Susan Hatchell, FASLA, president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), gave this speech to an online audience of nearly one million Sunday, April 22, on the National Mall. Of the many organizations and businesses represented, ASLA was the only design organization focused on sustainability presenting on the Mall.
I am Susan Hatchell, president of the American Society of Landscape Architects. It is truly an honor to share this day with you.
Earth Day has a very special meaning for me, because the message and principles of Earth Day led me to a profession that I love and admire.
Landscape architects have been Green Since 1899! That is the year ASLA was founded by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the designers of such iconic landscapes as New York City’s Central Park and the grounds of this very Capitol.
As we celebrate Earth Day, let’s talk about how landscape architects create a more sustainable, livable, and beautiful world.
From its beginning, the profession’s mission has been to lead, to educate, and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.
Landscape architects design for all of us. We design residential landscapes, bike networks, hiking trails, transportation corridors, campuses, office grounds, green roofs, and public parks. We focus on planning, designing, and building an infrastructure of GREEN that knits all of our communities together.
Flying over many major cities today, you will see a checkerboard of green, growing roofs that naturally cool the air, remove pollutants, and capture rainwater.
Along with green roofs, green streets use trees, swales, permeable paving, and rain gardens to hold and cleanse rain water, instead of letting it pour right into our waterways untreated, full of oil, chemicals, and other pollutants. Green roofs and green streets also cool our cities, make them beautiful, and provide animal habitat.
As landscape architects design beautiful urban spaces, streetscapes and parks they encourage people to abandon their cars and walk. This saves energy and reduces pollution and as a bonus it can also help people lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their well being.
In New York City, the High Line Park converted an abandoned elevated train line into a walkable, fun, urban wonder.
In Chicago, the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park recreates natural, native landscapes – a prairie! – in the heart of a major urban city.
ASLA is working with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Botanic Garden on the launch of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). This will be the first rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings.
Pilot projects of all types and all over the world are in different stages of pursuing SITES certification. The Sustainable Sites Initiative demonstrates how determined we are not to hurt the Earth, but to heal it.
Our communities must tackle so many problems – from decaying infrastructure to natural disasters caused by climate change to health epidemics created by our auto-centric lifestyles. As we work to fix these problems, make sure landscape architects are at the table.
Landscape architects bring history, expertise, and passion to today’s cause of “Mobilizing the Earth.”
Thursday is Fredrick Law Olmsted’s birthday! I hope you will join landscape architects all across the nation — Get outside and celebrate with YOUR environment!
Image credit: Marianne Meyer