In 2011, the ASLA Northern California Chapter’s Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) subcommittee started the HALS Heroes initiative. Their objective was to encourage more members to create HALS drawings of culturally significant landscapes in Northern California.
The HALS program was created in 2000 through a tripartite agreement between ASLA, the National Park Service, and the Library of Congress. The program is modeled on the Historic American Buildings Survey, which began in 1933, and the Historic American Engineering Record, which began in 1969. Northern California has had an active HALS group since November 2004 and since that time they have held quarterly meetings, given talks to educate people about the program, organized numerous tours to historic landscape sites, and directly or indirectly been responsible for creating documentation for at least 65 California sites.
The HALS Heroes program offers a $1,000 stipend to anyone who produces a minimum one sheet drawing of a cultural landscape in California. The selected site must be approved by the chapter leadership and the drawing must conform to the HALS Measured Drawings Guidelines. Fred Rachman, a HALS chapter member who is trained as an architect, was the first recipient of a HALS Heroes stipend for completing a measured drawing of Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach.
In June 2015, I was asked to give an annual report of the committee’s activities at a chapter board meeting. I brought prints of the HALS drawings that the committee members had created the previous year to the meeting. After my short presentation, I was taken aback when then-chapter president David Nelson, ASLA, proposed that the chapter provide up to five $1,000 stipends to support the program. The board members were enthusiastic and asked me to submit a formal proposal outlining how the program would work. David also stressed that the program seemed ideal for students and encouraged me to seek opportunities to engage students to participate.
I left the meeting both elated and anxious. While thrilled by the unexpected exuberant response to my report, I felt daunted by this new challenge. How would I find a group of students to engage in the program and how much effort would it take on my part to oversee their work?
Today, the National Park Service celebrates 100 years since its founding on August 25, 1916. People all across the nation are taking advantage of this birthday year to visit National Park sites to enjoy all that these special places have to offer.
In the photo above are 4 of us landscape architects hamming it up at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, in Yellowstone National Park during a visit in 2014. Craig Coronato, FASLA, and fellow landscape architects were recently invited by the Friends of Yellowstone and the Park Director to look at ways to restore the historic trails and overlooks around the canyon. When asked about the value of this park, Craig states, “Yellowstone has a way of making you feel insignificant, yet overwhelmed to be in it.”
This year, my family and I visited several National Park sites, including Fire Island National Seashore, Governors Island National Monument, and many National Memorials and Sites in Washington, DC. These sites not only offer beautiful views and scenery but also demonstrate the rich history and culture of our nation, offering public places for reflection and remembrance.
This post is about the maintenance decisions that can have a profound effect on the range of plants useful for an aesthetically qualified urban polyculture. Some of the issues are addressed in the spreadsheet that was presented in part 8 of this series. For example, relative aggressiveness will help determine if plants play well together or if one plant is almost sure to dominate. However, the discussion that follows is on factors affecting plant palette decisions that go beyond the intrinsic characteristics of each plant that is considered.
Polycultures of herbaceous perennial plants and grasses are low maintenance but will frequently be more useful for aesthetically qualified native urban polycultures if they are pruned two or three times a year. Just because a plant is native does not mean that it must be allowed to express only its non-maintained form. This is especially true when soil amendments and irrigation are used. Water, fertilizer, and soils that are richer than what the plant would normally grow in without human intervention tend to make the plants taller, fuller, and more aggressive than otherwise, and may even cause them to flop over, particularly when they are blooming. Selective pruning may actually bring their appearance and stature back closer to a “natural” state.
Another big advantage to selective pruning is that it broadens the range of plants that can fit the aesthetic criteria of a particular polyculture. For example, one of the best native plants we have for shade conditions in North Texas is Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). It is tolerant of both drought and seasonal inundation, stays attractive throughout the year, and establishes and spreads very easily. However, with irrigation it can easily get 3-4 feet tall, which may not be a desirable trait in an urban polyculture where other lower plants could have a seasonal focus. By cutting Sea Oats in half early in the season, it can easily be maintained at 18 inches tall. Some of the plants can also be left taller as “scatter plants,” which is how we are maintaining the UT-Arlington polyculture featured in part 7 of this series.
With the theme ‘It Takes a Community,’ the 2016 exhibit from the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Emerging Professionals showcases the work of architecture students, recent graduates, and emerging professionals that offer a well-rounded approach, encompassing much more than structures alone when looking at community design. The selected projects focus on community impact and engagement as well, ranging from applying adaptive design principles to address homelessness to housing that responds to resource scarcity.
The Emerging Professionals exhibit includes 30 projects, from across the country and the globe, and here we highlight a few that incorporate the surrounding landscape and well-designed outdoor spaces, from community gardens to pocket parks, as integral to the overall design.
Given how many of our waking hours are dedicated to work, where we work matters. Whether an expansive open office, a maze of cubicles, in a home office, or out on site, our workplaces influence how well we perform and how much we enjoy the work we do every day. To get an idea of what a typical day looks like and where landscape architects spend most of their time while at work, in a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: How much time do you spend outdoors / on site vs. in an office?
Though the answer to that question necessarily varies depending on the season, the weather, the types of projects being worked on, and what stage those projects are at—as one respondent put it, there is “no such thing as a typical day” for some landscape architects—there were some clear trends that emerged. Ninety percent of respondents spend more than half their time in an office, compared to only 4 percent that spend more time outdoors. Only 6 percent reported splitting their time evenly between the office and being on site.
Survey takers were also asked if they preferred one work environment to another. While many respondents said they spend “way too much” time in the office, the most frequent response highlighted the need for balance, with some time spent in both kinds of work environments. Though most survey respondents spend more time in an office than anywhere else, many agreed that having a good balance between office and outdoor time is key.
Whether in the residential or commercial design-build landscape sectors, there are some great ways that landscape architects can enhance and bring more value to our working relationships with architects, builders, and clients – especially in the “build” process of our projects. The following are a few suggestions that may help you, and as always, feel free to share any comments and suggestions that you might have with fellow landscape architecture professionals.
Here is a list of tasks that are in no particular order – some are big and some are rather minor – but keeping these in mind in your project management will show your design-build team partners that you care a lot about the details! Continue reading →
Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward. The following is Part II of the two-part series detailing presentations and dialogue during the forum. Part I was published on August 2, 2016.
Design at the Scale of Systemic Change
The final session attempted to offer lessons on scaling up our definitions of community to the City. Focusing on a case study in New York, Jerry Maldonado from the Ford Foundation moderated a panel consisting of participants engaged in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan. The plan emerged as an opportunity to engage in Mayor DeBlassio’s borough-wide up-zoning process. Given the rate of growth and displacement across the city, a key community decision was to engage the process instead of resist through protest; this was a key decision point credited by all as a reason for successful engagement.
Sandra Youdelman from Community Voices Heard laid out in great detail the need for politically savvy actors to navigate the complex relationships within the community and between the community and the city. By introducing the language of “Power,” “Players,” and “Campaigns” (i.e. borrowing strategies for getting people engaged in political campaigns for a planning process), Ms. Youdelman illustrated the value of engaging a wide range of allies in the process. This was especially important to communicate because another participant was George Sarkissian from NYC Council ‘s Economic Development Division. Mr. Sarkissian made plain the political and economic risks and rewards for engaging a community in a contentious process, and praised the political savvy of the group.
In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: Which sector do you find most rewarding to work in? To simplify responses, we gave members three choices: the public sector, the private sector, or academia. Looking at the results, working in the public sector was deemed to be the most rewarding, selected by 42% of survey takers. The private sector was a close second, with 38%, and academia came in third with 11%.
Among our survey takers, there were 25 respondents who stated that they have worked in all three sectors. This select group, with the greatest breadth of experience, might be the most qualified to pick which sector is most satisfying to work in. Within this subset of the results, 13 chose the public sector, 4 chose private, and 5 picked academia as the most rewarding kind of work.
“Other” was also a possible answer, and a handful of people wrote in either “all of the above” or a different answer. Those in favor of multi-sector experience wrote:
“The mix of sectors is most appealing—you don’t get bored.”
“Rewards from each are incomparable.”
“As of now, all are vital to my development.”
“I strive to help people realize their dreams whether that be through design or teaching. It’s all rewarding.”
“I’ve worked in both public and private sectors. Public is embroiled in politics and limits opportunity and creativity. Good to see both sides though!”
Rapid change in diverse communities across the nation has prompted many to take stock of the roles designers and planners have played and could play in this period. Academically and professionally, many of us were drawn to our fields because of a shared passion for the power of design (and design thinking) to make positive transformations in the environments around us. However, with increasing diversity, we are often challenged with the need to better understand and more effectively work with people very different from ourselves. And concurrent with this has been the demand by diverse communities for designers and planners to acknowledge and address the inequitable gaps between different communities based on racial, class, and gender disparities. For decades, designers and planners have worked with communities to address these issues. But in the current social, political, and economic climate, what are best practices in community engaged design?
Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin to tackle this and many other issues. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward.