Twenty-eight Professional Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in the landscape architecture profession
By Lisa Hardaway
ASLA has announced its 2022 Professional Awards. Twenty-eight Professional Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in the landscape architecture profession. All winners and their locations are listed below.
Jury panels representing a broad cross-section of the profession, from the public and private sectors, and academia, select winners each year. The 28 winners were chosen out of 506 entries.
The Professional Awards jury also selects a Landmark Award each year; this year’s Landmark Award celebrates “Crissy Field: An Enduring Transformation” by Hargreaves Jones for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Crissy Field, in San Francisco’s famed Presidio, features restored coastal habitat, recreational amenities and historical interpretation.
“ASLA Professional Awards for decades have recognized the most significant achievements by landscape architects nationwide, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their extraordinary contributions to their communities and the profession,” said ASLA President Eugenia Martin, FASLA. “Many of this year’s winning projects were focused on reconnecting communities to landscapes, illustrating the important role landscape architects play in creating places for communities to live, work, and play.”
“These award winners underscore how landscape architects are problem- solving some of the biggest challenges facing communities around the globe,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen. “From equitable community gathering spaces to addressing climate change, these winners represent the cutting edge of our industry.”
Nineteen Student Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in landscape architecture education
By Lisa Hardaway
ASLA has announced its 2022 Student Award winners. Nineteen student Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in landscape architecture education. All winning projects and the schools they represent are listed below.
Jury panels representing a broad cross-section of the profession, from the public and private sectors, and academia, select winners each year. The 19 winners were chosen from 459 entries.
“In my conversations with students I encourage them to always draw, always dream, and to embrace the quote by Horace ‘begin, be bold, and venture to be wise,” said ASLA President Eugenia Martin, FASLA. “The vision and creativity in this year’s entries gives me great optimism and excitement for the role landscape architecture students will play in the future of our planet.”
“Students are the future of this profession, so it’s encouraging and inspiring to see the full range of creativity, passion and talent that is evident among this year’s cohort of Student Award winners,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen. “Many of this year’s Student Award winners are focused on helping communities adapt to climate change, from addressing drought and extreme heat to mitigating wildfire risk and rising sea levels—clearly, landscape architects are a key part of the climate change solution.”
According to the panel, designing with nature helps communities become more resilient to climate change. Living Breakwaters and the Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project in Staten Island, New York City, demonstrate how coastal communities can adapt to rising seas and increasingly intense storms. These innovative projects, led by landscape architects, work in tandem to reduce wave action and beach erosion, create wildlife habitat, and enhance public recreation.
The built environment not only includes buildings and concrete infrastructure, but also landscapes, which are increasingly critical for adapting to climate change. Landscape architects are responsible for planning and designing these nature-based solutions that bring maximum benefits to communities.
The two projects in Staten Island grew out of New York City’s response to Superstorm Sandy, which struck in October 2012. The storm was a wake-up call for the city to better prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Sandy’s impact is understood to have been intensified by climate change — higher ocean temperatures and sea levels may have contributed to the heavy rainfall and the stronger storm surge, which inundated parts of Staten Island and led to the death of several residents and billions of dollars in damage.
Living Breakwaters is currently being constructed in the Raritan Bay. The Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project will be built on the shore itself. The landscape architects leading these projects will explain why we need to re-imagine our coastlines for climate change and future superstorms and how to do it.
This year, ASLA brings Park(ing) Day to PreK-12 schools, libraries, and community centers across the country. And this year Park(ing) Day isn’t just one day, but a full weekend — September 16-18.
Let’s help students re-imagine streets one parking space at a time. Using a parking space in front of a school, library, or community center, landscape architects can partner with PreK-12 students to think outside the classroom. Help students discover how to improve our public spaces, strengthen social connections, and boost health and well-being.
Step 1: Connect with your local school, library, or community center
Seek out art or science teachers, librarians, or after school program leaders.
Step 2: Make your pitch
Explain the purpose of Park(ing) Day and share the positive results of past Park(ing) Day celebrations in your community.
Step 3: Pair up with a group of students
Make yourself and your organization available to lead a group of students in the redesign of a Park(ing) Day space.
Step 5: Design and build a Park(ing) Day space with students
Partner with students, teachers, librarians, and community center leaders to DREAM BIG and plan and design a Park(ing) Day space. Source sustainable materials that can be recycled or reused. Reach out to local nurseries or firms for donations of big ticket items like a tree, plants, a bench, or bird bath that the school, library, or community center can keep.
Step 6: Post images of your Park(ing) Day installation to your social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) using the hashtag #ParkingDay and tag us (@nationalasla)
Make sure you have permission or signed release forms from anyone you photograph.
ASLA will highlight the best posts from students, firms, and chapters across our social platforms!
Lastly, be sure to encourage teachers and students to Save the Date for DREAM BIG with Design 2022, September 22-23. A free online event, DREAM BIG will immerse PreK-12 students in design-centered strategies that address some of the most critical issues of our time. Live, interactive sessions will explore the future of landscape architecture and apply design techniques that can be aligned with interdisciplinary curricula.
By Roxanne Blackwell, Hon. ASLA, and Caleb Raspler
Congress has passed and President Joseph Biden is expected to sign into law the U.S.’s most comprehensive response to the climate crisis to date — The Inflation Reduction Act. The legislation makes an historic investment of $369 billion to improve energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help communities adapt to climate impacts.
Importantly, the Act recognizes and funds landscape architecture approaches to address climate change — from active transportation projects like Complete Streets and recreational trails, to nature-based water infrastructure, community tree planting, ecosystem restoration, and more. Additionally, the legislation makes significant strides in addressing environmental and climate justice and ensuring underserved communities receive resources to adapt to a changing climate.
Landscape architects are uniquely qualified to lead these projects. With their community engagement skills, they are particularly suited to partner with underserved communities. The Act provides tremendous opportunities for landscape architects to work with all communities to plan and design a more resilient and low-carbon future.
Significant funding for programs and projects traditionally led by landscape architects include:
ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE
Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program: $3 billion to improve walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access through projects that are context-sensitive.
The program provides funding to:
Build or improve complete streets, multi-use trails, regional greenways, active transportation networks and spines or provide affordable access to essential destinations, public spaces, transportation links and hubs.
Remove high-speed and other transportation projects and facilities that are barriers to connectivity within communities.
Remove transportation projects and facilities that are a source of air pollution, noise pollution, stormwater, or other burdens in underserved communities. These projects may include noise barriers to reduce impacts resulting from a facility, along with technologies, infrastructure, and activities to reduce surface transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution. Solutions can include natural infrastructure, permeable, or porous pavement, or protective features to reduce or manage stormwater run-off; heat island mitigation projects in rights of way; safety improvements for vulnerable road users; and planning and capacity building activities in disadvantaged or underserved communities.
Low Carbon Transportation Materials Grants: $2 billion to incentivize the use of construction materials that have substantially lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions in landscape architecture projects, including reimbursements.
NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
$250 million for conservation, protection, and resilience projects on National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.
$250 million for conservation, ecosystem, and habitat restoration projects on NPS and BLM lands.
$200 million for NPS deferred maintenance projects.
$500 million to hire NPS personnel.
$250 million to the Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife recovery and to rebuild and restore units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY FORESTRY
$200 million for vegetation management projects in the National Forest System.
$1.5 billion for competitive grants through the Urban and Community Forestry Assistance program for tree planting and related activities.
$550 million for planning, designing, or constructing water projects with the primary purpose of providing domestic water supplies to underserved communities or households that do not have reliable access to domestic water supplies in a state or territory.
$4 billion for grants, contracts, or financial assistance to states impacted by drought, with priority given to the Colorado River Basin and other basins experiencing comparable levels of long-term drought.
$15 million to provide technical assistance for climate change planning, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience to Insular Areas – U.S. territories.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $2.6 billion for grants, technical assistance, and cooperative agreements that enable coastal communities to prepare for extreme storms and other changing climate conditions. This includes projects to support natural resources that sustain coastal and marine resource dependent communities and assessments of marine fishery and marine mammal stocks.
$50 million for competitive grants to fund climate research related to weather, ocean, coastal, and atmospheric processes and conditions and impacts to marine species and coastal habitat.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
$3 billion in competitive grants to address clean air and climate pollution in underserved communities.
$33 million to collect data and track disproportionate burdens of pollution and climate change on environmental justice communities.
$250 million for the General Services Administration to convert facilities to high performing buildings.
$2.1 billion to purchase low carbon materials.
$975 million for emerging and sustainable technologies and related sustainability programs.
$20 million for hiring new personnel to conduct more efficient, accurate, and timely reviews for planning, permitting and approval processes.
Department of Agriculture: $19.4 billion to invest in climate-smart agriculture practices and land interests that promote soil carbon improvements and carbon sequestration.
Department of Energy: $115 million for the hiring and training of personnel, the development of programmatic environmental documents, the procurement of technical or scientific services for environmental reviews, the development of environmental data or information systems, stakeholder and community engagement, and the purchase of new equipment for environmental analysis to facilitate timely and efficient environmental reviews and authorizations.
Department of Housing and Urban Development: $837.5 million to improve energy or water efficiency or the climate resilience of affordable housing.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF): The fund will help efficiently finance projects, including landscape architecture projects, to reduce emissions through active transportation, ecosystem restoration, energy and water efficiency, and climate-smart agriculture. The fund will receive $27 billion total, with $8 billion earmarked for low-income or otherwise underserved communities. Funds will flow through regional, state, local, and tribal green banks. And the GGRF will provide the institutional foundation for a National Climate Bank Act.
Roxanne Blackwell, Hon. ASLA, Esq., is director of federal government affairs, and Caleb Raspler, Esq., is manager of federal government affairs at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
Should designers care about artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML)? There is no question the technology is adding texture to the current zeitgeist. Never could I have imagined seeing a blockbuster hit where Ryan Reynolds emerges as a conscious non-player character in a video game and a flop where Melissa McCarthy negotiates humanity’s future with a James Corden-powered superintelligence within a year of each other. But does learning AI and ML’s ins and outs really matter for the creative professions and our nebulous, invaluable way of operating?
Helen Armstrong, a professor of graphic design at NC State, thinks so. In fact, for her it is imperative. “[AI] is everywhere and has already transformed our profession,” the preface to her new book reads. “To be honest, it’s going to steamroll right over us unless we jump aboard and start pulling the levers and steering the train in a human, ethical, and intentional direction.” The book is Big Data. Big Design. Why Designers Should Care about Artificial Intelligence and its gospel is a primer for designers of all cuts — landscape, graphic, industrial, or otherwise — to get oriented to a brave new world of human-machine relations.
When I say gospel, I do not mean it ironically. Armstrong’s prose is tinged with the passion of an evangelist trying to open our eyes to the great and terrible possibilities of AI-driven design practice. A book of this nature is sorely needed. As Brent Chamberlain and I argued last year in a Landscape Architecture Magazine article, the built environment professions are in the midst of an unprecedented technological transformation that is so overwhelmingly expansive yet so subtle it can be easy to ignore — even if for the mere sake of mental and emotional preservation.
We landscape architects need some particular stirring in this regard. The complexity and timescale of our working medium combined with a mostly healthy skepticism towards new technology for new technology’s sake can sometimes make it seem like the profession is perpetually playing catch-up. Big Data. Big Design. offers the catch-up without condescension, taking the generalist view that every design discipline needs to understand machine learning better regardless of pre-existing technical prowess.
The book’s structure is straightforward, with four main sections sandwiched by a preface and conclusion. The scale of discussion in these sections oscillates between broad definitions of what exactly AI and ML are (Armstrong uses the terms AI and ML interchangeably) and more specific examples of how they are used in design practice.
The parishioner’s tone of the first three chapters then turns more technical in the fourth as the author delves more into the weeds of ML, specifically the differences between its three main approaches: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning. If I were to use a crude analogy to sum up the book’s conceptual sequence, I would say it follows Simon Sinek’s golden circle model: it starts with why designers should care about ML, elaborates how designers might use it, and culminates in what such a process might mean for society.
Nearly anyone who lives in the modern world produces data, often on the order of terabytes per day. We text our friends, stream videos, use fitness apps, ask Siri about the weather while we look out the window, walk by CCTV cameras, the list goes on. Most of these data are unstructured, i.e. not organized in any clear order. Machine learning provides a way for computers to glean meaning from this lack of structure.
As Armstrong puts it, “even now as you read, computers sift and categorize your data trails—both unstructured and structured — plunging deeper into who you are and what makes you tick.” How does it do this? The short answer is algorithms, statistical analysis, and prediction. Not sure what any of those words mean? Fear not! The book is riddled with basic definitions in the margins, inset snappy diagrams, and clear infographics that will bring even the most tech-averse designer up to snuff. For some, these visual aids may seem trite, but to me they were integral.
As a researcher dedicated to demystifying emerging technology for landscape architects, I believe it is vital we get designers of all demographics and digital abilities to a shared understanding of what AI is so we can all better facilitate its continued permeation into practice. Big Data. Big Design. does this is in spades.
The book’s real strength lies in the compilation of concrete examples from ML-assisted design practice. Armstrong assembles a fantastically broad collection of work exploring this new era of human-machine design that gives support to her claim that “our interactions with machines are shifting from ‘transactional’ to ‘relational’,” and that with that transition comes a fundamentally new way of seeing design.
The reader is introduced to a vibrant, emerging ecology of human-machine design partnerships, envisaging at once all the good that can be accomplished for humanity when those partnerships are well thought out and all the ill that can come when they are not. There are in-depth interviews with human-computer interaction experts like John Zimmerman and descriptions of visionary creative work like that of Tellart and Toyota’s emotionally intelligent concept cars.
And Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler offer a mini-essay on AI ethics.
Besides more minor complaints about lumping ML and AI together as one term, which is not my favorite to see as a technophile but tolerable, or a tendency to occasionally slide into less-than-nuanced conjecture about the implications of technology for society, the most glaring fault a landscape architect will likely see while reading is the omission of ML-driven design being produced in our discipline.
While certainly sparser than that of graphic arts, industrial design, or even architecture, human-machine design work does exist in landscape architecture. Landscape architects are using ML to iterate streetscape designs, explore novel approaches to coastal terraforming, and generate high-level urban design concepts, to name a few things. An author professing to speak to all of us ought to do some due diligence on that, and if she did, at least mention it — especially when she resides in a school that includes landscape architects and is theoretically aware of our impact as a design discipline.
Despite this criticism, it is hard to overemphasize the importance and utility of a book like Big Data. Big Design., which takes an overwhelmingly complex and technical subject and translates it into accessible language for designers of any discipline so that we can better understand how it affects us. The increasing spread of AI into every industry means that those who program AI systems in many ways design the societal outcomes those systems produce, even when said systems become completely autonomous. I agree with Armstrong when she writes “we human designers must be there to frame the right problems — the problems that will move us toward future points that truly benefit humanity.”
Phillip Fernberg, ASLA, is a writer, designer, and PhD Candidate in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at Utah State University, whose work focuses on technology, culture, and design of the built environment.
William E. O’Brien’s book, Landscapes of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South, was first published as a hardcover edition in 2015. It is ironic that one year later in 2016, the U.S. Presidential election would usher in cultural and racial shifts that further divided Americans into ideological factions. This year, O’Brien’s book has been reissued as a paperback. It presents a mirror with which we can look back and see the profound changes in America, which is greatly needed in our divisive social media age of disinformation and historical erasure.
In a new forward, Ethan Carr, FASLA, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reinforces O’Brien’s efforts to highlight “the impact of racial ideologies on park design throughout the twentieth century — and to this day.” O’Brien, who is trained as a geographer and is professor of environmental studies at Florida Atlantic University, acknowledges this impact by documenting the current efforts in many southern states to acknowledge the recreational segregation of the past. Early in his book, O’Brien’s refers to the efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency to add signage at Tyler State Park that recognizes “the Texas start state park system’s racial exclusion policy under Jim Crow.” Yet, he remains steadfast in his view that more must be done to acknowledge the segregation of the past in southern parks. He pronounces the example of the Tennessee park named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan,” as an indicator of the work remaining to be done in redressing the remnants of Jim Crow.
This is a well-researched book that documents public space segregation within state parks and southern society, in particular during the 100-year period from the post-Civil War era through 1968. These Jim Crow laws (or Black Codes) were named after a minstrel character in “blackface,” which depicted newly freed slaves as less than human. The laws subjugated Black Americans and dictated their movements and access to recreation, education, and other benefits accessible to white Americans. The Jim Crow laws limited African American progress for decades, which specifically included access to recreation in southern states.
O’Brien’s research spans the establishment of the first state park – Yosemite Park in California in 1864 — to a collection of southern state parks. His map indicating white and African American park sites from 1937-1962 is a striking visual record of the Jim Crow segregated culture that created an imbalance in park distribution and quality. He does not shy away from highlighting systemic racism based on the doctrine of ”separate-but-equal” and the disparities created between white and African American park facilities.
The book, which is divided into six chapters, begins with a chronicling of the state park systems in American and ends with views on the current cultural transformation of integrated state parks. The threads that connect all chapters are well-documented historical perspective on Jim Crow laws, the evasive legislative tactics used by southern states to prolong segregated facilities, and the bureaucratic operations and racially negligent tactics of parks agencies. Other threads include the defiance of segregation by African Americans through legal efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and insightful testimonials of ordinary citizens on both sides of the segregation divide.
He consistently reinforces how inadequate and unequal facilities for African Americans were, while highlighting specific parks in each southern state. Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma is an example of unequal park facility that also included disparities in architectural quality. While the “Negro Recreation Area” designated as Camp No. 3 had cabins made of board and batten exteriors, the white-only Camp No. 1 had cabins made of wood timbers and stone fireplaces.
Oklahoma park service administrators understood white protests regarding proximity to “Negro” park areas and often succumbed to white resentments about physical contact with African Americans.
The park service supervisor, Milo Christenson, relayed white concerns, stating that “white groups will never use these facilities if they have ever been used by negro groups.” This was the understanding within the park service administration that was repeated in other southern states, helping to prolong the segregation of state parks even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, ended segregation.
O’Brien also documents that African Americans were not allowed to use “Negro area” facilities after sundown, and African American recreation areas were mostly restricted to areas that had little or no access to water, historical, and other scenic features. Day-use only restrictions were only one of many methods used by parks officials to create physical separation of the races.
A 1929 survey of California state parks by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. “expressed a desire to make state parks equitably accessible while maintaining standards of scenic quality.” However, this idealistic philosophy of state park development standards was out of reach for African Americans in southern states until the late 1960’s. With the development of separate parks, African Americans didn’t benefit from this Olmstedian idealization of scenic beauty.
African American self-help and advocacy was crucial in obtaining their own quality recreational facilities. In 1920, the Parks and Recreation Association (PRA) “added a Bureau of Colored Work, directed by Ernest Attwell – a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute – to help ensure more adequate park provision for African Americans,” O’Brien writes. The PRA was established in 1906 to support the development of state parks in the U.S. Attwell’s position and his efforts to grow quality recreational opportunities for African Americans was one of the first pivotal appointments within a state parks organization.
African Americans also created their own “private recreation retreats, including exclusive rural resorts in places such as Buckroe, Virginia, Idlewild, Michigan, and Gulfview, Mississippi.” Other African American intellectuals and leaders such as “Dr. John B. Watson, president of Pine Bluff’s Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N), a historically Black College” were instrumental in securing the first Arkansas park designed for African Americans.
In “June 1937, [Watson] deeded to the state a hundred-acre parcel of his own land, located eight miles west of Pine Bluff, and a consortium of six government agencies, federal and state, agreed to spend $20,000 for park development.” Development of the park was only partially completed before Watson’s death in 1942. Given the lack of Arkansas state enthusiasm for fulfilling their commitments “his widow, Hattie M. Watson, sued for the return of the land to the Watson estate.” In 1944, her case was successful, and the land was returned to the Watson family.
One of the most fascinating examples of a Black-owned park during the segregation era was Gulfside State Park, owned and operated by Robert E. Jones, a Methodist bishop from Greensboro, North Carolina. O’Brien writes that “in 1923, he had purchased the property, which included a mansion once owned by President Andrew Jackson along with 300 acres…adjacent to 320 state-owned acres that Jones also acquired.” African Americans traveled from long distances to visit the park. “The New York Amsterdam News in 1926 hailed the resort as ‘the only project of its kind that has ever been launched in America.” Park activities included summer schools, music venues, home economics, religious studies, and camping trips. Unfortunately, the Great Depression destroyed the financial viability of the park, its Gulfside Association, and its future.
Assessing the effect of Jim Crow laws on African Americans, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, states that “black men and women attempted to fight back in various ways, including nurturing their own segregated social and cultural institutions, especially churches, schools, colleges, self-help organizations. And black intellectuals, creative artists, and political activists increasingly grappled in their responses to the so-called Negro Problem.”
O’Brien’s balanced research on Black self-help to achieve some measure of recreational access in the face of Jim Crow is one of the crowning successes of his book. There are many other well researched elements in the book relating to the history of the “Negro Problem,” park planning and politics, post-World War II separate but equal policies, and court battles primarily brought by the NAACP to dismantle park segregation. Together, these research areas build a much-needed historical record of Jim Crow and the exclusion of African Americans in southern state parks.
While Landscapes of Exclusion is comprehensive, O’Brien’s academic prose and roaming timeline structure often makes reading the book a slow process. This is not inherently bad, and readers should do the work necessary to read and learn from O’Brien’s historical survey. Anyone exploring landscape, planning, and public space history will find the book interesting. O’Brien has crafted an intensively researched history of the political, social, racial, and environmental implications of Jim Crow practices and the unfair distribution of parks in the southern United States. His work can withstand present day attempts to deny history and turn facts into divisive political weapons.
Glenn LaRue Smith, FASLA, is cofounder and principal of PUSH studio in Washington, D.C., and founder and former president of the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN). His landscape architecture projects include garden designs, urban waterfronts, community redevelopment, playgrounds and memorial monument design. He has directed graduate landscape architecture programs at two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) — Florida A&M University and Morgan State University.
It’s the first Gold certification in Washington, D.C., and largest project in the capital to receive a human wellbeing-focused WELL Certification
ASLA has been awarded WELL Certification at the Gold level for its Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, becoming the first WELL Certified Gold-rated project in Washington and the largest WELL Certified project to date in the nation’s capital. The prestigious WELL Certification is awarded by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) through IWBI’s WELL Building Standard (WELL), which is the premier building standard to focus on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the buildings where we live, work and play.
“ASLA pursued WELL Certification because of our commitment to our members, our staff and our community, and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen. “ASLA is founded on the premise that good design leads to healthier, more sustainable and equitable environments, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner and lead in advancing initiatives like the WELL Building Standard.”
Created through seven years of rigorous research and development working with leading physicians, scientists, and industry professionals, the WELL Building Standard is a performance-based certification system that marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based scientific research. The ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture earned the distinction based on seven categories of building performance: Air, Water, Light, Nourishment, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.
ASLA worked with architecture firm Gensler and landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden to build a new Center that embodies the values of the profession and the organization.
The project integrates new construction into the existing space and footprint; captures and reuses stormwater runoff; maximizes daylight within the space; increases occupant comfort and wellness; provides flexible, collaborative work spaces; and models environmental values, with a focus on improving indoor air quality, lighting, nourishment, and promoting active lifestyles.
To ensure opportunities for interaction with living things and natural surroundings, a biophilia plan describes how the Center incorporates nature through environmental elements, lighting, and space layout.
Project features that helped ASLA achieve its WELL Certified Gold rating include:
A range of air-quality steps, including filtration, increased ventilation, and volatile organic compound reduction;
Optimal water quality through the use of filtration techniques and periodic water quality testing;
Enhanced natural lighting for all occupants through the creation of an atrium, circadian lighting design and low-glare workstation design;
Fitness opportunities that promote active lifestyles; and
Materials and furnishings selections that optimize comfort and cognitive and mental health and that evoke nature in their design.
WELL is grounded in a body of evidence-based research that explores the connection between the buildings where we spend approximately 90 percent of our time, and the health and well-being impacts on the people inside these buildings. To be awarded WELL Certification by IWBI, the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture underwent rigorous testing and a final evaluation carried out by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which is the third-party certification body for WELL, to ensure it met all WELL Certified Gold performance requirements.
The ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture has long been committed to innovative design features that promote health and wellness and environmental sustainability. The Center features a green roof, one of the first of its kind built in 2005; a green canopy; a side garden designed by Oehme van Sweden, which includes a 700-gallon rainwater cistern used for irrigation.
Numerous lines of research demonstrate the mental and physical benefits of green space for people, which is one of the reasons landscape architects seek to integrate high-quality green space into office environments.
The need to rapidly adapt to climate change has rightfully taken center stage. But the connections between climate change and stormwater management are often overlooked. Climate change impacts the hydrological cycle by increasing water scarcity and the frequency and intensity of flooding while contaminating waterways. Better managing stormwater is key to managing water resources and protecting our safety and the health of our environment.
Unfortunately, stormwater management is usually portrayed as a purely technical issue to be solved at the site. Instead, stormwater management systems should be valued as critical green infrastructure that provides design opportunities and are foundational to giving form to the broader built environment.
While stormwater management may not be sexy, it is vital to understand and integrate as part of larger efforts to protect our ecosystems and environment. The book Working Water: Reinventing the Storm Drain by landscape architecture and planning firm Wenk Associates argues challenges to “any city’s water supply and urban stormwater management can be addressed, in part, by changing how we manage our urban water resources as part of systems that employ the widespread use of natural technologies.” The firm, founded by landscape architect William Wenk, FASLA, has incorporated stormwater into the design of built environments and landscapes in the West and Midwest for over 35 years.
Projects in the book exemplify how stormwater, generally considered a nuisance, can be managed and integrated as a resource in the design of landscapes, making communities more livable as well as restoring ecological function and health. The selected projects range from built work early in the office’s practice to contemporary projects that explore the integration of function and beauty in managing stormwater at various project scales — from a small rain garden outside their early office in Denver to restoring the natural functioning of the Los Angeles River. In addition to cataloging projects, the author thoughtfully reflects on lessons learned, revealing both successes and failures as they suggest new approaches to create “the next generation of stormwater infrastructure, resulting in healthier urban and natural systems, making our cities better places in which to live.”
Wenk himself outlines his trajectory from a boy growing up on a farm in Michigan, to his foundational undergraduate studies in landscape architecture at Michigan State University, his observations about arid environments revealed while traveling across Europe and North Africa, and the influential work of artists, writers, and thinkers he explored during graduate studies at the University of Oregon. These experiences combine to inform the theoretical foundations for his life’s work.
He also shares his early career lessons regarding the value of urban green infrastructure that were strengthened while working closely with civil engineers. These professional experiences ultimately led to the founding of his practice in Denver, Colorado. Wenk desires to “reinvent the storm drain,” a metaphor for “expanding — down to the most basic details — the components of stormwater systems to invent new strategies for effective stormwater controls, and to promote the restoration of the natural functions of urban waterways in ways that add beauty and value to the urban landscape.”
The first part of the book explains the close relationship of water resource management to culture and technology and clearly describes the impacts of urbanization on the water cycle and the land. Explaining how positive aspects of both ancient and contemporary water management systems can be integrated to address contemporary issues of water scarcity and improve water quality, the book sets the stage to examine how urban water resources can be better planned and designed. Ultimately, successful projects restore the function of ecological systems while creating meaningful places for people to gather.
Then, the book provides a carefully curated selection of Wenk Associates’ projects that exemplify what is meant by “working water.” The scale, type, and complexity of the highlighted projects vary greatly from small site design to large river corridors. Each of the case studies, which cover sites, districts, and corridors, demonstrate the rigor of the designers’ intent. Each projects’ context, vision, design strategies, constraints, and results are thoughtfully communicated with clear jargon-free narratives, diagrams, renderings, and attractive photographs of the built work.
The third part of the book reviews the critical factors leading to the success of Wenk Associates’ built works, along with lessons learned about legal, financial, and other challenges involved in implementing natural technologies, and the profession of landscape architecture’s involvement in integrating “multiple values and functions into the city’s infrastructure” and communicating “those values to affected communities.” The lessons go further than most books on stormwater do by calling for incentivizing district-scale stormwater control systems, identifying barriers to implementations of natural technologies, and calling on practicing professionals and the public to be advocates for change.
Simultaneously, the scope of the book has limitations. Because this is a monograph, Working Water thoughtfully represents the experiences and philosophy of just one firm.
Missing from Working Water is also a stronger acknowledgement that underserved, historically marginalized communities are disproportionately hurt by the mismanagement of stormwater and that residents of these communities can play a greater role in designing a healthier and more livable environment.
The Menomonee Valley Redevelopment is an example that intentionally enriched underserved neighborhoods in Milwaukee by creating over 1,400 jobs, connecting neighborhoods with a new network of streets and green spaces, and providing access to a healthier and a cleaner river. Surely, this project included community input during the design processes to achieve these beneficial results. However, the residents and the role they played in this process are not given the prominence they deserve.
Working Water is a needed addition to the body of literature on how to integrate designed green infrastructure with stormwater management to create more livable cities for a couple of reasons. It addresses issues specific to the temperate Midwestern climate of the savanna and steppe ecosystems, while most books focus on the more humid environments of the East and West coasts. It also contributes examples of beautiful projects that demonstrate regionally appropriate responses from the drumlin-inspired landscapes of Wisconsin to the semi-arid grasslands of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Range.
Working Water is intentionally written as an educational resource for students, decision-makers, regulators, municipal staff, designers, developers, and community advocates. A pleasant surprise included at the end of the book is a “working water glossary” that provides the reader with a general understanding of the definitions of terms and concepts used in the book.
Wenk Associates were early leaders in the integration of stormwater design. Their work has been so successful, it is now considered common in the practice of landscape architecture. The functional requirements of successful stormwater management are so well integrated in each project that the unprecedented nature of the designs may be overlooked.
The monograph is written similarly. It is humble; it is not flashy and does not use fancy words. It offers straightforward yet beautiful graphics and diagrams with no enigmatic collages; just solid, well-crafted, thoughtful work.
Like Ian McHarg’s layering process, the incorporation of stormwater management has been so integrated into landscape architecture that it is unrecognized when done well. This collection of completed projects when assembled as a monograph, may seem simple, as though anyone could do it. But don’t be deceived, Working Water: Reinventing the Storm Drain demonstrates how Wenk Associates makes the messy and difficult work of envisioning and implementing a complex project look simple, clean, and elegant, with a vision for the future.
A Green New Deal means designers can live up to their potential to address the wicked problems of our time. Landscape architects, planners, and architects may be familiar with the Green New Deal Superstudio, which was a call for designers to “spatially manifest” the Green New Deal, or to imagine projects centering jobs, justice and decarbonization.
The Superstudio marks an inflection point for landscape architecture. Grounded in policy and the context of climate change and social unrest, the Superstudio is the landscape architecture community’s public acknowledgement that our work is deeply intertwined with politics.
As a collective of young practitioners, we understand the significance of the Green New Deal conversation happening within and outside of our profession. ASLA and the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) have embraced the Green New Deal, and organized students and practitioners to imagine its tangible implications within the built environment. These steps represent real action towards the shift in practice that Billy Fleming, ASLA, the Wilks Family Director at the McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania, called for in his 2019 article, Design and the Green New Deal. Like Fleming and the profession’s organizations, we recognize a shift that needs to happen if landscape architecture is to stand a chance.
It is crucial for landscape architecture to change if we are to have a meaningful contribution toward a habitable future. As Superstudio participants, Wkshp, a team of emerging professionals, viewed the Superstudio as a way to imagine both future projects and adapted practice.
For us, the Superstudio was fulfilling in several ways. With limited experience in professional practice, we found a shared sentiment that our professional experiences were not in complete alignment with what we were sold in school – a sometimes romanticized version of our personal career paths and the impact they will have. After a couple of years in practice, we have maintained faith in the potential of landscape architecture to make large-scale change. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Superstudio was that it prompted us to make space to rekindle our passions and sense of purpose, in ways that often don’t fit into typical modes of practice.
What exactly doesn’t fit into existing practice and why? While developing our Superstudio submission, our time was dedicated to identifying barriers to implementation and asking questions. Repeatedly, we were brought back to the same power dilemmas, which are beyond the scope of the typical landscape architecture project, but were centered in our Superstudio work: structural racism, a patriarchal society, colonialism, severe economic inequity, and environmental injustice, among others.
Working under the framework of the Green New Deal was liberating – it meant that we could transcend the constraints of the current market, and a model of practice formulated to serve it. It allowed us to imagine design processes and projects to serve geographies and communities that have been economically, socially, and environmentally abandoned, while considering how we can work differently.
We imagine a culture that has moved beyond megalomania, utopianism, and individualism. In the Superstudio, we find the seeds of a collaborative realism and inclusive organizing that we are now working to scale and ground. So, a Green New Deal project is not necessarily a “new project” in its built form, but the where, how, and for whom represent a practice transformed. The Green New Deal creates living infrastructure in places that need it but can’t afford it, repairing landscapes that have been endlessly extracted from, preparing underserved communities for unpredictable futures, with an emphasis that it will all be co-designed. This is a new means and mode of practice — one of which does not yet exist, but desperately needs to.
The Superstudio was an experiment in process, just as much as it was a design project. wkshp/bluemarble, a non-hierarchical collective with collaborators from multiple firms working together across three time zones, embodied this ethos throughout. We understand that ethics of flexible leadership and constant growth are critical for facing the challenges of our generation.
The Modernist approach exemplified by architects Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright is a deeply flawed, failed model. We cannot rely on individuals to save the planet. In the same vein, we must stop placing individuals on a pedestal within design culture as a whole. Almost nothing in our field is created — or even conceived — by a single individual, and it’s time to acknowledge the power of a team as well as elevate the power of the ideas, rather than praise a single person. On this note, we reject destructive criticism by those in power within our tiny profession. Young designers need support, especially those willing to dedicate a career (or even one year as a thought experiment) to re-conceiving our collective future.
With this transformational spirit, the Superstudio summit, Grounding the Green New Deal, was an opportunity to begin imagining next steps with fellow Superstudio participants and leaders. The summit organized by LAF, with the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, ASLA, and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., featured a curated selection of projects and speakers from practice, policy, and advocacy. The summit which was thought-provoking, informative, and beautifully executed, igniting a series of deep reflections.
Both the immediate and more distant futures of the profession were on display at the summit. For those seeking spark notes on advancing jobs justice and decarbonization, here are some general themes we came away with:
Connect with and lend support to organizers, center the visions of frontline communities, and grapple with and address the relationship between ourselves, our communities, and our professions to colonialism, racism, and structural inequalities.
Gain a better understanding of both power and implementation pathways, both locally and nationally, so you can make things happen now.
Concurrently work to advance policies like the GND that aim to create change at scale in the future, work to change institutions that hold power, and when working with developers and politicians make them think that your transformative idea is their idea.
Above all, to make a real impact, we need to get organized and plan our actions.
We were especially inspired by the work and vision of organizers such as Colette Pichon Battle, Esq., the executive director of Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, an organization that is actively bringing justice to front line communities in the Gulf Coast Region, and represents the type of organization that designers could support in projects akin to the Green New Deal. The voices of those with public sector experience stood out as well, such as Mitchell Silver, Hon. ASLA, former Commissioner of New York City Parks & Recreation department. These panelists shared their strategies of working within existing institutions to produce projects embodying the pace, scale, and justice-orientation of the Green New Deal in the now.
Kate Orff, FASLA, founder of SCAPE, and Fleming, both key figures in the Superstudio and the profession at large, provided essential framing through presentations that served as a prompt for advocacy and guide for implementation.
We felt that the lack of organized dialogue among the mass of Superstudio participants was a missed opportunity, and that the format of the summit, while inspiring, felt devoid of the popular, inclusive spirit of the Superstudio. Some challenges – mostly of the “how do I start doing this right now?” variety – still need further testing in the real world. For example, once we connect with community organizers, are we prepared to work differently from our normal practice? Can this work happen at scale outside of academic spaces? How does this work get done where there isn’t an existing implementation structure, or the structure cannot transcend existing forms of development? How do we scale up this transformative practice outside of the most populous, resource-rich regions of the country?
Urgency is in the air. The summit must be the beginning of a conversation, yes, but most importantly must further contribute to radical action both within and beyond the field locally and globally. Now is the time for landscape architecture to evolve.
Here are our next steps: capacity building, organizing, and, most critically, doubling down on the collective imagination that the Superstudio so radically and meaningfully engaged.
wkshp/bluemarble is a team of emerging professionals working for transformations within practice and the world at large.