The Expanding Role of Landscape Architects in Urban Waterfront Design

by Tom Rogers, ASLA

Lowland Park on Detroit’s urban riverfront, is part of the second phase of Milliken State Park, Michigan’s first state park in an urban setting. / Image: SmithGroup

Urban waterfronts throughout the world are transforming from industrial centers and transportation hubs to mixed-use destinations. As population growth shifts to urban centers, greater pressure to redevelop underutilized land at the water’s edge is requiring cities to address complex challenges. The most holistic solutions require a thoughtful approach at an urban scale that melds many disciplines. These waterfront projects involve a variety of stakeholders with diverse needs, and require complex, time consuming processes and significant investments in capital resources.

Landscape architects can and should play an expanded role in these significant opportunities to shape the future of cities. To do so, L.A.s must adapt and develop skillsets beyond their traditional focus to lead integrated, resilient design solutions.

My firm, SmithGroup, hosted a roundtable discussion with clients and colleagues from Rust Belt communities throughout the Great Lakes to discuss the challenges and opportunities for their urban waterfronts. Attendees included representatives from municipal planning departments, regional watershed districts, redevelopment authorities, regulatory agencies, private developers, nonprofits, and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

While each of the participants represented a unique vantage point, they painted a striking similar picture of the issues; shifts in markets and policy have resulted in economically challenged neighborhoods next to underutilized, often contaminated industrial property near the core of their cities. Many of these properties are located on or near water. The problems involve a tangled web of owners, users, regulators and policies that cannot be addressed solely though site-specific solutions but must be approached at a larger scale to be effective.

Performance, partnerships and equity emerged as key themes and design drivers during our discussion, pointing to the more integrated and resilient solutions required to return our urban waterfronts to the right balance of public use, environmental integrity, and prosperity.

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Methods of Plant Selection

by Katie Seidenwurm, ASLA

A plant combination: Pride of Madeira (Echium cadicans) and Orchid Rockrose (Cistus x purpureus) / Image: Katie Seidenwurm

As a landscape architect who focusses on residential design, one of my biggest challenges is guiding clients through the plant selection process. Each client comes to the project with different levels of knowledge and interest. I have had clients who are totally involved with the plants and have given me a list of specific plants that they want in their yard with placement ideas. On the other side, I have had clients proclaim that they know nothing about plants and just want something that “looks good and is low-maintenance … and by the way, I love the color purple.” Over the years, I have tried various methods with various degrees of success. Here, I describe some methods I have tried, and list the pros and cons of each. I would be very interested in feedback on this as I am always looking for new ideas.

Take client to a nursery to pick out plants.

Pros:

  • Client gets to see plant for themselves.
  • We can see what plants are available at the nursery and in what quantity and condition.
  • Client feels good about plant selection, because he/she has seen the plants for themselves.

Cons:

  • The plant is immature and in a pot. It’s hard to picture what it will look like installed and in a few years. I find myself motioning a lot to say, “Imagine this plant to be this high.”
  • Contractor may not be purchasing plants from that particular nusery.
  • If it’s winter, the plant selection is thin and the quality of the plants is often poor.
  • The nursery doesn’t have the plants that you were thinking of using in the design.

I have tried this method a few times. One time, I took a client to the nursery and they didn’t have what we were looking for. The nursery was large and one where you drive around to different areas for the various plants. The client got frustrated because we couldn’t’ find the plants that I had in mind, it was getting hot, and she was getting tired. I almost lost the client that day. I suppose, if I had called ahead and had the nursery pull the plants ahead of time, then we could have gone to one place and seen the plants.

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Take an Umbrella!

By Shanda Davenport, P.E., CFM, AICP

Flooded Ashville Park residential neighborhood / Image: City of Virginia Beach

“Take an umbrella- it might rain!” How many times have we heard that?

These days it seems to be happening more and more. Is it really raining more? Or is it raining heavily more often? In the coastal plain of the east coast, that question keeps coming up. The City of Virginia Beach has been conducting an analysis to develop a plan to protect against the impacts of sea level rise. But, as we worried and fretted as to whether or not we were on the right curve or projection from the myriad of possibilities and probabilities associated with sea level rise, portions of the City were getting flooded by rainfall in ways and in locations that we have not experienced in the past.

We know that sea level rise is a major concern for coastal Virginia and particularly for the Hampton Roads region. The five long-term water level observation stations in southeast Virginia, highlighted in green in the table below, are in the top 10% of the highest relative sea level rise rates in the nation.

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Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner Program Application Window Now Open

ASLA 2015 Professional Award of Excellence. At the Hudson’s Edge: Beacon’s Long Dock a Resilient Riverfront Park. Reed Hilderbrand LLC / James Ewing Photography

In June, the ASLA Ecology & Restoration PPN invited Jen Lyndall, Certification Program Coordinator with the Society for Ecological Restoration, to present SER’s Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner program (CERP) via a virtual meeting. All PPN members were invited to participate. The CERP program encourages a high professional standard for those who are designing, implementing, overseeing, and monitoring restoration projects throughout the world.

Investment and support for ecological restoration is growing rapidly all across the globe, but standards are minimal. SER’s certification program provides numerous benefits to the field. Most importantly, the SER certification program is designed to improve the quality of ecological restoration projects on the ground. Two levels of certification are offered:

  • Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioners (CERPs) are senior level practitioners who have achieved the knowledge requirements and have greater than 5 years of full time experience with restoration.
  • Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioners-in-Training (CERPITs) are recent graduates and those practitioners who do not yet have more than 5 years of full time experience with restoration – OR- those practitioners with sufficient experience who are still working on the educational criteria.

The application window is now open through October 12, 2018. Of the current 219 certified professionals, 17 identify as landscape architects. For a list of approved CERPs and CERPITs, see the directory.

For questions about the program contact certification@ser.org

More information on the Ecology & Restoration PPN’s goals, research, leadership, and upcoming events can be found here. If you know someone else who is interested in joining our PPN, they can contact ASLA Member Services at 888-999-ASLA or membership@asla.org.

Sustainability vs. Resiliency: Designing for a Trajectory of Change

by Keith Bowers, FASLA

Image: Biohabitats

Words matter! And being mindful of the words and terms we use professionally can only help demonstrate landscape architects’ expertise and leadership on these complex topics: sustainability and resiliency.

The Sustainable Design and Development Professional Practice Network leadership recognized the importance for our group to think more deeply about these two important terms and concepts. We put out a call to firms who are demonstrating leadership in this arena to provide their insights, and Keith Bowers, FASLA, of Biohabitats created the post below.

This is worth reading several times and it might possibly change how you think and discuss sustainability and resiliency in your practice.

Lisa Cowan and Kevin Burke, Sustainable Design & Development Field Editors

In our field, resilience and sustainability should mean the same thing, but this means that we need to correct how we talk about sustainability. Perhaps the most striking similarity between our current use of the terms “sustainability” and “resilience” is their frequent application across a wide variety of practices and projects that too often are neither sustainable nor resilient. This is the way of terms of art—they burst onto the scene, meaning something important and specific, but over time their power becomes diluted as they get misused or applied loosely. I argue that if we use the term sustainability correctly, all sustainable projects would also be resilient, i.e. able to accommodate change and recover quickly. But to see why this is the case, we need to examine the concept of “sustainability” within the design profession and see why the term is frequently misapplied.

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Take the ASLA Professional Development Preferences Survey

Please help ASLA national ensure that we develop continuing education content that supports your individual interests and needs by completing a short survey. ASLA is interested in hearing from licensed and non-licensed professionals. Please share your feedback by Tuesday, July 17.ASLA provides a number of ways for landscape architects to earn professional development hours (PDH) through the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™). Professional development hours (PDH) is the term that ASLA and LA CES use to describe how much credit a course carries.

ASLA’s in-person offerings include the: 

ASLA’s online offerings include:

Check out additional resources on ASLA’s Professional Development webpage, such as an up-to-date list of conferences for landscape architects focused on a variety of practice areas.

Reimagining the Campus Green Infrastructure Experience!

By Charlene LeBleu, FASLA

Green Infrastructure game box tops designed by MLA students.
AubieGo—Rachel Hamrick, Student ASLA, Yuzhou Jin, Rui Wang, Student ASLA, & Xueting Zhou, Student ASlA.
GI Builder—Jaspuneet Kaur, Radhika Shenoy, Student ASLA, Yuanyuan Gao, Student ASLA, & Looja Shakya, Student ASLA.

Visitors to Auburn University will now have an opportunity to experience campus green infrastructure using two newly designed interactive board games. The board games, AubieGo and GI Builder were created by Landscape Architecture graduate students for the Office of Sustainability to invite visitors, students, faculty, and beyond to learn about the green infrastructure stormwater control measures that are integrated into the campus landscape. The games provide a novel way to introduce and communicate the benefits of campus green infrastructure practices to both young and old.

The graduate students are members of the LAND 7900 Interpretive Design—Redesigning the Visitor Experience class, a three (3) hour directed elective taught by Charlene M. LeBleu, FASLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture. “I was asked by the Office of Sustainability and Campus Stormwater Committee to have my students create a brochure for a campus green infrastructure tour,” said LeBleu. “We did design a brochure, but I wanted my students to reimagine green infrastructure education in a different way. Designing and crafting a board game, the playing pieces, and a container to hold all pieces provided a fun and interesting creative challenge!”

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Summer of SITES®

Enrich your summer with the SITES® Accredited Professional exam: Now through September 3, 2018, ASLA is offering a $100 discount off the SITES AP Exam for the first 150 registrants to use the promo code 2018ASLAPROMO.

Click here for registration instructions.

Registrants must be an ASLA member to use the code, and will be required to provide an ASLA member number. Questions? Email sites@asla.org.

An ASLA prepared webinar series to help you study for the exam is available at a discounted rate to members.

The SITES accredited professional exam provides landscape architects with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to the profession. It also establishes a common framework to define the profession of sustainable landscape design and development.

Landscape Architects Make the Case

“For me and the firm, incorporating the principles of SITES into our work is something that we have done for years. What the initiative provides is a logical and structured methodology to accomplish a rich diversity of improvements that can be shared with clients and the community. The more thorough a team is with embracing the credits the better the project can be for the public or private users. The structure allows us as designers to do a better job explaining the complexity of what it is we do and the certification allows the team and client to celebrate good work.”

Hunter Beckham, FASLA

SWT Design Novus International Headquarters Campus, St. Louis, Missouri – Three-star Certified Pilot Project

“SITES is the single best crash-course in real landscape sustainability. Certification requires tangible, quantifiable standards and that rigorous challenge both educated and inspired me. Sustainable practices and client education is now an integral part of all my landscape work.”

CeCe Haydock, ASLA, LEED AP

Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, Garden City, New York  – Two-star Certified Pilot Project

Cleveland’s Active Transit Awakening

by Peter Salamon, Associate ASLA

The Cleveland Group Plan by Charles Burnham / Image: The Cleveland Memory Project

In our April 2018 Urban Design PPN Field post, we learned about Detroit’s approach to urban transit. Continuing with this theme of rust belt cities, we’ll now explore Cleveland’s challenges and achievements in connecting people to place.

Whereas Detroit’s Woodward plan launched a framework extending far from the city center, Charles Burnham’s Group Plan for the City of Cleveland established only an immediate civic core. This was due mainly to the downtown’s unique geography, as the Cuyahoga River Valley isolated it from the more residential areas pushed to neighboring bluffs. Development in these areas loosely followed what translated in Iroquois to “the crooked river,” and could be best characterized as piecemeal; not following any distinct pattern, and often, the law.

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Mitigating the Thermal Characteristics of Stormwater

by Charlene LeBleu, FASLA

Data logging thermistors are located inside and outside material testing mesocosms. / Image: Britton Garrett

The Auburn University Green Infrastructure Team is studying thermal inputs to stormwater systems.  The team includes faculty researchers Amy Wright, Horticulture, Mark Dougherty, Biosystems Engineering, Keith Rahn, Building Science, and Charlene LeBleu, FASLA, Landscape Architecture. Graduate Research Assistants include MLA students Andres Orjuela, Student ASLA; Britton Garrett; Rui Wang, Student ASLA; and Ryan Bowen, MLA & Master of Building Science. The research is conducted in the Green Infrastructure Laboratory at the Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce (CASIC) Building. The laboratory provides a controlled environment, and is designed for both wet and dry research. The center was built with funding provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. The main purpose of this research is to develop design models for standard stormwater control measures that can be used to meet specific effluent temperature standards and to maintain the required thermal regime in a receiving stream. This project hypothesizes that pervious surfaces, turfgrass and rain gardens can be used to mitigate ground level thermal loads in stormwater runoff.

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The Atlanta Beltline: An Interview with the Principal Landscape Architect, Part 2

By Thomas Schurch, ASLA, AICP

Atlanta BeltLine Inc in partnership with Trees Atlanta is establishing a 22-mile linear arboretum unlike any other in the world. / Image: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

In this second of the two-part interview with Principal Landscape Architect Kevin Burke, ASLA, Kevin addresses facets of the BeltLine’s construction, funding and construction costs, social impacts, and public participation that he has been involved with. As stated in Part I, this urban design project is remarkable for its ultimate transformation of Atlanta that includes 22 miles of pedestrian friendly rail transit, 33 miles of multi-use trails, 1,300 acres of parks, 5,600 units of affordable housing, public art, historic preservation $10-20 billion in economic development, 30,000 permanent jobs, and, of course, sustainability.

CONSTRUCTION

What is your role in “post construction oversight”? 

We believe that the upkeep of public funds investment is a basic parameter of our responsibility. However, a significant level of our funding comes from a Tax Allocation District (a.k.a. Tax Increment Financing) tied to local real estate values on commercial/industrial/multi-family properties. This source was legislatively created to spur economic development and specifically precludes utilization of these funds for O&M. As such, we are somewhat hampered in our ability to do what most landscape architects would consider basic maintenance needs. The Parks and Recreation Department assists us, especially with graffiti removal, as resources permit.

To aid our efforts, we established a “Fixit Line” that facilitates the public letting us know matters needing attention.

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The Atlanta Beltline: An Interview with the Principal Landscape Architect, Part 1

By Thomas Schurch, ASLA, AICP

The integration of stormwater green infrastructure into the park has facilitated a walkable neighborhood and has led to the construction of over 2,500 housing units within a half block. / Image: Tom Schurch

The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the most comprehensive urban design efforts in the current era and rivals others today such as San Francisco’s Mission Bay, Manhattan’s Battery Park City, New York’s Fresh Kills, Boston’s Big Dig, and the Orange County Great Park. As such, it is transformative for Atlanta, a city known for poor land use practices over the past quarter century. The BeltLine will ultimately connect 45 intown neighborhoods through 11 nodes within a 22-mile loop of multi-use trails, light rail transit, and parks – all based on abandoned railroad corridors that encircle Atlanta. As an engine of economic development, it is demonstrating remarkable outcomes in adjoining areas comprising infill, compatible mixed land use, including urban housing, and thereby exemplifying transit oriented development.

As with all urban design projects of this scale, identifying one firm or one individual to credit for the achievement is impossible. With regard to urban design and landscape architecture, however, a key individual who has guided the BeltlIne’s unfolding is its Principal Landscape Architect, Kevin Burke, ASLA. The following is the first of a two-part interview in which Kevin shares his experiences and insights concerning this remarkable achievement. Part I provides a general project overview and design considerations. Part II addresses construction, funding and construction costs, social impacts, and public participation.

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Ecology & Restoration PPN CELA 2018 Conference Reflections

by Lee R. Skabelund, ASLA

The International Student Rain Garden at Kansas State University. Selected slide from the CELA 2018 presentation, “Examining Green Infrastructure Performance: Learning from Two University Campus Sites” (3/22/2018). / Image: Lee R. Skabelund & Katie Kingery-Page

The 2018 Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Conference (CELA) was held in Blacksburg, Virginia March 21-24, 2018 at Virginia Tech University. Given my involvement in four educational sessions (including two green roof panel discussions) I was not able to attend as many presentations as I wanted to. However, what I listened to was informative. One 3/22 session I attended was highly relevant to ecological design and included a presentation by Reid Coffman, Ph.D, Associate Professor and Director of the Novel Ecology Design Lab (NEDLab) at Kent State University. He addressed the role of living architecture in providing a suite of ecosystem services—getting us to think about “ecosystem signatures” and the bundling of and interactions among ecosystem services. He emphasized the trade-offs that must be considered regarding biodiversity, productivity, energy dynamics, hydrologic cycling, and many different human dimensions (including visual order, health and wellness, equity issues, economics, and policy).

In the same session, Paul Coseo, Ph.D., PLA, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, discussed designing experiments to improve green infrastructure performance from both ecological and socio-cultural perspectives. Paul emphasized the need to get beyond anecdotal evidence of performance by taking scientifically sound measurements. He noted the need to recognize and overcome barriers to effective, ongoing green infrastructure maintenance and management. This comment paralleled ideas discussed by Katie Kingery-Page, ASLA, PLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning at Kansas State University, and myself as we highlighted lessons learned from two green infrastructure projects that we have helped implement and manage on the Kansas State University campus. Our three presentations led to a vibrant conversation about the role of university faculty and students in societally-relevant impacts of implemented green infrastructure experiments and demonstration projects—where inputs are transformed into tangible goods and services that support human and broader ecological needs, functions, and dynamics.

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Mentoring the Future of Landscape Architecture

by Elizabeth Auvil, Associate ASLA

University of Oregon landscape architecture students gather at a festive happy hour to celebrate the 25th annual Shadow Mentor Day. / Image: ASLA Oregon

The softly lit room bubbles with energy as individuals fill the space. Another annual reunion of landscape architecture students and professionals in Oregon has commenced. The atmosphere swirls with inspiration and reflection from the day as both students and professionals share how valuable it is to have an opportunity for mentorship. How amazing it is to witness a room of a hundred people share how much they love and appreciate an experience, and to consider it once never existed.

In 1994, a small group of students at the University of Oregon had an idea to connect students like themselves with landscape architects. At the time, there was no avenue between professionals in the Pacific Northwest and students of landscape architecture. With the support of the faculty and collaboration with the Oregon Chapter of ASLA, students visited landscape architecture offices to “shadow” a mentor for a day. They also managed to successfully start a tradition that has continued for 25 years.

Two UO students listen to their mentor and learn about work “on the boards” during their day in an office. / Image: ASLA Oregon

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Philadelphia’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Landscape Guidebook

by Caitlin Glagola, Associate ASLA; Tim Linehan, Associate ASLA; and Rachel Streit

PWD’s GSI Landscape Design Guidebook / image: Philadelphia Water Department

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has one of the most progressive stormwater management plans in the country to address the city’s combined sewer infrastructure. PWD’s Green City, Clean Waters program, which begins its 7th year this July, has constructed more than 600 stormwater management practices (SMPs) in the city, including rain gardens, tree trenches, stormwater planters, and stormwater bumpouts. These stormwater landscapes, collectively known as green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), slow, filter, and infiltrate rainfall to help prevent polluted runoff from entering the city’s sewers and waterways. GSI is versatile and fits into the urban fabric of Philadelphia to not only manage stormwater but also to mitigate urban heat, improve air quality, provide habitat, improve human health, increase land value, and improve quality of life for city residents.

Projects installed have been closely monitored to assess system functionality, plant health, resiliency, and overall aesthetic qualities. In the various SMPs, PWD has observed that species vary in their tolerances to moisture levels, concentration of pollutants, as well as sediment and trash. Each design considers these factors by establishing upper zones, lower zones, and entrance zones within a SMP. The boundaries for these hydrologic zones will depend on the designed maximum ponding depth, steepness of the side-slopes, frequency of inundation, and infiltration rate. / image: Philadelphia Water Department

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Detroit Transit Investment Will Spur Growth

by Rebecca McKevitz, Associate ASLA

Detroit’s new QLINE is the city’s first step towards improving transit / image: Rebecca McKevitz

The past ten years have brought no shortage of conversation surrounding the current state of America’s rust-belt cities and the endless number of impacts the 2007 economic crisis had on these important cultural hubs. There has been an on-going fascination with both the collapse and rebuilding of these struggling urban centers from economists, politicians, city planners, and residents alike. Almost five years since the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in Detroit, we are just starting to see glimpses of rebirth, and the majority of Detroiters are still questioning when they will feel the effects of this economic rebound. For urban centers, density promotes efficiency, and Detroit’s tremendous sprawl has created many challenges for the city. More specifically, a lack of reliable public transit has ailed the city for more than half a century.

Detroit’s significant transportation problems began when the city was designed for complete car dependency, resulting in spatially separated land uses, wide roadways, expansive parking lots and a lack of pedestrian friendly urban spaces (Talen). Detroit cannot afford to delay improvements in its public transit system any longer. The successful future of Detroit is dependent on many economic, political and social factors, but the first step towards revitalization is reconnecting the city through an updated and expanded public transit system. There are many systematic problems that got Detroit to where it is today, but refocusing efforts on a regional transit master plan will allow the city’s residents to engage with and contribute to their city, and will attract new business and development to the Motor City.

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CALL FOR PROPOSALS: 2018 STUDENT AND EMERGING PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT

The ASLA 2018 Online Learning Student & Emerging Professional SPOTLIGHT mini-series call for proposals is now open! This initiative gives YOU the opportunity to work with a Professional Practice Network (PPN) mentor in creating a presentation for ASLA’s Online Learning series. Do you have eye-opening research to share with the profession, or an inclination to do a little design exploration over the summer? Here’s your chance!

ASLA members with the following membership types may apply:

Student Member
Student Affiliate Member
Associate Member
Full Member – Emerging Professional

The call for proposals is now open and will close on Friday, May 25, 2018.

TO SUBMIT AN ONLINE PROPOSAL:

  1. Visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/spotlight2018
  2. Provide a presentation description – including title, short description (150 words), outline, and three learning objectives for the presentation.
  3. Submit a portfolio giving ASLA and PPN mentors the opportunity to get to know you and your work (maximum five sheets at 8.5”x11”).

Selected participants will be notified in June. At this time, you will be introduced to your PPN mentor and the collaboration begins! Presentations will take place in August.

Check out the 2017 SPOTLIGHT presentations for inspiration!

Transitional Landscapes presented by Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA
Tactical Mycelium presented by Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP
PPN Mentors:
David Cutter, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Laura Tenny, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN
Kenneth Hurst, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

Tropical TalkStory: Hardwood Hammocks presented by Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA
Aloha Art presented by Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA
PPN Mentors:
Emily O’Mahoney, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN
Kristina Snyder, ASLA, Women in Landscape Architecture PPN

Questions? Please email us at propractice@asla.org.

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

by James Sottilo, Ecologist/Arborist; Dr. Efren Cazares, Mycologist; Ted Hartsig, Soil Scientist

Expedia Waterfront Campus / image: Surfacedesign, Inc.

Introduction

Our team began the day reviewing the landscape of Expedia’s anticipated waterfront campus with Michal Kapitulnik, Tim Kirby and Heath House of Surfacedesign, Inc. Our mission – find the potential of current site soil for repurposing. Reusing native soil profiles in future blends can have a tremendous impact on future plant acclimation and site maturity. The campus presented a contrasting ecology. Certain areas of vegetation were lush and dense while other areas displayed brown, drying turf; it was clear to the team where our attention would be needed – right?

Exploring the vibrant sections of vegetation, soil was dark, rich and moist to a depth of 14-inches. Its observable characteristics were rated as productive and ideas for soil reuse and logistics were already being explored.

Taking a few steps into neighboring areas, the look of the landscape began to change. A particular section of grassland was going dormant due to irrigation having been turned off as the site was pending demo and construction. Rooting in this area was measured at 4-inches and the soil profile was a fine sand and clay mix. Another section of land, deemed the Rectangle of Death, had dying to dead grass cover; the soil was a sandy gavel mix with obvious signs of compaction.

Healthy vegetative soil / image: James Sottilo
Dormant grassland soil / image: James Sottilo
Rectangle of Death soil / image: James Sottilo

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CommUNITY Station: Thinking Beyond the Parklet

by Miguel A. Vazquez and Lisa Beyer, ASLA

commUNITY station: Connecting People and Place, sponsored by The Riverside University Public Health System-Public Health and Alta Planning and Design / image: Miguel Vazquez

For the past few years, the Local Government Commission (LGC) has partnered with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and other organizations to showcase the great potential of parklets as public spaces during annual New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) Conferences. This year, during the conference in San Francisco, various organizations participated in the Parklet program. Our team, representing Riverside University Health System-Public Health (RUHS-PH) and Alta Planning+Design (AP+D), collaborated on the design and creation of a public space we called CommUNITY Station.

Our aim was to raise awareness about the potential application of parklets as transit stops in areas where bus stops lack basic amenities like seating, shade, and lighting, inspired by a group of high school students from rural eastern Coachella Valley who identified bus stops as opportunities to improve the pedestrian and transit environments. The commUNITY station was an opportunity to think beyond the traditional transit stop design. Innovation in materials, cost effectiveness, design and feel while maintaining the basic standards that protect the health, safety and welfare of transit users were some of the points of conversation and potential for future collaboration among the NPSG conference attendees.

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Promoting Pollinator Habitat as Landscape Architects

by Anthony Fettes, ASLA, PLA, SITES AP

Monarch caterpillar on a marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) host plant along the Chicago Riverwalk / image: Anthony Fettes, Sasaki

Around the world, an estimated 80 percent of all flowering plant species and over one-third of our food is dependent upon or benefited by animal pollinators. However, many of these pollinator species are in decline, threatening the productivity of both global food production and ecological communities. What is causing this decline? How are we contributing, and what can be done to reverse this trend?

With reports of dramatic bee kills from acute exposure to neonicotinoids, the wide-spread prevalence of pesticides is frequently implicated in the decline of bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. But upon further inquiry, pesticides are only one component of more complex and interrelated challenges facing pollinators. Loss of habitat for feeding, nesting, and overwintering is often equally, if not more, detrimental than pesticides alone. Fragmented foraging sites require many pollinators to travel further distances in search of resources, thus increasing their exposure to pesticides, pollution, and extreme weather events. Together, the compounding effects of habitat loss and climate variability can reduce the seasonal reliability and abundance of floral resources—impacting nutrition and reproductive success, leaving pollinators stressed, and making declining populations more susceptible to disease, parasites, and poisoning.

The pollinator and vegetable gardens together provide an opportunity to learn about beneficial ecosystem services while improving productivity. / image: Matthew Arielly, Sasaki

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Land Use and Transportation Planning Intertwined in Today’s World

by John D. Hendrickson and Elaine Linn, PLA, ASLA

Laurier Avenue Segregated Bike Lane Design Pilot Project. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. / image: WSP

As landscape architects, we are highly in tune with the principles and practices of land use planning and, for most of us, it is part of our everyday professional life. Although we are often commissioned to design a single site, we know better than anyone the tangible implications to the surrounding areas, the community, and the regional context our designs may impact. So where does site-specific design stop and land use planning in a broader context begin? How do we best steward the resources and demographics in a global and holistic context? To answer these questions we may need to take a look at the connectivity between land uses. And to do that, we are going to tap into the fields of transportation planning and engineering, and analyze how they overlap with our contributions as landscape architects to the modern world of land use planning.

For this article, we have asked for the perspective of a seasoned transportation planner with over 25 years of experience in analyzing, managing and directing statewide projects and programs in transportation operations, safety and future-ready transportation. John D. Hendrickson, AICP, an Assistant Vice President at WSP and is the director of a traffic engineering and transportation planning group for clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Hendrickson is also currently the President of the Virginia Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (VASITE). One of his goals as a transportation planner is to improve communities by blending sustainable transportation systems with sustainable land uses. The result is the creation of complete and efficient roadway networks that allow for multi-modal opportunities that analyze existing operational and safety challenges and develop solutions. Below are John’s perspectives on transportation and land use planning, and the critical importance of each.

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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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