2017 SPOTLIGHT Mini-Series Recap

From left to right: images from presentations by Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA, Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP, Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA, and Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA

The 2017 Student & Emerging Professionals SPOTLIGHT mini-series concluded last week, with two webinars presented live on August 23 and 24. These opportunities for attendees to earn professional development hours (PDH) featured four presentations, two per webinar, by Student and Associate ASLA members, providing access to forward-thinking topics and discussions. Our presenters were selected after responding to a Call for Proposals earlier this year, providing an outline of their presentations and a portfolio of their work.

Over the past two months, the presenters worked with Professional Practice Network (PPN) mentors—volunteers from ASLA’s PPN leadership teams—to create their presentations for the SPOTLIGHT mini-series. Below, we recap  highlights from each. These presentations were also recorded, and are available for viewing through ASLA’s Online Learning website. The recordings are free for Student ASLA members to view; special discounts apply for full and Associate ASLA members.

First, we’d like to thank this year’s PPN mentors:

Since volunteering to participate earlier this year, our PPN mentors have diligently reviewed presentation proposals, participated in a series of conference calls, and shared comments on numerous drafts and iterations as our presenters developed their proposals into full-fledged presentations. Our PPN mentors were there every step of the way, offering feedback on everything from how to make readable slides and how much time to spend on each slide, to the best ways to communicate lessons learned and takeaways for presentation attendees. Over the course of the summer, initial sketches and rough outlines developed into clear narratives that allowed our emerging professional presenters to share the research, projects, and topics they have explored with passion and dedication.

Transitional Landscapes & Tactical Mycelium


Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA
Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP

PPN Mentors:

David Cutter, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Laura Tenny, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Kenneth Hurst, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

Transitional Landscapes: Temporary Places with Permanent Impacts / image: Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA

Transitional Landscapes: Temporary Places with Permanent Impacts
Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA

Over the course of a lifetime, it is inevitable that we undergo numerous transitions, and studies have shown that such changes have been happening more quickly. As disjunctive, unexpected transitions become more prevalent, emotional and physical stress associated with such sudden shifts are also on the rise. Landscape architect-designed spaces for healing and specially-designed gardens can help individuals through difficult, transitional times, providing engagement with nature, social connection with others, and a sense of safety.

To explore the theme of therapeutic spaces designed specifically for children, Elyana focused on Comfort Zone Camp as a case study. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit organization that assists children who have experienced the death of a loved one; their mission is to help grieving children discover their capacity to heal, grow, and lead more fulfilling lives.

For her design research, Elyana conducted interviews with mentors at the Comfort Zone Camp in Richmond, and also with individuals who had experienced bereavement as children and had not had access to any sort of assistance program. Recurring experiences discussed by interviewees included sensitivity to certain triggers (often sounds and smells), a sense of isolation, and a feeling of not belonging. The second part of this design research explored different spatial solutions that create the desired sense of safety, comfort, and belonging.

Elyana Javaheri is a recent graduate with a master of landscape architecture from Virginia Tech, and a background in urban planning and industrial design. Her overarching research interest and curiosity is in studying and understanding the details of environmental psychology and the role of landscape architecture in human behavior. As a newly appointed member of the ASLA Associate Advisory Committee, she looks forward to sharing her passion for landscape architecture with other professionals and to continue learning all that this unique field has to offer.

Elyana is currently practicing with Timmons Group in Richmond, Virginia, where she has a chance to truly explore and learn the fascinating challenges and opportunities of public space design.

Tactical Mycelium: An Exploration of Wastewater Treatment Byproducts as Ephemeral Building Material / image: Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP

Tactical Mycelium: An Exploration of Wastewater Treatment Byproducts as Ephemeral Building Material
Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP

Mycelium are the fine fibers of fungi that serve as a vast communication system between plants. While ecologists and scientists research mycelium’s medicinal properties, designers have been experimenting with other applications of the material. Examples include The Living’s Hy-Fi Tower, Ecovative’s mycelium packaging, and MycoWorks’ mycelium leather.

A Perkins+Will exploration grant allowed Bridget to take an in-depth look at the byproducts and potential applications of the Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. This was followed by material research into different methods for growing and aging a mycelium building material, and finally an investigation into growing the material into a self-supporting, arched structure large enough for human occupation. The test arch has been built, and will be monitored over the course of the winter to see how well the structure holds up to the elements. The final results of the project will be shared to inform others’ material explorations and experiments with other applications and designs.

Tactical Mycelium’s multidisciplinary team also includes Rebecca Ramsey, Planner at Perkins+Will; Jonathan Dessi-Olive, Structural/Architectural Consultant; and Ecovative Design, Material Supplier and Mycelium Consultant.

Bridget Ayers Looby holds a B.A. in Portuguese & Spanish and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota, and was a 2016 Landscape Architecture Foundation Olmsted Scholar. Her interests lie in the interface between design and urban infrastructures, and how landscape architects can reveal the magic of these systems to the public eye. She is currently working as a designer at Perkins+Will, where she continues her research with the Tactical Mycelium incubator grant.

Tropical TalkStory: Hardwood Hammocks and Aloha Art


Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA
Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA

PPN Mentors:

Emily O’Mahoney, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN
Kristina Snyder, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN

Tropical Hardwood Hammocks of the Florida Keys: Why Sustainable Landscapes Are Vital for the Region / image: Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA

Tropical Hardwood Hammocks of the Florida Keys: Why Sustainable Landscapes Are Vital for the Region
Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA, Florida International University of Miami, Florida

A tropical hardwood hammock is a distinct, self-sustaining plant community found only in the Florida Keys and extreme South Florida. The semi-deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs exist on bare limestone or thin soils with relatively low rainfall. Plants found here include: Poisonwood, Wild Coffee, Gumbo Limbo, and Lignum vitae.

Tricia’s research focused on the tropical hardwood hammocks of Dagney Johnson State Park and Lignumvitae Key. Taking into consideration the hammock’s historical plant communities, soils, topography, and water tables, the presentation highlighted this unique setting’s essential role as “stepping stones” for migrating neotropical birds.

Lastly, Tricia considered design strategies for the Florida Keys, and how to maintain healthy ecosystems that support the plant species migrating birds rely upon for sustenance. These strategies include paying careful attention to wildlife corridors, planning plant installation around Florida’s wet and dry seasons to conserve water, removing invasive species, and preserving features that residents care most about, such as access to shade and views.

Tricia Keffer began career 2.0 in the art of landscape at Florida International University in the summer of 2015. Her life experiences led her in a natural progression to this new adventure. Growing up in a rural area in Florida, her family enjoyed the outdoors year round. She worked as a dolphin trainer and did a behavior research internship study at The Living Seas Pavilion at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, Florida, which lead her to a BA in Psychology at the University of West Florida. However, she also had a knack for the arts of music and photography. In 1997, she founded her first photography studio offering professional beach portraits for families in Destin, FL. In 2008, she expanded to vacation portraits at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Her photography has been published in Delta Sky Magazine, BAE Calendar, and a Dale Peterson vacation rental award-winning brochure. Her Paris portraits were also featured in a story on Good Morning America.

Landscape and art were her passion. In 2014, it was time for a change and Tricia discovered landscape architecture. Her love of tropical plants led her to the MLA program at Florida International University. Currently, she lives in Key Largo, FL with her kitty cat and enjoys exploring the cultures of South Florida.

‘Pohue: Storied Gourds,’ by Charlton Kupa’a He’e / image: Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA

Aloha Public Art: Exploring Honolulu’s Art Scene
Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA

Continuing the theme set in our first SPOTLIGHT presentation, with a focus on changes and transitions, Rachel also highlighted how place-based initiatives like public art can help build connections to a place, especially with many people moving multiple times over the course of their lives, from attending college in another state to moving for a new job or to experience a new city.

Her interest in public art was sparked during her time as student, when the ASLA student chapter at Ball State University had the opportunity to design and build a community garden in downtown Muncie, Indiana, including murals painted by different artists to call attention to the space. A few years later, after relocating to Hawaii, Rachel had to adjust to a new place and culture. Art proved to be an excellent gateway to learn more about the islands’ history and people.

In the spring of 2017, Honolulu became one of nearly 200 cities to host an international contemporary art exhibition. Art biennials and triennials typically feature contemporary art that is large in scale and site responsive. This exhibition became a perfect opportunity to study how art and public spaces come together in Hawaii. Artwork illustrated environmental concerns such as climate change, coral reef degradation, and impacts of insecticides and herbicides, and also brought to light cultural and social concerns relating to immigration, cultural belonging, globalization, and the sharing of local knowledge.

Rachel concluded with few takeaways from the Honolulu Biennial, highlighting the important role that landscape architects and designers should play in local communities’ public art scene, and the manifold impacts art can have on the public realm and community engagement.

Rachel Katzman currently resides in Kailua, Hawaii with her husband, dog, and two cats but she hasn’t always lived in paradise. She was born and raised in New Albany, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, where she grew to love the Buckeyes and despise ‘The Team Up North.’ As she left the comforts of her Buckeye hometown to head to college at Ball State University in Indiana, she began her studies of art, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, sustainability, and design. Throughout her studies, her design and projects contained a common thread—public art—which she developed into the topic of her capstone comprehensive fifth year project. Fast forward to present day: Rachel still enjoys the exploration of contemporary public art, just in a different setting in the tropics.

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