Reflections on the Annual Meeting

therapeutic garden
Emanuel Hospital Children’s Garden, Portland, OR
image: Therapeutic Landscapes Network

As I was flying home on the plane leaving behind what remained of the 2012 ASLA Annual Meeting, I had time to reflect on the many great sessions that I attended.  I was left with images still fresh in my mind from the presentations, from the beautiful therapeutic gardens to the solar panels and wind turbines providing renewable / sustainable energy.

Whether you were able to attend the convention, but missed these sessions or you were unable to make the trip to Phoenix, I have identified what I believe to be the highlights among the presentations. After each session title is a link, which will provide more information about the presenters or subject of that session.  Take a look. They are all well worth your time!   

FRI-A8 Bridging the Landscape of Autism
Sequential Outdoor Learning Environment

This session addressed designing landscapes that accommodate the unique needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).   Although there are variations between individuals, generally autistic children function on routine and repetitious behavior and commonly have short attention spans.  This session focused on helping the audience to understand these commonalities between children, but reminded us that each child is unique.  We heard a mother’s story of building elements in her backyard that would allow her son to better experience nature.  Tara Vincenta, a Landscape Architect, also shared her insight into what she called the “Sol Environment.”  This multi-area play environment designed to help integrate children with ASD with other children, while providing areas for “recentering” and refuge, if the environment or situation became too overwhelming for those with ASD.

Also, take a look at the “Interview with Brian Johnston”, from October 10, 2012 in the DIRT, it refers to this absolutely remarkable session.  Food for thought.

FRI-C2 Beyond Food Production: Agriculture and Landscape Architecture in the 21st Century
American Horticulture Therapy Association

There is a growing trend to introduce farming into low income and urban communities. This session addressed how agriculture can create a sense of community and discussed the benefits of teaching school children about food production. Ways to incorporate agriculture into the landscape were discussed, as well as design for year round food production.

MON-B8 Health By Design: Best Practices in Hospital and Senior Living Gardens
Therapeutic Landscapes Network

We all like to think we know how to design gardens, but on occasion we are reminded that we might not be considering everything. Therapeutic gardens have the potential to improve patient recovery time and provide a connection to nature for seniors that otherwise might not have access to. A few examples were provided that those who had not been introduced to the ideas of therapeutic landscapes might not consider: providing shaded hospital entries with near-by seating recovering burn victims or providing railings and inclined areas for outdoor exercise for patients with injured limbs. Examples of gardens with great amenities, as well as drawbacks of others, were discussed. Great ideas.

presentation slide
Presentation slide from the session “Phytotechnologies: Using Plants to Clean Up Contaminated Sites”
image: Kate Kennen

FRI-D7 Phytotechnologies: Using Plants to Clean Up Contaminated Sites
Department of Soil Science University of Saskatchewan

What an innovative use of plant material! The presenter discussed the use of Poplars (Populus deltoides, nigra, trichocarpa, and maximowiczii) to draw contaminates out of the soil with incredible results. Her presentation focused on the success of study sites she has been involved with, as well as the speed of the cleanup process.

MON-A5 Renewable Energy in an Urban Landscape
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, Solar Energy Industries Association, and American Wind Energy Association

Although this session was not Planting Design-oriented it was worth sharing.  The presenters shed new light on options available for integrating renewable energy into the landscape.  The session focused on how to incorporate solar panels and wind turbines into our landscapes, and the effects these practices have on the surrounding plant materials.

by Stephanie Tuite, FisherCollins & Carter, Inc., Planting Design PPN Chair

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