Where Landscape Architects Love to Work, Part 1

Seattle, WA - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category image: Timothy Hursley
Seattle, WA – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, 2014 Award of Excellence Winner, General Design Category
image: Timothy Hursley

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members about their favorite cities and regions for practicing landscape architecture. Not surprisingly, there was no single answer that dominated the responses, which reflected the regional diversity of those who took the survey—the largest segment of respondents hailed from the West (30%), with roughly 20% each from the East, South, and Midwest, and 6% of respondents practice internationally. Responses were similarly distributed, and though the answers themselves might not have been surprising, the reasons why certain areas are popular places to work are still enlightening, and it might be food for thought should you find yourself considering a move.

There were many shared characteristics among the top choices, including:

  • Variety and number of opportunities available
  • Level of growth in the area
  • Being part of a large, active community of fellow landscape architects
  • Availability of good clients to work with—clients who appreciate the work of landscape architects
  • Places where landscape architects’ work is valued
  • Relative abundance of water
  • Wherever home is—being able to change the place where you grew up for the better

A good number of respondents also argued that no single city or region has any special appeal or strength over any another:

“Location does not matter. Excited clients matter.”

“Anywhere with a fun/challenging project”

“There is usually something unique about every location’s mix of physical, cultural and political environments.”

“Every place in the world has its physical and cultural differences, and interesting people, resulting in creative design opportunities.”

“Any area with a strong appreciation for architectural form and tradition—typically that means there is an appreciation for built form and how art can add value to living environments.”

“Any town/city that is responsible on permitting”

“Anywhere with a Mediterranean climate”

Below, we highlight some of the most popular responses.

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City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure, Part I

Alewife Reservation image: MWH Global
Alewife Reservation
image: MWH Global

Many of you may know The Trust for Public Land (TPL) as an organization devoted to the protection and support of the places people care about and the creation of “close-to-home parks” — particularly in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. Through its Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), TPL also explores the many issues that affect the success of urban areas’ park systems. CCPE’s most recent publication, City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure, looks at the many ways that parks can help with the control of urban stormwater.

Using case studies, data tables, and interviews with national experts, the report explores both new and existing parks, including in-depth studies of water-smart parks in Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York, and Shoreline, Washington. The following is the first installment of a two-part series excerpted from the report.

Lisa Nabor Cowan, ASLA, Sustainable Design & Development PPN Officer, Principal, Studioverde

Part I: City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure

The effort to clean our nation’s waterways has been underway, with increasing strength, for more than 50 years. Great progress has been made, particularly against pollution from untreated sewage and unregulated factories. Rivers no longer catch on fire, oil slicks are a rarity, and most raw discharge pipes have been eliminated. But in cities there remains work to be done, with most urban waterways still not clean, not swimmable, not safe for fishing, and sometimes not even pleasantly boatable.

The primary culprit, as all landscape architects know, is pollution from runoff from paved surfaces – streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, roofs, patios, plazas, even playgrounds that quickly shed the rain. The solution is to hold back the water where it hits, slow it down so that the destructiveness of erosion and contaminants are controlled, and clean it before it reaches a waterway.

With two different methods of doing this – using giant holding tanks for storage or a natural, spongier approach for infiltration – the U.S. is at a critical decision point in how it will allocate billions of dollars in the coming decades.

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How Play Environments Assist Mother–Infant Interactive Behavior

Expression swing image: Gametime
Expression swing
image: Gametime

The process by which a child enters the world is a truly fathomless miracle. On three occasions I have personally witnessed this amazing process as a child gasps for its first breath, declares its first cry of dissatisfaction, and opens its eyes for the first time to gaze into its mother’s eyes. Of all the crazy things that happen during the whirlwind of childbirth, the moments just mentioned create the most vivid and resonant memories. I stood by as an apparent bystander and watched as mother and child formed unique bonds through mutual gazing that perhaps none of us can truly understand or comprehend. As I watch my three children continue to grow and develop, I often notice this same mesmerizing gaze occur with their mother during moments of quiet calm, active play, and even when miserable, cuddled close trying to fight off a cold. This interactive relationship, referred to as “affect attunement,” developed between a mother and child, is real and seemingly palpable. This article will discuss the science behind this mother-child connection and offer examples of how the play environment can be altered to facilitate important mother-child interaction.

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Skills for Success in Landscape Architecture

Peritoneum computer model – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy
Peritoneum computer model – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration
image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: What one characteristic or skill is most essential for success in landscape architecture? Though there is no single skill or ability that guarantees success, there are many that are certainly helpful to have and continue to sharpen. Perhaps surprisingly, only a handful of respondents mentioned extensive knowledge of plants, horticulture, or the more technical, scientific side of landscape architecture as critical to success. Instead, being an effective communicator and other soft skills appeared far more frequently.

The most popular answers were:

Creativity and creative problem solving
Listening skills
Passion for design
Attention to detail
Critical thinking

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Future Viable Plant Palettes for Metropolitan Areas, Part 8

Figure 1: Design and Photoshop mockup of Sun-Juncus polyculture and low polyculture edge for bioretention structure at BRIT. Lower left shows existing plants being killed by solarization. Design and image: David Hopman
Figure 1: Design and Photoshop mockup of Sun-Juncus polyculture and low polyculture edge for bioretention structure at BRIT. Lower left shows existing plants being killed by solarization.
Design and image: David Hopman

Case Study: Extracting native polycultures for bio-retention structures at The Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Reconceptualizing a Plant Palette Using Native Polycultures

Part 7 of this series focused on small steps that can be taken by any planting designer that will gradually move their designs in the direction of aesthetically qualified native urban polycultures. This post begins the discussion of a more complex and rigorous approach that I used in North Texas. The complexity of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area of North Texas is confounding when considering the use of extracted native polycultures as design components. It is a sprawling and rapidly growing metropolitan area of more than seven million people that is larger than the state of Massachusetts.

The problems and opportunities associated with reconceptualizing nature in this non-temperate area clarify an understanding of the issues in other areas where integrating nature may not be quite as complex and problematic. A detailed discussion is presented below that illustrates a research methodology used to develop 10 contrasting native polycultures for ecological retention structures on the campus of The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) in Fort Worth, Texas.

Using Research to Define Aesthetically Qualified Native Urban Polycultures in North Texas

In North Texas, as in many other areas of the United States, the information needed to extract a wide range of native polycultures is simply not available. Academics and research institutes have a unique role to play in developing this information as the following description demonstrates. This research is directed at a palette of plants for ecological retention structures (large scale rain gardens), but can also serve as a model that can be adapted for the plant palettes required for many other types of planting design in metropolitan conditions in the Great Plains of the United States and other biomes throughout the world.

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New for the 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting: PPN Live!

Several ways to tap into the Professional Practice Networks
Several ways to tap into the Professional Practice Networks

Save up to $150 by registering for the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO by this Friday, June 17!

There will be many opportunities to learn, network, and celebrate during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans this October. In addition to the 130+ education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and special events, make sure to add the new PPN Live to your annual meeting plans!

Through PPN Live, you will get a chance to network with colleagues from all 20 Professional Practice Networks throughout the annual meeting weekend. Make the most of your PPN experience at the annual meeting by setting your own agenda. This is all part of the new PPN Live:

  • Participate in a PPN Live Stage session – PPN meetings take place on the EXPO floor throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, and include a variety of formats: invited speakers, fast-paced PechaKucha-style presentations, speed-mentoring, networking sessions, and more.
  • Attend a PPN exhibitor product tour – NEW!
  • Network with your PPN peers at the EXPO Reception featuring the PPNs on Sunday from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. It’s now free to all registered annual meeting attendees, and non-PPN members are welcome to attend.

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The 2016 IFLA World Congress

Technical tour at Parco Dora, Turin image: Chih-Wei GV Chang
Technical tour at Parco Dora, Turin
image: Chih-Wei GV Chang

This year’s International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) World Congress took place April 20-22 in Turin, Italy. The congress theme, ‘Tasting the Landscape,’ included four sub-topics: Sharing Landscapes, on food production in urban areas; Connected Landscapes, on creating new economies; Layered Landscapes, focusing on stratified landscapes and innovative practices for preserving history; and Inspiring Landscapes. Each sub-topic included keynotes, extended speeches, PechaKucha presentations, poster sessions, and text sessions to allow attendees to present and interact.

‘Tasting the Landscape’ is a fascinating and complex theme which is relevant across cultures, territories, cultivations, and people. All these aspects make every site distinctive, simple and complex at the same time, and require specific and thoughtful intervention. ‘Tasting the Landscape’ is intended as an invitation and a call to nourish and taste, as well as to take part in the making of the landscape of our planet. This agenda requires knowledge and dedication, together with a shared commitment to participate in its completion.

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Mycoremediation: Your Landscape on Mushrooms

Turkey tail mushrooms in Washington, DC's Fort Slocum Park image: Kaitlyn Hay
Turkey tail mushrooms in Washington, DC’s Fort Slocum Park
image: Kaitlyn Hay

Since Paul Stamets’ TED talk “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World” blew my mind back in 2008, I’ve watched the movement of using mushrooms for urban agriculture, pest control, medicine, soil remediation, and much more spread like mycelium through the green design community. So where has this long-deserved fungi renaissance taken us in the past few years since over 3 million views of Stamets’ propounding on the topic? Beyond the plentiful backyard mushroom farmers, mycoremediation—the use of fungi to break down or remove a range of pollutants from the environment—is being applied to contaminated sites to remediate a range of toxins, from typical stormwater runoff to industrial oil spills.

Some of the targeted pollutants which grass-roots guerillas and PhD academics alike have been experimenting with removing through mycoremediation include: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, and fecal coliform bacteria. Various research projects have shown high percentages of removal of these contaminants from soil and water using various fungal species.

Fungal mycelia use enzymes and acids to break down elements of plant fiber and apply the same process to break down chemicals, especially components of petroleum, often into carbon dioxide and water. Many studies show the fruiting mushroom bodies don’t retain the toxic pollutants, but as in phytoremediation, it’s typically not recommended to combine mushroom farming for edible consumption and pollutant remediation, especially if heavy metals are present. However, the mushrooms and especially their substrate media are very valuable as compost after pollutants are processed.

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From the Hungarian Empire to Ross County, Ohio

The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015 image: David Driapsa
The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015
image: David Driapsa

I have such an amazing family, and I am sure you do, too. My father is first generation American; my mother is a Daughter of the American Revolutionary War; and I grew up in a European culture on my grandparents’ farm.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) is about histories and sometimes about the family landscapes experienced. Sometimes little is known of the past besides the fact that the owners are related; sometimes there is a large cache of precious history known by the family.

My family is fortunate to know our family and farm history. My grandfather, Emil Driapsa, and grandmother, Helen Kraus Driapsa, were born in Upper Hungary, the present-day Slovak Republic, emigrated to the U.S. and married in 1912 in Columbus, Ohio.

The couple had a goal of owning land in their new country, a dream that was almost impossible in Europe at the time. Through hard work and saving their earnings, the couple realized their dream in 1914 when they bought the 68-acre farm near the village of Bainbridge in Paxton Township, Ross County, Ohio. The local terrain reminded them of their homeland, and they sponsored other European immigrants to move onto the adjacent farms in what became the Potts Hill European Community.

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