University Landscape Architects Unite!

Crown Commons at Duke University, designed by Reed Hilderbrand / image: Mark Hough

Duke University (along with me, its resident landscape architect) recently served as host for the inaugural conference of the newly formed Association of University Landscape Architects. For several beautiful, albeit unseasonably warm, days toward the end of April, a group of 25 landscape architects representing 22 universities from across the country joined together to share ideas, experiences, and best practices unique to our niche segment of the profession.

Creating such a group is something I have been pondering for about a decade now. Several of us—landscape architects working on the client side in university planning/design offices—have been running into each other for many years at ASLA Annual Meetings and Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) conferences. We would often find ourselves lamenting the lack of content specific to what we do. We could find a campus tour here and there, and perhaps a couple of pertinent education sessions tucked into an otherwise crowded slate, but the time we would spend together discussing common issues proved most applicable and valuable to our specific work. The idea that we could form some version of an association was floated around at various times and was consistently met with near universal enthusiasm.

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Landscape Architecture on Campus

Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford by Tom Leader Studio image: Tom Leader Studio
Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford by Tom Leader Studio
image: Tom Leader Studio

This post was originally published on Land8 with the title “The Power of Landscape Architecture on the American College Campus” on April 3, 2014.

Landscape architects—and I include future ones in this group—seem obsessed with cities these days. Urban projects are all over the place at conferences and in design magazines, and even more predominate in related social media and the blogosphere, to the point that it makes me wonder if we all really just want to be urban designers. Of course there are legitimate and good reasons for this focus, such as the fact that more work is becoming available in cities as people migrate back from the suburbs, and high profile urban projects give landscape architects greater exposure on the media map.

Even so, I do worry a little that this preoccupation with big city landscapes may limit the perspective of students and young professionals to just how vast and diverse this profession really is. Although I won’t address all the possible career paths for landscape architects here, I do want to point out a specific and important segment of landscape architecture that rarely gets much attention: the campus landscape.

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Sustainable Campus Landscapes: LEED or SITES™?

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

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

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

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

by Cathy Blake, ASLA, Stanford University