Now in its second year, the program will provide 10 women of color with a two-year, personalized experience that includes up to $3,500 to cover the cost of sections of the Landscape Architectural Registration Exam (LARE), along with funding for and access to exam preparation courses and resources, and mentorship from a licensed landscape architect. Applications are due June 30.
Program eligibility requires the individual to:
Be a current ASLA member in good standing or eligible for ASLA membership at the associate, full, or affiliate membership levels
Identify as a woman and be a person of color
And be eligible to sit for the LARE in the state where they are pursuing licensure.
According to the U.S. Census and ASLA data, approximately 18.5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, while only 6 percent of ASLA members do. 13.4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as African American, but only 2.14 percent of ASLA members do. 1.3 percent of the U.S. population identifies as American Indian or Alaska Natives, but only 0.45 percent of ASLA members do. And 6.2 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Asian and Pacific Islander while 13.5 percent of ASLA members do, but ASLA doesn’t separate Asian from Asian American members in its data.
The statistics are telling, and as outlined in the Racial Equity Plan of Action, ASLA is committed to fostering equity and inclusion within the profession and making significant strides to ensure that the makeup of the profession closely mirrors the communities landscape architects serve.
Through this national partnership, NPS-RTCA staff identify projects that would benefit from the expertise of licensed landscape architects and recruit ASLA members who can volunteer their time and skills. Together, we pair the planning skills of NPS-RTCA staff with the design expertise of ASLA members to help communities plan and manage their natural, recreational, and cultural resources.
We provide pro-bono facilitation and planning assistance to neighborhoods, nonprofit organizations, tribes, and state and local governments – helping them turn their visions into a reality. Our partnership focuses on bringing everyone to the table to ensure the long-term success of the project and its benefits to the community.
Each project extends the missions of the NPS and aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative. In collaboration with ASLA, NPS-RTCA supports locally led projects focused on conserving, connecting, and restoring lands and waters across the nation to build healthy neighborhoods, power local economies, and help communities become resilient to a changing climate.
A few projects that have resulted from our partnership:
Inclusive Recreation on the Saluda River Blueway
Winding calmly toward the Atlantic Ocean from the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Saluda River makes its way through northwestern South Carolina, brushing past old mill towns, rolling countryside, and historic landmarks. Once a vital piece of the area’s textile industry, the river became a source for hydroelectric power while its potential for outdoor recreation went unnoticed.
Together, NPS-RTCA and ASLA organized a design charette to develop a solution for getting canoes and kayaks around a dam. Residents, planners, historians, and 15 volunteer landscape architects worked together to design river access points that are accessible to all. The design process further expanded outdoor recreation opportunities by connecting the Saluda River Blue Trail to existing parks along the river.
With assistance from the partnership, Anderson County exceeded ADA expectations – installing portable, floating kayak launches that give people with disabilities an opportunity to get on the water despite the issue of constantly fluctuating water levels.
“This has been all about inclusive access on the river… to give some people a river experience that they would have never gotten otherwise,” said Matt Schell, the director for Anderson County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Restoring Sacred Lands: Tásmam Koyóm Maidu Cultural Park
After more than a century of displacement, the Mountain Maidu people returned to their homeland − Tásmam Koyóm (the Maidu name for Humbug Valley) which is a 2,300-acre alpine valley in California’s Sierra Nevada.
With a vision to develop a cultural park dedicated to education, healing, and traditional ecosystem management, the Maidu Summit Consortium requested assistance from NPS-RTCA. In collaboration with the California Sierra and Nevada chapters of ASLA, NPS-RTCA supported the Mountain Maidu tribe in developing conceptual plans for a park entry site to welcome visitors, identified public access opportunities for a trail network while protecting special cultural sites that only tribal members can access, and developed a 40-acre visitor zone that includes improvements to the Yellow Creek Campground.
“It gives us a chance to bring back our culture, and the way we live,” said Beverly Ogle, a Maidu elder, author, and activist. “It’s given us a land base to bring back our plant life, the botany, the wildlife, and reconnect with the landscape.”
Today, the Mountain Maidu tribe continues to work on developing the Tásmam Koyóm Maidu Cultural Park where they will be able to share their history and heritage with visitors and care for the land.
Conservation and Outdoor Recreation on North Beach Eco Park
Migratory birds aren’t the only ones flocking to Corpus Christi, Texas. With a goal to expand recreational and educational opportunities, the city is implementing plans for a 30-acre ecological and birding park in North Beach that will cater to both their human and avian visitors.
In 2019, the city requested assistance from NPS-RTCA on the park’s design and asked for support in building organizational development for community partners. In collaboration with the Houston/Gulf Coast Section of the ASLA Texas Chapter, NPS-RTCA held public meetings to identify community ideas and generate feasible designs for a migratory bird habitat with recreational opportunities for visitors.
Three park designs were developed from community input, resulting in a master plan for a park that will be home to healthy wetlands and wildlife as well as trails, boardwalks, observation decks, interpretive signs, and educational resources for outdoor programming.
Improving Access to the Sacramento River
The River District in Sacramento, California has a rich cultural and natural history and is located at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency applied for assistance to develop placemaking
concepts for the Sacramento River waterfront.
In 2020, NPS-RTCA partnered with the ASLA California Sierra Chapter and UC Davis’ Department of Landscape Architecture to host three virtual design workshops with the community to explore, envision, and re-think the concept of place along the waterfront.
More than 60 community members and stakeholders participated, including local
tribal members and residents of a low-income housing development. The workshops focused on developing a vision to improve access to the riverfront and expand existing recreational and educational opportunities by creating welcoming spaces that reflect on the history, identity, and legacy of the residents that call the area home.
In addition to creating safe access to the waterfront, the planning and design effort was seen as an opportunity to promote a sense of place and ownership for community members. Concepts generated from the design workshops were shared with stakeholders and city and county officials to identify concepts for funding and implementation.
Evelyn Moreno is a writer and editor with NPS-RTCA.
Built environment industry leaders came together for the first time at one table on March 14, 2023 in Seattle, Washington, to discuss a potential coalition on how to rapidly reduce embodied carbon in the built environment.
“ASLA is thrilled to participate in this vitally important group. Embodied carbon is the greenhouse gas emissions that come from extracting, manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining, and disposing of materials. The ASLA Climate Action Plan calls for all landscape architecture projects to achieve zero emissions by 2040. The only way we can get there is by significantly reducing the embodied carbon in our projects,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen.
The group was composed of representatives from non-profit organizations and professional commitment groups that are engaged in gathering embodied carbon data from the built environment. They are gathering this data for professional carbon reduction commitment programs or certification systems, along with awareness and engagement activities.
We are at a critical moment where reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment is possible today. But collaboration among industry leaders is necessary to enable a rapid market transformation toward regenerative carbon strategies in the coming years and decades.
The group explored working together to:
streamline embodied carbon data collection and reporting
align on key terminology
build awareness around solutions that building materials can achieve
speak together with a harmonized voice to accelerate progress
Together, this collaboration will accelerate the transition of the built environment towards positive environmental outcomes through design practices and material choices.
As organizations currently or imminently gathering embodied carbon data from the built environment industry, creating tools and resources, and building awareness about this critical issue, we believe that we can move faster together.
New awards category focused on transformative solutions to the climate crisis
ASLA is now accepting submissions for its 2023 Professional and Student Awards Program including a new category– the ASLA / International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Global Impact Award, which is focused on projects that address the climate crisis.
The ASLA Awards Program is the oldest and most prestigious in the landscape architecture profession. They honor the most innovative landscape architecture projects and the brightest ideas from up-and-coming landscape architecture students.
“Awards entries are highly competitive and showcase the projects that illustrate the highest achievement and creative solutions in the industry,” said Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA, PLA, President of ASLA. “I can’t wait to see what outstanding entries we will get for our new Award that honors the best climate action models!”
New this year, the ASLA / IFLA Global Impact Award is presented to a project in the Analysis and Planning category that demonstrates excellence in landscape architecture by addressing climate impacts through transformative action, scalable solutions, and adherence to ASLA’s and IFLA’s climate action commitments.
ASLA bestows Professional Awards in General Design, Residential Design, Urban Design, Analysis & Planning, Communications, Research categories. In each of these categories, juries select a number of Honor Awards and may select one Award of Excellence. One Landmark Award is also presented each year.
The 2023 Professional Awards Jury includes:
Jury 1: General Design, Residential Design, & Urban Design
Chair: Kimberly Garza, ASLA, ATLAS Lab Inc.
Michel Borg, AIA, Page
Shuyi Chang, ASLA, SWA
Chingwen Cheng, PhD, ASLA, Arizona State University
Claude Cormier, FASLA, CCxA
Jamie Maslyn Larson, FASLA, Tohono Chul
Garry Meus, National Capital Commission
Jennifer Nitzky, FASLA, Studio HIP
Jury 2 – Analysis & Planning ASLA / IFLA Global Impact Award, Research & Communications
Chair: Maura Rockcastle, ASLA, Ten x Ten
Camille Applewhite, ASLA, Site Design Group
Stephanie Grigsby, ASLA, Design Workshop, Inc
Mitchell Silver, Hon. ASLA, McAdams
Michael Stanley, FASLA, Dream Design International, Inc.
Michael Todoran, The Landscape Architecture Podcast
Yujia Wang, ASLA, University of Nebraska
Joining the professional awards jury for the selection of the Analysis & Planning – ASLA / IFLA Global Impact Award category will be a representative on behalf of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA).
Monica Pallares, IFLA Americas
Also, joining the professional jury for the selection of the Research Category will be representatives on behalf of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA).
Dongying LI, Texas A&M, CELA Representative
Jenn Engelke, ASLA, University of Washington, LAF Representative
ASLA bestows Student Awards in General Design, Residential Design, Urban Design, Analysis and Planning, Communications, Research, Student Community Service, and Student Collaboration.
Chair: Michael Grove, FASLA, Sasaki
Haley Blakeman, FASLA, Louisiana State University
Adriana Hernández Aguirre, ASLA, Coleman & Associates
David Jung, FASLA, AECOM
Christina Hite, ASLA, Dix-Hite
Ellen Stewart, ASLA, City of St Paul
Mark Yoes, FAIA, W X Y architecture + urban design
Jury 2 – Analysis & Planning, Research, Communications, & Student Community Service
Chair: Kofi Boone, FASLA, NC State University
Keven Graham, FASLA, Terra Engineering
Dalton LaVoie, ASLA, Stantec
Stephanie Onwenu, ASLA, Detroit Collaborative Design Center
Naomi Sachs, ASLA, University Maryland
Andrew Sargeant, ASLA, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Professional Awards: Registration must be received no later than 11:59 pm PST on Friday, March 10, 2023. Submissions are due no later than 11:59 PST on Friday, March 17, 2023.
Student Awards: Registration must be received no later than 11:59 pm PST on Friday, May 5, 2023. Submissions are due no later than 11:59 PST on Friday, May 26, 2023.
ASLA is currently accepting proposals for the 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 27-30, 2023. Help us shape the education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Wednesday, February 22, 2022, at 12:00 NOON PT.
The ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is the largest gathering of landscape architects and allied professionals in the world—all coming together to learn, celebrate, build relationships, and strengthen the bonds of our incredibly varied professional community.
We are looking for education proposals that will help to drive change in the field of landscape architecture and provide solutions to everyday challenges that are informed by research and practice.
Changing the Culture in Practice
Design and the Creative Process
Leadership, Career Development, and Business
Planning, Urban Design, and Infrastructure
60-, 75-, or 90-Minute Education Sessions: The standard education session with 50-75 minutes of presentation followed by 10-15 minutes of Q&A, maximum three speakers.
Deep Dive Sessions: Engaging, in-depth programs that explore specific landscape architecture topics, maximum five speakers. Deep dives are 2.5 hour interactive sessions that can include lectures, hands-on learning, facilitated discussions, and other creative audience engagement tools.
Field Sessions: Multiple speakers offer education combined with a field experience. Field sessions are organized through the host chapter. Please contact the host chapter committee leaders at firstname.lastname@example.org before submitting.
If you’re an ASLA member, make sure you have your unique ASLA Member ID or username handy – you should use it to log into the submission system. Non-members, including allies from the fields of urban planning and design, architecture, natural and social sciences, and public art, are also most welcome to submit proposals.
Please visit the submission site to learn more about the 2023 education tracks, submission criteria, review process, and key dates.
It is that invocation from Alison Sant that propels the narratives in her book — From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities. She presents how people in cities across the U.S. are creating equitable communities that can withstand the changes wrought by climate change. Sant features places and projects that depend on community-grounded efforts to realize their outcomes, though she notes strong grassroots activism and community involvement can’t affect change alone. The most successful examples she relates “bring together the energy of community activists, the organization of advocacy groups, the power of city government, and the reach of federal environmental policy.” And, importantly, they do so in ways suited to their city.
Sant is a partner and co-founder of the Studio for Urban Projects, and its interdisciplinary interests are apparent in the various project types, organizations, and individuals included in her book. From activists and community organizers, landscape architects and city planners, policy makers and city officials, Sant’s cast of characters demonstrate the complexity and nuance that go into creating urban change. It’s the details from her interviews that make this book a valuable tool. Seeing how change is made allows readers to understand how, in their own communities, they too might be able to forge fruitful relationships to dismantle racist histories in favor of equity while equipping their city to handle climate change.
The book is organized into four sections, each tackling a different domain of the built environment. “Reclaim the Streets” showcases cities that are re-imagining streets to accommodate more than vehicular traffic. “Tear up the Concrete” highlights places that are embracing their role in their watersheds, whether by removing concrete or installing green infrastructure. In “Plant the City,” Sant presents how cities are encouraging tree planting. And “Adapt the Shoreline” illustrates how rising sea levels are altering cities’ relationships to their waterfront. The common thread throughout the sections: the understanding that any change striving for equity within our urban environments must be rooted in its community.
In New York, that community rootedness was critical when introducing Citi Bike to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The neighborhood, where the majority of residents are Black and have household incomes below NYC’s median, has few public transit options, yet most residents initially did not use the bike share program.
Then the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a community-based organization, and other partners collaborated with Citi Bike, creating communications campaigns that spotlighted residents of colors who rode the bikes. Within a year, Citi Bike trips in the neighborhood ballooned, as did membership. “Bike share only became relevant to the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant once it was shaped by the community intended to use it,” Sant writes.
The same can be said about green infrastructure. Sant recounts how various cities are shifting to become “sponges for stormwater.” In New Orleans, community leaders are teaching their neighborhoods to add green infrastructure—rain garden and bioswales, street trees and permeable paving. But there’s more to it: “What is most important to me is to make sure that people had tangible assets on their property and for them to understand its functionality…the pumps, the drains, and the canals,” said Angela Chalk, executive director of Healthy Community Services. “By understanding this, we can take charge of ourselves.”
Mami Hara, ASLA, CEO at U.S. Water Alliance, writes in a contributing essay that “without community support and effective supporting policies and practices, green infrastructure can be an agent of displacement.”
The boon of tree planting has long been a part of American history. Benefits of urban tree planting have become further understood over time. From creating beauty, reducing noise pollution, mitigating the urban heat island effect, and increasing groundwater infiltration, urban trees have myriad benefits. Yet, Sant points out, like other urban amenities, trees, too, do not have equitable dispersal. Less affluent neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color do not have as many trees.
Sant chronicles efforts in Washington, D.C., and New York City to increase their urban tree canopies, which span community activists’ efforts, public-private partnerships, and public investment in street trees and public parks. Baltimore, too, is working to grow the city’s canopy, but perhaps more novel, however, is Baltimore’s use of urban wood. “Utilizing dead trees is as important as tending live ones, especially in the context of climate change,” Sant writes. Trees are usually seen as waste and sent to landfills where they release carbon.
To alleviate this issue, the U.S. Forest Service and local partners have established the Baltimore Wood Project. The program offers living-wage jobs to residents—many formerly incarcerated—who work to deconstruct some of the thousands of abandoned buildings in the city while salvaging their materials. It’s met success, both in its extremely low recidivism rate, and in its environmental impact. As a result, Baltimore’s sustainability plan emphasizes workforce development programs like this one.
In the book’s final section, Sant addresses three cities—San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans—built atop former wetlands. As sea levels rise, each must brace themselves for a much wetter future—especially because those buffering wetlands are no longer present to lessen incoming tides and storm surges. The projects Sant compiles here, too, are based in robustly leveraging community support.
In San Francisco, like in many other cities, the communities most at risk of flooding are low-income, and often neighborhoods of color. Sant details the community processes leading to Hunters Point Shoreline Park and India Basin Shoreline Park, which included landscape architects with RHAA Landscape Architects and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, respectively. Both are in Bayview–Hunter’s Point, a historically Black waterfront neighborhood, and it was critical that their designs reflected its community while making space for rising waters. Jacqueline Flin, a Bayview native who now works for APRI, said involving the community throughout the process ensures that the park “is being grown from within and that the community takes ownership of it.”
On the opposite coast, the Billion Oyster Project, which strives to grow one billion water-filtering oysters in the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary, also necessarily demands the public’s assistance, from monitoring reef structures to putting them together. SCAPE’s post-Superstorm Sandy project, Living Breakwaters, which employs oyster restoration practices, has furthered public understanding about how nature-based strategies can mitigate the effects of sea-level rise.
“The only way to adapt, while keeping the biodiversity of estuaries and oceans intact, is by adopting radically anticipatory methods based on mimicking natural processes,” writes University of California at Berkeley professor Kristina Hill, Affil. ASLA, in a guest essay. “When that doesn’t work, managing retreat is a better strategy than building rigid defenses that create exacerbated risks of catastrophic failure.”
Sant wrote this book during the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and during the racial reckoning that arose following the murder of George Floyd. She writes of the changes that we witnessed in cities, such as the “new ways of making streets for people.” Despite all the awfulness of 2020, there was a moment when it seemed the world would be irrevocably different: certainly we would more equitably, and more sustainably, inhabit cities moving forward.
National expert on the built environment and equity Tamika L. Butler speaks to that hope in her contributing essay: “It feels like we might be building something new, from the ground up.” Yet she also expresses the hesitancy that many of us likely feel now as we watch the world slip back into pre-2020 habits: “But what if it is all a façade? What if we build something up just to fortify the foundation of White supremacy that was already there?”
And this is the call to action: May the anger and the grief, the state of emergency of the pandemic, and the work that Sant so carefully describes prompt us to act—toward true change.
Think of the High Line, perhaps the park of greatest celebrity in this genre, which transformed an unused rail line into a highly visited destination in Manhattan. With this success in mind, Newhouse and Pisha turn their attention to inventorying abandoned sites around the world—from closed highways to decommissioned airports, former industrial sites to defunct quarries—that now constitute the flourishing parks.
Making parks in underused, depleted, or contaminated land is not new. To name but two 19th-century examples: Paris’ Parc des Buttes Chaumont was once a quarry, and Boston’s Emerald Necklace a sewage-filled swamp. However, Newhouse maintains that the emergence of the environmental movement, the rise of a newly post-industrial society, and the depletion of public space accelerated this trend. And unlike parks of earlier centuries that sought to create sanctuary distinctly delineated from their city, all of the volume’s selected parks merge with their urban environments.
Parks of the 21st Century is organized by site history, with chapters titles such as “Highway Caps,” “Waterside Industry: Parks,” “Inland Industry,” and “Strongholds.” The book’s structure juxtaposes sites of the same type, presenting different variations of site understanding and approach that may vary by culture or local circumstances. Park descriptions include contexts, histories, design processes, and site elements, described by Newhouse in the first person based upon her visits with Pisha.
In the chapter describing parks on former airport land, two German parks exemplify divergent approaches. In Berlin, Tempelhofer Feld exists largely as it was when the airport closed, in 2008. The public opposed any changes, including a proposal from GROSS.MAX. Today, all site amenities, from toilets to community gardens to signage, are temporary. It is, according to Westhouse, a “huge void.”
In contrast to Tempelhofer, Alter Flugplatz, the empty site of relocated airport in Bonames, Germany, offers an argument for intervention—a strikingly minimal one. Instead of trying to replicate nature, GTL Landschaftsarchitektur sought to create a space that would allow it to self-propagate. Their design entailed breaking up the site’s asphalt and concrete, and this “human manipulation of the surface provided the necessary armature for the ‘wild’ to emerge.” The park exists as a continually changing landscape, and one with inherently little maintenance.
Waterfront parks comprise a significant number of parks in the book–according to the authors, the most parks have been constructed atop former industrial sites along waterfronts than anywhere else. The authors note that the similarities and differences between parks in China and those in the West—in design approach, remediation efforts, construction timelines, implementation—are particularly apparent.
Ambitious park system projects underway in Shanghai and New York City both reimagine former industrial sites as green public amenities. In New York City, Hunter’s Point South, designed by SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi, and Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates implement a soft edge made possible by marshes, bridges, and raised walkways that make space for the inevitable flux of water. But most of the Shanghai parks remain, at the government’s direction, lined by the city’s flood wall. In their design of the Shanghai Shipyard Riverside Park, Design Land Collaborative overcame government-established design limitations including the flood wall, as well as work with too-shallow soil depth that were a result of the remediation efforts in which they had no role. Yet despite the constraints, the authors were impressed with the results—the allure of its human scale, the lush planting.
While the glamour of waterfront sites attracts much attention, Newhouse and Pisha share parks on inland industrial sites that are just as captivating. Parque Bicentenario, designed by Grupo di Diseño Urbano, is one of them, representing the only Mexican park in the volume. Built atop a former oil refinery, the park and botanical garden serve simultaneously as a public green space and educational site, its eight scaled-down biomes displaying the diversity across Mexico.
Not all of the book’s spurned sites result from modern technologies, such as those parks in “Quarries” and the “Strongholds” chapters. Both types of parks are globally widespread, but take on different forms. The vast 570-acre Huadu Lake Park by Palm Design in Guangzhou, China, employs local Cantonese garden aesthetics, offering a simplicity that “delighted” the authors.
On the small scale, 1.3-acre Thomas C. Wales Park in Seattle, Washington by Site Workshop impressed them its outsized effect: the magic bestowed by the vegetation, the “fairy-tale quality” granted by Adam Kuby’s Quarry Rings sculpture.
Each of the sites in Parks of the 21st Century are included only because of the narratives we understand about them. Topotek 1’s founder Martin-Rein-Cano articulates further: he is “convinced that the perception of landscape is highly dependent on the stories that are told about it.” In his firm’s work at Germany’s Lorsch Abbey, a monastic community founded in 764 whose buildings were largely destroyed in war in the 17th century, the task was to respond to those stories by creating a park connected to the abbey site. Newhouse resonated with the design, experiencing it “as the abstraction of a lost history,” and as a “design [that] ingeniously renders the invisible visible.”
Newhouse admits to one of the book’s shortcomings—that while global in reach, it is not comprehensively so. The parks included are all in North America, Europe, and China.
Yet the fact that the book includes only parks Newhouse and Pisha personally visited also imbues the book with a personal touch. The authors’ many and far-flung travels to the sites and their thorough descriptions are altogether quite a feat. Newhouse notes the weather on a given day, conversations with park users, observations about who is coming to a park at a certain time, and insightful commentary from the park designers who sometimes toured her and Pisha through the site.
One of the other limitations of the volume is, of course, that we are only 22 years into the 21st century. We don’t know how new parks of the next three-quarters of the century will evolve, though some of the designers in the “Future” chapter offer prescient thoughts. In this chapter, the authors examine four parks currently in progress, two of which are immense projects that foremost involve rehabilitation: Freshkills Park on Staten Island, New York, and the Los Angeles River project in California.
Of Freshkills, landscape architect James Corner, FASLA, declared it was not a design project. “It is not about a conclusion, but about adaptive management,” he said. According to him, it needs not a definitive plan, but a strategy—not unlike that of a farmer working the land. OLIN’s Jessica Henson, ASLA, echoes the sentiment, describing her work on the Los Angeles River project as a “‘long-term adaptation framework that looks eighty years into the future.’”
These are hopeful expressions of landscape architecture’s direction, ones that suggest an acceptance of flux in the work the discipline produces. Given the state of the world, the penchant to reinvent and reclaim landscapes seems likely to continue in the coming decades. As designers continue to work in these landscapes, Parks of the 21st Century offers a valuable guide for them: a detailed compendium of successes (and sometimes misses), and a hint at how the uncertain future needs to be met.
The new book DREAM PLAY BUILD: Hands On Community Engagement for Enduring Spaces and Places reads like a conversation with trusted colleagues over great coffee or a memorable lunch. James Rojas and John Kamp generously share their lessons learned in many years of testing and conducting an alternative form of community engagement. Their methods are focused on using hands and heart to build abstract models and share sensory explorations with community members. They break away from a transactional mindset and create an environment for meaningful engagement with longer term benefits for communities. The book spans from inspirations to methods, project examples to logistical details, and includes plenty of encouragement to give these ideas a try. Just like a good conversation, there is positive energy throughout, and at the end you remain intrigued with the possibilities.
Starting with the Personal
The authors are walking the talk. They ground the book with personal stories of how they arrived at this work. Rojas is an urban planner and Kamp is a landscape and urban designer who were disappointed for different reasons in their crafts. They met through art events that explored the intersection with city making ideas. Rojas shares his vulnerabilities and is clearly inspired by everyday objects, friends, and family. Histories of relationships with people and place continue to inform his work. By starting with the personal, Rojas and Kamp demonstrate what their methods support – sharing experiences of belonging. Creating a shared attachment to place can be a powerful way to build a set of core values together and work with communities as they shape themselves.
Making Space for an “Emotional Language”
The methods the book describes revolve around three approaches that can be tailored to different context, timelines, and objectives — model building, pop up models, and sensory site explorations. What they all have in common is that they are abstract and open-ended, encouraging storytelling and meaning making. The work is in the conversations generated by the methods and the themes that emerge from the sets of stories. In the process of talking about their personal stories and experiences prompted by hands on work and heartfelt prompts, groups build a shared understanding of what is important to each other and what commonalities and core values they share.
The book is refreshingly jargon free. The methods and guidance are simple, yet the nuances are not overlooked. There are frequent acknowledgements that “things may not go that way” and that’s okay. The methods are designed to support an emotional, not a technical language. Moving away from the transactional outcomes of a typical community engagement process, the methods shift expectations away from quantitative outcomes. The book moves readers toward realizing the value of having “no desired outcomes other than a sense of neighborhood memories, dreams, aspirations and shared values; to build group cohesion; and set a positive tone for the project.”
Highlighting the Intangibles
The stories also referred to many moments that will have designers nodding along in recognition. Having no expectations for outcomes can easily result in clients who feel at a loss about the value of the work. The book provides specific lists of tangible and intangible results.
For me, this was the most important part of the book — calling out the value of intangibles. A tangible list of intangibles – so overdue! As James shares in his personal story, he learned from artists that the city is “comprised not only of structures, streets and sidewalks, but also personal experiences, collective memory, and narratives. These are less tangible but no less integral elements of a city that transforms mere infrastructure into ‘place.’”
Challenging the Status Quo
A good conversation challenges you a bit. This book does that in a friendly and approachable way. Through building up examples, case studies, and sharing conversations, the book makes a strong case for creating “communities of inquiry.” This is about intentionally not trying to solve a problem but rather exploring an idea together. The richness that emerges from this approach appears undeniable and yet, we struggle to implement this regularly as landscape architects. This book provides many viable pathways for trying again.
Building Relationships Across Divides
Polarization in public meetings is common. Rojas and Kamp’s methods are born out of the need to seek alternatives to predictable reactions to issues of parking, density, and “wow, that crazy traffic.” By tapping into memories and stories first, polarization is diffused and the commonalities among experiences emerge.
There are also deep divides and distrust between neighborhoods and their cities that have experienced structural racism over time. South Colton, California, located sixty miles east of Los Angeles in the Inland Empire, is a town where Rojas and Kamp have used all three methods — model building, pop up models, and sensory site explorations — over the course of two years. South Colton is both an historically redlined neighborhood that has been isolated and underserved and a place “where residents have worked to creatively and resourcefully improve their environment in the face of great odds…” South Colton is emblematic of many neighborhoods across the country. Generic engagement won’t work here. There can be healing benefits from relationship building approaches to community engagement that extend to the neighborhood and well beyond the neighborhood itself.
Holding on to Core Values and a Sense of Belonging
Near the end of the memorable conversation with a trusted colleague, one starts to realize there is a lot going on that goes beyond the words – the air was breezy, the pace was comfortable, the vibe was relaxed, and so it was easy to listen and feel heard. Setting the tone is a recurring theme in this book, which covers many project examples and methods. Not only does setting the tone result in people feeling ready to engage more deeply, it also models the relationship building work it takes to be responsible to each other and a place.
Part of the book’s appeal is its modest approach to a deeply urgent topic. These practices are deceivingly low key! When we engage in these practices of heart and hand, we are building much more than enduring spaces and places, we are building and strengthening the basics of a democracy. The book stops short of claiming this, choosing to focus on how the health of the public realm and the neighborhood are intertwined. However, it would not be hyperbole to make the link between civic health and these relationship-based practices that reduce polarization, elevate equitable approaches, and recognize the power of humility.
Deb Guenther, FASLA, is a design partner at Mithun, an interdisciplinary design practice with offices in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Her work, Design in Kinship, which was initiated during the 2021-22 Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership, explores the expanding role of collective impact work by community-based organizations in the context of climate change and social justice.
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.”