I can’t deny the romantic attraction of the places where I have worked and lived:
Tangier, where on the Strait of Gibraltar, Europe meets Africa. Tangier lesson learned: waterfront tourist district. I learned the hard way how important free access to multidisciplinary project information is.
Istanbul, where on the Bosphorus Strait, Europe meets Asia. Turkey lesson learned: 200km motorway connecting Europe and Asia. I learned how to scale ‘making a difference’ when working with senior engineers whose career had been on horseback.
Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea in a port called Yanbu, where for centuries people have made their way to Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia lesson learned: new town in the desert on the Red Sea coast. I learned the hard way how small the landscape infrastructure is compared to the energy, port, primary industries, transportation, jobs, and telecom are to a city being built from zero.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will host a virtual meeting of the Industry Advisory Group next week, and the general public is welcome to attend (registration required):
OBO’s Annual Industry Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
1:00 – 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) Register now
OBO’s Industry Advisory Group is comprised of professionals from architecture, real estate, urban design, landscape architecture, historic preservation, interior design, graphic design, construction, engineering, and facilities management. 2019-2021 members include James Burnett, FASLA, Susannah Drake, Judith Nitsch, Hon. ASLA, Carol Ross Barney, Hon. ASLA, and Marion Weiss, Affil. ASLA.
An Interview with Antoine Nerval on International Practice and Planting Design
“The potential of landscape planting design is often limited by the supply of plant materials, especially when proposing a complex and diverse living system. Such proposals are in many cases considered unrealistic and too expensive…that is why we decided to start from plant collection and plant nursery.”
– Antoine Nerval
Antoine Nerval is an agricultural engineer who designs vertical gardens. He has created living murals and built nurseries around the world, and is currently working on one of the world’s largest botanical gardens in Normandy, France. This interview—conducted by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, past chair of ASLA’s International Practice Professional Practice Network (PPN), for a research project—sheds light on Antoine’s unconventional practice and approach to landscape architecture and international planting design.
Coming from a French agricultural engineering background, what did you find particularly different working in the field of landscape architecture? Did anything catch your attention practicing alongside landscape architects in the United States?
It has been easy to communicate with landscape architects because I myself also love to draw or ‘graffiti’ on the paper, and the scale of landscape is similar to larger murals. From my point of view, it is a perfect mix between agriculture engineering and art.
I think in the United States, the landscape architecture industry is very mature and professional, but the specialization also leads to the disconnection between plants and design. Working alongside many excellent teams, I was surprised to find little design discussion about planting materials in the early conceptual phase. The plant selection often only got serious at a much later phase, where designers have less control. It is quite a missed opportunity for many talented landscape designers. For me, my first thoughts for any design projects would always be inspired by particular plants or settings, and then the designs evolve around them.
Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities through the Design of Innovative and Inclusive Urban Landscapes: a summary of the panel discussion at the 10th Global Forum on Urban Resilience
Bonn, Germany | June 26-28, 2019
For a decade, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability has been providing a global forum on urban resilience where local governments, researchers, businesses, NGOs and citizens could meet as equals, contributing and sharing with their first-hand experiences and know-how. Past years’ themes have included disaster risk reduction, insurance financing, urban food systems, refugee reception, and digitalization. To mark 10 years of experience and expertise-building in supporting cities to thrive in the face of challenges, this year the Resilient Cities Conference aimed to present a comprehensive view on delivering urban resilience: pathways towards implementing resilience; innovation in the realm of urban resilience; and building cohesive, healthy, and resilient communities. With the above goals in mind, for the first time the congress curated a special panel, “Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities through the Design of Innovative and Inclusive Urban Landscapes,” focusing on landscape architecture and how the profession delivers nature-based solutions in urban resilience building.
Why landscape architecture? At the forefront of shaping resilient urban environments, landscape architects are often challenged to translate complex site-specific risks into tangible transformation. This unique position requires deep an understanding of urban ecology, place-making, and stakeholder engagement to deliver impactful solutions. For many local governments and inter-governmental institutions, landscape architects’ trans-disciplinary working process could be an excellent model to inspire innovative pathways and holistic approaches.
To cover the theme from different perspectives, the congress invited two landscape practitioners, one city representative, and two landscape researchers to participate. They are: Michael Grove, ASLA, from Sasaki; Kotch Voraakhom, ASLA, from Porous City Network; Lee-Shing Fang from Kaohsiung City; Chih-Wei G.V. Chang from Gravity Praxis University of Cologne; and Antje Stokman from HafenCity University. The panel was moderated by Daniela Rizzi, Officer of Green Infrastructure and Nature-Based Solutions at the ICLEI European Secretariat.
The panelists shared their first-hand experience in resilience building in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. By engaging with the panelists and their processes of design thinking, the panel highlights insights on collaborative, design-driven problem-solving as a means of finding solutions for complex urban challenges and building more resilient cities.
Beginning in the late nineteenth and extending into the mid-twentieth century, many American cities found themselves embroiled on either side of a hot-button issue that had an immense impact on American life. Urban renewal strategies employed by cities all over the country endeavored to make cities more livable, yet the rebuttal was sharp: “More livable for whom?”
In China, similar urban regeneration experiments have played out rapidly as China’s development took off during the last few decades—with similar regrets and lessons learned following in kind. The greatest difference, however, is that urban renewal in China has been interwoven with its unprecedentedly swift urbanization over the past forty years. With these two complex development patterns happening simultaneously, there have been few moments along the way to hit pause and reflect on these changes until fairly recently.
What Now? Learning From Our Mistakes
In both China and the United States, once communities and city leaders reflected on the impacts of their urban renewal projects, the picture was not always rosy. On both sides of the globe, city-led and developer-fueled overhauls of urban districts received vocal criticism from impacted communities. They frequently disrupted communities with strong ties to the existing urban fabric—with immigrant, the poor, minorities, and other disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt of sacrifice and upheaval. Entire histories were razed to make way for other populations ready to write new stories in their place. Much was lost in social, cultural, historical, and ecological terms in the zealous march toward modernity.
From repeating residential units to monotonous office tower curtain walls, a monoculture of sensationless environments is over represented in urban environments today. People are bored and tired of this duplicated world. Landscape architect Manfred Pan from ASPECT Studios shared the landscape design philosophy of human-oriented thinking. Starting from the most basic point—how humans experience the world—APSECT Studios use the unique experience and keen sensitivity to strive for the unexpected and uniqueness in urban projects.
The presentation discussed visual perception first. For a project in Hefei, China, the pomegranate was a special regional symbol. As a starting point, the pomegranate was disassembled from the unique perspective of the designer and then reinterpreted at a super-sized scale. People do not need to know the background to glean their own unique understanding and perception.
The Shanghai Landscape Forum is a themed event for landscape professionals initiated by Sasaki, AECOM, and SWA in 2017. With the participation of SOM, ASPECT Studios, HASSELL, TLS, and many other international landscape companies, the forum has grown rapidly. The forum’s aim is to pioneer new practices that result in design innovation and influence policy transformation, raise public awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contributions, bring landscape architecture into the mainstream by advocating for the profession as a driving force for social progress, and build a more sustainable tomorrow. The forum covers all aspects of the landscape design industry.
The Shanghai Landscape Forum is a themed sharing event initiated by Sasaki, AECOM, and SWA in 2017. The forum expanded with participation of SOM, ASPECT Studios, HASSELL, TLS, and many other international landscape companies. It aims to pioneer new practices that result in design innovation and influence policy transformation, raise public awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contributions, bring landscape architecture into the mainstream by advocating for the profession as a driving force for social progress, and build a more sustainable tomorrow. The forum covers all aspects of the landscape design industry. Previous forums have successfully attracted designers to exchange and share topics such as the “practice and challenges of ecological rehabilitation in China,” “landscape cultural heritage,” and “landscape and infrastructure.”
Initiated by Sasaki, AECOM, and SWA, and joined by other leading international landscape architecture practices such as ASPECT Studios and SOM, Shanghai Landscape Forum is now a summit for the international design community in Shanghai, China.
On September 20, 2018, Shanghai Landscape Forum hosted its fourth event at Shanghai AIO Space. Hosted by ASPECT Studios, designers from SOM, ATKINS, Sasaki, SWA, AECOM, and HASSELL presented on and discussed the theme “Landscape and Infrastructure.” The presentations explored topics such as how to integrate infrastructure harmoniously with nature and site, how to make infrastructure work efficiently, and how to improve and bring new life to old infrastructures via creative design principles and pioneering design approaches.
The mission of the Forum is to pioneer new practices that result in design innovation and influence policy transformation, raise public awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contributions, and bring landscape architecture into the mainstream by advocating for the profession as a driving force for social progress.
The Republic of Singapore is a multi-ethnic Chinese, Malay, and Indian (mainly Tamil) island city-state connected by two causeways to the southern end of the Malay Peninsula, a 5-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2017 it had a population of 5.61 million (and rising) on 709 square kilometers (274 square miles) for a density of 7,796 per km². By way of comparison, Chicago has a population of 2.7 million (and falling) on 589 square kilometers (227 square miles) for a density of 4,613 per km². (Population density figures may vary depending on whether the water area is included.)
by Erik S. Mustonen, ASLA, CSLA, RLA (CA + MN), CLARB, LEED AP-ND
The Republic of Singapore, an island city-state one degree north of the equator, has 5.6 million residents on 700 square kilometers (270 square miles.) Since independence in 1965, land reclamation has increased its size by 23%. With dense development on its small area, only 5% of its historical forests remain, but the creation of nature parks has become a national priority. It is a multi-ethnic community with four official languages—English (most common), Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Most of its people are bilingual. About 74% of the residents are of Chinese descent. It ranks very high in many economic measures and is known to be safe, corruption free, and extremely well organized (some say too organized). While working in nearby Malaysia in the 1980s and 1990s, I often visited Singapore, and I was impressed by how much it has developed since then.
An exhibition devoted to landscape architecture in global development entitled Out There (in Germen, Draußen)” is being held at the Architekturmuseum der TU München through August 20, 2017. Having frequently showcased the social relevance of architecture in recent years, the museum’s focus now shifts to a discipline with the potential to have a far wider impact on the use of land. The exhibition aims to give the public a deeper understanding of the changing concepts and strategies of landscape architecture in the present, and at the same time, to clarify its growing importance for the future. Landscape architecture today is dedicated to the spatial systems that will shape the society of tomorrow.
Though from as far afield as Spain, China, Rwanda, and South America, all ten projects featured in the exhibition share a primary focus on exploration. They do not claim any finality in the complex and unpredictable situations relating to the rapid urbanization of very diverse cultural geographies. This focus illustrates how there can be no panaceas or universally-applicable best practices. In all case studies, process and stakeholders determine the content, and not the other way around.
For example, the case study in Medellín, Colombia examines natural hazards such as landslides, which are intensified by climate change and predominately affect the lowest income groups in the city’s informal settlements. The collaborative landscape strategies offer those affected an improvement in their overall living situation, through a landslide warning system, slope stabilization, added amenities, and phasing.
The 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO will take place October 21-24 in New Orleans. We encourage all current and potential future members of the International Practice Professional Practice Network (IP-PPN) to attend and take advantage of all networking opportunities and education sessions. The world has become increasingly globalized in nature rather than being centered in North America—whether it’s a global challenge, or a localized solution, we invite you to participate, learn, and maybe contribute to a better environment without borders.
The following events at the Annual Meeting offer rare opportunities for us to meet to share our knowledge and make valuable connections—between experienced and emerging professionals as well as students. These connections may lead to friendships and future collaboration. Let’s meet up in New Orleans!
International Practice PPN Co-Chairs:
Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, ASLA, SWA Group, Sausalito, California
Jack Ahern, FASLA, University of Massachusetts Amherst
This year’s International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) World Congress took place April 20-22 in Turin, Italy. The congress theme, ‘Tasting the Landscape,’ included four sub-topics: Sharing Landscapes, on food production in urban areas; Connected Landscapes, on creating new economies; Layered Landscapes, focusing on stratified landscapes and innovative practices for preserving history; and Inspiring Landscapes. Each sub-topic included keynotes, extended speeches, PechaKucha presentations, poster sessions, and text sessions to allow attendees to present and interact.
‘Tasting the Landscape’ is a fascinating and complex theme which is relevant across cultures, territories, cultivations, and people. All these aspects make every site distinctive, simple and complex at the same time, and require specific and thoughtful intervention. ‘Tasting the Landscape’ is intended as an invitation and a call to nourish and taste, as well as to take part in the making of the landscape of our planet. This agenda requires knowledge and dedication, together with a shared commitment to participate in its completion.
One of the most prestigious flower and garden shows in the world was held last month at Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki, Japan. Now in its sixth year, the show has featured numerous renowned designers and garden makers. For 2015, the Gardening World Cup (GWC) has the theme “My Country, My Culture,” focusing on diverse regional characters and gardening approaches. The event showcases more than 40 gardens in cooperation with designers from more than 30 countries.
Selected from highly competitive submittals, the gardens were granted a full support team and implementing partners that assisted with every detail from beginning through to installation. The workmanship by Japanese contractors has consistently received accolades from designers for their relentless work ethic, high standards, and attention to detail. With such high level sponsorship, the event provides a unique opportunity for international designers to test their innovative design process and expand the boundary of garden making.
Beyond being a garden exhibition, the World Flower Garden Show is also a platform where industry professionals and garden contractors gather to forge partnerships and cater to the needs of Japanese clientele. Japanese garden masters and artists also take advantage of this opportunity in marketing their meticulous craftsmanship and sensibility to the world stage. Important figures who made this event possible include host and sponsor Hideo Sawada of Huis Ten Bosch, Brian Snow, Hitomi Urabe, Yuko Nagamura, and the planning of operation team Gardenia.
The ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO will be November 6 – 9, 2015 in Chicago. This is a great opportunity for all current and potential future members of the International Practice Professional Practice Network (IP-PPN) to take advantage of networking opportunities and educational sessions! The world of the 21st century is becoming increasingly global in nature rather than being centered on America. Although ASLA has thousands of members, only a few hundred of us have shown an interest in international issues and work. Of these, fewer still have shown up and become actively involved.
The following events at the Annual Meeting offer rare opportunities for seasoned, as well as students and emerging, professionals, to meet to share our knowledge and make valuable connections. These connections can lead to friendships and future collaboration. We especially urge you to attend the IP-PPN Meeting on Sunday, November 8 at 9:15 AM, to share your ideas on how we can build the PPN and make it more relevant, active, and useful for all of us.
From May 20-23, 2015, I attended the Annual Congress of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA). This in itself was not surprising, since in addition to being a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, I am also a member of CSLA. What was notable was that the Congress was in Mexico City. Every ten years or so, CSLA likes to add interest to their annual meeting by having it outside Canada (last time, in Cuba).
Mexico City is amazing! Estimates vary, but the metropolitan area—the largest, by population, in the Western Hemisphere and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world—has about 22 million people living in an area of 2,072 square kilometers. This compares to 20.1 million in the New York metropolitan area, which is 17,405 square kilometers in size. Mexico City’s density is nine times greater in spite of having very few tall buildings.
2014 was an uneasy year for most landscape professionals practicing in China. Once fast and furious, the market’s sudden slowdown has left well-adapted practices, both local and international, stumbling to regain their balance. This January, the government announced the country’s 2014 GDP growth of 7.4 percent, which was the lowest in 24 years, and the first year to fall behind the target. Private developers suffered from the policies regulating an over-heated real estate market and stagnant sales. Local governments struggled with heavy debt burdens from previous wasteful decades and became fiscally conservative, especially under the current anti-corruption campaign. When the major drivers of the building industry started to lose their momentum, the looming climate makes everyone wonder which direction this world economic powerhouse will be heading.
Let’s not forget that China’s slowdown is partially due to an increasingly large economic base, and there is still endless potential waiting to be explored. From my own observations, further densification in built environments, integration of stormwater management, and rural redevelopment might be several avenues worth noting for my fellow international landscape practitioners.
Large-Scale International Projects, in Theory and in Practice: Challenges & Opportunities for Landscape Architects
Yogi Berra had it right. He said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”
How does a very large and very complex project—1.5 kilometers long and more than thirty international consultants—get built?
Here’s the simple summary: there are three players. Number one: the owner—the owner has the money and property to develop the project. Number two: the consultant—the consultant does the design and engineering for the project. And number three: the contractor—he builds the project. Then the owner moves in and operates the project. Straightforward, right?
You may wonder what it’s like to work in the cradle of Western Civilization—the trading posts between the East and West, the Middle East and North Africa, and, for millennia, primarily a landscape of traders.
But first, we’ll start with something you may be more familiar with. Large nurseries like Monrovia, Keeline Wilcox and ValleyCrest often have rows upon rows of trees, shrubs and ground covers, each properly pruned, grown to near perfection and available in seemingly unlimited quantities in any size you want. Selecting plants there is the same as going down the breakfast cereal aisle in a large American grocery store—huge selections, multiple sizes of each, in massive quantities. Just like cereal boxes, the plants in these nurseries are labelled, well displayed, properly set out and all uniformly healthy. That sophistication and mastery of horticultural and logistics processes—integral to plant growth—is a spectacular achievement that some landscape architects never fully appreciate—until they worked with the pirate landscape contractors of the Middle East.
In the Western Region of Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s, a large new town was under construction and street trees were part of the infrastructure work. That was the first time some landscape architects had seen—on a competitively bid, huge project scale—plants being grown in used, empty tin cans. Always rusting, the cans rarely even had drainage holes and were always stacked cheek-by-jowl to save on land rental costs. Plants were hand watered seemingly by chance. Pruning equipment? Just never around.
My two previous posts, Getting Started in International Work and Logistics of International Work—Part 1, dealt with preparing to work internationally. This post deals with the logistics of when you are in a foreign country and after you return. The previously stated caveat—that conditions vary greatly between countries, within countries, and over time– still applies, but this should at least give you a few things to think about.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
–Saint Augustine (AD 354 – 430)
My previous post, Getting Started in International Work, covered how to prepare for international work generally. This two-part addition covers logistical considerations for working in a foreign country based on my own experiences in Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and elsewhere. Conditions vary greatly between countries, within countries, and over time, but this should at least give you an idea of what to think about. I look forward to hearing other people’s experiences as well. Part 1 deals with the logistical issues before you go. Part 2 will cover issues relevant while there and after you return.
People interested in working internationally often ask how they can get started. The answer is a combination of preparation, risk, and luck. Part 1 of this three-part post covers six tips for getting started, and Parts 2 and 3 will include advice on logistical considerations for when you actually go overseas for work.
“…chance favors only the prepared minds.”
Many Americans are woefully unaware of the rest of the world. Before stepping off a cliff like The Fool in a Tarot deck, it is very helpful to become prepared in terms of languages, geography, politics, health, and finance.
In the 1970s the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia decided to relocate the international diplomatic community from Jeddah on the coast, to the capital, Riyadh, in the center of the country. This was to include not only all the foreign embassies, diplomatic residences and offices of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also all the residential, commercial, recreational and other support facilities that would make up a complete, self-sufficient neighborhood on the edge of the city of Riyadh. A German planning firm, Albert Speer and Partners, developed the master plan with Boedeker, Wagenfeld & Partners (initially Boedeker, Boyer, Wagenfeld & Partners) providing landscape architectural input.
Designing New Entrances for the Restored Emscher River Valley in Germany
In the student workshop “New Futures for the Emscher Area,” 43 German and American students created design concepts in close cooperation with the Emscher Water Management Association that highlighted the newly accessible river. Led by Dr. Michael Roth of Dortmund University of Technology’s School of Spatial Planning, the students explored how engaging entrance areas for the Emscher Valley could contribute to the revitalization of this previously industrial and uninviting area.
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.
This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.
Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle. Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation. In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands. So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling. Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones. But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation? It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well. In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.
When most people think of tulips, they think of them originating from Holland, when in fact tulips are native to Central Asia and Turkey4. Tulips noted by the Turks in Anatolia were first cultivated by the Turks as early as the 11th century2. The botanical name, Tulipa, is derived from the Turkish word “turban”, which the tulip flower resembles. Many cultivated varieties of tulips were widely grown in Turkey long before they were introduced to European gardens in the 16th century and quickly became popular4. Although the Dutch Tulipomania is the most famous, the first tulip mania occurred in the 16th century in Turkey. Tulip blooms became highly cultivated, and coveted, for the pleasure of the Sultan and his followers. The Turks had strict laws governing the cultivation and sale of tulips; buying or selling tulips outside the capital was a crime punished by banishment3.
For landscape architects, professional practice and educational opportunities may include an international and multicultural focus and perspective. For example, the global focus of our Canadian neighbors to the north has been a consistent and influential presence in their history. Compared to many Americans, Canadians are often perceived around the world as more educated, with a greater interest in the activities and affairs of the various peoples across the planet. In the spirit of the profession’s growing interest in international perspectives, this article presents the perceptions of Russian, Chinese, and American landscape architects during visits to and activities in the various countries.