What Was Your Favorite Subject in School?

Manassas Park Elementary School Landscape – 2011 General Design Honor Award Winner image: Siteworks
Manassas Park Elementary School Landscape – 2011 General Design Honor Award Winner
image: Siteworks

The opening question of the 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) asked members to think back to their time in school to tell us about their favorite subjects to study. Though most respondents did not discover landscape architecture until later—either during college or afterwards—in many cases, their academic preferences earlier on foreshadowed their subsequent inclination to the field.

Here is the breakdown of responses, in order of popularity:

  1. Art – selected by 32.8% of respondents
  2. Science – 23.5%
  3. Social Studies – 15.7%
  4. Math – 14.6%
  5. English – 9.5%
  6. Music – 3.9%

It seems appropriate that art and science came out on top in a survey of landscape architects, whose practice deftly combines the two.

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Small Site, Big Impact

Barrio Logan Child Development Center image: Alex Calegari
Barrio Logan Child Development Center
image: Alex Calegari

The Barrio Logan Child Development Center

When my client, Child Development Associates, first approached me about designing an Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) for the Barrio Logan Child Development Center, he warned me it would be one of my most challenging projects. I saw these challenges as opportunities! Together we had an opportunity to maximize space, to transform lives, and to make a statement that all children could have access to a quality OLE.

The Barrio Logan Child Development Center (CDC) is located in the urban neighborhood of Barrio Logan just south of downtown San Diego. This publicly funded program serves approximately 85 children (3-5 years of age), with the majority from low-income families in the community. The small 1,513 sf play yard (17’ wide x 89’ long), with little shade and no vegetation, sits directly adjacent to the I-5 Freeway, the heavy traffic generating a constant background noise for the students and staff at the Center. Most of the children spend 40-50 hours a week at the Center with little access to nature and open space in their community.

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 7

Figure 1: Simple low woodland polyculture in spring (April 12) at Hopman residence in Arlington, Texas. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Wood Violets (Viola missouriensis), Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), and Golden Groundsel (Packera ovata). image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Simple low woodland polyculture in spring (April 12) at Hopman residence in Arlington, Texas. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Wood Violets (Viola missouriensis), Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana), Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), and Golden Groundsel (Packera ovata).
image: David Hopman

Beginning the Transition to Native Polycultures

Developing a Plant Palette that Balances Aesthetic Control, Environment, and Ecology

Developing a plant palette for metropolitan areas that moves beyond the native and adapted plant palette is a very challenging and necessarily a very long term proposition. The vast corporate, design, regulatory, and research infrastructure that has evolved to the current state of the art will change very slowly, as it has in the past. As with any innovation, it will first be seen as radical and even eccentric and there will be many stakeholders that will push back hard against the tide of change. There are a number of possible scenarios for moving forward towards a more resilient and ecologically and environmentally supportive landscape palette.

One likely scenario for the transition to a more balanced palette is an incremental approach that gradually introduces native species, varieties, and selections into the infrastructure of the green industry. This would be an evolution of the ‘native and adapted’ palette that has been  emerging since the 1980s, perhaps accelerated by climate change and the ‘new normal’ of warmer conditions with wide swings in rainfall patterns, coupled with increasing water needs from a rapidly growing population. This evolving palette will represent the same basic approach currently used by many designers for the selection of plants. Designers will search for aesthetically pleasing groupings, or drifts, of discrete monocultures that meet the practical, aesthetic, and financial criteria desired, albeit in a more environmentally and ecologically sustainable way.

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A Global Commitment to Sustainable Urban Development

Quito, Ecuador, where Habitat III will take place in October 2016 image: ashokboghani via Flickr
Quito, Ecuador, where Habitat III will take place in October 2016
image: ashokboghani via Flickr

Last year, ASLA endorsed the sustainable development goals that were launched during the U.N. General Assembly on September 25, 2015. The 17 goals—including climate action, biodiversity, sustainable cities and communities, and clean water—address the interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection in all countries to be achieved over the next 15 years.

Later this year, another U.N. General Assembly conference will be taking place: Habitat III. This bi-decennial event has taken place previously in 1976 and 1996, and this year the third U.N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development will be held in Quito, Ecuador, October 17-20.

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Practicing at the Nexus of Science & Design

Landscape architects can help communicate the restoration potential of a site. A rendering depicts proposed improvements including native revegetation, constructed wetlands, and public access amenities at a former industrial site. image: Great Ecology
Landscape architects can help communicate the restoration potential of a site. A rendering depicts proposed improvements including native revegetation, constructed wetlands, and public access amenities at a former industrial site.
image: Great Ecology

An Ecological Approach to Landscape Architecture

What nature looks like, or is supposed to look like, appears to be our problem, a cultural matter; it has little to do with ecology.  – Laurie Olin, FASLA

Ethics and aesthetics are the same thing.  – Richard Haag, FASLA

We, as landscape architects practicing in the early twenty-first century, talk a lot about ecology and ecological design. A glance at the program from the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver or the 2015 ASLA Professional Awards illustrates this point. As we hurdle ever rapidly toward greater imbalance between limited natural resources and a growing human population, this resurgence of ecological discourse could build much needed momentum toward widespread application of a truly ecological approach to built and managed environments.

Landscape architectural history is populated by ecologically-minded thinkers, from Jens Jensen and Ian McHarg to current practitioners and academics like Carol Franklin, Grant Jones, Bill Wenk, and Chris Reed. More and more landscape architecture firms are collaborating closely with ecologists, and some have added them to their rosters. It’s an exciting time to practice ecologically focused landscape architecture; we are on the leading edge of what may prove to be a philosophical sea change in design and planning.

So, what does it actually mean to practice “ecological design?” How are academic theories, lofty ideas, and benevolent leanings transmogrified onto the physical plane? It begins with science.

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How Did You Discover Landscape Architecture?

Scott Outdoor Amphitheater, Swarthmore College image: Simon via Flickr
Scott Outdoor Amphitheater, Swarthmore College
image: Simon via Flickr

One of the opening questions of the 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs)—and a good opening question for any talk with a landscape architect, as the answer is usually surprising—was: How did you discover landscape architecture? One member’s answer can serve as a concise summary of the results: “In a round-about sort of way.”

Many of the landscape architects who completed the survey did indeed take the scenic route to their current profession, and a large number said they had never heard of landscape architecture until college or later. One of the most popular answers for how they discovered the field was “by accident.”

Several other trends did emerge, however, with the most popular answer—nearly half of the responses—involving some key experience during college. Other responses focused on the impact of family and friends (approximately 20% of responses) and career research during high school (about 12% of responses).

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Career Paths in Landscape Architecture

300 Ivy – 2015 Residential Design Honor Award Winner image: Bruce Damonte
300 Ivy – 2015 Residential Design Honor Award Winner
image: Bruce Damonte

Each year, members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) are surveyed on a different theme. In 2013, the focus was favorite spaces, and the results of that survey have been highlighted here on The Field. Now, we are moving on to the 2014 survey—the theme: career paths in landscape architecture. As you can imagine, the responses were as varied as the different trajectories taken by all those in the landscape architecture field, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND, and we are now re-posting this information on The Field. For  updates on the results of the latest PPN survey, see LAND‘s PPN News section.

We received an impressive number of responses (395) to the 2014 survey from a diverse range of individuals in terms of sector, region of work, and level of experience:

  • Every PPN is represented, and Sustainable Design and Development—the largest PPN—had the most respondents.
  • The East, South, and Midwest are all equally represented, but the West had the most respondents.
  • 7% of respondents practice internationally.
  • 70% work in private practice.
  • 50% have 20+ years of experience.
  • 56% work in firms, agencies, or organizations of 25 or fewer employees.

Below are a few highlights from the results, which will be explored in greater depth in upcoming posts.

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WILA Interview Series: Advice

image: iStock © PeopleImages
image: iStock © PeopleImages

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN)’s focus for 2015-2016 is an interview series developed around being women landscape architects, life/work balance, and mentors. The WILA PPN’s co-chairs and officers developed a set of 17 questions, then sought out willing landscape architects and began the interview process. The following is an in-depth look at responses to the last group of interview questions, asking what general advice they have for new landscape architects and what specific suggestions they would have for their 25-year-old self.

The result: be focused, be fearless, be engaged, be connected. It will work out; build the relationships and put as much into those professional relationships as into the practice of the profession. We are not alone in our workplaces. Use those around you to help define and determine where you want to be and work to get there. Good advice for anyone.

Many of our respondents suggested that new landscape architects be active and decisive in pursuing interests related to work focus and content and to seek out mentors and be engaged in learning from them about specific needs and aspirations. While some suggested focusing on the aspects/areas of most interest in landscape architecture, others encourage a well-rounded, more broad-based approach to the field. Be sure to do your research before reaching out to respect the time of the mentors and get involved early in ASLA and other professional societies through writing or activities to build relationships and connections in your new career.

As advice to themselves at 25, most focused on a version of ‘Relax, it’s going to work out.’ Coming in second were variations on ‘Build your relationship network with as much focus as you put on work.’

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Them

image: James Hughes
image: James Hughes

That feeling when everything about the project is moving along smoothly, and then ‘Them’ show up. Them have their own ideas and opinions. Them have their own sets of rules and guidelines that must be given adherence. If only Them would stay out of this, the project would be a smashing success and everyone, including Them, would celebrate and admire. By ‘Them’, I of course mean HOA’s (Home Owners’ Associations).

HOA’s became prevalent out of the Post-War era in the rise of Suburbia. It was the Eisenhower-an period of America. A 5-star general in the White House, and over 8 million Veterans returning to civilian life. Suburbs sprang up to house the millions of returning Veterans and their families, with communities modeled from base housing. Efficient, clean, and above all else – uniform in appearance and function. It was a simple time of mass prosperity and bright futures. So naturally, in the mindset of that post-war culture, local governance was needed to maintain the order and aesthetic of these newly created communities. Right now, if you surveyed every single professional in residential service, I would bet that the issue of HOA’s comes up for the majority.

Navigating clients, city/county ordinances, State law, contractors, and the ilk are sometimes enough to give you heart palpitations (I speak from actual experience). Throw in the local HOA demigod clipboard-wielding neighbor and you have a recipe for… well, early retirement.  However, HOA’s are a reality which we must face.

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