Planting Design for Children’s Spaces – An Interview with site Horticulture Director Mark Jirik

by Wanting Zhang, Student ASLA, and Yiwei Huang, Ph.D., SITES AP, ASLA

Seneca Park, Chicago, IL / image: Scott Shigley for site design group, ltd.

Interviewee: Mark Jirik, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP, Certified Arborist
Interviewers: Wanting Zhang, Student ASLA, and Yiwei Huang, Ph.D., SITES AP, ASLA

We recently had a special opportunity to speak with Mark Jirik (M.J.), the Director of Horticulture at site design group, ltd. (site), who provided a lecture to our undergraduate class in Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. This article compiles key insights from his talk and additional reflections he shared with us afterwards. This interview article aims to bridge a gap between theory and practice, providing young designers with an invaluable perspective on designing children’s outdoor environments, especially with planting design, in the Midwest region.

What projects have site worked on previously related to children’s outdoor environments?

M.J.: site has worked on a wide range of park and playground designs for various age groups. A couple of completed projects that come to mind include Seneca Park (2021) located Near North Chicago and the Comer Children’s Hospital Play Garden (2018), also located in Chicago. Seneca Park hosts two playgrounds, one for children ages 2-5 and another for children ages 5-12. Both playgrounds reference the local dune landscape and nearby Chicago landmarks with a variety of both more traditional and creative play opportunities. Comer Children’s Hospital Play Garden, winner of the 2019 ILASLA Honor Award, provides a place of refuge and healing for hospital patients from and is designed to accommodate and be enjoyed by children of all physical abilities.

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A Day of Impact & Generosity

ASLA 2023 Professional General Design Honor Award. The Meadow at the Old Chicago Post Office. Chicago, Illinois. Hoerr Schaudt. / image: Brodie Kerst

This year, four incredible donors have each pledged $1,000 to the ASLA Fund, but we need your help to unlock their matches. Your support fuels the ASLA Fund’s mission of investing in global, social, and environmental change through landscape architecture. Every dollar makes a difference! Give today.

Your generous support will propel us towards our goal, enabling the expansion of vital programs such as:

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Bringing Landscape Architecture to New Places

by Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

ASLA 2011 Professional General Design Honor Award. Manassas Park Elementary School Landscape. Manassas Park, Virginia. Siteworks. / image: Siteworks

The term “landscape architecture” can be associated with many fields, like construction, design, horticulture, etc. Finding books about architecture and landscape architecture in college libraries that have programs in architecture, landscape architecture, or even engineering will be the most logical place to look. However, can you find books related to landscape architecture in college libraries related to medicine, journalism, law, business, pharmacy, human resources, or education? How can landscape architecture be in places where it was not before?

Let me share my personal experience. I had the joy of writing two books: K-12 Landscape Architecture Education (2021) and K-12 Architecture Education (2022). These books are interdisciplinary STEAM curriculum guides that put architecture and landscape architecture at the center of curricula. Beyond presenting landscape architecture as a design profession, it presents our profession as:

  1. a problem-solving method,
  2. an ideal theme for interdisciplinary curriculum design, and
  3. an educational term defining “landscape architecture education” as a field of study that looks at the applications, behaviors, and cognitive gains that students can develop through the landscape architecture design process.

With these books, now part of the Teachers College Library, Columbia University, educators will be able to see landscape architecture as an ideal medium for curriculum design and instruction. Currently, there is a big trend in the pedagogical field in the areas of design education, STEAM education, and environmental education; now, K-12 educators and ASLA members will have a comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum to develop these educational programs.

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ASLA 2023 Conference Education Sessions On-Demand

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden / image: Lane Pelovsky, courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

During the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture, 5,000 participants joined together to garner new insights and discover tools that will help you scale up your practice, with education sessions that covered everything from decarbonizing your site construction to artificial intelligence to learning how to navigate government agencies like the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

50 recorded conference education sessions are now available on-demand through ASLA Online Learning for Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development hours (PDH).

You can purchase individual sessions or bundle and save—ASLA members can take advantage of a 25% discount when purchasing four or more conference recordings!

Browse Recordings >

Log in using your ASLA username and password for member discounts.

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2023 HALS Challenge Results: Working Landscapes

by Scott Keyes

2023 HALS Challenge First Place Winner: Mailboat Harbor, Tangier Island, HALS VA-88 / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The National Park Service and ASLA are pleased to congratulate the winners of the 14th annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge competition. This year’s winners were officially announced at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture on Sunday, October 29, 2023.

Administered by the National Park Service, in collaboration with the ASLA and Library of Congress, the HALS Challenge competition encourages landscape architects, students, and other interested parties to document historic landscapes in their communities. To enter the competition, participants must complete a historical report that highlights the history, significance, and character-defining features of the surveyed landscape. This report can be supplemented with measured drawings or large-format photographs. All competition entries are archived in the HALS collection at the Library of Congress where they contribute to the nation’s largest repository of documentation on American architecture, engineering, and landscapes.

This year’s competition focused on working landscapes. Participants were challenged to survey working or productive landscapes with entries ranging from agricultural and industrial sites to public infrastructure and transportation networks. The competition resulted in the donation of 13 impressive surveys to the HALS collection. A jury composed of National Park Service historians and landscape architects reviewed the entries and selected the following winners:

First Place: Tangier Island Watermen Working Landscape, HALS VA-88
Tangier, Accomack County, Virginia
By Lincoln L. Lewis and William A. Packwood, University of Virginia
Tangier is an island community in the Chesapeake Bay. The local blue crab fishery is the town’s main economic driver. HALS documentation of this landscape focused not only on the distinctive history and features of Tangier, but also on the waterman culture that has developed over centuries in this unique environment. This historic landscape, however, is at risk of disappearing due to a range of challenges brought about by cultural and environmental change. In addition to the extensively researched historical report, the survey included a full set of measured drawings.

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PPN Zoom Book Club: Naturally Inclusive

by Lisa Howard, MLA, RLA

image: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) is pleased to share a summary of the PPN’s third Zoom Book Club. Hosted on October 3, 2023, 15 attendees welcomed Ruth Wilson, PhD, educator and author of Naturally Inclusive: Engaging Children of All Abilities Outdoors, published in 2022 by Gryphon House. Dr. Ruth Wilson has several published works focusing on early childhood environmental education. She is an educational consultant who has worked with Sesame Street in designing nature education programs and has been an educator for over 30 years including work at Bowling Green State University. She currently works as the curator for the Children & Nature Network’s Research Library.

The book provides landscape architects with a basis of knowledge and understanding of children’s needs and the many benefits a natural environment provides for children’s whole development, including children with physical, sensory, and/or cognitive challenges such as autism or ADHD. Flagship programs from around the country provide program spotlights throughout the book providing detailed successful examples in relation to each chapter’s focus.

PPN leader Amy Wagenfeld, Affiliate ASLA, prepared and moderated this event leading the group through a series of thoughtful questions that were key to the themes of the book and ending by reading a passage illustrating how creative inclusive design can empower and engage children of differing abilities including a wheelchair accessible tree house.

Can you describe the concept of kinship and its importance as a keystone to nature play and inclusive design?

Ruth shared, for children with differing abilities this is especially important to feel like they belong. Kinship suggests a relationship. With kinship one can feel more belonging. In terms of humans, we are all kin, but kinship is much broader than physical connectedness. It has a lot to do with the emotions of who and what we feel connected with. Pets are an example, kinship with a pet is a part of the family demonstrating the emotional element of kinship.

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ASLA 2023 Conference in Review: Professional Practice Network Highlights from Minneapolis

For those who attended the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis last week, the Professional Practice Network (PPN) events were a wonderful way to see the PPNs in action and get a sense of what these practice area-focused groups are all about.

Throughout the conference weekend, 15 PPNs organized 17 events, taking place in the EXPO or in meeting rooms and featuring formats from presentations to lightning talks to breakout groups for conversation. These events were opportunities to meet and network with other ASLA members and conference attendees, allowing for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge-sharing. (And if this sounds like something you’d be interested in taking part in, not just at the conference but throughout the year, then consider joining your PPN’s leadership team!) It was fantastic to see everyone in Minneapolis—thank you to all who attended, and another big thank you to the PPN leaders who made these events happen.

If you missed the conference this year, we hope the photos below provide a glimpse of the PPNs’ goings-on. For those interested in watching recordings of education sessions that took place in Minneapolis, 50+ sessions will be made available on-demand via ASLA Online Learning in the coming weeks.

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