Equity at Work: Designing an Inclusive and Equitable Workplace Culture

by Jake Minden

image: Equity at Work Report

Equity at Work: Designing an Inclusive and Equitable Workplace Culture is a collaborative research project between University of Washington MLA Graduate Jake Minden, The College of Built Environments Applied Research Consortium, and Mithun.


Built environment design professionals are responsible for myriad spaces that contribute to positive or negative effects on societal health, well-being, and happiness. Who designs the built environment (representation), and how they do it (equitable practice) matters. Improving the representation and retention of design practitioners from historically excluded racial and ethnic minority groups and developing more equitable and inclusive workplace practices is imperative to reduce the negative effects of white supremacy in built environment design practice and the built environment itself.

Many racist barriers in need of removal exist within the design professions, from K-12 to post-secondary education to professional development and leadership. The scope of this research focuses on workplace culture as it relates to the retention of employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority communities.

Workplace culture is traditionally seen as top-down and defined by the leaders of a firm or organization. However, as workplaces become increasingly adaptable to a rapidly changing world and workforce, employees are expressing more agency in shifting workplace cultural norms and expectations. Independent of who creates workplace culture, it is ubiquitous to all firms and organizations, unspoken, and dynamic. Positioning workplace culture as a tool for or against white supremacy in the workplace places significant social and ethical responsibility onto those designing or influencing workplace culture. This research asks built environment design professionals to identify weaknesses within their workplace cultures and to empower professionals with information and concrete options for improving equitable practices.

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ASLA in Nashville: Planting Design and Transportation PPN Meeting Recap

by the Transportation PPN leadership team

At the Transportation and Planting Design PPNs’ joint session, the conversation focused on best practices to incorporate pollinator habitats along transportation corridors and approaches to fight back against invasive species. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out the reading & resources list prepared by Planting Design and Transportation PPN leaders. / image: Alexandra Hay

For the 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, the Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) teamed up with the Planting Design PPN to engage in a lively campfire discussion about planting design for pollinators.

Pollinator planting has been and remains a hot topic (see the December 9, 2021 Field post by Liia Koiv-Haus, ASLA, “Making Space for Pollinators,” and “Roadside Realm” from the March 2021 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine). Both PPNs agreed that preserving pollinator habitat is important, but the methods and resources used to create habitat differed. This is due, in part, to the landscape scales in which each PPNs’ members typically practice. Other differences included maintenance abilities and strategies, budgets, and “owner” motivation. Planting design practitioners are often hired by property owners intent on creating habitat; transportation practitioners are usually required to justify spending public dollars on habitat creation and not on other, more easily justifiable, competing interests (such as roadway improvements and accessibility).

Transportation PPN leaders started the discussion by outlining federal and state resources that departments of transportation (DOTs) use to inform policy and practice decisions about pollinators. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s Pollinators and Roadsides: Best Management Practices for Managers and Decision Makers is the primary reference for state transportation agencies. The document elaborates on a variety of techniques used by state DOTs, four of which also appeared in Liia Koiv-Haus, ASLA’s “Making Space for Pollinators”—altered mowing practices, reduced herbicide use, protection of existing stands of native vegetation, and re-seeding efforts post construction.

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The 2022 HALS Challenge: Olmsted Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Rockefeller Carriage Roads, HAER ME-13, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For the 13th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Olmsted Landscapes.

2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. By documenting Olmsted landscapes for HALS, you will increase public awareness of historic landscapes and illuminate Olmsted’s living legacy. Any site designed or planned in part or in full by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., his firm, and the firm continued by his sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Junior, is eligible (see Master List of Design Projects).

The Olmsted Research Guide Online (ORGO) and Olmsted Online are helpful research tools. You may search for records held at the Olmsted National Historic Site and the Olmsted collections at the Library of Congress. The copyright status of some of these materials is uncertain, so please do not reproduce the graphics in your HALS documentation. You may analytically write about and cite them instead.

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Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to the Profession of Landscape Architecture

Magdalena Aravena, ASLA, receiving the Emerging Professional Medal from Immediate Past President Tom Mroz, FASLA, at the 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville. / image: Jason Mallory

The honors awarded by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) each year recognize individuals and organizations for their lifetime achievements and notable contributions to the profession of landscape architecture.

Nominations will be accepted through Friday, February 4, 2022, 6:00 p.m. (Eastern), for the ASLA Medal, ASLA Design Medal, Community Service Awards, Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal, LaGasse Medals, Landscape Architecture Firm Award, Landscape Architecture Medal of Excellence, Olmsted Medal, Emerging Professional Medal, and Honorary ASLA Membership.

Any ASLA professional member or ASLA chapter may submit nominations for ASLA honors. Learn more about these prestigious awards below.

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2021 in Review: Professional Practice Networks Highlights

2021, in short: 20 webinars. 100 blog posts. Reconnecting in Nashville.

As the year draws to a close, we would like to thank all the Professional Practice Network (PPN) leaders and members who shared their experiences and expertise as authors for The Field blog, as hosts, presenters, and engaged audience members for Online Learning webinars, and at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture last month.

Below, we highlight the top five Field posts and webinars; for the full top ten of each, plus PPN highlights from the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, please see the PPNs’ 2021 in Review.

And, in case you missed the conference this year, the first batch of education session recordings from Nashville are available on the ASLA Online Learning website; additional recordings will be added early in the new year.

Year in Review: The Field

The Field was established to give members in the field of landscape architecture a place to exchange information, learn about recent work and research, and share thoughts about emerging developments. Contributions are by members and for members, and we encourage all ASLA members with an idea or an experience to share to contribute to The Field.

Fresh content appears twice a week, and 100 posts were published in 2021.

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Chicago’s Obama Presidential Center Pursues SITES & LEED

by Paul Wessel

Obama Presidential Center
Photo courtesy of the Obama Foundation

We are delighted and honored that Chicago’s Obama Presidential Center has announced its plans to achieve LEED v4 Platinum, SITES Silver, and International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Zero Energy certification.

The most pertinent to ASLA members is their commitment to the SITES certification, a comprehensive certification system for creating sustainable and resilient land development projects. SITES promotes sustainable and resilient landscape development and can be used for development projects located on sites with or without buildings to enhance their sustainability, implement green infrastructure strategies, and improve resilience.

The Center is a historic opportunity to build a world-class museum and public gathering space on the South Side of Chicago that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady. It will host the offices of the Obama Foundation, a library, collaborative space for residents of Chicago’s South Side, a renewed and reinvigorated park, and a children’s play area.

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The 2021 HALS Challenge Winners: Historic Black Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

First Place 2021 HALS Challenge Winner: Golden Gate Village, HALS CA-158. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Results of the 12th annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge, Historic Black Landscapes, were announced at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville on November 21, 2021. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes will be awarded to the top four submissions (there was a tie for third place). This challenge resulted in the donation of 26 impressive HALS short format historical reports and a few measured drawings to the HALS collection for sites in 19 different states from coast to coast.

Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. From plantations to segregated cities, the nation’s landscapes retain the physical manifestations of our racist history. Yet historic Black landscapes also represent creative achievements and reflect Black culture. By documenting historic Black landscapes participants helped expand our understanding of America’s past and future, revealing patterns of community that have been built over the course of four hundred years.

First Place: Golden Gate Village, HALS CA-158
Sausalito, California
By Douglas Nelson, ASLA, RHAA Landscape Architects
Golden Gate Village is significant as a post-World War II public housing project that was created with a goal of providing a racially integrated community based on progressive social and environmental ideals.

Second Place: River View Farm, HALS VA-87
Charlottesville, Virginia
By Liz Sargent, FASLA, Principal, Liz Sargent HLA, with Steve Thompson, Dede Smith, and Nell Boeschenstein
Situated on a hill above the South Rivanna Reservoir five miles from the center of Charlottesville, River View Farm affords an unusual opportunity to understand an African American family farm of the post-Emancipation era.

Third Place (Tie):
Beltane Ranch, HALS CA-162
Glen Ellen, California
By Arthur Dawson, of Baseline Consulting, Kara Brunzell, of Brunzell Historical, and Janet Gracyk
Beltane Ranch is significant for its association with civil rights advocate and businesswoman Mary Ellen Pleasant, and the fact that Beltane has been run largely by women ever since she bought the property 125 years ago.

City Hall Park (Oscar Grant Plaza), HALS CA-157
Oakland, California
By Cecilia Distefano, Kelly Flairty, Cathy Garrett, ASLA (CA PLA, NVLA, LEED AP, CLARB), Evan MacGregor, Petra Marar, ASLA, Adrienne Newton, ASLA (CA PLA), Grace Tada, Assoc. ASLA, and Kari Tanaka (CA PLA, ULI)
Oscar Grant Plaza—unofficially eponymously named in honor of the Black East Bay resident killed by San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police in 2009—served as a central destination for protests, civil disobedience, vigils, art, and other public actions of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising for racial justice.

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Making Space for Pollinators

by Liia Koiv-Haus, ASLA

Black-eyed susans and solar panels
image: OpenEI / Creative Commons Zero

At least one third of the food we eat and 75% of flowering plants depend on pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths, bats, birds, wasps, beetles, and other insects (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Meanwhile, pollinator decline is happening due to loss of habitat, disease, parasites, and changing climate. In 2015-2016, 44% of managed bee colonies in the U.S. were lost (Bee Informed Partnership). Continuous declines in bee populations have caused prices for renting bees to skyrocket to four times the price they were in 2004. Data on wild pollinators is lacking, but overall pollinators are declining in 70% of countries due to changing land use patterns, pesticides, and other factors (Apidologie).

In 2014, the Obama Administration established a Pollinator Health Task Force with representatives from departments, agencies, and offices. This task force developed a National Pollinator Health Strategy with an action plan to conduct research on pollinators and restore habitat, prioritizing high risk areas. The action plan involved data collection, sharing, and modeling; strategies for creating affordable seed mixes, especially on post-fire restoration projects; preventing pollinator exposure to pesticides; producing a public education plan; and developing public-private partnerships. A major goal was to increase sheer land area of pollinator habitat, which has spurred strategic planning efforts.

One example strategy to promote pollinator health has been the “colocation” of solar panels and plants to maximize land use benefits: planting native wildflowers and grasses among rows of solar panels.

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The Architecture of Landscape Architecture Practices

by Yujia Wang, ASLA

Mountain View Pavilion
Mountain View Pavilion, a small, 200-square-meter service complex including a medical room, an accessible restroom, a small café, and plenty of public space. Designed by Urban Narratives Office L+P 一场景观规划

I have always thought the name of our profession to be very interesting—the phrase “landscape architecture,” a name that embodies a compelling combination and intersection of nature and the humanities. This may have even been one of the reasons I was drawn to enter the field in the first place.

Of course, the second half of the phrase, “architecture,” originally indicated “design” in general. As Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. wrote in his letter to Charles Eliot in 1886, “I prefer that we should call ourselves Landscape Architects…rather than landscape gardeners…because the former title better carries the professional idea. It makes more important the idea of ​​design.”

Interestingly, in recent years, I have discovered that the real, literal “architecture” aspect of landscape architecture is more and more reflected in my practice.

Part of this points to the fact that (small) architecture—some call it parkitecture—is oftentimes an inherent part of public space (for larger-scale  spaces, at least). Some of these architectural pieces are there to carry basic service functions, such as public restrooms, shower rooms, etc.; others provide operable square footage for the park: the likes of cafés, mini libraries, stages, galleries, and so on. They are a part of the programming and energize the public space. In the design of several large parks that I undertook, our landscape architecture office being the lead consultant, architectural design of this nature was considered by the client as a part of the overall scheme.

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Climate Action Now: Landscape Architects as Climate Advocates

Climate Action Now presenters Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, Scott Bishop, ASLA, April Philips, FASLA, Pamela Conrad, ASLA, and Adrian Smith, FASLA / image: courtesy of Adrian Smith

During the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville, representatives from ASLA’s Climate Action Committee (CAC) shared how ASLA is advocating for the landscape architecture community to have a voice in the international conversation on climate action, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s recent COP26.

Committee leaders discussed communications, action, advocacy, and working together with international coalitions to scale up the new inclusive, climate-smart planning and design practices required to achieve zero emissions in the built environment by 2040. Our presenters were:

  • Scott Bishop, ASLA, Climate Action Committee (CAC) Chair, Bishop Land Design
  • Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, CAC Immediate Past Chair
    Pamela Conrad, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture, Climate Positive Design
  • April Philips, FASLA, April Philips Design Works
  • Adrian Smith, FASLA, ASLA Vice President of Professional Practice, NYC Parks and Recreation

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The 2021 ASLA Conference in Review: Professional Practice Network Highlights from Nashville

The 2021 Women in Landscape Architecture Walk / image: Alexandra Hay

Practice Basecamp at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville earlier this month was the EXPO’s hub for practice-focused programming, including fast-paced Game Changer talks and presentations from ASLA’s Climate Action Committee and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (stay tuned for announcements of the 2021 HALS Challenge winners and the 2022 HALS Challenge theme, coming to The Field soon!).

Today we are taking a look back at the campfire sessions organized by ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). These conversation-focused events were opportunities to meet and network with other ASLA members and conference attendees, allowing for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge-sharing. In case you missed the conference this year, we hope the photos below provide a glimpse of all the goings-on in Practice Basecamp.

For those interested in watching recordings of education sessions that took place in Nashville, many sessions will be available on-demand via ASLA Online Learning in the coming weeks.

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Sustainability, Sustainable Landscape Metrics, and SITES

Grant Park Gateway, Atlanta, GA / image: The Sustainable SITES Initiative®

Take a survey to show your sustainable landscape knowledge!

A research team is looking to understand landscape architecture professionals’ knowledge, interest, and participation in sustainable landscape design and sustainable landscape metrics.

They’ve released an anonymous survey and are hoping that you will weigh in. The survey explores the relationship between professionals’ interest in sustainable landscapes and knowledge of and participation with sustainable landscape metrics.

The research team includes:

  • Sohyun Park, ASLA, SITES AP, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, ASLA Ecology & Restoration Professional Practice Network (PPN) Co-Chair
  • Michael Ross, ASLA, SITES AP, Assistant Professor, School of Landscape Architecture, The University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • Kathryn Nelson, ASLA, SITES AP, Instructor, Department of Landscape Architecture, Texas Tech University
  • Olivia Sievers Ross, SITES AP, Hinoki Designs

You may notice that those involved are SITES APs. In fact, the survey partially focuses on the SITES certification. The SITES certification promotes sustainable and resilient landscape development. It can be used for development projects located on sites with or without buildings to enhance their sustainability, implement green infrastructure strategies, and improve resilience.

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ASLA 2021 Conference Education Session Highlights, Part 2

Blevins Japanese Garden / image: courtesy of Cheekwood

The 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture begins this Friday in Nashville! In addition to the events planned for the EXPO’s Practice Basecamp, each Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team also reviews the conference education program to highlight sessions relevant to their practice areas. With more than 100 sessions offering professional development hours (PDH), it is an extensive program to explore, and you can do so through the conference website and mobile app by track, speaker, and PDH type offered (LA CES/HSW, LA CES/non-HSW, FL, NY, AICP, GBCI, 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):

See below for the education sessions in each PPN topic area, or click the PPN name above to jump to that section.

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ASLA 2021 Conference Education Session Highlights, Part 1

Nashville’s Cumberland Park / image: Kenny Clayton

The 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture begins this Friday in Nashville! In addition to the events planned for the EXPO’s Practice Basecamp, each Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team also reviews the conference education program to highlight sessions relevant to their practice areas. With more than 100 sessions offering professional development hours (PDH), it is an extensive program to explore, and you can do so through the conference website and mobile app by track, speaker, and PDH type offered (LA CES/HSW, LA CES/non-HSW, FL, NY, AICP, GBCI, ISA, and more).

If you can’t make it to Nashville this year, a number of education 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):

See below for the education sessions related to each PPN practice area, or click the PPN name above to jump to that section.

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Practice Basecamp Preview: Professional Practice Network Events in Nashville

Practice Basecamp at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville will be the EXPO’s hub for a range of practice-focused programming:

  • Engaging campfire sessions organized by ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs)
  • Continue the Conversation with select education session presenters
  • Fast-paced Game Changer presentations
  • Presentations from ASLA’s Climate Action Committee and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)

Many of these events are designed to be opportunities to meet and network with other ASLA members and conference attendees. The Professional Practice Network (PPN)-organized campfire sessions, for instance, will be conversation-focused, allowing for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge-sharing. Perhaps best of all: no one has to remember to unmute in order to participate.

Want to make the most of your PPN experience at the conference? Explore what’s planned and get ready to make new connections in Nashville.

Saturday, November 20

12:30 – 1:00 pm

1:00 – 1:45 pm

3:15 – 3:45 pm

Sunday, November 21

11:30 am – 12:15 pm

1:00 – 1:45 pm

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Revitalizing an Urban Village: The Example of the Sterling Community

by Thomas Schurch, ASLA

A master plan for a portion of the Sterling Neighborhood depicts street upgrades, public spaces including a memorial square at a highpoint of the site, townhouses inspired by historic mill houses, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Inclusive of the plan is geothermal and solar renewable energy, green stormwater management, and public safety using principles of CPTED. Click here to view at a larger scale. / image: Sterling Community Design Studio, Clemson University, 2018

The Sterling Community in Greenville, South Carolina, is a significant, legacy Black neighborhood in the Southeast. With its remarkable emergence in the 1890s through establishment of a high school for young Black Americans by Reverend Daniele Melton Minus, a tradition for education and excellence was begun. The son of former slaves, Reverend Minus was supported by philanthropist Mrs. E.R. Sterling, for whom the school and later the neighborhood were named. Sterling High School was ultimately adopted by the public school system, a new and prominent building was built, and it became a center of educational, social, and spiritual life in the community and neighborhood.

The neighborhood’s significance in the Civil Rights Movement during and prior to the 1960s and beyond is particularly noteworthy, as partially evidenced by the prominence of Jesse Jackson, who was raised there. In 1967, at a time of integration, Sterling High School was mysteriously burned to the ground—a great loss for the community. With organized efforts within the Movement, Sterling High School’s student body implored the Greenville County School Board to maintain the school’s integrity. It remained a viable institution until 1970, when integration was fully implemented.

In intervening years, outmigration of residents, subsequent neighborhood decline, and recent gentrification of surrounding areas did not diminish Sterling’s place in history as a center of African American life and vitality—a tribute to its legacy and importance. The Sterling Community Trust, formed by Sterling High School graduates in partnership with the City of Greenville, the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority (GCRA), and the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, represented a broad coalition for neighborhood revitalization.

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The National Trust Includes Historic Cultural Landscapes on the 2021 List of 11 Most Endangered Historic Properties

by Barbara Wyatt, ASLA

Boston Harbor Islands / image: Boston Harbor Now

It may not have been deliberate, but the National Trust’s 2021 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Properties includes five cultural landscapes. The National Trust has become an excellent champion of properties reflecting the nation’s diversity, and efforts to stretch the nation’s historic preservation consciousness to encompass landscapes is reaping results. None of the five are designed landscapes, but each reflects an important moment in American history, and each is a distinct landscape type. Several reflect a diversity that was absent in the early years of the preservation movement. Kudos to the National Trust for encompassing sites that reflect many of America’s people and the landscapes they occupied.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation began identifying threatened sites more than 30 years ago by publishing the annual 11 Most Endangered list. Competition can be keen to garner a place on the list because the publicity and advocacy has saved properties. Typically, properties on the list are threatened by destruction or neglect. It is not unusual for landscapes to appear on the list, including designed landscapes, but five on one list seems like a win.

A summary of the significance and threats to the properties on the 2021 list that encompass significant landscapes follows, drawn from information on the National Trust website. And, the National Trust is accepting Letters of Intent for the 2022 list through November 12, 2021—you’ll find more on the nomination process below.

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LEED to SITES Readiness Tool Now Available

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes, Pittsburgh, PA / image: Paul G. Wiegman

Did you know that LEED projects may qualify for up to 65 points toward SITES certification? ASLA members might be particularly interested in this, given the sustainable landscape feats that can be achieved through SITES, a comprehensive certification system for creating sustainable and resilient land development projects.

The SITES and LEED rating systems are complementary and can be used independently or in tandem. The new tool—an update to the 2016 document Synergies between SITES and LEED—streamlines LEED credits that have synergies with SITES credits, and has been created to assist LEED project teams to quickly assess their readiness (and gaps) toward achieving SITES certification, based on the LEED credits achieved or anticipated. The tool provides a quick scorecard view of the available synergies between the two programs and includes newly identified credit synergies.

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Memorializing the Guardians of the First Amendment

by Jay Graham, FASLA

The ‘Guardians of the First Amendment’ Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland / image: © Allen Russ Photography, LLC

In 2018, a team from Moody Graham Landscape Architecture met with members of the Annapolis Caucus of African American Leaders after touring various sites around town that tell their story. We thought their story could be told in a more emphatic manner, and shared how landscape architects are skilled at telling community narratives within the physical environment. Our firm has a couple of local examples which they were familiar with, without knowing the designs were by landscape architects. They seemed to welcome our idea to help them.

A few months later, a tragedy occurred in our town when a gunman killed five journalists at the office of our local newspaper, the Capital Gazette. A group from the African-American Caucus, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, approached us to see if we could help design a memorial for the five journalists. That was the beginning of a two-and-a-half year engagement with many members of the Annapolis community.

The Design Process

The committee’s initial idea was to have images of the five slain journalists on a granite monument to be placed at a significant location in Annapolis. Moody Graham offered to have an in-house design charrette to generate design ideas. This effort was offered pro bono to give the committee something to use to attract community interest.

We generated nine concepts, which we shared with the committee and the Annapolis Art in Public Places Commission. We then met with leadership of the Baltimore Media Group, the owners of the Capital Gazette newspaper. At that meeting, the narrative behind the memorial took a more focused direction. We were told that journalists do not want to be the story. Journalists are part of the community. They are the guardians of freedom of the press, for the community.

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Using Insurance Principles for Irrigation and Water Resource Management

by Michael Igo, Affiliate ASLA, PE, D.WRE, LEED AP, CID

Reclamation pond spillway
ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Duke University Water Reclamation Pond, Durham, NC. Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects / image: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Whether it’s a fender-bender, a prescription co-pay, or a tree branch falling on our house, insurance is a part of our daily life and economy. The insurance business has been around for millennia. As landscape professionals, we often equate irrigation with an insurance policy against drought. But, when we actually apply the basic principles of insurance to irrigation, we see that the current system of water allocation for landscapes is faulty.

Consider a landscape owner deciding to install an irrigation system: they desire an “insurance policy” to avoid the risk of plant death during drought. The money paid to an installer could be considered the “insurance premium” to deliver water to the landscape. However, if we take a closer look, the real insurer is not the irrigation installer—it is Mother Nature paying out in freshwater supplies!

In the diagram below, we have a situation where the landscape irrigation owner, “the policyholder,” is paying a “premium” in the form of money, but the insurance company, Mother Nature, is not receiving these premiums and is constantly paying out in the form of water. In this case, the policyholder’s actual cost to the insurer is zero. This underscores the reality that most land developers do not pay the environmental cost necessary for Mother Nature to sustain her resources for all.

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Get a Seat at the Table: Landscape Architects Needed for Federal Positions

ASLA 2017 Student Collaboration Honor Award. The White House Kitchen Garden, Washington, DC. University of Virginia / image: UVA School of Architecture / Mary McCall, Associate ASLA

The White House recently launched a website inviting the American public to apply for political appointment positions, and ASLA encourages its members who want to make a difference and want a seat at the table to use the White House “get involved” portal to apply for opportunities including full-time policy positions and volunteer advisory boards and committees.

Every four years, after each presidential election, about 9,000 federal civil service leadership and support positions in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government become available. These positions, commonly known as political appointments or “plum” positions (named after the color of the original publication listing these positions, The Plum Book), must be filled by the incoming president and are subject to noncompetitive appointment.

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Landscape Architects United for Climate Action

Climate Positive Design is a research initiative that launched in 2019 to improve the carbon impact of the built environment through collective action. Its mission is to help projects become Climate Positive solutions that sequester more carbon than they emit.
ASLA 2020 Professional Research Honor Award. Climate Positive Design. Pamela Conrad, ASLA / image: CMG Landscape Architecture

With the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) taking place October 31 – November 12, 2021, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) continues to advance climate action.

Earlier this month, ASLA joined with Architecture 2030 to call for all sovereign governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2040, which would accelerate the current timeline to achieve emission reductions outlined in the Paris Climate Accord by a decade. The 1.5°C COP26 Communiqué, which will be issued to world leaders at the UN climate conference.

ASLA also ratified the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ Climate Action Commitment, joining a global coalition of 70,000 landscape architects in 77 countries in committing to limiting planetary warming to 1.5°C (2.7 °F). This is the largest coalition of landscape architecture professionals ever assembled to advance climate action.

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Healthcare & Therapeutic Gardens Interview Series: Dr. Garuth Chalfont

by Afrouz Rahmati, Assoc. ASLA

images: courtesy of Dr. Garuth Chalfont

The Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) is pleased to share a new installment in their ongoing Healthcare & Therapeutic Gardens Interview Series: a conversation with Dr. Garuth Chalfont.

Dr. Chalfont is a leading practitioner in the art and science of healing gardens, therapeutic spaces, and dementia gardens that incorporate the natural world into the healing process. He designs and builds engaging outdoor spaces in dementia care environments and leads hands-on training workshops to facilitate their active and enjoyable use by residents, staff, and families. In his research, he explores the benefits of the natural world for holistic health (mind, body, and soul), in particular how nature contributes to prevention of (and healing from) dementia.

What inspires you to do work in the therapeutic landscape?

When I first got into it, I felt that the healing qualities of nature were hugely undervalued and underused in landscape architecture and garden design. The emphasis was on visual qualities rather than a person’s lived experience of spending time outdoors and actually using the space. In care environments, that was predominantly the case. Over the years, I have witnessed and experienced positive changes in the mental and emotional health of a wide range of people through engagement with nature and the outdoors. There is an ethical imperative, that people have a birth-right to receive healing from nature and not be deprived of it.

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Let’s Design Shared Spaces Together

Nashville’s Cumberland Park / image: Laura Schroeder Photoqraphy

Cades Cove, Natchez Trace State Park, and Percy Priest Lake are just a couple of Tennessee’s most popular campgrounds, in this state with an abundance of sites for outdoor adventures. But coming soon, on November 20 and 21 only, there’ll be a new gathering spot in Nashville for landscape architects and landscape architecture enthusiasts: ASLA’s Practice Basecamp. Located on the EXPO floor, this will be the place to be, rain or shine, the weekend of the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, taking place live and in-person November 19-22, 2021.

Register by this Thursday, October 14, and save $130.

Practice Basecamp will be the EXPO’s hub for a range of practice-focused programming, including:

  • Engaging campfire sessions organized by ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs)
  • Continue the Conversation with select education session presenters
  • Fast-paced Game Changer presentations
  • Presentations from ASLA’s Climate Action Committee and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS)

Many of these sessions are designed to be opportunities to meet and network with other ASLA members and conference attendees. The Professional Practice Network (PPN)-organized campfire sessions, for instance, will be conversation-focused, allowing for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge-sharing. And perhaps best of all: no has to remember to unmute in order to participate.

The advanced rate registration deadline for the conference is October 14, 2021—don’t miss it!

Tools for Equitable Park Planning and Design: Digital Workflows to Enhance Park Access and Quality

by Matthew Wilkins, PLA, ASLA, APA

Rio Hondo Park Concept
Rio Hondo Park Concept / image: KTUA Landscape Architecture and Planning

This last year has provided an awakening on issues of equality and our environment. One issue in particular that impacts communities nationwide and can be enhanced by landscape architects, is the ease of access and quality of parks. This topic of access to quality parks and open space has been given emphasis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as parks and open space became vital places to work, live, learn, heal, and seek refuge. Coupled with looming environmental challenges and the ability for parks and open space to help protect and mitigate these impacts, there has never been a better time to focus our attention on the topic of creating healthy and equitable parks. This is our call to action.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, communities of color and those in stressed socio-economic areas have suffered from the inability to social distance and recreate in a safe and therapeutic environment. This adversity has compounded existing health issues impacting these communities, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity which are intertwined among various other environmental health hazards and conditions. Many of these communities are also at higher risk of adverse environmental impacts and are typically at a higher risk of displacement or damage due to extreme weather events. Considering the current impacts of COVID and future challenges they face from changing environmental conditions, one thing is evident, that immediate attention is needed to address our equity and abundance of parks and open space for the health, safety, and wellbeing of our communities across America.

Though parks and open space may seem like a low priority in budgeting for cities and agencies, it’s time for a paradigm shift to seeing these resources as significant or equal to vital social and healthcare services, as these spaces help to bring communities together and allow for therapeutic opportunities to increase health and physical enjoyment and to connect people with nature. Furthermore, park and open space areas serve as vital green infrastructure for communities facing intensified challenges due to climate change, because they serve as critical space to combat and lower the impacts of potential storms and natural disasters.

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Indian Mounds: A Sacred Burial Place

by Brenda Williams, FASLA

Indian Mounds: a sacred burial place
The cemetery is sacred to living Dakota people whose ancestors are buried here. / image: Quinn Evans

The American Society of Landscape Architects recently announced the 2021 ASLA Professional and Student Awards, including the project highlighted here: Indian Mounds Cultural Landscape Study and Messaging Plan, winner of a 2021 Professional Honor Award in the Analysis and Planning Category.


The Indigenous burial ground that is currently called “Indian Mounds Regional Park” has been a sacred burial ground for over a thousand years. It is significant to living Indigenous Peoples as a cemetery where their ancestors are buried. It is a place of reverence, remembrance, respect, and prayer. When the City of Saint Paul established a park in this location in 1892 with the purpose of protecting the historical setting and spectacular views, connections of contemporaneous Indigenous Peoples to the sacred site were not understood, considered, or valued.

Over the last century the condition, name, and use of the landscape as a park have become beloved to the surrounding community. Yet many non-Indigenous people have wondered about this powerful landscape without understanding its importance to tribes. Through public gatherings with generous sharing by tribal representatives and members of the public, we learned that the power of this place affects the people who interact with it, and there is a strong desire to protect it as a sacred site.

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Decolonizing Landscape Architecture Education, Part 2

by Jeffrey Hou, Ph.D., ASLA, and Mallika Bose, Ph.D.

Photo of participants in the Redesigning the Design School Initiative
The ReDesigning the Design School initiative at the Arizona State University / image: courtesy of the Design School at Arizona State University

The following is the second installment in a summary of a recent panel on decolonizing design education that took place at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA)‘s 2021 conference (click here for Part 1). In order to address systemic racism and biases within institutions that teach landscape architecture, we must confront the way our profession approaches the teaching and production of knowledge within landscape architecture that replicates racist and oppressive processes, policies, and outcomes in communities of color.
– ASLA’s Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network Leadership Team

Part 2: Cultural and Institutional Transformations

Cultural and institutional transformations were the focus of the second panel which began by discussing initiatives that have been underway at several institutions, the processes by which these changes are being implemented, challenges faced, and stories of success. The panel also discussed the role of institutions of higher learning in society and the actions that could be taken within these institutions to build bridges and connections with civil society to reimagine and work towards creating a just and equitable future for all.

Chingwen Cheng, ASLA, from Arizona State University began with a discussion of the ReDesigning the Design School initiative at ASU, started in 2019. The initiative involved listening to hundreds of voices from industry, alumni, students, staff, and faculty over hundreds of hours of meetings, and hundreds of pages of reports, over the course of two years. Cheng served on the Executive Committee for the ReDesign Committee, which identified six strategic goals:

  • build a truly accessible design school,
  • teach designers to be human-centered,
  • reinvent the relationship between community and design school,
  • decolonize design education,
  • open up silos, and
  • make design central.

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Decolonizing Landscape Architecture Education

by Jeffrey Hou, Ph.D., ASLA, and Mallika Bose, Ph.D.

Decolonizing Landscape Architecture Education panel session at CELA 2021
The first panel featured Alison Hirsch (University of Southern California), David de la Peña (University of California, Davis), Joern Langhorst (University of Colorado, Denver), and Deni Ruggeri (Norwegian University of Life Sciences), moderated by Jeffrey Hou (University of Washington, Seattle). / image: Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture

The following two-part series is a summary of a recent panel on decolonizing design education that took place at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA)‘s 2021 conference. In order to address systemic racism and biases within institutions that teach landscape architecture, we must confront the way our profession approaches the teaching and production of knowledge within landscape architecture that replicates racist and oppressive processes, policies, and outcomes in communities of color.
– ASLA’s Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network Leadership Team

Part 1: Curricular and Pedagogical Transformation

With the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, calls to dismantle longstanding barriers and biases in society have been permeating through our political, social, and economic systems, including design education. Amid the recent calls for change, “decolonizing design” has become a rallying cry among many students and faculty in disciplines ranging from architecture to art and design (see, for example, “Architecture’s Colonial Reckoning” from The Architect’s Newspaper and “What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?” from AIGA Eye on Design).

But what does decolonizing mean in design? For landscape architecture, what does it mean to decolonize our educational practices? What changes are necessary to transform the power structure that produces and sustains the inequity in society through design? What are the challenges and barriers? What actions and initiatives already exist?

These questions were at the center of a two-part, main-stage panel discussion at the annual conference of the Council of Educators for Landscape Architecture (CELA), held online in March 2021. The first session focused on issues related to curriculum and pedagogy, featuring David de la Peña, University of California, Davis; Alison Hirsch, ASLA, University of Southern California; Joern Langhorst, University of Colorado, Denver; and Deni Ruggeri, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The second session addressed cultural and institutional transformation, featuring Chingwen Cheng, ASLA, Arizona State University; Michael Rios, University of California, Davis; and Julie Stevens, Iowa State University. We served respectively as the moderators for the two panels.

The speakers were invited to speak about their involvement with related initiatives either at the program, department, college, or university level. In Session 1, Alison Hirsch has been working with a network of colleagues in North America to rethink the history curriculum in landscape architecture. In his recent role as program director, David de la Peña has been working with his colleagues and students in reassessing the program curriculum at UC Davis. At UC Denver, Joern Langhorst has focused on transdisciplinary opportunities at the college level. As the lead for the Landscape Education for Democracy (LED) initiative, Deni Ruggeri has developed an online, collaborative, multinational program to complement existing programs and curricula focusing on landscape democracy and participatory action research. (The work of those in the second panel will be introduced in Part 2 of this summary.)

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Shifting Toward Climate Positive Outcomes with the New SITES Carbon Pilot Credit

by Danielle Pieranunzi

U.S. Land Port of Entry at Columbus, NM / image: Robert Reck

The first part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as “code red for humanity,” was released on August 9, 2021. For those of us invested in sustainability and climate mitigation, the results were sobering but unsurprising: We’re on track to exceed 1.5 degrees C of warming in the next two decades, and every fraction of a degree of warming leads to more dangerous and costly impacts for the planet. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C by the end of the century is still within reach, but requires holistic, transformational change. It requires universal adoption of sustainability guidelines, including broad support for sustainable landscapes, which provide the unique opportunity to not only reduce carbon emissions but to protect and even create carbon sinks. To support these goals, GBCI recently released a SITES Pilot Credit focused on assessing and improving site carbon performance.

The intent of the new SITES Pilot Credit is to understand and improve a site’s carbon performance by assessing and increasing carbon sequestration capacity and reducing embodied and operational carbon emissions. / The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA

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Be Part of the Solution: Register for the 10th Annual Campus RainWorks Challenge

Purdue University’s entry, A Visible Solution, earned honorable mention for design beauty and elegance in the demonstration project category of the 2020 Campus RainWorks Challenge. / image: Purdue University Design Board

Registration for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s 10th annual Campus RainWorks Challenge is open through October 1, 2021.

Campus RainWorks is a green infrastructure design competition for American colleges and universities that seeks to engage with the next generation of environmental professionals and showcase the environmental, economic, and social benefits of green infrastructure practices.

Stormwater pollution is a problem that impacts public health and water quality in communities across the country. The Campus RainWorks Challenge invites students to become part of the solution.

To learn more, check out the official Campus RainWorks Challenge Competition Brief, with details on design categories, submission requirements, and rules for participation.

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