Child’s Play

image: Sandra Wong
image: Sandra Wong

Designing Play Spaces that Support Healthy Cognitive Development in Children

How do you remember the playgrounds of your childhood? Do you rediscover your five-year-old self hiding under a slide, experimenting with mixtures of sand and water until your attention is captured by the sounds from a nearby game of tag? Play spaces have a strong identity that pull on our nostalgic heartstrings. Play is more than a means for children to pass the time and expend their energy. It is a realm of fantastical and cryptic adventures that cradle and nurture the child, molding them into individuals who can think, grow, and connect with others to the best of their abilities.

Play spaces can and should be designed to support emerging behaviors and developing skills in children, from infancy to adolescence. If we design landscapes in a way that is relevant to how children interact with their environments as they grow up, we can transform valuable open spaces into places that are impactful for children.

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Projects That Changed the Profession

Keller Fountain Park in Portland, OR image: Sam Grover
Keller Fountain Park in Portland, OR
image: Sam Grover

We asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members to name projects that changed the profession of landscape architecture. Responses ranged from nineteenth century urban parks that helped to define the field when the term ‘landscape architect’ had only just been coined, to twentieth century modernist landscapes that look radically different from much of what came before them. These transformative projects had outsize impacts on landscape architecture, and stand as landmark works that mark the apex of a certain style or set of design principles, or the start of something new.

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WILA Interview Series: Facing Challenges

image: iStock © Thomas_EyeDesign
image: iStock © Thomas_EyeDesign

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 our second group of questions, focused on the topic of challenges and how to overcome them. Several recurring themes appeared throughout the answers to the questions: What challenges have you faced during your career which you attribute as specifically related to being a woman? How have you dealt with those challenges?

The majority of the women who participated in our interviews have experienced interpersonal challenges dealing with men in the office and in the field (with contractors). These difficulties were not only a matter of having to prove credibility and earn respect, but having to do so in a culturally acceptable way.

Quotes from our interviewees:

  • “The biggest career challenges I’ve faced related to being a woman stem from opinions formed by specific cultural or generational contexts. Some people have different ideas about what women can or can’t do or what’s appropriate behavior or language.”
  • “I wasn’t graceful in how I dealt with many of those scenarios, but I dealt with them…by being vocal…speaking to those I thought could make a change and by trying to call it when I could.”
  • “I have had people assume that my male partners were my ‘bosses.’ I have also had some (male) contractors not taking me seriously, talking down to me, or disregarding me.”

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Pop Up Nature Play in San Diego

image: Rooted in Place
image: Rooted in Place

This past April the San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative (SDCaN) hosted its fourth annual Pop Up Nature Play event at the San Diego Earth Fair in Balboa Park. Over one hundred children and their families from across San Diego spent the afternoon creating what can only be described as a mini village of magical structures with nature’s loose parts.

During this one-day event, children of all ages are invited to engage in unstructured outdoor play with the collection of natural materials including bamboo poles, sticks, tree cookies, pine cones, shells, and palm fronds. From teepees to fairy houses, children work together to bring their ideas to life.

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Grow Your Network in Chicago

2014 PPN Networking Reception in Denver, CO image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)
2014 PPN Networking Reception in Denver, CO
image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

Friday, June 19 is the early bird deadline for the 2015 ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO, to be held November 6-9 in Chicago at McCormick Place. ASLA’s annual meeting is the largest gathering of landscape architecture professionals, students, and providers in the world—so don’t miss it!

In addition to the 130 education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and general sessions that will be presented during the meeting, make sure you add the PPN Networking Reception and a few PPN meetings to your Annual Meeting plans.

The PPN Networking Reception, taking place on Friday, November 6 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers (ASLA Headquarters Hotel) from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, is a great way to start the Annual Meeting weekend. This is your chance to reconnect and build some new connections with members from all 20 of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks. You’ll have the chance to meet and chat with colleagues from your own area practice, and others, over hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

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Parklets at New Partners for Smart Growth

Reimagining the Canopy parklet, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, Parks & People, TreeBaltimore, and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability image: Deborah Steinberg
Reimagining the Canopy parklet, sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, Parks & People, TreeBaltimore, and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability
image: Deborah Steinberg

This January in Baltimore, MD, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted a unique set of communal spaces that have become a tradition of the conference. Parklets 3.0 was the third annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors. With the call for session proposals for the 2016 NPSG conference currently open, we wanted to highlight the 2015 Parklets and reflect on this additional way to get involved with the conference.

Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational, community gathering, or beautification purposes. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with sod, planters, trees, benches, café tables and chairs, artwork, bicycle parking, and more! Parklets evolved from an annual event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborated to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. Following the success of the first 2005 intervention with sod and a few benches, Park(ing) Day has grown into a global movement. Now parklets are being permanently installed in cities throughout the U.S. They are designed to provide urban green space and to bring awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than creating vibrant communal spaces.

Led by ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC), the Parklets project at NPSG, once again, included interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. This year, five parklet installations spanned the communal spaces outside conference session rooms. The parklets were sponsored by local organizations and design firms involved in designing and advocating for urban green space in the Baltimore area.

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21st Century Teaching for GenZ

image: Jules Bruck
image: Jules Bruck

For the past year, I have been working with a committee and group of advisors to bring the first Landscape Architecture (LA) baccalaureate degree program to the University of Delaware (UD). I spend my free time looking at focus-group data, the LA Body of Knowledge Study Report, accreditation standards, university requirements, and curriculum maps. As I study this information, I realize how well landscape architecture programs support 21st century university goals, such as community engagement through the use of active studio projects. During this review, I have also began to ponder how educators keep GenerationZ students interested and engaged in the classroom – especially in the support courses that are still offered as traditional lecture classes.

In 2015, UD was one of 240 U.S. colleges and universities to attain first time, or reclassified status as a Carnegie Foundation Engaged University. During the process, I was frequently tapped to share stories of the community-based projects I run each semester. When speaking to professional educators and interested community members from diverse fields, they often point to my subject matter – landscape architecture and design – as an easy topic to embed community engagement projects and support active learning. I will admit, at first glance, it may seem easier than many subjects, like history, philosophy, or knowledge-based subjects like plant materials, but community-based active learning can become the focus of any classroom.

According to the Carnegie Foundation, “community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.” Landscape architecture programs easily lead the way in community engagement with a long-standing tradition of community outreach and projects that lend themselves to real world problems. But, as I rewrite curriculum for the new LA program I can’t help but think – what more can we do to engage the community and benefit our students?

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Texture in the Garden

Colocasia esculenta (see below for description) image: wikimedia Wildfeuer
Colocasia esculenta (description below)
image: wikimedia Wildfeuer

One of the best attributes of a well-designed garden is the use of texture in the selection of plant materials and hardscape materials. A well textured garden should photograph just as good in black and white as it does in color. In this post, we would like to highlight some plant materials that provide both punch and softness – all adding deep textural interest to make the landscape “reach out” to the visitor.

Big and Bold

One tree that has some significant foliage impact is Magnolia tripetala, the Cucumber Magnolia. It’s long tapered and creamy colored flower petals are not as showy as the blooms of some of its cousins in the Magnolia family, but its rugged growth habit, large size, and lush foliage is a real attention getter. The Cucumber Magnolia also adds a much sought after tropical feel to a northern garden.

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Healthcare & Therapeutic Design in Chicago

The Crown Sky Garden, at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, designed by Mikyoung Kim Design image: Marni Barnes
The Crown Sky Garden, at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, designed by Mikyoung Kim Design
image: Marni Barnes

If you are considering attending the 2015 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago this November, you have until June 19 to register at the early bird rate. You know you want to go, so register now so you don’t have to pay more money (like I did last year :-/ ).

Here are a few sessions on topics that might influence your decision:

Chicago’s Therapeutic Healing Spaces
Friday, November 6, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Urban Green Space and Mental Well-being: Evidence-Based Design
Friday, November 6, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Designing Incentives for Health
Saturday, November 7, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Evidence-based Design: Sensory Play Gardens and Children with Developmental Disorders
Sunday, November 8, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Healthcare and Therapeutic Design PPN Meeting
Sunday, November 8, 12:45 PM – 2:15 PM

An Integrated Interdisciplinary Approach to Therapeutic Design
Monday, November 9, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Fortunately, these sessions were scheduled with no overlaps, so you could attend them all! Unfortunately, there are other related topics that also look enticing, some of which do overlap, that you may want to consider.

I’ve listed several sessions of interest, as well as more information on the above sessions, below, complete with times, descriptions, and speakers. See the Annual Meeting website for more information on the more than 130 education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and general sessions that will be offered throughout the meeting.

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