A Renewed Focus on Community Design

by the Community Design PPN leadership team

ASLA 2018 Student Residential Award of Excellence. Baseco: A New Housing Paradigm, Manila, Philippines. / image: Julio F. Torres Santana, Student ASLA, Yinan Liu, Student ASLA, Aime Vailes-Macarie, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

ASLA’s Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) is the forum for landscape architecture issues in housing and community design, policy, planning, and design. This forum is dedicated to sharing information and building awareness of how landscape architects contribute to the development of livable, walkable, sustainable, and inclusive communities.

Landscape architects serve a vital role in the creation of strong, vibrant communities by placing emphasis on the importance of the public realm while fostering environmentally sustainable patterns and methods. Whether the context is rural or urban, the landscape architect is uniquely qualified to design the built environment to respond to natural processes and patterns. Our voice and experience in context sensitive design during the community planning process is key to providing the link between our colleges in planning and engineering. We have created policies to support livable communities, developed sustainable stormwater systems, designed and constructed parks and recreation areas, supported native ecosystems habitat and led public involvement processes to support sound decision-making.

Our goal is to empower landscape architects to establish stronger roles as community design leaders. Learn more about Community Design on the PPN’s newly updated webpage.

Meet the Community Design PPN Leadership Team

In addition to a chair or co-chairs, many PPNs, including Community Design, also have larger leadership teams that include PPN officers and past chairs. Most leadership teams hold monthly calls to keep track of progress on PPN activities, and all PPN members are welcome to join their PPN’s leadership team. To learn more, see ASLA’s PPN Leadership Opportunities page.

The Community Design PPN is looking to grow its leadership team—if you are interested in becoming more active in the PPN, please contact the PPN’s Chair.

In this post, we’d like to introduce the Community Design PPN leadership team through their answers to the following questions:

  • What is a community design? How do you define / describe what you do?
  • How do you as a landscape architect add value to community design projects?

Bob Smith, PLA, ASLA
PPN Chair
Principal, Smith Planning Group
Watkinsville, GA

Bob Smith, PLA, ASLA

What is a community design? How do you define / describe what you do?

Community design is the shaping of the built environment for the enjoyment and benefit of those who live there. Every community is different, usually made up of neighborhoods with distinct characteristics, needs and resources. That is why we begin any design process at the neighborhood level, building upon broad citizen-based participatory planning. We can then address the needs of the community and create a place that is only economically and environmentally sustainable, but also truly lovable.

How do you as a landscape architect add value to community design projects?

Value can be measured by many different scales, but landscape architects are uniquely qualified and skilled to find and enhance value in each place and community. It may the preservation of a historic structure or street, or perhaps the conservation and protection of a viewshed. It is our responsibility to discover and celebrate those things that make each place unique. We can then build upon that underlying value.

David Jordan, ASLA
PPN Officer
Urban Design Ventures
Homestead, PA

What is a community design?

A community design should focus on more than a specific project. Good community design may have a specific end product in mind such as a park or an industrial site or an affordable housing development. Community design should engage people from all walks of the community including design professionals (landscape architects), community residents, professionals, business leaders and elected officials to create that end product which adds value to the community and doesn’t single any particular segment of the community which often occurs with some project such as affordable housing. Community design should take a project to the next level of being more than just a means to an end.

How do you define / describe what you do?

As a landscape architect, I believe we have the vision and tools to bring people together to facilitate a process that fosters creativity and hence meaningful design that allows projects to become part of the community fabric.

How do you as a landscape architect add value to community design projects?

As landscape architects we have had been afforded the training and knowledge to see and access the big picture. Our background makes us key project members to achieve that end product which is more than just developing a space but making that space part of the community.

Regan Pence, ASLA
PPN Officer
Landscape Architecture Practice Lead, Lamp Rynearson
Omaha, NE

Regan Pence, ASLA

What is a community design? How do you define / describe what you do?

As a landscape architect I collaborate with communities, developers, lawyers, planners, architects and engineers to design communities. I gather input from these various areas of expertise and translate it into a physical environment. In turn, I can also provide support to my peers in community development by offering expertise to guide policy, future outcomes and environmental impacts.

How do you as a landscape architect add value to community design projects?

The ability to translate between planner, architect and engineer. Expertise in the natural and built environments. Technical proficiencies to communicate design intentions.

ASLA offers 20 Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) that represent the major practice areas within the profession of landscape architecture. All ASLA members may join one PPN for free as part of their ASLA membership. The Community Design PPN leadership team is made up of PPN members who volunteer to get involved at the leadership level. To learn more, see ASLA’s PPN Leadership Opportunities page. If you are interested in becoming more active in the Community Design PPN, please contact the PPN’s Chair.

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