2019 in Review: Professional Practice Networks Highlights

ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) provide opportunities for professionals interested in the same areas of practice to exchange information, learn about current practices and research, and network with each other—both online and in person at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture.

Throughout the year, PPN leaders and members share their experiences and expertise as authors for The Field blog and as presenters for ASLA’s Online Learning webinars. In 2019, the PPNs published 101 posts for The Field and organized 16 webinars. We would like to thank all of you who contributed to this shared body of knowledge in 2019! These opportunities are open to all ASLA members, and we hope to grow our group of PPN contributors in 2020.

Below, we highlight the top 10 Field posts and best-attended live Online Learning presentations of the year, but be sure to check out the full PPN 2019 in Review for additional information, including highlights from PPN Live at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego and how all ASLA members can contribute and participate on a national level through the PPNs.

Continue reading

Urban Design is Now a Stand-Alone Category for the ASLA Awards Program

by Thomas Schurch, PhD, ASLA, PLA

ASLA 2018 Professional Honor Award in General Design. Chicago Riverwalk | State Street to Franklin Street. Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects. / image: ©Christian Phillips Photography

The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Honors and Awards Advisory Committee has crossed an important threshold for the profession by recently acting to add urban design as an awards category for submissions of suitable work by professionals and students of landscape architecture. This necessary and welcome development commences with the 2020 ASLA awards program, which is now open for entries, and will allow our colleagues in practice and education to demonstrate to the world landscape architecture’s unique capabilities in the 21st century’s growing and rapidly changing urban realm.

In implementing this change, the ASLA Honors and Awards Advisory Committee—in partnership with the Urban Design Professional Practice Network (PPN)—concluded that in our era of urbanization the great work done by landscape architects in enhancing urban environments is deserving of focused recognition. And, of course, landscape architecture’s shaping of urban form reflects not only recent professional practice, but dates to the earliest days of the profession. This significant addition to the national awards program gives ASLA members the opportunity to be credited for outstanding work concerning urban design, urban form, and meaningful place within an urban context while implicitly reminding us of our design legacy.

Therefore, it’s not a matter of urban design being new to landscape architecture, but to underscore the profession’s ability to shape growing urban environments in the 21st century, continuing a longstanding contribution towards truly dynamic and meaningful outcomes in which quality of life, sustainability, and ecological resilience are paramount. It is largely for this reason that landscape architecture came to the fore in the 19th century, given the needs of the time. And currently, when compared with the allied professions of architecture and urban planning, whose professional associations—along with the Urban Land Institute and Congress for the New Urbanism—already identify urban design for award recognition, one can say that the needs today are more demanding and challenging than ever.

Continue reading

Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019

Bicyclists on the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway
Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, NY / image: Eric Hamilton

State Scenic Byways are roads or highways under federal, state, or local ownership that have been designated by the state through legislation or some other official declaration for their ability to meet one or more of the six intrinsic qualities. Federal guidance identified these intrinsic qualities as scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archeological, and/or natural. The Scenic Byway program was initiated under the 1992 Federal transportation legislation known as ISTEA. The federal program was discontinued in 2012.

On September 22, 2019 the President signed H.R. 831, Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019. The act directs the Secretary of Transportation to request nominations for and make determinations regarding roads to be designated under the National Scenic Byway Program. Only roadways already designated as state byways with Corridor Management Plans (CMPs) are eligible to apply.

Because the legislation references National Scenic Byway designation exclusively, it is unclear if byways will be permitted to seek All-American Road (AAR) designation. What is clear is that the scenic byway dedicated federal funding program available when the Federal Scenic Byway Program was initiated in 1992 remains defunct. Scenic Byway organizations continue to be eligible to partner with municipalities and apply for funding under the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program for transportation alternatives (TA). Activities eligible for TA funding include scenic pull offs, interpretative signs, and highway beautification projects. Neither corridor management plan preparation nor administrative costs associated with managing a byway are eligible for TA funding (it should be noted that the latter never was eligible for federal funding).

Incentives for becoming a National Scenic Byway include advertising opportunities, exposure on FHWA’s National Scenic Byway website, and the potential to appeal to a tourism community that extends far beyond state boundaries.

Continue reading

Designing for Health: How SITES Improves Quality of Life

by Sonja Trierweiler

image: photo by Jennifer Birdie Shawker on Unsplash

Only 11 percent of people associate terms like “green space” and “green building” with creating an environment in which people live longer and healthier lives. Improved air quality is proven to increase cognitive function and decision-making skills, and connection to nature and natural materials promotes human health and wellbeing—yet only 11 percent of people see and understand this link.

This number came from research conducted as part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Living Standard campaign, which was launched at Greenbuild Chicago in November 2018. Living Standard aims to promote healthier, safer, more equitable, and more sustainable spaces through research, storytelling, and listening to those both inside and outside of our communities.

The Living Standard Report, Volume I, found that only 11 percent of people surveyed associated terms like “green space” and “green building” as strongly related to creating a healthy environment. The graph above shows different words and phrases associated with the environment and being green. Survey takers were asked: which THREE words or phrases are MOST STRONGLY / LEAST related to creating an environment that lets you live a longer and healthier life? / image: The Living Standard Report, Volume I

Our research has found that there are a number of ways we can help people connect the dots, including relating green spaces back to health and safety outcomes, future generations, and environmental stakes. But ultimately, it boils down to storytelling and localization.

Continue reading

Submit Your Ideas for the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture

Miami Beach Soundscape by West 8 / image: photo by Robin Hill ©

The American Society of Landscape Architects is now accepting proposals for the 2020 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Miami through January 23.

The ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is the largest gathering of landscape architects and allied professionals in the world—all coming together to learn, celebrate, build relationships, and strengthen the bonds of our incredibly varied professional community.

We are seeking education proposals that will help to drive change in the field of landscape architecture and solve everyday challenges informed by research and practice. Help us shape the 2020 education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

New for 2020

The conference education program will be organized across dynamic conference tracks designed to help you focus on the challenges that are most important to you. Before you submit your proposal, prepare by reviewing the 2020 conference tracks and descriptions. For your submission, select one of 14 tracks that represent topics most relevant to the practice of landscape architecture and cross sector collaborations today.

Please visit the submission site to learn more about criteria, the review process, and key dates. ASLA members are invited to log in to the online system using their unique ASLA ID.

Continue reading

Two Women [Re]Making Wikipedia History

by TJ Marston, ASLA

image: Alexandra Mei

Starting this Sunday, December 8, the The Wikipedia Project is taking over the WxLA Instagram!

The Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WiLA PPN)’s new Wiki Officer, Alexandra Mei, Associate ASLA, and her research partner Shira Grosman, Student ASLA, created The Wikipedia Project to share their work promoting the history of women in landscape architecture in Wikipedia.

“As a shared and open resource, Wikipedia provides a public platform for us to acknowledge and celebrate the groundbreaking work that women have contributed to the field.”
– Alexandra Mei, WiLA Wiki Officer

The takeover will last one week, December 8 – December 14, so make sure you follow @w_x_la to catch it all!

Wiki Writers:

Alexandra Mei, Associate ASLA, is a landscape designer at Merritt Chase and a lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis. She recently completed a two-year research fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, focused on the patterns of weathering and decay in the design of public landscapes. Alexandra graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and from Harvard GSD with her masters in landscape architecture. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in St. Louis.

Shira Grosman, Student ASLA, is a Masters Candidate in Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD. She has worked in landscape architecture and architecture firms in New York and Los Angeles and conducted multiple research projects on women in design. She is currently co-editor of Womxn in Design‘s Bibliography on Identity Theories. Shira graduated from WashU with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

Continue reading

Nature’s Capacity to Create a Lifetime Home

by Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA

Farmer David, age 4, helping to create our first family garden. / image: Amy Wagenfeld

I think that my commitment to nature all started with my childhood home. I grew up in a very busy Midwestern household, the oldest of four children, with two transplanted Brooklyn, New York academics for parents. My parents’ prior experience with plants and gardening was nil. Nonetheless, upon purchasing our home in Southwest Michigan, they tackled installing a vegetable garden in our suburban home with great zest and enthusiasm; determined to be farmers and to cast aside their collective urban world view. Their interest in the garden rapidly waned, but much to their surprise, their six-year-old daughter (me) took to the dirt with unfettered passion and zeal.

I quickly found that tending to the garden was a means to escape from three pesky younger siblings and find quiet and solitude amongst the veggies. It was my place in our home, a place where I felt most attached and connected and whole. The garden was where I wanted to be whenever I could. When it came time to harvest, I can still recall, half a century later, a sense of sheer wonder and delight in what I, as a little six-year-old girl, had nurtured all summer long. I can point to those early experiences in our vegetable garden as the catalyst for what would ultimately define my professional work and lifelong love of gardening and nature as a means to define home and to enhance the human experience.

As an occupational therapy educator, researcher, and landscape design consultant, my work focuses on how experiences in nature impact health and wellbeing. I am increasingly interested in how childhood experiences with nature can enrich parent-child as well as place attachment relationships and buffer the impact of trauma. We want our children to develop healthy and secure attachment relationships with their caregivers and to home and to be whole. These relationships may be nurtured through experiences in nature.

Continue reading