Life in the Margins

image: Samuel Geer
image: Samuel Geer

The Real Vegetation of our Urban Landscapes

Driving down I-94 recently, I noticed a bright orange patch of butterfly milkweed, wild bergamot, and purple coneflower growing along the highway embankment.  The plants were in bloom and stood out amongst the surrounding vegetation.  At other times of year, the planting wouldn’t make an impact, but in July it jumps out at you even at 75 miles an hour.  The plantings were so vibrant that we were inspired to exit the off ramp, climb down the retaining wall and get some close up pictures.  Once on the ground we saw that there were spots throughout the planting where people had dug up plants for their gardens.  This planting is the result of new methods for roadside vegetation planting, establishment, and maintenance specified in Native Seed Mix Design for Roadsides, a report prepared for MNDOT by Kestrel Design Group in 2010.  This report reflects the rise of green infrastructure and native vegetation restoration as emergent paradigms for understanding urban ecology and landscape management, particularly at the macro-scale of transportation networks.

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On ‘Designing for Access to Nature in Healthcare’

Mary Catherine bunting Center
Mary Catherine Bunting Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
image: Patrick Ross via Healthcare Design Magazine

Making the connection between health and nature would seem to be an obvious one, especially when we consider the emerging research on measuring health outcomes in nature or when simply viewing any variety of nature’s wonders.  And it would seem that our work as landscape architects in this field should be a no-brainer – particularly in healthcare design, right?

But there are other functions that enter into this transitioning equation which impact and influence how we bring nature into a sterile built environment.  Global issues like sustainability, aesthetics, social and cultural factors, or more specific issues like infection control.  How do we blend these synergies of influence from such disparate fields in ways that will help us to design positive interventions that will simply help people get through their good days and their bad?

The answers seem to be coming not only from the design studios but from a collection of sources and resources, like a broad ‘band of brothers’, focusing on human connections and place making.  Researchers, social scientists, strategic planners, landscape architects – like Angela Loder, University of Denver; Francis (Ming) Kuo, University of Illinois; Kathy Wolf, Washington University; Robert Ryan, UMASS Amherst; Len Hopper, FASLA, and Rodney Swink, FASLA, to name a few – all of whom are making a difference in how we collaborate and connect people with the benefits of nature through design.

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with these ‘change makers’ on the Human Health and Well-being sub-committee of SITES and with Angela on developing the Living Architecture Performance Tool.  It is Angela’s research on living architecture that this article is focused around, aligned with my work on the Green Guide for Health Care and on the Environmental Standards Council of The Center for Health Design.  We hope this will be the first of several such articles to be published around these transdisciplinary efforts.

Designing for Access to Nature in HealthcareHealthcare Design, July 2013
Written by Angela Loder and Jerry Smith

by Jerry Smith, FASLA

What makes it ‘geodesign’?

A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design 2012, showing the four necessary components of geodesign. image: Carl Steinitz
A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design, showing the four necessary components of geodesign.
image: Carl Steinitz

The term “geodesign” has some amount of buzz around it. For example, there is a Wikipedia entry; the University of Southern California offers a “Bachelor of Science in Geodesign” major; Penn State Online offers a “Graduate Certificate in Geodesign”; Carl Steinitz recently published his book “A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design”; and so on.  This is still within a small community, mind you, ask most of your friends if they have heard of ‘geodesign’, or what it might be, and you get (or at least I usually do) mostly puzzled looks.

I’ve been listening, and contributing, to the conversation that gave birth to the term for some time. Last year, in a talk at the ESRI User’s Conference in San Diego, I said “When I first heard the term I felt like I had been using it for a long time – though of course I hadn’t.”  I argued then that geodesign may be “the computer-aided design some of us have been imaging, wishing for, and working on, for many years” — making reference to the common somewhat mundane use of the term ‘CAD’ to mean simply “drawing with computers”, rather than the more ambitious “aiding design”.

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Preview of Anatomy Of A Park: Edition IV

Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition image: Waveland Press
Anatomy of a Park, 3rd Edition
image: Waveland Press

Anatomy of a Park (AOAP) has had a long and successful career. First published in 1971, it was originally a series of lectures by Albert Rutledge to Parks and Recreation students aiming at careers in Park Management and Administration.  I was the illustrator and case study developer of the first edition.  I’ve continued as the illustrator and became the author for the subsequent editions (1986, 2003).

The purpose of those original lectures and the resulting book was to build a bridge between the designers of parks and the users of parks.  Our goal was to explain our profession as landscape architects to people who would represent park users, administer park systems, and who would hire the design professionals who would bring the parks to life.  This new update, Edition IV, provides new information as a supplement to the timeless resource.  What follows is a sneak peak at the updates and plans for the new edition.

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Christo’s Over the River

Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, Colorado, Drawing 2007
Christo, Over the River project For the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, Drawing 2007

The Confluence of Art and Land Use Politics, or the Journey is Half the Fun

As a parent, hearing the phrase “are we there yet” can cause your skin to crawl.  It isn’t that we don’t understand the frustration of a long wait for an anticipated vacation, but things that are worthwhile take time to happen – right?  As land use professionals, we find ourselves answering this question, in so many words, for our clients as we wind our way down a circuitous path towards approval of a project.  Like  the six year old in the back seat of the family wagon, our clients just wish to get on with the fun of building the project and would rather forget the often teeth grinding journey that leads to final approval.  And yet, as land use professionals who have freely chosen this profession, on some level, we must think the journey is fun.

Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, the dynamic duo behind such visually stunning and culturally evocative temporary outdoor art projects such as the wrapping of the Reichstag and the Gates in New York’s Central Park, seem to understand that the twists and turns of the permitting process is something that can and should become an integral part of any project and not just a means to an end.  Sadly, Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 but her husband and their team of consultants continue to pursue one of the couple’s latest examples of this appreciation of process in their proposed project for the Arkansas River in Fremont County, Colorado.

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Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ image: Cathy Blake
Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
image: Cathy Blake

Sometimes it helps to step back and actually think about what we are doing – in our profession and at our schools and universities.  Landscape Forms periodically hosts landscape architects to do just that.  This year I participated in a group that went to Arizona and discussed the issues facing our campuses and their landscape future.  Sharing with peers is certainly one way to test and take stock of what we routinely do on a day to day basis.

The result of the meet-up was a White Paper on Campus Planning.  The themes addressed included the following:

  • Sustainability:  Addressing energy use, resource conservation, maintenance, and adaption of structure and spaces over time.
  • Preservation:  Renovating and repurposing existing structures and spaces including “places of memory.”
  • Growth:  Accommodating institutional growth and high-cost, space intensive research facilities.
  • Technology:  Providing infrastructure for new learning and innovation made possible by universal access.
  • Collaborative Learning:  Creating spaces that support collaboration within and between disciplines, among individuals and across diverse populations on campus

While one and a half days was not enough time for great depth in any one of these subjects, it was enough time to share different experiences and impressions about the present and ultimately the future, to agree, to disagree, and to possibly learn something new.  The world of technology is changing the way business is done so quickly, it stands to reason that our need for information exchange should try to keep up.  Maybe one way to do that is simply more “old fashioned” talking.

This and past roundtable reports can be found on the Landscape Forms website.

If you have specific problems or issues that you or your campus is struggling with, I encourage you to think about organizing other round table discussions, either in person or electronically.  I would venture to guess that if you are grasping at how to find the new paradigm, so are your peers.

by Cathy Blake, Chair of the Campus Planning and Design PPN

NDSU Landscape Architecture Abroad

Emescher River, Germany image: Kathleen Pepple
Emscher River, Germany
image: Kathleen Pepple

Without unnecessarily denigrating the general quality and value of landscape architecture programs and curricula in the United States, sometimes our teaching can be somewhat myopic. By extension, our students learn to inhabit a worldview that remains quite provincial as international and global influences advance exponentially.

So, on a brisk morning in February 2012, twelve students from the 3rd and 4th year landscape architecture program at North Dakota State University stood in the old Traleze slate quarries in Angers, France, a roughly one thousand acre site that has been active since the twelfth century.

The pervasive French history permeated the sensory and analytical processes of both our Midwestern U.S. students and their more familiar associates from Agro Campus Ouest University. This historical context for site inventory, and the project thesis for reintegrating this largely forgotten landscape into the urban fabric of Angers – introducing tram connections to the adjacent city, and carefully utilizing the lakes and their surrounding terrain as natural amenities for residential housing – required a degree of awareness and appreciation, a growing sense of sophistication that flowed like adrenaline through these students as they confronted landscape architecture in a much larger and more complex world.

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Zoo Play

image: Kary Arimoto-Mercer
image: Kary Arimoto-Mercer

“Play is children’s work.
It is an exercise in self-definition; it reveals what we choose to do, not what we have to do.

We not only play because we are. We play the way we are. And the ways we could be.
Play is our free connection to pure possibility.”
Hara Estroff Marano, “The Power of Play”

The psychologist quoted above, Hara Estroff Marano, argues that modern attitudes to parenting mean anxious mums and dads are crowding out the unsupervised play that kids used to enjoy. As a result children don’t get much opportunity to solve their own problems, to practice co-operation and to test their leadership skills.

This is where play comes in – in one of the most naturally interesting, egalitarian and safe places that a family can spend time together … a zoo.

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Pointers for Beginning a Residential Design Business

image: Jan Johnsen
image: Jan Johnsen

As co-chair of the Residential PPN, we are tasked with finding talented landscape architects to contribute to this blog.  As a new-ish business owner (my firm is still in its toddler years; established in 2009), I could only hope that my friend Jan Johnsen would be willing to share her thoughts on starting up a new residential design business.  Jan and I met in 2005 when we both began teaching at Columbia University’s Landscape Design program.  Her design studios are a perennial favorite of students, particularly as the program often engages individuals with dreams of beginning their own firms.  Jan owns and operates her own firm, writes a beautiful blog called Serenity in the Garden, and has a book being published in 2014 by St. Lynn’s press focused on creating gardens for inspiration and reflection.  Jan’s thoughts below on beginning a firm are relevant not just to newbies, but also serve as a wonderful reminder of what is most important to operating a mature firm as well.
– Jennifer Horn, RLA, ASLA

Residential landscape design is one of the most fulfilling – and demanding – professions I know of.  Fraught with all sorts of pitfalls, transforming someone’s property is a very personal and uplifting endeavor. I find it to be all consuming but in a wonderful sort of way. Does this sound like a two edged sword? It is as if I am saying ‘come, but stay away’ at the same time.  Well, that is true. As in everything, there are 2 sides to the story and residential landscape design is definitely a ‘both sides, now’ undertaking.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2013

RBC Blue Water Roof Garden image: Adam Woodruff
RBC Blue Water Roof Garden
image: Adam Woodruff

As May and June are such busy months for landscape architects and designers, the opportunity to visit the Chelsea Flower Show (CFS) is usually a far and away bucket list item.  Adam Woodruff, of Adam Woodruff & Associates located in Clayton, Missouri, visited CFS 2013 and created a wonderful post on his website that showcases a wonderful slide show.  He showcases every garden, including detailed pictures of plant material and design in each bed. There are some amazing combinations of plant materials, which can be inspiring to see in bloom!

View Adam’s images on the ADAM WOODRUFF + ASSOCIATES website.

by Deirdre Toner, Planting Design PPN Co-chair

Dementia Green Care Handbook

Dementia Green Care Handbook image: Garuth Chalfont
Dementia Green Care Handbook
image: Garuth Chalfont

As a contribution to the growing body of knowledge and expert guidance on the design and use of outdoor spaces for people with dementia, this handbook addresses the growing need for spaces to be actively used by residents and service users for therapeutic benefit. This handbook resulted from the ‘Therapeutic Dementia Care’ research and design project. In this project, particular attention was paid to the needs of people with dementia and distressed behavior. Hence, the focus is on care environments for nursing, residential, and enhanced day support.

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The Scoop on Sand and Play

image: Chad Kennedy
image: Chad Kennedy

Day trips to the beach, a play date at the local playground, or an afternoon in the volleyball pit always seem to result in perpetual cleanup efforts. Despite efforts to avoid or contain them, sand grains spontaneously appear anywhere and everywhere. It often seems impossible to clean all the sand out of shoes, clothes, towels, hair, toes, and ears. Even the gritty texture of rogue sand grains in the mouth is proof that sand has a special way of impacting life’s routines. Despite the sometimes necessary, and often aggravating, cleanup efforts, research has shown play in sand to be very valuable for the development of young children. Sand can also benefit play areas by way of safety and user comfort. As is usually the case, however, sand is not a perfect media for all play conditions. The use of it comes with a few simple cautions. Each of these topics warrant further discussion and are addressed below.

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Soil Biology is Essential for the Landscape to Function – Part 2

National Mall Soil in Washington, DC image: Barrett Kays
National Mall Soil in Washington, DC
image: Barrett Kays

In Soil Biology – Part 1, I discussed how to manage soil biology across a landscape to promote denitrification to reduce the amount of nitrogen in stormwater or groundwater.  In Part 2, I will discuss how soil biology and soil wetness cause changes in the colors of the soil profile.

Why are these color features important to landscape architects?  If you want to design planting or restoration plans that are in harmony with nature and produce the results you want, you need to understand the spatial pattern of soil wetness across a landscape.  You can do this by viewing the color features in the soils.  In addition to the spatial pattern, it allows you to know the rise and fall of a shallow water table under your site.

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Digital Sandbox: a new mentoring paradigm?

The Landscape Architecture Sampler: have students ever wondered what it might be like to work here, in the Empty Quarter, in Southwest Asia? image: Flaherty
The Landscape Architecture Sampler: have students ever wondered what it might be like to work here, in the Empty Quarter, in Southwest Asia?
image: Flaherty

Mentoring needs digital facilitation.

This is a brief review of how time, cost, and quality issues have impacted education and the practitioners’ offices in the past decade or so.  Schools have been pressured to streamline, yet teach more.  Practitioners’ offices have been pressured to help with education, yet reduce overheads.  Who loses?  Everybody, especially the students. Though internships help, they only give a narrow window for viewing and learning over a short period of time.  I contend that the pressures, both in education and also in practitioners’ offices, combine to negatively influence the next generation of landscape architects.  The students end up poorly informed and weak when it comes to two critical categories: what they want to do and how can they reach that goal.

The weakness comes from an insufficient understanding of how the profession works, how a project evolves, and how the work advances over time in the practitioners’ offices.  This is not a new problem, but it is an exacerbated problem these days.  How to correct this?  Digitally facilitated mentoring.

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Futuristic Preservation

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century  image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.
Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century
image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Point Cloud Surveys of Historic Landscapes

When the US Secretary of the Interior first introduced the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation: HABS/HAER  in 1983, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and most of us did not yet know how to type—let alone know how to work on a PC.  This document was formulated in a pre-digital age and is, not-surprisingly, pre-digital in orientation; specifying such parameters for the documentation of historic structures as the use of black and white photography, the requisite submission of film negatives and consistency of hand-lettering.  Today, some of the specific requirements seem almost quaint: “Level I measured drawings will be lettered mechanically (i.e., Leroy or similar) or in a hand printed equivalent style.”  Incidentally, these standards served as a prototype for the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) when it was initiated in 2000.

In the decades since 1983, we have witnessed a revolution in Information Technology.  It has resulted in fundamental changes to the way that disciplines such as landscape architecture and history are practiced.  In the 1990s, Computer-Aided Design transformed the workflow of landscape architectural practice from design and documentation through construction.  A second wave of transformation has arrived with Building Information Management (BIM) / Site Information Management (SIM) applications and is beginning to transform the roles of designer and contractor in project delivery.  In the study of history today, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research and analysis is not uncommon.  Other new technologies and software applications are now emerging with the potential to transform a wide array of disciplines from ecology to historic preservation.   What follows is a discussion of one of these tools in particular—the digital “Point Cloud Survey”—and a review of its use in the context of a preservation and adaptive reuse project in Saudi Arabia.

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Sustainable Campus Landscapes: LEED or SITES™?

The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the Duke University campus image: Rick Fisher Photography
The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University campus
image: Rick Fisher Photography

For those of you who have been contemplating the connections between sustainable campus planning and landscape design; then wondering how the rating systems relate…this is for you.

Mark Hough, ASLA, Duke University, has written an article that is posted in the April 2013 issue of College Planning & Management that discusses the differences between LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), their strengths and weaknesses relative to campus work, and their potential for the future.  I for one had never really taken the time to understand what Mark has so easily laid out.  While my focus still continues to be on whole campus planning, systems, issues, and sustainable problem solving – as opposed to site-specific thinking and scoring – I agree that there is much to be learned from both LEED and SITES.

Creating Sustainable Campus Landscapes by Mark Hough, ASLA
(this links to the entire magazine.  To quickly jump to the article, click the title in the lower right hand corner of the cover)

by Cathy Blake, ASLA, Stanford University

Soil Biology is Essential for the Landscape to Function – part 1

image: Barrett L. Kays
image: Barrett L. Kays

What is soil biology and why is it important?  Soil is the physical infrastructure for landscapes and ecosystems.  Within the physical infrastructure soil chemistry works in such a close relationship with plant and animal organisms, some say the soil operates as a living biological system.  Soil biology is important because it is a dominant factor in nutrient availability.  Soil contains plants, micro-organisms, and invertebrate and vertebrate organisms which all work together in creating biochemical transformations essential for life.

There are over 4,000 trillion micro-organisms (microbes) such as bacteria, fungi, algae, mold, and protozoa in one acre of soil.  Many of these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants and other organisms.  All of the microbes are competing for a limited supply of nutrients and carbon (their food source).  Microbes quickly multiply when there is sufficient soil organic carbon.  When the soil organic carbon is limited the microbe population is diminished.   Therefore, if the landscape soil is designed properly, there are trillions of microbes helping it function.  And, if properly used as a stormwater system, all of these microbes have been put to work as a biological system.

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Dog Parks

image: Deborah Steinberg
image: Deborah Steinberg

You may have heard the phrase a tired dog is a happy dog. This may or may not be true, but it is true that most dogs need physical activity and social interaction to make good pets. Dog parks are a great venue to provide both of these in a safe, contained environment and have become very popular.

However, with popularity comes use, over-use, and risk. The following site outlines common challenges with dog parks and provides suggestions for those thinking of providing one.

Dog Bites and Liability for Dog Bites by Kenneth M. Phillips

Paths Between Neighbors: New Trails in Conservation

The Okanogan Valley image: Jones & Jones
The Okanogan Valley
image: Jones & Jones

Paths Between Neighbors (PBN) is an innovative strategy to get private property owners who have not been actively involved in land conservation excited about and collaborating in land stewardship.  Piloted by the Okanagan Valley Land Trust (OVLT), PBN is being used to further OVLT’s work in preserving the native landscapes, working farms, and ranches across the rugged hills of the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Washington.

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Adapting in the Desert

image: Cary Baird, Stantec Consulting, Inc.
image: Cary Baird, Stantec Consulting, Inc.

Nevada DOT responds to water and budget limitations for landscapes.

Embracing soil as an important player in water conservation, the ASLA Water Conservation Professional Practice Network spotlights the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Landscape Architecture, where they have adopted a standard policy of “no irrigation” for southern Nevada freeway landscape enhancements.  To respond to that challenge, designers are utilizing porous inorganic amendments as an aid to increase plant-available water in the soil in a region where rainwater harvesting challenges are unique.

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Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines

Teardrop Parkimage: Natural Learning Initiative website
Teardrop Park
image: Natural Learning Initiative website

Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines is a joint project conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Learning Initiative, and North Carolina State University, with the support of national partners. The aim is to develop national design and management guidelines for nature areas in children’s outdoor play and learning environments.

The Guidelines Project has issued a Call for Participants in a registry of Nature Play and Learning Areas to support and potentially illustrate the best practice criteria specified in the Guidelines.

For more information and the links to register, visit the Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines website.

by Ilisa Goldman, officer of the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN



As a major pedestrian route the ‘Curtin Corso’ is scheduled for urban renewal bringing much needed focus and activity to the centre of the campus.  image: PLACE Laboratory
As a major pedestrian route the ‘Curtin Corso’ is scheduled for urban renewal bringing much needed focus and activity to the centre of the campus.
image: PLACE Laboratory

Curtin University, in Perth, Western Australia,  has embarked on a massive urban renewal project focused on creating a “knowledge city”.  Code-named Curtin City the project will deliver a new population of students, researchers, and residents of up to 70,000 people living and working in Perth’s newest knowledge economy.  Connected to the city by the MAX light rail transit, Curtin City will be only minutes from downtown Perth, enabling the rapid exchange of business and research ideas.

The Curtin City project is a bold step for the University as it plans for a new future of high-density research and living within a strong landscape urbanism framework.  Building on existing distributed energy systems and green infrastructure networks the campus will be transformed by 2030 as Perth’s urban population grows to 3.5 million.

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National Kids to Parks Day

image: National Park Trust
image: National Park Trust

With National Kids to Parks Day, May 18th, looming right around the corner it would be great for our members to organize activities that bring even more children into the parks we design and love. This article gives you some great options for high profile partners to make your “Kids to Parks Day” a success.

National Park Trust Announces ‘National Kids to Parks Day’ to Take Place Saturday May 18, 2013

by Kathleen Benedict, Co-chair of the Parks and Recreation PPN

Want to help with the HALS Cultural Landscapes of Women Challenge?

Isaac Goodnow House – Manhattan, KS
image: Historic American Buildings Survey; Douglas McCleery, Photographer June 1958

First of all THANK YOU!  Your interest can really help focus national attention on the cultural landscapes of women this year.

Secondly, the HALS short form is easy! It’s neither as exhaustive nor as restrictive as other national historic preservation paperwork you may be familiar with. The National Park Service (NPS) has done a lot of the work for you. Just download and fill out the short form for your selected landscape. You’ll just need some information on the landscape.  If you’d like, include a plan drawing sketch (doesn’t have to be construction worthy, just a quick sketch) or rights free photos. They aren’t necessary – but both great excuses to get out to the site and exercise your hand drawing and photography skills.

Now the hard part: Selecting a Landscape for this Challenge! Where can I find a cultural landscape of or for women? We have listed below several general ideas to start your brainstorming process.

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Nature Explore | The Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute

Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Instituteimage: Chad Kennedy
Outdoor Classroom Project Leadership Institute
image: Jeff Lindstrom, Associate ASLA, Nature Explore Classroom Designer

Earn PDHs / CEUs while learning design principles for creating effective nature play spaces.

Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City, NE, July 21-24, 2013.

With the heightened awareness of nature deficit disorder and biophobia, it is important for landscape architects and designers to connect children with nature through the design and construction of effective outdoor play spaces. Study our research-based principles for designing environments that encourage whole-child development and positive relationships to nature.

Please join us for this four-day institute, held at Lied Lodge’s world-class facility, surrounded by the natural beauty of Arbor Day Farm. The Institute will be led by experienced designers and educators from Nature Explore and The Outdoor Classroom Project.

Earn 13 Professional Development Hours for the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System. Visit the Nature Explore website to learn more and register.

by Chad Kennedy, Officer for the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women

The view from Elmshaven's front porch looks out over the garden to the vineyard.image: Chris Pattillo
The view from Elmshaven’s front porch looks out over the garden to the vineyard.
image: Chris Pattillo

At first I was stumped when this year’s Historic American Landscapes (HALS) Survey Challenge to “document historic landscapes that reflect the heritage of women” was announced. The purpose of this year’s challenge is to increase awareness of the role of women in shaping the American landscape. My first thought was to record the Berkeley City Women’s Club, designed by the first woman Architect, Julia Morgan for the women of Berkeley – but our Northern California chapter of HALS had already done that site.  I thought of noteworthy women landscape architects who have practiced in California – Mai Arbegast and Gerri Knight Scott.  Both had done work at the Oakland Museum but that site had already been done as well.  Each had a role in the development of UC Berkeley’s Blake Estate in Kensington, where I’d worked as a student gardener.  Blake felt like too much to tackle and deserves more than a short form HALS.  I wanted a site that was nearby, had integrity, and was not too large for a one-person volunteer to take on.

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Folly in Planting Design – Boxwood Clouding

An example of Boxwood Cloudingimage: Wirtz International Landscape Architects
An example of Boxwood Clouding
image: Wirtz International Landscape Architects

Although nothing beats the architectural simplicity and evergreen staying power of a boxwood hedge in a traditional garden design, the element of folly in topiary and ‘clouded’ boxwood hedging is being embraced thanks to the exquisite work of Belgian landscape architect Jacques Wirtz and his firm, Wirtz International Landscape Architects.

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Cooperative Housing: An American Dream, Revisited

Columbia Ecovillage in Portland, ORimage:
Columbia Ecovillage in Portland, OR

If, like me, you are already biking to work, growing kale in your yard, and composting your carrot peels, then you may be asking, “What more can I do to address our country’s social, economic, and environmental challenges?”  One answer may be cooperative housing (or cohousing) – a people oriented solution to many of the social, economic, and environmental impacts of typical automobile oriented, single-family suburban sprawl (a.k.a. the “American Dream).  Although much of current US policy and practice continue to favor suburban development, “the times, they are a changing”.

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The 2013 HALS Challenge

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrandimage:
Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, designed by Beatrix Farrand

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes.  Each year the HALS office at the National Park Service issues a challenge, encouraging landscape architects and preservation professionals to document historic landscapes related to a new theme.

The theme of the 2013 challenge is “Documenting the Cultural Landscapes of Women.

Individuals and groups from every state are encouraged to complete at least one HALS short format history for a cultural landscape related to this theme, whether vernacular or designed, in order to increase awareness of the role of women in shaping the American landscape. The top three submissions will receive awards and be announced at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Boston during the HALS Meeting.

If you have not already begun a submission, there is still time to start. Short format histories should be submitted to HALS at the National Park Service no later than July 31, 2013 (c/o Paul Dolinsky, Chief of HALS, 202-354-2116).   All HALS documentation is permanently housed and publicly accessible at the Library of Congress.

Click here for more information: HALS Challenge

by  Jonathan Ceci, Chair of the Historic Preservation PPN

12th annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

National Award for Smart Growth Achievementimage: EPA
National Award for Smart Growth Achievement
image: EPA

EPA is pleased to announce that the application period for the 12th annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement is now open. This competition is open to public- and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially, and economically. Winners will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in December 2013.

There are four categories:

  • Built Projects
  • Corridor and Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Plazas, Parks, and Public Places
  • Policies, Programs, and Plans

In addition, the review panel will choose an Overall Excellence winner from those that apply in these four categories.

Application deadline: April 12, 2013. For more information and the official award guidelines and entry form, visit the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement website.