscape. I couldn’t shake it.

Since our conversation many years ago, I pieced together the few threads and clues that I remembered. Earlier this spring, I finally found the elusive garden and learned about its storied past. It remains extant, albeit threadbare. Originally it was the property of Ernest Thompson Seton, a wealthy naturalist and Englishman who bought up six old farmsteads in the village of Cos Cob, Connecticut, creating his country estate in 1900 and naming it Wyndygoul, Scottish for windy glen.

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3 Thoughts on Outdoor Kitchen Design

Keeping it simple. This outdoor kitchen tucked into a corner of a rooftop outdoor living area in Fargo, ND features only the appliances needed to serve the outdoor dining and living rooms. Image: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Keeping it simple. This outdoor kitchen tucked into a corner of a rooftop outdoor living area in Fargo, ND features only the appliances needed to serve the outdoor dining and living rooms.
image: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

With Eric Groft, FASLA, principal at Oehme, van Sweden, and Russ Cletta, principal at Russ Cletta Design Studio

They can be big or small, simple or complex; they can tax to the very limit your understanding of design principles, and they can even be something completely foreign. Get it right and you’ve created a beautiful stage for a homeowner’s best memories. Get it wrong and, well, you know.

Each year ASLA surveys its residential landscape architects for the latest design trends, and each year outdoor kitchens come out as one of the most important design elements. With this in mind, we interviewed Eric Groft of Oehme, van Sweden in Washington, DC and Russ Cletta of Russ Cletta Design Studio in Venice, CA to get their top three thoughts on what it takes to design an outdoor kitchen that will delight homeowners for many years.

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The Best Spaces to Move Through

Sunrise over Paynes Prairie in Alachua County, Florida near Gainesville image: Wesley Hetrick via Flickr

Sunrise over Paynes Prairie in Alachua County, Florida near Gainesville
image: Wesley Hetrick via Flickr

In 2013, we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members about the best spaces to move through. While the concept of the architectural promenade—and its emphasis on moving through built spaces to get a full sense of them—is associated with the rise of modernism in the early twentieth century, the experience of landscapes has always been intrinsically tied to motion, pathways, and changing perspectives. An always changing view—as one walks, as the day progresses and the angle of the sun shifts, as the seasons change, and as crowds ebb and flow—is far more captivating than a static experience that does little to reward visitors passing through.

We received many unique ideas and suggestions on the best spaces to move through; the following were mentioned more than once:

A prairie

Battery Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City

Grand Central Terminal, New York City

The High Line, New York City

Times Square, New York City

The National Mall, Washington, DC

FDR Memorial, Washington, DC

Golden Gate Park and Bridge, San Francisco

Millennium Park, Chicago

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Housing and Community Design, Reimagined

Building on the momentum of a great general session on equitable communities at the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting and a burgeoning interest in environmental justice, it is time to take a critical look at ASLA’s Housing and Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) in order to reimagine and reinvigorate it for 2015 and beyond.

With more than 300 members, the PPN should be an active, dynamic group that contributes to the PPN programs in place that allow members to connect with one another and share information—including The Field blog, Online Learning presentations, and a LinkedIn group. In the past few years, however, the activity level for the Housing and Community Design PPN has fallen and the group has lacked the guidance of an engaged PPN chair, co-chairs, or larger leadership team to create greater interest and energy for the network.

We need to hear from you about what you want to see from the PPN and how you would like to get involved. Does the group need a new name and/or a refined mission to provide a better sense of focus? How can this PPN better reflect the work you do and provide the resources you need?

Please complete this quick survey to provide us with much-needed feedback.

We look forward to hearing from you! If you have any questions concerning the Housing and Community Design PPN, let us know.

Reevaluating the Hutong

image: Shawn Balon

image: Shawn Balon

The Beijing Journal’s headline “Bulldozers Meet Historic Chinese Neighborhood,” published on July 20, 2010 in the New York Times, was both a snapshot of a turning point in history, and also representative of an endemic issue of Chinese urbanism. The area specifically discussed in the article is the Gulou neighborhood located directly north of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. This 50+ acre-area hosts a pair of defining brick towers whose drums and bells have helped Beijing’s citizenry keep track of the hour since the early 1700s.

Within this historic city center lies the hutongs. The rich history of the hutongs are magnificent and tangible, filled with active street life, restaurants, music venues, andy most notably, Chinese style courtyard homes. Hutongs are a manifestation of the history of China and an integral component of the culture that is still lived today.

This post takes me back to summer 2011 when I first wrote the preceding paragraphs as I began my initial research towards my Masters Design Study (MDS) at the University of Texas at Austin. My interest in this topic was born out of personal experience with the place, and also the timely nature of the urbanistic issues as I lived and worked in Beijing in 2009.

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ASLA Marks Centenary of Rome Prize

The American Academy in Rome image: James O'Day

The American Academy in Rome
image: James O’Day

Centennials are occasions upon which to reflect and bestow honor. This year, the American Society of Landscape Architects has an important, historic event to observe—the centenary of Edward Lawson, FASLA, winning the prestigious Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1915. Lawson was the first landscape architect to win the coveted prize, which was sponsored by ASLA. It was a turning point for the profession as well as for this newly-minted Cornell graduate.

At the July meeting of the Potomac Chapter of ASLA, Brett Wallace, ASLA, and Shawn Balon, ASLA, of the Executive Committee endorsed the proclamation submitted by James O’Day, ASLA, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Chapter Liaison, to recognize the achievements and historic importance of Lawson’s ASLA-sponsored fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.

The presence of Lawson at the academy was a coup de main for ASLA. After years of striving, the nascent and evolving profession would be accorded the same recognition that its “sister” arts—architecture, painting and sculpture—had enjoyed since the academy’s inception in 1894. The new fellowship in landscape architecture made it possible for young professionals to join the collaborative dialogue that was shaping city planning and urban design.

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