2021 in Review: Professional Practice Networks Highlights

2021, in short: 20 webinars. 100 blog posts. Reconnecting in Nashville.

As the year draws to a close, we would like to thank all the Professional Practice Network (PPN) leaders and members who shared their experiences and expertise as authors for The Field blog, as hosts, presenters, and engaged audience members for Online Learning webinars, and at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture last month.

Below, we highlight the top five Field posts and webinars; for the full top ten of each, plus PPN highlights from the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, please see the PPNs’ 2021 in Review.

And, in case you missed the conference this year, the first batch of education session recordings from Nashville are available on the ASLA Online Learning website; additional recordings will be added early in the new year.

Year in Review: The Field

The Field was established to give members in the field of landscape architecture a place to exchange information, learn about recent work and research, and share thoughts about emerging developments. Contributions are by members and for members, and we encourage all ASLA members with an idea or an experience to share to contribute to The Field.

Fresh content appears twice a week, and 100 posts were published in 2021.

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Chicago’s Obama Presidential Center Pursues SITES & LEED

by Paul Wessel

Obama Presidential Center
Photo courtesy of the Obama Foundation

We are delighted and honored that Chicago’s Obama Presidential Center has announced its plans to achieve LEED v4 Platinum, SITES Silver, and International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Zero Energy certification.

The most pertinent to ASLA members is their commitment to the SITES certification, a comprehensive certification system for creating sustainable and resilient land development projects. SITES promotes sustainable and resilient landscape development and can be used for development projects located on sites with or without buildings to enhance their sustainability, implement green infrastructure strategies, and improve resilience.

The Center is a historic opportunity to build a world-class museum and public gathering space on the South Side of Chicago that celebrates our nation’s first African American President and First Lady. It will host the offices of the Obama Foundation, a library, collaborative space for residents of Chicago’s South Side, a renewed and reinvigorated park, and a children’s play area.

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The 2021 HALS Challenge Winners: Historic Black Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

First Place 2021 HALS Challenge Winner: Golden Gate Village, HALS CA-158. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Results of the 12th annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge, Historic Black Landscapes, were announced at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville on November 21, 2021. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes will be awarded to the top four submissions (there was a tie for third place). This challenge resulted in the donation of 26 impressive HALS short format historical reports and a few measured drawings to the HALS collection for sites in 19 different states from coast to coast.

Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. From plantations to segregated cities, the nation’s landscapes retain the physical manifestations of our racist history. Yet historic Black landscapes also represent creative achievements and reflect Black culture. By documenting historic Black landscapes participants helped expand our understanding of America’s past and future, revealing patterns of community that have been built over the course of four hundred years.

First Place: Golden Gate Village, HALS CA-158
Sausalito, California
By Douglas Nelson, ASLA, RHAA Landscape Architects
Golden Gate Village is significant as a post-World War II public housing project that was created with a goal of providing a racially integrated community based on progressive social and environmental ideals.

Second Place: River View Farm, HALS VA-87
Charlottesville, Virginia
By Liz Sargent, FASLA, Principal, Liz Sargent HLA, with Steve Thompson, Dede Smith, and Nell Boeschenstein
Situated on a hill above the South Rivanna Reservoir five miles from the center of Charlottesville, River View Farm affords an unusual opportunity to understand an African American family farm of the post-Emancipation era.

Third Place (Tie):
Beltane Ranch, HALS CA-162
Glen Ellen, California
By Arthur Dawson, of Baseline Consulting, Kara Brunzell, of Brunzell Historical, and Janet Gracyk
Beltane Ranch is significant for its association with civil rights advocate and businesswoman Mary Ellen Pleasant, and the fact that Beltane has been run largely by women ever since she bought the property 125 years ago.

City Hall Park (Oscar Grant Plaza), HALS CA-157
Oakland, California
By Cecilia Distefano, Kelly Flairty, Cathy Garrett, ASLA (CA PLA, NVLA, LEED AP, CLARB), Evan MacGregor, Petra Marar, ASLA, Adrienne Newton, ASLA (CA PLA), Grace Tada, Assoc. ASLA, and Kari Tanaka (CA PLA, ULI)
Oscar Grant Plaza—unofficially eponymously named in honor of the Black East Bay resident killed by San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police in 2009—served as a central destination for protests, civil disobedience, vigils, art, and other public actions of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising for racial justice.

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Making Space for Pollinators

by Liia Koiv-Haus, ASLA

Black-eyed susans and solar panels
image: OpenEI / Creative Commons Zero

At least one third of the food we eat and 75% of flowering plants depend on pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths, bats, birds, wasps, beetles, and other insects (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Meanwhile, pollinator decline is happening due to loss of habitat, disease, parasites, and changing climate. In 2015-2016, 44% of managed bee colonies in the U.S. were lost (Bee Informed Partnership). Continuous declines in bee populations have caused prices for renting bees to skyrocket to four times the price they were in 2004. Data on wild pollinators is lacking, but overall pollinators are declining in 70% of countries due to changing land use patterns, pesticides, and other factors (Apidologie).

In 2014, the Obama Administration established a Pollinator Health Task Force with representatives from departments, agencies, and offices. This task force developed a National Pollinator Health Strategy with an action plan to conduct research on pollinators and restore habitat, prioritizing high risk areas. The action plan involved data collection, sharing, and modeling; strategies for creating affordable seed mixes, especially on post-fire restoration projects; preventing pollinator exposure to pesticides; producing a public education plan; and developing public-private partnerships. A major goal was to increase sheer land area of pollinator habitat, which has spurred strategic planning efforts.

One example strategy to promote pollinator health has been the “colocation” of solar panels and plants to maximize land use benefits: planting native wildflowers and grasses among rows of solar panels.

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The Architecture of Landscape Architecture Practices

by Yujia Wang, ASLA

Mountain View Pavilion
Mountain View Pavilion, a small, 200-square-meter service complex including a medical room, an accessible restroom, a small café, and plenty of public space. Designed by Urban Narratives Office L+P 一场景观规划

I have always thought the name of our profession to be very interesting—the phrase “landscape architecture,” a name that embodies a compelling combination and intersection of nature and the humanities. This may have even been one of the reasons I was drawn to enter the field in the first place.

Of course, the second half of the phrase, “architecture,” originally indicated “design” in general. As Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. wrote in his letter to Charles Eliot in 1886, “I prefer that we should call ourselves Landscape Architects…rather than landscape gardeners…because the former title better carries the professional idea. It makes more important the idea of ​​design.”

Interestingly, in recent years, I have discovered that the real, literal “architecture” aspect of landscape architecture is more and more reflected in my practice.

Part of this points to the fact that (small) architecture—some call it parkitecture—is oftentimes an inherent part of public space (for larger-scale  spaces, at least). Some of these architectural pieces are there to carry basic service functions, such as public restrooms, shower rooms, etc.; others provide operable square footage for the park: the likes of cafés, mini libraries, stages, galleries, and so on. They are a part of the programming and energize the public space. In the design of several large parks that I undertook, our landscape architecture office being the lead consultant, architectural design of this nature was considered by the client as a part of the overall scheme.

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Climate Action Now: Landscape Architects as Climate Advocates

Climate Action Now presenters Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, Scott Bishop, ASLA, April Philips, FASLA, Pamela Conrad, ASLA, and Adrian Smith, FASLA / image: courtesy of Adrian Smith

During the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville, representatives from ASLA’s Climate Action Committee (CAC) shared how ASLA is advocating for the landscape architecture community to have a voice in the international conversation on climate action, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s recent COP26.

Committee leaders discussed communications, action, advocacy, and working together with international coalitions to scale up the new inclusive, climate-smart planning and design practices required to achieve zero emissions in the built environment by 2040. Our presenters were:

  • Scott Bishop, ASLA, Climate Action Committee (CAC) Chair, Bishop Land Design
  • Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, CAC Immediate Past Chair
    Pamela Conrad, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture, Climate Positive Design
  • April Philips, FASLA, April Philips Design Works
  • Adrian Smith, FASLA, ASLA Vice President of Professional Practice, NYC Parks and Recreation

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