Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 10

Figure 1: BRIT bioswale 2 polyculture in July 2016 after weeding and mulching have brought the planting back closer to the original design intent shown in lead image from part 9. The bioswale is now ready for hundreds of additional specified plants that will be installed in the fall once the weather cools down. image: design and photo by David Hopman

Figure 1: BRIT bioswale 2 polyculture in July 2016 after weeding and mulching have brought the planting back closer to the original design intent shown in lead image from part 9. The bioswale is now ready for hundreds of additional specified plants that will be installed in the fall once the weather cools down.
image: design and photo by David Hopman

Polyculture Maintenance and Plant Palettes

This post is about the maintenance decisions that can have a profound effect on the range of plants useful for an aesthetically qualified urban polyculture. Some of the issues are addressed in the spreadsheet that was presented in part 8 of this series. For example, relative aggressiveness will help determine if plants play well together or if one plant is almost sure to dominate. However, the discussion that follows is on factors affecting plant palette decisions that go beyond the intrinsic characteristics of each plant that is considered.

Pruning

Polycultures of herbaceous perennial plants and grasses are low maintenance but will frequently be more useful for aesthetically qualified native urban polycultures if they are pruned two or three times a year. Just because a plant is native does not mean that it must be allowed to express only its non-maintained form. This is especially true when soil amendments and irrigation are used. Water, fertilizer, and soils that are richer than what the plant would normally grow in without human intervention tend to make the plants taller, fuller, and more aggressive than otherwise, and may even cause them to flop over, particularly when they are blooming. Selective pruning may actually bring their appearance and stature back closer to a “natural” state.

Another big advantage to selective pruning is that it broadens the range of plants that can fit the aesthetic criteria of a particular polyculture. For example, one of the best native plants we have for shade conditions in North Texas is Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). It is tolerant of both drought and seasonal inundation, stays attractive throughout the year, and establishes and spreads very easily. However, with irrigation it can easily get 3-4 feet tall, which may not be a desirable trait in an urban polyculture where other lower plants could have a seasonal focus. By cutting Sea Oats in half early in the season, it can easily be maintained at 18 inches tall. Some of the plants can also be left taller as “scatter plants,” which is how we are maintaining the UT-Arlington polyculture featured in part 7 of this series.

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‘It Takes a Community’

Living Deanwood is a living building design Washington, DC’s historic Deanwood neighborhood. The project features 10 affordable homes, a community garden, a pocket park, and a community center. image: Christopher Winnike, AIA, Brittany Williams, AIA, and Eric Hull / courtesy of the American Institute of Architects

Living Deanwood is a living building design Washington, DC’s historic Deanwood neighborhood. The project features 10 affordable homes, a community garden, a pocket park, and a community center.
image: Christopher Winnike, AIA, Brittany Williams, AIA, and Eric Hull / courtesy of the American Institute of Architects

With the theme ‘It Takes a Community,’ the 2016 exhibit from the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Emerging Professionals showcases the work of architecture students, recent graduates, and emerging professionals that offer a well-rounded approach, encompassing much more than structures alone when looking at community design. The selected projects focus on community impact and engagement as well, ranging from applying adaptive design principles to address homelessness to housing that responds to resource scarcity.

The Emerging Professionals exhibit includes 30 projects, from across the country and the globe, and here we highlight a few that incorporate the surrounding landscape and well-designed outdoor spaces, from community gardens to pocket parks, as integral to the overall design.

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A Day in the Life of a Landscape Architect

Case Study Investigation (CSI): Measuring the Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Exemplary Landscapes - 2015 Honor Award Winner, Research Category image: Landscape Architecture Foundation

Case Study Investigation (CSI): Measuring the Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Exemplary Landscapes – 2015 Honor Award Winner, Research Category
image: Landscape Architecture Foundation

Given how many of our waking hours are dedicated to work, where we work matters. Whether an expansive open office, a maze of cubicles, in a home office, or out on site, our workplaces influence how well we perform and how much we enjoy the work we do every day. To get an idea of what a typical day looks like and where landscape architects spend most of their time while at work, in a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: How much time do you spend outdoors / on site vs. in an office?

Though the answer to that question necessarily varies depending on the season, the weather, the types of projects being worked on, and what stage those projects are at—as one respondent put it, there is “no such thing as a typical day” for some landscape architects—there were some clear trends that emerged. Ninety percent of respondents spend more than half their time in an office, compared to only 4 percent that spend more time outdoors. Only 6 percent reported splitting their time evenly between the office and being on site.

Survey takers were also asked if they preferred one work environment to another. While many respondents said they spend “way too much” time in the office, the most frequent response highlighted the need for balance, with some time spent in both kinds of work environments. Though most survey respondents spend more time in an office than anywhere else, many agreed that having a good balance between office and outdoor time is key.

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Making the Most Impact with Your “Build” Relationships

image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA

image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA

Whether in the residential or commercial design-build landscape sectors, there are some great ways that landscape architects can enhance and bring more value to our working relationships with architects, builders, and clients – especially in the “build” process of our projects. The following are a few suggestions that may help you, and as always, feel free to share any comments and suggestions that you might have with fellow landscape architecture professionals.

Here is a list of tasks that are in no particular order – some are big and some are rather minor – but keeping these in mind in your project management will show your design-build team partners that you care a lot about the details!
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Designing Equity Part II: What’s next in community engagement?

A dynamic panel used efforts in East Harlem NYC as a case study for scaling up equitable process image: Kofi Boone

A dynamic panel used efforts in East Harlem NYC as a case study for scaling up equitable process
image: Kofi Boone

Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward. The following is Part II of the two-part series detailing presentations and dialogue during the forum. Part I was published on August 2, 2016.

Design at the Scale of Systemic Change

The final session attempted to offer lessons on scaling up our definitions of community to the City. Focusing on a case study in New York, Jerry Maldonado from the Ford Foundation moderated a panel consisting of participants engaged in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan. The plan emerged as an opportunity to engage in Mayor DeBlassio’s borough-wide up-zoning process. Given the rate of growth and displacement across the city, a key community decision was to engage the process instead of resist through protest; this was a key decision point credited by all as a reason for successful engagement.

Sandra Youdelman from Community Voices Heard laid out in great detail the need for politically savvy actors to navigate the complex relationships within the community and between the community and the city. By introducing the language of “Power,” “Players,” and “Campaigns” (i.e. borrowing strategies for getting people engaged in political campaigns for a planning process), Ms. Youdelman illustrated the value of engaging a wide range of allies in the process. This was especially important to communicate because another participant was George Sarkissian from NYC Council ‘s Economic Development Division. Mr. Sarkissian made plain the political and economic risks and rewards for engaging a community in a contentious process, and praised the political savvy of the group.

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Finding Rewarding Work in Landscape Architecture

Village of Yorkville Park, 2012 Landmark Award Winner image: © Peter Mauss/Esto

Village of Yorkville Park, 2012 Landmark Award Winner
image: © Peter Mauss/Esto

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: Which sector do you find most rewarding to work in? To simplify responses, we gave members three choices: the public sector, the private sector, or academia. Looking at the results, working in the public sector was deemed to be the most rewarding, selected by 42% of survey takers. The private sector was a close second, with 38%, and academia came in third with 11%.

Among our survey takers, there were 25 respondents who stated that they have worked in all three sectors. This select group, with the greatest breadth of experience, might be the most qualified to pick which sector is most satisfying to work in. Within this subset of the results, 13 chose the public sector, 4 chose private, and 5 picked academia as the most rewarding kind of work.

“Other” was also a possible answer, and a handful of people wrote in either “all of the above” or a different answer. Those in favor of multi-sector experience wrote:

“The mix of sectors is most appealing—you don’t get bored.”

“Rewards from each are incomparable.”

“As of now, all are vital to my development.”

“I strive to help people realize their dreams whether that be through design or teaching. It’s all rewarding.”

“I’ve worked in both public and private sectors. Public is embroiled in politics and limits opportunity and creativity. Good to see both sides though!”

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Designing Equity Part I: What’s next in community engagement?

Working session involving small groups of diverse participants image: Kofi Boone

Working session involving small groups of diverse participants
image: Kofi Boone

Rapid change in diverse communities across the nation has prompted many to take stock of the roles designers and planners have played and could play in this period.  Academically and professionally, many of us were drawn to our fields because of a shared passion for the power of design (and design thinking) to make positive transformations in the environments around us. However, with increasing diversity, we are often challenged with the need to better understand and more effectively work with people very different from ourselves.  And concurrent with this has been the demand by diverse communities for designers and planners to acknowledge and address the inequitable gaps between different communities based on racial, class, and gender disparities. For decades, designers and planners have worked with communities to address these issues. But in the current social, political, and economic climate, what are best practices in community engaged design?

Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin to tackle this and many other issues. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward.

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