Celebrating 10 Years of The Field

Since 2016, The Field has showcased an ASLA Student Award-winning project as its banner image. The current banner comes from the project Myth, Memory, and Landscape in the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, an ASLA 2018 Student General Design Honor Award winner. Team: Derek Lazo, Student ASLA; Serena Lousich, Student ASLA. Faculty Advisors: Danika Cooper, ASLA. UC Berkeley. / image: Serena Lousich, Student ASLA

Happy birthday to The Field! Since the launch of The Field the summer of 2012, more than 1,000 posts have been published by ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), from more than 460 contributors.

This blog was created to take the place of individual PPN newsletters (check out this 2002 Therapeutic Garden Design publication for a blast from the past), with the goal of encouraging collaboration and breaking down boundaries between practice area specialties with this PPN-wide platform for member-to-member information sharing.

ASLA’s Professional Practice team would like to thank all the PPN leaders and ASLA members who have shared their experiences and expertise as authors, editors, and tireless cheerleaders for The Field over the past decade. A few of our most prolific Field authors (all of whom are also current or past PPN leadership volunteers):

The most productive PPN: Children’s Outdoor Environments, with 117 posts! Other high-achieving PPNs:

In celebration of The Field‘s tenth birthday, here are the top 10 most-viewed posts.

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Olmsted and the HABS/HAER/HALS Collection

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Fairsted, HABS MA-1168, Brookline, Massachusetts. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 13th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Olmsted Landscapes. 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. By documenting Olmsted landscapes for HALS, you will increase public awareness of historic landscapes and illuminate Olmsted’s living legacy. Any site designed or planned in part or in full by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., his firm, and the firm continued by his sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Junior, is eligible. 

The Olmsted Landscapes HALS Challenge deadline is quickly approaching. Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2022. Surprisingly, there are not many Olmsted-related sites within the HALS Collection at the Library of Congress. Your entries will not only help celebrate Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s 200th birthday, but they will help round out the collection with more Olmsted documentation.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s significant landscapes. The National Park Service oversees HALS; the American Society of Landscape Architects provides professional guidance and support; and the Library of Congress preserves the documentation and makes it available to the public. The Historic American Building Survey (HABS, established in 1933) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER, since 1969) are older programs and thus have much more documentation.

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Last Call for ASLA SKILL | ED: Project Management for Landscape Architects

There’s just a few hours to go before the start of SKILL | ED! On June 21-23, ASLA is hosting a live webinar each day from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. ET for this practice management series. Today’s topic: Ready for Primetime? Create a Project Management Plan to Take the Lead!, presented by Christine E. Pearson, ASLA.

Packed schedule this week? Not to worry—register now, and you’ll have access to all three live session recordings on-demand through July 31. What your SKILL | ED registration includes:

  • On-demand access to education sessions through July 31
  • 3.0 professional development hours (LA CES / non-HSW)
  • PDF download of the ASLA Standard Form Contracts package
  • Access to virtual discussion boards
  • Networking with attendees and speakers

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Loosening Up: Breaking Boundaries for Creative Play in Schoolyards, Part 3

by Eric Higbee, ASLA, Jason Medeiros, and Leon Smith

Students play with the loose parts at Hawthorne Elementary’s creative playspace. / image: Eric Higbee

Education and Creativity at Hawthorne Elementary’s STEAM Playspace

Part 3: Design, Implementation, and Lessons Learned

Welcome to Part 3 of “Loosening Up,” the story of transforming Hawthorne Elementary’s asphalt schoolyard into a community-curated, nature-based, loose parts playground. Our first post focused on our student and community engagement process, and our second post focused on navigating bureaucratic resistance to loose parts and nature play. In this third installment, we cover the final design, implementation, and lessons learned.

The Design and the Build

Community engagement and negotiation with the School District produced a vision for Hawthorne’s playspace that weaves a tapestry of loose-parts play, native plants, stormwater capture, learning gardens, an outdoor classroom, and creative play.

A first phase was built in 2019, including natural spaces, a creative play area, and a bioretention swale. A second phase, completed in 2020, expanded the creative play area and replaced aging playground equipment. As of June 2022, the third phase and completion of the vision is still waiting to be fulfilled.

The loose parts and creative play area is a focal point of the playground. Set amongst groups of native plants and trees, the space holds a collection of moveable stumps, logs, and “cookies” for kids to move, stack, manipulate, and more. To our knowledge, this is one of the only contemporary public schools in the U.S. to embrace loose parts as an intentional part of its playground design.

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Centering Environmental Justice in Our Landscape Architectural Practices

ASLA 2021 Professional Urban Design Honor Award. Market + Georgia Public Space. Chattanooga, Tennessee. WMWA Landscape Architects and Genesis the Greykid. / image: WMWA Landscape Architects & Chattanooga Design Studio

As practitioners and advocates of environmental justice, we know that many communities across the country fall short of achieving equity and justice in terms of access to quality green spaces and being overburdened with negative environmental exposures. In this collaborative Field post, we highlight a few voices around the profession on why and how landscape architects should remain committed towards integrating environmental justice in our respective practices.

– Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA, PLA, and Tom Martin, ASLA, on behalf of the Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN) Leadership Team

Cher Wong, Associate ASLA
Landscape Architect at SmithGroup

Why are you interested in the intersection of environmental justice and landscape architecture?

From many landscape architects’ training processes, including mine, we didn’t pay enough attention to learning how our work is closely tied with social, economic, political implications and how every design language has a historical context behind it. Now, when I stand at the intersection of environmental justice and landscape architecture as a designer, I see contradictions between our traditional definition of ‘design excellence’ and the implications of many landscape architecture work in environmental justice.

But I also see opportunities on how much we need to develop new design languages that break the contradiction and better support environmental justice.

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Loosening Up: Breaking Boundaries for Creative Play in Schoolyards, Part 2

by Eric Higbee, ASLA, Jason Medeiros, and Leon Smith

Hawthorne students play with loose parts during an afterschool demonstration by Portland Free Play. / image: Fahad Aldaajani

Education and Creativity at Hawthorne Elementary’s STEAM Playspace

Part 2: Making the Case

Welcome to Part 2 of “Loosening Up,” the story of transforming Hawthorne Elementary’s asphalt schoolyard into a community-curated, nature-based, loose parts playground. Our first post focused on our student and community engagement process. This second post focuses on navigating bureaucratic resistance. A third will cover the final design, implementation, and lessons learned.

The Benefits of Loose Parts and Nature Play

There is ample evidence for the academic and social benefits of enriching a play environment with loose parts and nature. Studies have shown that loose parts play supports creative problem solving (Daly & Beloglovsky, 2015); fosters imagination, creativity, and symbolic abstract thinking (Miller, 2007); and leads to greater happiness and social inclusion during recess.

Studies have also shown that natural play environments stimulate social interaction between children and reduce the incidence of bullying (Bixler et al., 2002; Malone & Tranter, 2003; Moore 1986) and that some contact with nature during the school day improves children’s concentration and self-discipline in the classroom (Grahn, et al., 1997; Taylor et al., 2002; Wells, 2000).

The Barriers to Loose Parts and Nature Play

Yet despite the benefits, school districts are typically averse to incorporating nature or loose parts into school playgrounds.

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Nurturing Health and Well-Being through Sustainable Site Design

SITES-certified Fort Missoula Park in Missoula, Montana / image: the Sustainable SITES Initiative

Upcoming SITES Community Call

On June 23 at 3:00 p.m. (Eastern), join the SITES community to learn how two projects, the Colby College Athletic Complex in Maine and Fort Missoula Regional Park in Montana, achieved SITES certification and focused on community care.

SITES projects are powerhouses in their communities for not only supporting healthy landscapes that provide essential ecosystem services, but also for promoting the mental and physical well-being of their users. These two recent SITES-certified projects both achieved high scores in the “Site Design – Human Health and Well-being” category of the SITES v2 Rating System for demonstrating a strong commitment to social equity and resilience.

The Colby College Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center serves campus athletics programs as well as the greater city of Waterville community with indoor sports facilities and outdoor amenities. The native meadow habitat surrounding the athletics complex is the first SITES project to achieve Gold-level certification in New England. Notably, the facility also achieved LEED Platinum certification for its green building practices.

The largest SITES-certified park to date and the first SITES project to achieve certification in the state of Montana, Fort Missoula Regional Park is a 156-acre greenspace dedicated to providing a comprehensive outdoor fitness area for its visitors. The park features trails, pavilions, picnic areas, and sport courts where guests can enjoy nature while engaging in restorative physical and social activities.

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Loosening Up: Breaking Boundaries for Creative Play in Schoolyards

by Eric Higbee, ASLA, Jason Medeiros, and Leon Smith

Students use graphic organizers to help generate models of playground installations designed to inspire STEAM learning and creative play. / image: Fahad Aldaajani

Education and Creativity at Hawthorne Elementary’s STEAM Playspace

Part 1: Engaging Students and Community

The beneficial value of ‘Loose Parts’ and ‘Nature Play’ for childhood development comes up repeatedly in education literature and discussions on landscape design. Yet, in our opinion, there are few examples of these being built in public school settings because of a variety of prohibitive factors, including the dominance of manufactured playground equipment in children’s landscapes and district-level fear of injury and liability.

Beginning in 2017, the community at Hawthorne Elementary in Seattle bridged this gap with the Hawthorne STEAM Playspace, transforming a portion of their asphalt schoolyard into a community-curated, nature-based, loose parts playground. To our knowledge, this is one of the only contemporary public schools to embrace loose parts as an intentional part of its playground.

Over this and two more posts, we will tell Hawthorne’s story and share what we learned. In this post, we will discuss our student and community engagement process; the second post will focus on navigating bureaucratic resistance; and the third will cover the final design, implementation, and lessons learned.

Let’s dive in!

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