Liberty Plaza: Implementing Flexibility & Celebrating Freedom

by Lauren Standish, ASLA

Liberty Plaza (Atlanta, GA) – Aerial image of space, as a parking lot, before site improvements. / image: HGOR; base photo from Google Earth

In 2014, the Georgia Building Authority (GBA) decided they needed a new public space close to the Capitol Hill Complex to serve as a forum, a place where all visitors could exercise their freedom of speech and assembly. The downtown area desperately needed greenspace for large gatherings and public events, and existing options for such spaces and gatherings lacked a strong identity. When the GBA reached out to our team at HGOR, where I am a principal and have been part of the team for over two decades, they were searching for an innovative solution.

From the start, I felt our partnership would benefit everyone involved for several reasons. HGOR has an extensive background in creating meaningful spaces across various topographies that represent a voice for the people and consideration for history in and around Atlanta. Many of these projects allowed our team to lend a solid sense of understanding, backed by a respect for social justice, to design a place representing cultural and civic importance. Additionally, our mission to preserve and expand the historic site while complementing the existing campus grounds prepared us for the challenges within the Liberty Plaza project. It also provided valuable hands-on knowledge that served us well with the design of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center, where we performed research on historically iconic public gathering spaces during our time devoted to designing Liberty Plaza.

Our team faced several initial challenges because of the selected location for this proposed new space. It did not provide an easy, pedestrian-safe route to the Capitol grounds that didn’t involve on-site law enforcement monitoring events. Before Liberty Plaza was a designated gathering space, events took place at the western entrance of the Capitol, Washington Avenue, where it was necessary to shut down the streets for pedestrian safety.

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Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future

by Christine Colley, RLA, ASLA

Boothbay Harbor Lighthouse, Maine. The 2022 meeting of the Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AKD40) took place at the Schoodic Institute in Maine this June. / image: Christine Colley

TRB Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design: Call for Posters

The Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AKD40) invites submissions of your work as part of a landscape and environmental design poster session at TRB’s 2023 Annual Meeting. The theme of the Annual Meeting is Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future.

Please submit your abstract for consideration for presentation at AKD40’s poster session at the TRB Annual Meeting. Topics that emphasize the following, as they relate to transportation, landscape and environmental design, are a priority for AKD40:

  • Energy and Sustainability – design, policies, and practices to protect the planet.
  • Policy needs related to the roadside environment and autonomous vehicle technology.
  • Resilience and Security – preparing for floods, fires, storms, and sea level rise.
  • Transformational technologies that will change how transportation environments could be retrofitted or rebuilt.
  • Roadside design to serve growing and shifting populations.

AKD40 also welcomes completed and on-going projects from broad landscape and environmental design areas such as Green Streets, roadside environments for pollinators, Complete Streets, transportation design impacts on Main Streets, landscape design to safeguard the public, and art in transportation.

The deadline for submissions—by email to Christine Colley, TRB AKD40 Annual Meeting Poster Coordinator—is September 15, 2022.

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How Would You Change the Field of Landscape Architecture?

The Call for Game Changers for the ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture is open through August 22. / image: istockphoto.com, Diane Bentley Raymond

Do you have an idea that will change the field of landscape architecture? Here’s your opportunity to share it at the ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture. We’re seeking presentations for game-changing ideas that can move our profession forward—ideas from different perspectives, voices, and backgrounds. Those big ideas could come from you!

Game Changer presentations are designed to be fast-paced, innovative talks. Presenters will have just seven minutes to share their game-changing idea. The deadline for presentation proposals is noon PT, August 22, 2022.

No matter your speaking experience, this is a great opportunity to share ideas and concepts under development that will drive innovation. Submissions from first-time presenters, students, emerging professionals, and allied professionals are strongly encouraged.

What you need to enter:

  • Your information: Tell us about yourself.
  • Game Changer Written Description: Pitch this talk to attendees with a short answer describing how your idea will change the field (up to 500 characters).
  • Video: Submit a short video (up to one minute; 9:16 aspect ratio) describing your game-changing idea. No fancy production required. Have fun with it! The video must be under one minute to be eligible.

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Transforming Landscapes with Solar Smart Benches

by Malcolm Kay, Affiliate ASLA

Steora Cyclo solar powered bench / image: Archasol

In just a few short years, bench seating has evolved from simply offering a place to sit and relax to high tech community hubs. Benches can now be recharging stations for phones, laptops, e-bikes, and e-scooters; centers for monitoring and recording data on local environment conditions; music centers with Bluetooth speakers; Wi-Fi hotspots; and workstations with 120V power and overhead lighting—all within a compact, self-contained structure, free from any external power.

It was only seven years ago that the first solar powered smart bench with fully integrated solar panels was developed in Europe. The earliest models took the view that this new type of bench should look revolutionary in all respects, so side panels were square steel plate, painted a brilliant white with the seat basically being a flat panel housing PV cells, protected with a thick sheet of glass or polycarbonate.

Since that time, the design of solar powered benches has evolved considerably, with some benches now incorporating PV cells concealed so successfully that they resemble wood slats. Even the backrest of the seats can be used to house PV cells, increasing the power generating capacity without increasing the width or length of the seat.

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RFQs and Opportunities Roundup

Photo of the audience at a WxLA event in San Diego
ASLA 2021 Professional Communications Honor Award. WxLA – Champions for Equality in Landscape Architecture. / image: Jeri Hetrick

With summer swiftly rolling on, now is the time to peruse ASLA’s RFQs and Opportunities page. Rather than go on a hiatus while temperatures are high (often shockingly so), this resource is full of new additions, both from ASLA—the Call for Game Changers, anyone?—and allied organizations and others.

Anyone looking to share an opportunity with landscape architects may do so through the online submission form.

Below, we highlight a sampling of the calls for submissions and competitions listed currently.

Requests for Proposals and Qualifications

Haughville Riverfront Parks Master Plan in Indianapolis, IN
Deadline: August 26, 2022

Multi-Use Pathway Design in Cambridge, MA
Deadline: August 26, 2022

Planning Services for Urban Bike Facilities in Shaker Heights, OH
Deadline: September 1, 2022

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Urban Heat Island: A Non-Transferable Problem Within Cities, Part 2

by Veronica Westendorff, PLA, ASLA, SITES AP

Even narrow spaces can accommodate trees, if the right species are selected. / image: photo by V. Westendorff

Part 2: A Review of Policies and Programs Addressing UHI Across the US

To learn more about the impacts of climate change on our growing cities, I began to research some of the challenges that urban areas are experiencing as they grow. In addition to housing, offices, and shops for consumer goods and services, roads and other infrastructure are needed to support these communities. This brings more heat, and more consumption of energy, goods, and services in a way that is not sustainable. Last week, I took a look at urban trees as a means of reducing the urban heat island effect (UHI) within cities. Here, I’ll be exploring the question: what policies or programs are in place across the United States to reduce UHI in cities using trees?

Resilient Cities

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) created a list of cities in the United States with ordinances that address urban heat island and enhance cities’ energy efficiency, which is an integral part of reducing UHI. I reviewed the 50 cities below, looking at their programs and policies to see which were designed specifically to use trees to mitigate UHI.

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Urban Heat Island: A Non-Transferable Problem Within Cities, Part 1

by Veronica Westendorff, PLA, ASLA, SITES AP

Street trees line pedestrian walkways in Uptown Charlotte, providing cooler spaces for users. / image: photo by V. Westendorff

Part 1: Urban Trees as a Means of Reducing UHI Within Cities

Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. The largest city in North Carolina, and 22nd largest in the country, Charlotte has an average of 44 new people moving into the metro area each day (Peterson, 2017). Construction within the city and in surrounding towns continues to put pressure on the existing land and ecosystems. This is not unique to Charlotte—all over the United States, development and growth are increasing the size and scale of urban areas, with both beneficial and detrimental effects.

While urbanization increases density, reduces the need for additional infrastructure, creates more efficiencies, and provides jobs, education, and resources, the exchange of land from forests or plains to built surfaces causes a loss of urban ecosystem services. One result is increased heat in urban areas, known as the urban heat island effect (UHI), caused by impervious areas that absorb heat during daylight hours and holds it into the night, releasing it slowly so that the next day starts with higher surface temperatures than the surrounding, less built-up areas. More built areas bring more heat, creating a positive feedback loop that is one of the great challenges cities face.

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See You in San Francisco!

View from Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco / image: istockphoto.com/Chris LaBasco

This November at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, you can meet 6,500 of your peers and choose from more than 130 education sessions, earning all the professional development hours (PDH) you need, at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture.

Register by tomorrow, July 27, to get the early bird rate! 

Field, Education, and Deep Dive Sessions

The conference education program is organized into eight tracks, and is searchable by speaker, type of continuing education credit offered (LA CES, AIA, AICP, ISA, and more), and target audience, from emerging professionals to firm leaders and sole practitioners.

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The Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions, Part 3

by Lee Parks, International ASLA, and LIAO Jingjing

The Singapore-Nanjing Eco Hi-tech Island / image: © Zoom Arch

Exploring of the Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions: A Reflection on Professional Practice over the Last Two Decades

Part 3: A Nature Positive Future

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are actions designed to work with and enhance natural habitats to take advantage of the ability of healthy natural and managed ecosystems to sequester carbon and support biodiversity recovery. The first part of this series focused on greening grey infrastructure; part 2 covered incorporating naturalistic landscape into the public realm. Here in part 3, we continue to explore how NbS can be pushed into the realms of social awareness and everyday recognition by policy makers and the public at large and in turn, support wider and longer term international environmental successes.

4 Towards a Nature Positive Future

4.1 COP26 Advocacy

Prior to the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) held in 2021, leading scientists presented a conceptual shift which puts forward Nature (the environment) as the context for all life, human society, and all human activities (including all economic activity). Similarly, at COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Prince of Wales, who has for over fifty years championed action for a sustainable future said: “…after billions of years of evolution, Nature is our best teacher – in this regard, restoring Natural Capital, accelerating Nature-based solutions and leveraging the circular bioeconomy will be vital to our efforts..”

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TRB Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design: Call for Papers

by Christine Colley, RLA, ASLA

Sunset at the Schoodic Institute / image: Christine Colley

The Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Landscape and Environmental Design (AKD40) is seeking papers to be considered for publication and/or presentation at the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting. The theme of the Annual Meeting is Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future.

This Committee is concerned with design parameters that relate to protecting, conserving, restoring, and enhancing safe, sustainable, and livable transportation systems, facilities, and their associated environments. The Committee promotes research to advance design principles and practices that enhance:

  1. safety and traveler experiences;
  2. scenic, aesthetic, and visual quality;
  3. harmonious integration of facilities within their natural, cultural, and social environments;
  4. sustainable solutions and systems; and
  5. the quality of life for transportation system users and surrounding communities.

The following categories were identified by the AKD40 Committee as being critical areas of research:

  • Energy and Sustainability – design, policies, and practices to protect the planet.
  • Policy needs related to the roadside environment and autonomous vehicle technology.
  • Resilience and Security – preparing for floods, fires, storms, and sea level rise.
  • Transformational technologies that will change how transportation environments could be retrofitted or rebuilt.
  • Roadside design to serve growing and shifting populations.

The deadline for paper submissions is August 1, 2022.

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The Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions, Part 2

by Lee Parks, International ASLA, and LIAO Jingjing

Constructed wetlands
Taibai Lake District landscape design project, constructed wetlands / image: © Lee Parks

Exploring of the Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions: A Reflection on Professional Practice over the Last Two Decades

Part 2: Incorporating Naturalistic Landscape into the Public Realm

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are actions designed to work with and enhance natural habitats to take advantage of the ability of healthy natural and managed ecosystems to sequester carbon and support biodiversity recovery. The first part of this series—on greening grey infrastructure—was published last week; here in part 2, on incorporating naturalistic landscape into the public realm, we continue to explore how NbS can be pushed into the realms of social awareness and everyday recognition by policy makers and the public at large and in turn, support wider and longer term international environmental successes.

3 Incorporating Naturalistic Landscape into the Public Realm

3.1 NbS for City Green Infrastructure

Qufu, a county-level city in Jining, Shandong Province, is the birthplace of Confucius and Mencius, the great Chinese sages of the Spring and Autumn period. Around 2010, impressions of Jining were of a coal-based economy and a city in need of a transformation. When considering a transformation towards an ecological future, an article published in 2001 by renowned Confucian scholar Tu Weiming, a professor at Harvard University and Peking University, called “The Ecological Turn in The New Confucian Humanism: Implications for China and the World” inspired a landscape concept called the ‘Ecological Turn.’

This concept by Lee Parks promoted an ecological image for a new streetscape, canal, and lake for the southward expansion of Taibai Lake District. It also provided an opportunity to put Nature-based Solutions into practice in Jining.  Taibai Lake District landscape design development covers some 350 hectares where AECOM led the planning and design of a new lake and park, canal parkland, streetscape, and administration center. The project represents a shift away from formal urban streetscape planting in favor of naturalistic swathes of ornamental grasses and perennial communities. A proposed land use plan placed a large new commercial complex over a planned canal—this was challenged by the landscape architect, who subsequently shifted the development parcel 200 meters northwards, re-aligned roads, adjusted the land use plan, and restored the integrity of the planned green and blue infrastructure. Nature-based Solutions were employed to create vegetated canal embankments, provide purification of water, and ensure habitat creation through to the new lake.

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Par-laying Renovations into a Community Transformation

by Bob Hughes, ASLA

Bobby Jones Golf Course before and after renovations / images: Bobby Jones Golf Course

The Bobby Jones Golf Course—Atlanta’s first public golf course, opened in 1932—was previously an underutilized course that suffered from dying trees, invasive plants, and eroded walking trails—it did not live up to the name of Bobby Jones. Marty Elgison, President and Co-Founder of the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, became involved with the facility so that it might impact the surrounding communities, and was pivotal in pursuing a mission to turn something ordinary into something transformational. HGOR was selected by the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy to revitalize the area, establishing it as a destination where diverse crowds could gather and enjoy the sport while connecting with others.

Initial challenges varied in scope and included a lack of adequate parking and community engagement and the misconception that a renovation meant the removal of surrounding trees. An innovative approach was needed to solve several issues simultaneously.

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The Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions

by Lee Parks, International ASLA, and LIAO Jingjing

Landscape practice of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in the Scottish Highlands: The Howard Doris Centre in Lochcarron is a care center for adults with supported accommodation, social facilities, and day care. The landscape was designed to enjoy views to nature, native planting, and to encourage community gardening for social interaction. / image: © Lee Parks

Exploring of the Changing Roles of Landscape Design in Nature-Based Solutions: A Reflection on Professional Practice over the Last Two Decades

Part 1: Greening Grey Infrastructure

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are actions designed to work with and enhance natural habitats to take advantage of the ability of healthy natural and managed ecosystems to sequester carbon and support biodiversity recovery. Informed by a career dedicated to working with nature, this article explores the evolution of a landscape planning and design approach from single-purpose solutions to systemic thinking and holistic design, together with a change from experiential/qualitative decision making to quantified solutions. This evolution is presented in three phases of professional practice:

  1. greening grey infrastructure,
  2. incorporating naturalistic landscape into the public realm, and
  3. a nature positive future.

Over the next three weeks, each section will explore how NbS can be pushed into the realms of social awareness and everyday recognition by policy makers and the public at large and in turn, support wider and longer term international environmental successes.

1 Introduction

1.1 Nature-based Solutions

Cities are facing an increasing frequency of disruptive events and many sustainable development challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, drought, extreme heat, wildfires, and water security. Our cities need more pioneering approaches to meet sustainability and carbon neutral goals and address biodiversity loss while also benefiting people’s health and well-being.

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Landscape Architecture Education

by Dale C. Davis

ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Orange Mall Green Infrastructure. Tempe, Arizona. COLWELL SHELOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE. / image: Marion Brenner

A friend of mine who is a writer shared this article with me. It highlights how landscape architecture can be seen as a pedagogical term and as a problem-solving method. I think it will be of interest especially for those who are in the research area of our profession.
– Arnaldo Cardona, ASLA

When searching for information about “Landscape Architecture Education” or “Education in Landscape Architecture,” the results show mostly academic programs to study landscape architecture as a career and academic institutions that have degrees in that area.

However, they can be seen as two completely different concepts. While searching for “Education in Landscape Architecture” produces entries about colleges that offer degrees for students to become landscape architects, “Landscape Architecture Education” should really be seen as a pedagogical term. In the same way, “Education in Art” is about becoming an artist and where to study to become one, whereas “Art Education” is a pedagogical term about the study of cognitive gains, skills, and processes involved in art making.

Then, how has “Landscape Architecture Education” been defined?

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Face-to-Face: Making the Return to In-Person Engagement

A screenshot from the Transportation PPN’s Zoom Coffee Chat.

Last month, ASLA’s Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) hosted an informal Zoom coffee chat for Transportation PPN members as an opportunity to connect and share their experiences and insights on the selected chat focus: returning to in-person engagement, virtual approaches that are here to stay, and how to center community voices in landscape architecture practice.

Ryan Booth, ASLA, PLA, Design Associate at Alta Planning + Design, kicked off the conversation by sharing ways to bring back and improve in-person engagement events.

While traditional forms of engagement can be resource intensive, not inclusive, and may be dominated by a few vocal participants, other formats can be more inclusive by bringing the information to the community. The first example Ryan looked at was the Lincoln Avenue Complete Street Walk and Talk for a project in Walnut Creek, California.

Walk and Talks are an opportunity to communicate technical information to a broad audience, and to be more creative with in-person events. The format also encouraged the community to share their walking and biking experiences from along the corridor, making this event a real two-way street of information exchange. Go beyond the community meeting in a windowless room. Make them actual events!

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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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Avenues for Expanding Practice

by Larry Weaner, FAPLD, Affiliate ASLA, and Sara Weaner

Strasburg Community Park, Strasburg, PA / image: Larry Weaner

New Directions in the American Landscape (NDAL) is offering both in-person and virtual educational sessions this summer. The accomplished group of presenters will include Darrel Morrison, Piet Oudolf, Veronica Tyson Strait, Gerould Wilhelm, Angela Kyle, and Larry Weaner. Some will present virtually on the artistic, social, and ecological considerations that can inform landscape design. Others will guide In the Field sessions to observe and analyze the real-world results of various ecology-based landscape approaches. All will explore avenues for expanding the practice of landscape design.

Sessions are geared toward landscape practitioners, home gardeners, students, and educators, with designations on NDAL’s site, ndal.org. CEUs are available for professional sessions.

NDAL’s In the Field regional on-site sessions include programs in Hillsborough, NJ; Garrison, NY; Shermans Dale, PA; Framingham, MA; Stafford, VA; Sparta, TN; Gray Summit, MO; and Madison, WI (the Madison, WI session with co-tour guide Darrel Morrison, FASLA). Registration is limited for these sessions.

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Making a Difference in a Non-Profit Firm Format

by Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

image: Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

Around the world, disadvantaged populations face significant struggles with climate change, pollution, conflict, and forced migration. Unfortunately, this situation is not new. What IS seemingly new is the increased emphasis younger generations are putting into doing social justice and social impact work to address struggles like these. Thankfully, this seems not to be a fad but a larger realization that doing what you love while helping those most in need is an extremely rewarding endeavor.

Traditionally most firms are set up as a PC, LLC, S-Corp, or sole proprietorship, which are all considered to be for-profit. In recent years, many for-profit firms have noticed this increased staff interest in making a difference and have launched internal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives to ensure their firm is meeting certain standards for sustainability or other goals. Some also dedicate staff time for outreach activities, which might include work for organizations like Journeyman International and Habitat for Humanity, or have a small non-profit sister organization to engage in design projects within their communities.

On the far end of this spectrum, there are a handful of firms, including A Complete Unknown, that operate solely as a non-profit entity.

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A New Home Renovation Trend: Security Enhancements

A breezeway with a rolling door links the home and garage, framing a painterly vignette of columnar aspen trees. A grid of trees line the courtyard, softened by a dense planting of ferns and native shrubs.
ASLA 2021 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Highlands Retreat. Aspen, Colorado. Design Workshop, Inc. / image: Brandon Huttenlocher/Design Workshop, Inc.

While security design as it relates to the public realm and to concepts like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) may be familiar to many landscape architects, enhancing security and privacy is also an increasingly desirable aspect of residential landscape architecture.

According to the 2022 Houzz home improvement survey, security for outdoor spaces is a new focus for homeowners, who spent 25% more on home security systems in 2021 than in 2020. Outdoor security systems are now the second most frequently installed outdoor upgrade (17%), behind lighting (22%).

A recent Forbes article by Jamie Gold about this renovation trend features Ron DuHamel, ASLA, president of FireSky and a volunteer leader for ASLA’s Design-Build Professional Practice Network (PPN).

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This Too Shall Pass: Landscape Architecture and the Green Industry in a Post-COVID World

by Michael Igo, Affiliate ASLA, PE, LEED AP

Aerial photo of the ancient city of Persepolis
The Persian city of Persepolis, ordered by Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes, designed/built by artisans / image: “Persepolis” by s1ingshot, CC BY 2.0

In 1859, presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society.  He told the fable of a Persian sultan who asked his trusted sage to summarize concisely a way to describe the perpetual and ephemeral nature of human affairs.  Lincoln continued, “They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’”

I, like all of us in the landscape architecture, green, and construction industries, could have never predicted the shift towards our business during the global COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. When we braced for the worst, many of my colleagues in all AEC sectors have experienced unprecedented growth. While we are busier than ever and despite the longer hours, we need to stop, reflect, and be grateful for the position that we are in as COVID-19 has taken a substantial toll on our society. Take a moment to remember those that lost their lives suffering with this illness, their family members who grieved their loss while in isolation, first responders and front-line medical workers, grocery and box store cashiers, stockers, and delivery persons supplying us while sequestered in our homes.  Let us remember that the business that flowed towards us flowed away from local retail stores and restaurants. We need to continue to give them our continued support in business and tips for their troubles.

After more than two years of a global pandemic and coming out on the other side, we can start to think about what is coming next and how it will impact our business and profession.

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Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture

All Frontcountry site features and interpretive content at Grand Teton National Park is fully accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities.
ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Inspiring Journeys for All. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. HDLA / image: Charlie Craighead

New ASLA Research Report: Free downloadable resource available for ASLA members. Self-study exam available for 1.25 PDH (LA CES/HSW).

In order to lead the planning and design of inclusive, healthy, equitable, and safe environments, landscape architects have an obligation to be aware of and work in compliance with standards for accessibility. To meet this need, the ASLA Professional Practice Committee created Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture: ADA, ABA, and Other Accessibility Standards and Guidelines as a technical overview of the national accessibility standards and guidelines.

The primary focus of this document is the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards). These standards exist within a complex web of national, state, and local governmental and non-governmental organizations’ related conventions, codes, and documents. Each entity focuses on its role in supporting and achieving greater accessibility in the environment and society in general.

The goal of this overview is to encourage landscape architects and designers to employ a wide view of accessible design. This will help designers avoid missing significant, unique variations in accessibility requirements that may apply to a project.

ASLA members can download Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture: ADA, ABA, and Other Accessibility Standards and Guidelines for free and can purchase and pass a self-study exam to earn 1.25 PDH (LA CES/HSW).

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Chris Pattillo and HALS: Challenge and Legacy

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Chris Pattillo stands beside first, second, and third place banners for the first annual HALS Challenge, Revisiting Cultural Landscapes of Childhood, at the 2010 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Washington, DC. / image: Chris Stevens

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.

In October 2000, the National Park Service (NPS) permanently established the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) program for the systematic documentation of historic American landscapes. The mission of HALS is to record historic landscapes in the United States and its territories through measured drawings, historical reports, and large-format black photographs. The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division preserves the documentation for posterity and makes it available to the general public. The NPS oversees the daily operation of HALS and formulates policies, sets standards, and drafts procedural guidelines in consultation with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). ASLA provides professional guidance and technical advice through their Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network, thus further encouraging involvement within the profession. Each ASLA chapter has one volunteer HALS Liaison, but chapters that serve multiple states may have one liaison per state. HALS Liaisons, appointed by their chapter presidents, provide technical and other types of assistance to carry out the mission of the HALS program.

The annual HALS Challenge competition for HALS short format historical reports is a valuable tool to fulfilling the HALS mission to record historic landscapes throughout the U.S., identifying and recording sites that otherwise would likely go unrecognized. It benefits the American public by engaging volunteers across the country to produce HALS baseline documentation of significant American landscapes for inclusion in the Library of Congress HALS collection.

Christine “Chris” Pattillo, FASLA, founder of PGAdesign, initiated the first HALS Challenge for the tenth anniversary of HALS in 2010. She wished to stimulate interest in the relatively new program and to get people involved around the country. She knew that if volunteers prepared their first HALS short format historic report and learned about the HALS documentation process, they would likely complete further documentation in the future. Progress had been made in identifying cultural landscapes during the first decade of HALS, but much more work was needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

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Make Your Voice Heard: ASLA’s Federal & State Legislative Priorities

Pink cherry blossoms and the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC
image: “Spring Blossoms @ the U.S. Capitol” by jpellgen, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All ASLA members are invited to participate in the biennial Federal & State Legislative Priorities Survey. As the national voice for the landscape architecture profession, we want to hear from you on what you think are the most important policy issues. Help determine ASLA’s federal legislative agenda and state advocacy activities for 2023-2024.

ASLA works with chapters, state and federal legislators, state and administration officials, and regulatory bodies to advance policies critical to the profession. The purpose of this short survey is twofold:

  • To formulate ASLA’s federal legislative priorities for the 118th Congress
  • To provide useful data to help guide chapters’ state legislative priorities and advocacy efforts.

Take this short survey on what policy issues matter most to you.

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