SDD PPN Recap: 2015 Annual Meeting, SITES, and Resource Links

Clear Creek Stormwater Basin, Atlanta, Georgia: a functioning green infrastructure system solution to detain stormwater for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system. The heron is standing on a 11’ wide littoral shelf that the City of Atlanta accepted in lieu of a fence. image: Steve Carrell
Clear Creek Stormwater Basin, Atlanta, Georgia: a functioning green infrastructure system solution to detain stormwater for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system. The heron is standing on a 11’ wide littoral shelf that the City of Atlanta accepted in lieu of a fence.
image: Steve Carrell

It was great to meet some of you at the Annual Meeting in Chicago! As we end the year we are taking this opportunity to review 2015, highlight sustainable design topics that were raised by meeting attendees, and remind SDD members who did not attend the Annual Meeting that they can still avail themselves of valuable resources from the 2015 Annual Meeting Handouts.

But first, let’s take a few moments to summarize some highlights from the meeting. First a review of the past years SDD accomplishments:

Online Learning:
•    Community Engagement as an Essential Component for Sustainable Design
•    Green Design in Remnant Urban Landscapes

The Field:
•    The Role of Landscape in Green Building
•    If These Walls Could Talk
•    Allegheny County’s Monitored Green Roof

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 2

Dallas Arboretum (warning sign added in Photoshop) image: David Hopman
Dallas Arboretum (warning sign added in Photoshop)
image: David Hopman

Part 2: Fine Gardening

Part 1 of this series, published earlier this month, explained the goal of promoting a plant palette that balances aesthetics, environment, and ecology. This installment begins the discussion of a variety of plant palettes and planting design approaches with ‘Fine Gardening,’ a methodology that is very out of balance with the goal of aesthetic, environmental, and ecological balance. Fine gardening is an approach where the artistic intentionality of the designer and the direct sensuous experiences for the user are often the only priority. This approach is used in many high end residential projects, botanical gardens, and other landscapes where cost is not a determining factor. For example, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the gardeners take the heroic measure of hand-snipping twice a month every third leaf of each branch of the London Plane trees that line the path of the famous Robert Irwin garden, per Robert Irwin’s precise instructions. Fine gardening is promoted heavily in many newspapers and in magazines such as Southern Living, Fine Gardening, and many others.

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The 2015 HALS Challenge Winners

Kaiser Center, Oakland, Alameda County, California image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-3-9
Kaiser Center, Oakland, Alameda County, California
image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-3-9

The results of the sixth annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge, Documenting Modernist Landscapes, were announced at the HALS Meeting that took place during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago on Saturday, November 7, 2015. Congratulations to the winners!

1st Place:
Sunset Headquarters, HALS CA-115, Menlo Park, San Mateo County, California.
by Janet Gracyk, ASLA, Terra Cognita Design and Consulting; Chris Pattillo, FASLA, PGAdesign, Inc.; and Jill Johnson, Historic Preservation Services with bonus measured drawings delineated by Sarah Raube, Janet Gracyk, Lorena Garcia Rodriguez, Genny Bantle, and Chris Pattillo.

2nd Place:
Marin General Hospital, HALS CA-118, Greenbrae, Marin County, California.
by Denise Bradley, ASLA, with bonus measured drawings delineated by Janet Gracyk.

3rd Place:
Union Bank of California Plaza, HALS CA-119, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California.
by Hannah Dominick.

Honorable Mentions:
Six Moon Hill, HALS MA-3, Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
by Pamela Hartford and Marion Pressley, FASLA, Principal, Pressley Associates.
&
Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden, HALS TX-10, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas.
by William Hartman, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Louisiana Tech University and Patrick Boyd Lloyd, David Rolston Landscape Architects.

Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 18 impressive HALS short format historical reports and 3 sets of drawings to the HALS collection.

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Small but Mighty Spaces

Visitors reflected in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC image: Alexandra Hay
Visitors reflected in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC
image: Alexandra Hay

In a 2013 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members to name a space that, despite being small in size, delivered an outsize impact. These small but mighty spaces may run counter to what many initially think when they hear the word ‘landscape’—sweeping vistas, rolling fields, sprawling parks—but they nonetheless represent significant works of landscape architecture and design that are just as powerful and transformative (or even more so) as their larger neighbors. Their limited size belie their expansive effect.

The following locations were mentioned more than once, along with some of the reasons why:

Albert Einstein Memorial, Washington, DC – “Very intimate setting in an urban environment, richly detailed and high emotional impact.”

Bryant Park, New York City – “The ability to make it your own with the free chairs, its seasonal change (ice rink, open space), backdrop of the library, and the well-proportioned buffer between park and bordering buildings/roads.”

Millennium Park, Chicago – “Lots of small intimate areas within one space.”

Paley Park, New York City – “It’s a microcosm of relaxation amidst the bustle of midtown Manhattan. If you blink, you’ll walk right by it.”

Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle, Indianapolis – “Good mix of pedestrian and vehicular circulation experiences in a compact urban area.”

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC – “I saw it when I was a teenager before I was a [landscape architect], and it made me get the magnitude of loss for the war, especially because it was interactive.”

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Campus Planning & Design in Chicago Recap

Sustainable campus management and innovative site design were discussed during the “Stewardship of a Grand Campus Legacy: the University of Chicago” field session image: Dean Gregory
Sustainable campus management and innovative site design were discussed during the “Stewardship of a Grand Campus Legacy: the University of Chicago” field session
image: Dean Gregory

For those of you able to attend the ASLA Annual Meeting in Chicago this fall, I hope you took advantage of the many opportunities to learn about, discuss and experience great campus planning and design, and network with colleagues. The first day of the conference featured a field session to the University of Chicago. Richard Bumstead, FASLA, and his colleagues led a mix of classroom and on-site discussions that showcased both techniques and results of their sustainable campus management and innovative site design.

Charles Bumstead, FASLA, and his colleagues led a mix of classroom and on-site discussions for the University of Chicago field session image: Dean Gregory
Richard Bumstead, FASLA, and his colleagues led a mix of classroom and on-site discussions for the University of Chicago field session
image: Dean Gregory

Over the next couple of days there were a number of excellent education sessions addressing campus design and planning issues including “Resiliency in University Planning: Risks and Opportunities,” “Collaboration, Preservation, and Pedagogy: Planning and Designing Today’s Academic Campus,” and “A Dynamic Legacy: The University of Washington Campus Landscape Framework Plan.” The ASLA Professional and Student Awards Ceremony recognized one new campus landscape this year: an Honor Award in the Residential Design category for MassArt Residence Hall by Ground Inc. at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Situated along Boston’s “Avenue of the Arts,” the landscape builds on public street life to reshape its public identity, create a new center for student life, and reflect the school’s design focus.

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Spaces That Invite You to Linger

Yards Park, Washington, DC image: Alexandra Hay
Yards Park, Washington, DC
image: Alexandra Hay

In a 2013 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members, we asked about both the best spaces to move through, and also the best places to linger. The answers ranged from busy urban centers with a lot to look at, and serene spots with spectacular views that need more than a quick glance to take in. The following locations were mentioned more than once:

Bryant Park, NYC

Central Park, NYC

Memorial Union Terrace, University of Wisconsin

Personal garden, farm, front yard, or backyard

Yosemite Valley, CA

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas

Crystal Canyon entrance garden in Arlington, Texas. Grasses installed by landscape architecture students from The University of Texas at Arlington and wildflowers compost seeded in. Photo taken in June of 2013, one year after installation. image: David Hopman
Crystal Canyon entrance garden in Arlington, Texas. Grasses installed by landscape architecture students from The University of Texas at Arlington and wildflowers compost seeded in. Photo taken in June of 2013, one year after installation.
image: David Hopman

Part 1: Aesthetics, Environment, and Ecology in the Creation of Plant Palettes

Essays about plants usually focus on specific plants, specific approaches to combinations of plants, practical uses for plants, plants for specific habitats, etc. These essays are indicative of the broad and continually evolving way that landscape architects approach planting design. This post takes a step back to address the issue of how landscape architects should use a clear set of principles to inform their palette of plants. By thinking first about the plant palette, new approaches to planting design will emerge that reflect the contemporary concerns of both the profession of landscape architecture and society at large.

Many design firms have design priorities that can be summed up in a few words. The ideas are sometimes illustrated with Venn diagrams and referred to as a triple (or quadruple) bottom line. The three criteria that are the focus of this series of posts are aesthetics, environment, and ecology. Other important elements, such as community and economics, can be addressed with a plant palette that balances these three important criteria. However, if art or economics, for example, are the driving generators of a plant palette, it may not be possible to bring the plants into balance with environmental and ecological concerns. Ecology is the most difficult and complex parameter to bring into balance and is currently the leading edge of future viable planting design innovation for landscape architects.

A variety of approaches to the selection of plants will be tested against the criteria of aesthetics, environment, and ecology in future posts. These posts will begin with a critique of palettes that are the most out of balance and proceed to others that gradually bring the three elements into equilibrium. The end of the series will propose a methodology for creating a palette of aesthetically qualified native polycultures suitable for the typical kinds of projects undertaken by landscape architects in metropolitan areas.

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Building a Vibrant Practice Part II

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Research Support Facility Golden, CO image: LLG
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Research Support Facility
Golden, CO
image: LLG

At the ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Denver last year, I attended several “Inside the LA Studio” education sessions where I was at once intrigued and captivated by the unique journey each leader took to establishing a successful landscape architecture firm. How does an emerging professional make the transition from education to practice? In particular, what are the critical elements that intersect in the formation of a successful landscape architecture firm?

To learn more, the same four questions about organization, culture, vision, roots, and process were put to the leaders of successful landscape architecture firms that differed in size, structure, and culture. The responses showed a pattern of critical elements essential to building and maintaining a vibrant practice.

We chose to profile two firms and the unique journeys each firm’s leader took to their present success. In Part I, we asked Keith Bowers, FASLA, Principal of Biohabitats those four questions. In Part II, we will profile the journey of LLG.

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