What Does the Doctrine of Discovery Have to Do With Environmental Justice?

by Zoé Edgecomb, ASLA

Americae sive qvartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio. At the time European monarchs began granting lands of the New World to their subjects, geography was a young science, and land surveying as we know it had not yet been invented. / image: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

We need a history lesson

To really understand the American landscape, you need to know about the Doctrine of Discovery. As a set of principles used to justify European colonization, it grew over hundreds of years to become a pillar of international law, and it set the stage for centuries of imperialism worldwide.

These days, most people agree that not everyone benefited from the process of U.S. colonization. White settlers broke treaties with Native American nations, drove the buffalo nearly to extirpation, and ripped children from their mothers to be sold as slaves in the service of cotton production. But unless you’re Native American, it’s likely you’ve never heard of “Discovery.” ASLA’s position on environmental justice calls on us to address unequal distribution of resources related to land, including clean air, water, and food. The colonialist Doctrine of Discovery is at the root of unequal distribution in the United States, and for that reason it’s essential that we know about it.

Continue reading

Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey

Palmyra's theatre reconstructed
A 3D reconstruction of Palmyra’s theatre / image: Alexandra Hay

Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC
January 25 – October 25, 2020

Age Old Cities is a striking exhibit that opened this weekend in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. It recreates sites in Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq through extraordinarily detailed documentation of their current state and 3D reconstructions projected on the gallery walls.

While the “magic of technology,” as described in the wall text at the exhibit’s entry, may sound over-dramatic, the large-scale visuals and their immersive presentation are arresting. A blend of archival materials, drone imagery, and photogrammetry capture—the same technology used in the 2019 ASLA Award-winning project Artful Technology Methods for Communicating Non-Standard Construction Materials to digitally scan landscape boulders, and for other applications within the fields of landscape architecture historic preservation—allowed for the creation of profoundly affecting visual restorations that transport the viewer.

Continue reading

Advancing Landscape Architecture Through Advocacy

The Capitol, Washington, DC
image: EPNAC

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) works with ASLA’s chapters, state and federal legislators, state and administration officials, and regulatory bodies to advance policies critical to the profession. ASLA’s current priorities are:

  • Licensure
  • Climate Change and Resilience
  • Environmental Justice
  • Public Lands and National and Community Parks
  • Transportation Design and Planning
  • Water and Stormwater Management

The new year may have only just begun, but ASLA’s Government Affairs team has already put forth a host of statements and updates in recent weeks. Below is a recap of recent announcements, in case you missed them, plus where to find the latest advocacy news.

National Scenic Byways Nominations Process Announced

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced that the application packet for nominations for new National Scenic Byways will be available on their website on February 13, 2020. For the first time in 12 years, state and tribal scenic byways around the country will have the opportunity to apply for the important National Scenic Byways status.

Continue reading

The 2019 HALS Challenge Results: Historic Streetscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Carretera Central, HALS PR-2, San Juan, Caguas, Cayey, Aibonito, Coamo, Juana Diaz, and Ponce, Puerto Rico. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The results of the tenth annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge were announced at the HALS Meeting during the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego on Saturday, November 16, 2019. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top three submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 15 impressive HALS short format historical reports and a few measured drawings and large format photographs to the HALS collection.

2019 HALS Challenge: Historic Streetscapes

First Place: Carretera Central, HALS PR-2
Puerto Rico
by Teresita M. Del Valle, RA, ASLA

Second Place: Larchwood, HALS MA-5
Cambridge, Massachusetts
by Allison A. Crosbie, ASLA, Preservation Administrator, and Kathleen Rawlins, Assistant Director, City of Cambridge Historical Commission.

Third Place: Broad Street, HALS SC-20
Charleston, South Carolina
by John Bennett, Kayleigh Defenbaugh, Monica Hendricks, Tanesha High, Elliott Simon, and Rachel Wilson – Clemson University / College of Charleston. Faculty Sponsor: Carter L. Hudgins, Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.

Honorable Mention: Main Street, HALS SC-21
Greenville, South Carolina
by Rebekah Lawrence, Associate ASLA

Continue reading

Nurture the Palette for Your Own Murals

by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, ASLA

Green wall
Green mural at Clariant ten years after installation / image: Mingzhu Nerval

An Interview with Antoine Nerval on International Practice and Planting Design

“The potential of landscape planting design is often limited by the supply of plant materials, especially when proposing a complex and diverse living system. Such proposals are in many cases considered unrealistic and too expensive…that is why we decided to start from plant collection and plant nursery.”
– Antoine Nerval

Antoine Nerval is an agricultural engineer who designs vertical gardens. He has created living murals and built nurseries around the world, and is currently working on one of the world’s largest botanical gardens in Normandy, France. This interview—conducted by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, past chair of ASLA’s International Practice Professional Practice Network (PPN), for a research project—sheds light on Antoine’s unconventional practice and approach to landscape architecture and international planting design.

Coming from a French agricultural engineering background, what did you find particularly different working in the field of landscape architecture? Did anything catch your attention practicing alongside landscape architects in the United States?

It has been easy to communicate with landscape architects because I myself also love to draw or ‘graffiti’ on the paper, and the scale of landscape is similar to larger murals. From my point of view, it is a perfect mix between agriculture engineering and art.

I think in the United States, the landscape architecture industry is very mature and professional, but the specialization also leads to the disconnection between plants and design. Working alongside many excellent teams, I was surprised to find little design discussion about planting materials in the early conceptual phase. The plant selection often only got serious at a much later phase, where designers have less control. It is quite a missed opportunity for many talented landscape designers. For me, my first thoughts for any design projects would always be inspired by particular plants or settings, and then the designs evolve around them.

Continue reading

Nominate Your Peers for Recognition: 2020 ASLA Honors

ASLA Design Medal
ASLA’s highest honors are presented at the President’s Dinner during the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. The 2019 ASLA Design Medal winner was Douglas Reed, FASLA. / image: EPNAC

We may only be a few weeks into the new year, but the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) already has several deadlines coming up. Help to ensure your voice is heard, that you and your colleagues are recognized for your work and leadership, and that your landscape architecture practice area is represented by taking part in one or more of these open calls—for presentations, nominations, and exemplary projects:

Call for Presentations for the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture
Deadline: Thursday, January 23, 2020, 11:59 p.m. PST

Honors Nominations
Deadline: Friday, February 7, 2020, 6:00 p.m. EST

Professional Awards Call for Entries
Deadline for entry fees: Friday, February 21, 2020
Deadline for submissions: Friday, March 6, 2020, 11:59 p.m. PST

Student Awards Call for Entries
Deadline for entry fees: Monday, May 4, 2020
Deadline for submissions: Monday, May 11, 2020, 11:59 p.m. PST

Below, we take a closer look at each of the ASLA Honors, including a new honor to recognize the outstanding and innovative contributions of emerging leaders in the field. These prestigious awards recognize individuals and organizations for their lifetime achievements and notable contributions to the profession of landscape architecture.

Continue reading

Performance-Based Plant Selection for Bioretention

by Jeremy Person, PLA, ASLA, Brian Wethington, Donna Evans, and Irene Ogata, ASLA

Bioretention planter in Portland, OR
Bioretention planter in Portland, OR, planted with large native plants. Oversized plantings cause visibility issues for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists and create maintenance liabilities. / image: City of Portland

For more than two decades landscape architects and stormwater professionals have been utilizing vegetated bioretention systems to help address complex stormwater and climate change-related issues. Bioretention systems use a combination of soil and plants to collect, detain, treat, and infiltrate runoff from roads, roofs, and other impervious surfaces. It is becoming apparent that plant health is one of the major drivers of increasing life-cycle costs, and that improper plant selection is partially to blame.

Landscape architects, horticulturalists, and designers are beginning to better define which characteristics make a plant ideal for use in bioretention. Understanding the site-specific needs for plants and identifying project goals allow designers to address performance issues up front and reduce long-term maintenance liabilities. The following three issues should be considered as early in a project as possible:

1. Project Goals and Facility Design

The two major goals for most bioretention projects are pollution reduction and flow control. Projects may serve one goal or both, and this may vary across a city or region. Bioretention facilities are designed for project-specific hydraulic regimes with controlled flooding and hydroperiods that affect plant viability. This affects plant selection in several ways:

  • Hydroperiod: Understanding the flooding cycle of the facility, its frequency, and how it relates to the growing cycle of the plants is critical. Smaller plants often fail because they are routinely flooded during the growing season, depriving them of needed oxygen. Designers should prioritize plants that grow taller than the high-water level and take cues from native wetland plants that have evolved to tolerate similar hydroperiods.

Continue reading

Reflections on Housing Diversity

by Regan Pence, ASLA

Aerial photo from a drone flight over a residential development in Omaha
From a drone flight over Omaha / image: Regan Pence

I am a practicing landscape architect in Omaha, Nebraska, and I have grown to love the community and the projects I have been a part of. Since my move to Omaha seven years ago, I have often questioned why there is such an absence of variety in housing options in Omaha. The options appear to be incredibly limited compared to some of the other cities I have lived in or visited. Omaha is a city within proximity of several larger metropolitan areas, and Metropolitan Omaha is nearly 1,000,000 people. So, what is the reason for the lack of diversity in homes?

Over time, I ruminated more and more over this question. The lack of housing product is not necessarily a new issue, and innumerable metropolitan areas around the world have already experienced these crossroads. The difference with many of those areas, however, is that they arrived at a conclusion many years ago. Eventually, there is always a tipping point that requires innovation to survive. Upon approaching that tipping point, the conversation evolves from how we can continue to provide housing, to how do we thoughtfully provide housing to everyone (while being respectful of our resources).

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to assist with numerous projects and explore countless new housing concepts. Unfortunately, there are occasions where the housing concepts I’ve worked through don’t seem to get the traction I expect—even if they are proven concepts borrowed from successful projects in other municipalities. After spending time thinking over this reluctance, I began to understand that perhaps I was selling ideas that were forced or premature for the region. Until recently, there was a lack of demand for innovative housing products. Developers were profitable, and the community was content with the current supply. Recently, however, I’ve started to hear a buzz on the street. People are curious as to where the new housing products are, what is the missing-middle, and why am I living next to a corn field?

In response, I began to deliberate with some of our local development community. I sought to understand the challenges from all points of view, rather than simply focus on the designer or academic perspective. Below you’ll find pieces from one of those discussions.

Continue reading

A Recap of the ASLA Conference from the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

by Ilisa Goldman, ASLA, Missy Benson, ASLA, and Amy Wagenfeld, Affil. ASLA

The Living Laboratories: Exploring San Diego’s Nature-Based Outdoor Learning field session during the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture.
Attendees enjoying a stop on the Living Laboratories: Exploring San Diego’s Nature-Based Outdoor Learning field session / image: Ilisa Goldman

With the recent release of the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, let’s give homage to the iconic late Fred Rogers and his thoughts about play. He said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Our Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (COE PPN) presence at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego fully aligned with Mr. Roger’s sentiments. Here’s how.

It began with a field session, Living Laboratories: Exploring San Diego’s Nature-Based Outdoor Learning, led by COE PPN Co-Chair Ilisa Goldman, ASLA, Park Landscape Architect with the City of San Diego, and Andrew Spurlock, FASLA, of Spurlock Landscape Architects. The excitement and sense of wonder filled the double-decker bus as the this sold out session got started. The first stop was the CDA Hilltop Child Development Center (CDC) in Chula Vista, designed by Ilisa in 2012. Program Director at Child Development Associates (CDA), Susan Holley, and Ilisa led a tour through the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE), discussing the concepts behind the design, site layout, installation, maintenance, and lessons learned. Highlights included the Habitat gARTen, the mud kitchen, and vegetable garden.

From the Hilltop CDC, the field session headed to the community of Encanto in South East San Diego to visit the EarthLab, run by Groundwork San Diego/Chollas Creek. Education Director Joanna Proctor led the group through the project site, which included a native garden/pocket park, outdoor learning amphitheater, educational creek bed, production gardens, and newly installed accessible pathways. An engaging discussion about partnerships with the school district and community, and curricular connections, took place.

Continue reading