ASLA Panel on Security Design

ASLA 2008 Professional General Design Honor Award. Washington Monument, Washington, DC. Olin Partnership. / image: ©Peter Mauss/Esto

ASLA hosted a panel of landscape architects to discuss the security design of public places on August 31, 2017. In view of recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Barcelona, and London, the panel examined the urgent need to ensure the public’s safety on public, government, and institutional properties. Key design goals and challenges were also addressed from various angles, with a special focus on how to provide an adequate balance between addressing threats and the beauty of the public realm. The virtual panel was recorded and can be viewed here.

The panel was moderated by Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, Executive Vice President and CEO, ASLA, Washington, D.C., and featured three speakers: Bernie Alonzo, ASLA, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle; Leonard Hopper, FASLA, Weintraub Diaz, LLC, Nyack, N.Y.; and Richard Roark, ASLA, OLIN, Philadelphia.

Below we highlight a few of the key discussion topics and takeaways, plus additional resources on security design.

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2017 SPOTLIGHT Mini-Series Recap

From left to right: images from presentations by Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA, Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP, Tricia Keffer, Student ASLA, and Rachel Katzman, Associate ASLA

The 2017 Student & Emerging Professionals SPOTLIGHT mini-series concluded last week, with two webinars presented live on August 23 and 24. These opportunities for attendees to earn professional development hours (PDH) featured four presentations, two per webinar, by Student and Associate ASLA members, providing access to forward-thinking topics and discussions. Our presenters were selected after responding to a Call for Proposals earlier this year, providing an outline of their presentations and a portfolio of their work.

Over the past two months, the presenters worked with Professional Practice Network (PPN) mentors—volunteers from ASLA’s PPN leadership teams—to create their presentations for the SPOTLIGHT mini-series. Below, we recap  highlights from each. These presentations were also recorded, and are available for viewing through ASLA’s Online Learning website. The recordings are free for Student ASLA members to view; special discounts apply for full and Associate ASLA members.

First, we’d like to thank this year’s PPN mentors:

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Trends We Could Do Without

A bike path in need of some help
A bike path in need of some help. Poor maintenance was one trend ASLA’s PPN members would like to resolve. / image: Alexandra Hay

While some of the best designs are the result of transcending whatever style happens to be in fashion, there are some trends that are pretty much unavoidable if you take a look at more than a handful landscape architecture projects. To see which of these recurring themes have overstayed their welcome, we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members: What trend in landscape architecture annoys you the most?

Though some respondents have had enough of designers’ tendency to wear all black or the conflict of “deciding between RLA or PLA on [my] signature,” the most frequently mentioned trend was the ubiquity of “sustainability.” Members highlighted the frequent overuse or misuse of the word when applied to “shallow sustainability,” and the fact that it’s nothing new for landscape architects:

“Sustainability—was trained to do that 40 years ago! Not a new term!”

“Sustainability—creating the world smartly; what we have been doing forever.”

Other responses that appeared more than once include:

Geometric designs, including stripes and “contemporary gardens with lots of square corners that photograph well.”

Green roofs, green walls, and “GREEN anything.”


Loss of horticultural expertise.

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ASLA Diversity SuperSummit Report & Resources

Participants map ASLA’s future efforts. / image:

ASLA Diversity SuperSummit Report Released and Summit Resources Available on

In 2013, ASLA convened its first Diversity Summit with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of why landscape architecture is failing to attract a more diverse profile. Each summit has brought together a group of established and emerging landscape architects who identify as African American or Latinx to develop strategies that address diversity issues in the field.

Five years later, the 2017 Diversity SuperSummit convened the largest group of attendees to date, with 23 returning and six new participants, at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C. Participants evaluated goals from previous summits, developed focus areas for four key diversity initiatives to guide ASLA’s work plan in the coming year, and discussed the future of the Diversity Summit format and participants.

ASLA is excited to share those conversations in the ASLA Diversity SuperSummit 2017 Report. The takeaways in the report will serve as accountability for ASLA and as an actionable guide for the newly created Career Discovery and Diversity position for the upcoming year. It can also serve as a guide for other organizations pursuing the same goal. For a summary of the full report, check out the ASLA Diversity SuperSummit 2017 Summary.

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Next Big Things in Landscape Architecture

ASLA 2016 Student General Design Honor Award. Bendway Park / image: Eric Arneson, Student Affiliate ASLA, Academy of Art University

When we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members about the next big thing in landscape architecture, some were too cautious to speculate about the future, answering with “I have no idea,” while others had a decidedly more self-confident answer ready: “Me.” A few members took issue with the question itself, feeling the focus on what’s next to be misguided—the next big thing in landscape architecture is “realizing we shouldn’t be looking for ‘the next big thing’ but should be paying attention to the little things.”

Given that there is so much happening right now that deserves our attention, imagining what the future may have in store is nonetheless an interesting (and pretty fun) exercise. One statement summed up a central theme of the majority of responses: “Landscape Architecture IS the next BIG THING!”

Highlighted below are the key topics that appeared most often, outlining the next big things to look out for in landscape architecture. Keep in mind these responses are from 2015—let us know in the comments what’s come up since then as the latest next big thing.

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Join us for the Student & Emerging Professionals SPOTLIGHT Mini-Series

Mark your calendars for two upcoming opportunities to earn your professional development hours (PDH) with ASLA’s Student & Emerging Professional SPOTLIGHT mini-series! Each is a two-part presentation, providing access to forward-thinking topics and discussions.

Earlier this year, ASLA launched the Call for Proposals, giving Student and Associate ASLA members the opportunity to work with Professional Practice Network (PPN) mentors to create presentations for the SPOTLIGHT mini-series. Please join us later this month to view the selected presentations!

Transitional Landscapes & Tactical Mycelium

Wednesday, August 23 at 3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. (Eastern)
FREE for Student ASLA, $20 for Associate ASLA, $30 for ASLA members, $60 for non-members


  • Elyana Javaheri, Associate ASLA
  • Bridget Ayers Looby, Associate ASLA, SITES AP

PPN Mentors:

  • David Cutter, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN Co-Chair
  • Laura Tenny, ASLA, Campus Planning & Design PPN Co-Chair
  • Kenneth Hurst, ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN Officer and Incoming Co-Chair

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Time to Recharge

The view from the end of the hike to the top of the Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI / image: Alexandra Hay

With summer in full swing, some of you may be taking (or dreaming of taking) a summer vacation soon. Continuing with the theme of theme of creativity and inspired design, below we take a look at how Professional Practice Network (PPN) members recharge and keep that creativity flowing. While vacations and travel in general were mentioned, along with coffee and lots of naps, the most frequent response involved spending time outdoors (no surprise there).

Here are a few of our members’ favorite ways to take a break.

Take a Hike

“Get out in nature—mountains, desert or coastal.”

“Go to the beach and walk.”

“Hiking in the Catskills and viewing the landscape from a mountain top.”

“I am drawn to free-flowing rivers and creeks.”

“I fly fish as far away from people as possible.”

“Reading, hiking, leaving the phone behind.”

“Take my RV out to a park—usually end up at a US Army Corps of Engineer facility located nearby, or to a local State Forest.”

“Taking a walk through an open meadow.”

“Work in my yard.”

“Working my farm.”

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If You Could Travel Back in Time

The Roman Forum / image: Alexandra Hay

Given that time is such an integral and transformative factor for any landscape, the prospect of time travel is especially intriguing for landscape architects curious to see lost landscapes or what an existing place looked like at an earlier period or while under construction. So it came as no surprise when ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members responded with such gusto to the question: If you could travel back in time to a historical landscape, where and when would you go?

Tied for first place with 10 mentions each were two radically different spots, from very different eras: Versailles and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Here are the rest of the top answers, in order of popularity:

  1. Central Park under construction
  2. Early North America, prior to European settlement
  3. Hetch Hetchy Valley, before the creation of the O’Shaughnessy Dam
  4. Impressionists’ gardens, and specifically Monet’s gardens at Giverny
  5. Vaux-le-Vicomte
  6. Villa d’Este

Quite a few members also specified that they would like to visit these historic landscapes accompanied by their designers or other important figures associated with these places:

“I would take a horseback ride through the English countryside with Capability Brown!”

“Work with Thomas Jefferson – Architecture and Horticulture.”

“I’d love to experience the south of France with the Impressionist painters.”

“Hetch Hetchy Valley with John Muir.”

“The emerald necklace with Olmsted.”

“Stand over Kiley’s shoulder while he designs the Miller House.”

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PPN Live in Los Angeles

Save up to $150 by registering for the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting and EXPO by this Friday, June 30!

This October in Los Angeles, the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting and EXPO will offer 122 education sessions, 16 field sessions, five workshops, and two general sessions, allowing attendees to earn up to 21 professional development hours (PDH). Prices for registration, workshops, and ticketed events are at their lowest before the early-bird deadline, June 30. Purchase today and take advantage of most cost effective opportunity this year to learn, network, and celebrate at the largest gathering of landscape architects in the world.

In addition to education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and special events, be sure to add PPN Live to your annual meeting plans. Through PPN Live, you can network with colleagues from all 20 ASLA Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) throughout the annual meeting weekend.

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Landscapes in Art, Part 2

ASLA 2013 Student Collaboration Award of Excellence. Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum / image: Megan Bean

In the previous post taking a look at Professional Practice Network (PPN) members’ favorite portrayals of landscapes in art, we focused on paintings, photography, posters, and prints. This time, we’re taking a look at all the other forms of art mentioned, from music to movies.

A few members also mentioned more unusual art forms, such as advertising, including landscapes captured in Anthropologie photo shoots and elsewhere: “I like seeing designed spaces in a lot of current marketing/advertising—it’s becoming part of the embedded culture.”

Below, we run through some of the films, books, and other works of art where landscapes figure prominently.

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Landscapes in Art, Part 1

Vincent van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889, oil on canvas / image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

When we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members for their favorite portrayal of a landscape in a work of art, we welcomed answers from any medium: paintings, movies, literature, and anything else our members might want to highlight. The answers received covered a diverse range of provenances and forms, and many were very enthusiastic. As one respondent succinctly put it: “So many! Love those that express the emotion of unique landscape experiences.”

Paintings and painters were the most popular type of response, with Monet and Van Gogh as the two clear favorites. However, many other artists and works were mentioned, and they are highlighted below. This post focuses on 2D art: paintings, photography, posters, and prints. Next time, we’ll review responses that covered everything from films to music to video games. (For even more information in this vein, check out Some Landscapeschronology of events, books, and artworks depicting landscape as a medium since 1800 BCE.)

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Scenes from the People’s Climate March

The People's Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2017 / image: Alexandra Hay
The People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2017 / image: Alexandra Hay

This weekend, the People’s Climate March took place in Washington, D.C., with more than 350 satellite events across the country. Despite being the hottest April 29 on record, thousands attended (more than 200,000 people marched, according to organizers’ estimates), including a number of ASLA Chapter Presidents, Trustees, past Presidents, members, and ASLA staff.

Below, we share some photographs from the march—more can be found on ASLA‘s and Landscape Architecture Magazine‘s social media pages—and we look forward to keeping up the momentum on this urgent and vitally important issue.

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Favorite Places Unfamiliar to Others, Part 2

Storm King / image: Kevin O’Mara via Flickr

For those looking ahead to spring and summer travel, Professional Practice Network (PPN) members’ responses to the question what is your favorite place that may not be familiar to others? might give you a few new spots to explore this year. In the previous post recapping the results of the 2015 PPN survey, we reviewed the most popular responses and international locations mentioned. This time, we’re focusing on places across the United States, from parks and gardens to wilderness areas and mountain passes. Take a look and see if you’ve been to any of these lesser-known spots, and which ones you’ll need to add to your list of places to go.


Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site – Cornish, New Hampshire

The courtyard at the Boston Public Library – Boston, Massachusetts

Halcyon Lake in Mount Auburn Cemetery – Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The Robert Treat Paine Estate, an amazing shingle style home in Waltham with landscape designed by Olmsted.” – Waltham, Massachusetts

Lake Waban – Wellesley, Massachusetts

Truro and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Storm King Art Center – New Windsor, New York

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Call for Proposals: Student and Emerging Professional Spotlight

Calling All Student and Associate ASLA Members

ASLA is excited to announce the Online Learning Student & Emerging Professional SPOTLIGHT mini-series, giving 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!

The Call for Proposals is now open and will close on Thursday, May 25.

To submit a proposal:

  1. Review the SPOTLIGHT mini-series Call for Proposals form.
  2. Review the PPNs listed below that will be serving as hosts and mentors. Which PPN does your topic or research best fit?
    Campus Planning & Design

    Children’s Outdoor Environments
    Ecology & Restoration
    Sustainable Design & Development
    Water Conservation
    Women in Landscape Architecture
  3. Once you have your description, outline, and objectives finalized, complete the Call for Proposals form by May 25.
  4. Selected participants will be notified in 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 architects!

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Favorite Places Unfamiliar to Others, Part 1

Hamilton Cove Preserve, Lubec, Maine / image: VW Beetle via Flickr

Spring temperatures and sunshine have arrived (or are coming soon, depending on where you are), and many can’t wait to enjoy the outdoors again or head out on a spring break trip. Professional Practice Network (PPN) members’ responses to the question what is your favorite place that may not be familiar to others? might give you a few new places to explore.

Given that we were looking for less well-known places, there were very few answers that appeared more than once. Here are the handful of locations that appeared twice:

Charleston, South Carolina and Charleston’s Waterfront Park
JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, North Carolina
The Bold Coast, Maine
North Germany, on the Baltic Sea (Schleswig-Holstein) – “Everyone goes to South Germany but the North is very beautiful.”

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Landscape Architecture’s Best Unknown Firms

The Restoration of Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, CA, National Park Service, 2007 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category / image: National Park Service

In a previous post, we reviewed the landscape architects and firms that Professional Practice Network (PPN) members admire most, and the list was clearly dominated by familiar names—the key figures of the field since the nineteenth century, from Frederick Law Olmsted to the most celebrated firms working today. The next question we asked members sought to highlight names that may be less familiar: the greatest unknown landscape architect or firm.

Several PPN members gave very self-assured answers along the lines of: “Me, LOL!” Others highlighted a few of the many smaller, local firms that do excellent work but often “don’t have time or money for award submittals so they don’t get recognition on that level.” Some members identified general categories of practice that often go under-recognized, such as “the nameless public realm landscape architect” and the educators and mentors who shape and encourage up-and-coming landscape architects: “The greatest unknown (or unheralded) landscape architect is the one who reaches out and has a positive impact upon educating the next generation.”

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Who Do You Admire?

Peninsula Residence, Hillsborough, CA, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Residential Design Category / image: Marion Brenner

When we asked ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members whose work (an individual landscape architect or a firm) they most admire in a 2015 survey, one response basically sums up the results: “too many to list.” Another member emphasized how their answer is constantly changing: “Today…Andrea Cochran…tomorrow MVVA…depends what I’m working on and how I feel!” Clearly, there are many landscape architects out there doing exceptional work, and highlighted below are both some familiar names and hopefully a few new ones to check out when you need a new source of inspiration.

Here are the most admired landscape architects, designers, and firms, each coming up four times or more:

  1. Laurie Olin, FASLA – OLIN
  2. Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA – Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
  3. Douglas Reed, FASLA, and Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA – Reed Hilderbrand
  4. Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA – Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
  5. Piet Oudolf
  6. Frederick Law Olmsted
  7. Dan Kiley
  8. Nelson Byrd Woltz
  9. Oehme, Van Sweden
  10. Peter Walker, FASLA – PWP Landscape Architecture
  11. James Corner, ASLA – James Corner Field Operations
  12. Thomas Church

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Effective Communication in the Architecture & Design Industry

image: iStock

In today’s world, we are bombarded by media for communication. Technology has provided us a wide array of communication tools, from desk lines to cell phones, texting to instant messaging and email, and more. But how do we know when to use the appropriate form of communication? With so many choices, often we choose the most convenient method, when it is not always the best choice for the project, company, or ourselves.

  1. Think about your reason for communication. Is it a quick discussion with a peer to move forward with your work? A simple graphic question? Do you need confirmation on utility routing from a Civil consultant? Do you need approval from a manager before proceeding on to the next step in design?
  2. Know your audience. Do you have a software question for a Millennial? Or perhaps performance praise for a peer? Are you dealing with a Discipline Director? Inside the company, or external to the company? What are the personality traits of your audience? Do they prefer detailed information or are they quick and to the point? Does a little small talk help engage the listener?
  3. Know the situation. Is time a factor? Are you requesting information or dispensing it? Is there a need to document the conversation?

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Welcome to the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture

The inaugural LAM Lecture on March 9, 2017 featured Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, in conversation with Bradford McKee, Editor, LAM / image: Alexandra Hay

Last Thursday, Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) presented the first public event held in the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, DC. The inaugural LAM Lecture, featuring Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, was just the start of a new phase for ASLA as a year of construction wraps up and we settle into our new space, designed by architecture firm Gensler and landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden.

Below, we recap how the transformative renovation of ASLA headquarters in Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood has progressed in recent months, giving ASLA a bright new home that embodies the mission, vision, and values of the Society and is also a showcase for sustainable design excellence.

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Where To Go To Feel Inspired

On the Soapstone Valley Trail to Rock Creek Park / image: Alexandra Hay

Landscape architects consider places in terms of their sustainability, aesthetics, design, ecological soundness, accessibility, and plant palettes, among many other facets and factors. But how often do you think about places as sources of inspiration? When we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members where they go to feel inspired, responses ranged from the general to super-specific spots that spark their creativity.

For many, the key to finding inspiration is simply going outside. A walk in the woods was one of the most popular responses, and being near water—whether by a river or on the beach—was another frequent answer. Here are the key themes that members touched on:

Inspired by Nature

“A quiet place in nature, whether man-made or natural.”

“Any vantage point with a panoramic view of undisturbed land.”

“Bike ride in a rural roadway.”

“A walk outside in a park, forest, or prairie.”

“Public lands, parks—great spaces open to the public.”

“I take a walk (unfortunately it’s often here in the ‘burbs but even the most boring landscapes provoke ideas and thoughts).”

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A Historic Rehab in Old North St. Louis

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

Who Inspires You?

At the Hudson's Edge: Beacon's Long Dock a Resilient Riverfront Park, Beacon, NY, Reed Hilderbrand LLC, 2015 Professional ASLA Award of Excellence, General Design Category image: James Ewing Photography
At the Hudson’s Edge: Beacon’s Long Dock a Resilient Riverfront Park, Beacon, NY, Reed Hilderbrand LLC, 2015 Professional ASLA Award of Excellence, General Design Category
image: James Ewing Photography

Who inspires you? The brevity of the first question we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members in the 2015 PPN survey belies the breadth, depth, and diversity of the responses received, which ranged from specific individuals to larger groups, and from historical figures to contemporary practitioners.

The most popular answers were family members, artists, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Piet Oudolf. Inspiring landscape architects that appeared among the responses included: Andrea Cochran, FASLA; Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA; Douglas Reed, FASLA, and Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA; Dan Kiley; James Corner, ASLA; James Urban, FASLA; Julie Bargmann, ASLA; Kathryn Gustafson, FASLA; Laurie Olin, FASLA; Martha Schwartz, FASLA; Mia Lehrer, FASLA; Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA; Susannah Drake, FASLA; Signe Nielsen, FASLA; and Walter Hood.

Many members also responded with a broader category, rather than a specific individual:

“Artists of all media”

“Ancient Chinese garden designers”

“Aspirational thinkers”

“People with great vision and free spirit”

“People who put their talents to work to solve problems while putting their ego on the shelf”

“Nature writers”

“Field biologists / conservationists”

“Environmental activists”

“Professionals in public interest design”

“Musicians and chefs”

“I get glints of inspirations from almost everyone at different times.”

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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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Creativity & Inspired Design

The Metro-Forest Project, Prawet, Bangkok, Thailand, Landscape Architects of Bangkok (LAB), 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Rungkit Charoenwat
The Metro-Forest Project, Prawet, Bangkok, Thailand, Landscape Architects of Bangkok (LAB), 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Rungkit Charoenwat

Each year, members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) are surveyed on a different theme. In 2013, the focus was favorite spaces, with questions on iconic spaces, cities with the best networks of open spaces, and projects that changed the profession, among others. The 2014 survey focused on the variety career paths in landscape architecture. Members shared essential skills for success, the greatest challenges landscape architects face, what makes their work rewarding, and their advice for emerging professionals.

The results of those surveys have been highlighted here on The Field—now, we are moving on to the 2015 survey, when PPN members were asked to tell us about creativity and what makes for inspired designs in landscape architecture, a profession that blends art and science and requires both technical knowledge and artistry to create beautiful places.

We received responses from a diverse range of individuals in terms of sector, region of work, and level of experience:

  • Every PPN is represented, and Sustainable Design and Development—the largest PPN—had the most respondents.
  • The East, South, and Midwest are all equally represented, but the West had the most respondents.
  • 10% of respondents practice internationally.
  • 73% work in private practice.
  • 43% have 20+ years of experience, and 24% have 5 years or less.
  • 59% work in firms, agencies, or organizations of 25 or fewer employees.

Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND, and we are sharing that information again here on The Field. For updates on the results of the latest PPN survey, see LAND‘s PPN News section.

Below are a few highlights from the 2015 results, which will be explored in greater depth in upcoming posts.

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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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Making Streets Safer for Pedestrians

South Grand Boulevard "Great Streets Initiative," St. Louis, MO, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Analysis and Planning Category image: Design Workshop, Inc.
South Grand Boulevard “Great Streets Initiative,” St. Louis, MO, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Analysis and Planning Category
image: Design Workshop, Inc.

Dangerous by Design 2016 was released today by advocacy group Smart Growth America in collaboration with AARP, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associated.

The new report identifies the most dangerous places in the nation to be a pedestrian, and how state and local policies that address transportation planning and design can help address this critical issue. The 2016 edition includes new Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) numbers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and an expanded examination of metro areas from 51 to 104 regions around the country.

In addition to the report, which is available to download, Smart Growth America has also released two interactive maps that explore pedestrian fatality data in greater detail, using data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

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Challenges in the Field of Landscape Architecture

Future Hopley: Hutano, Mvura, Miti, 2013 Student ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Leonardo Robleto Costante, Assoc. ASLA, Graduate, University of Pennsylvania
Future Hopley: Hutano, Mvura, Miti, 2013 Student ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Leonardo Robleto Costante, Assoc. ASLA, Graduate, University of Pennsylvania

When Professional Practice Network (PPN) members were asked about the greatest challenges landscape architects face, the most frequent response was described by one member as “the same challenge we have always faced”—defining and communicating what landscape architecture is, both to the public and to other design professionals, to ensure that the value of landscape architects’ work is understood and recognized. Other recurring topics included the economy, finding work, dealing with limited project budgets, competition, climate change, and water scarcity.

Though such challenges can seem insurmountable at times, there is still a great deal of optimism to be found. For some, “There has never been a better time to be a landscape architect.” And as one respondent put it:

“Today we have great opportunities to redefine public spaces, as the value of parks and innovative open space design are in the news and have the eyes of the public. We need to use this momentum and set the standard for excellent open space design; these are exciting times for landscape architects!”

Outlined below are the major themes that appeared among the challenges landscape architects face—food for thought as 2016 comes to a close and we look ahead to what may unfold in the new year.

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Landscape Architecture, in One Word

Citygarden, St. Louis, MO, 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

When we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members what one word they would use to describe landscape architecture or a landscape architect, the breadth of the answers given demonstrates the difficulty of defining a profession that is so expansive and varied. Many members couldn’t stick to the one-word limit, offering longer descriptions:

“Landscape architecture is everything but the building: parks, plazas, courtyards, water features, all of the planting plans and stormwater grading for site restoration plans associated with new bridges and roadways. A landscape architect is part environmental scientist, part engineer, and part designer/artist.”

“A landscape architect is the liaison between the public, engineers, architects, and planners.”

From the responses that did stick to one word, here are the top answers, in order of popularity:

  1. Creative
  2. Design
  3. Diverse
  4. Stewardship
  5. Multifaceted
  6. Versatile
  7. Adaptable
  8. Integrative
  9. Holistic
  10. Synthesizer
  11. Visionary
  12. Generalist

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Keeping Up with Design Trends

What’s Out There® Guidebooks, 2016 Professional ASLA Award of Excellence, Communications Category image: Charles Birnbaum; Barrett Doherty; Mark Oviatt, Oviatt Media
TCLF’s What’s Out There® Guidebooks, 2016 Professional ASLA Award of Excellence, Communications Category
image: Charles Birnbaum; Barrett Doherty; Mark Oviatt, Oviatt Media

In response to the question What one characteristic or skill is most essential for success in landscape architecture? many of ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members said that staying up to date, being a life-long learner, and keeping an open mind to new design ideas and technologies are critically important. So, how do our members keep up with current design trends and ideas?

When asked what websites, publications, and other sources were the most important, the top answer was Landscape Architecture Magazine, followed by the ASLA website and other ASLA resources, including The Dirt, LAND, and local ASLA chapters.

Other popular sources of information include travel and site visits—“I’m not so interested in current trends as I am in successful places”—attending conferences, and talking to other landscape architects. And, as one member put it, it is also important to take “time out of each day to walk outside and see what is going on and how people use environment around them.”

Listed below are a few other sources of design news that appeared among the responses.

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Required Reading for Landscape Architects

Activating Land Stewardship and Participation in Detroit: A Field Guide to Working With Lots, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Communications Category image: Andrew Potter
Activating Land Stewardship and Participation in Detroit: A Field Guide to Working With Lots, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Communications Category
image: Andrew Potter

With the holidays and end-of-year break nearly upon us, you may be looking for a few new books, whether to give as gifts or to read yourself. In addition to the Best Books of 2016 highlighted on The Dirt, we also asked ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) for books that should be required reading for all landscape architects. Though many of these are classics you may have already read, we hope you find a few titles to add to your must-read (or must re-read) list.

The top 5 books selected by PPN members were:

  1. Design with Nature, by Ian McHarg
  2. A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
  3. Landscape Architecture, by John Simonds
  4. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
  5. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, by Michael Dirr, Hon. ASLA

A few authors were mentioned for multiple works, including Kevin Lynch for three different books (The Image of the City, Site Planning, and What Time is This Place?) and Julie Moir Messervy for two (The Inward Garden and Contemplative Gardens). Other popular choices, each selected by four or more respondents, were:

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv

A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander

The Image of the City, by Kevin Lynch

The Landscape of Man, by Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe and Susan Jellicoe

Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy and Rick Darke

Design on the Land, by Norman Newton

Landscape Architectural Graphic Standards, by Leonard Hopper, FASLA

Site Engineering for Landscape Architects, by Steven Strom, Kurt Nathan, and Jake Woland

Time-Saver Standards for Landscape Architecture, by Charles Harris, FASLA, and Nicholas Dines, FASLA

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

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