Getting Outside Has Never Been So Meaningful

by the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN leadership team

A family visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden, pre-COVID-19. The Garden is currently closed through June 30, 2020, but is offering virtual tours and other activities for families. / image: Amy Wagenfeld

Hello from the entire Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team! Now, more than ever, people are discovering (or re-discovering) what we all know so well: that being outside is healthful, restorative, joyful, and, hopefully, just makes you feel better about life. With that said, during this time of COVID-19 and the need to practice social distancing, we decided to work together on a post with information and resources about various outdoor activities for adults to do with children. Some of the activities are more passive, like viewing nature; others are nature craft-focused; and some are more active, getting everyone outside and movement-oriented.

Please feel free to share these resources widely and, even better, share your favorite outdoor family or inter-generational “quaranteam” activity with our PPN LinkedIn group. Let’s keep this conversation going and make time to experience all that nature offers us and the young people in our lives, in a safe and responsible way.

Resources for Outdoor Activities with Your Children

The Discover Landscape Architecture Activity Book for Children from ASLA is a free, downloadable publication full of hands-on ideas that introduce children to four of the building blocks that landscape architects apply to designing outdoor spaces. ASLA’s Tools for Teachers page offers additional educational resources and activities.

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Sherry Frear Appointed Chief of the National Register of Historic Places & National Historic Landmarks Program

by Barbara Wyatt, ASLA

Sherry Frear, ASLA, RLA

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced the appointment of Sherry Frear, ASLA, RLA, as the new chief of the National Register of Historic Places / National Historic Landmarks Program. Supported by credentials in landscape architecture, historic preservation, project management, and sustainable practices, her experience encompasses programming, planning, compliance, design and construction, operations and maintenance, interpretation and outreach, and policy development.

She spent her formative professional years with a large Washington, D.C., law firm with a specialty in construction litigation. Volunteer work at the National Building Museum led her to Cornell University, where she earned her MA (Historic Preservation) and MLA. Sherry has worked at the city, county, and federal levels. Most recently, she worked with the General Services Administration in the Office of Design and Construction—part of the Public Buildings Service. In that position she focused on program-level responses to documentation efforts, sustainability issues, and compliance challenges.

Sherry Frear is the first landscape architect to lead the nation’s flagship historic designation programs. The National Historic Landmarks (NHL) Program has long been a designation program for historic properties of exceptional national significance. It evolved from the Historic Sites Act of 1935, which gave the NPS the responsibility of conducting surveys to identify properties that “possess exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States.” Today, there are nearly 2,600 National Historic Landmarks—both privately and publicly owned—but all of exceptional historical, architectural, or archeological significance.

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Urban Villages, Town Design, New Urbanism: Where Does Landscape Architecture Stand?

by Thomas Schurch, ASLA, PLA

The GRID is a mixed-use redevelopment project planned for the former Texas Instruments campus in Stafford. / image: TBG Partners (courtesy of Gensler)

Introduction

Landscape architecture has remarkable bona fides in the practice of urban design, and practitioners and students of landscape architecture continuously embrace this important dimension of the profession. Recognition of this fact is reflected in the ASLA’s recent adoption of urban design as a separate category in the national awards program for practitioners and students. Of course, urban design is a competitive endeavor in the greater environmental planning and design community, and landscape architecture—while offering much regarding urban form in the twenty-first century—is a relatively small profession.

However, a compelling case can be made that of the three professions sharing urban design “ownership,” landscape architecture has the most to offer in our emerging “green century.” In this respect, the range of urban design the profession engages in is enormous and can be the subject of a separate article. Nevertheless, one significant example of this range is the focus of this post, and comes under different and somewhat synonymous headings, e.g., urban villages, neighborhood design, new towns, community design, and what Kevin Lynch referred to as “city design.”

New Urbanism

This discussion would be incomplete without considering New Urbanism. With its emergence 35 years ago, and subsequent growth and development, landscape architecture’s longstanding contributions predating New Urbanism are diminished and underappreciated. Moreover, recent history demonstrates that design of communities is often being relinquished to others, particularly our colleagues in architecture.

New Urbanism deserves credit for fostering a discourse at a critical juncture of human settlement. Questions of urban quality of life vis-a-vis numerous post-World War II developments are at the heart of this conversation, including attention to sprawl, monotonous and homogeneous housing developments, outmoded zoning ordinances, automobile dependence and problems associated with traffic engineering, loss of a sense of community, tower housing, “big box” retail, etc.

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Healing from Harvest: Community Gardens as Healing Gardens

by Siyi He, Associate ASLA

Harvest celery, rainbow chard, and ginger. / image: Siyi He

Every spring in early April, some residents who live in the South End neighborhood of Boston go to Berkeley Garden to sow seeds on a plot they rent. They expect to harvest some greens, such as peas, broccoli, yin tsai, taro, or bitter melon, in the later days of summer. As one of the largest community gardens in the city, this forty-year-old garden, as well as so many other community gardens in the city, brings the joy and healing of harvest to people.

Living in an urban area isolates people from nature. We rarely get to smell or touch the texture of the soil. Getting vegetables from the grocery store is the easiest and most convenient way for us, leading to city dwellers who would never know where those vegetables come from or when would be the best time to plant certain vegetables. Not to mention, every city has food deserts. Vulnerable people, such as lower income residents, might have a difficult time obtaining healthy foods grown without pesticides. A community garden could help people to add organic vegetables to their diet in an affordable way.

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COVID-19 Impressions from the Historic Preservation PPN

images, clockwise from top left: John Giganti, Marilyn Wyatt, Jessica Baumert, and David Driapsa

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of life, from personal interactions to business to learning to recreation. As we all continue to adjust to life and work during the pandemic, we will be sharing insights, observations, and impressions from ASLA members based around the country. Today, we share brief updates from a few of the volunteer members of ASLA’s Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN)’s leadership team and the PPN’s Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) subcommittee:

  • David Driapsa, FASLA – Naples, Florida
  • Rebecca W. Flemer, Affiliate ASLA – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Ann Mullins, FASLA – Aspen, Colorado
  • Douglas Nelson, ASLA – Mill Valley, California
  • Elena M. Pascarella, ASLA – Rhode Island
  • Barbara Wyatt, ASLA – New York

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Community Engagement in Times of Quarantine

by Allysha Lorber, ASLA, and Elisabeth McCollum

image: photo by Sue Zeng on Unsplash

Just a few weeks ago, we didn’t anticipate being told to “stay-at-home” in quarantine while a global health pandemic ravaged public health and the economy. For those of us who work in the transportation industry, we’re used to projects lasting for years with a schedule of milestones set in place, one leading to the next. Spring is a time when many projects reach that critical milestone of a public meeting. Community engagement is part of the critical path, and project decisions can’t be made, allowing the project to advance, without meaningful opportunities to hear public input. How can we engage with communities when we must be “socially distant”?

Projects across the country are being put on hold, unable to reach that critical milestone of a public meeting while our constituents are safely staying home, busy working overtime performing an essential service, or worse—battling sickness themselves. However, public engagement can still occur—even if it’s in a different form than we originally planned.

Virtual public meetings aren’t new, but now more than ever, they are being embraced as an effective tool to engage with community members and project stakeholders. Meetings can be hosted on a variety of platforms allowing presenters to share presentations and discuss ideas with small groups of community members. These meetings can be advertised in all the same ways that traditional in-person meetings are publicized—on websites, through the press and social media, and by mail. Paid advertisements can also be effective at getting the word out and directing people to a website where they can connect.

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Therapeutic Garden Design in Chile

by Kat Shiffler, Student ASLA

Watercolor sketch of a hospital's therapeutic garden
The Jacarandá Garden at San Borja Arriarán, a public hospital in Santiago. / image: Kat Shiffler

I was drawn to landscape architecture out of a specific desire to create healthcare environments that help people heal. As I finish my second year of graduate school at the University of Michigan, I find myself working from an improvised home office instead of the design studio. My desk looks out upon a modest park, where I see record numbers of people walking, running, and sitting—absorbing the benefits of urban greenspace in these anxious times. Today, the universal importance of therapeutic design is thrown into high relief as the whole world is transformed into one big waiting room.

In December, I traveled to Chile to check out some inspirational healthcare gardens and meet with staff from Fundación Cosmos, a Santiago-based NGO that focuses on the ecological and socially sustainable development of parks. I interviewed the foundation’s principals on their work, philosophy, and the state of the landscape architecture profession in Chile, and am sharing the conversation, with my translation into English, here on The Field.

What inspires you to do this work?

We are inspired to live in harmony with the environment, conscious of our interdependence with all living beings and our responsibility for the protection of ecological integrity which sustains life on earth. This is our vision as a foundation.

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April is World Landscape Architecture Month

The Platte to Park Hill: Stormwater Systems project, featured in ASLA’s Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities conversation guide, “A Stormwater Problem Becomes a Health Equity Opportunity.” / image: Livable Cities Studio

Landscape architects and allied professionals have kicked off World Landscape Architecture Month 2020 and the Life Grows Here campaign with great energy, engaging through social media and virtual interactions to keep this annual international celebration of landscape architecture and designed public and private spaces going strong, despite the current circumstances. All are invited to participate in WLAM2020, from wherever you are, in celebration and recognition of the spaces landscape architects create.

What’s happening this April for WLAM:

Keep an eye on ASLA’s social media feeds on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and the hashtags #WLAM2020 and #LifeGrowsHere for notable projects, practitioners, and progress in the field.

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In Case You Missed It: Environmental Justice PPN at ASLA San Diego

by Tom Martin, Associate ASLA, and Chingwen Cheng, PhD, ASLA

The 2019 Environmental Justice PPN Meeting
Tom Martin and Chingwen Cheng present at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture / image: ASLA

With the arrival of spring comes an opportunity for reflection, and four months have already passed since the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego.

The theme of landscape architecture and equity, inclusion, justice, and diversity was front and center in San Diego. As education sessions addressed these topics through the lens of profession demographics, engagement strategies, and the implications of past decisions, attendees were challenged to reconsider what the profession of landscape architecture can look like.

Within the Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN), we spent the year leading up to the conference contemplating how environmental justice is understood within our profession, and how we might be able to develop and communicate frameworks that promote environmental justice as a tool for positive change. During our PPN Live session, we addressed our findings and action plan moving forward. Separated into three categories, below is a summary of what was presented.

Investigate!

In March 2019 we distributed a survey with the intent to understand landscape architects’ grasp of and level of interest in environmental justice. We saw this as being a vital first step toward enacting initiatives aimed at better integrating environmental justice into the profession of landscape architecture.

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