New Zealand’s “Father of Landscape Architecture” Dies

Sad news from the Kiwis today; Charlie Challenger, the father of New Zealand landscape architecture, passed away September 21 at his home. He was 84.

Challenger, originally from the UK, established New Zealand’s first landscape architecture program in 1969. He went on to teach the first generation of LAs in the country, and helped to found the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA).

Scoop, a New Zealand online new publication, recalls that

Landscape architecture was not understood in New Zealand and most often perceived as a fancy form of gardening. Charlie recalls that the first graduates had to be “apostles who had to sell themselves to people who were suspicious of them.”

Click here to read the whole article, and here [pdf link] to download the August 2007 issue of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) newsletter featuring an article on Challenger (which starts on page 6).

[photo of Challenger in 2002 courtesy of IFLA]

Cleaning the Battlefields of Vietnam

A thought-provoking article in the New York Times today on a Vietnamese forester’s attempts to clean up environmental pollution left over from the Vietnam Conflict. Phung Tuu Boi, a forester and director of the Center for Assistance in Nature Conservation and Community Development in Hanoi, uses Australian acacia tree to help cleanse denuded forest land on which “Agent Orange” dioxin defoliant had been sprayed. Boi also attempts to seal off “hot spots” of pollution using green fences made of trees covered with cactus-sharp needles. The entire piece serves as a study of how to clean up the environment with almost no funding whatsoever.

[video still courtesey of the New York Times]

NYC’s Fight Against Global Warming and Traffic Explained

Alex Washburn, Affiliate ASLA
, who we’ve mentioned before, is back on our radar with a new article in Metropolis magazine. Washburn is the chief urban designer of New York City, Department of City Planning, and also is a principal of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, an ASLA award winner in 2004. His piece, “Civic Virtue by Design,” explains how Mayor Michael Bloomburg’s expansive and controversial PlaNYC plan is the 21st century’s new idea of civic virtue. From the article:

Mayor Bloomberg’s speech says it all. To be a better city, we must build green, use mass transit, and restore purity to our water and air, with park access for all. This is a vision of a new type of city for the 21st century: at once more urbane and more natural. It is a marriage of building and landscape that is challenging every notion we have ever had about design.

Click through to read the entire piece; The Dirt is impressed with Washburn’s choice to include a Saturday Night Live allusion!

[photo by Sophia Washburn]

Back to LA School

This letter from ASLA National Student Representative Paul Fusco appears in the latest issue of
LAND Online. Please let your voice be heard by using the comment system below.

I’m sure by the time you’re reading this, most if not all of you are back on campus and ready for another challenging year of study. We are excited to learn more about this field we’ve chosen to explore, but we’re sometimes baffled by the direction our respective professors take us. In my own experience, cemeteries and death seem to be haunting me this semester. Two of my instructors have chosen these subjects for our research, design, and analysis. Timing is everything, and for me, after spending a summer watching a family member battling to stay alive and finally losing, the rituals we associate with death and dying, wakes, burials, and cemeteries are not what I was hoping to revisit back here at school. 

On that note, I thought it might be interesting to open up a dialogue with my fellow landscape architectural students across the country. The field of landscape architecture encompasses so many areas of study, and I was wondering what you feel is the emphasis of your college or university program? At SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry there is a strong focus on urban design and regional planning. Of course sustainability is a hot topic and has generally always been present at a college specializing in the environmental sciences. I am also aware that individual professors’ expertise and interests can often drive a program. The passion of a professor toward a given topic can never be underestimated. At ESF we have one studio dedicated to thinking outside the box. This studio works with the key ideas and concepts of design and makes students represent them in an abstract manner. And now I guess we’re into cemeteries.

On the whole I am sure that most landscape architecture students understand the major fields that they can eventually work in. What I would like to find out, though, is your school’s focus. If through this dialogue each student chapter is able to provide a short description of the main thrust of their landscape architecture department, I think we will be able to see what other students are learning, as well as help professionals understand what kind of knowledge students have after finishing college.  

In addition, I am interested in hearing from the different ASLA student chapters as to the involvement, if any, their school and professors have with planned chapter events. Do professors attend and/or support your planned programs? Do they try to incorporate chapter events into what they are doing in studio or other classes? Do they encourage student involvement and attendance at LAbash and the national annual meeting?

So let’s share. Let me know what you think.


Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture Wins Aga Khan Award

News this week that Vladimir Djurovic, International ASLA, and his firm have been awarded one of the nine Aga Khan Awards for Architecture for their Samir Kassir Square project in Beirut. According to the Aga Khan Development Network, the square is “a restrained and serene urban public space that skilfully handles the conditions and infrastructure of its location in a city that has undergone rapid redevelopment.” Click here to watch a video about the project. Djurovic Landscape Architecture was also awarded Residential Design Award of Excellence from ASLA this year for the Elie Saab Residence.

Djurovic was interviewed by The Daily Star this week–click through to read his thoughts on site design and client relations.


Accessible Park Trails and the National Park Service

News this month (via the AP) that more park trails are becoming wheelchair-accessible and that the National Park Service will soon be launching an online database cataloging all the accessible trails, activities, and sites in the NPS system. The AP piece focuses on Vermont, where three trails are now accessible, including a 1,000-foot section of the famed Appalachian Trail as it passes by Thundering Brook falls.

Along with the NPS database, here are two other resources for finding accessible parks around the country: United Spinal Association and GORP. It’s interesting to see the wide variety of sites, from small urban parks to historic homes to vast nature areas.

[photo of Vermont’s Green Mountains from Dicky85]