The Colorado Water Plan: Tips and Tools for Landscape Architects

by John Berggren and Glen Dake, FASLA

Colorado landscape photograph
2018 ASLA Professional Award of Excellence in Analysis and Planning. A Colorado Legacy: I-25 Conservation Corridor Master Plan. Douglas County, CO. Design Workshop – Aspen. / image: John Fielder

Water conservation was a primary component of Colorado’s first-ever state water plan in 2015, and it stands to be even more important as the state prepares its second iteration of the plan later this year. Landscape architects and allied professions have a key role in matching water use to available supplies, especially given the impacts of climate change and recent droughts.

In the 2015 Colorado Water Plan (CWP) the state set an objective that “75 percent of Coloradoans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning” by 2025, but it has been up to local counties, cities, and towns to determine which water-saving actions can be integrated in their development process. Landscape architects can help to develop and design water conservation strategies and now is the time to steer the CWP update in that positive direction.

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Eat – Plant – Drawdown: Why Designing for Climate Matters

by April Philips, FASLA

VF Outdoor Headquarters in Alameda, CA is LEED Platinum, 100% off the energy grid, and a certified Bay-Friendly Landscape. / images: April Philips Design Works, Inc.

Landscape architects must look at the hidden connections between climate adaptation, urban agriculture, food waste, community equity, and public health. By applying systems thinking that integrates climate adaptation and carbon drawdown strategies with foodshed planning, the industry can advance innovative solutions to address these critical issues facing our urban communities.

There is a distinct advantage for designers and planners in gaining a deeper understanding of how climate positive solutions build greater community resiliency, why systems thinking is key to solving the climate crisis, and why addressing the food landscape matters in shaping a more equitable and healthier, more nourished world.

The Intersection of Food + Climate + Resilient Communities

Food and climate are intricately entwined, and human health—the health of you and everyone you know and everyone on this planet—is impacted by this intricate dance. Every single person on the planet needs to eat to live, to nourish our bodies, to grow. We all are affected by the climate we live in. Our food is affected by the climate it grows in. Food becomes the platform from which we can connect with both each other and the land. How might we commit to nourishing both?

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SKILL | ED: Education to Build Your Practice

 

SKILL | ED virtual practice management program graphic

ASLA SKILL | ED
June 22-24, 2021
Introducing a New Virtual Learning Opportunity to Build Your Business Skills and Enhance Your Earning Power

Register now for three afternoons of intensive, effective learning during ASLA’s new virtual SKILL | ED program. This first-of-its-kind practice management event is designed to designed to empower landscape architecture professionals as their job responsibilities grow. Join us to build your business skill base and power up your career growth. You’ll learn about business development, proposal writing, and professional contracts—the business skills landscape architects use in their practice every day.

This innovative learning experience will provide the tools you need to add value to your firm and develop time-tested business development skills which can be used throughout your career.

To take advantage of ASLA membership discounts, use your member log in and password when you register.

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The [Landscape] Architecture of Change in Emerging Markets

by Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

Rwanda photo
Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. / image: Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

How can we make the most impact as landscape architects or designers in emerging markets? It is a question that I have been asking myself over the past 10 years as I lived and worked in China and Rwanda.

The definition of an emerging market is a developing nation that is becoming more engaged with global markets as it grows but is still developing from a low income, less developed, often pre-industrial economy. One of the common misconceptions of emerging markets is that they are the “rise of the rest” where in actuality they are the “rise of the most” as their population and land mass dwarfs the world’s most developed nations. The emerging world is coming and we all as stewards of the planet and as landscape architects should be active in it: investing in it, physically being in it, and embracing it.

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Earn PDH with ASLA’s Resilience-Focused Case Studies

Collage of case study photos
Images: from ASLA’s Smart Policies for a Changing Climate online exhibition

Earlier this year, 10 new projects were added to ASLA’s Smart Policies for a Changing Climate online exhibition, bringing the total to 30 projects featured as case studies that demonstrate how landscape architects are designing smart solutions to climate impacts, such as flooding, extreme heat, drought, and sea level rise.

Now, there are two ways to earn Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development through these case studies:

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The EcoCommons at the Georgia Institute of Technology

by Christopher Streb, PE

Hammocks at the EcoCommons
image: Jeremiah Young

Since the late 2000s, a landscape transformation has been underway in Midtown Atlanta that aims to restore nature and her benefits within the city. On the west side of I-75, the Georgia Institute of Technology has been implementing a core component of a vision established in its 2004 Campus Master Plan: an 80-acre green corridor called the EcoCommons. While the pandemic quieted student life through the better part of the last year, the University forged ahead in its realization of the EcoCommons on 7 acres of land adjacent to the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. Recently completed, the landscape aims to provide a setting for learning, examination, and reflection, while becoming a model of ecological regeneration in an urban setting.

The vision for the EcoCommons is to restore a native Piedmont ecosystem, integrating smart technology to monitor this ecologically performing landscape, and serve as a living laboratory. A historical examination of the site revealed important insights that informed the design and further contextualized the objectives. From the 1930s to 2019, before becoming the EcoCommons, the land was ecologically unproductive, consisting of surface parking spaces and one-story buildings. However, beneath the contemporary veneer lay important stories that reflect both historical events and perspective.

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Career Discovery Outreach in Landscape Architecture Through Community Service

by Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

Schoolyard redesigned with student input
image: Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

For more about ASLA’s career discovery initiatives, please visit asla.org/become.aspx and explore the ASLA Career Discovery and Diversity and Tools for PreK-12 Teachers webpages.

In this COVID era, new challenges require new solutions. There are many questions that cannot be answered yet but new design issues will arise on how human activities and gatherings will be affected because of the pandemic. In schools, we used to think that the ideal spaces for instruction were the classrooms, where sometimes there is no cross-ventilation and the air quality can jeopardize the health and safety of the users. However, in the same way restaurants that used to have only dine-ins are now offering drive-thrus, schools might be forced to use their outdoor spaces as outdoor classrooms. This will present a real design issue for architects and landscape architects and will bring us an opportunity for the community to see and appreciate the work we do.

So, if the future trend will be to use outdoor spaces as a classroom, let me share an example of an outdoor classroom designed and done by students.

While working with a non-profit organization that used architecture and the built environment to implement K-12 learning experiences, I had the opportunity to serve as an Architect-Educator in an elementary school in Staten Island, New York. As a former New York City art teacher, I immediately connected with the art teacher of the school. While working together and sharing that I also had a degree in landscape architecture, she asked me if I was able to help her restore the schoolyard that really had not been cared for. After I finished working with the groups to which I had been assigned, I volunteered my time to help her restore the school garden.

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Poetry and Song in the Landscape

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Black and white photograph with perspective view of house
Anne Spencer House, HABS VA-1173-A-1. Perspective view, showing garden in background. Anne Spencer House Study. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 12th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Documenting these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future.

Two entries from the 2013 HALS Challenge, Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women, provide inspiration for the 2021 HAS Challenge, Historic Black Landscapes. These historic sites commemorate two significant Americans, both Black women and artists.

The first example, the Anne Spencer Garden, HALS VA-59, of Lynchburg, Virginia, was documented in 2013 by Elizabeth Blye Delaney, RLA, ASLA, and Ted Delaney, Assistant Director of Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg.

From the HALS Report:

This landscape is significant because it was created by an African American woman, Anne Spencer (1882–1975), who was a distinguished poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Spencer was a librarian and educator in the segregated school system of Lynchburg, Virginia, a co-founder in 1919 of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights activist, and a gardener.

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The Paycheck Protection Program: What You Need to Know Before the May 31 Deadline

Stock photo of loan application on clipboard
image: iStock

Webinar Recording and Additional Resources Now Available

Last week, ASLA hosted a webinar on the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), presented by Chris Chan, Founder and CEO of 3C Strategies, and moderated by Joy Kuebler, ASLA, President of Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect, PC. The presentation is now available as a recording for free and for ASLA members only.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan is a low-interest loan that can be turned into a grant and is accessible to all qualified small businesses. The April 12 session covered business qualifications and required documents when preparing to file the application. The current deadline for PPP loan applications is May 31, 2021, so be sure to watch this timely webinar to expedite your application process!

ASLA members also have exclusive access to additional resources from the webinar: the slides from the presentation, additional speaker comments, and audience Q&A.

Please log in to learn.asla.org with your ASLA username and password to access the recording.

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Drones 101-1000

by Andrew P. Sargeant, ASLA, Mike Fox, ASLA, Aubrey Pontious, Associate ASLA, and Russell Thomman, ASLA

Aerial photo of downtown Austin
Congress Avenue, Downtown Austin / image: RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture

Drones 101-1000 was the first Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) webinar of 2021. The PPN identified drone use in landscape architecture as a topic for which many of our members would like information and resources. The ending of the title, “101-1000,” implies covering everything from the basics to advanced topics with regard to drone use in the field of landscape architecture. The PPN may have more “101-1000” webinars on other topics in the future (our second webinar of the year, a BIM Roundtable with EDSA and SmithGroup, took place earlier this week and will be available as a recording soon), as well as a follow-up to this drone webinar.

Mike Fox, ASLA, and Aubrey Pontious, Associate ASLA, of WPL opened the conversation. Mike started by discussing why he was initially hesitant about incorporating drones within WPL’s practice. He was worried about cost, frequency of use, and other practical concerns. He talked about the unique opportunity to employ Aubrey as both a landscape designer and a potential drone pilot and detailed the negotiations that led to Aubrey becoming a stable resource within the company for drone use, including licensing and equipment.

Aubrey, prior to joining WPL, had some previous hobbyist experience with drones which allowed him to make the case for the firm to help subsidize his exploration and training for drone use in the office. Aubrey outlined some of the use cases within WPL’s practice, including marketing imagery, site surveying, and construction administration. Many of these use cases could be incorporated into any size or type of practice for relatively low cost.

Russell Thomman, ASLA, director of Digital Innovation at RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture, continued the conversation and covered more advanced drone use and techniques. Russell explained how his use of drones within the office has now developed into a wide variety of services. He made it clear that these services were not immediately economically viable or readily wanted from clients but after continued exploration they have now seeded themselves within the practice.

Russell detailed some of third-party software along with the actual hardware necessary for 3D site visits, construction administration, and 3D rendering. In combination with his Mavic 2, Russell uses a handheld 360 camera to offer a comprehensive inventory of site conditions. Russell also talked about using GIS in combination with data aggregated from the drone to “tell stories,” via ESRI web mapping tools. Russell’s ability to go beyond the conventional representation of the landscapes is a product of continued exploration and a combination of new and existing technologies.

Our Drones 101-1000 webinar—check out the full recording below—is part of the PPN’s goal to support and encourage landscape architect’s efforts in research and development of design technology in the field.

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Nature-Based Solutions Design for Justice

by Chingwen Cheng, PhD, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP

Nature-based solutions are strategies that integrate ecosystem functions to serve societal needs and ecosystems benefits. / image: Chingwen Cheng

Nature-based solutions (NBS) is a concept developed to promote nature as a means for providing solutions for societal challenges. The concept has been widely adopted for environmental science and policies addressing issues such as water security, food security, disaster risk management, human health, economic and social development, and climate change (IUCN, 2016). NBS are strategies that integrate ecosystem functions to serve societal needs and ecosystem benefits. Examples include green infrastructure, landscape planning and design, biodiversity conservation, ecosystems restoration, and environmental design to address climate change adaptation, urban resilience, and sustainable development. The field of landscape architecture has been the champion for and major contributor to planning, designing, and implementing NBS at various scales and applications in serving diverse societal needs both in the public and private sectors.

While NBS operate under ecological principles, the social systems that NBS are being operated within and the potential negative impacts that NBS perpetuate in communities (e.g., green gentrification) have brought justice concerns. NBS including green infrastructures have been integrated into spatial climate justice planning through identifying social-ecological-technological systems vulnerability to climate change (Cheng, 2016; 2019). As policies and resources are becoming available in support of implementing NBS in communities for addressing climate change challenges (e.g., the EU’s European Green Deal, the US’s Green New Deal), we must proceed with caution and be willing to investigate project impacts to ensure equity is addressed while systemic injustice are rectified in the politics of planning (Goh, 2020).

Just NBS include opportunities to transform systemic injustice associated with race and class, a meaningful participatory process for transformative co-production, and using value articulation to prioritize resources, measure successes, and create culture shifts to address issues of environmental justice (Cousins, 2021).

Nature-based Solutions for Urban Resilience in the Anthropocene (NATURA) is a network of scholars and practitioners in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America, and Latin America that aim to understand the interconnected feedback between social, ecological, and technological systems on NBS outcomes. The NATURA Design for Justice Survey is a project undertaken by the NATURA Design for Justice Thematic Working Group to investigate and bridge the gap between theory and practices in design justice through research, design, implementation, and management of NBS projects. This particular survey is designed for ASLA members and design practitioners associated with NBS. The findings will be used to understand the state of practice of incorporating environmental justice in the profession in support of ASLA Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network’s mission.

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Take Survey Button

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In the Flow: Loose Parts Play

Playing in nature
image: Nari Chung

In 1971, architect and artist Simon Nicholson introduced the concept of loose parts in his article “The Theory of Loose Parts: How NOT to Cheat Children.” In the article, Mr. Nicholson described loose parts as materials, natural or manmade, that can be used in different ways for children to manipulate, experiment with, create and invent with, and generally do whatever they want with them. Further described, there are no set directions that accompany loose parts play, so they are limited only by safety and any existing environmental constraints and the far reaches of childrens’ imagination (Neill, 2013).

Loose parts are well suited for solitary and social play. The bottom line is, while further research is needed, what we do know is that loose parts play appears to enhance active and unstructured play (Houser, et al., 2016). Take a look at some of the images that our Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team compiled of children engaging in loose play in the woods, on the playground, at the shore, and some of the projects they have left behind for others to enjoy. Please feel free to share some of your favorite images with us, in the comments below or by email.

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Resilient Plant Design: Changing Old Habits for a New “Plant Communities” Approach

by Ryan Ives, RLA, and Michael Ledbetter, RLA, ASLA

Roof meadow of Parkline project
Spring in the Parkline “roof meadow” six months after the plugs were planted. / image: Ryan Ives

This post provides two perspectives from two landscape architects—Ryan Ives and Michael Ledbetter, who are adapting their planting design, implementation, and post-construction plant management strategies to the new norms: climate change, reduced biodiversity, shrinking budgets, and clients’ expectations for new methodologies. We hope to see more posts like this from them and others who are trying out new sustainable design techniques and strategies.

Ryan Ives, RLA
Living and working out of Durham, NC

Stepping into your Post-Wild World

My own journey into a post-wild world began in 2016, when I saw Claudia West speak at the New Directions in the American Landscape conference at Connecticut College. I was blown away by West’s presentation of the then recently published Planting in a Post-Wild World, co-authored with Thomas Rainer, ASLA. West and Rainer synthesized decades of sophisticated European and American planting methods with contemporary views and experience (West comes from the post-Cold War East German landscape perspective and Rainer from the wilderness lost legacy of the U.S.). Their arguments seem particularly well-suited to our current moment of climate change and urbanization. The book they produced is a guide that gives the rest of us a methodology and conceptual framework to build upon. If you spend any time on landscape architecture Instagram, you will see that I am not the only person who has been inspired by this book.

Even after reading the book twice, it took me several years to get to the point where I was ready to jump in and start applying West and Rainer’s methodology to projects. Prior to becoming a landscape architect, I worked in landscape maintenance and I was anxious about taking risks with planting design. No one wants to develop an inspiring planting concept that includes claims of low maintenance after establishment (I mean management!), only to see it fail. There is also the issue that many clients, whether because of negative past experiences or word of mouth, believe that plantings will be expensive and difficult to maintain. Essentially, there are a lot of incentives to avoid taking risks, particularly if you are not entirely sure which risks you should take. The concepts expressed in Planting in a Post-Wild World felt like the missing piece that I needed to give me the freedom and guidance to create meaningful, beneficial, and manageable plant designs.

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Envisioning the Future of Community Design for World Landscape Architecture Month

Park visitors
2019 ASLA Professional Honor Award in General Design. Barangaroo Reserve. Sydney, Australia. PWP Landscape Architecture / image: PWP Landscape Architecture

Today marks the start of World Landscape Architecture Month! Given the 2021 WLAM theme of healthy, beautiful, and resilient places for all communities, ASLA’s Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team put together a set of thought-provoking, community-focused questions for the PPN’s leaders to address to celebrate the launch of WLAM. Below, we share answers from the Community Design PPN team on a range of topics, from reimagining brownfield sites to what the future of community design may look like post-COVID:

  • Stacey Weaks, ASLA, PPN Co-Chair – Denver, Colorado
  • Scott Redding, ASLA, PPN Co-Chair – Sacramento, California
  • Oliver Penny, ASLA, PPN Officer – Fort Worth, Texas
  • Bob Smith, ASLA, PPN Officer and past Chair – Watkinsville, Georgia

Stacey Weaks, ASLA
Principal, Norris Design
Denver, Colorado

How do you deal with brownfield sites and other types of sites that require remediation for new development? How do you make these reimagined sites an addition to the community fabric and an enhancement of the community environment?

Redevelopment remediation projects require a significant commitment from the lead developer and the teaming partners, including public and private entities. Norris Design has been collaborating on Miller’s Landing in Castle Rock, Colorado, a centrally located property in the Downtown Castle Rock area which historically served as the town’s former landfill. The property recently completed an extensive remediation process. Our team, in collaboration with the Town of Castle Rock and an extensive team of subconsultants, has been guiding the planning, design, and entitlement process to redevelop the 80-acre property, which required complete remediation prior to any redevelopment.

The vision for Miller’s Landing establishes a mixed-use district that diversifies the community fabric to serve the growing Castle Rock area and expand the economic opportunities in the area. A key aspect of the master plan is the establishment of a central Main Street with connections to a restored greenway, linking a critical segment of the trail network between downtown and the regional park and resulting in a healthier environment that would not be possible without the extensive remediation process.

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Art Biennales as a Third Place to Regenerate Cities

by Ayaka Hosogaki Matthews

Old merchant houses in Japan
Old merchant houses along the castle canal in Omihachiman city, Shiga, Japan. / image: Ayaka Matthews

The Venice Biennale is a large art exhibition that started in 1895. Since then, it has become one of the world’s most famous art festivals, and other cities have started similar large international art festivals. Reports show more than 300 art festivals globally, according to the Biennial Foundation. These art festivals integrate with community, tourism, and regeneration. As a result, they serve as a vehicle for city planning. This post asserts that art biennales are a modality of local regeneration, with my experience at Japan’s Biwako Biennale as a case study.

The Biwako Biennale is an international contemporary art festival that occurs every two years in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture. Omihachiman is a small town located on the east shore of Lake Biwa. The daimyo Hidetsugu Toyotomi established a castle town south of Mt. Hachiman in 1585 and brought merchants and artisans from the adjacent town. The city thrived as a merchant town, relying on the Lake Biwa and land routes for trade. Merchants built gorgeous houses along the street and castle canal. As a result, the town used to be lively with locals and visitors.

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Recreating (or Recreating!) World Landscape Architecture Month

by Steph Sanders, PLA, ASLA

Playground
RiverLakes Ranch Community Park, phase 1 completed playground. / image: Steph Sanders

As we cross the year-threshold of a topsy-turvy life-changing event, recreation and parks have continued to persist and provide for our communities in ways not ever explored before. When people were told to isolate themselves in California, our recreation and park districts asked our communities to come outside and play in our open space safely. Our parks have experienced increased foot traffic even while our agency wasn’t able to offer our typical sports and recreation programming. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case nationwide. We’ve continued to evolve recreation programming away from team sports, camps, and gatherings to virtual 5ks, grab-and-go activities, park scavenger hunts, and online recreation. As one can imagine, after recreating recreation for 365+ days, creativity wanes, and new ideas are becoming sparse.

Enter World Landscape Architecture Month. Our profession’s month-long international celebration is a perfect time to increase awareness about our profession, the environment, and spaces many people hold dearly. Parks have always been a place of celebration, reflection, activity, learning, reverence, and so many other feelings, nouns, and verbs that one blog post cannot contain. Still, few grasp what goes into the design and development of these and other landscapes. North of the River Recreation and Park District (NOR) is hosting a month-long virtual series honoring landscape architecture within the world around us.

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New Byways, New Funding: National Scenic Byway Program Update

Photo of Bear Mountain Bridge in New York
Bear Mountain Bridge as seen from Bear Mountain Peak along the Palisades Interstate Parkway / image: Palisades Interstate Parkway Commission

On February 16, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced 34 new National Scenic Byways (NSB) and 15 new All-American Roads (AAR). The newly minted America’s Byways—hailing from 28 states across the continent—were designated as part of the 2019 Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act. The act temporarily re-opened the national program to state and national scenic byways seeking National or All-American Road designation.

Tennessee racked up the most designations, including two All-American Roads and three National Scenic Byways. New Jersey added four new National Byways, and Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, and Wisconsin all had three byways designated as either All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways.

Several multi-state byways were among those receiving new or upgraded federal designations. The longest, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Lincoln Highway now has three National Scenic Byways along the corridor: Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois (designated a NSB in 2000). Historic Route 66 in Missouri became an AAR—the only portion of the famous route to achieve this prestigious designation. Other segments of Route 66 (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Illinois, and Arizona) are National Scenic Byways. New Mexico joined Colorado and Utah as a National Scenic Byway along the Trail of the Ancients. North Carolina and Tennessee received AAR designation for their Newfound Gap Road Byway, and the Palisades Scenic Byway became a NSB in New York and New Jersey. To see a complete list of America’s Byways, check out FHWA’s website.

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Equity at Work

by Jake Minden, Student ASLA

Equity at Work survey graphic
image: Jake Minden

The Applied Research Consortium (ARC) is a new program within University of Washington’s College of Built Environments that links graduate students, faculty members, and firms to research a topic collaboratively. Now in my final year of UW’s MLA program, I am leading a year-long research project through an ARC Fellowship. The research is focused on racial equity within built environment design practice. More specifically, I am looking at how perceptions of workplace culture within design practice affect employee retention and goals around equity and inclusion.

To better understand existing perceptions of workplace culture, I have created a short, anonymous survey aimed at design professionals. Through this survey, I hope to learn what aspects of workplace culture need the most improvement and provide a set of recommendations for how workplaces can positively shift their culture.

Your help is needed! The survey closes at the end of March. I am seeking participation from landscape architects to reach the respondent goal. Please feel free to share it widely with your professional networks. All responses are completely anonymous and highly valued.

Take survey button

The research project began in September 2020 with goal setting, a literature review, and scoping process. One of the goals that emerged from this early phase of the project is to widely share the findings, and subsequent recommendations for an industry-scale impact. In the spirit of sharing research, I would like to share a few key takeaways thus far:

The Built Environment is Racist

The built environment is a physical manifestation of our nation’s cultural and political history, and that history is racist. Some well-known examples of racism in the built environment include exclusionary redlining policies, the targeted siting of urban renewal projects, toxic industrial sites, and waste sites within communities of color, oppressive architecture of low-income housing projects, and inequitable urban economic development policies.

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Allensworth: A Town Built by and for African Americans

by Chris Pattillo, FASLA

Home of Colonel Allensworth
Home of Colonel Allensworth on Sojourna Avenue and Dunbar Road, February 2015. / image: Chris Pattillo

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 12th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Documenting these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future.

Allensworth, HALS CA-68

In 2015 while returning home from a vacation in Tucson, Arizona, I decided to visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park in Tulare County, California. I learned about this unique historic park from the database of cultural landscapes that the Northern California HALS Chapter maintains. It is a resource I check regularly when traveling to find interesting places to explore.

We arrived at the state park campground late, so I waited until morning to explore the site, when everything was shrouded in fog. Allensworth State Park is what remains of what was once a thriving town built by and for African Americans. It was founded by five men—Allen Allensworth, a former slave, Union Army nurse, Baptist Minister, lecturer, and politician; William Payne, a school teacher; William Peck, an American Methodist Episcopal Church minister; J.W. Palmer, a Nevada miner; and Harvey Mitchel, a realtor from Los Angeles. They filed plans for a new township on August 3, 1908.

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Share your Environmental Justice Project with Us

by Sarah Kwon, Affil. ASLA, and Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA

Environmental justice case studies collage
Top: Building the Melon Street Park / image: Baidi Wang. Bottom: Community of Claverito, Iquitos, Peru / images: Traction

Help Build the ASLA Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (EJ PPN)’s Case Studies Database

One of the most frequently requested resources amongst landscape architects working on environmental justice is a database of precedent projects to reference. Since 2019, the EJ PPN has been collecting case studies in order to build a robust database of precedents. This database will share examples of how to integrate environmental justice into our field of practice.

You may submit your case study by completing this online form, which has a series of questions to collect information about engagement techniques, resources used, project outcomes, and lessons learned. We are interested in featuring your projects that demonstrate how environmental justice principles can be applied to design processes and outcomes.

Examples of incorporating environmental justice into your projects may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • design processes that center on community voices;
  • projects that address disproportionate environmental burdens; and
  • outcomes that honor the cultural integrity of all communities.

Sarah Kwon, Affil. ASLA, and Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA, are co-chairs of ASLA’s Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN).

Landscape Advocacy for Duluth’s Urban Waterfront

by Jordan van der Hagen, Associate ASLA

A freeway cap in Duluth
Gichi-Ode’ Akiing, formerly Lake Place, is a freeway cap connecting the eastern part of Duluth’s downtown to the Lake Superior waterfront. / image: Jordan van der Hagen

How advocates for landscape architecture have shaped and are continuing to shape the waterfront of Duluth, Minnesota

Landscape architects are uniquely equipped to take on the challenges of the 21st century, but these challenges won’t always fall on our desks. We can easily point out problems in the built environment of our cities; we care about these issues and are trained to solve them; but more often than not, it takes somebody with a check to get us moving in any meaningful way. As problems in our cities continue mounting, we as landscape architects and designers can show the public our capabilities and commitment to the health of our communities by becoming landscape advocates, something which has proven successful in my city of Duluth, Minnesota.

A Bad Idea

The city of Duluth lies where the Great Lakes begin. Lake Superior stretches out from its shores towards an infinite horizon, while the city’s downtown straddles steep hills abutting the waterfront, creating a sort of urban amphitheater with the lake taking center stage. In spite of this visual relationship, the city and the waterfront have been historically disconnected from each other in the physical capacity. Industrialists were quick to develop the city into the world’s farthest inland port, and with this development came the privatization, and then pollution, of much of the city’s waterfront. Eventually economic tides turned and the port began to retract into the harbor, leaving a shoreline of scrapyards and dirty water, the perfect place to build an interstate highway—perfect according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) planners, at least.

By 1971, Interstate 35 had blasted its way through the western portion of Duluth, demolishing hundreds of homes and businesses before ending at the far edge of downtown, but the route’s planners weren’t finished yet. Plans were released showing the freeway continuing through downtown, across the east side of the city, and up the shore of the lake. While the idea of any extension of I-35 was itself controversial, the plans they released to the public created an uproar within the community that would last for decades.

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Gender Equity in Landscape Architecture: Survey Results Summary

by Sahar Teymouri, ASLA

Landscape architecture emerging professionals
The Emerging Professionals Reception at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. / image: EPNAC

Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on a survey conducted last year as part of the WxLA proposal for “Female Forward: Three Generations of Womxn Leaders Talk Life, Work, and Legacy,” by Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Emily Greenwood, Rebecca Leonard, and myself for the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. The data presented in this post comes from that survey, distributed last year with support from WxLA and ASLA. The survey’s aim was to collect information on emerging professionals’—those just entering the field—experiences, challenges, and opportunities in landscape architecture.

Survey Characteristics and Participant Demographics

The survey was open for 45 days, beginning on July 1, 2020. We asked respondents 21 questions in three categories:

  • Demographic Information (9 questions),
  • Workplace Culture (6 questions), and
  • Career Advancement & Self Development (6 questions).

The survey was completed by 71% of the 159 participants.

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Olympic Sustainable Landscapes: The Case of Beijing

by Alex Camprubi, International ASLA

Aerial view of National Olympic Stadium, Beijing
Aerial view from the Olympic Forest towards the National Olympic Stadium and Olympic Green Beijing. / image: Shutterstock

1992 was a year in which the world shifted gears on development, particularly within the sustainable realm. Not only because of Rio’s Earth Summit or Beijing’s Green Plan [2] and their third economic reform [1], but 1992 was also the year that the US lifted sanctions against China, the Cold War formally ended, and Barcelona had just hosted their Olympic Games, transforming the city while astonishing the world by transforming a large-scale media event into a project for the future of their citizens.

Barcelona overcame the challenge of being denied a seafront for recreation purposes for many years. Instead, they masterfully linked their urban fabric to the sea by establishing an urban connectivity between four strategic areas. This allowed them to gain more than 600 hectares of new green area, plazas, and parks [2] and further enabled the city of Barcelona to formally embrace the environmental concerns as a third pillar of Olympism [3]. During this process, Barcelona was able to build what became one of the most valuable city brands in the world [4].

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Stream Restoration—To Vegetate or Not?

by Lisa Cutshaw, PLA, ASLA

Stream restoration under construction
Stream restoration under construction at Benbow Park Preserve in Greensboro, NC. Designed by Ecosystem Planning and Restoration. / image: Will Harman

Stream restoration has become a necessary and timely tool in the effort to combat environmental issues like flooding and erosion, especially as they are accelerated by more frequent storm events associated with climate change. The author, Lisa Cutshaw, is the Principal Landscape Architect for Summit Design and Engineering and collaborates with colleagues to understand and implement emerging best practices to promote a more resilient approach to the built environment.

Is it ever a good idea to pour concrete in a stream bed? What about riprap and other common erosion control measures? To dig into the specifics, we spoke with Paxton Ramsdell of Ecosystem Planning and Restoration (EPR) in Raleigh, NC. Paxton has many years of experience with stream restoration, recently with Environmental Defense Fund and now with EPR.

Engineered solutions have fallen out of favor in recent years among sustainability advocates, but back in the day, it was common to create concrete channels to try to control streams. The idea was this would stop erosion and direct the water where people wanted it to go. The design professions learned the hard way that channelization actually compounded erosion and flooding problems, but riprap, etc., are still commonly used.

What are the biggest pros to using vegetated solutions rather than engineered solutions?

To be clear, a vegetated solution essentially means restoring the stream with a functional flood plain, allowing the plant root systems to stabilize the soil while also allowing the stream to overflow onto the flood plain when the water rises after rainfall. Research has found that in addition to soil stabilization, vegetated solutions have other benefits, such as slowing down runoff, reducing particulates and excess nutrients in the water, moderating stream temperature, and promoting groundwater recharge.

Paxton Ramsdell: “Vegetated stream restoration projects can reduce erosion and flooding problems, and they tend to last longer than engineered solutions. When streams are able to flood naturally onto the flood plain along the length of the stream, the severity of flooding downstream is reduced, and the stream bed itself has less scour to contend with. When they are properly designed and protected from encroachment, vegetated stream restoration projects should last for generations.”

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reVISION ASLA 2020 Education Session Recordings Now Available

reVISION ASLA 2020 recordings now available via ASLA Online Learning for PDH

Last November, reVISION ASLA 2020 shined a spotlight on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion—examining not only the profession itself, but also issues of racial justice and equitable access in practice and society.

Discussions reflected on the past of landscape architecture, examining issues of systemic racial inequity in the profession, lack of access to open space for Black communities and other communities of color, and the current state of practice. They also looked toward the future, focusing on not only the importance of recognizing and correcting the bad practices of the past, but also ways in which we can move the profession and the world to a more diverse and equitable future.

24 education sessions from reVISION ASLA 2020 are now available through ASLA Online Learning for Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development hours (PDH). These may be purchased as individual recordings or as packages, organized by track. Log in using your ASLA username and password for member discounts. ASLA Online Learning content, except for a few of the LARE Prep webinars, is free for Student ASLA members!

Free Videos

By popular demand, all three keynote discussions from reVISION ASLA 2020 have also been made available for free on Vimeo:

  • A special, extended edition of the reVISION ASLA 2020 Opening Keynote Discussion featuring ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen, Walter Hood, ASLA, and Majora Carter.
  • An Expression of Hope Panel, which features diverse practitioners sharing their collective acknowledgement of what it is like to navigate the profession as people of color and their expressions of hope for change and growth.
  • A Call to Action, highlighting commitments by practitioners and educators taking meaningful action towards centering equity and calling our community to expand actions towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive profession.

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SITES in 10: New SITES Advocacy Tool Available

SITES in 10 pitch presentation developed by the Sustainable Design & Development PPN leadership team

ASLA’s Sustainable Design and Development Professional Practice Network (SDD PPN) is continually seeking to advance sustainable design in ways that are innovative, feasible, and impactful. One specific tool towards achieving this goal is the implementation of the Sustainable SITES Initiative® (SITES®) rating system. The SITES Rating System is a set of comprehensive, voluntary guidelines that inform and asses the sustainable design, construction, and maintenance of landscapes.

As a PPN, we support SITES through education, professional outreach, and the creation of tools to assist landscape architecture practitioners. SITES provides an excellent professional framework for landscape architecture design, but one implementation stumbling block can be getting client buy-in. As more practitioners make the case for SITES, we want to empower you with the tools to advocate for certification. Thus, the SDD PPN leadership team has developed a “SITES in 10” presentation, an elevator pitch slide deck highlighting the reasons why clients should pursue SITES project certification.

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ASLA’s Federal Legislative Priorities: Climate Change, Resilience, Equity, and Environmental Justice

Policy recommendations for the new Biden-Harris administration
ASLA released a set of policy recommendations for the Biden-Harris administration last month. / image: 2020 ASLA Professional Urban Design Award of Excellence. Dilworth Park. OLIN. Image credit: James Ewing / OTTO

Since the start of the new year, ASLA’s Government Affairs team has been abuzz, welcoming the Biden-Harris administration with a petition to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement, a comprehensive set of policy recommendations, and many other actions to ensure ASLA members are heard loud and clear. But you may wonder how ASLA sets advocacy priorities and focus areas in the first place. The answer: by listening to all of you, our ASLA members.

Through a nearly year-long process, ASLA’s Government Affairs team determines the Society’s federal priorities for the next two years. In April 2020, they surveyed the entire ASLA membership on federal and state issues ASLA members believed the Society should include in its upcoming agendas. ASLA received 2,372 responses to the survey, the largest number since the survey began and more than double the previous survey in 2018.

The Government Affairs team and the Government Affairs Advisory Committee (GAAC) then review, vet, and analyze the results to formulate a set of recommended legislative issues for the upcoming legislative session. The recommendations are presented to ASLA’s Executive Committee. Based on input from the Executive Committee and the GAAC, the Government Affairs team then presents this set of federal priorities for discussion with the Board of Trustees, before moving to the Executive Committee for the final review process.

ASLA’s Executive Committee endorsed the final Federal Priorities Agenda for the 117th Congress during their December 2020 meeting. With a new theme of Climate Change and Resilience and a focus on Equity and Environmental Justice, the following four issues underlie federal legislative priority areas:

  1. Parks and Recreation
  2. Transportation Planning and Design
  3. Water and Stormwater Management
  4. Housing and Community Development

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The Smokey Hollow Community Historic American Landscapes Survey

by David J Driapsa, FASLA

The Smokey Hollow Community. View north, rear yard, 705 East Lafayette Street. HALS-FL-9 Large Format Photograph 4 of 7. Photographer: William “Bill” Lutrick, ASLA. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 12th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Documenting these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future.

Smokey Hollow was someone’s home. It was a community of someone’s homes—until it was destroyed through urban renewal in the guise of slum clearance.

Remembered affectionately as a vibrant community in urban Tallahassee, Smokey Hollow was located only steps away from the historic Florida State Capitol. Once a slave state, Florida was at one time racially segregated. Descendants of former slaves were required to live in Black communities segregated from white society under the cruel restrictions of white prejudices, Jim Crow laws, and Black codes. Smokey Hollow, an approximately 85-acre African American community, was shaped under these harsh conditions.

Albert Davis Taylor (1883-1951) of Ohio, a prominent landscape architect, past president and fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, produced the 1947 Florida Capitol Center: A Report on the Proposed Development that served as the State master plan with principles of European landscape design that forecast the 1957 construction of the Apalachee Parkway cutting a straight path through the center of Smokey Hollow to the front of the Florida State Capitol Building. Construction of the State Road Department office in 1965 further enlarged the footprint of government that mostly obliterated Smokey Hollow and dispersed its residents.

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Skill Up with ASLA’s Practice-Focused Publications

Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal, 10th Edition, Revised / image: Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) periodically publishes reports and guides focused on key aspects of professional practice, many of which are free for ASLA members to access or available to members at a discounted rate. These include new resources added to ASLA’s Business Toolkit and more technical and in-depth Research Reports.

Below, we highlight a few of the more recent publications, from ASLA and ASLA partnerships, that you may have missed.

Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), on behalf of the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers (CTLA), has released the Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal, 10th Edition, Revised, available for purchase via ISA’s webstore.

The CTLA member organizations are: AmericanHort, the American Society of Consulting Arborists, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the Association of Consulting Foresters of America, the International Society of Arboriculture, and the Tree Care Industry Association.

In preparing the tenth edition of the Guide, the overarching goal of the seven CTLA organizations was to provide the appraiser with a systematic process for defining the appraisal problem, identifying appraisal approach(es), and developing a credible conclusion.

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More Research Needed: Trail Access and Use for Youth from Under-Resourced Communities

by Mike Hill, ASLA

Aerial view of the 606 in Chicago
ASLA 2020 Professional Urban Design Honor Award. The 606, Chicago, Illinois. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.. / image: MVVA

The recently published paper, “Identification of Effective Programs to Improve Access to and Use of Trails among Youth from Under-Resourced Communities: A Review” is a collaboration between researchers from National Institutes of Health, US Department of Transportation, Centers for Disease Control, USDA Forest Service, and Furman University in Greenville, SC. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of programs to increase access to trails and trails use among youth from under-resourced communities, this paper also aims to identify:

  • relationships between physical activity/trail use and features of transportation systems and/or built environment and land use destinations,
  • benefits associated with trail use, and
  • barriers to trail use.

What We Found: The paper reviewed existing literature to identify, abstract, and evaluate studies related to programs to promote trail use among youth and youth from under-resourced communities. Eight studies used longitudinal or quasi-experimental designs to evaluate physical activity and neighborhood characteristics prospectively among adolescent girls, the effects of the path or trail development on physical activity behaviors of children, youth, and adults, marketing or media campaigns, and wayfinding and incremental distance signage to promote increased trail use.

No studies were located that evaluated programs designed to promote and increase trail use among youth, including youth from under-resourced communities. Few intervention studies using trails to increase physical activity among under-resourced youth were identified in this review. More studies need to be conducted using access to trails as interventions to promote trail-use among youth.

Many barriers to trail use are practical, such as costs, crime, lack of transportation. Others are psycho-social in nature—what trusted role models are introducing trail use? Is the “culture of the trail” welcoming to people from my background? How does being outdoors connect to my cultural identity, and through what activities? These are all challenges that impact youth and youth leaders’ decisions as much as institutional discrimination and its impact on recreation planning.

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