The field of landscape architecture is one of astonishing breadth, and one need only take a look at ASLA’s membership to see how wide an expanse landscape architects’ professional trajectories cover. ASLA’s Public Practice Advisory Committee aspires to encourage more landscape architects, including students and emerging professionals, to pursue careers in the public sector—working for local, state, and federal government agencies, universities and colleges, or parks and arboreta. Many of these ASLA members have found their way to public practice after years in private practice, looking to shape public policy and have an impact on public spaces for the common good.
The realm of public practice, including non-profit and governmental work, offers unique opportunities and challenges to practitioners. In an ongoing series for ASLA’s LAND newsletter, members of the Public Practice Advisory Committee and other landscape architects showcase those opportunities and share insights on their public practice careers. We highlight the most recent conversations below.
Haley Blakeman, FASLA, PLA
Suzanne L. Turner Professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University
Interview conducted by Om Khurjekar, ASLA, PLA, Principal, Hord Coplan Macht
“There was a public education component to every project. We never worked in a community unless the residents and leadership invited us. Many times, we did the initial community engagement, capacity building, and master planning that would then be followed by a detailed site design led by a design firm. We built support for projects, which made it easier for design firms to get projects funded and built.”
The poetry of sustainability is illustrated by a SITES pilot project, the Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, certified silver in 2015.
Sandwiched between a college campus and a heavily trafficked highway, the nineteen acres of the Hempstead Plains remain just as they were before humans set foot on Long Island: a native Eastern prairie. The Plains once comprised more than 40,000 acres before becoming suburbanized. Today, this precious oasis of grasses and forbs—paired with the new Education Center, made from recycled shipping containers and topped with a green roof—serves as an outdoor classroom for all ages of students.
Rhode Island has 39 cities and towns, and all have historic cemeteries within their boundaries. These historic cemeteries provide a window into the developmental patterns of each community and demonstrate the social and economic growth, as well as the changes that have occurred throughout each community.
The Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries maintains a website that provides members and other interested parties with information about historical cemeteries as well as a comprehensive database to search historical cemeteries by location (map), by cemetery, or by gravestone. The website also provides valuable information about gravestone conservation, the history of the database, a handbook about Rhode Island’s Historical Cemeteries and the rules and regulations for maintaining them:
Every year the Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries holds an “awareness and preservation week” where members of the Commission and other advocates invite the public to learn about historical cemeteries and to address maintenance issues throughout the state. This work entails weeding, pruning of trees, and repair of headstones and includes training volunteers in the proper care and maintenance of these historical cemeteries.
In its inaugural year, the program will provide 10 women of color with a two-year, personalized experience that includes up to $3,500 to cover the cost of sections of the Landscape Architectural Registration Exam (LARE), along with exam preparation courses, resources, and mentorship from a licensed landscape architect.
Apply to become part of the ASLA Women of Color Licensure Advancement Program by April 1, 2022.
With World Landscape Architecture Month just two weeks away, ASLA’s Parks & Recreation Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team have compiled observations made and actions taken in response to climate change and its manifold impacts—impacts that are being felt around the world. Though something so wide-reaching can be difficult to grasp fully in scale and scope, we hope these updates from your peers in landscape architecture and from parks and rec departments across the country may help make the sprawling challenges wrought by climate change a little more tangible—and demonstrate how imperative it is to take action now.
Steph Thisius-Sanders, ASLA, PLA – Bakersfield, California
Matt Boehner, ASLA
Senior Landscape Architect, Columbia Parks and Recreation
There has been an increase in large flood event storms since 2015, with 100-, 200-, and even 500-year events occurring every two or three years. Over the course of June 23-25, 2021, the Mid-Missouri area recorded nearly 11 inches of rainfall, resulting in over $500,000 in flood damage to parks and trails throughout Columbia.
In 2018, the City of Atlanta addressed the need for a new parking garage near Zoo Atlanta and the BeltLine, two of the city’s most iconic public spaces. With increased calls to reduce traffic congestion and improve community safety, the existing eight-acre surface parking lot was unable to keep up with increasing demand.
Faced with a major renovation, Atlanta’s Parks and Recreation Department (DPR) used the opportunity to invest in a multifunctional, sustainable space, using certifications as a tool to direct their work for the greatest community benefit.
Today, the Grant Park Gateway offers over 1,000 parking spaces topped with a two-and-a-half-acre green roof and restaurant space, providing a grand lawn area, a shaded terrace plaza, terraced seating, a water feature and a pedestrian overpass, as well as nearly nine acres of green space. It is the first project in the world to achieve LEED certification, SITES certification for sustainable landscape development, and Parksmart certification for its parking structure.
When the University of Nebraska-Lincoln asked for ideas to reimage a greenspace that would honor four U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture from Nebraska and reflect the historical and agrarian legacy of East Campus, the Olsson Studio and University steering committee decided to take it a step further.
Our team opted to design a space that would become an experience for students and faculty as well as for members of the greater Lincoln community. We wanted to create a space that was welcoming and useful that would give the university flexibility in terms of programming. Thus, every decision made was done through the lens of creating a unique and memorable experience for those who will use the space, engage students, and showcase the natural beauty of East Campus.
Legacy Plaza is located on UNL’s East Campus surrounded by the Food Industry Complex to the south, Dinsdale Family Learning Commons to the east, and the Nebraska East Union to the north. In 2013, the campus master plan identified the project as an opportunity to invest in civic infrastructure by creating “memorable, symbolic open spaces.” In addition, then-Vice Chancellor Ronnie Green challenged Campus Planning to use this 6.5-acre tract of land to honor four U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture from Nebraska. In doing so, the department wanted to integrate the space into the campus landscape and honor the agriculture roots of East Campus providing a home for the statues honoring the former Secretaries and naming the greenspace Legacy Plaza.
Former conceptual visioning plans sat dormant for four years. When renovations began on the Dinsdale Learning Commons and the East Union, the Legacy Plaza project suddenly had new life.
That’s when the Olsson Studio entered the picture.
On this International Women’s Day, ASLA’s Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) is excited to see landscape architects in the spotlight and taking the lead in a variety of ways, from ASLA National—with President Eugenia Martin, FASLA, President-Elect Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA, and President-Elect candidates SuLin Kotowicz, FASLA, and Pam Linn, FASLA—to 2019 ASLA conference keynote speaker Kotchakorn Voraakhom, ASLA, being interviewed by The New York Times as part of their Women and Leadership special report.
Last November at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN Co-Chairs Lara Moffat, ASLA, and Sahar Teymouri, ASLA, led a session on “From Mentorship to Sponsorship: Friendship is the Key!” exploring how professional relationships contribute to a flourishing career.
by Kaylin Slaughter, Student ASLA, and Kenneth Hurst, ASLA
In May of 2021, a class of students from Texas A&M studied immersive spaces using landscape journals, pocket sized notebooks within which to record field sketches.
That trip opened a rift in the bubble of design education, spilling out new possibilities and bringing forth questions about what opportunities are missed as students sit hunched over a textbook in their hometowns. The key takeaway from the trip was that travel and site engagement allows students to make multi-faceted, personal relationships with the site. While case studies, textbooks, and design stories may create a primary understanding of site design, this trip demonstrated that an in-person engagement with the built environment provides deep connections that cannot be replicated with words.
The students’ first assignment was to produce hand-drawn field sketches within simple Moleskine sketchbooks. The student could decide what the object of those sketches would be, so long as they interpreted that element’s contribution to the site as critical. Upon their return home, the students would compile their sketches into a presentation, turning some into construction documents, and writing up a synthesis for the trip.
Founded in 1896, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in China. At the end of 2017, the university integrated high-quality resources in the design fields, and amalgamated three departments—Architecture, Design, and Landscape Architecture—to establish the School of Design. In 2021 the School of Design launched a professional (international) master’s program in Landscape Architecture (M.LA.) and began a new initiative to create practice-oriented academic positions and further emphasize design studio teaching and talent development.
The M.LA. program aims to achieve harmony between human and nature with the comprehensive application of scientific, technical, and artistic approaches. Students who graduate from this program will be interdisciplinary, creative, international high-quality talent, engaged in the professional field of landscape architecture planning, design, construction, and management. Research focuses include: Landscape Architecture Planning and Design, Landscape Architecture History and Theory, Landscape Plant Resources and Applications, Landscape Planning, and Ecological Restoration.
To attract design practitioners from around the world with backgrounds in architecture, design, and landscape architecture, teaching fellowship positions were created. Outstanding design practitioners from leading external universities and from professional practice are employed as teaching fellows to enrich hands-on experience in design.