A Historic Rehab in Old North St. Louis

Mural at Crown Square image: Shawn Balon
Mural at Crown Square
image: Shawn Balon

This February, in St. Louis, MO, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted exciting tours of model projects and neighborhoods throughout the greater St. Louis region and surrounding communities. I chose to attend the tour focusing on Challenges and Successes with Implementing a Comprehensive, Community-Driven Revitalization, including Historic Rehab in Old North St. Louis; focusing on a historical neighborhood in North St. Louis that was once vibrant in the early 1900’s, left as a ghost town by the 1980’s, and soon revitalized in the early 2000’s.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the Old North St. Louis Revitalization Initiative as one of five communities to receive a national award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth Achievement. The award supports communities that use innovation to build stronger local economies. Old North St. Louis exemplified a comprehensive approach to community development and a strong community role in setting the agenda leading to a more robust mix of businesses and organizations since the revitalization. Continue reading

Developing Curriculum for Seasoned Professionals to Enter Academia

image: Shawn Balon
image: Shawn Balon

Gray Hair Matters: Developing a custom MLA Curriculum for seasoned professionals to enter academia

Design professionals with substantial practice experience have usually amassed a wealth of acquired knowledge and lessons learned over their career. Moreover, they have the gray hair to prove it. There could be a benefit to having those professionals impart that experience onto the next generation of designers as instructors in university landscape architecture programs.

For professionals with a Bachelor’s degree who may be interested in this pursuit, how does one prepare to make the transition from practice to teaching? Most positions for teaching landscape architecture begin with a minimum requirement of an MLA. However, what about having this qualification prepares one to be an effective teacher?

I asked myself this question when I decided to enroll in an MLA degree program at the University of Georgia (UGA), with the express desire of transitioning from practice into a teaching career. The question became the focus of my thesis as I worked toward proposing a custom MLA curriculum designed to prepare seasoned practitioners to enter academia and teach landscape architecture.
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Parklets 5.0 at New Partners for Smart Growth

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
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

This February, in St. Louis, MO, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted a unique set of spaces that have become a tradition of the conference. Parklets 5.0 was the fifth annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors.

Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational, community gathering, or beautification purposes that assist in bringing awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than vibrant urban green space. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with a variety of elements (planters, trees, benches, children’s play areas, artwork, bicycle parking, and more!). Parklets evolved from an annual event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces. Following the success of the first 2005 intervention, PARK(ing) Day has grown into a global movement. Be on the lookout later this year for information on Celebrating PARK(ing) Day with ASLA!

Led by ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC), the Parklets project at NPSG, once again, included interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. This year, six parklet installations covered the area outside conference session rooms. The parklets were sponsored by local organizations and design firms involved in designing and advocating for urban green space and active play throughout the country.

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ASLA at the International Builders’ Show

ASLA's exhibit booth image: Shawn Balon
ASLA’s exhibit booth
image: Shawn Balon

This January, as part of Design & Construction Week® (DCW) in Orlando, FL, NAHB’s International Builders’ Show® (IBS) hosted their annual event that brought together more than 60,000 builders, general contractors, remodelers, designers, flooring professionals, as well as product specifiers from 100 countries. Throughout the three-day event, attendees discovered an expansive universe of products and innovative concepts designed to enhance their businesses, design thinking, and living environments.

For the thirteenth year, ASLA was on hand to exhibit and advocate creating a stronger presence for landscape architecture professionals. Along with our exhibit booth, we had the opportunity to work with local ASLA chapter members in Florida for ASLA’s “Ask a Landscape Architect,” which has been a tradition at the show for many years.

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Network and Learn at New Partners for Smart Growth

Citygarden, St. Louis, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Citygarden, St. Louis, MO, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Registration is now open for the 16th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth: Practical Tools and Innovative Strategies for Creating Great Communities Conference, held February 2-4, 2017 in St. Louis, MO. The conference will explore practical strategies for identifying and overcoming barriers to more sustainable development in the St.Louis region and the rest of the nation and will feature tools, strategies, focused training, and new technologies that will help communities now.

Early-bird rates are available now through November 30, 2016. This year’s conference will feature 80+ conference sessions – plenaries, breakouts, implementation workshops, focused training – and much more over three full days. Visit www.newpartners.org to register today!

ASLA, along with the Local Government Commission (LGC) will once again be leading the effort for Parklets 5.0 at the conference. Planning is underway to create several interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. For additional information, check out Parklets 4.0 from the 15th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Portland, OR.

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Digital Technology at the ASLA Annual Meeting

University of Miami: Medical Campus using Rhino, Sketchup and Lumion image: Ryan Deane, ASLA, Julija Singer, AIA – The SLAM Collaborative
University of Miami: Medical Campus using Rhino, Sketchup and Lumion
image: Ryan Deane, ASLA, Julija Singer, AIA – The SLAM Collaborative

We are very excited to announce that there will be several events for the Digital Technology PPN at the upcoming ASLA Annual Meeting in New Orleans! This past year we have seen many advances in digital technologies and have discussed many of these new technologies and topics in our various Field posts. This conversation will continue at the annual meeting and we are happy to announce that there will be various education sessions, meetings, and events for the Digital Technology PPN. Below are a few events and meetings to keep an eye out for during your time in New Orleans.

Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) Meeting
Saturday, October 22, 9:15-10:00 AM
Come meet us at the PPN Lounge located in PPN Live on the EXPO floor for the Digital Technology PPN meeting. We will meet the members of the PPN, discuss our goals for the upcoming year, discuss our plans for Online Learning webinars, and chat about the latest and greatest tools out there. We will also have a discussion regarding new incoming PPN chairs and how to inspire others to join our PPN through various PPN leadership opportunities.

Digital Technology PPN EXPO Tour (1.0 PDH LA CES/non-HSW)
Saturday, October 22, 1:00-2:00 PM
This year, the ASLA PPN’s will host EXPO Tours at the annual meeting. We will be meeting with various vendors to discuss new software, products, and technology that is out on the market. We will be visiting the following exhibitors during the tour: ANOVA, Keysoft Solutions, Land F/X, and Vectorworks. Sign up online to attend the Digital Technology PPN EXPO Tour or show up to PPN Live 15 minutes prior to the meeting to check availability! Tours will start from PPN Live on the EXPO floor.

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Environmental Justice at the Annual Meeting

Fallow Ground | Future City, 2015 Student ASLA Honor Award, Analysis and Planning Category image: Margaret Baldwin, Hannah Barefoot, Alexandra Dimitri, Jennifer Livingston, Mary McCall, Lucy McFadden, Margaret Plumb, Scott Shinton
Fallow Ground | Future City, 2015 Student ASLA Honor Award, Analysis and Planning Category
image: Margaret Baldwin, Hannah Barefoot, Alexandra Dimitri, Jennifer Livingston, Mary McCall, Lucy McFadden, Margaret Plumb, Scott Shinton

PPN Live Session: Saturday, October 22, 9:15 – 10:00am, Jackson Square Meeting Room

Fall is in the air and the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO is just around the corner! Please join us for the second annual Environmental Justice (EJ) PPN meeting on Saturday, October 22 from 9:15 – 10:00am in the Jackson Square meeting room at PPN Live. We have been busy planning and networking since the inception of the EJ PPN less than two years ago and now we are looking forward to tackling some bigger agenda items.

At our first meeting, we created a list of EJ projects and people who are leading the charge to eliminate injustices in landscapes and communities around the world. This year, we invite you to engage in a conversation about environmental justice in landscape architecture. Do you have questions or topics that you’d like to share? If so, send them to Julie Stevens jstevens@iastate.edu. Additionally, we would like to know about your projects, so feel free to bring project profiles to share with the group. Suggested format is 2-4 letter or tabloid sized pages. Project profiles will be available throughout the conference in the PPN Live area.

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Making a Case for Divergent Thinking

image: Brian LaHaie
image: Brian LaHaie

Creative thinking is the foundation of our profession. Of all the skill sets that a landscape architect must possess, the ability to imagine, create and evaluate unique solutions to complex social and environmental challenges is our most valuable asset.

Creative thinkers possess the ability to identify multiple possibilities when confronted with challenging problems. This type of thinking is found among people with personality traits such as non-conformity, curiosity, risk taking, and persistence. It is also found naturally in children. This ability to generate multiple solutions and to think outside a set of linear constraints is called “divergent thinking” or “lateral thinking.”

The term divergent thinking was first introduced by psychologist J.P. Guilford in 1967 (nearly 50 years ago). Together with convergent thinking, these terms represent opposing thinking styles.

Convergent thinkers quickly seek a solution by reducing options and limiting choices to arrive at an appropriate answer. Convergent thinking is what you use to answer a multiple choice question or calculate a simple mathematical equation. You are seeking “the one right answer.” The process is systematic and linear.

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Will the ‘Real Urban Designer’ Please Stand Up! Part II

Figure.1 Main Street District, Houston, TX image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2007
Figure.1 Main Street District, Houston, TX
image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2007

PART II: Seeking Future Identity
In Part I, we focused on the history, the precedent, and the nomenclature that seems to have shaped the ground for UD as an academic field and area of practice. Part II will concentrate on the evolving definition along with the current and anticipated future practices of urban design.

Evolving Definition
For as many concerns that developed in the second half of the 20th century, there are at least as many debates about the definition of Urban Design (UD) as well as the issues covered within the framework of UD. A concise definition is hard to come across from the literature, nor is it realistic to set the scope of the UD field. However, Madanipour’s summary of these “ambiguities” of UD “…the scale of urban fabric which UD addresses; visual or spatial emphases; spatial or social emphases; the relationship in between process and product in city design; the relationship between different professionals and their activities; public or private sector affiliations and design as an objective-rational or subjective-irrational processes” (Madanipour, 1997) sets the perimeters of the issues that define the scope of UD as we become familiar as landscape architecture professionals.

In its most basic form, UD is interrelated but also a distinct academic field and area of practice. It is concerned with the architectural form, the relationship between the buildings and the spaces created within, as well as the social, economic, environmental, and practical issues inherent to these spaces. The field encompasses landscape architecture, architecture, and city planning, (Lynch in Banerjee and Soutworth, ed., 1990; Lang, 2005). UD is viewed as a specialization within the field of architecture (Lang, 1994), as something to be practiced by an architect or landscape architect (Lang 2005; Lynch in Banerjee and Soutworth, ed., 1990), or as integral part of urban planning (Moughtin, 2003; Gosling and Gosling, 2003; Sternberg, 2000).

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Will the ‘Real Urban Designer’ Please Stand Up! Part I

Figure.1 Chicago, IL image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2014
Figure.1 Chicago, IL
image: Taner R. Ozdil, 2014

Introduction:
As we are approaching ASLA’s 2016 Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans and coming to the end of another term with ASLA’s Urban Design (UD) Professional Practice Network (PPN) annual activities, once again, I come to realize that what we call urban design is not the same for all landscape architecture professionals (nor to architects, planners, and/or engineers). Calling one’s self an urban designer without clarity may also not do justice to the field and practice of urban design. For the 1,686 active members of the PPN and nearly 2,500 active UD PPN Linkedin Group members (as of September 2016), it seems like we may have almost as many definitions as the number of professionals who are following our UD PPN voluntary activities.

It is difficult for the urban design field and practice to make progress, if it fails to be conceptually clear about its nature, purpose, methods (Lang, 2005). Therefore, I decided to use this post as an opportunity to reflect upon “what is urban design;” the precedent, definition, features, area of practices, and professional domain with the intention that we can find a common thread among landscape architecture professionals (and other professionals) within the comprehensive domain of “urban design.”

Part I: Tracing the Roots
Part I focuses on the history, the precedent, and the nomenclature that seems to have shaped the ground for UD as an academic field and area of practice. Part II concentrates on the evolving definition along with the current and anticipated future practices of urban design.

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EPA Green Infrastructure Design Challenge

Philadelphia University image: Jules Bruck
Philadelphia University
image: Jules Bruck

Now that summer has officially ended for most academics (although you wouldn’t be able to tell from the thermometer outside my office here in Delaware), many folks are busy running design studios for various courses. I was all set to run a studio using a community redevelopment project I have been working on when a colleague who works for a state department emailed an interesting design challenge that piqued my interest – and I hope it comes as news to some of you. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge offering a green infrastructure challenge for colleges and universities.

According to the EPA Challenge website, “Student teams design an innovative green infrastructure project for their campus that effectively manages stormwater runoff while benefiting the campus community and the environment.” There are two design categories – Master Plan and Demonstration Project, and this year teams will be asked to incorporate climate resiliency and consider community engagement in stormwater management designs.

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Making the Most Impact with Your “Build” Relationships

image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA

Whether in the residential or commercial design-build landscape sectors, there are some great ways that landscape architects can enhance and bring more value to our working relationships with architects, builders, and clients – especially in the “build” process of our projects. The following are a few suggestions that may help you, and as always, feel free to share any comments and suggestions that you might have with fellow landscape architecture professionals.

Here is a list of tasks that are in no particular order – some are big and some are rather minor – but keeping these in mind in your project management will show your design-build team partners that you care a lot about the details!
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Designing Equity Part II: What’s next in community engagement?

A dynamic panel used efforts in East Harlem NYC as a case study for scaling up equitable process image: Kofi Boone
A dynamic panel used efforts in East Harlem NYC as a case study for scaling up equitable process
image: Kofi Boone

Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward. The following is Part II of the two-part series detailing presentations and dialogue during the forum. Part I was published on August 2, 2016.

Design at the Scale of Systemic Change

The final session attempted to offer lessons on scaling up our definitions of community to the City. Focusing on a case study in New York, Jerry Maldonado from the Ford Foundation moderated a panel consisting of participants engaged in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan. The plan emerged as an opportunity to engage in Mayor DeBlassio’s borough-wide up-zoning process. Given the rate of growth and displacement across the city, a key community decision was to engage the process instead of resist through protest; this was a key decision point credited by all as a reason for successful engagement.

Sandra Youdelman from Community Voices Heard laid out in great detail the need for politically savvy actors to navigate the complex relationships within the community and between the community and the city. By introducing the language of “Power,” “Players,” and “Campaigns” (i.e. borrowing strategies for getting people engaged in political campaigns for a planning process), Ms. Youdelman illustrated the value of engaging a wide range of allies in the process. This was especially important to communicate because another participant was George Sarkissian from NYC Council ‘s Economic Development Division. Mr. Sarkissian made plain the political and economic risks and rewards for engaging a community in a contentious process, and praised the political savvy of the group.

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Designing Equity Part I: What’s next in community engagement?

Working session involving small groups of diverse participants image: Kofi Boone
Working session involving small groups of diverse participants
image: Kofi Boone

Rapid change in diverse communities across the nation has prompted many to take stock of the roles designers and planners have played and could play in this period.  Academically and professionally, many of us were drawn to our fields because of a shared passion for the power of design (and design thinking) to make positive transformations in the environments around us. However, with increasing diversity, we are often challenged with the need to better understand and more effectively work with people very different from ourselves.  And concurrent with this has been the demand by diverse communities for designers and planners to acknowledge and address the inequitable gaps between different communities based on racial, class, and gender disparities. For decades, designers and planners have worked with communities to address these issues. But in the current social, political, and economic climate, what are best practices in community engaged design?

Designing Equity was a recent forum facilitated by Toni L. Griffin to tackle this and many other issues. Convened jointly by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Surdna Foundation, over 100 participants including architects, landscape architects, urban planners, community leaders, and funding agencies from across the country met for a day-long workshop in Washington, DC. The workshop combined case study presentations, large group discussions, and small-group activities all created to stimulate dialogue and bubble up unique opportunities moving forward.

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Damn The Torpedoes

image: James Hughes
image: James Hughes

Today I helped an architect friend of mine design the landscape for his recently remodeled midcentury ranch home. A few weeks ago, I also helped him construct a deck he had designed for the home’s front door. The deck was maybe the most interesting one I’ve seen in person. A long cantilever, intersecting volumes, slats, all the details one might expect from Mies van der Rohe. He did a great job of expressing the design language of the home, and I was excited to be a part of finishing up his vision, not to mention the enjoyment of working with a friend and frequent collaborator.

In my market, the opportunity to work on projects with an established and well-defined design language is rare. During the 1950’s-1960’s, modernism came roaring in to my city and many gems were designed and built here. Many of them still remain, albeit in increasing states of deterioration. We have Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built residence in Florida (Spring House), single-family homes designed by notable architects, and several fantastic Brutalist structures (the most prominent being the Wesley Foundation at Florida State University, which was sadly demolished earlier this year). Modernism came in fast, and then all but vanished just a quickly.

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Software Preferences at Award-winning Firms

image: Peter Summerlin
image: Peter Summerlin

In our experience, there seems to be common interest among landscape architects as to what design software other firms are using in their offices.  As technology is rapidly changing, the only constant is that we must regularly decide if the latest and greatest software has potential for our specific practice. Knowing what other successful firms are utilizing might be helpful as we wrestle with these decisions.  Similarly, academics are curious of the latest practices in an effort to either integrate or validate course objectives.  It’s with this curiosity in mind that we talked with 15 recent ASLA award-winning firms from across the country about the software they use in creating illustrative perspectives. The firms surveyed range in size but altogether represent 40% of the National ASLA awards in General Design and Analysis & Planning for the past 3 years.

For context, most high-end perspectives are created across a series of software programs. Typically, a 2D drafting program is used to build the site in plan view, a 3D modeling program projects up the site plan into 3-dimensional space, a rendering program exports 2D graphics with advanced materials and lighting, and a post-processing program is used for touch-ups and final edits. The results of the survey are broken into these 4 categories and are shown below.

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Where Landscape Architects Love to Work, Part 2

Charleston, SC - Charleston Waterfront Park, 2007 Landmark Award image: Craig Kuhner
Charleston, SC – Charleston Waterfront Park, 2007 Landmark Award
image: Craig Kuhner

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members about their favorite cities and regions for practicing landscape architecture. Not surprisingly, there was no single answer that dominated the responses, which reflected the regional diversity of those who took the survey—the largest segment of respondents hailed from the West (30%), with roughly 20% each from the East, South, and Midwest, and 6% of respondents practice internationally.

In Part I, we focused on the top choices for favorite cities and regions to work in, which covered much of the U.S.: the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and the Bay Area, the Midwest, New York City, and New England. In Part II, we’ll focus on a few less frequent picks, ranging from international locations to regions in the U.S. you might not have considered landscape architecture hotspots before. Below, we highlight some of the most popular responses.

Southeast

“Culturally rich and the general public has knowledge of and respects the profession.”

“Things grow fast so you can see (relatively immediate) results in a few years versus a decade.”

“The Southeast has a great planting palette and the right amount of regulation to provide plenty of landscape, but not over regulated to tie the designer’s hands too much to do anything fun.”

“The Delta—anywhere between Memphis and New Orleans. It’s mostly emotional and nostalgic for me, but also the rich culture, the range of economies, the beauty of the land, the potential I see.”

“Hilton Head, South Carolina and the Virginia Tidewater area—the sense and respect for the protection and importance of nature and our environmental surroundings.”

“Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry—the culture, the urbanism, the history, and the passion for the landscape.”

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City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure, Part II

Railroad Park image: "lexcio," Flickr
Railroad Park
image: lexcio via Flickr

The following is the second installment of the two-part series excerpted from the Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE) publication, City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure. To view Part I, click here.

Part II

Different Solutions and How They Actually Work

There is no simple formula for green infrastructure in parks. For one thing, geography alone dictates that there are dozens of different kinds of urban parks, from narrow stream side greenways to large flat forestland, from stepped brick plazas to lush community gardens, and from windswept hilltop viewpoints to massive sports complexes. But when it comes to water-smart parks, there are three principal issues:

  • Is the physical relationship of the park to the surrounding community such that a redesign could reduce neighborhood flooding or the pollution of downstream waterways?
  • Does the park have any available space for water flow and storage?
  • Is the composition of the existing soils, water table, and underlying rock such that the park can absorb a significant amount of water in the necessary amount of time?

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City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure, Part I

Alewife Reservation image: MWH Global
Alewife Reservation
image: MWH Global

Many of you may know The Trust for Public Land (TPL) as an organization devoted to the protection and support of the places people care about and the creation of “close-to-home parks” — particularly in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. Through its Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), TPL also explores the many issues that affect the success of urban areas’ park systems. CCPE’s most recent publication, City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure, looks at the many ways that parks can help with the control of urban stormwater.

Using case studies, data tables, and interviews with national experts, the report explores both new and existing parks, including in-depth studies of water-smart parks in Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York, and Shoreline, Washington. The following is the first installment of a two-part series excerpted from the report.

Lisa Nabor Cowan, ASLA, Sustainable Design & Development PPN Officer, Principal, Studioverde

Part I: City Parks, Clean Water, Green Infrastructure

The effort to clean our nation’s waterways has been underway, with increasing strength, for more than 50 years. Great progress has been made, particularly against pollution from untreated sewage and unregulated factories. Rivers no longer catch on fire, oil slicks are a rarity, and most raw discharge pipes have been eliminated. But in cities there remains work to be done, with most urban waterways still not clean, not swimmable, not safe for fishing, and sometimes not even pleasantly boatable.

The primary culprit, as all landscape architects know, is pollution from runoff from paved surfaces – streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, roofs, patios, plazas, even playgrounds that quickly shed the rain. The solution is to hold back the water where it hits, slow it down so that the destructiveness of erosion and contaminants are controlled, and clean it before it reaches a waterway.

With two different methods of doing this – using giant holding tanks for storage or a natural, spongier approach for infiltration – the U.S. is at a critical decision point in how it will allocate billions of dollars in the coming decades.

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Them

image: James Hughes
image: James Hughes

That feeling when everything about the project is moving along smoothly, and then ‘Them’ show up. Them have their own ideas and opinions. Them have their own sets of rules and guidelines that must be given adherence. If only Them would stay out of this, the project would be a smashing success and everyone, including Them, would celebrate and admire. By ‘Them’, I of course mean HOA’s (Home Owners’ Associations).

HOA’s became prevalent out of the Post-War era in the rise of Suburbia. It was the Eisenhower-an period of America. A 5-star general in the White House, and over 8 million Veterans returning to civilian life. Suburbs sprang up to house the millions of returning Veterans and their families, with communities modeled from base housing. Efficient, clean, and above all else – uniform in appearance and function. It was a simple time of mass prosperity and bright futures. So naturally, in the mindset of that post-war culture, local governance was needed to maintain the order and aesthetic of these newly created communities. Right now, if you surveyed every single professional in residential service, I would bet that the issue of HOA’s comes up for the majority.

Navigating clients, city/county ordinances, State law, contractors, and the ilk are sometimes enough to give you heart palpitations (I speak from actual experience). Throw in the local HOA demigod clipboard-wielding neighbor and you have a recipe for… well, early retirement.  However, HOA’s are a reality which we must face.

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Landscape Performance at Mississippi Heritage Museum

Figure 1: Green Roof at Oktibbeha Heritage Museum image: Megan Bean
Figure 1: Green roof at Oktibbeha Heritage Museum
image: Megan Bean

The Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum was founded in 1976 in Starkville, Mississippi, just a half-mile from both the historic downtown area and Mississippi State University, to preserve, publicize, and educate the public about the rich history of the region. The building itself is housed in a renovated railroad depot first built in 1874, but renovations initiated in 2009 by the Departments of Landscape Architecture and Architecture at Mississippi State University sought to make the museum a demonstration case to the alternative water management and habitat creation practices being implemented around the country to incorporate green infrastructure into the urban setting.

When the “Rain Garden” project was finished in spring 2013, a green roof pavilion, cistern, and infiltration areas had been installed on the 0.5-acre site to retain and clean rainwater. The purpose of this report is to document the ways in which the Rain Garden project has benefited the Oktibbeha Heritage Museum and the surrounding areas, a measurement termed Landscape Performance. Four distinct benefits have been explored: environmental, social, economic, and educational. These benefits were compared before and after the Rain Garden installation.

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2016 Digital Technology Survey

image: Ryan Deane
image: Ryan Deane

As a professional, do you ever wonder what your competitors are using for software? As a student, are you concerned with your technical abilities when it’s time for finding a job? Professors, are you wondering how your students stack up against your peer institutions? If you’re interested in any of these questions, the 2016 Digital Technology survey is worth the 5 minutes it will take you!

In an effort to better understand what existing and emerging technology is being used professionally, and taught in accredited institutions, the ASLA Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) has assembled a survey to poll faculty, students, and landscape architecture professionals.

The intent of the 2016 survey is to create a central knowledge base of the software and hardware being used throughout the world of landscape architecture. In addition, a series of questions have been added to analyze the rising cost of technology and the effect on profits and education. We are asking professionals to estimate their annual software budgets, and students and faculty to provide information on software and hardware that is either required or available at their accredited institution.

Be on the lookout for the results, which will also be included in Landscape Architecture Magazine’s upcoming “TECH” column. Please use the following link to take the survey:

ASLA/LAM Technology Survey

Thank you in advance for your time.

by Ryan Deane, ASLA and Matthew Wilkins, Associate ASLA, Digital Technology Co-Chairs

Calling Student & Emerging Professionals

image: ASLA
image: ASLA

ASLA is excited to introduce the Online Learning Student & Emerging Professional SPOTLIGHT mini-series giving Student and Associate ASLA members the opportunity to work with a Professional Practice Network (PPN) Mentor in creating a presentation for ASLA’s Online Learning series. This is a great opportunity for students and emerging professionals to share eye-opening research, or dive into a little design exploration over the summer.

The mini-series Call for Proposals is now open and will close on Monday, May 16.

To submit a proposal:

1.  Check out the SPOTLIGHT mini-series Call for Proposals form.
2.  Review the PPNs that will be serving as hosts and mentors (Children’s Outdoor Environments, International Practice, Land Use Planning, & Women in Landscape Architecture). Which PPN does your topic or research best fit?
3.  Once you have your description and objectives finalized, fill out the form with all the necessary information and submit!
4.  Selected participants will be notified in early June. At this time, you will be introduced to your PPN Mentor.
5.  Collaborate with your mentor! Presentations will take place in August.

We look forward to seeing your research, technical analysis, large scale ideas, or whatever else you may bring to the table to share with your fellow landscape architecture professionals! For questions or comments, please email professionalpractice@asla.org.

GBCI to Develop a New Professional Credential for SITES

image: ASLA
image: ASLA

In a recent GBCI survey, 80 percent of respondents said that they planned on implementing SITES in their organization or practice, and 89 percent indicated interest in earning a professional credential, such as SITES-accredited professional.

Development of a new professional credential called the SITES Accredited Professional (SITES AP) is currently under way at GBCI.

The new SITES AP credential will not only establish a common framework to define the profession of sustainable land design and construction, it will also provide landscape professionals with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise and commitment to the profession, and will help scale and educate the market on SITES.

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Better Block is Urban Design

The first Better Block project in Dallas, Texas 2010 image: Jason Roberts
The first Better Block project in Dallas, Texas 2010
image: Jason Roberts

At first, Jason Roberts may appear to be an unlikely ally and friend to landscape architecture professionals. But, for many designers, urbanites, and community activists, that is exactly what he has become. Although he has worn many hats as a musician, IT consultant, and restaurateur, beginning in the early 2000’s, Jason has found what appears to be his true calling: the role of an Urban Activist. Over the past decade, beginning with his home town of Oak Cliff, TX, Jason stopped waiting for others to transform his community. Among various other initiatives, he founded the Oak Cliff Transit Authority and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff in an effort to give his town an operable streetcar and a foothold for a non-recreational cycling community.

Jason and his friends have also collaborated with UT Arlington for various community based initiatives in North Texas while Better Block sponsored demonstrations have spread across the US and beyond. In recent years, their grassroots activities and temporary installations through Better Block continue to transform streets, neighborhoods, and cities across the US. The following post is a snapshot to where Better Block, landscape architecture, and urban design intersects.
-Taner R. Ozdil, Ph.D., ASLA, Associate Professor at UT Arlington, Urban Design PPN Chair

The Better Block Project
by Jason Roberts

The Better Block project started in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas in 2010 when we gathered a small group of neighbors together and rapidly transformed a blighted block of partially vacant storefronts into a European inspired, vibrant corridor.

Our team took the wide street and painted bike lanes, added café seating, painted bright facades and murals on the buildings, and installed temporary businesses like coffee houses, art galleries, and locally made curio shops. We filled the sidewalks with fruit stands, flowers, sandwich board signs, and strung lights between the buildings. After everything was laid out, we began posting the zoning and ordinance rules we were breaking in order to make the place come alive so that everyone would recognize that many of the things that made our street great were illegal or cost prohibitive.

I created the project out of frustration with the typical planning process, and the helpless feelings I had when attempting to get livable and walkable initiatives started in my neighborhood. We had attended so many meetings with experts that had us lay out post-it notes on large maps with our ideas on what should be included in a vibrant street.

Our notes would lead to elaborate watercolor drawings and 3D overlays of how great our new blocks could look. But every time, these plans would sit on shelves or the final development would be bastardized in a way that veered so far from our notes that we became cynical and distrustful of the process itself. Beyond this frustration was the idea that the great place we desired would take us 30 years to build… but we wanted a great place now.
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Taking Transformed Spaces Indoors at New Partners for Smart Growth

Top: Park Your Thoughts, Sponsored by Toole Design Group and City of Portland's Urban Design Studio Bottom: Tactical Engagement, Sponsored by PlaceMatters image: Shawn Balon
Top: Park Your Thoughts, sponsored by Toole Design Group and City of Portland’s Urban Design Studio
Bottom: Tactical Engagement, sponsored by PlaceMatters
image: Shawn Balon

This February, in Portland, OR, the New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference hosted a unique set of communal spaces that have become a tradition of the conference. Parklets 4.0 was the fourth annual initiative to bring the urban green space movement indoors.

Parklets are parking space-sized areas used for recreational, community gathering, or beautification purposes that assist in bringing awareness to the quantity of community space that is devoted to parking rather than vibrant urban green space. These small urban parks are created by replacing a parking spot with a variety of elements (planters, trees, benches, café tables and chairs, artwork, bicycle parking, and more!). Parklets evolved from an annual event where citizens, artists, and activists collaborated to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. Following the success of the first 2005 intervention, Park(ing) Day has grown into a global movement. Now Parklets are being permanently installed in cities throughout the U.S.

Led by ASLA and the Local Government Commission (LGC), the Parklets project at NPSG, once again, included interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. This year, five parklet installations spanned the area outside conference session rooms. The parklets were sponsored by local organizations and design firms involved in designing and advocating for urban green space throughout the country. Plant materials were graciously donated by J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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Information Modeling… “Are we there yet?”

View of a Revit model with limited landscape features image: Matthew Wilkins
View of a Revit model with limited landscape features
image: Matthew Wilkins

Imagine a design and documentation process where you make changes and the plans, sections, cost estimates, details, and 3d visuals get automatically updated and are instantly communicated with the project team.

Let me introduce you to information modeling or, most notably, building information modeling (BIM). According to the Landscape Institute:

“BIM is an integrated process built on coordinated, reliable information about a project from design through construction and into operations. It will help improve coordination, enhance accuracy, reduce waste, and enable better-informed decisions earlier in the process.”

It is key to note that information modeling (IM) is a process. In theory this is not related to any specific program and may be expanded to include various workflows and tools to leverage information and foster greater collaboration in the design and documentation process. BIM is currently the working norm for architects who have proven that the information modeling process can help better inform design, communicate with the design and construction team, and be used throughout the life of a building.

To date, landscape architects have had little involvement in the IM process and have yet to embrace it. However, is it because of the software, process, or something else? I guess the main question is, are we as a profession there yet?
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Perhaps Your Most Important Partners – The Plant Growers

Crataegus crus-galli – ‘Inermis’ image: Johnson’s Nursery, Inc.
Crataegus crus-galli ‘Inermis’
image: Johnson’s Nursery, Inc.

Maybe it can be attributed to our agrarian heritage here in the upper Midwest, but in your Design-Build PPN co-chairs’ world, plant material – and we mean great plant material – is critical to the impact and success of our projects. Knowing who to source from and the quality of their products are critical to our happiness and to your client’s satisfaction. So we thought it might be good to dig into this a bit and share some of our experiences. As always, we encourage your comments about what has worked well for you in your practice.

Plant material is available everywhere. From huge nationwide wholesale growers, to “Ma & Pa” tree farms and specialty sources focusing on one category of plant material, the landscape architect’s choices are endless. When we are in “design mode,” it might be fair to say that we most likely already know who we will use to purchase our trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, natives, aquatics, etc. Those potential sources carry the varieties being specified and they also may have the level of quality that best suits your project’s budget and meets (or exceeds) the expectations of you and your client.

Though the sources are many, there are some reasons to use discretion when sourcing your plant materials. Let’s look at some important characteristics of good growers and how to best select your nursery supplier partners:

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ASLA at the International Builders’ Show

"Ask a Landscape Architect" at ASLA's exhibit booth image: shawn balon
“Ask a Landscape Architect” at ASLA’s exhibit booth
image: shawn balon

This January, as part of Design & Construction Week® (DCW) in Las Vegas, NV, NAHB’s International Builders’ Show® (IBS) hosted their annual “mega-event” that brought together more than 110,000 builders, general contractors, remodelers, designers, flooring professionals, as well as product specifiers from around the globe. Throughout the three-day event, attendees discovered an expansive universe of products and innovative concepts designed to enhance their businesses, design thinking, and living environments.

For the twelfth year, ASLA was on hand to exhibit and advocate to create a stronger presence for landscape architecture professionals. Along with our exhibit booth, we had the opportunity to work with local ASLA chapter members from Nevada, Arizona, and San Diego to create activities throughout the show. As part of the Design Studio, we participated in specialized seminars and activities alongside single-family and custom builders, multifamily and commercial builders, remodelers, architects, interior designers, and land planners.

The following is a quick overview of the sessions in which we participated:
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Ruminations on the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting

image: Bob Oberdorfer
image: Bob Oberdorfer

…In which our two intrepid correspondents wander the shadowy conference center halls of Chicago on a not-so-blustery autumn weekend to bring you, our faithful readers, these incisive observations from the front lines of the national conclave of landscape architects!  

To that end, Ecology + Restoration PPN Communications Officer Devon Santy and yours truly (that’s me) attended a full slate of educational sessions—in between forays into the local speakeasies and blues clubs, of course. But before I venture further into that synopsis, allow me to digress slightly. As I sat at my paper-strewn desk and pecked out the introductory words you have just read, the first term that came to mind for our recent gathering was not “conclave,” but rather “confab.” Not wanting to alienate any aspiring etymologists in the crowd, though, I decided I’d better consult Messrs. Merriam and Webster to verify the applicability of the term. My gut feeling was right: “confab” refers to an intimate, informal, private conversation, which does not technically apply to the largest gathering of landscape architects in the world.

However, another “con-” word that popped up alongside was “confabulation,” which offered intriguing possibilities for various metaphors that could be applied to the situation at hand. It seems “confabulation” implies a form of mental manipulation, defined as the product of “distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intent to deceive” (with additional thanks to Messrs. Wiki and Pedia for that particular interpretation of the word).

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