by Ellen Burke, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP
“A Student’s Guide: Environmental Justice and Landscape Architecture” was developed by three MLA students and published by in 2017. “A Student’s Guide” was intended as a “starting-oﬀ place for students—a compendium of resources, conversations, case studies, and activities students can work through and apply to their studio projects” (p. 2). The guide outlines seven principles for equitable design, adapted from the seventeen Principles of Environmental Justice, a landmark document drafted during the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in October 1991.
In fall quarter 2020, an undergraduate landscape architecture design studio at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo undertook an environmental justice plan for West Oakland, CA as part of the third year Cultural Landscape Focus Studio. Several documents guided the formation of the studio structure, including “A Student’s Guide.” This article brieﬂy summarizes the experience of applying the guide to a studio project.
To ground students in the ethnic, racial and economic diversity and complexity of the region and city, the studio began with a two-week cultural “place” analysis. The analysis documented the history of Indigenous peoples, and of Hispanic, Asian, Black, and Dust Bowl immigrants in Oakland, tracing histories of arrival and of land use/land relationships, including mapping relevant cultural landscapes and events for each focus group to connect history and present-day culture (Fig. 1).