LA County Board Adopts Updated Park Needs Assessment– 12/6/2022, Spectrum News 1
“The LA County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously adopted a countywide assessment of park needs identifying priority areas for development of recreational facilities, and calling for efforts to transform ‘degraded lands’ such as landfills and oil fields into open spaces, especially in lower-income communities.”
Boston City Hall Plaza Reopens – 12/6/2022, World Landscape Architect
“Sasaki partnered with Shawmut Design and Construction and Skanska to implement the City of Boston’s vision of an inclusive, welcoming front yard for downtown Boston.”
As part of the innovative Dream Build Play program, playground and playfield renovation projects were selected from a data-driven equity map that identified the most underserved communities. The city found that 62 percent of its public play spaces were either in “fair or poor” condition — and all of these were in communities that had experienced a history of redlining and predatory lending. Worst-off play spaces were put first in line for renovation.
“We are tackling playgrounds in communities with high levels of poverty and crime, with growing populations that are adding pressure to schoolyards,” Zimmerman said.
In their tours of the sites, Zimmerman and her team found many of the fair-to-poor sites had no shade and cracked asphalt. “We can’t do our programs, can’t feed kids in these spaces.”
Six years ago, Milwaukee initiated Dream Build Play with a budget of just $1.8 million; today, that’s up to $49 million in completed and in-progress projects.
“We now have four full-time landscape architects, work with 37 landscape architects in six firms, initiated 73 community engagements, completed seven renovation projects, and have eight in the works.”
Looking back on the first years of the redesign effort, Zimmerman also relayed one core lesson: “it’s hard to build credibility but easy to lose it.”
For example, one mailing error for a community engagement flyer meant that community members didn’t receive word until two weeks after the public hearing happened. Zimmerman walked for 10 miles one weekend, going door to door with new flyers to rebuild trust.
She also opened new lines of communication, hiring additional staff to answer phone calls and listen to concerns from community members.
These conversations often go beyond playgrounds. “In a community dealing with trauma from violence, schoolyard renovations become a much different situation.”
Her engagement is also personal: a number of community members Zimmerman has collaborated and engaged with have been murdered in shootings.
Amid the many struggles these communities are facing, “it’s important to keep building something positive,” she said.
Site design group, ltd., a Chicago-based landscape architecture firm, has been designing many of the updated playgrounds for Milwaukee.
ALBA School, one of the first projects from 2017, included a “vivid painted play surface,” explained Brenda Kiesgen, a project manager with the firm.
“While simple and low-cost, it has been successful.” Parents and students participated in the design process, and students use it to play a range of games, Zimmerman said.
For Greenbay Playfield, which was redeveloped in 2019, Zimmerman’s team ramped up community engagement efforts. “We had 125 people in person and showed images of alternatives. We asked the community which they preferred. We found ways to connect and listen.”
As the pandemic started, community involvement in the planning and design process was re-envisioned to ensure equitable engagement. “We were on the phone, used the Internet; we re- crafted our approach.”
At the same time, with the growth in the program’s budget, schoolyard renovations became increasingly more sophisticated, weaving in more equipment, adding texture and materials, and stormwater management systems.
In one instance, community engagement involved back-tracking to maintain that community trust.
Some of the community had wanted a half-court because of concerns about illegal gambling that could come with a full court. But later, other community members argued that a full court was needed for it to be a positive, inclusive space. “So we pivoted and redid the design,” Kiesgen explained.
Worth noting: the renovated public spaces includes Milwaukee’s first court for Tuj Lub, a 5,000-year-old sport played by the Hmong immigrant community. “It is kind of like shuffleboard with hard plastic tops. It had no precedent in Minneapolis. We talked to tons of suppliers and explored samples.”
“People ask us: why so much public work?,” said Bradley McCauley, ASLA, managing principal at site design group, ltd. “We want to do something for communities. But we have to do a lot of public projects to make it work.”
The firm, which was founded by Ernie Wong, FASLA, is focused on sustainable and equitable public spaces. “It’s important that a community loves what we do, because if they don’t, it won’t last.”
This focus on bottom-up design is particularly important with communities that have experienced purposeful disinvestment. Involving these communities can help create a sense of identity and positivity.
McCauley said his firm seeks to “design artful play spaces that weave in exploratory learning,” natural materials, and stormwater management systems.
“Universal access is also a focus. We design for children on the spectrum so they have places of reprieve and get away from the activity. For children who have been traumatized by violence, it’s also important they have a place to go.”
The Q&A brought up a question about how to manage the emotional toll of work in communities grappling with violence and poverty.
“If a community engagement doesn’t work, try something else. What is important is to have relationships in the community,” Zimmerman said.
“Keep the focus on the end goal — the change you are making — or it can rip your heart out. Self care is good,” McCauley added.
The American Society of Landscape Architects Calls on National Governments to Commit to 30 x 2030 and the Global Goal for Nature: Nature Positive by 2030
ASLA urges national governments at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 in Montréal, Canada, to commit to far more ambitious global conservation and biodiversity goals, including protecting at least 30 percent of terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems by 2030 (30 x 2030).
In advance of the CBD COP15, ASLA has also joined 340 organizations worldwide in signing the Global Goal for Nature: Nature Positive by 2030. The Call to Action makes an appeal for “improving the state of nature by 2030; ensuring rights-based approaches to nature-based solutions and to conserving effectively and equitably 30 percent of land, freshwater, and seas by 2030; and directly tackling the drivers of nature loss,” among other goals.
“In our recently released Climate Action Plan, ASLA identified the connections between climate change and biodiversity loss. We made a clear commitment to advance 30 x 2030. We also called on all landscape architecture projects to restore ecosystems and protect biodiversity on a global scale by 2040 – and we call on national governments to be equally as bold,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen.
“In Montréal, now is the time for a global agreement to address the biodiversity crisis and increase protections for nature. Biodiversity underpins all natural systems on Earth. Protecting our remaining biodiversity and bolstering and restoring ecosystems are critical to our long-term survival,” said ASLA President Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA.
According to the United Nations, one-million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, and seventy-five percent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface and two-thirds of the oceans have been significantly altered by humanity.
ASLA and its members understand there is both a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis, and they are interconnected:
A changing climate is resulting in sea level rise, extreme heat, increased flooding, and drought, which impacts both communities and non-human species.
Biodiversity loss is largely driven by unsustainable agricultural practices, sprawl, and habitat fragmentation, but climate change is accelerating the alteration of habitats and species migration, which increases extinction risks.
Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation undermine the natural systems humanity relies on to provide a range of critical ecosystem functions, including nature-based approaches to sequestering carbon and adapting to climate impacts.
“Landscape architects are uniquely qualified to plan denser communities and protect natural areas, combating the sprawl that threatens remaining ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots. We can also increase biodiversity through the incorporation of native tree and plant species, planning and designing habitat connections and corridors, and restoring degraded ecosystems – all of which have important climate benefits as well,” said O’Mahoney.
Given the failure of the global community to meet the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets, ASLA calls on national governments to significantly increase investment and support for conservation, habitat defragmentation and connection, and ecosystem restoration over the next decade.
In global discussions, ASLA also urges national governments to increasingly connect the climate and biodiversity crises, to not address them in a siloed manner. An integrated approach can increase the focus on nature-based solutions, including ecosystem-based mitigation and adaptation approaches, that address the climate and biodiversity crises together.
In future COPs of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), nature-based solutions must be elevated and seen as integral to reducing emissions and increasing resilience.
Through advocacy, planning, and design efforts with urban, suburban, and rural communities, landscape architects can work with nature to help address both biodiversity and climate impacts. Landscape architects also support the rights and leadership of indigenous communities in conservation efforts worldwide.
ASLA notes that the Convention, which entered into force in 1993, has been ratified by 196 countries. The United States remains the only UN member country that has signed but not yet ratified the multilateral treaty. This has put the U.S. government and U.S. based organizations advocating for biodiversity at a disadvantage in global negotiations.
Snøhetta Brings Fresh Air into a 1980s Landmark – 11/25/2022, Architectural Record “The Snøhetta team, which included landscape architect Michelle Delk, ASLA, was inspired by Manhattan’s small pocket parks that are integrated with the urban fabric but act as welcome retreats from it.”