PPN Zoom Book Club: Schools That Heal

by Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA

Schools That Heal: Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind by Claire Latané, FASLA / image: Claire Latané

The ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) is pleased to share a recap of the PPN’s second Zoom book club meeting. Hosted on May 9, 2023, 32 attendees eagerly welcomed Claire Latané, FASLA, MLA, SITES AP, author of Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind, published in 2021 by Island Press. Written with an exquisite balance of evidence, sensitivity, and compassion, the book is intended for architects, engineers, and interior designers as well as landscape architects. We are grateful that Professor Latané was able to speak with us about the book and her ongoing advocacy work. Before recapping the book club meeting, a bit more about the author of this month’s PPN book selection:

Associate Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, Professor Latané became a Fellow of ASLA in 2022 and was a Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Innovation and Leadership for 2017-2018. Her fellowship focused on high schools and high schoolers, an age when most mental health disorders get diagnosed (if they even get diagnosed). It is a tough time because by age 12, youth are no longer eligible for after school care, and are often left to their own devices. On top of it all, parents are less welcomed to participate in high schools. This period in development was, in Professor Latané’s mind, a bit of a missing piece, and very light on research focused on the mental health benefits of nature in a learning environment.

Beyond her academic role, Professor Latané’s advocacy and commitment to bettering the lives of children is evident in her work as Founder of the Collaborative for Health and Inclusive Learning Environments (CHILE—rhymes with “while”) and as Founder of the Emergency Schoolyard Design Volunteers program for the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative. With mental health challenges amongst children and youth on the rise and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, never has connecting children with nature been more important. So too is acknowledging that learning environments need to be nature-based places of healing and must be front and center thinking in every school district, everywhere. We need more Professor Latané’s in the world to be the voice for children and youth all of whom must have opportunities to experience the mental health promoting benefits of nature.

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AECOM Roof Garden: From Corporate Garden to Nature Space Advocacy, Part 2

by Lee Parks, International ASLA, and LIAO Jingjing

An AECOM employee waters the new containers in early summer. / image: courtesy of Lee Parks, AECOM

This is the second installment in a three-part series on the evolution of AECOM’s green roof in Shanghai. Click here for Part 1, published last week.

As the plants established during the comfortable spring weather, employee engagement was high. The increase in flowers saw a direct increase in visiting pollinators, mostly bees. Flowers and foliage added visual amenity of the space, with ornamental grasses and flowers combining to create a vibrant display. Employee photo sharing on social media celebrated the beauty to be found in nature, recording wildlife spotted and seasonal highlights. The garden supported a ‘Wellbeing At AECOM’ campaign by encouraging employees to relax and enjoy contact with nature. Friends and families joined in the maintenance and watering. By June the salad and herb garden was productive and bearing results to be enjoyed.

All appeared well until the fiery and crushing July heat became a challenge for gardeners and the garden. Employee engagement quickly faded and only the core Roof Garden Committee members sustained interest to maintain and monitor plants. With no automatic irrigation system, the containers relied on employees to hand water with watering cans or a hose during dry periods.

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Evolution and Re-Calibration of the Typical Suburban Retail Environment

by John Dempsey, ASLA, and Daniel Straub, ASLA

North Dekalb Mall, North Decatur, Georgia / image: Casey Lovegrove on Unsplash

The retail environment in America has a complex history as it includes a broad range of activities from the small-scale local storefront in an urban neighborhood to the large-scale activity of a suburban shopping mall. This article focuses on the complex changes associated with the suburban shopping malls and their impact on urban framework and design, and draws on relative comparisons to the history and relative success of traditional main street retail as well.

Framing the American Dream: Auto Ownership, Mobility, and Suburban Growth

During the period after World War II, factors such as increased manufacturing, the GI Bill, and federal loan programs facilitated the migration to single-family homes and private automobiles. Since its inception in the 1950s, American suburban malls became an emblematic part of the booming expansion of the geographic extent of large-scale suburbia. This transformation was in part made possible by the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act (1956). The highway investments permitted a massive road-building program to support access to inexpensive land that led to increased opportunities to build large-scale subdivisions. Many of the new subdivisions required easy access to goods, services, and entertainment so they typically included commercial mall development or were located near new suburban malls. Essentially, the suburban mall became the new town square to eat, shop, gather, and converse.

However, not all American citizens participated equally. The mass exodus of primarily white households from cities to the outlying suburbs revealed inequitable prosperity. The new suburban communities were legally structured to limit the emigration of poor and non-white residents by drafting restrictive zoning practices that would prevent lower middle-class Americans from purchasing single-family houses in the suburbs. As a consequence, the mass movement of middle-income households from many inner-city neighborhoods encouraged the similar movement of many businesses to suburban locations. This resulted in a major transformation of many cities anchored by main streets or downtown retail.

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AECOM Roof Garden: From Corporate Garden to Nature Space Advocacy

by Lee Parks, International ASLA, and LIAO Jingjing

Ornamental grasses in autumn on the AECOM Green Roof in 2016 / image: courtesy of Lee Parks, AECOM

In June 2016, AECOM moved its Shanghai office to the Knowledge Innovation Community (KIC) in Yangpu District. AECOM leased floors nine to twelve of building 7 which included space for an outdoor roof terrace on part of the twelfth floor. The terrace was initially designed to meet corporate requirements for leadership visits, hosting events, client receptions, and employee social interaction, resulting in a contemporary design with a hospitality-style space.

A limited selection of structural planting was selected to form and enclose space, to screen utilities, and create a low maintenance, formal garden. For seasonal highlights, groups of ornamental grasses (Muhlenbergia capillaris) were used in timber seating platforms and eight over-sized pots with flowering trees were placed on a central lawn (Lagerstroemia indica).

However, between 2016 and 2018 very few corporate events took place outdoors, and the terrace primarily provided the green backdrop to indoor events, functioning more for visual amenity rather than encouraging social interaction, or enjoyment of nature. In 2018, landscape practice leader Lee Parks, International ASLA, instigated a roof garden initiative to diversify the roof garden.

Original Site Conditions

Prior to leasing the office space, the property developer provided a simple extensive green roof system, flexible for tenants to adapt to their needs. Extensive green roof systems characteristically consist of a shallow layer of growing media—typically, less than 80mm deep—planted with a variety of drought tolerant hardy plants, such as grasses and sedums. The system is lightweight and helps to mitigate urban heat island effect and minimize stormwater run-off by absorbing rainwater in the vegetated areas. Non-vegetated areas used permeable gravel paths to enable access for maintenance and further enhance stormwater management.

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ASLA Chapters Advancing Climate Action

ASLA 2020 Professional Research Honor Award. Climate Positive Design. Pamela Conrad, ASLA / image: CMG Landscape Architecture

ASLA chapters are continuing to organize in-person and virtual events to advance the goals of the ASLA Climate Action Plan. Just a few examples:

Last month, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA) organized a free webinar with Scott Bishop, ASLA, founder of Bishop Land Design, Immediate Past Chair of the Climate Action Committee, and ASLA Climate Action Plan Advisory Group Member. Earlier in May, five chapters—Vermont, Connecticut, Boston, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island—organized the second annual Landscape Architecture + Climate Action in New England Virtual Summit. The event recording, slide deck, and additional resources are available online.

All are welcome and encouraged to take part in these chapter events—many can be attended virtually, and they are often recorded if you can’t make it on the day of the event. Coming up later in May from the ASLA California Sierra Chapter: a virtual Climate Positive Design Pathfinder Bootcamp. Ever wonder how to measure the carbon impact of your projects? Climate Positive Design Pathfinder is a free tool for landscape architects that measures embodied carbon and sequestration of project designs.

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Words of Wisdom for Our 2023 Landscape Architecture Graduates

by Andrew Littlefield, Student ASLA, Jacoby Gonzales, ASLA, Yiwei Huang, ASLA, Ebru Özer, ASLA, Anuhya Konda, Associate ASLA, Allyson Mendenhall, FASLA, Kene Okigbo, ASLA, and Sarah Leaskey, ASLA

images: ASLA/Korey Davis Photography, Yiwei Huang, Anuhya Konda, Andrew Littlefield

The newly formed ASLA Student Support and Engagement Committee, chaired by Professor Yiwei Huang, ASLA, and ASLA Executive Committee liaison Vice President of Education Ebru Özer, ASLA, gathered some words of advice from committee members and close connections and would like to share them to the upcoming landscape architecture graduates. We hope graduates find it useful and remember that they can always contact ASLA for professional support and help. Happy graduation!

To the landscape architecture graduates of 2023,

On behalf of the younger landscape architecture students, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your mentorship, guidance, and friendship throughout your time as students. We are greatly appreciative of all of you that have come before us and have helped us along our journey. As you begin preparing for your life after school, as the freshman of the industry, don’t forget where you came from. We will continue to cheer you on and celebrate your successes, and pass along the wisdom that you have shared with us, to the students that will come after us. You have been our role models, and we can’t wait to work with you again someday.

Thank you for all that you have shared with us.

Your friends,
The Younger Students

Andrew Littlefield, Student ASLA
Undergraduate Landscape Architecture Student, Kansas State University

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An Introduction to Historic Working Landscapes

by David Driapsa, FASLA

El Santuario del Senor Esquipula, Chimayo, New Mexico / image: David Driapsa

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 14th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Working Landscapes. Historic “working” or “productive” landscapes may be agricultural or industrial and unique or traditional. Some topical working landscapes convey water for irrigation or provide flood control. Please focus your HALS report on the landscape as a whole and not on a building or structure alone. For this theme, the HAER History Guidelines may be helpful along with HALS History Guidelines.

I am pleased to share with you an introduction to documenting historic working landscapes. Working landscapes are vernacular (subsistence and commercial gardening and agriculture), scientific (industrial horticulture), commercial (fishing), educational (the work of producing knowledge), recreation, and others that are conceived, situated, and adapted to the economies which they support.

Chimayo, New Mexico, is an historic village established on the north American frontier of the Spanish empire, situated in the arid Santa Cruz Valley of what today is northern New Mexico. Irrigation ditches known as acequias were constructed to convey water for miles down from the Sangre Cristo Mountains to nourish gardens and fields below in the valley. The working landscape created under this precious water economy was so essential to life that the land was organized with the irrigated crops established on fertile land below the acequias and dwellings occupied the dry slopes above. This land use planning was essential to preserve the land that could be watered for agriculture.

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Visual Resources in the Practice of Landscape Architecture

by Tim Tetherow, ASLA, and John McCarty, ASLA

US 550 at Red Mountain Pass near Ouray, CO, part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway / image: courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation

This article explores the roots and diverse approaches to visual resource management (VRM) and visual impact assessment (VIA). The role of VRM and VIA encompasses federal lands, seascapes, landscapes, park lands, scenic byways and highway corridors, urban environments, and other valued places. Landscape architects play a lead role in sustaining this field of practice.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) provides a comprehensive public policy on visual resources:

The American Society of Landscape Architects believes the quality of visual character and scenic resources is critical to our landscapes and communities at the local, regional, and national level…To protect and enhance these irreplaceable assets, ASLA supports consideration of visual character and scenic resources for all projects and all users.

Building a Foundation for Visual Resource Stewardship

The roots of this field of practice can be traced back to the response to the nation’s growth and scale of environmental change in the 1950s and 60s. President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a message to Congress on February 8, 1965, calling for a White House Conference on Natural Beauty. In his message, President Johnson declared that:

To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities.…Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him….The beauty of our land is a natural resource. Its preservation is linked to the inner prosperity of the human spirit.

Proceedings of the White House Conference on Natural Beauty – May 24 and 25, 1965, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-65700, U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C.: 1965.

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Managing Urban Trees for Storm Events

by Stephanie Cadaval

ASLA 2022 Professional Urban Design Honor Award. Denny Regrade Campus, Seattle, WA. Site Workshop / image: Stuart Issett

Storms are a significant part of our decisions about how to manage urban trees. We invite you to participate in a survey about urban forest management and storms. This research is important to better understand professionals’ risk perceptions, communication needs, opportunities for collaboration, and general challenges with managing urban forests for storm events.

Please note: this survey studies storms and urban forest management in the Eastern and Southern United States, based on the USDA Forest Service Administrative Regions. Please complete this survey if you work in any of these states:

States in the Eastern Region (Region 9):

Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin

States in the Southern Region (Region 8):

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

Take Survey Button

You are also encouraged to share this survey with your contacts working with urban trees. The survey will remain open through the end of June.

The survey is completely voluntary and will take ~ 15 minutes of your time. You can withdraw consent by stopping the survey at any time. This survey is approved by the University of Florida’s Institutional Review Board (IRB202101044). Thank you for your participation in this survey! Your responses are very important and will help to improve the overall management of urban forests and storms.

This project is TREE Fund-sponsored research led by Mysha Clarke, assistant professor at the University of Florida, and Stephanie Cadaval, Ph.D. Candidate in Forest Resources and Conservation and Graduate Assistant, Clarke Human Dimensions Lab, at the University of Florida.