Olympic Sustainable Landscapes: The Case of Beijing

by Alex Camprubi, International ASLA

Aerial view of National Olympic Stadium, Beijing
Aerial view from the Olympic Forest towards the National Olympic Stadium and Olympic Green Beijing. / image: Shutterstock

1992 was a year in which the world shifted gears on development, particularly within the sustainable realm. Not only because of Rio’s Earth Summit or Beijing’s Green Plan [2] and their third economic reform [1], but 1992 was also the year that the US lifted sanctions against China, the Cold War formally ended, and Barcelona had just hosted their Olympic Games, transforming the city while astonishing the world by transforming a large-scale media event into a project for the future of their citizens.

Barcelona overcame the challenge of being denied a seafront for recreation purposes for many years. Instead, they masterfully linked their urban fabric to the sea by establishing an urban connectivity between four strategic areas. This allowed them to gain more than 600 hectares of new green area, plazas, and parks [2] and further enabled the city of Barcelona to formally embrace the environmental concerns as a third pillar of Olympism [3]. During this process, Barcelona was able to build what became one of the most valuable city brands in the world [4].

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Stream Restoration—To Vegetate or Not?

by Lisa Cutshaw, PLA, ASLA

Stream restoration under construction
Stream restoration under construction at Benbow Park Preserve in Greensboro, NC. Designed by Ecosystem Planning and Restoration. / image: Will Harman

Stream restoration has become a necessary and timely tool in the effort to combat environmental issues like flooding and erosion, especially as they are accelerated by more frequent storm events associated with climate change. The author, Lisa Cutshaw, is the Principal Landscape Architect for Summit Design and Engineering and collaborates with colleagues to understand and implement emerging best practices to promote a more resilient approach to the built environment.

Is it ever a good idea to pour concrete in a stream bed? What about riprap and other common erosion control measures? To dig into the specifics, we spoke with Paxton Ramsdell of Ecosystem Planning and Restoration (EPR) in Raleigh, NC. Paxton has many years of experience with stream restoration, recently with Environmental Defense Fund and now with EPR.

Engineered solutions have fallen out of favor in recent years among sustainability advocates, but back in the day, it was common to create concrete channels to try to control streams. The idea was this would stop erosion and direct the water where people wanted it to go. The design professions learned the hard way that channelization actually compounded erosion and flooding problems, but riprap, etc., are still commonly used.

What are the biggest pros to using vegetated solutions rather than engineered solutions?

To be clear, a vegetated solution essentially means restoring the stream with a functional flood plain, allowing the plant root systems to stabilize the soil while also allowing the stream to overflow onto the flood plain when the water rises after rainfall. Research has found that in addition to soil stabilization, vegetated solutions have other benefits, such as slowing down runoff, reducing particulates and excess nutrients in the water, moderating stream temperature, and promoting groundwater recharge.

Paxton Ramsdell: “Vegetated stream restoration projects can reduce erosion and flooding problems, and they tend to last longer than engineered solutions. When streams are able to flood naturally onto the flood plain along the length of the stream, the severity of flooding downstream is reduced, and the stream bed itself has less scour to contend with. When they are properly designed and protected from encroachment, vegetated stream restoration projects should last for generations.”

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reVISION ASLA 2020 Education Session Recordings Now Available

reVISION ASLA 2020 recordings now available via ASLA Online Learning for PDH

Last November, reVISION ASLA 2020 shined a spotlight on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion—examining not only the profession itself, but also issues of racial justice and equitable access in practice and society.

Discussions reflected on the past of landscape architecture, examining issues of systemic racial inequity in the profession, lack of access to open space for Black communities and other communities of color, and the current state of practice. They also looked toward the future, focusing on not only the importance of recognizing and correcting the bad practices of the past, but also ways in which we can move the profession and the world to a more diverse and equitable future.

24 education sessions from reVISION ASLA 2020 are now available through ASLA Online Learning for Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development hours (PDH). These may be purchased as individual recordings or as packages, organized by track. Log in using your ASLA username and password for member discounts. (ASLA Online Learning content, except for a few of the LARE Prep webinars, is free for Student ASLA members!)

Free Videos

By popular demand, all three keynote discussions from reVISION ASLA 2020 have also been made available for free on Vimeo:

  • A special, extended edition of the reVISION ASLA 2020 Opening Keynote Discussion featuring ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen, Walter Hood, ASLA, and Majora Carter.
  • An Expression of Hope Panel, which features diverse practitioners sharing their collective acknowledgement of what it is like to navigate the profession as people of color and their expressions of hope for change and growth.
  • A Call to Action, highlighting commitments by practitioners and educators taking meaningful action towards centering equity and calling our community to expand actions towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive profession.

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ASLA’s Federal Legislative Priorities: Climate Change, Resilience, Equity, and Environmental Justice

Policy recommendations for the new Biden-Harris administration
ASLA released a set of policy recommendations for the Biden-Harris administration last month. / image: 2020 ASLA Professional Urban Design Award of Excellence. Dilworth Park. OLIN. Image credit: James Ewing / OTTO

Since the start of the new year, ASLA’s Government Affairs team has been abuzz, welcoming the Biden-Harris administration with a petition to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement, a comprehensive set of policy recommendations, and many other actions to ensure ASLA members are heard loud and clear. But you may wonder how ASLA sets advocacy priorities and focus areas in the first place. The answer: by listening to all of you, our ASLA members.

Through a nearly year-long process, ASLA’s Government Affairs team determines the Society’s federal priorities for the next two years. In April 2020, they surveyed the entire ASLA membership on federal and state issues ASLA members believed the Society should include in its upcoming agendas. ASLA received 2,372 responses to the survey, the largest number since the survey began and more than double the previous survey in 2018.

The Government Affairs team and the Government Affairs Advisory Committee (GAAC) then review, vet, and analyze the results to formulate a set of recommended legislative issues for the upcoming legislative session. The recommendations are presented to ASLA’s Executive Committee. Based on input from the Executive Committee and the GAAC, the Government Affairs team then presents this set of federal priorities for discussion with the Board of Trustees, before moving to the Executive Committee for the final review process.

ASLA’s Executive Committee endorsed the final Federal Priorities Agenda for the 117th Congress during their December 2020 meeting. With a new theme of Climate Change and Resilience and a focus on Equity and Environmental Justice, the following four issues underlie federal legislative priority areas:

  1. Parks and Recreation
  2. Transportation Planning and Design
  3. Water and Stormwater Management
  4. Housing and Community Development

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The Smokey Hollow Community Historic American Landscapes Survey

by David J Driapsa, FASLA

The Smokey Hollow Community. View north, rear yard, 705 East Lafayette Street. HALS-FL-9 Large Format Photograph 4 of 7. Photographer: William “Bill” Lutrick, ASLA. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 12th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Documenting these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future.

Smokey Hollow was someone’s home. It was a community of someone’s homes—until it was destroyed through urban renewal in the guise of slum clearance.

Remembered affectionately as a vibrant community in urban Tallahassee, Smokey Hollow was located only steps away from the historic Florida State Capitol. Once a slave state, Florida was at one time racially segregated. Descendants of former slaves were required to live in Black communities segregated from white society under the cruel restrictions of white prejudices, Jim Crow laws, and Black codes. Smokey Hollow, an approximately 85-acre African American community, was shaped under these harsh conditions.

Albert Davis Taylor (1883-1951) of Ohio, a prominent landscape architect, past president and fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, produced the 1947 Florida Capitol Center: A Report on the Proposed Development that served as the State master plan with principles of European landscape design that forecast the 1957 construction of the Apalachee Parkway cutting a straight path through the center of Smokey Hollow to the front of the Florida State Capitol Building. Construction of the State Road Department office in 1965 further enlarged the footprint of government that mostly obliterated Smokey Hollow and dispersed its residents.

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Skill Up with ASLA’s Practice-Focused Publications

Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal, 10th Edition, Revised / image: Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) periodically publishes reports and guides focused on key aspects of professional practice, many of which are free for ASLA members to access or available to members at a discounted rate. These include new resources added to ASLA’s Business Toolkit and more technical and in-depth Research Reports.

Below, we highlight a few of the more recent publications, from ASLA and ASLA partnerships, that you may have missed.

Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), on behalf of the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers (CTLA), has released the Digital Guide for Plant Appraisal, 10th Edition, Revised, available for purchase via ISA’s webstore.

The CTLA member organizations are: AmericanHort, the American Society of Consulting Arborists, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the Association of Consulting Foresters of America, the International Society of Arboriculture, and the Tree Care Industry Association.

In preparing the tenth edition of the Guide, the overarching goal of the seven CTLA organizations was to provide the appraiser with a systematic process for defining the appraisal problem, identifying appraisal approach(es), and developing a credible conclusion.

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More Research Needed: Trail Access and Use for Youth from Under-Resourced Communities

by Mike Hill, ASLA

Aerial view of the 606 in Chicago
ASLA 2020 Professional Urban Design Honor Award. The 606, Chicago, Illinois. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.. / image: MVVA

The recently published paper, “Identification of Effective Programs to Improve Access to and Use of Trails among Youth from Under-Resourced Communities: A Review” is a collaboration between researchers from National Institutes of Health, US Department of Transportation, Centers for Disease Control, USDA Forest Service, and Furman University in Greenville, SC. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of programs to increase access to trails and trails use among youth from under-resourced communities, this paper also aims to identify:

  • relationships between physical activity/trail use and features of transportation systems and/or built environment and land use destinations,
  • benefits associated with trail use, and
  • barriers to trail use.

What We Found: The paper reviewed existing literature to identify, abstract, and evaluate studies related to programs to promote trail use among youth and youth from under-resourced communities. Eight studies used longitudinal or quasi-experimental designs to evaluate physical activity and neighborhood characteristics prospectively among adolescent girls, the effects of the path or trail development on physical activity behaviors of children, youth, and adults, marketing or media campaigns, and wayfinding and incremental distance signage to promote increased trail use.

No studies were located that evaluated programs designed to promote and increase trail use among youth, including youth from under-resourced communities. Few intervention studies using trails to increase physical activity among under-resourced youth were identified in this review. More studies need to be conducted using access to trails as interventions to promote trail-use among youth.

Many barriers to trail use are practical, such as costs, crime, lack of transportation. Others are psycho-social in nature—what trusted role models are introducing trail use? Is the “culture of the trail” welcoming to people from my background? How does being outdoors connect to my cultural identity, and through what activities? These are all challenges that impact youth and youth leaders’ decisions as much as institutional discrimination and its impact on recreation planning.

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The ASLA Honors Recognize Contributions to the Profession: Nominate Your Peers

Mikyoung Kim, FASLA, received the ASLA Design Medal at the 2018 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture. / image: EPNAC

We may be only one month in to 2021, but the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) already has several deadlines coming up. Help to ensure your voice is heard, that you and your colleagues are recognized for your work and leadership, and that your landscape architecture practice area is represented by taking part in one or more of these open calls—for presentations, nominations, and exemplary projects:

Honors Nominations
Deadline: Friday, February 5, 2021, 6:00 p.m. (Eastern)

Call for Presentations for the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture
Deadline: Wednesday, February 24, 11:59 p.m. (Pacific)

Professional Awards Call for Entries
Deadline for submissions: Friday, March 12, 2021, 11:59 p.m. (Pacific)

Student Awards Call for Entries
Deadline for submissions: Monday, May 24, 2021, 11:59 p.m. (Pacific)

Below, we take a closer look at the ASLA Honors, including the honor introduced most recently to recognize the outstanding and innovative contributions of emerging leaders in the field. These prestigious awards recognize individuals and organizations for their lifetime achievements and notable contributions to the profession of landscape architecture.

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The Current Role of Land Use Planning in Food Policy Councils

by Liia Koiv-Haus, Associate ASLA

Farm field
Photo by Mike Cassidy on Unsplash

Food policy councils (FPCs), fresh food alliances, food and farm networks, food coalitions—there are dozens of types of food-related groups that shape food policy nationwide. Most have one thing in common: they are diverse groups of stakeholders with goals related to improving food access and nutrition. Because food policy is such a complex, interdisciplinary field, oftentimes one sector or one level of government alone cannot tackle issues like hunger, obesity, and food safety. It takes a concerted effort by federal, state, and local governments, businesses, nonprofits, and passionate community members to keep our food system running smoothly and adapting to changes like a pandemic.

The biggest federal piece of food legislation is the farm bill, which has its origins in the Great Depression era. New machinery during WWI had boosted food production drastically. American farmers initially benefited by simply exporting their surpluses to Europe, but by the late 1920s, Europe had recovered its production and US farmers were still overproducing. The federal government stepped in and began to pay landowners directly with checks to reduce output.

The federal government provided similar relief a few years ago when tariffs on exports caused farmers to overproduce (China stopped buying commodities like soybeans). Then, in the early months of the 2020 pandemic, large amounts of food were being thrown out again, but this time neither due to overproduction nor lack of demand. Instead, food was being discarded because farmers were unable to sell their output due to the closing of restaurants, schools, and hotels (New York Times). The established supply chains were too rigid and could not adapt quickly enough to increased demand at grocery stores and food pantries. With two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program as well as the more recent December 2020 relief package, government payments to farmers added up to nearly $46.5 billion in 2020 (including farm bill subsidies).

While this money provided immediate relief to farmers, it didn’t magically revive or restructure our food system. That happened as the result of the community-based response from business owners, nonprofits, local governments, and other players. The federal government’s authority is limited to regulating food that travels in interstate commerce; states and municipalities have more authority regulating restaurants, food retail establishments, and other food businesses. Local governments and health agencies shaped their own regulations to adapt the food service industry to the pandemic: temporary patio permits, sidewalks extended into vehicular lanes, to-go alcohol containers, etc.

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Reviving the Hill, One of the Oldest Residential Neighborhoods in the Steel City

by Udday Shankur Datta, Student ASLA

Aerial perspective. The project explores the opportunities to connect the Hill District with downtown Pittsburgh to restore the once vibrant neighborhood that was uprooted and forced to move due to urban redevelopment projects. / image: Udday Shankur Datta

This post is based on a class project for the fall 2019 course “Land Development Principles” at West Virginia University; it received the third place prize (course project category: landscape architecture) at the 11th Yuanye Award International Competition. The story of Pittsburgh’s Hill District and the struggles of the people living there have mostly remained untold. Through my design, I want to give them a voice and raise awareness about the existing problems of this historic African-American neighborhood.

Click here to view project graphics at a larger scale.

The Hill District is one of Pittsburgh’s oldest residential neighborhoods. It is a significant African-American neighborhood in the country, famous for its contributions to music (jazz in particular), literature, and sports. During the late 1950s, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh declared the historic Lower Hill blighted and cleared 95 acres of the Hill District neighborhood as part of Pittsburgh’s urban renewal efforts. An entire neighborhood of the lower Hill District was uprooted and forced to move. The remaining Hill District is still cut off from the downtown by enormous expanses of parking lots and an old highway.

The primary goal of this project is to connect the Hill District to the surrounding areas. To align with the target of making Pittsburgh a biophilic city, an urban food forest and community parks are proposed to create a green network. The project addresses the existing problems faced by the people living in the Hill District and proposes an integrated planning and design strategy that includes housing proposals, improved transportation networks, and street design to revive this once-thriving neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

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Drawing the Green New Deal and Humanizing the Design Process

by Dr. Carl A. Smith, FRSA, FRGS, CMLI, Int. ASLA

Student poster for a Green New Deal for the Ozark mountains, fall 2020 (detail). / image: courtesy of Jessica Shearman, Student ASLA

Landscape architecture students and faculty across the country, and further afield, are currently tackling the important task of putting together tangible proposals according to the tenets of the Green New Deal resolution (GND). The resolution, published by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey around two years ago, sets forth an economic stimulus and mobilization framework for decarbonization and social equity. This forms the central charge for the Green New Deal Superstudio launched last summer under the joint auspices of ASLA, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (at Columbia University), and the McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology (at the University of Pennsylvania).

Of course, design studios are quite different from practice work, even if projects—as encouraged by the Superstudio brief, for instance—occur in collaboration with practitioners. Studio allows time and space to experiment with technique, ideas, and representation, while drawing on the field’s shared vocabulary of written and built works. It is one particular challenge in my own GND Superstudio that I want to briefly focus upon here: the practice of drawing sites as a way of understanding landscape in addition to the more normative methods of site evaluation, data collection, and speculation. This discussion might have broader currency for other educators and practitioners involved in progressive projects, but may also have wider poignancy as we all contemplate reconnecting with our somewhat estranged landscapes in the time of COVID.

As a little background, I offer these brief comparative remarks about the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal of the 1930s; after all, the very name of the new GND resolution invites such comparisons. The original New Deal was the roll-out of dozens of programs over a relatively short amount of time, addressing the devastation of the Great Depression and leaving a notable legacy of building, conservation, and infrastructural works. Likewise, the Green New Deal looks to stimulate an ailing economy, while weaving together social and environmental objectives with broad implications. However, unlike its eponym, the GND—still in its infancy as a political project—is yet to emerge with a strong visual language and consistent graphic messaging to help translate broad rhetoric into local, relatable action. While still in the earliest phases of its formulation, the Green New Deal has merely offered nostalgic imitations of bold New Deal imagery.

Of course, properly considered, nostalgia—with its strong associations with place and home—could yet prove a persuasive graphic strategy for communicating and winning local favor for a Green New Deal, just as regionally distinct forms and traditions could inform the design and planning approaches to landscapes of decarbonization.

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Call for Public Comments on U.S. Nominations to the World Heritage List

Serpent Mound, Ohio / image: Katherine Bowman licensed under CC BY 2.0

While last month saw the announcement of new additions to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists—which included an impressive array of knowledge, practices, and traditions, from a centuries-old irrigation network in the United Arab Emirates to the tree beekeeping culture of Poland and Belarus—this month, the opportunity to submit public comments on U.S. nominations to the World Heritage List closes January 26, 2021.

The properties currently proposed for the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List include: Serpent Mound in Ohio, Central Park in New York, and Civil Rights Movement Sites in Alabama among the cultural sites, and Big Bend National Park in Texas, multiple sites in Central California, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico among the natural sites.

See the Federal Register for the full list and additional information.

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The 2021 HALS Challenge: Historic Black Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Anne Spencer Garden, HALS VA-59, Lynchburg, Virginia. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

For the 12th annual HALS Challenge, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document historic Black landscapes. Black people have built and shaped the American landscape in immeasurable ways. Examining these histories and spaces will expand our understanding of America’s past and future. From plantations to segregated cities, the nation’s landscapes retain the physical manifestations of our racist history. Yet historic Black landscapes also represent creative achievements and reflect Black culture, as seen in residential gardens, parks, and college campuses across this country. Documenting historic Black landscapes will reveal patterns of community that have been built over the course of four hundred years.

Some useful and inspiring resources:

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New Opportunities Abound

Opportunities and RFQs

With the new year just begun, now is the time to explore opportunities and events coming up in 2021. While you may already be familiar with ASLA’s current open calls—for honors nominations (due February 5), presentations for the 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture (due February 24), and Council of Fellows nominations (due February 1)—all are welcome to find even more offerings from allied organizations and others through ASLA’s RFQs and Opportunities page.

Below, we highlight a sampling of the business opportunities, design competitions, and events listed currently. And, anyone looking to share an opportunity with landscape architects may do so at any time through the online submission form.

Grants

National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
Deadline: March 1, 2021

Requests for Qualifications

Landscape Architect/Designer for Wangari Gardens and Park Enhancement Project
Deadline: January 29, 2021

Dorothea Dix Park Rocky Branch Enhancement Project
Deadline: February 12, 2021

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Shape the Future: Submit for ASLA 2021

Cumberland Park, Nashville, Tennessee / image: Hargreaves Jones

ASLA 2021 Call for Presentations
Deadline: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 11:59 p.m. PT

The Call for Presentations for the 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville is now open. We are looking for education proposals that will help drive change in landscape architecture and provide solutions to everyday challenges that are informed by practice and research.

Help us shape the 2021 education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

The 2021 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is scheduled to take place in November in Nashville, Tennessee. Of course, we don’t know what will happen with the COVID-19 pandemic by then—and ASLA will be monitoring the situation carefully as we plan a conference that is safe for everyone. But there’s one thing we do know—whatever form our conference takes this year, we will not compromise our standards for delivering the high-quality, well-rounded educational experience that everyone has come to expect. Your submissions make that possible.

All education session proposals are reviewed by the Annual Conference Education Advisory Committee. Sessions will be organized into topics most relevant to the practice of landscape architecture and cross-sector collaborations. Please visit the submission site to learn more about the 2021 education tracks, submission criteria, review process, and key dates.

If you’re an ASLA member, make sure you have your unique ASLA Member ID or username handy—you should use it to log into the submission system.

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An Invitation

image: Grace ‘n’ Chase Photography

The Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) is very pleased to share this blog post about the concept of inclusion and its connection with landscape architecture. A giant thank you to Natalie Mackay, Executive Director of Unlimited Play, for contributing this thought provoking and deeply compelling article. We invite you all to share your thoughts and ideas on this important topic.
– Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, EDAC, FAOTA, Affil. ASLA

June 21, 2000. I received the invitation. No one else I had known or knew at that time received this invitation—just me. Membership in this ‘group’ required countless sleepless nights, endless appointments, and patience as I learned a new language. Tired and heartbroken, I found the determination to move forward in hopes of creating something better out of this life-changing circumstance.

My invitation to join the special needs community arrived the day my son Zachary was born and diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease. Now, 20 years later, this disease has taken almost everything from Zach, except for his love for life and community. Throughout the last 20 years, I have learned that each one of you has more than likely received, or will receive, a similar invitation. Through family members, close friends, or serendipitous circumstances, you have also been invited to join this close community.

Unlimited Play is a nonprofit I founded in 2003 that is focused on the need to build inclusive playgrounds. More than simply giving children the chance to play was my germ of an idea of building a community focused on inclusion. I dreamed of a place where children would not just see a little boy in a wheelchair, but a new friend. I like to imagine that children who play on the playgrounds we have built grow up to become landscape architects with memories of friendships developed on a playground designed for all children, regardless of situation or circumstance. Those early friendships formed on the playground (that proverbial ‘sandbox’) then become the professional inspiration behind using inclusion as the foundation of each design, no matter what it is, because inclusion is everything and everyone.

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2020 End-of-Year Roundup

ASLA 2020 Student Urban Design Honor Award. Adaptive Traditions of the Eastern Waterfront of Mumbai, India, Zixin (Sing) Chen, Student ASLA, University of Toronto, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. / image: Zixin (Sing) Chen

With the conclusion of this year of tumult now tantalizingly within reach, The Field is rounding up a few end-of-year, landscape architecture-centric recaps, in case you’ve already finished reading up on the Professional Practice Networks (PPNs)’ Year in Review. We hope you enjoy perusing them, and best wishes for a brighter and healthy new year!

The New York Times’ Year in Climate

The Times’ Climate Desk shares some of their best reporting from 2020, on wildfires in Australia, California, and beyond, this year’s relentless hurricane season, the inequality of climate change impacts, and more.

The Washington Post’s Top Climate Stories of 2020

Top stories cover how U.S. climate policy may change under President-elect Joe Biden, impacts of the coronavirus, extreme weather, and how climate risks are shaping financial institutions.

2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward from TCLF

This year-end summary from The Cultural Landscape Foundation includes Landslide 2020: Women Take the Lead and the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize. You can also learn more about “Race and Space,” the unifying theme for TCLF’s 2021 programming.

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2020 in Review: Professional Practice Networks Highlights

Even during this wild rollercoaster ride of a year, ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) leaders and members continued to share their experiences and expertise as authors for The Field blog and as presenters for ASLA’s Online Learning webinars.

We would like to thank all of you who contributed to this shared body of knowledge in 2020. We hope that you have found new ways to stay connected, learned to adapt to rapid changes in practice, and felt inspired by your peers in landscape architecture.

Check out the PPNs’ 2020 in Review to see what the PPNs have accomplished this year. Below, we highlight the top 10 Field posts of the year, PPN-hosted Online Learning presentations, and the PPN leaders who took part in reVISION ASLA 2020.

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From Climate Change to Climate Action

Gina McCarthy gave the opening keynote at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego. / image: EPNAC

President-elect Joe Biden announced this week his pick for head of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy: Gina McCarthy, former EPA chief, current president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture keynote speaker.

ASLA members can watch the keynote, From Climate Change to Climate Action: Building a Clean, Healthy, Sustainable Future – 1.0 PDH (LA CES/non-HSW), through the ASLA Online Learning website. This recording is available exclusively to ASLA members; please log in with your existing ASLA username and password.

And, earlier this week, the 20th ICOMOS General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency while this past weekend marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, a global accord bringing nations together to fight the consequences of climate change, lower emissions and greenhouse gases, and to create a more sustainable and resilient world. Despite the United States’ absence from the agreement, ASLA and more than 4,000 state and local governments, business leaders, university heads, cultural institutions, and many others signed the “We Are Still In” declaration.

Join us in our commitment to combating climate change by signing a letter to the incoming Biden-Harris administration urging them to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible.

Landscape architects, as the leading designers of green infrastructure, possess the knowledge and expertise to create a more sustainable future. Through resilient and sustainable design, landscape architects are helping slow the ravages of climate change while creating a better planet for all.

Ecology-Based Landscapes

by Larry Weaner, Affiliate ASLA, and Sara Weaner

image: Larry Weaner

Ecology-Based Landscapes: A Virtual Education Series
January 4 – March 23, 2021

New Directions in the American Landscape (NDAL) has presented programs throughout the United States focusing on innovative theory, practical applications, and an expansive vision of “Natural Design.” Programs draw from a variety of disciplines, including agriculture, anthropology, history, and fine art.

Over the first quarter of 2021, NDAL is offering a series of virtual programs, with events in two tracks: one for professional practitioners and one for home gardeners and educators.

Topics for professionals range from native design and management, to roof gardens, to planning for the recruitment of spontaneous vegetation.

Home gardeners can explore methods for wildflower meadow creation and navigating race and inclusivity in community gardens, and school administrators and educators can learn about how to incorporate native gardening into their curriculum and campuses.

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The 2020 HALS Challenge Winners: Vanishing or Lost Landscapes

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

2020 HALS Challenge Winner, First Place. Harvard Botanic Garden, HALS MA-6, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Aerial view. / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The results of the 11th annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge, Vanishing or Lost Landscapes, were announced at the annual ASLA HALS Meeting, held virtually on December 8, 2020. Congratulations to the winners! Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes will be awarded to the top four submissions (there was a tie for second place). This challenge resulted in the donation of 27 impressive HALS short format historical reports and a few measured drawings to the HALS collection for sites in eleven different states.

Many historic American landscapes are under threat or have been lost. Threats include development pressure, neglect, and climate change. By documenting vanishing or lost historic landscapes for HALS, participants have increased historic landscape awareness by illuminating these almost forgotten vestiges of America’s past.

First Place: Harvard Botanic Garden, HALS MA-6
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Prepared by Allison A. Crosbie, ASLA, Preservation Administrator, Cambridge Historical Commission. This site was significant as one of the earliest botanical gardens in the United States and for its association with Asa Gray (1810-1888), a prominent botanist, educator, and writer.

Second Place (Tie):
Jerome Relocation Center, HALS AR-9
Jerome, Chicot, and Drew Counties, Arkansas
This HALS report and accompanying maps were completed by a team from the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, both of the University of Arkansas. The project was led by faculty member Kimball Erdman, ASLA, with the assistance of fellow faculty member Greg Herman, staff member Angie Payne, and students Justice Barnes, Trevor Brown, Student ASLA, Vanessa Castaneda, Nate Cole, Amanda Davidson, Student ASLA, Alec Fischer, Chloe Harris, Cayla McGrail, Mary Nell Miskin, Kelsey Mork, Stephen Sines, and Jenna Whitmire. This site was significant as a Farm Security Administration (FSA) farming community, then a War Relocation Authority (WRA) Japanese internment camp, and finally as a United States prisoner of war (POW) camp housing German soldiers and officers.

University Mound Nursery, HALS CA-153
San Francisco, California
Prepared by Stacy Farr and Eleanor Cox. This site is historically significant for its association with the commercial flower-growing industry (floriculture) in San Francisco, and because it includes the last extant commercial greenhouses in a district that was once so thoroughly characterized by nurseries that it was known as the city’s Garden District.

Third Place: Henry Schumacher Farm, HALS WI-19
Waunakee, Dane County, Wisconsin
Prepared by Megan Turner, ASLA, with photographs by Rona Neri. This site is locally significant to the early settlement of Dane County and the Village of Waunakee.

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Landscape Architecture Tackles Homelessness and Shelter in the Pandemic

by Yekang Ko, PhD, and Cory Parker, PhD, PLA

Analysis of informal homeless tent encampment
Analysis of informal homeless tent encampment with hand-washing station. / image: Amicia Nametka

Environmental justice for vulnerable groups addresses inequitable distribution of resources or denial of participation in decision-making. The unhoused are one of our most vulnerable groups, and the COVID-19 outbreak puts vulnerable urban populations, especially people experiencing homelessness, in impossible circumstances. The issue of homelessness has escalated in the past decade, driven by economic polarization and the housing crisis. Since COVID-19’s spread through the United States, we have witnessed rising numbers of unhoused people, a trend likely to continue.

Critical discussions on how cities and civil society are responding to this crisis question traditional roles of environmental design. In this post, we explore how landscape architects can contribute to ongoing struggles of spatial justice, particularly by addressing homelessness in the post-pandemic world. We draw specific examples from Eugene, Oregon, the city with the highest homeless population per capita in the U.S. One third of Eugene’s unhoused population experiences mental illness of some kind, many camp along the Willamette River where increased flooding due to climate change threatens them and, with the recent record-breaking wildfire in September, they breathed smoke-filled air for more than a week of hazardous air quality.

Each threat exposes unhoused people to significant health impacts. As a mid-sized city with a population of 170,000, Eugene is known for its pioneering community-wide efforts in addressing the housing crisis and homelessness, including affordable housing movements, tiny house villages, and rest stops. As an alternative to policing, Eugene partnered with a non-profit to provide CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets), a mobile intervention program responding to mental health, substance abuse, and housing crises. Eugene and Lane County have also been actively looking for housing solutions, including building an additional large low-barrier emergency shelter with 75 beds and 350 units of permanent supportive housing units.

In the fall of 2019, the University of Oregon’s studio “Planning for Home: Landscape Approach for Resilient Transitional Housing,” taught by Yekang Ko and Shannon Arms, ASLA, proposed a systematic approach to the creation of a city-wide housing network that includes emergency shelters, transitional housing communities (up to two years), and permanent supportive and/or affordable housing.

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Common Space: A Public Practice Series

Greenbriar Local Park
Greenbriar Local Park, Potomac, MD, Hord Coplan Macht with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). / image: Jennifer Hughes Photography

The realm of public practice, including non-profit and governmental work, offers unique opportunities and challenges to practitioners.

The ASLA Public Practice Advisory Committee aspires to encourage more landscape architects, including students in landscape-architecture programs and emerging professionals, to pursue careers in the public sector. Less than ten percent of ASLA’s membership identify as public practitioners, working for local, state, and federal government agencies, universities and colleges, or parks and arboreta. Many of these ASLA members have found their way to public practice after years in private practice, looking to shape public policy and have an impact on public spaces for the common good.

In an ongoing series for ASLA’s LAND newsletter, members of the Public Practice Advisory Committee and other landscape architects share insights on their public practice careers. Check out what’s already appeared, recapped below, and stay tuned for new articles in the future!

Interviews:

Linda Komes, ASLA
Landscape architect and project manager in the Park Development Division of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Interview conducted by Julie Higgins, PLA, ASLA, Principal, Hord Coplan Macht

Nick Aceto
Landscape architect and urban designer at Aceto Landscape Architects
Interview conducted by Jennifer Shagin, ASLA, Redevelopment Support Specialist at City of Fort Collins, CO and land planner at Todd Hodges Design, LLC

Robynne Heymans, Associate ASLA
Park Planner, Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Austin, TX

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The Urban Studio Presents: Pardon Our Disruption

Urban Studio event series
The Urban Studio’s three-part virtual event series, Pardon Our Disruption, begins today, December 1!

The Urban Studio has three exciting and relevant programs of interest to members of the Environmental Justice PPN! Not only will you gain new insights into your own practice, you’ll be supporting the Urban Studio’s mission to advance the landscape architecture profession to create more healthy, vibrant, and just communities for all.
– Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA, PLA, Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN) Co-Chair

The Urban Studio’s three-part virtual event series, Pardon Our Disruption, begins today. Supporting these events helps create pathways for young professionals and shake up the landscape architecture profession in order to accelerate efforts toward a more equitable future for all.

Upset the Set Up
Tuesday, December 1, 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) / 1:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Join us for an interactive workshop to learn about effective co-creation tools and methods for meaningful community engagement. Facilitated by The Urban Studio’s creative engagement experts Daví de la Cruz, Associate ASLA, and Jenn Low, PLA, plus special guests Daniel Villa and his work with Hello Data and Christin Hu to talk about their work designing cooperative games. These tools and methods will cover a few central themes when designing for engagement: power, co-learning, storytelling, and play.

Interrupt the Program
Tuesday, December 8, 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) / 1:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Join The Urban Studio co-founders Kendra Hyson, ASLA, and Maisie Hughes in conversation with Kona Gray, FASLA, PLA, Principal of EDSA, and Torey Carter-Conneen, the new CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects, to reimagine the future of landscape architecture.

Digitize the Revolution
Tuesday, December 15, 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) / 1:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Explore the intersection of mapping and social justice with Andrew Sargeant, ASLA, and Jelani Byrd as they demonstrate how to democratize data using open-source assets and live, 3D mapping with QGIS.

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K-­12 Educational Programs in Landscape Architecture

by Arnaldo Cardona, ASLA

images: Arnaldo Cardona

K­-12 Educational Programs in Landscape Architecture: How to Create Clients and Professionals of the Future

As an ASLA member, you have no doubt heard the phrase “K‐12 educational programs.” Why does this phrase keep resurfacing as an issue in landscape architecture? In this article, I will bring to light why this topic is important and worthy of further development.

First, let’s ask ourselves the following:

  • Do people understand what a landscape architect does?
  • Are there many positions in government for the recent graduate that recognize and differentiate the role of landscape architect?
  • What is the most effective way to promote our profession? Spending unlimited money in advertisement and public relations? Or is there a more effective and economical way to promote our profession?
  • Are we creating clients of the future? Are we creating landscape professionals of the future?
  • Are college programs in landscape architecture overwhelmed with applicants, or are some in jeopardy?
  • What are we doing as a profession to broaden our marketability and diversify our profession in non‐traditional roles?
  • How can we work together with other fields or professions to achieve common goals?

How can we expect government agencies to offer more positions in landscape architecture? How can we expect homeowners to hire landscape architects in these times of “do it yourself” TV shows? What can we do to be more effective in the outreach and understanding of the profession?

The answer is education.

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Should We Place Any Value in the 100-Year Storm?

by Michael Igo, Affil. ASLA, PE, D.WRE, LEED AP, CID

Impacts of floodwaters
ASLA 2020 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Lumberton Community Floodprint: Strategies for Repurposing Vulnerable Landscapes After Disaster, Lumberton, North Carolina. NC State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab. / image: Lee Stevens

In the age of awareness of climate change, we often hear the terms “100-year storm,” “500-year tides,” or “25-year drought” thrown around. Intuitively, we tend to think that a 100-year storm occurs once every 100 years. However, this is only partly true, as there are key phrases missing from this notion: a 100-year storm will occur once every 100 years on average and based on past data.

The use of an X-Year event derives from what is known in mathematics as the exceedance probability, or the likelihood of an event being greater than a predefined parameter in a given timeframe. Statistics of past data (storms, tides, earthquakes, etc.) are used to create charts based on size and the probability of occurring.

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Last Call for reVISION ASLA 2020

reVISION ASLA 2020
The reVISION ASLA 2020 opening keynote featured Walter Hood, ASLA, ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen, Majora Carter, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Hon. ASLA.

Registration for reVISION ASLA 2020 closes Wednesday, November 18, at 3:00 pm EST.

Even if you can’t attend live, all education sessions will be available on-demand. Register by November 18 and you’ll have access to reVISION ASLA 2020 content from November 23, 2020 through January 31, 2021.

The reVISION ASLA 2020 program includes education sessions in five tracks, allowing registrants to earn up to 25 Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development hours (PDH) by watching sessions live or on-demand.

Individuals can earn PDH by passing an exam after each session, and then download course certificates from the event platform.

For a taste of the experience, a number of reVISION ASLA events are available to watch (for free!) right now. Check them out, and then register by November 18 for full access to the education session recordings and to earn up to 25 PDH!

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20 Years of Partnership: The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program

A RTCA project group surveys the landscape. / image: courtesy of the National Park Service

For over 20 years, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Park Service (NPS) have joined forces to help communities across the nation plan, design, and manage their natural, cultural, and recreation resources through the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program.

Volunteers from ASLA chapters across the country provide pro-bono assistance to communities the National Park Service supports. The partnership between NPS and ASLA provides communities with access to expert planners and designers that can turn their ideas into actions, supporting healthy communities and extending the missions of the National Park Service and ASLA to all Americans.

Learn More about the RTCA Program at reVISION ASLA 2020

Next week during reVISION ASLA 2020, attendees will have an opportunity to meet chapter leaders and agency members and consider how we might collaborate over the next 20 years:

The Next 20: ASLA’s Community Assistance Partnership with the National Park Service: Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (NPS-RTCA)
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
5:00 – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Register now to join us for this conversation, along with a host of other education and virtual networking sessions!

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A New Approach to Parks and Recreation System Planning to Create More Livable and Sustainable Communities

by David Barth, PhD, ASLA, AICP, CPRP

Book cover
David Barth is the author of the new book Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities.

Over the past three decades, landscape architects and park planners have made great strides in addressing community-wide issues through park design. Parks have been designed to create jobs, store and treat stormwater run-off, provide socially-inclusive gathering spaces, combat climate change, increase property values, attract new businesses, promote health and fitness, stabilize neighborhoods, and generate other community-wide benefits.

Most of these efforts, however, have been implemented on an individual site basis rather than a system-wide basis. The majority of parks and recreation system plans address traditional parks and recreation improvements, rather than community-wide issues. And the typical parks and recreation system master planning (PRSMP) process hasn’t changed significantly over the past century and a half since architect Horace Cleveland presented his Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis in 1883!

In my new book, Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities, I propose a new approach to system planning that not only addresses traditional parks and recreation challenges, but is also robust and comprehensive enough to address broader community-wide issues. Key tenets of this approach include:

  • planning parks and recreation facilities as elements of a larger, interconnected public realm;
  • considering alternative dimensions of parks and recreation systems, such as social equity and climate change, from the onset of the planning process; and
  • planning every site in the system as high-performance public space (HPPS).

This broader perspective encourages parks and recreation agencies to transcend their silos—and leverage their resources—to plan and collaborate with other public and private agencies to meet as many of the community’s needs as possible.

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PPN Event Preview: reVISION ASLA 2020’s Virtual Networking Sessions

Landscape architect Ashley Schwemmer-Mannix
Ashley Schwemmer-Mannix, ASLA, Landscape Architect, West 8 urban design & landscape architecture, is a field session guide for Miami Beach Civic District Master Plan: Landscape Strategies for Better Living.

When a landscape architect faces a change in conditions for their project, they have to revise the plans—just as ASLA had to do with the conference when faced with the COVID-19 crisis. reVISION ASLA 2020 is a reimagined, virtual experience for an evolving profession where you will get the opportunity to learn, connect, and celebrate landscape architecture—all from the safety of your own home. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember for all the right reasons: join us at reVISION ASLA 2020, from November 16-18, and make your mark on the future of our profession.

The education program includes an opening keynote and 24 education sessions in five tracks for Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™)-approved professional development hours (PDH). Education sessions will be available to all registrants after the event for on-demand access through January 31, 2021.

In addition to sessions for PDH, there are also bite-sized learning opportunities to explore, offering a change of pace and time to take part in discussions. These include virtual field sessions, game changers, Inside the LA Studio, and virtual networking sessions.

Below, we take a look at what each ASLA Professional Practice Network (PPN) with a virtual networking session (or multiple sessions!) has planned for later this month. These 30-minute video chat rooms will be limited in capacity to create a virtual space where everyone can participate in the discussion. Explore the topics below, and register now to join the conversation!

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