Third Annual Aggie Leadership in Community Development Conference: The Thesen Islands Sustainable Land Redevelopment by CMAI Architects

by Michael Murphy, PhD, ASLA

Dr. Chris Mulder speaking at the 2018 Aggie Leadership in Development Conference with other CMAI personnel and former interns on stage / image: Master of Land and Property Development Program, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University

In February, the Master of Land and Property Development Program at Texas A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, sponsored its third Annual Aggie Leadership in Community Development conference. The conference featured the work of Dr. Chris E. Mulder, Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Architecture and Outstanding International Alumnus of Texas A&M University. The conference, held to improve awareness among the faculty and student body of exemplary work by former students, was held at the Annenberg Conference Center at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. Chris Mulder’s firm, CMAI Architects, has been responsible for some of the most significant sustainable development projects in his native South Africa, and for this work he has received international recognition for excellence in development at Thesen Island in Knysna, South Africa.

The Leadership in Community Development Conference, open to the University and professional communities, was established by Professor Geoffrey J. Booth, former director of the Master of Land and Property Development program at Texas A&M to improve relationships between students and the leaders of the planning, design, and development fields. In addition to presentations by Dr. Mulder, attendees heard reports from his former interns from the Department, now established professional practitioners, who described the importance of their own experiences in working at CMAI during their student years, and for some, for an extended period of employment. Mulder established a long-standing tradition of mentoring student interns during the firm’s early years of the 1980s and he has continued in this role up to the present.

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Give Feedback On A Student’s Guide To Environmental Justice

by Kari Spiegelhalter, Tess Ruswick, and Patricia Noto, ASLA Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives

The cover page of A Student’s Guide to Environmental Justice

What is environmental justice? How does it relate to social justice, environmental racism, community health, and equitable design? As designers of places and cities, what is our responsibility to work towards greater equity? As students of landscape architecture, and the student representatives of the Environmental Justice PPN, we found that these questions that weren’t always being addressed in our coursework or studio projects in school. We had a hunch that other students felt the same way, so in spring of 2017, we attended LABash at the University of Maryland, the annual gathering of landscape architecture students from all over the country. Through surveys and conversations with students, we found that many students were concerned, if a bit confused, about environmental justice. Read more about our experiences at LABash in The Field article “Environmental Justice PPN Student Representatives At LABash.”

Students frequently interpreted design for environmental justice as ecological design rather than design that addresses the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on minorities and marginalized groups and the unequal distribution of and access to environmental benefits.

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Join the Environmental Justice PPN Virtual Conversations

Hawthorne Bicentennial Mosaic Workshop_Community Design / image: From Lot to Spot

The Environmental Justice PPN has kicked off 2018 by leading virtual conversations for members involved in, inspired by, and interested in pursuing environmental justice through education, research, and practice. In early February, the PPN hosted a virtual presentation and conversation on the Environmental Justice + Landscape Architecture: A Student’s Guide, developed by three MLA students from Cornell and RISD. Look for Tuesday’s Field post with more information on the first draft and how you can help shape the resources, case studies, and activities included in the guide!

On March 8, Viviana Franco, Executive Director of From Lot to Spot (FLTS), will be joining the PPN conversation on equitable community engagement. FLTS, based in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2007 as a direct result of the relationship between lack of accessible green space and the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. FLTS’ unique approach involves grassroot, community engagement to ensure disadvantaged communities contribute their voice in developing healthy spaces in their neighborhoods. Viviana will be discussing her organization’s approach to providing equitable community engagement as well as some case studies where those principles have been applied.

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Parklets Recap from New Partners for Smart Growth 2018 Conference

The Mission Interactive Model, sponsored by Place It! / image: Katie Riddle

In February, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference, the nation’s largest smart growth and sustainability event, was held in San Francisco, CA. As a promotional sponsor, ASLA led the sixth annual Parklets Initiative along with the Local Government Commission (LGC). The interactive installations were created by design and planning firms as well as local non-profit organizations. The parklets were located adjacent to the conference session rooms, and provided an opportunity for attendees to carry over the dynamic interactive sessions into the common space, where they could network with colleagues and engage in dialogue around smart growth implementation. The programming elements of the parklets included urban forest products, creative placemaking though public transit stops, complete street design components, and participation-based urban planning tools.

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WaterSmart Irrigation & Water-Harvesting Enhance ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture

by Jim Davis, ASLA

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture green roof / image: EPNAC

Modifications to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Headquarters building, now known as the Center for Landscape Architecture (CLA), are nearing completion for higher performance in water conservation. The exterior improvements are of particular interest to landscape architects and others who are sustainably-minded, as part of their ongoing Energy-Star initiatives. In addition to interior upgrades and hardscape improvements outside, the primary improvements of high interest to ASLA’s Water Conservation PPN include the water-harvesting system and the WaterSmart approach to irrigation for the greenroof, the new courtyard (east of the building) and the planted canopy overhanging the front windows and entry on the north side.

The light fixtures are visible, but the micro-spray emitters are not, in the building’s planted main entrance canopy.
Mostly shaded, the courtyard plantings are watered by low-volume drip-irrigation.

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PARKXCHANGE City Workshops Call for Submissions

Across the country, parks professionals, planners and community organizations have been using arts and culture as a means to address important community development goals in a practice known as creative placemaking.

City Parks Alliance (CPA) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) are partnering to bring placemaking skills and strategies to you through a PARKXCHANGE City Workshop on Creative Placemaking, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017, CPA and TPL released The Field Guide for Creative Placemaking and Parks, a book that serves as a ‘how-to’ for implementing park-based creative placemaking and highlights successful park placemaking case studies. 

These organizations are now partnering to bring those skills and innovative strategies to you through our PARKXCHANGE City Workshops. CPA and TPL will be selecting two U.S. cities to host a creative placemaking workshop, a day-long workshop with guest speakers, interactive case studies, and creative placemaking skill-building. Submissions are due February 28, 2018.

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ASLA at the International Builders’ Show

Dean Hill, ASLA, volunteering at ASLA’s exhibit booth / image: Katie Riddle

In early January, ASLA participated in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builders’ Show® (IBS) as part of Design & Construction Week® (DCW) in Orlando, FL. Working with local members to increase awareness of the landscape architecture profession among an audience of large national builders, small local builders, architects, and designers, ASLA exhibited on the trade show floor among more than 80,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors. Todd Bonnett, ASLA, and Dean Hill, ASLA, along with ASLA staff, fielded questions by conference attendees regarding professional services provided by landscape architects. Todd also promoted the importance of working with a landscape architect through the Plan Review Session, during which attendees had the opportunity to sign up for a review with landscape architects, architects, planners, and interior designers to study housing plans and discuss creative ideas to better meet the needs of today’s home buyers and builders. Continue reading

The Digital Technology PPN Looks Ahead to 2018

Ocean Street Beach Access Project in Carlsbad CA / image: Matt Wilkins and Stephen Nunez – KTUA

A Recap of Last Year’s Annual Meeting and Blast Off into 2018
Another year is in the books, and as we look back it was a very fun and successful year. At the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Los Angeles, there were several digital technology sessions covering some of the leading tools and tech including BIM, augmented and virtual reality, innovative prototyping, demystifying technology and more. Thank you to all who supported these sessions and to the panelists for sharing their tools, techniques, and passion.

Ryan Deane, ASLA, Digital Technology Co-Chair; David Leonard, ASLA, Past Digital Technology Chair; and Matthew Wilkins, ASLA, Digital Technology Chair present on augmented and virtual reality at the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting / image: Ryan Deane

The Digital Technology PPN EXPO tour was also very informative as we learned in-depth information from the presenting vendors about their tools to assist our profession. We were also able to gather for our annual PPN meeting and meet with each other in person, share our knowledge, and come up with ideas for 2018. A major thank you to all who participated in these various events. Continue reading

Call for Parklets at the 2018 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

Experience the Gateway to Trails and Forests!, sponsored by Nature Explore, U.S. Forest Service, Arbor Day Foundation, and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation / image: Shawn Balon

ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC) will lead the sixth annual Parklets Initiative at the 2018 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. ASLA is looking for local organizations and design firms to participate in the design and installation of the parklets, advocating for urban green space and activated public space throughout our cities. Planning for Parklets 6.0 will begin in late September, gearing up for the conference on February 1-3, 2018.

ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC) will lead the sixth annual Parklets Initiative at the 2018 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. ASLA is looking for local organizations and design firms to participate in the design and installation of the parklets, advocating for urban green space and activated public space throughout our cities. Planning for Parklets 6.0 will begin in late September, gearing up for the conference on February 1-3, 2018. The Parklets Initiative is modeled after the PARK(ing) Day movement, which inspires the transformation of vehicular parking spaces into temporary urban parks. We bring this urban green space movement indoors, with installations located adjacent to the conference session rooms easily accessible by conference attendees. See The Field recap of the 2017 Parklets 5.0 initiative.

Parklet participants:

  • Participate in planning calls
  • Provide materials and design for a 10’x20’ parklet space
  • Share potential resources and ideas with other parklet participants
  • Provide a title and description for their parklet, which will be included on the website and printed program booklet

Parklet participants receive:

  • One (1) full conference registration
  • Name/logo on website and printed program booklet
  • Name/logo on Parklet 6.0 poster, located prominently throughout conference space
  • Special thanks in the printed program booklet
  • Mention in event summary in ASLA’s online blog, The Field

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Data + Design: Measuring a Landscape’s Value

Little Sugar Creek Greenway extends over 15 miles and traverses 17 neighborhoods, passing through urban, suburban, and rural areas. This development is projected to spur substantial growth in the surrounding community of Charlotte, North Carolina. / image: LandDesign

Today’s landscapes are asked to perform much more than functional or aesthetic services: they filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve human health, and more. As projects become more complex, and clients aim higher to meet today’s climate challenges, the use of performance metrics is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Why use data?

While the design of green space and lush plantings seems inherently ecologically beneficial, quantifying the actual value of those benefits is a little more complex. This barrier makes it challenging as we advocate for high-performing landscapes. Meanwhile, the drawbacks of initial cost and maintenance are seen as barriers to the development of more green space. This is where landscape performance metrics are valuable; using data to estimate the positive benefits of design elements and ensuring a landscape performs to the anticipated standards. Data allows us to quantify the benefits of a designed landscape, and provides hard evidence for a client trying to balance a project’s budget, schedule, and demands.

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The Evolving Practice of Ecological Landscape Design

View of the roof gardens and courtyards at the US Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC. / image: Kelly Fleming

A trend is emerging within the profession that expands our approach to planting design and the role of vegetation. Designers are backing away from the role of curator of gardens where plant species are selected and placed according to a theme in a created setting, without regard to how that species may be predisposed to behave in the setting. Instead, they are adopting the role of steward to a set of naturally occurring processes that govern the development of plant communities. An understanding of ecological principles to guide the design, planting and maintenance of landscapes, and reliance on an adaptive management process based on observation and recalibration will result in landscapes that will take less energy and resources to maintain and provide the greatest environmental benefits.

The study of landscape ecology has had a significant impact on the way landscape designers and planners think about open space and connectivity at the regional scale, and has led to the promotion and implementation of green infrastructure to provide cost-effective systems that protect and restore natural resources. Green infrastructure is crucial to combating climate change, creating healthy built environments, and improving our quality of life. The shift towards green infrastructure in the design and implementation of the built environment has opened a window through which landscape designers can employ ecologically-based strategies. It will be necessary for landscape designers to build a body of knowledge based on the principles of ecology. The revelatory book by Travis Beck, The Principles of Ecological Landscape Design, is one of the foundations of this expanding body of knowledge.

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