Looking to Olmsted in the Era of Global Urbanization

Riverside Park and Central Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Manhattan, NYC / istockphoto.com, Terraxplorer

This year marks the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, who is considered the founder of the profession of landscape architecture. Do his ideas still matter in today’s rapidly urbanizing world? Jayne Miller, chair of World Urban Parks, asked global landscape architects and park leaders to weigh in during the latest online conversation organized by Olmsted 200.

For Kongjian Yu, FASLA, founder of Turenscape and professor and dean, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Peking University, “Olmsted is still relevant because he knew how to meet essential human needs. He brought nature back to the city, which is so important for the human body. We need nature to get energy. But we also need open public space as a group. He believed green space means equal space.”

Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada by Frederick Law Olmsted / istockphoto.com, bakerjarvis

“Olmsted knew if you love nature, you will take care of it. Elevating nature is about civilizing yourself. If we elevate nature, we also civilize human beings. We can civilize cities,” Yu said.

Olmsted was one of the first to articulate the value of nature for an urbanizing world, said Yu, who has translated many of Olmsted’s essays into Chinese.

In the 1880s, when Olmsted was at his peak, almost 30 percent of the U.S. population was urban; today, it is 70 percent. In contrast, China was just 10 percent urban up until a few decades ago and then the country went through a rapid period of urbanization, reaching an urbanization rate of nearly 65 percent by 2022.

“Urbanization is now global, and we can all learn from what Olmsted knew 150 years ago. He was 150 years ahead of the rest of the world.”

ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award. Framing Terrain and Water: Quzhou Luming Park, Quzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China. Turenscape

“Olmsted sticks with us because he knew landscapes are about delivering physical, psychological, and social benefits — they can even be symbols of collective identity,” said Romy Hecht, associate professor at the School of Architecture, Ponticia Universidad Católica de Chile.

“It seems to me Olmsted was about re-imagining cities as a whole place with whole landscapes,” said Alison Barnes, CEO, New Forest National Park Authority, chair of the Green Halo Partnership, and board member of London National Park City.

Barnes’ own work with London National Park City is a “modern Olmsted movement,” Miller argued. It’s about “everyone benefiting and contributing to urban nature, about deep democratization of nature,” Barnes said.

Primrose Hill Park, London / istockphoto.com, Paolo Paradiso

“We think cities should be habitats for ourselves. We should be able to get lost in nature in cities and connect with nature wherever we are.”

“I think Olmsted said utility trumps ornament. Utility is about connecting with our need for nature. There is a lot of synergy with our work and Olmsted’s. It’s important that we refresh these ideas.”

The pandemic caused large numbers of urbanites to leave the city and buy homes, sometimes sight unseen, in more natural rural areas, Miller said. Could this be the first sign in a slow down in global urbanization?

“I believe more urbanization is inevitable. Human communities have always evolved into urban ones. It could be a beautiful process rooted in nature,” Hecht said.

But for this to happen, more cities will need to follow Olmsted’s model. “He was an activist who called for urban improvements, a sense of community, and the diversification of opportunities.”

For Barnes, it is less about following an Olmsted-like figure and more about engaging and empowering communities to take action — to “create demand for nature.” In the UK, a number of development projects that would have negatively impacted natural areas haven’t happened because of “strong and vibrant” community groups.

Access to green space is a fundamental human need; “it’s essential.” “It’s not just landscape architects on their hobby horses, but about ensuring our quality of life.”

Unfortunately, access to urban nature is still highly unequal across the developed and developing worlds, even where there is significant community engagement. For example, in Santiago, Chile, which has six million residents in 200 thousand acres, “37 percent of the population has just 33 square feet of green space per capita, while 0.5 percent has 200 square feet per capita,” Hecht said. There is also unequal maintenance of these spaces and therefore unequal park quality.

Parque Bustamante, Providencia district, Santiago de Chile, Chile / istockphoto.com, tifonimages

This means “we need a green recovery” that brings more parks to more people. “Leaders have an obligation to engage communities to achieve these goals. We need to start with leaders.”

Along with rapid urbanization, countries around the globe must also contend with the climate crisis. Miller asked: What would Olmsted propose to address the impacts of climate change — green infrastructure and nature-based solutions?

“The first wave was Olmsted’s wave — to green the city. The second wave was to design with nature at the regional scale, like Ian McHarg proposed. Now with industrialization and urbanization at a global scale, we need a third wave — to transform the globe,” Yu argued.

“We need new nature-based infrastructure. We can no longer rely on concrete, steel, and chemicals. Sea walls and gates will inevitably fail. We need to plan ecological infrastructure” for the entire planet.

ASLA 2020 Professional General Design Honor Award. Deep Form of Designed Nature: Sanya Mangrove Park, Sanya City, Hainan Province, China. Turenscape

“Olmsted offered a way. His Emerald Necklace in Boston was adaptive with a muddy river system. He gave space for the water, marshlands, and lowlands. This is a model for adapting to climate change.”

Uproar Causes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Rethink Miami Storm Protection Plan

Visualization of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ grey infrastructure proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority
Visualization of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ grey infrastructure proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority

A persuasive local advocacy and media campaign convinced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a new, expanded study for a $6 billion project to protect Miami from future hurricanes, coastal flooding, and climate impacts. Critics argued that the Army Corps’ initial draft plan for the project, which had proposed a series of sea walls and gates, would have negatively impacted the character of Miami, reduced property values, and cut-off access to important waterfront parks, exacerbating existing inequities in access to public space.

The Miami Mayor’s office and Downtown Development Authority instead demanded a deeper exploration of nature-based solutions, including constructed islands and mangroves, to protect the urban coastline along Biscayne Bay. The Army Corps has agreed to spend $8 million over 60 months, essentially doubling the cost and timeline of the original study, and take a more collaborative approach with city stakeholders.

Key to this shift were renderings created by Miami-based, women-led landscape architecture firm Curtis + Rogers Design Studio for the Miami Downtown Development Authority, which governs the business district. These concepts were included in the Authority’s response to the Army Corps’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study but soon became the focus of public attention and coverage in The Miami Herald and local TV stations, social media discussion, and national coverage in NPR and The New York Times. The authority commissioned visuals that would both show how 20-feet-tall concrete walls along the bayfront would impact the city (see images at top) and demonstrate how a better alternative, rooted in nature, could offer protections while offering many other benefits.

According to Aida Curtis, ASLA, a founding principal at the firm, the Authority gave her firm just two weeks, during the height of the pandemic, to work with coastal and civil engineers to create nature-based design concepts. She explained that the concepts are comprehensive, but more research, modeling, planning, and design work needs to be done to further hone the ideas. Still, the Authority was able to use these concepts for leverage in negotiations with the Army Corps.

“We had envisioned vegetated shorelines with mangroves along with strategically-placed bermed islands in the Bay that would attenuate wave action during storm surges. This is a grey/green solution, not all nature-based, but it would be much better for the community and environment and increase park access,” Curtis said in a zoom interview.

An alternative nature-based proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority
An alternative nature-based proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority
An alternative nature-based proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority

Curtis argues that “this kind of idea is what the Corps should have proposed initially,” and her concepts are line with their stated Engineering with Nature principles, which calls for using nature-based solutions to solve climate impacts.

The Army Corps had engaged Miami-Dade County, which includes the City of Miami, in a series of complex feasibility studies to improve resilience against storms, flooding, and sea level rise. In other study areas, south of the city, the Army Corps did propose nature-based solutions, including mangroves, Curtis said.

But the issue was in the downtown core, they only offered hard grey infrastructure. “We wanted to show the walls as real as they would be, with graffiti and the trash that is common in parts of downtown Miami. People didn’t realize how tall or in-your-face these walls would actually be.”

Visualization of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ grey infrastructure proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority

“Their proposal would also have put many residential communities outside the wall. This lack of thought is what caused the uproar. The city needs a much more comprehensive solution.”

Curtis noted that Miami suffers from significant water management problems. So much groundwater has been extracted through wells that saltwater is now seeping into the water supply. Stormwater runoff and fertilizer use throughout the city and country have caused significant water quality issues, leading to massive fish kills. In Miami Beach, a system of pumps have been instituted to draw out flood water. “But they discovered that during a hurricane, there is no power, which means no pumps. Grey infrastructure solutions for water management have failed in Miami.”

There are many arguments for designing nature-based solutions — using landscape architecture strategies to help solve Miami’s problems. Curtis said they offer multiple environmental and equity benefits.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tentative Selected Plan and Alternate Plan. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority

On the environmental side, mangroves reduce inland flooding by serving as a barrier against waves. But they also clean and oxygenate the water while providing habitat for sea life and sequestering carbon.

An alternative nature-based proposal. Response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management Study / Curtis + Rogers Design Studio, courtesy of Miami Downtown Development Authority

Given housing has become increasingly unaffordable, lower-income communities in Miami have been pushed west, inland. “Park and open space is very limited in the city. Low-income and immigrant communities have limited access to the waterfront.”

One of the benefits of natural coastal infrastructure is that it can double as park land. “New islands in the bay could be designed to be accessible public space that people can enjoy.” Her firm’s proposal would create 39 acres of new public recreational areas.

Curtis said next steps will be key. The Army Corps and city will need to “bring in more stakeholders and get more community input.” The city is expected to also undertake their own complimentary planning effort.

Perhaps the one positive effect of the initial Army Corps study is that “more people in Miami are now paying attention to this and more are involved in climate action,” Curtis said. “The intended audience of the response was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the Authority’s report and our images transcended and went viral.” There is also now greater awareness of the value of nature-based solutions and “the detrimental effect grey solutions can have on cities — the severe damage they can have on quality of life.”

Climate Week NYC: Designing Better Shorelines–with Nature

Living Breakwaters, Staten Island, NYC / SCAPE Landscape Architecture

As part of Climate Week NYC, one of the world’s largest climate events, the New York Chapter of ASLA has organized a dynamic virtual event: Designing Better Shorelines—with Nature.

This free on September 21 at 4.30 PM EST features Pippa Brashear, ASLA, Principal, SCAPE Landscape Architecture; Donna Walcavage, FASLA, Principal, Stantec; and Adrian L. Smith, FASLA, Vice President at ASLA and Team Leader, Staten Island Capital Projects, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

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.

Living Breakwaters, Staten Island, NYC / SCAPE Landscape Architecture

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.

Tottenville Shoreline Protection Project / Stantec

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.

Register today

For landscape architects, this free event offers 1 hour of PDH (LACES / HSW)

Global Survey: Climate Change Is the Top Threat

Phoenix, Arizona / Art Wager, istockphoto.com

A new survey from the Pew Research Center has found climate change remains a “top threat” in 19 developed countries. Of those surveyed across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, 75 percent identified climate change as the most significant threat to their country and a greater risk than COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, inflation, cyber attacks, and online misinformation. Approximately 20 percent think global warming is a “minor threat” and 5 percent don’t view it as a threat at all.

The Pew Research Center states that Europeans are particularly concerned about climate change. In 11 European countries, “more say climate change is a major threat to their country than at any time in the past decade. The results come as wildfires and extreme heat across Europe cause massive disruption to life.”

In the U.S., only 54 percent of people view climate change as the top threat, with greater concern for the other four threats listed. However, this percentage has grown, up from 45 percent in 2012. Concerns about climate change are at all-time highs in the U.S. and nine other countries.

According to Pew, political views clearly shape perceptions of the risks of climate change. In the U.S., “78 percent of Democrats and those that lean toward the Democratic Party say climate change is a major threat, compared with only 23 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners.”

This finding is consistent in 14 other countries. “In Australia, 91 percent of those who place themselves on the left side of the political spectrum say climate change is a major threat, compared with only 47 percent among those on the right.”

Women also view climate change as a greater danger than men do. In 12 countries, there is a significant gender divide. “Double-digit differences of this nature are present in Australia, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and the U.S.”

Perceptions of climate change are influenced by other demographic factors as well. In the U.S. and six other countries, those with more education are also more concerned about climate change than those with less.

Age plays a more mixed role. “In Australia, Poland, the U.S., and France, younger people are more likely to be concerned about climate change than their elders.” But in other countries like Japan, older adults are more concerned than younger ones.

Another major poll of U.S. households from NPR, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in June found that the rising numbers of Americans who view climate change as a major threat is linked with increasingly widespread climate impacts. “Public support for government climate action is higher among U.S. adults who have been personally affected by extreme weather events in the past five years than those who have not.”

The survey organizers argue that this trend will continue. “As weather disasters continue to worsen and become more prevalent in the future, public views may gradually shift toward greater support for many policies aimed to limit climate change.”

Among Americans who have been personally affected by extreme weather events in the past five years, “37 percent see climate change in the U.S. as a crisis and 40 percent see it as a major problem” — meaning 77 percent see it as a source of concern. In contrast, among those who haven’t been personally impacted, only 46 percent do.

According to the poll, 78 percent of Americans also say they have been personally affected by a range of extreme weather events over the past five years:

  • Extreme heat (51 percent)
  • Severe cold/severe winter storms (45 percent)
  • Major droughts (25 percent)
  • Hurricanes or severe tropical storms (20 percent)
  • Major flooding (17 percent)
  • Wildfires (17 percent)
  • Tornadoes (14 percent)
  • Rising sea levels or flooding in coastal communities (9 percent)

And of those who have experienced extreme weather events:

  • 24 percent experienced “serious health problems as a result”
  • 17 percent experienced “serious financial problems as a result”
  • 14 percent said they had to evacuate from their home
  • 14 percent reported major home or property damage

Across the U.S., 23 percent of adults think climate change is “threatening the health of their families a great deal or quite a lot.” But the numbers are higher for those who have been personally impacted by an extreme weather event (28 percent) compared to those who have not (9 percent).

The data also reflect what we know — that climate change impacts communities differently. 39 percent of Native American adults, 32 percent of Latino adults, and 28 percent of Black adults say climate change is threatening the health of their families “a great deal or quite a lot” — all much higher than the 23 percent of Americans nationwide.

To solve climate change, 48 percent of Americans look to the federal government and 47 percent to businesses, like landscape architecture firms, and corporations. 24 percent expect state governments will play a major role, while 24 percent look to individuals, which includes designers, 9 percent to community organizations, and 9 percent to local governments.

A Moveable Forest in the Netherlands

“We asked ourselves — if we could move 1,200 trees through a city center for over 100 days, then imagine what else we could do,” said Bruno Doedens, a Dutch landscape architect and land artist, who created the wonderful Bosk public art installation in the city of Leeuwarden with his collaborator, the late Joop Mulder.

Over 100 days this summer, teams of volunteers pushed large and small trees along a 2.1-mile (3.5-kilometer) route as part of Arcadia, a triennial arts festival in Friesland.

Bosk route / Arcadia

The organizers explain that the installation moved in stages through neighborhoods on weekdays, led by traffic controllers and captains, “so the forest decreased in one place while growing somewhere else.”

Bosk / Lucas Kemper
Bosk / Lucas Kemper

Streets that had few trees temporarily became lush forests, changing the character of communities, significantly cooling air temperatures, and slowing the pace of life. The Guardian reported hotels and businesses also benefited from the traveling forest, though some residents were upset by having to park elsewhere.

Bosk / Thomas Vaer Photography
Bosk / Lucas Kemper

The trees were planted in more than 800 wooden containers that were then loaded into wheeled carts. They included more than 60 native species, such as alder, ash, elm, maple, oak, and willow.

The Bosk team labeled each tree with a QR code, so residents could learn more about the species. Soil sensors also alerted the team when any tree needed more water.

Just planting 1,200 trees around the city would have perhaps been easier but “would have had less impact than a moving forest,” Doedens said. The logistical challenges of transporting trees through traffic in a coordinated way “forced citizens to really face the effect of a forest in the city center.”

“The success of Bosk lies in the combination of radical imagination and mobilizing large communities of people,” he argued. The residents of Leeuwarden can now imagine “a new relationship with nature — one based in the idea of enriching the planet rather than polluting and destroying.” With rising urban temperatures, a new relationship rooted in nature will become increasingly important.

Bosk / Lucas Kemper

The message of the interactive public art work was reinforced through a broader immersive program that included a “summer school for Leeuwarden neighbourhoods, a Bosk news program for primary school pupils, and a whispering garden full of inspiration,” the festival organizers write.

In his essay Planet Paradise, Doedens argues that collective art projects like the walking forest can change mindsets and spur on greater climate action. They inspire communities to re-imagine what is possible. Designers and artists therefore play a critical role.

Bosk final destination, the Oldehoofsterkerkhof, August 14 / Ruben van Vliet

“Allow all creative minds from all cultural disciplines – music, dance, theater, poetry, literature, film, architecture, visual arts – together with scientists and pioneers from the practice to dare to dream and think big and even bigger. Give them room for imagination and intuitive thinking to radically reassess our current values and our actions. Allow them to develop new languages that touch our hearts and create new stories and images that help us realize we are walking in the mist, that seductive illusions intoxicate us, and that we need to change radically.”

Landscape architects and artists everywhere can create “new stories that reassure us in a playful way that we can reverse the negative effects of our treatment of the Earth into something positive. They must also be optimistic, empathetic, hopeful, and challenging without being blind to the sizeable and far reaching task ahead of us.”

The Bosk installation ended August 14, and the organizers have since found permanent homes for the traveling trees throughout the city, with many planted in underserved communities.

The Inflation Reduction Act Prioritizes Landscape Architecture Solutions to the Climate Crisis

ASLA 2021 Professional Urban Design Award of Excellence. Repairing the Rift: Ricardo Lara Linear Park. Lynwood, California, United States. SWA Group / SWA Group / Jonnu Singleton

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.

LA Riverfront Greenway Phase II, Los Angeles, California / Studio-MLA

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.

ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Inspiring Journeys For All. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, United States. HDLA / Charlie Craighead

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.

Sapwi Trails Community Park. Thousand Oaks, California | Conejo Recreation & Park District and RRM Design Group (consulting landscape architects) / Conejo Recreation & Parks District

WATER

$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.

COASTAL COMMUNITIES

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.

Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse Sustainable Landscape Renovation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. Rios Clementi Hale Studios / Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Robert Reck

FEDERAL BUILDINGS

$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.

OTHER PROVISIONS

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).

Landscape Architects Form High-Profile Task Force to Take Action on Climate and Biodiversity Crises

ASLA 2019 Professional General Design Honor Award. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park Phase II: A New Urban Ecology. Long Island City, NY, USA. SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI with ARUP / copyright Vecerka/ESTO, courtesy of SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI

Led by climate leaders in the field of landscape architecture, ASLA is developing a profession-wide Climate Action Plan

ASLA has announced it is developing its first Climate Action Plan for the U.S. landscape architecture community. The ambitious plan seeks to transform the practice of landscape architecture by 2040 through actions taken by ASLA and its members focused on climate mitigation and adaptation, ecological restoration, biodiversity, equity, and economic development. The plan will be released at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, November 11-14, 2022, in San Francisco, CA.

The ASLA Climate Action Plan is led by a five-member Task Force and 16-member Advisory Group of climate leaders from the landscape architecture profession.

Pamela Conrad, ASLA, Founder of Climate Positive Design and Principal at CMG Landscape Architecture, has been named chair of the Task Force.

The diverse, intergenerational Task Force includes climate leaders at different stages of their professional life.

“Landscape architects are leaders in designing solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises that also provide multiple environmental, economic, social, and health co-benefits. ASLA purposefully included both established and emerging climate leaders in this critical Task Force, which will shape the profession far into the future,” said Eugenia Martin, FASLA, ASLA President.

Task Force members include:

  • Chair: Pamela Conrad, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, Principal, CMG Landscape Architecture, and Founder, Climate Positive Design, San Francisco, California

    Conrad built Climate Positive Design into a global movement with the goal of ensuring all designed landscapes store more carbon than they emit while providing environmental, social, cultural, and economic co-benefits.

  • Diane Jones Allen, FASLA, D. Eng., PLA, Director, Program in Landscape Architecture, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), and Principal Landscape Architect, DesignJones, LLC, Arlington, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana
  • José M. Almiñana, FASLA, SITES AP, LEED AP, Principal, Andropogon Associates, Ltd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Sarah Fitzgerald, ASLA, Designer, SWA Group, Dallas, Texas
  • Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, PLA, Former ASLA President, Seattle, Washington
ASLA Climate Action Plan Task Force / ASLA

The goals, objectives, and action items of the plan are also shaped by a Climate Action Plan Advisory Group of 16 diverse climate leaders, who are based in 12 U.S. states and two countries and in private and public practice and academia. The Group consists of nine members who identify as women, seven as men, two as Black, four as Asian and Asian American, one as Latina, and one as Native American.

“ASLA believes equity needs to be at the center of climate action, because we know climate change will disproportionately impact underserved and historically marginalized communities. It is important that the group guiding the Climate Action Plan and the future of the profession mirrors the diversity of the landscape architecture community and its breadth of educational and practice areas,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO.

Advisory Group members include:

  • Monique Bassey, ASLA, Marie Bickham Chair, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Scott Bishop, ASLA, RLA, Principal, BLD | Bishop Land Design, Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Keith Bowers, FASLA, RLA, PWS, Founding Principal, Biohabitats, Charleston, South Carolina
  • Pippa Brashear, ASLA, RLA, Resilience Principal, SCAPE Landscape Architecture & Urban Design, New York, New York
  • Meg Calkins, FASLA, FCELA, Professor of Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Chingwen Cheng, ASLA, PhD, PLA, LEED AP, Program Head and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, and Environmental Design, The Design School, Arizona State University, and President-Elect, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA), Tempe, Arizona
  • Jose de Jesus Leal, ASLA, PLA, IA, Native Nation Building Studio Director, MIG, Inc., Sacramento, California
  • Manisha Kaul, ASLA, PLA, CDT, Principal, Design Workshop, Inc., Chicago, Illinois
  • Greg Kochanowski, ASLA, AIA, Design Principal & Partner, GGA, and Founder, The Wild: A Research Lab, Los Angeles, CA
  • Mia Lehrer, FASLA, President, Studio-MLA, Los Angeles, CA
  • Hitesh Mehta, FASLA, FRIBA, FAAK, Associate AIA, President, HM Design, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Kate Orff, FASLA, Professor, Columbia University GSAPP & Columbia Climate School, and Founder, SCAPE Landscape Architecture & Urban Design, New York, New York
  • Jean Senechal Biggs, ASLA, Transportation Planning Manager, City of Beaverton, Portland, Oregon
  • Adrian Smith, FASLA, Staten Island Team Leader, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, New York, New York
  • Matt Williams, ASLA, Planner, City of Detroit Planning & Development Department (PDD), Detroit, Michigan
  • Dou Zhang, FASLA, SITES AP, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Shanghai Office, Sasaki, Shanghai, China
ASLA Climate Action Plan Advisory Group / ASLA

In 2021, ASLA joined with Architecture 2030 to call for the landscape architecture, planning, architecture, development, and construction professions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their projects and operations by 50-65 percent by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2040.

Also last year, ASLA ratified the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ Climate Action Commitment, which calls for limiting planetary warming to 1.5°C (2.7 °F). The commitment is supported by 70,000 landscape architects in 77 countries, the largest coalition of landscape architecture professionals ever assembled to advance climate action.

In 2020, ASLA and its members formed a Climate Action Committee, which has guided climate action priorities and laid the groundwork for the Climate Action Plan.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (July 16-31, 2022)

The Orbit, Innisfil, Ontario / Partisans

A Radical Vision for Reinventing the Suburbs – 07/25/2022, Fast Company
“Outside Toronto, in a field surrounded by farmland, the seeds of a seemingly implausible high-density, transit-oriented community are taking root.”

Oak Fire Remains Uncontained as Al Gore Warns ‘Civilization at Stake’ – 07/24/2022, The Guardian
“’We’re seeing this global emergency play out and it’s getting worse more quickly than was predicted,’ Gore said. ‘We have got to step up. This should be a moment for a global epiphany.’”

Ford House Completes Restoration of Historic Lagoon and Pool – 07/24/2022, Detroit Free Press 
“’Before the restoration, the landscape behind the pool had become overgrown. It lost its hierarchy, the diversity of material, and the layering that were meant to replicate a northern Michigan landscape,’ said Stephen White, principal and director of landscape architecture and urban design for Albert Kahn Associates.”

Underused Park at the Foot of Detroit’s Transformed Michigan Central Station is Getting a $6 Million Makeover – 07/22/2022, The Architect’s Newspaper
“Similar to other transformative projects launched by the city in recent months, the park refresh is financed in part—$5 million to be exact—by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.”

The Midwest Gets Its First Climate-Adaptive Park – 07/20/2022, Governing
“The park is designed to remediate past environmental abuses, adapt to future flooding events, and slow years of riverbank erosion.”

Extreme Rainfall Will Be Worse and More Frequent Than We Thought, According to New Studies – 07/20/2022, Grist
“By focusing on the group of climate models that most realistically simulate the actual physics of raindrops, Studholme’s study found that the average climate model likely underestimates how extreme precipitation will change in response to global warming.”

MOBOT’s New Visitor Center Opens Next Month. But Without a Little-known Nursery, It Wouldn’t Be Nearly as Cool – 07/20/2022, St. Louis Magazine
“MOBOT is using [the Oertli Family Hardy Plant Nursery] to grow endangered plants to conserve and to display at the garden, to propagate difficult species, and to bank seeds that are threatened in the wild.”

To Climate Proof Notre-Dame, Paris Looks to a Landscape Architect

Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Studio Alma for BBS

“What we are doing is using shade, humidity, wind, and water to lower the temperature in the heart of Paris,” explained Brussels-based landscape architect Bas Smets, who has won an international design competition to redesign the landscape around Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. Founder of Bureau Bas Smets (BBS), Smets is leveraging nature-based solutions, including a significant expansion of green space and a scrim of water, to cool the cathedral and protect it from future climate impacts.

Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Studio Alma for BBS

In 2019, the cathedral caught fire, causing the destruction of its 150-foot-tall spire and interiors. The reconstruction of the 760-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has started, but the organizers of the competition, which include the Paris city government; Diocese of Paris; and Public Establishment, the conservators of the cathedral, saw the need to further leverage the landscape to preserve the monument for future visitors and worshippers.

Smets is leading a team on the $50.3 million project that includes Paris-based firms GRAU, an architecture and urbanism firm, and Neufville-Gayet Architects, an architecture firm specializing in historic buildings. Together, they are re-imagining the visitor experience of the gothic cathedral while also adapting the site to rising temperatures. Their goals align with Paris’ Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce heat islands throughout the city.

Smet’s team will ring the cathedral in trees that will provide shade and cool the air, creating a micro-climate on Île de la Cité, the island in the midst of the Seine River where the cathedral is found, and its immediate surrounding area. The form of the existing rectangular square in front of the cathedral will be simplified, creating “a perfect rectangular form” to make it clearer and more usable, edged with a new canopy of trees, Smet’s firm states.

According to The New York Times, the Jean XXIII Square, a park behind the cathedral, will be connected with new green spaces that extend to the edge of Île de la Cité. This new park will link with gardens on the cathedral’s southern edge, creating a 1,300-foot-long green space planted with 131 new trees. The Architect’s Newspaper also notes that Île-de-France Square will also be integrated into the new plans. Throughout the expanded site, trees will increase by nearly 35 percent, in places layered behind existing trees, so as to not obstruct protected views.

Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Bureau Bas Smets
Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Bureau Bas Smets

Water will also be used to support that new micro-climate. Smets’ team plans for a 5-milimeter (one fifth of an inch) scrim of water in the forecourt of the cathedral in the summer. The water element will help cool the facade of Notre-Dame while bringing a shimmer to visitors’ photographs.

At the same time, Smets is rethinking the entire visitor experience and creating new pedestrian connections to the cathedral. A parking lot under the cathedral will be transformed into a welcome center and connect with an existing archeological museum that will now be accessible via a new passageway off the quay along the Seine. Currently visitors need to access the cathedral via stairs from the quay.

Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Jeudi Wang for BBS
Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Studio Alma for BBS

The New York Times reports that at a press conference, Father Drouin with the Diocese said: “I am very pleased that the tragedy of the fire will enable us to recreate physical and symbolic ties between the capital and its urban environment.”

While leading with climate, the landscape architecture address issues holistically. “The urban figures, such as forecourt, square, square, alignment and banks, are all present around the cathedral, but in a fragmented way. The project reveals the quality of each place and rethinks each of these figures from the double angle of the collective and the climate,” Smets told Paris.

Notre-Dame landscape plan / © Studio Alma for BBS

And as he noted to Wallpaper magazine, “we wanted to make a nuanced composition. You’ll walk in, sit, stay, go underground, open towards the river, emerge close to the entrance…More than giving a form, we are giving an experience.”

The restoration of the cathedral is expected to be completed by 2024, when Paris hosts the summer Olympic games, while the landscape redesign is scheduled to be finished by 2027.

For those in the Washington, D.C. area, also check out the National Building Museum’s augmented reality tour of Notre-Dame.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (July 1-15, 2022)

Elks Children’s Eye Clinic / Mayer/Reed

Elks Children’s Eye Clinic Creates Landscape Design for All – 07/12/2022, Healthcare Design Magazine
“As the landscape architect for a sensory garden at Elks Children’s Eye Clinic in Portland, Oregon, Mayer/Reed (Portland) considered ways to create a welcoming environment for children whose sight may be limited.”

Study: Rising Seas Are Weakening Nature’s Storm Shields – 07/11/2022, Grist
“Barrier islands shield the mainland from hurricanes, waves, erosion, and flooding, taking the brunt of a storm’s early blows. Without them, experts say hurricane damage to towns and cities inland would be even worse.”

Humans Need to Value Nature as Well as Profits to Survive, UN Report Finds – 07/11/2022, The Guardian
“Focus on market has led to climate crises, with spiritual, cultural and emotional benefits of nature ignored.”

Cities Aren’t Built for Kids But They Could Be – 07/07/2022, The Atlantic
“With a little thought, run-of-the-mill city infrastructure can be reenvisioned for play.”

Presidio Tunnel Tops Opens This Weekend. Here Are 15 Ways to Explore S.F.’s Huge New Park – 07/11/2022, San Francisco Chronicle
“Tunnel Tops Park creates an attraction that few imagined years ago—and in a way that encourages us to watch the Presidio’s massive transformation from an army outpost into America’s most unusual national park.”

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg Creates “Interspecies Artwork” at Serpentine Galleries – 07/07/2022, Dezeen
“Artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg has created a digital AI tool named Pollinator Pathmaker to design the best possible gardens for bees and other insects to enjoy.”

The Business Case for Multimodal Transportation Planning – 07/06/2022, Planetizen
“Travel demands are changing and so should planning. There are good reasons for communities to spend less on automobile facilities and more on walking, bicycling, and public transit.”

OSD Tapped to Design “Landscape for Healing and Community” at the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine in Arkansas – 07/06/2022, The Architect’s Newspaper
“OSD’s proposal envisions an overall focus on ‘holistically integrating’ the new building with the surrounding woodlands.”

Climate Change Breaks Plant Immune Systems. Can They Be Rebooted? – 07/05/2022, Wired
“When temperatures rise, plants mysteriously lose their ability to defend against invading pathogens—but there may be a fix.”