Trends That Give Us Hope

image: Sharon Danks
image: Sharon Danks

Environmental planner Sharon Gamson Danks is CEO of Green Schoolyards America and principal of Bay Tree Design in Berkeley, California. She is the author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, which was featured as a book review in the Children’s Outdoor Environments (COE) PPN section of The Field in January 2013. Her work transforms school grounds into vibrant public spaces that reflect and enhance local ecology, nurture children as they learn and play, and engage the community. The COE PPN is thrilled to have her work published here on The Field. –Chad Kennedy, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Co-Chair

The Power and Potential of Green Schoolyards

Public school districts are one of the largest landowners in almost every city and town across the United States and around the world. In the United States alone, over 132,000  schools in more than 13,000 school districts serve more than 50 million pre-kindergarten to 12th grade students each year [1, 2]. Choices made by school districts about how they manage their landscapes profoundly impact their city and generations of local residents whose perspectives are shaped through daily, outdoor experiences at school.

A movement to green school grounds and connect students to nature is gaining momentum in the United States and around the globe, weaving the ideas of urban sustainability and ecological design together with academic achievement, public health, children’s wellbeing, sense of place, and community engagement. Green schoolyards bring nature back to cities and suburbs by transforming barren asphalt and ordinary grass into vibrant environments for learning and play, set within the context of the rich, local ecosystems that nurture wildlife and the natural processes that underlie and sustain our urban infrastructure. Green schoolyards foster children’s social, physical, and intellectual growth and health by providing settings for curiosity, collaboration, imagination, exploration, adventure, and wonder. Continue reading

Here are the 2014 HALS Challenge Winners

CCC Camp Wickiup. Photocopy of historic photographs (original photograph on file at National Archives, Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, CO). Unknown USBR Photographer, December 9, 1938 - Wickiup Dam, Deschutes River, La Pine, Deschutes County, OR image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER OR-112-10
CCC Camp Wickiup; December 9, 1938; Wickiup Dam, Deschutes River, La Pine, Deschutes County, OR
image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER OR-112-10

The results of the 5th annual HALS Challenge, Documenting Landscapes of the New Deal, were announced at the HALS Meeting that took place during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver on Saturday, November 22, 2014. Congratulations to the winners!

1st Place:
Allegheny National Forest, CCC Camp ANF-1, Duhring, PA, HALS PA-25
by Ann E. Komara, ASLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, with assistance from Susan Martino, Jennifer L. Thomas, et al – MLA Students, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver

2nd Place:
Mount Tamalpais State Park, The Mountain Theater, Mill Valley, CA, HALS CA-107
by Douglas Nelson, ASLA, Principal, RHAA Landscape Architects

3rd Place:
Mount Greylock State Reservation, Lanesborough, MA, HALS MA-2
by Pamela Hartford, Jean Cavanaugh, Allison Crosbie, ASLA, & Marion Pressley, FASLA, Pressley Associates Landscape Architecture/Site Planning/Urban Design

Honorable Mentions:
The Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio HALS reports listed below.

Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 47 impressive HALS short format historical reports, 6 drawing sheets, and 4 sets of large format photographs to the HALS collection.

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Pollinators & the City

image: Samantha Gallagher via Bee Safe Alexandria
image: Samantha Gallagher via Bee Safe Alexandria

Saving Native Bees to Save Diversity

Bees are one of nature’s biggest celebrities. They have been on the cover of Time magazine, written about in The New York Times, and featured in multiple documentaries with various celebrities. And there is good reason for it. Bees are responsible for the pollination of the majority of foods, including almonds, blueberries, avocados, and watermelons, as well as the pollination of many flowering landscape plants. Bees are a keystone species, and we need to rehabilitate their populations or face a serious change in the composition of our landscape and meals…which is not something I take lightly. Take away blueberries and avocados and I would have an anxiety attack. But my work is about much more than just saving the bees. It’s about biological design as everyday practice. It’s about changing policy and education to support the creation of living landscapes and not monocultures. It’s about diversity on all scales of life because diversity attracts diversity. And it all starts with bees.

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Oasis of Resilience

The Al-Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan; the picture illustrates the living condition in the camp. January 2014. image: Malda Takieddine
The Al-Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan; the picture illustrates the living condition in the camp. January 2014.
image: Malda Takieddine

Healing and Empowering Syrian Children in the Za’atari Refugee Camp

In the midst of refugee camps and suffering from difficult journeys necessitated by war, Syrian children suffer from traumas, uncertainty and unhealthy environments for their growth. Early adversarial exposures can change the development of the brain and can lead to subsequent psychological problems that make it harder for children to effectively immerse themselves in the education process as they grow. A close look at most refugee camps around the world reveals constraints in physical environments that impose and limit the natural development of children.

This post is a summary of a thesis project titled “Oasis of Resilience.” This thesis examined the Al-Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan, which is home to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, and proposed a design to better the environment for children in general.

Within this camp, children constitute over half of the population, yet there are few designated places to escape the camp’s stressful life and to provide safety. Safety and respite from harsh conditions are essential to childhood development. However, in order to support children to overcome their trauma and empower them to move forward, design thinking should be integrated to enrich the few opportunities they have.

The goal as landscape architects was to redesign Za’atari’s children’s places around experiences that enable them to develop necessary skills, which strengthen their resilience and support their natural growth needs. “Oasis of Resilience” is a project that aims to enhance design content and implications with an increased understanding of child development, psychology and pedagogy science. The project highlights  relationships between children’s health and design and identifies needed facilitator parties in creating children’s places in refugee camps.

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Gaiety Hollow, A HALS Challenge Winner

Gaiety Hollow's West Allee in 2010 image: Laurie Matthews
Gaiety Hollow’s West Allee in 2010
image: Laurie Matthews

Sponsored by the National Park Service, the HALS Challenge is an annual competition, open to everyone, that awards prizes for documentation of our nation’s cultural landscapes. The results are announced each year during the ASLA Annual Meeting—stay tuned for the announcement of the 2014 winners and the theme for the 2015 HALS Challenge here on The Field later this month!

In 2013, the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) Challenge solicited entries that documented the cultural landscapes of women, which resulted in 30 submissions. As part of this effort, Gaiety Hollow, the home garden of landscape architects Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver in Salem, Oregon, was documented and received a first place prize at the ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston.

Submitting documentation for HALS was an easy process for Gaiety Hollow as the documentation was developed from an existing Cultural Landscape Report (CLR), and many of the elements required for HALS dovetailed nicely with the structure of the CLR. It was really a matter of editing sections to fit the submission requirements, and no additional research or documentation was necessary.

Though the goal for submitting Gaiety Hollow to HALS was to raise the profile of this lesser known landscape and have information about its history in the Library of Congress, winning the first place prize was a real honor for the garden and its supporters. In many cases, cultural landscape studies only benefit those who are familiar with the landscape and the project, but in this case the documentation will be available to a much wider audience and will help scholars understand Lord and Schryver’s contribution to the profession and how Gaiety Hollow reflects their vision. In addition, a good portion of the prize money was donated to the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, current stewards of the property.

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Ecology & Restoration, A PPN Name Update

The Ningbo Eco-Corridor project transforms an uninhabitable brownfield into a 3.3km-long “living filter” designed to restore a rich and diverse ecosystem, and serve as a valuable teaching tool and model for sustainable urban development.  image: SWA - 2013 Analysis & Planning Honor Award Winner
The Ningbo Eco-Corridor project transforms an uninhabitable brownfield into a 3.3km-long “living filter” designed to restore a rich and diverse ecosystem, and serve as a valuable teaching tool and model for sustainable urban development.
image: SWA – 2013 Analysis & Planning Honor Award Winner

ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) are living things, and periodic adjustments are made based on member interest and changes in landscape architecture practice to improve how the PPNs function.

Earlier this year, members of ASLA’s Reclamation & Restoration PPN were asked to vote on a new name: Ecology & Restoration. Ninety members voted—88 were in favor of the new name, 2 were against.

After a discussion that began at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston, the PPN’s leadership agreed upon Ecology & Restoration to capture the broader scope of those working at the nexus of ecology, engineering, and landscape architecture. Having “ecology” and “restoration” linked in the PPN’s name will encourage more members to participate and enrich the conversation.

To reflect the new name, the PPN also has a refined mission statement:

ASLA’s Ecology & Restoration Professional Practice Network (E&R-PPN) is a group committed to ecologically based land planning, design restoration, and management, while creating functional and resilient landscapes that address landscape, ecosystem, and human community needs. The E&R-PPN serves as a forum for landscape architects interested in ecological restoration, landscape conservation, land reclamation, landscape ecology, ecological engineering, and other similar areas to exchange knowledge, ideas, and information. We seek to improve communication among professionals with similar interests and enrich the conversation among practitioners.

The new name officially went into effect after the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting concluded last week.

All ASLA members may join one PPN for free and each additional PPN for only $15 per year. To join the Ecology & Restoration PPN, email or call 888-999-ASLA.

Contact Professional Practice Coordinator Alexandra Hay for additional information about this PPN.