As practitioners and advocates of environmental justice, we know that many communities across the country fall short of achieving equity and justice in terms of access to quality green spaces and being overburdened with negative environmental exposures. In this collaborative Field post, we highlight a few voices around the profession on why and how landscape architects should remain committed towards integrating environmental justice in our respective practices.
– Michelle Lin-Luse, ASLA, PLA, and Tom Martin, ASLA, on behalf of the Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN) Leadership Team
Cher Wong, Associate ASLA
Landscape Architect at SmithGroup
Why are you interested in the intersection of environmental justice and landscape architecture?
From many landscape architects’ training processes, including mine, we didn’t pay enough attention to learning how our work is closely tied with social, economic, political implications and how every design language has a historical context behind it. Now, when I stand at the intersection of environmental justice and landscape architecture as a designer, I see contradictions between our traditional definition of ‘design excellence’ and the implications of many landscape architecture work in environmental justice.
But I also see opportunities on how much we need to develop new design languages that break the contradiction and better support environmental justice.
With Park(ing) Day—this Friday, September 17, 2021—just days away, leaders from ASLA’s Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN) have shared their experiences with Park(ing) Day, how they have highlighted environmental justice issues through their parklet designs, and their thoughts on Park(ing) Day as a platform to address environmental justice.
Chingwen Cheng, ASLA
PPN Officer and Past Co-Chair
Program Head and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture + Urban Design + Environmental Design, The Design School, Arizona State University
Park(ing) Day started by responding to a lack of people-centered urban design and automobile-driven urban development. Transforming a parking space to a park space is a statement to advocate for inclusive and people-centered design. Many neighborhoods in Phoenix have experienced inequitable distribution of open space and urban tree canopy, resulting in vulnerable conditions under extreme heat and divergent health outcomes. Park(ing) Day provides a space and time for landscape architecture professionals and educators to get together and advocate for creating quality environments for all.
by Tom Martin, Associate ASLA, and Chingwen Cheng, PhD, ASLA
With the arrival of spring comes an opportunity for reflection, and four months have already passed since the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego.
The theme of landscape architecture and equity, inclusion, justice, and diversity was front and center in San Diego. As education sessions addressed these topics through the lens of profession demographics, engagement strategies, and the implications of past decisions, attendees were challenged to reconsider what the profession of landscape architecture can look like.
Within the Environmental Justice Professional Practice Network (PPN), we spent the year leading up to the conference contemplating how environmental justice is understood within our profession, and how we might be able to develop and communicate frameworks that promote environmental justice as a tool for positive change. During our PPN Live session, we addressed our findings and action plan moving forward. Separated into three categories, below is a summary of what was presented.
In March 2019 we distributed a survey with the intent to understand landscape architects’ grasp of and level of interest in environmental justice. We saw this as being a vital first step toward enacting initiatives aimed at better integrating environmental justice into the profession of landscape architecture.
This spring, the Environmental Justice PPN conducted a survey in order to learn about landscape architects’ understanding of and interests in environmental justice. Input from ASLA members is critical in shaping the EJ PPN and moving our profession forward. Landscape architects also have the opportunity to serve as a community-focused linchpin on multidisciplinary project teams, crafting designs in response to community input and inviting all stakeholders to the table to engage in the planning and design process. With allied professions and organizations, including the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Architects, updating their codes of ethics and professional conduct to reflect stronger support for environmental justice, we wanted to hear from landscape architects for their perspective.
The survey responses will aid in future communications with local ASLA chapters, projects such as a practitioner’s guide to environmental justice, and establishing a platform for EJ dialogue and resource sharing. As we continue working on those initiatives, we wanted to share a recap of the survey results and a few highlights and insights from the more than 170 responses received.