Designing for All Children

Ramp and steps located together provide equitable access to the play structure. image: Amy Wagenfeld

Ramp and steps located together provide equitable access to the play structure.
image: Amy Wagenfeld

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) suggests that disability is contextual. Environmental contexts can reduce or exacerbate disability. If an environment enables a young girl with a left leg amputation who uses a wheelchair to access spaces the same ways everyone else does, she is not disabled in this context. In accordance with the ICF, if she has to gain access to an environment via a steep ramp, be carried because the only access is steps, or be unable to enter at all, she is disabled. If she cannot participate or engage in the space, she is disabled in this environmental context. In the exemplar above, the ramp and steps are adjacent. The surface is crushed stone and the ramp slope is barely discernible. Both wheeled mobility users and those ambulating can equitably gain access to the Zen garden beyond the shelter. There is no backdoor entrance; all are equal and welcomed through the front door.

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Damn The Torpedoes

image: James Hughes

image: James Hughes

Today I helped an architect friend of mine design the landscape for his recently remodeled midcentury ranch home. A few weeks ago, I also helped him construct a deck he had designed for the home’s front door. The deck was maybe the most interesting one I’ve seen in person. A long cantilever, intersecting volumes, slats, all the details one might expect from Mies van der Rohe. He did a great job of expressing the design language of the home, and I was excited to be a part of finishing up his vision, not to mention the enjoyment of working with a friend and frequent collaborator.

In my market, the opportunity to work on projects with an established and well-defined design language is rare. During the 1950’s-1960’s, modernism came roaring in to my city and many gems were designed and built here. Many of them still remain, albeit in increasing states of deterioration. We have Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built residence in Florida (Spring House), single-family homes designed by notable architects, and several fantastic Brutalist structures (the most prominent being the Wesley Foundation at Florida State University, which was sadly demolished earlier this year). Modernism came in fast, and then all but vanished just a quickly.

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July is Parks and Recreation Month

The Slide Crater in Chicago's Maggie Daley Park image: Alexandra Hay

The Slide Crater in Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park
image: Alexandra Hay

To highlight our members during Parks and Recreation Month, we are taking a look back at the last annual meeting of the ASLA Parks and Recreation Professional Practice Network (PPN). At that meeting, the PPN’s co-chairs came up with a few questions to spark conversations and let the attendees get to know one another, including identifying key areas of interest and trends in parks and recreation design and moments of inspiration they’ve had in public spaces. The meeting attendees came from across the country and from all stages of their careers, from students to senior landscape architects and firm principals.

Read on to see some of the key questions, topics of interest, and inspiring places that are on Parks and Recreation PPN members’ minds.

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Software Preferences at Award-winning Firms

image: Peter Summerlin

image: Peter Summerlin

In our experience, there seems to be common interest among landscape architects as to what design software other firms are using in their offices.  As technology is rapidly changing, the only constant is that we must regularly decide if the latest and greatest software has potential for our specific practice. Knowing what other successful firms are utilizing might be helpful as we wrestle with these decisions.  Similarly, academics are curious of the latest practices in an effort to either integrate or validate course objectives.  It’s with this curiosity in mind that we talked with 15 recent ASLA award-winning firms from across the country about the software they use in creating illustrative perspectives. The firms surveyed range in size but altogether represent 40% of the National ASLA awards in General Design and Analysis & Planning for the past 3 years.

For context, most high-end perspectives are created across a series of software programs. Typically, a 2D drafting program is used to build the site in plan view, a 3D modeling program projects up the site plan into 3-dimensional space, a rendering program exports 2D graphics with advanced materials and lighting, and a post-processing program is used for touch-ups and final edits. The results of the survey are broken into these 4 categories and are shown below.

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Where Landscape Architects Love to Work, Part 2

Charleston, SC - Charleston Waterfront Park, 2007 Landmark Award image: Craig Kuhner

Charleston, SC – Charleston Waterfront Park, 2007 Landmark Award
image: Craig Kuhner

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members about their favorite cities and regions for practicing landscape architecture. Not surprisingly, there was no single answer that dominated the responses, which reflected the regional diversity of those who took the survey—the largest segment of respondents hailed from the West (30%), with roughly 20% each from the East, South, and Midwest, and 6% of respondents practice internationally.

In Part I, we focused on the top choices for favorite cities and regions to work in, which covered much of the U.S.: the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and the Bay Area, the Midwest, New York City, and New England. In Part II, we’ll focus on a few less frequent picks, ranging from international locations to regions in the U.S. you might not have considered landscape architecture hotspots before. Below, we highlight some of the most popular responses.

Southeast

“Culturally rich and the general public has knowledge of and respects the profession.”

“Things grow fast so you can see (relatively immediate) results in a few years versus a decade.”

“The Southeast has a great planting palette and the right amount of regulation to provide plenty of landscape, but not over regulated to tie the designer’s hands too much to do anything fun.”

“The Delta—anywhere between Memphis and New Orleans. It’s mostly emotional and nostalgic for me, but also the rich culture, the range of economies, the beauty of the land, the potential I see.”

“Hilton Head, South Carolina and the Virginia Tidewater area—the sense and respect for the protection and importance of nature and our environmental surroundings.”

“Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry—the culture, the urbanism, the history, and the passion for the landscape.”

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City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure, Part II

Railroad Park image: "lexcio," Flickr

Railroad Park
image: lexcio via Flickr

The following is the second installment of the two-part series excerpted from the Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE) publication, City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure. To view Part I, click here.

Part II

Different Solutions and How They Actually Work

There is no simple formula for green infrastructure in parks. For one thing, geography alone dictates that there are dozens of different kinds of urban parks, from narrow stream side greenways to large flat forestland, from stepped brick plazas to lush community gardens, and from windswept hilltop viewpoints to massive sports complexes. But when it comes to water-smart parks, there are three principal issues:

  • Is the physical relationship of the park to the surrounding community such that a redesign could reduce neighborhood flooding or the pollution of downstream waterways?
  • Does the park have any available space for water flow and storage?
  • Is the composition of the existing soils, water table, and underlying rock such that the park can absorb a significant amount of water in the necessary amount of time?

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Where Landscape Architects Love to Work, Part 1

Seattle, WA - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category image: Timothy Hursley

Seattle, WA – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category
image: Timothy Hursley

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members about their favorite cities and regions for practicing landscape architecture. Not surprisingly, there was no single answer that dominated the responses, which reflected the regional diversity of those who took the survey—the largest segment of respondents hailed from the West (30%), with roughly 20% each from the East, South, and Midwest, and 6% of respondents practice internationally. Responses were similarly distributed, and though the answers themselves might not have been surprising, the reasons why certain areas are popular places to work are still enlightening, and it might be food for thought should you find yourself considering a move.

There were many shared characteristics among the top choices, including:

  • Variety and number of opportunities available
  • Level of growth in the area
  • Being part of a large, active community of fellow landscape architects
  • Availability of good clients to work with—clients who appreciate the work of landscape architects
  • Places where landscape architects’ work is valued
  • Relative abundance of water
  • Wherever home is—being able to change the place where you grew up for the better

A good number of respondents also argued that no single city or region has any special appeal or strength over any another:

“Location does not matter. Excited clients matter.”

“Anywhere with a fun/challenging project”

“There is usually something unique about every location’s mix of physical, cultural and political environments.”

“Every place in the world has its physical and cultural differences, and interesting people, resulting in creative design opportunities.”

“Any area with a strong appreciation for architectural form and tradition—typically that means there is an appreciation for built form and how art can add value to living environments.”

“Any town/city that is responsible on permitting”

“Anywhere with a Mediterranean climate”

Below, we highlight some of the most popular responses.

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