Ecology + Restoration Roundtable, Part 1

Woodland Stream image: Davie Biagi
Woodland Stream
image: Davie Biagi

For this post, we unveil our new Ecology + Restoration Roundtable series. We posed a hypothetical question to a diverse group of Ecology + Restoration PPN members and received some intriguing responses. Topics covered included eradication of invasive species, enforcement of urban growth boundaries, preservation of pristine wilderness, and the ecological implications of historical events in the Yosemite Valley.

Through this and future installments of the Ecology + Restoration Roundtable, we hope to initiate conversations that engage our members and spark further dialogue about the intersection of ecology, restoration, and landscape architecture.

Ecology + Restoration Roundtable question number one: If you could time travel and preserve one place in perpetuity or put one irrevocable regulation into place, when and where would you go and what would you do?

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Finding Common Ground at the Children & Nature Network Conference

Richard Louv describes new directions for bringing nature to children in cities.   image: Lisa Horne, ASLA
Richard Louv describes new directions for bringing nature to children in cities.
image: Lisa Horne, ASLA

Knowing that children’s experiences in nature matter, landscape architects can look to—and get involved in—an organization that strives to advance children’s nature experiences.

The Children & Nature Network serves as a vibrant resource and advocate for improving children’s access to nature, and its April conference in Texas attracted well over 400 international and interdisciplinary participants. The ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) officers Lisa Horne, ASLA, and Julie Johnson, ASLA, were among them. With a conference theme of “Inspiration and Action for Healthy Communities,” several concurrent sessions offered insights on and case studies of children’s learning and play in nature. And the opportunities to informally meet and learn from other conference participants during breaks and meals enabled meaningful conversations.

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Career Discovery Shouldn’t Wait

image: iStock © Anantha Vardhan
image: iStock © Anantha Vardhan

Recently, I was invited by a friend to speak to two eighth grade math classes about the field of landscape architecture. DC Prep’s Edgewood Middle School Campus was adding a new element to their May curriculum by creating a ‘Career Month’ with the option for various professionals to come in and speak to the students. I must say, I have done my fair share of presentations (including teaching a high school magnet program in Fort Lauderdale, FL about landscape architecture), but I had never tackled going back into the halls of a middle school to speak to students about my career.

Thinking back…when I was in eighth grade, I wasn’t even close to thinking about what career I was interested in pursuing. Heck, there were far too many other things happening in my life during that time that kept me off course. But times have changed! My visit to DC Prep was an eye-opening experience that left me full of gratitude for what I was able to do for these students and inspiration for the future our field as landscape architects.

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WILA Interview Series: The Choice

image: iStock © aydinynr
image: iStock © aydinynr

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN leadership team developed 17 interview questions, and then found willing landscape architects to participate in the interview process. The following is an in-depth look at responses to the first three interview questions.

This group of questions demonstrated how diverse and personal discovering the career of landscape architecture is for everyone, even in a focus group of women. One common theme is how the majority found landscape architecture as a second, and sometimes third, career choice or discovered it in college as a second degree path. Very few knew from the beginning that landscape architecture was the career for them.

Question 1: How did you choose landscape architecture as a career?

When asked this question, most of us have a story to tell of how we found landscape architecture or how it found us. Whenever I meet another landscape architect, I love to hear their story. Of the 20 women interviewed, these are some of the reoccurring comments when asked this question:

  • Many discovered their career choice via contact with another landscape architect or similar design professional.
  • The career choice was discovered through a school guidance counselor or college degree advisor.
  • A few were lucky enough to learn about landscape architecture early on and knew it was the career choice for them.

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Newport’s Cultural Landscapes Riches

Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island image: Alexandra Hay
Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island
image: Alexandra Hay

Set on an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island’s Newport County has a maritime climate that allows all sorts of plants to grow and thrive there, earning Newport the moniker “Eden of America” back in the eighteenth century. Newport is home to a diverse array of stunning landscapes, from those surrounding the famous Gilded Age mansions on Bellevue Avenue to centuries-old squares in the historic downtown and rugged vistas along the coast that can be taken in from the Cliff Walk and Ocean Drive.

This May, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF)’s What’s Out There weekend in Newport highlighted many sites in the region, including parks, farms, vineyards, cemeteries, and, of course, several summer “cottages” where Vanderbilts, Astors, and their high-society peers once gathered (and partied) for a few weeks each summer.

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Book Review: Nature Play & Learning Places

Comprehensive Guidelines for Nature Play, by Robin Moore image: Nature Play and Learning Places
Comprehensive Guidelines for Nature Play, by Robin Moore
image: Nature Play and Learning Places

Nature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature touches on nearly every topic at the forefront of the children and nature movement. As the primary author, Robin Moore, Hon. ASLA, a professor at NC State University and internationally recognized expert on outdoor children’s environments, led a team of specialists. The extensive list of project staff, project steering committee, and five subcommittees is a who’s who of influential individuals and organizations in the movement. The guidelines were underwritten by a grant from the US Forest Service and supported by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State College of Design.

The audience is broad. The guidelines are for “professionals responsible for outdoor spaces used by families and children” (10). Many fit within this category: policy makers, advocates, system managers, site managers, program developers, educators, and design professionals. Landscape architects are in the final category.

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Design Software Costs: The Price of Doing Business?

image: Digital Production Middle East
image:  Digital Production Middle East

In an era where computers were created to make our daily tasks more efficient and improve our quality of life, the constant increase in software costs are starting to add back to that once relieved stress. After my previous blog, “The Emerging Role of Millennials,” many of the responses I received were riddled with commentary on the cost of software and how not every firm can afford the luxury of having a multitude of drafting or visualization suites at their disposal. While it’s obvious that it is a necessity in 2015 to have software capable of documentation to successfully deliver a project, the cost of such software is becoming a point of contention with design fees going down and the cost of doing business going up.

The inspiration to write this article came from a conversation I had on a return flight from a business trip a little over a year ago.  Serendipitous as it may be, I was seated next to a representative of a very large architectural software company. After telling him that I was a landscape architect and fairly technologically savvy, he proceeded to show me some of his company’s new software that was still in development on his tablet. He stated that the company was suffering, having “the most pirated software in the world,” and that everything they were working toward would be subscription and cloud based. This was the first time I had thought about the concept, but it all made sense, until I realized recently what the cost ramifications would be. Knowing that their product is a necessity to the success of so many firms, they can do what they want at nearly any cost. Of course software companies are businesses too and need to make their money, but the line between a healthy profit and greed may becoming blurred.

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When to Say No to a Client

image:  James Hughes
image: James Hughes

I’m going to be painfully honest with you- I am very good at making prospective clients angry. It’s a skill I have developed over the years of countless consultations. At first it bothered me, making me question my people skills and client relations. But as time passed I came to realize that in actuality the quality of my clients was rising significantly, and my relationship with those clients was stronger and more fruitful. The basis for this ‘skill’ was in my learning to utilize the word ‘No.’ It’s like magic. I consider it one of the best tools I possess in the professional toolbox. So if you don’t mind, I would like to take a few minutes of your time discussing what I believe is the most positive word in a designer’s lexicon – No.

When I first broke out on my own I took every job and commission that came my way. Back then, it was quite literally a matter of sink or swim and every dollar counted. Many of those early projects were challenging. More than a few of them were less than profitable, yet all of them were valuable lessons and opportunities for me to grow professionally and establish my reputation. I’m also not ashamed to admit (now) that some of those early projects never made it into my portfolio. At the time, I had a family to feed and a mortgage to pay. If Mrs. Smith wanted a Greek column in the garden at her Tudor home, who was I to question? And if Mrs. Smith felt my time was only worth so much, as long as it put a few more dollars in the family checking account, I was (begrudgingly) ok with it. Those were the days of survival. That being said, I’m going to skip past the great recession days, where most of us had to take whatever we could get and fast forward to talk about the here and now.

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