The Venice Biennale is a large art exhibition that started in 1895. Since then, it has become one of the world’s most famous art festivals, and other cities have started similar large international art festivals. Reports show more than 300 art festivals globally, according to the Biennial Foundation. These art festivals integrate with community, tourism, and regeneration. As a result, they serve as a vehicle for city planning. This post asserts that art biennales are a modality of local regeneration, with my experience at Japan’s Biwako Biennale as a case study.
The Biwako Biennale is an international contemporary art festival that occurs every two years in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture. Omihachiman is a small town located on the east shore of Lake Biwa. The daimyo Hidetsugu Toyotomi established a castle town south of Mt. Hachiman in 1585 and brought merchants and artisans from the adjacent town. The city thrived as a merchant town, relying on the Lake Biwa and land routes for trade. Merchants built gorgeous houses along the street and castle canal. As a result, the town used to be lively with locals and visitors.
As we cross the year-threshold of a topsy-turvy life-changing event, recreation and parks have continued to persist and provide for our communities in ways not ever explored before. When people were told to isolate themselves in California, our recreation and park districts asked our communities to come outside and play in our open space safely. Our parks have experienced increased foot traffic even while our agency wasn’t able to offer our typical sports and recreation programming. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case nationwide. We’ve continued to evolve recreation programming away from team sports, camps, and gatherings to virtual 5ks, grab-and-go activities, park scavenger hunts, and online recreation. As one can imagine, after recreating recreation for 365+ days, creativity wanes, and new ideas are becoming sparse.
Enter World Landscape Architecture Month. Our profession’s month-long international celebration is a perfect time to increase awareness about our profession, the environment, and spaces many people hold dearly. Parks have always been a place of celebration, reflection, activity, learning, reverence, and so many other feelings, nouns, and verbs that one blog post cannot contain. Still, few grasp what goes into the design and development of these and other landscapes. North of the River Recreation and Park District (NOR) is hosting a month-long virtual series honoring landscape architecture within the world around us.
Tennessee racked up the most designations, including two All-American Roads and three National Scenic Byways. New Jersey added four new National Byways, and Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, and Wisconsin all had three byways designated as either All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways.
Several multi-state byways were among those receiving new or upgraded federal designations. The longest, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Lincoln Highway now has three National Scenic Byways along the corridor: Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois (designated a NSB in 2000). Historic Route 66 in Missouri became an AAR—the only portion of the famous route to achieve this prestigious designation. Other segments of Route 66 (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Illinois, and Arizona) are National Scenic Byways. New Mexico joined Colorado and Utah as a National Scenic Byway along the Trail of the Ancients. North Carolina and Tennessee received AAR designation for their Newfound Gap Road Byway, and the Palisades Scenic Byway became a NSB in New York and New Jersey. To see a complete list of America’s Byways, check out FHWA’s website.
The Applied Research Consortium (ARC) is a new program within University of Washington’s College of Built Environments that links graduate students, faculty members, and firms to research a topic collaboratively. Now in my final year of UW’s MLA program, I am leading a year-long research project through an ARC Fellowship. The research is focused on racial equity within built environment design practice. More specifically, I am looking at how perceptions of workplace culture within design practice affect employee retention and goals around equity and inclusion.
To better understand existing perceptions of workplace culture, I have created a short, anonymous survey aimed at design professionals. Through this survey, I hope to learn what aspects of workplace culture need the most improvement and provide a set of recommendations for how workplaces can positively shift their culture.
Your help is needed! The survey closes at the end of March. I am seeking participation from landscape architects to reach the respondent goal. Please feel free to share it widely with your professional networks. All responses are completely anonymous and highly valued.
The research project began in September 2020 with goal setting, a literature review, and scoping process. One of the goals that emerged from this early phase of the project is to widely share the findings, and subsequent recommendations for an industry-scale impact. In the spirit of sharing research, I would like to share a few key takeaways thus far:
The Built Environment is Racist
The built environment is a physical manifestation of our nation’s cultural and political history, and that history is racist. Some well-known examples of racism in the built environment include exclusionary redlining policies, the targeted siting of urban renewal projects, toxic industrial sites, and waste sites within communities of color, oppressive architecture of low-income housing projects, and inequitable urban economic development policies.
The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 12th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Documenting these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future.
Allensworth, HALS CA-68
In 2015 while returning home from a vacation in Tucson, Arizona, I decided to visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park in Tulare County, California. I learned about this unique historic park from the database of cultural landscapes that the Northern California HALS Chapter maintains. It is a resource I check regularly when traveling to find interesting places to explore.
We arrived at the state park campground late, so I waited until morning to explore the site, when everything was shrouded in fog. Allensworth State Park is what remains of what was once a thriving town built by and for African Americans. It was founded by five men—Allen Allensworth, a former slave, Union Army nurse, Baptist Minister, lecturer, and politician; William Payne, a school teacher; William Peck, an American Methodist Episcopal Church minister; J.W. Palmer, a Nevada miner; and Harvey Mitchel, a realtor from Los Angeles. They filed plans for a new township on August 3, 1908.
by Sarah Kwon, Affil. ASLA, and Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA
Help Build the ASLA Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (EJ PPN)’s Case Studies Database
One of the most frequently requested resources amongst landscape architects working on environmental justice is a database of precedent projects to reference. Since 2019, the EJ PPN has been collecting case studies in order to build a robust database of precedents. This database will share examples of how to integrate environmental justice into our field of practice.
You may submit your case study by completing this online form, which has a series of questions to collect information about engagement techniques, resources used, project outcomes, and lessons learned. We are interested in featuring your projects that demonstrate how environmental justice principles can be applied to design processes and outcomes.
Examples of incorporating environmental justice into your projects may include (but are not limited to) the following:
design processes that center on community voices;
projects that address disproportionate environmental burdens; and
outcomes that honor the cultural integrity of all communities.
How advocates for landscape architecture have shaped and are continuing to shape the waterfront of Duluth, Minnesota
Landscape architects are uniquely equipped to take on the challenges of the 21st century, but these challenges won’t always fall on our desks. We can easily point out problems in the built environment of our cities; we care about these issues and are trained to solve them; but more often than not, it takes somebody with a check to get us moving in any meaningful way. As problems in our cities continue mounting, we as landscape architects and designers can show the public our capabilities and commitment to the health of our communities by becoming landscape advocates, something which has proven successful in my city of Duluth, Minnesota.
A Bad Idea
The city of Duluth lies where the Great Lakes begin. Lake Superior stretches out from its shores towards an infinite horizon, while the city’s downtown straddles steep hills abutting the waterfront, creating a sort of urban amphitheater with the lake taking center stage. In spite of this visual relationship, the city and the waterfront have been historically disconnected from each other in the physical capacity. Industrialists were quick to develop the city into the world’s farthest inland port, and with this development came the privatization, and then pollution, of much of the city’s waterfront. Eventually economic tides turned and the port began to retract into the harbor, leaving a shoreline of scrapyards and dirty water, the perfect place to build an interstate highway—perfect according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) planners, at least.
By 1971, Interstate 35 had blasted its way through the western portion of Duluth, demolishing hundreds of homes and businesses before ending at the far edge of downtown, but the route’s planners weren’t finished yet. Plans were released showing the freeway continuing through downtown, across the east side of the city, and up the shore of the lake. While the idea of any extension of I-35 was itself controversial, the plans they released to the public created an uproar within the community that would last for decades.
Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on a survey conducted last year as part of the WxLA proposal for “Female Forward: Three Generations of Womxn Leaders Talk Life, Work, and Legacy,” by Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Emily Greenwood, Rebecca Leonard, and myself for the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. The data presented in this post comes from that survey, distributed last year with support from WxLA and ASLA. The survey’s aim was to collect information on emerging professionals’—those just entering the field—experiences, challenges, and opportunities in landscape architecture.
Survey Characteristics and Participant Demographics
The survey was open for 45 days, beginning on July 1, 2020. We asked respondents 21 questions in three categories:
Demographic Information (9 questions),
Workplace Culture (6 questions), and
Career Advancement & Self Development (6 questions).
The survey was completed by 71% of the 159 participants.
1992 was a year in which the world shifted gears on development, particularly within the sustainable realm. Not only because of Rio’s Earth Summit or Beijing’s Green Plan  and their third economic reform , but 1992 was also the year that the US lifted sanctions against China, the Cold War formally ended, and Barcelona had just hosted their Olympic Games, transforming the city while astonishing the world by transforming a large-scale media event into a project for the future of their citizens.
Barcelona overcame the challenge of being denied a seafront for recreation purposes for many years. Instead, they masterfully linked their urban fabric to the sea by establishing an urban connectivity between four strategic areas. This allowed them to gain more than 600 hectares of new green area, plazas, and parks  and further enabled the city of Barcelona to formally embrace the environmental concerns as a third pillar of Olympism . During this process, Barcelona was able to build what became one of the most valuable city brands in the world .