The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) works with ASLA’s chapters, state and federal legislators, state and administration officials, and regulatory bodies to advance policies critical to the profession. ASLA’s current priorities are:
Climate Change and Resilience
Public Lands and National and Community Parks
Transportation Design and Planning
Water and Stormwater Management
The new year may have only just begun, but ASLA’s Government Affairs team has already put forth a host of statements and updates in recent weeks. Below is a recap of recent announcements, in case you missed them, plus where to find the latest advocacy news.
National Scenic Byways Nominations Process Announced
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced that the application packet for nominations for new National Scenic Byways will be available on their website on February 13, 2020. For the first time in 12 years, state and tribal scenic byways around the country will have the opportunity to apply for the important National Scenic Byways status.
The results of the tenth annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge were announced at the HALS Meeting during the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego on Saturday, November 16, 2019. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top three submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 15 impressive HALS short format historical reports and a few measured drawings and large format photographs to the HALS collection.
2019 HALS Challenge: Historic Streetscapes
First Place: Carretera Central, HALS PR-2
by Teresita M. Del Valle, RA, ASLA
Second Place: Larchwood, HALS MA-5
by Allison A. Crosbie, ASLA, Preservation Administrator, and Kathleen Rawlins, Assistant Director, City of Cambridge Historical Commission.
Third Place: Broad Street, HALS SC-20
Charleston, South Carolina
by John Bennett, Kayleigh Defenbaugh, Monica Hendricks, Tanesha High, Elliott Simon, and Rachel Wilson – Clemson University / College of Charleston. Faculty Sponsor: Carter L. Hudgins, Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
Honorable Mention: Main Street, HALS SC-21
Greenville, South Carolina
by Rebekah Lawrence, Associate ASLA
An Interview with Antoine Nerval on International Practice and Planting Design
“The potential of landscape planting design is often limited by the supply of plant materials, especially when proposing a complex and diverse living system. Such proposals are in many cases considered unrealistic and too expensive…that is why we decided to start from plant collection and plant nursery.”
– Antoine Nerval
Antoine Nerval is an agricultural engineer who designs vertical gardens. He has created living murals and built nurseries around the world, and is currently working on one of the world’s largest botanical gardens in Normandy, France. This interview—conducted by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, past chair of ASLA’s International Practice Professional Practice Network (PPN), for a research project—sheds light on Antoine’s unconventional practice and approach to landscape architecture and international planting design.
Coming from a French agricultural engineering background, what did you find particularly different working in the field of landscape architecture? Did anything catch your attention practicing alongside landscape architects in the United States?
It has been easy to communicate with landscape architects because I myself also love to draw or ‘graffiti’ on the paper, and the scale of landscape is similar to larger murals. From my point of view, it is a perfect mix between agriculture engineering and art.
I think in the United States, the landscape architecture industry is very mature and professional, but the specialization also leads to the disconnection between plants and design. Working alongside many excellent teams, I was surprised to find little design discussion about planting materials in the early conceptual phase. The plant selection often only got serious at a much later phase, where designers have less control. It is quite a missed opportunity for many talented landscape designers. For me, my first thoughts for any design projects would always be inspired by particular plants or settings, and then the designs evolve around them.
We may only be a few weeks into the new year, but the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) already has several deadlines coming up. Help to ensure your voice is heard, that you and your colleagues are recognized for your work and leadership, and that your landscape architecture practice area is represented by taking part in one or more of these open calls—for presentations, nominations, and exemplary projects:
Below, we take a closer look at each of the ASLA Honors, including a new honor to recognize the outstanding and innovative contributions of emerging leaders in the field. These prestigious awards recognize individuals and organizations for their lifetime achievements and notable contributions to the profession of landscape architecture.
by Jeremy Person, PLA, ASLA, Brian Wethington, Donna Evans, and Irene Ogata, ASLA
For more than two decades landscape architects and stormwater professionals have been utilizing vegetated bioretention systems to help address complex stormwater and climate change-related issues. Bioretention systems use a combination of soil and plants to collect, detain, treat, and infiltrate runoff from roads, roofs, and other impervious surfaces. It is becoming apparent that plant health is one of the major drivers of increasing life-cycle costs, and that improper plant selection is partially to blame.
Landscape architects, horticulturalists, and designers are beginning to better define which characteristics make a plant ideal for use in bioretention. Understanding the site-specific needs for plants and identifying project goals allow designers to address performance issues up front and reduce long-term maintenance liabilities. The following three issues should be considered as early in a project as possible:
1. Project Goals and Facility Design
The two major goals for most bioretention projects are pollution reduction and flow control. Projects may serve one goal or both, and this may vary across a city or region. Bioretention facilities are designed for project-specific hydraulic regimes with controlled flooding and hydroperiods that affect plant viability. This affects plant selection in several ways:
Hydroperiod: Understanding the flooding cycle of the facility, its frequency, and how it relates to the growing cycle of the plants is critical. Smaller plants often fail because they are routinely flooded during the growing season, depriving them of needed oxygen. Designers should prioritize plants that grow taller than the high-water level and take cues from native wetland plants that have evolved to tolerate similar hydroperiods.
I am a practicing landscape architect in Omaha, Nebraska, and I have grown to love the community and the projects I have been a part of. Since my move to Omaha seven years ago, I have often questioned why there is such an absence of variety in housing options in Omaha. The options appear to be incredibly limited compared to some of the other cities I have lived in or visited. Omaha is a city within proximity of several larger metropolitan areas, and Metropolitan Omaha is nearly 1,000,000 people. So, what is the reason for the lack of diversity in homes?
Over time, I ruminated more and more over this question. The lack of housing product is not necessarily a new issue, and innumerable metropolitan areas around the world have already experienced these crossroads. The difference with many of those areas, however, is that they arrived at a conclusion many years ago. Eventually, there is always a tipping point that requires innovation to survive. Upon approaching that tipping point, the conversation evolves from how we can continue to provide housing, to how do we thoughtfully provide housing to everyone (while being respectful of our resources).
Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to assist with numerous projects and explore countless new housing concepts. Unfortunately, there are occasions where the housing concepts I’ve worked through don’t seem to get the traction I expect—even if they are proven concepts borrowed from successful projects in other municipalities. After spending time thinking over this reluctance, I began to understand that perhaps I was selling ideas that were forced or premature for the region. Until recently, there was a lack of demand for innovative housing products. Developers were profitable, and the community was content with the current supply. Recently, however, I’ve started to hear a buzz on the street. People are curious as to where the new housing products are, what is the missing-middle, and why am I living next to a corn field?
In response, I began to deliberate with some of our local development community. I sought to understand the challenges from all points of view, rather than simply focus on the designer or academic perspective. Below you’ll find pieces from one of those discussions.
by Ilisa Goldman, ASLA, Missy Benson, ASLA, and Amy Wagenfeld, Affil. ASLA
With the recent release of the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, let’s give homage to the iconic late Fred Rogers and his thoughts about play. He said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Our Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (COE PPN) presence at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego fully aligned with Mr. Roger’s sentiments. Here’s how.
It began with a field session, Living Laboratories: Exploring San Diego’s Nature-Based Outdoor Learning, led by COE PPN Co-Chair Ilisa Goldman, ASLA, Park Landscape Architect with the City of San Diego, and Andrew Spurlock, FASLA, of Spurlock Landscape Architects. The excitement and sense of wonder filled the double-decker bus as the this sold out session got started. The first stop was the CDA Hilltop Child Development Center (CDC) in Chula Vista, designed by Ilisa in 2012. Program Director at Child Development Associates (CDA), Susan Holley, and Ilisa led a tour through the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE), discussing the concepts behind the design, site layout, installation, maintenance, and lessons learned. Highlights included the Habitat gARTen, the mud kitchen, and vegetable garden.
From the Hilltop CDC, the field session headed to the community of Encanto in South East San Diego to visit the EarthLab, run by Groundwork San Diego/Chollas Creek. Education Director Joanna Proctor led the group through the project site, which included a native garden/pocket park, outdoor learning amphitheater, educational creek bed, production gardens, and newly installed accessible pathways. An engaging discussion about partnerships with the school district and community, and curricular connections, took place.
ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) provide opportunities for professionals interested in the same areas of practice to exchange information, learn about current practices and research, and network with each other—both online and in person at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture.
Throughout the year, PPN leaders and members share their experiences and expertise as authors for The Field blog and as presenters for ASLA’s Online Learning webinars. In 2019, the PPNs published 101 posts for The Field and organized 16 webinars. We would like to thank all of you who contributed to this shared body of knowledge in 2019! These opportunities are open to all ASLA members, and we hope to grow our group of PPN contributors in 2020.
Below, we highlight the top 10 Field posts and best-attended live Online Learning presentations of the year, but be sure to check out the full PPN 2019 in Review for additional information, including highlights from PPN Live at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego and how all ASLA members can contribute and participate on a national level through the PPNs.
The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Honors and Awards Advisory Committee has crossed an important threshold for the profession by recently acting to add urban design as an awards category for submissions of suitable work by professionals and students of landscape architecture. This necessary and welcome development commences with the 2020 ASLA awards program, which is now open for entries, and will allow our colleagues in practice and education to demonstrate to the world landscape architecture’s unique capabilities in the 21st century’s growing and rapidly changing urban realm.
In implementing this change, the ASLA Honors and Awards Advisory Committee—in partnership with the Urban Design Professional Practice Network (PPN)—concluded that in our era of urbanization the great work done by landscape architects in enhancing urban environments is deserving of focused recognition. And, of course, landscape architecture’s shaping of urban form reflects not only recent professional practice, but dates to the earliest days of the profession. This significant addition to the national awards program gives ASLA members the opportunity to be credited for outstanding work concerning urban design, urban form, and meaningful place within an urban context while implicitly reminding us of our design legacy.
Therefore, it’s not a matter of urban design being new to landscape architecture, but to underscore the profession’s ability to shape growing urban environments in the 21st century, continuing a longstanding contribution towards truly dynamic and meaningful outcomes in which quality of life, sustainability, and ecological resilience are paramount. It is largely for this reason that landscape architecture came to the fore in the 19th century, given the needs of the time. And currently, when compared with the allied professions of architecture and urban planning, whose professional associations—along with the Urban Land Institute and Congress for the New Urbanism—already identify urban design for award recognition, one can say that the needs today are more demanding and challenging than ever.
State Scenic Byways are roads or highways under federal, state, or local ownership that have been designated by the state through legislation or some other official declaration for their ability to meet one or more of the six intrinsic qualities. Federal guidance identified these intrinsic qualities as scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archeological, and/or natural. The Scenic Byway program was initiated under the 1992 Federal transportation legislation known as ISTEA. The federal program was discontinued in 2012.
On September 22, 2019 the President signed H.R. 831, Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019. The act directs the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations for and make determinations regarding roads to be designated under the National Scenic Byway Program. Only roadways already designated as state byways with Corridor Management Plans (CMPs) are eligible to apply.
Because the legislation references National Scenic Byway designation exclusively, it is unclear if byways will be permitted to seek All-American Road (AAR) designation. What is clear is that the scenic byway dedicated federal funding program available when the Federal Scenic Byway Program was initiated in 1992 remains defunct. Scenic Byway organizations continue to be eligible to partner with municipalities and apply for funding under the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program for transportation alternatives (TA). Activities eligible for TA funding include scenic pull offs, interpretative signs, and highway beautification projects. Neither corridor management plan preparation nor administrative costs associated with managing a byway are eligible for TA funding (it should be noted that the latter never was eligible for federal funding).
Incentives for becoming a National Scenic Byway include advertising opportunities, exposure on FHWA’s National Scenic Byway website, and the potential to appeal to a tourism community that extends far beyond state boundaries.
Only 11 percent of people associate terms like “green space” and “green building” with creating an environment in which people live longer and healthier lives. Improved air quality is proven to increase cognitive function and decision-making skills, and connection to nature and natural materials promotes human health and wellbeing—yet only 11 percent of people see and understand this link.
This number came from research conducted as part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Living Standard campaign, which was launched at Greenbuild Chicago in November 2018. Living Standard aims to promote healthier, safer, more equitable, and more sustainable spaces through research, storytelling, and listening to those both inside and outside of our communities.
Our research has found that there are a number of ways we can help people connect the dots, including relating green spaces back to health and safety outcomes, future generations, and environmental stakes. But ultimately, it boils down to storytelling and localization.
The ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is the largest gathering of landscape architects and allied professionals in the world—all coming together to learn, celebrate, build relationships, and strengthen the bonds of our incredibly varied professional community.
We are seeking education proposals that will help to drive change in the field of landscape architecture and solve everyday challenges informed by research and practice. Help us shape the 2020 education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. PT.
New for 2020
The conference education program will be organized across dynamic conference tracks designed to help you focus on the challenges that are most important to you. Before you submit your proposal, prepare by reviewing the 2020 conference tracks and descriptions. For your submission, select one of 14 tracks that represent topics most relevant to the practice of landscape architecture and cross sector collaborations today.
Please visit the submission site to learn more about criteria, the review process, and key dates. ASLA members are invited to log in to the online system using their unique ASLA ID.
“As a shared and open resource, Wikipedia provides a public platform for us to acknowledge and celebrate the groundbreaking work that women have contributed to the field.”
– Alexandra Mei, WiLA Wiki Officer
The takeover will last one week, December 8 – December 14, so make sure you follow @w_x_la to catch it all!
Alexandra Mei, Associate ASLA, is a landscape designer at Merritt Chase and a lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis. She recently completed a two-year research fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, focused on the patterns of weathering and decay in the design of public landscapes. Alexandra graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and from Harvard GSD with her masters in landscape architecture. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in St. Louis.
Shira Grosman, Student ASLA, is a Masters Candidate in Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD. She has worked in landscape architecture and architecture firms in New York and Los Angeles and conducted multiple research projects on women in design. She is currently co-editor of Womxn in Design‘s Bibliography on Identity Theories. Shira graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and currently lives in Cambridge, MA.
by Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA
I think that my commitment to nature all started with my childhood home. I grew up in a very busy Midwestern household, the oldest of four children, with two transplanted Brooklyn, New York academics for parents. My parents’ prior experience with plants and gardening was nil. Nonetheless, upon purchasing our home in Southwest Michigan, they tackled installing a vegetable garden in our suburban home with great zest and enthusiasm; determined to be farmers and to cast aside their collective urban world view. Their interest in the garden rapidly waned, but much to their surprise, their six-year-old daughter (me) took to the dirt with unfettered passion and zeal.
I quickly found that tending to the garden was a means to escape from three pesky younger siblings and find quiet and solitude amongst the veggies. It was my place in our home, a place where I felt most attached and connected and whole. The garden was where I wanted to be whenever I could. When it came time to harvest, I can still recall, half a century later, a sense of sheer wonder and delight in what I, as a little six-year-old girl, had nurtured all summer long. I can point to those early experiences in our vegetable garden as the catalyst for what would ultimately define my professional work and lifelong love of gardening and nature as a means to define home and to enhance the human experience.
As an occupational therapy educator, researcher, and landscape design consultant, my work focuses on how experiences in nature impact health and wellbeing. I am increasingly interested in how childhood experiences with nature can enrich parent-child as well as place attachment relationships and buffer the impact of trauma. We want our children to develop healthy and secure attachment relationships with their caregivers and to home and to be whole. These relationships may be nurtured through experiences in nature.
The 42nd Annual Meeting of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation
Natchitoches, Louisiana, April 2-4, 2020
Deadline for Paper and Poster Submissions: January 10, 2020
Deadline for Student Scholarship Applications: January 17, 2020
The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation (AHLP) is pleased to announce its 2020 annual meeting theme of Natchitoches in the Red River Valley: A Confluence of Cultures, to be held in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The Program Committee invites proposals for papers and summaries of works in progress that will promote lively and thoughtful discussions regarding cultural landscape conservation and preservation. In particular, submissions that address the role and significance of transnational immigration, cultural exchange and adaptation (especially from French, Caddo Indian, Spanish, African and American cultures), landscapes of segregation, enslavement and the establishment of free communities, topics regarding political and religious landscapes, and examples of best practices regarding the conservation and preservation of historic and cultural landscapes are all actively encouraged.
These themes will be reinforced by organized visits to locations such as Los Adaes, the former capitol of Spanish Texas; the Melrose Plantation, founded by a free person of color and transformed into an artist colony; the Magnolia Plantation, where we will experience a bousillage demonstration; and a trip to downtown Natchitoches to tour the national historic landmark district, including stops at the Kaffee-Frederick General Mercantile, the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and the Lemee House.
The ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture concluded this past Monday, and now it’s time to review the array of Professional Practice Network (PPN) events that took place in San Diego last weekend. The EXPO’s PPN Live space offered meeting rooms and a central stage; four PPN sessions that took place on the PPN Live stage offered 1.0 PDH (LA CES / HSW) each and covered topics from planning resilient university campuses to the current state of knowledge of environmental justice in landscape architecture practice.
During the PPN meetings, while members were gathered to network and learn, new leadership volunteers were identified for many PPNs, along with members interested in submitting posts for The Field or presenting ASLA Online Learning webinars. All ASLA members are welcome to join their PPN’s leadership team, the core group of member volunteers that guide PPN activities throughout the year. If you would like to learn more about getting involved, check out the ways to engage with the PPNs and sign up to join your PPN leadership team.
Below, we take a look back at PPN Live in San Diego. More photos from all conference events may be found across social media—just search for the hashtag #ASLA2019 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Through December 15, 2019, the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) will host a public comment review period for the 2016 LAAB Accreditation Standards.
Pursuant to the LAAB Accreditation Procedures, LAAB is tasked with conducting ongoing and comprehensive reviews of its accreditation standards to verify they adequately evaluate educational quality and are relevant to the educational needs of landscape architecture students.
Every five years, LAAB conducts long-term reviews to determine if the current standards, when viewed as a whole and individually, are adequate to assess the quality of landscape architecture education programs and pertinent to the education and training needs of students. LAAB last approved revisions to the standards in 2016 as part of its periodic review.
The 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture begins tomorrow, November 15, in San Diego! In addition to the events planned for PPN Live, each Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team also reviews the conference education program to highlight sessions relevant to their practice areas. With more than 120 courses, allowing attendees to earn up to 21 professional development hours (PDH), it is an extensive program to explore, and you can do so through the conference website and mobile app by keyword, topic area, speaker, who should attend, and PDH type offered (LA CES/HSW, LA CES/non-HSW, FL, NY, GBCI CE, GBCI SITES, ISA, and more).
Below, we run through the second half of these education highlights (see the sessions picked by ASLA’s 10 other PPNs in our previous post):
The 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture begins this Friday in San Diego! In addition to the events planned for PPN Live, each Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team also reviews the conference education program to highlight sessions relevant to their practice areas. With more than 120 courses, allowing attendees to earn up to 21 professional development hours (PDH), it is an extensive program to explore, and you can do so through the conference website and mobile app by keyword, topic area, speaker, who should attend, and PDH type offered (LA CES/HSW, LA CES/non-HSW, FL, NY, GBCI CE, GBCI SITES, ISA, and more).
If you can’t make it to San Diego this year, several sessions will be recorded and shared as Online Learning webinars so you can still learn about the latest in landscape architecture and earn PDH on demand.
Below, we run through the first half of these education highlights by PPN practice area (stay tuned for sessions picked by ASLA’s 10 other PPNs this Thursday):
Like many places around the globe, San Diego campuses are considering the potential future impacts of climate change and what it means to have resilient campuses in this region. Two perspectives will be explored to illustrate a range of approaches to location-specific considerations for these campus landscapes.
Krista Van Hove, ASLA, Standford University
Katharyn Hurd, ASLA, AICP, Urban Designer and Planner, Page
PPN Live at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego this month includes an array of events for attendees to network with colleagues and engage with ASLA’s 20 Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) in person, including PPN meetings, education sessions, and practice area-focused guided walks around the EXPO floor.
Want to make the most of your PPN experience at the conference? Set your own PPN agenda! Check out the schedule below and plan to earn professional development hours with a selection of meetings and sessions. Participate in a live session, network with your peers and product exhibitors in a guided walk around the show floor designed for your PPN, and make new connections within your practice area of landscape architecture.
Typically, February 1 to April 1 is the busiest time of year for scholarship application deadlines.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) are among many organizations that offer a variety of scholarships, awards, competitions, fellowships, and other funding options for students pursuing degrees and careers in landscape architecture.
Take a moment to bookmark the ASLA Scholarships and LAF Scholarships pages, then set aside time to review the full list of available opportunities, many with an application deadline of February 1 or 15.
Tips for getting ready:
Begin your scholarship search now (if you haven’t already)
Make a submission materials checklist for each scholarship
Understand eligibility criteria
Ask for recommendations ASAP
Begin drafting essay responses
Meet BEAT deadlines
Both the ASLA and LAF webpages feature new opportunities specifically designed to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession. A few are listed below, but don’t stop there. Ask friends, teachers, and colleagues if they know of funding opportunities offered by firms or other organizations.
In part one of this series, I introduced and described the charrette concept and talked about its benefits for larger planning projects. In this post, I would like to get into what the design studio looks like, how to set up a studio space, the tools you should and could bring, and some lessons learned.
A charrette studio is normally set up as a series of tables, most of which are working tables for team members to sit with their computers and/or drawing tools. The first things normally identified are the electrical outlet locations, as that has the biggest impact on table locations. There is usually a large table dedicated to layout/team gathering discussions or large drawings and models. One or two tables are also set up either on one side or around the corner from the charrette studio to have the technical committees and stakeholder meetings. And finally, there is usually a wall that is kept blank for pinups or to be projected on for a slideshow.
As the charrette is in progress, it is always good practice to cover up the walls with base maps and images and then replace those with each day’s production as the charrette progresses. This helps the design team find information for their work quickly, and also helps to show the public that work is occurring. When we can’t have the studio on the physical site, we have rented bicycles for team members to get to the site, and usually someone on the design team rents a car.
Working in design charrettes is a unique experience usually reserved for architects and planners working in firms aligned with the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), using the ideas and procedures codified by Bill Lennertz through the National Charrette Institute (NCI). However, in the last five to eight years I have noticed more landscape architecture services being pulled into the charrette process, and with increasing frequency, landscape architects are leading multidisciplinary charrettes.
A design charrette is a three- to five-day intensive, focused, and collaborative workshop usually held on the project site or as close to the site as possible within the project’s community. The setting and nature of the charrette gets the project’s team members out of the distracted design office environment and into the same room together. Being on site means the project team is designing in public and are able to get immediate feedback from the public and project stakeholders through open studio hours and presentations during charrette week. The charrette process allows team members to access the project site whenever necessary, and it allows for the in-person team collaboration that leads to a better and more coordinated project and higher quality places. From a project management standpoint, a charrette can also be a cheaper and more efficient way to get the majority of project work done, even in light of the travel and lodging costs.
Over 150 years ago, the nascent profession of landscape architecture was championing the intersection of public health and the design of our cities and landscapes. Frederick Law Olmsted argued convincingly for the necessity of large urban parks where residents of all social classes could connect with nature, breathe fresh air, and engage in recreation. However, it’s only been over the last couple decades that the effects of spending time in nature have been examined in a more rigorous manner, and the benefits have begun to be analyzed and quantified. Particularly in the area of mental health, the myriad of ways that contact with nature contributes to our health and well-being has been validated by numerous scientific investigations.
In the article from Stanford University re-posted below, researchers describe the Stanford Natural Capital Project and their plans to create a new software platform called InVEST that will help designers incorporate mental health considerations into the development and design of public parks.
Those landscape architects in the field of campus planning and design are probably familiar with the growing evidence that there is a mental health crisis among students on our college campuses. “A 2015 National Collegiate health assessment found that 37 percent of college students they surveyed felt so depressed within the last 12 months that they had difficulty functioning,” says Don Rakow of Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science. “It also found that 59 percent felt overwhelming anxiety.”
In this article from Cornell University, Don and his colleagues at Cornell are piloting a Nature Rx (prescription) program to use the renowned natural beauty of the campus landscape and surrounding open spaces to “somehow mitigate the prevalence of psychological problems among the large and diverse student body.” The initial success of this initiative has led to a book highlighting the value of Nature Rx programs and profiling four different programs in American colleges.
We don’t market except through our blogs and newsletters. I used to do a lot of lecturing, and I still do some, but I’ve been very busy lately. I learned from a marketing course that all of my books are marketing devices, but I never did them for that reason; I did them because I had something to say.
We’re lucky to have great projects come to us through word of mouth. The American Public Gardens Association has been a wonderful source of botanical garden work. We love designing for cemeteries, which are very spiritual and the most important healing gardens of all. You really have to get the details right there. When somebody you love dies, you grasp how important that work is. To make a place that feels comfortable, and yet a little bit transcendent—it’s one of my favorite challenges.
Edited by Paul H. Gobster, Robert G. Ribe, and James F. Palmer
Landscape architects have been leading contributors to the academic field of visual landscape assessment research and to the professional practice of visual impact assessment. Landscape and Urban Planning has been the leading journal publishing this work, and it has now created a collection of 18 articles published previously that are representative of the 744 articles the journal has published in this field. The collection is introduced with a literature review about themes and trends in visual assessment authored by Paul Gobster, Robert Ribe, and James Palmer, all Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Julie Moir Messervy, owner of Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio (JMMDS), inspired me when I first heard her speak 20 years ago. Her unique way of thinking about design, her deep grasp of psychology, emotions and the invisible realm of spirit, and the subconscious impact of landscape archetypes on us resonated with me. I admire the contributions she has made through her books (Contemplative Garden, The Inward Garden, The Magic Land, Outside the Not So Big House, Home Outside, Landscaping Ideas that Work), lectures, projects, and now with the Home Outside app her firm has created. She has designed meaningful places for healing and for getting in touch with heart and spirit in cemeteries, memorials, arboretums, parks, schools, and homes. Landscape designs that do that are healthcare settings!
The following is an edited interview with Julie Moir Messervy, landscape designer, author, and speaker based in Bellows Falls, VT. The interview was conducted this spring by Lisa Bailey, ASLA, sole proprietor of BayLeaf Studio in Berkeley, CA, and a consultant with Schwartz and Associates, a landscape design firm in Mill Valley, CA.
What inspires you to do this work?
I was inspired by being a child playing in nature. I am one of seven children and found some away time, as well as solace and delight, in the fields, woods, and orchards around our house. Exploring nature has always been an important part of my life.
My favorite question that I’ve always asked my clients is, “Where did you go as a child for daydreaming, reverie, and reflection?” Not only do most people recall their love of nature, but they recognize their deep love and longing for the places in nature they played in. It’s not always an outdoor space; it could be a city library, under the piano, or in their bed. People want a place like that, not necessarily literally similar, but that recreates the feelings of security, wonder, and creativity. Having a contemplative place in your life—a place to remember and reconnect with the spirit—is a real source of healing.
The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation: Conserving Cultural Landscapes (“the Alliance”) met for its Annual Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in May 2019. The theme of the conference was “Detroit as a Cultural Landscape Palimpsest.” The group spent three days immersed in presentations and site visits focused on learning about cultural landscapes throughout the city. We learned how MoTown is addressing dramatic demographic and economic change through innovative approaches to create a positive, resilient future, while embracing, celebrating, and preserving cultural heritage. Following the palimpsest theme, the Detroit landscapes were viewed each day through the lens of a different time span. If Detroit is on your bucket list (and it really should be) you’ll find lots of great information and ideas in this post and associated links.
The Alliance is an interdisciplinary professional organization which provides a forum for communication and exchange of information among its members. It is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of historic landscapes in all their variety, from formal gardens and public parks to rural expanses. If you are not familiar with the Alliance, you can learn more about the organization on their website, ahlp.org.
During the conference, we learned of the importance of the Detroit region to Indigenous communities prior to the arrival of Europeans, and ways current Indigenous Peoples are continuing relationships with the landscape. The Honorable Grand Chief Ted Roll of the Wyandotte of Anderdon Nation, and Joshua Garcia, Wyandotte Nation Youth-Intern Ambassador, introduced us to the land of the Anishinabeg (First People). Representing the voices of Indigenous communities directly associated with the area, they led visits to and taught us about Wyandot sites.
ASLA’s Ecology & Restoration Professional Practice Network (PPN) invites you to a discussion on novel ecosystems this Friday, October 4, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (Eastern). [The recording is now available.] Join the conversation!
Richard Hobbs defines a novel ecosystem as “an ecosystem that consists of new combinations of species that have not previously coexisted, and/or new configurations of environmental factors such as changed climate or altered soil properties.” The basic premise that such ecosystems exist seems straightforward, yet has been highly contentious and marks a significant shift in perspective.
This webinar panel brings together designers and ecologists to unravel the nuances of “novel ecosystems” as a conceptual framework, and the implications for work in restoration, conservation, and design.