Interview with Mary Margaret Jones: The Transformative Impact of Landscape Architecture

Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA / HargreavesJones

Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, is President and CEO of HargreavesJones and leads the firm’s offices in New York City, San Francisco, and Cambridge. HargreavesJones has been recognized with the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and the Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize.

Interview conducted at the ASLA 2021 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville.

Across Tennessee, HargreavesJones has transformed inaccessible, polluted industrial riverfronts into rich, multifaceted parks. What has the significant investment in the revitalization of Tennessee’s riverfronts meant to you? What trends are you seeing in Tennessee with public space more broadly?

It’s not just Nashville and Tennessee. We have found mid-tier cities are not just thinking about their post-industrial riverfronts, but also their place in the market and their ability to draw businesses and people. They’re more open to transformation, so that’s how we ended up doing major riverfront projects in cities such as Louisville, Kentucky; Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee; and Davenport, Iowa.

The steel industry left the riverfront in Nashville in a post-industrial state. The community embraced the idea of truly making something completely different out of their riverfront because they had nothing. It’s harder to come into cities like Los Angeles, New York City, or San Francisco with such sweeping transformations. In Nashville, Chattanooga, and Louisville, landscape architects can design signature waterfront experiences, address the dynamics of rivers, and restore ecosystems that can be a healthy part of a river system.

In Nashville, your firm designed the 6.5-acre Cumberland Park as part of a broader riverfront revitalization plan. The park is a model of sustainability and resilience, reuses a bridge structure, sources geothermal, preserves the flood plain, captures and reuses a million gallons of stormwater, remediates toxic soils, and improves biodiversity. How did you make all these pieces fit together?

It was so evident; the opportunities were there. Just focusing on stormwater for a minute: there were walls beneath the gantry structure, so the first thing we said was, “don’t take this gantry structure down, it’s beautiful. Not only will we build a bridge to it and let it become an overlook, we’ll also leave the heavy-duty concrete retaining walls below it. Let’s use the space to create an outlet for stormwater from the site and from the two bridges into a cistern.” We created a cistern that has an open air top so it’s actually quite beautiful to look down on, like a reflecting pool. You kind of want to jump in. Then there’s the river, so in flood times, it spills over to the river.

Cumberland Park, Nashville, Tennessee. HargreavesJones / Charles Mayer

Bio-remediation is just dealing with the soil, which is the case on almost every project we do. We have to either bake or bury and cap soils, depending on the toxic substances and conditions. Geothermal became part of the building, an existing piece of infrastructure from the steel industry, which was then retrofitted by architects on our team to become the stair tower, concessions booth, and park office building. Even the toilets are mindfully designed for low water usage. With science, there are all these opportunities.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, your firm also designed a 23.5-acre Renaissance Park, which transformed a former industrial site into a wetland park, and the 21st Century Waterfront Park, which reconnects the city to its riverfront and has led to $1 billion in new residential and retail development. How do you design for multiple needs at once — social life, economic development, equitable access, and environmental restoration? How do you prioritize?

As landscape architects, that’s our job. That is the beauty of landscape architecture. We are not just doing the science; it’s not just a matrix of solving problems. We also create places people will love. The result of that will be economic investment and stewardship. If we don’t make places people love, they won’t be taken care of.

We create social and economic change around these projects, but at the same time we’re providing something to the neighborhood around these projects. We’re revitalizing these neighborhoods.

We don’t think we can just restore nature. We can’t just make form, design, and feel good about that. We have to do both those things and think about what is fiscally responsible because that’s what is ultimately going to give a project its long life.

Renaissance Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee. HargreavesJones / Charles Mayer

Another significant new riverfront park in the South HargreavesJones designed is Crescent Park along the Mississippi River in New Orleans. The park transformed surplus wharfs and derelict railroad sites into a new public space that celebrates the city’s infrastructural legacy instead of wiping it. What is the best way to tell landscape stories using the past? What are the other benefits of adapting and reusing legacy infrastructure?

Sometimes adaptive reuse — reinventing and reinterpreting remnants — makes your budget spread farther. An early groundbreaking project in this regard was Richard Haag’s Gas Works Park in Seattle. He left the old structures as is and created a green space around them.

But we’re taking it further now. There are remnants, but we interpret them in new ways. We aren’t just saving the rail tracks, we’re making gardens that follow the path of those rail tracks. We’re not strictly preserving, we’re amplifying through reinterpretation and twisting things that makes you see the infrastructure in a new way.

Crescent Park, New Orleans, Louisiana. HargreavesJones / Timothy Hursley

The transformation of Oklahoma City has been accelerated by the 70-acre Scissortail Park, the grand new central park that will connect the city to its waterfront and realize its core to shore plan. How did your firm’s design for the park advance the plan?

We were really interested in the transition from urban to river and making that legible in the park design. Rather than thinking of the park as one piece, we thought of it as a gradation of landscape types, so it progresses quite a lot as you move toward the river in terms of its design, landscape, and materials. Of course, there are some consistencies. The promenade and the lighting of the promenade go all the way from core to shore, but the landscapes and the planting around it evolve quite a bit, as do some of the uses.

We wanted to accentuate that experience of moving toward the river, so that as a visitor, you become aware you’re entering a landscape that gets wilder and wetter. There’s an upper park and lower park, and they’re linked by the fabulous Skydance Bridge designed by Hans Butzer, who was part of our team. Before, visitors couldn’t see the river because of the levy along the river, so we created a high point at the southern terminus of the project, closest to the river.

We also designed the park to respond to climate change. That area of the city floods, so the design of the park accommodates floodwater with a big lake. The lake is also a holding basin for irrigation.

Scissortail Park, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. HargreavesJones / Timothy Hursley
Scissortail Park, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. HargreavesJones / Timothy Hursley

During construction, we had 60 straight days of rain, and the whole lake filled, unfortunately, before it was fully shaped, so that really delayed construction. Then, we were forced to plant trees in August, because the Mayor had promised the citizens a concert on opening day. So we planted trees at 4 a.m., because it was too hot any later in the day. We did everything to keep the trees alive. Once the project was built, they had a freak ice storm in early fall when all the leaves were still on all the trees. The city lost hundreds and hundreds of trees, which is very tragic. And do you remember that cold spell that hit that part of the country later that winter, when it was below 10 degrees for 10 straight days? All the plants got hit. So climate change is impacting us. That’s where large parks are important because they can have a built-in resilience and robustness. They’re large enough to recover their systems.

A few years ago, HargreavesJones with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro designed a new “national park” for Russia, the 35-acre Zaryadye Park in Moscow, next to St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, and the Kremlin. The largest new public space in the city in 50 years, the park is based on the principle of wild urbanism, which is meant to complement Moscow’s historically symmetrical public spaces. You have stated the park “samples Russia’s distinct regional landscapes, tundra, steppe, forest, and wetland forest.” What is wild urbanism and how did you realize it through regional inspirations?

Our proposal was part of an international competition, and we were the only American team. We didn’t think we would win, especially since our scheme was based on openness and being welcoming, a very democratic idea of porosity and inclusion. We wanted to contrast the traditional parks of Moscow that are very rigid — their pathways have edges and there’s 500 tulips all the same color, and then the next row, a different color. Very, very formal. We wanted to create an informality.

In Moscow, the landscapes were formal and rigid in the city, but outside the city was nature. The Russians love their forests. Forests are a part of their fairy tales, music, ballets, their lore. We thought why not bring the forest into the city and make a place of the city but not of the city where you could move through it and at times completely lose the city and then come out of it to the steppe landscape, which is a big meadow on a big hill. And then suddenly, you’re in the heart of these UNESCO World Heritage sites. All the new architecture in the park is tucked into the folds of the new topography. The site slopes considerably from high to low toward the river, so we were able to then interpret topographically from tundra to lowland.

Zaryadye Park, Moscow, Russia. HargreavesJones / HargreavesJones

Substantial buildings were created as part of this park, but they’re all below your feet, folded into these topographic waves that cascade from high to low. The paving is pixelated across the site so there are no edges. The landscape morphs from all paving to a blend of paving and landscape to all landscape in ways that allow you to move through the site fairly freely without very prescribed routes. The landscape eats into the paved surfaces and then selection of plants added to the informality.

We had to work really hard with the locals to understand we did not mean annuals. We did not mean 500 tulips. We really did mean perennials that are less controlled, still quite beautiful, and pollinator heaven. We created a kind of wildness that people love.

I think the project is extremely important because it is so public and open and gives people a sense of freedom, to some of the authorities, maybe a little too much. They discovered early on that people were making out in the forest — and we kind of love that, but there are so many security cameras that it’s not a real issue.

Zaryadye Park, Moscow, Russia. HargreavesJones / Iwan Baan

People love in it and love it because they feel it’s unique. The idea was to create a new perspective on a place you think you’re familiar with, that you think you know, and kind of rattle you out of that. Of course, there are the features that are fantastic, like the flyover bridge that takes you out over the river and boomerangs you back. At first, they said, “why would anybody want to go out there? You can’t cross the river; you just go out and come back.” People now line up to go out and come back. There are yoga studios at the end of it. You’re out there and suddenly you’re looking back at the city. You have a perspective of the river and the city you don’t have any other way.

Zaryadye Park, Moscow, Russia. HargreavesJones / Iwan Baan

This year is the 20th anniversary of your firm’s design of a now iconic park: Crissy Field in San Francisco. In the past two decades, the park has welcomed millions of visitors and become beloved by both locals and tourists. What is the primary legacy of this project? What has it meant for the field of landscape architecture?

When I go back to San Francisco, I almost always go to Crissy Field, not just as a designer observing one’s own work but just because I love to be there. It was a groundbreaking project for the National Park Service. They had never done a project that was so sustainable. All the material was kept on site — there was stuff below grade we dealt with it on site instead of carting it offsite.

The project was also unique for the National Park Service, because we were working with both their natural resource and cultural resource staff, and they had very different, in some ways opposing goals. They could have found themselves in a position of doing nothing because they couldn’t see how to fully realize the restoration of both cultural resources and natural resources. We convinced them that Crissy Field could do both, become a palimpsest and layer together.

There is a stormwater wetland and a tidal marsh. It may not have the highest habitat value you could possibly have, but that can be accomplished 20 miles away. Here in the city, create a marsh with a bridge across it. There was a big battle about the bridge.

The tidal marsh is not as big as they might have liked it, but that’s because there is a grassy airfield that is a historic landmark and needed to be restored. So the marsh creeps around that grassy airfield, and the airfield becomes a kind of plinth, or almost a pier into the marsh. We blended them, overlaid them in a way.

Crissy Field, San Francisco, California. HargreavesJones / HargreavesJones

We moved a hundred thousand cubic yards of dirt but it was not high budget. When we started, many people told us: “Don’t mess it up. What’s out there has a kind of awesome rawness we love.” Well, it was mostly asphalt and chain-link fence but still it had a quality that people loved and we wanted to retain that sense of being a flat plane.

As you’re walking down the promenade and come upon the airfield, the airfield is quite a bit above your head, because we made the airfield almost a flat plane. As you walk west along the gently sloping promenade adjacent to the grassy airfield, you get to the tip of it — and it’s at your feet, so you’ve made eight feet of grade change in that walk along this planar landscape. So there are big moves, and that’s what makes it last.

There’s nothing fussy at Crissy Field, because that would not last. As you stated, millions of people visit it to run, bike, picnic, play with their kids and dogs. It’s one of the top windsurfing spots in the world. And the mouth of the marsh continues to move. It’s a dynamic landscape.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (January 1-15)

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library / Confluence

Confluence Named Landscape Architect of Record for Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library — 01/15/22, The Valley City Times Record
“’Confluence has deep roots in North Dakota and they bring exciting ideas for how we can not only repair the native ecology on this site, but invite the public and the ranching community into the restoration process,’ said Edward F. O’Keefe, CEO of TRPL”

Central Park Climate Lab Launches with a Mission to Save Urban Parks — 01/13/22, Planetizen
“Central Park offers a unique setting to begin studying climate change adaptation in urban parks as it has been impacted by some of the more severe effects of climate change within the past decade. Research will then expand to other New York City greenspaces and select city parks around the country. With the data acquired, the Lab will build on the work of leading researchers in the field to create new, scalable strategies for implementing climate mitigation and adaption protocols.”

Why Are San Jose’s Trees Disappearing? City Loses Hundreds of Acres Each Year — 01/11/22, The Mercury News
“Despite boasting ambitious climate goals, the nation’s 10th largest city is in the midst of an environmental crisis as the tree canopy that shades it has dwindled by 1.82% between 2012 and 2018. That percentage may seem small, but consider that it represents 1,728 acres of public and backyard trees, or the equivalent of 2.7 square miles, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Forest Service.”

How U.S. Infrastructure Plans Shrank in Ambition — 01/11/22, Bloomberg CityLab
“We need a national, reliable network of electric vehicle charging stations, environmental infrastructure to adapt to climate change, and electric grids that can transmit large amounts of renewable energy from areas of surplus generation, like the Great Plains, to areas of high demand like the Northeast and Midwest.”

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Bounced Back Sharply in 2021 — 01/10/22, The New York Times
“But after last year’s rebound, U.S. emissions are now just 17.4 percent below 2005 levels, the Rhodium Group estimated. Several recent studies have found that the United States is likely to fall far short of achieving Mr. Biden’s climate goals without major new policies to speed up the transition to wind, solar and other clean energy.”

LAA Office Brings “Barn Quilt Urbanism” to Downtown Salem, Indiana, with New Heritage Park — 01/05/22, The Architect’s Newspaper
“Major elements of the petite linear park include a site-connecting asphalt mural-slash-pedestrian path rendered in bright blue and yellow hues and a parking spot-replacing elevated deck with plenty of seating alongside greenery-filled planters.”

Secretary Buttigieg Offers Vision for Transportation Equity

At the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg outlined a vision for designing a more equitable and sustainable transportation system. Leveraging the historic levels of funding available through the recently passed Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, Secretary Buttigieg said funds must be distributed in order to simultaneously create jobs, address the climate crisis and racial inequities, and reduce road traffic deaths.

The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act provides an enormous opportunity to improve both large cities and small communities. “The law contains some of the most significant investments in our transportation infrastructure in generations. These investments are going to have a very real impact on daily lives. They are going to put people to work, reconnect communities, and save lives.”

But the “promise” of the infrastructure bill also “depends on whether we succeed in making the most of these investments.”

For example, transportation policy needs to be intentionally framed to increase jobs and economic development. “Income inequality had been rising long before the pandemic. Good transportation policy directly and indirectly creates jobs that help families build generational wealth for the future. The key is creating opportunities that reach people in places where they are most needed. Last year, I visited the tunnels underneath Atlanta’s international airport, which helped create a thriving Black middle class during its construction, simply by ensuring communities of color had a seat at the table when it came time to award the contracts to build that airfield in the first place.”

A focus on ensuring equitable access to both transportation and the economic opportunities that come with the new federal investment was woven throughout his speech. “Every transportation decision is inherently a decision about equity. That’s why we’re building equity into our grant criteria.”

He added that “transportation and racial equality are two stories that go together. We want to proactively work with communities seeking to do the right thing, over and above the legal minimum.” Another part of this approach is increasing partnerships with diverse small and medium-sized businesses, so there are “partners ready to run with opportunities.”

New transportation policy must also address past climate and environmental injustices: “We have a commitment, as an administration, to ensure 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean energy investments go to underserved and overburdened communities.”

And he gave his support for advancing universal design through the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) Act of 2021, championed by Senator Tammy Duckworth, which would fund more transit facilities becoming ADA-compliant.

Shifting to climate, TRB noted that transportation now accounts for nearly 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Secretary Buttigieg said given transportation is the single largest sector contributing to the climate crisis, “we have an obligation to strive to be the biggest part of the solution.”

When asked what are the best ways to decarbonize transportation, he highlighted the kinds of planning and design solutions landscape architects provide: “We really need to think about every dimension of a trip, and what can be done to make it greener. Can we use design to reduce the necessity of some of thetrips people take? When people take trips, can we create alternatives so they can take those trips in other modes?”

And he focused on other strategies landscape architects plan and design to advance climate goals. “Housing and transportation policy has to fit together. Transit-oriented development is a climate opportunity as well as a planning concern. All of these things have be considered together in an integrated way. That’s something you already see in the most forward-thinking communities.”

Secretary Buttigieg also explained how electric vehicles, and the charging infrastructure to support them, along with co-siting large-scale renewable power plants with new transportation systems will be key to a more sustainable future.

As part of the combined strategy to advance goals on jobs, equity, and climate, safety also remains the “fundamental mission of this department,” Buttigieg said. “We lose 3,000 people every month to traffic crashes. We must confront the fact that these tragic deaths are not inevitable, but preventable. We need to take new steps, like a safe systems approach nationwide.” Soon the department will be releasing its first national roadway safety strategy.

“If we do this right, we’ll look back on the 2020s as a period when transportation equity reached new levels. That makes not only historically excluded groups better off, but the whole country better off, because we’ll have a stronger, more stable, richer, fairer economy for all.”

Learn more about what is in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act.

Most Popular DIRT Posts of 2021

ASLA 2020 Urban Design Honor award. Yongqing Fang Alleyways: An Urban Transformation. Guangzhou, China. Lah D+H Landscape and Urban Design

To look ahead to the future of the built and natural environments, we should also look back to learn what was of greatest interest to readers in 2021.

Readers wanted to know how to best help communities adapt to increasingly severe climate impacts, such as extreme heat, flooding, and sea level rise. As the immediate effects of climate change become more real, debate over how to actually plan, design, and implement landscape solutions in the near term came to the forefront, with an increased focus on how to best incorporate nature-based solutions. Amid our changing relationship with the built environment, caused by climate change and COVID-19, there was also great interest in how to leverage urban design to improve mental health and well-being and bolster communities for the long-term. And readers sought new ideas and models on how to advance racial and social equity, through analyses of Frederick Law Olmsted’s writings and projects and a dive into the planned 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C., which seeks to bridge the city’s long-time racial divisions.

The most read contributions from ASLA members delved into new and old models to help communities rethink their approaches to economic, social, and environmental change — from the rural-to-urban transect, to smarter arrangements of street trees, to new nature-based solutions to help coastal populations adapt to sea level rise and groundwater flooding.

ASLA members: please reach out to us with your big, timely ideas — your original op-eds or articles on topics you are passionate about. Tell us about your new projects and research. Please email us at info@asla.org.

New Research: The Built Environment Impacts Our Health and Happiness More Than We Know

People living in dense cities are among the least happy. Their rates of depression are 40 percent higher than other populations; and their rates of anxiety are 20 percent higher. Why? Because the built environment is directly linked with happiness and well-being, and too often urban environments fail to put people at ease.

Best Books of 2021

During another turbulent year, books remain a respite, enabling us to recharge and regroup in our efforts to tackle some of the most pressing problems. Over the holidays, now is a great time to delve into new books that offer fresh perspectives and help us reimagine what is possible. Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for your favorite designer or something to read yourself, explore THE DIRT’s 11 best books of 2021.

The Injustices of the South Shaped Olmsted’s Vision of Landscape Architecture

In the final decades of the 19th century, the new art of landscape architecture was born, in large part due to the efforts of Frederick Law Olmsted. This new profession offered “very specific responses” to the social, political, and environmental challenges of the time, argued Charles Waldheim, Hon. ASLA, the John E. Irving professor of landscape architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, in a panel discussion organized as part of the year-long Olmsted 200 program. “Landscape architecture was radical during his time — a whole new field focused on social progress and reform.”

The Case for the Rural-to-Urban Transect

Grace Mitchell Tada, Assoc. ASLA: “The Rural-to-Urban Transect can serve as a noble tool in the reformation of our urban fabric. In one of his essays, written in 2005, [Andres] Duany warns that a failure to square environmental ethos and social equity concerns with free market choice as perpetuated by the status-quo sprawl may only be solved by ‘a long economic emergency…that none of us should wish upon the nation.'”

Urban Heat Islands Are Increasingly Dangerous, But Planners and Designers Have Solutions

According to Devanshi Purohit, associate principal of urban design at CBT Architects, who led a session at the American Planning Association (APA)’s virtual national conference, extreme heat is the number-one climate killer in the U.S., accounting for more deaths than sea level rise, flooding, drought, and other impacts. But, strangely, extreme heat doesn’t get the focus it deserves. Reducing urban heat islands should be a central focus of the planning and design professions.

Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park Nears Final Design

“The Anacostia River has divided Washington, D.C. for generations,” said Scott Kratz, vice president of Building Bridges Across the River, in a public update of the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C. over Zoom. When the 11th street bridge built in the 1960s reached the end of its lifespan a decade ago, then Mayor Vince Gray and others saw an opportunity to “save part of the bridge, its precious pilings,” to create a new bridge park that would bring both sides of Washington, D.C. together.

Getting Real About Sea Level Rise: Landscape Architecture, Policy, and Finance

Kristina Hill, Affil. ASLA: “Adaptation to climate change is essential. But do landscape architects and planners understand the most important impacts of higher seas, assuming the goal is to design for adaptation without accidentally blowing it? And how will communities prioritize and achieve the social goals of adaptation in a systematically unequal society? Who will pay, who will benefit, and how can communities take the first steps?”

Kongjian Yu Defends His Sponge City Campaign

In a Zoom interview, Kongjian Yu, FASLA — founder of Turenscape, one of China’s largest landscape architecture firms, and creator of the sponge city concept — said, “first of all, Zhengzhou is not a true sponge city. There has still been way too much development and grey infrastructure.” And many Chinese cities have been using the term “sponge city as a political slogan” and a way to attract central government funding, given the deep support for the approach from Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Street Trees Are Important, But Need to Be Respectfully Sited

Robert Gibbs, FASLA: “Street trees alone cannot solve the problems and challenges that commercial urban areas face. Frequently, too much emphasis has been placed on planting street trees and installing decorative streetscape enhancements in an effort to improve retail sales in historic downtowns.”

Moakley Park: The Inclusive, Resilient Park That Prepares South Boston for the Future

Stoss Landscape Urbanism, led by Chris Reed, FASLA, has produced a fascinating 40-minute video about their new design for Moakley Park in South Boston, which vividly conveys how to create next-generation waterfront parks in the era of sea level rise, social and environmental injustices, and COVID-19.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (December 16-31)

Elyn Zimmerman’s new design for “Marabar” at American University / Elyn Zimmerman Studio

A Million-Pound Artwork, Once Threatened, Finds a New Home — 12/28/21, The New York Times
“‘It’s a piece that’s part of the history of landscape architecture,’ said Jack Rasmussen, the director of the American University Museum, who will now be charged with safeguarding ‘Marabar.’ ‘A woman sculptor in the 1970s and 1980s who was doing this? It’s ground breaking.'”

Why Cycle Lanes Aren’t Responsible for Urban Congestion — 12/28/21, Streetsblog
“It’s important to note that creating cycles lanes reduces the space available for cars but does not necessarily get people out of cars. Copenhagen is a city famous for cycling, with 28 percent of journeys made by bike. Yet car traffic is only slightly less than in London.”

10 Ways Cities Came Back in 2021 — 12/27/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“Even as Covid-19 continues to disrupt urban life around the world, some cities this year still made transformative — and in some cases unprecedented — changes toward improving residents’ health, safety and overall livability.”

The West’s Race to Secure Water — 12/21/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“How four cities are trying to survive future droughts, from expanding reservoirs and tapping neighboring watersheds to pushing conservation efforts.”

The Pandemic Kicked Cars Off Some Streets. 2022 Could Be the Year They’re Banned Permanently — 12/20/21, Fast Company Design
“The planters are part of a new and permanent effort in the Meatpacking District to give streets more than the single purpose of moving cars. Installed in June, the planters both close and open the street, blocking vehicular traffic and clearing the space for pedestrians to take over.”

How Equity Isn’t Built into the Infrastructure Bill — and Ways to Fix It — 12/17/21, Brookings Institution
“Ultimately, $1.2 trillion is nothing to sneeze at, and new public investment is welcome after years of disinvestment and neglect. But if we want to ensure prosperity for all in the future, the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] is only a down payment on the debt that is owed to communities who have been denied resources.”

Women Landscape Architects Take the Lead on Climate Action (Part II)

Hunts Point Riverside Park, South Bronx, NY / Rudy Brunner Award

During Courageous by Design, a day-long conference organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) in New York City, women leaders outlined what can be done as landscape architects, designers, and horticulturalists to address the twinned climate and biodiversity crises. From the federal and state to local and site levels, landscape architects can advocate through design to change policies, shift mindsets, and introduce more sustainable and resilient practices. Each landscape project, no matter how small, offers an opportunity for positive change and to set new standards for climate-responsible design.

For Heather Morgan, director of climate risk adaptation at AECOM, partnering with the federal government can be challenging because there are “layers of hundreds of years of rules and regulations.” Furthermore, “federal systems can’t move with the pace, agility, and innovation needed to face our climate crisis.” But she urged landscape architects to take the time to figure out the rules of engagement in the federal system.

She called on landscape architects to improve federal decision-makers’ understanding of nature-based solutions. “Many federal workers want to try these approaches and have a passion for them, so don’t assume they don’t.” Take time to empower public servants through workshops and educational opportunities. Educate Congressional representatives and their staff and invite them on site tours. At the state and local levels, advance the understanding of non-federal sponsors of projects. Infrastructural projects led by the Army Corps of Engineers require 35 percent of funding to come from state and local sources. Those local project sponsors and financing sources can be a more direct way to incorporate nature-based solutions.

Landscape architects can use “funded and real” state-funded projects to “push for more climate positive actions,” said Signe Nielsen, FASLA, a founding principal at MNLA in New York City. She asked landscape architects to “look for opportunities in site constraints to advance climate resilience and circumvent ‘this can’t be done’ attitudes.”

For example, her firm’s work on Hunts Point Riverside Park in the South Bronx, New York (see image at top), the first new park in that underserved community in 60 years, involved navigating complex state and local regulations and required a herculean effort to convince regulators to abandon sewer and water lines to the park so that the totality of an 100-foot easement could be used for the public landscape.

She also told the story of how it took her seven years to convince regulators to incorporate solar-powered, instead of hardwired, street lamps in a new park on the Lower East Side in an area at high risk of flooding. After years of providing testimonials, working with the manufacturer to study prototypes, and sharing findings with regulators, “at last, we prevailed,” and solar-powered street lamps will “be the standard in near-future flood risk areas.” Her lessons learned: “be tenacious, find solutions, and keep persevering — even small projects can make a big impact.”

Annette Wilkus, FASLA, founding partner of SiteWorks, pivoted the conversation to how to move forward ecological restoration, improve biodiversity, and realize climate-responsible landscapes through permitting, design construction, and maintenance. She said “permitting doesn’t stop when construction begins. Unexpected things happen in construction, which require more permits.” She sees her role as transforming “what landscape architects seek to evoke through their designs” into a reality that can be preserved and maintained over time.

This work involves thinking through the economic sustainability and long-term maintenance plans of new climate-smart projects. As part of the re-imagining of the Houston Botanic Garden, a project planned and designed by landscape architecture firm West 8, Wilkus worked with the garden’s board of trustees to create a staff and budget plan, wading into the organizational chart to determine where new resources need to be added to ensure the new sustainable gardens are well-supported.

Houston Botanic Garden / West 8

And for a new project by MNLA at the 25-acre Roberto Clemente State Park in Bronx, New York, Wilkus created an easy-to-understand and highly visual maintenance manual with the team charged with maintaining the site. “The maintenance staff were ecstatic about it.” She urged the audience to “really think about maintenance” requirements at the beginning to ensure that climate solutions “survive over time.”

Inter-tidal pool at Roberto Clemente State Park, Bronx, NY / MNLA

The conversation then shifted to how landscape architects can become better stewards of biodiversity in the age of “eco-cide,” which is caused by climate change, habitat loss, and development and a process in which ecosystems are collapsing, more species face extinction, and the number of animals, plants, and insects in our landscapes continues to decline.

At Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the landscape architecture firm that has led the development of the park over the past twenty years, purposefully designed diverse wildlife habitats into a park visited by millions of people each year, said Rebecca McMackin, the park’s director of horticulture. BBP includes wetlands and grasslands, providing critical habitat for a range of birds that fly over. Even these relatively small stop-over points are vitally important given the U.S. has lost 30 percent of its bird population in the last 50 years and over 50 percent of grassland birds.

Salt marsh grasses at Brooklyn Bridge Park. ASLA 2018 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates / Scott Shigley

Together with the BBP team, they crafted an ecological approach rooted in “adaptive evolution” that enabled the park to thrive as a biodiverse hub in the midst of the city. While most urban landscapes are designed with plants in a fixed place, MVVA created a series of landscapes that function like ecosystems, with plants duking it out over light, water, and resources, creating a subtly shifting park in which plants “compete, die, and reproduce.” This requires a new approach to stewardship.

McMackin evoked a sense of wonder at the profound impact of trees. When a tree shed its leaves in the fall, those leaves provide a layer that protects the tree’s roots during the winter but also creates a very “biologically active space” for beetles, bumblebees, and other insects. She showed photos of foxes and owls diving into this layer for food during lean, cold months. Those leaves also decompose and turn into soil that in turn nourishes the tree and aids carbon uptake. She explained all of this to say that “it’s important to leave the leaves, which enables all of this to happen. Gardeners at BBP have been trained to get out of the way of the natural cycle.” In the meadows, gardeners are careful when they cut back the grasses in the spring to leave seeds on the ground for birds that have nested. When trimming back Aster trees, they also do this carefully to not disturb the caterpillars that live on the roots at the base of the trees.

All of this precision stewardship of the wildlife has great benefits for park visitors, too. Katydids have transformed the park with their music, creating a biophilic response that aids in relaxation. Because BBP doesn’t spray herbicides in the park, aphids have survived, which in turns attracts charming ladybugs. Walking Stick insects have been recently spotted in the park; “they haven’t been seen in NYC for ages.” BBP is also now home to a very rare bee — the blueberry digger bee. Brooklyn Bridge Park shows that organically-managed parks, with organically-grown native plants and trees, can “become an ecological refuge in cities.” Over the long-term, “respectful, adaptive management” is key to success (and so is buying native plants not treated with any chemicals).

Ecological landscape at Brooklyn Bridge Park / Nancy Webster Twitter

Deeply concerned about the impact of climate change on the next generation, and their already tenuous connection with nature, Barbara Wilks, FASLA, founding principal of W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, cited a recent survey of 1,000 park goers in New York City that found 50 percent haven’t experienced nature outside of the five boroughs. With this understanding, it’s crucial that every available space be used to advance climate positive design and also to provide pockets of biodiversity, which can forge those connections to nature so critical to future stewardship. “Landscape architects can bring systemic thinking to the small scale,” and these smaller projects can be connected into “large-scale infrastructure.”

Urban forestry presents a major opportunity to address the climate crisis and increase biodiversity. A broad-based campaign among non-profit groups in the city calls for achieving a 30 percent tree canopy by 2035; currently, only 21 percent of the city is estimated to be covered by trees, far lower than other major American cities. Her streetscape projects in the city over the past twenty years have layered in diverse tree species in urban woodlands that go beyond the typical street tree format. Wilks has also proposed “marine streets” where dead-end streets that come to the water could be transformed into living, dynamic edges. “Give nature agency” wherever possible, “keep it wild,” and embrace “the dynamics of messy landscapes.”

Marine Streets / W Architecture & Landscape Architecture

“Every landscape needs to be an act of activism on biodiversity,” argued East Hampton, New York-based landscape designer Edwina Von Gal, Affil. ASLA, founder of the Perfect Earth Project. Her organization is focused on creating non-toxic landscapes free of pesticides and filled with native plants.

Garden by Edwina Von Gal in the Hamptons, NY / Women Across Frontiers, Rosemarie Cromwell

“We’ve lost 2.9 billion birds over the past 50 years. Birds have been impacted by a loss of habitat, pesticides, and loss of insect populations.” To address this crisis, she has also launched a campaign — two-thirds for the birds and asked for a commitment from the audience of hundreds of designers to design better habitat for birds, with at least two-thirds native plants in every project. “That means two native plants for every other plant” and zero pesticides.

Two-thirds for the birds / Perfect Earth Project

She also called for “less mow and blow, less pollution, cleaner water, more on-site composting and biomassing.” Appalled by pristine landscapes free of fallen leaves and insects, she said “design has become so reduced, simplistic, and controlled. That tidy look is the direction we can’t go; that sanitized look can no longer be aspirational. Nature is so beautifully designed and messy. We need to support all the little wild lives that support us.”

As British environmental writer George Monbiot argues, “human survival is now a niche interest.” Von Gal took this further, arguing that landscape architects and designers “can create places for biodiversity — nature-based places — and massively enlarge the niche.”

Read Part I in the series.

Best Books of 2021

250 Things a Landscape Architect Should Know / Birkhäuser

During another turbulent year, books remain a respite, enabling us to recharge and regroup in our efforts to tackle some of the most pressing problems. Over the holidays, now is a great time to delve into new books that offer fresh perspectives and help us reimagine what is possible. Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for your favorite designer or something to read yourself, explore THE DIRT’s 11 best books of 2021:

250 Things a Landscape Architect Should Know
Birkhäuser, 2021

Landscape architect B. Cannon Ivers, the London-based director of LDA Design, was inspired by architecture critic and educator Michael Sorkin, who authored 250 Things an Architect Should Know and passed away from COVID-19 in 2020. Ivers brings together 50 leading landscape architects, designers, and educators from around the world, including Anita Berrizbeita, Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, James Corner, ASLA, Gina Ford, FASLA, Kongjian Yu, FASLA, and Sara Zewde, who each offer five brief musings, exhortations, poems, or reminders, accompanied by an image. Of the 250 things included: “Know when to throw confetti,” by Martí Franch; “Bitches get stuff done,” by Kate Orff, FASLA; and “Waterscape urbanism as the way forward” by Kotchakorn Voraakhom, International ASLA.

A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation: Uniting Design, Economics, and Policy / Island Press

A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation: Uniting Design, Economics, and Policy
Island Press, 2021

“Everyone should read this book [by Carolyn Kousky, Billy Fleming, ASLA, and Alan M. Berger] to see how the field of landscape architecture might help cities adapt to a changing climate, particularly with new federally-funded infrastructure investments. Each chapter of this book reaches beyond the conventional limits of our professional knowledge, by degrees or by leaps,” writes Kristina Hill, Affil. ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning, and urban design at the University of California at Berkeley in her review. “The most important bar this anthology has set for other books about adaptation is to place questions about funding and policy side-by-side with design proposals. For setting that bar higher, we should all thank the editors.” Read the full review.

Dynamic Geographies / Barbara Wilks, ORO Editions

Dynamic Geographies
ORO Editions, 2021

Barbara Wilks, FASLA, founding principal of W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, shares her firm’s work in this new monograph filled with inviting images. In her review, Grace Mitchell Tada, Assoc. ASLA, writes: “As our climate shifts in increasingly surprising ways, the landscape architect’s challenge is to predict how and at what rate our world will change and to create designs that will adapt accordingly. Perhaps, like Wilks argues, allowing for nature’s agency is the key to effective adaptation.” Read the full review.

Ecoregional Green Roofs: Theory and Application in the Western USA and Canada / Springer

Ecoregional Green Roofs: Theory and Application in the Western USA and Canada
Springer, 2021

This comprehensive, 635-page how-to guide by Bruce Dvorak, ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M University, and a slew of contributors — the rare book that wins an ASLA Professional Research Honor Award — is for any landscape architect or designer serious about integrating biodiversity into their green roof projects. In the forward, landscape architect David Yocca, FASLA, chair of the Green Infrastructure Foundation, says the book makes the case for “greater exploration, trials, and research for ecological surfaces in the face of a rapidly changing climate and substantial investment in the renewal of our cities over the next 50 years and beyond. It is also a satisfying read that ties together often disparate concepts, uniting ecology, technology, and long-term maintenance and stewardship. The [book] makes very real some of the bold visions of future green neighborhoods, villages, and cities…”

København: Urban Architecture and Public Spaces / © Edition DETAIL, Munich

København: Urban Architecture and Public Spaces
DETAIL, 2021

“København (Copenhagen), the capital of Denmark, is at the forefront of many landscape architects and planners’ minds for both its groundbreaking moves towards sustainability and cutting-edge public spaces, bicycle culture, architecture, and food scenes.” In his review, John Bela, ASLA, said “the many innovative ideas and projects described in this book, and the exploration of some of the values and motivations that drive the work, are what make København a valuable resource for landscape architects and planners in the U.S. or anywhere in the world.” Read the full review.

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America / MoMA

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America
Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Sean Anderson, associate professor at Cornell University, and Mabel O. Wilson, professor at Columbia University and winner of this year’s Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum, are co-curators of a ground-breaking exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City that issued a “creative challenge” in the form of case studies in ten American cities, which aim to “re-conceive and reconstruct our built environment rather than continue giving shape to buildings, infrastructure, and urban plans that have, for generations, embodied and sustained anti-Black racism.” Walter Hood, ASLA, contributed his multimedia art work Black Towers / Black Power, imagining a set of ten 30-story skyscrapers in Oakland, California for non-profit organizations.

Resilient City: Landscape Architecture for Climate Change / Birkhäuser

Resilient City: Landscape Architecture for Climate Change
Birkhäuser, 2021

Thankfully, Birkhäuser has translated this new book by Elke Mertens, a professor of landscape sciences and geomatics at the Neubrandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, into English. A dive into 11 in-depth case studies of cities across North and South America, this well-researched book makes the case for landscape architecture as the new infrastructure cities need to adapt to climate change. Mertens gets to the heart of the transformation that needs to happen: “Making cities more resilient means equipping them so that extreme climatic and weather events do not have a lasting impact on the inhabitants and infrastructure of a city, but that urban functions can be resumed, or at least rapidly restored, without permanent impairment.”

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World Atria / One Signal Publishers

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World
Atria / One Signal Publishers, 2021

Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, and an evangelical Christian living in a conservative part of Texas, outlines how to have meaningful, impactful conversations about climate change with people of different politics, beliefs, and backgrounds. Like a true scientist, she assembles evidence about what approaches work in communicating climate change, and also relays her own successes and failures. She calls for avoiding shaming people into changing their views: “When others attempt to impose their value system on us, we understand, fundamentally, that it is about making themselves feel better at our expense.” Hayhoe also says to avoid spending time trying to persuade the 7 percent of the U.S. population who can be characterized as angry climate “dismissives.”

Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind / Island Press

Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind
Island Press, 2021

As school communities continue to grapple with gun violence, racism, drugs, and COVID-19, which all undermine a sense of safety and in turn inhibit growth and development, Claire Latané, ASLA, assistant professor of landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and former Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Leadership and Innovation, has written a timely, critically important volume on how to incorporate nature-based solutions to improve mental, social, and physical health on school campuses. Latané methodically builds her argument for designing healthy, green learning environments for young people, with spot-on case studies and research. This book should be read by every educational policymaker, school superintendent, and PTA group — and every landscape architect who wants to help them.

Serious Fun: The Landscapes of Claude Cormier / ORO Editions

Serious Fun: The Landscapes of Claude Cormier
ORO Editions, 2021

Marc Trieb and Susan Herrington have managed to do justice to Canadian landscape architect Claude Cormier’s bold, often humorous landscapes, which they argue are far from frivolous, but instead rooted in serious technical and ecological considerations. Landscape and public art projects designed by Cormier and his team offer a rich exploration of “kitsch and camp, gender, technical and biological expertise, and political, environmental, aesthetic, and humanistic aspects.” Immersive photography of the playful Sugar Beach and Berczy Park, with its pop-art dog sculpture fountain, in Toronto, and 18 Shades of Gay, a celebration of Montréal’s gayborhood, are complemented by those of his deeply ecological design at Evergreen Brick Works.

Social Urbanism: Reframing Spatial Design – Discourses from Latin America / Applied Research + Design, ORO Editions

Social Urbanism: Reframing Spatial Design – Discourses from Latin America
Applied Research + Design, ORO Editions, 2021

Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, said this book by Maria Bellalta, ASLA, dean of the School of Landscape Architecture at the Boston Architectural College, is “a welcome addition to the growing number of publications on the social justice-oriented form of urbanism, architecture, and public space emanating from Medellín and Colombia. The fact that the book avoids a design focus is refreshing. Social Urbanism instead targets the social and political processes that enabled these projects to exist.” Read the full review.

Buying these books through THE DIRT or ASLA’s online bookstore benefits ASLA educational programs.

ASLA Survey: Significant Increase in Demand for Climate Planning and Design Solutions Over Past Year

ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Orange Mall Green Infrastructure. Tempe, Arizona. COLWELL SHELOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE / Marion Brenner

Clients are looking to landscape architects to provide nature-based solutions to climate impacts, with street trees, bioswales, and native, drought-tolerant plants in high demand.

ASLA has released its first national survey on demand for landscape architecture planning and design solutions to climate change. 563 landscape architects, designers, and landscape architecture educators in the U.S. responded to the survey in October 2021.

Nationwide, demand for planning and design solutions to climate change has increased over the past year. 77 percent of landscape architects and designers responding to the survey experienced at least a 10 percent increase in client demand for these solutions in comparison with 2020. And, of these, 38 percent of landscape architects and designers experienced more than a 50 percent increase in demand over the past year.

According to the survey results, city and local governments are the foremost drivers of demand for climate change-related planning and design projects. Non-profit organizations, state governments, and community groups, which may or may not be incorporated non-profit organizations, are also key drivers of demand.

Clients are concerned about a range of climate impacts, but are most concerned with:

  • Increased duration and intensity of heat waves
  • Increased intensity of storms
  • Increased spread and intensity of inland flooding
  • Loss of pollinators, such as bees and bats
  • Changing / unreliable weather, or “weird weather.”

The survey finds that landscape architects are also actively educating public, commercial, and residential clients about the importance of investing in more climate-smart practices.

Nationwide, 65 percent of landscape architects and designers surveyed are recommending the integration of climate solutions to “all or most” of their clients. They are creating demand for more sustainable and resilient landscape planning and design practices through “advocacy by design” approaches that persuade city, local government, and other clients to update policies and regulations.

To increase community resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, landscape architects are planning and designing infrastructure at all scales – from the city and county to district, neighborhood, and site.

The top community-wide infrastructure solution clients are requesting is stormwater management to reduce flooding. Solutions that reduce reliance on fossil-fuel-powered vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which account for approximately 30 percent of all U.S. emissions, take up the next top four in-demand solutions: walkability improvements, trails, bike infrastructure, and Complete Streets. Improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure also increase community resilience to climate impacts by providing additional layers of safe transportation.

The survey found that projects to increase the resilience of communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions may also be leading to positive economic impacts. 47 percent of landscape architects and designers surveyed estimate their climate projects have a construction value of more than $1 million, with 29 percent saying the value of this work is more than $10 million.

Also, 45 percent of landscape architects and designers surveyed estimated their climate projects created more than 10 local planning, design, construction, management, or maintenance jobs in the past year. Climate solutions are resulting in well-paying creative and green jobs.

“The survey data shows that communities are greatly concerned about a range of climate risks and impacts. They are looking to landscape architects to provide nature-based solutions that both store carbon and increase resilience to extreme heat, flooding, drought, sea level rise, and other climate impacts,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO. “There is also concern about biodiversity loss, particularly the loss of pollinators and the native habitat they rely on, and landscape architects are providing solutions that address the twinned climate and biodiversity crises.”

More key findings:

Designing resilience to climate impacts is at the forefront. 48 percent of landscape architects and designers surveyed stated that “all, a majority, or about half” of clients are now requesting plans and designs to increase resilience to existing or projected climate impacts, such as extreme heat, flooding, sea level rise, storm surges, and wildfires.

Specifically, some 43 percent of clients seek to increase resilience to climate shocks projected for the next 2-5 years, while 39 percent seek to address immediate climate risks or impacts.

38 percent of clients seek to increase resilience over the next 5-10 years, while 32 percent of clients are planning now for the long-term and seeking solutions for expected climate risks and impacts 10-50 years out.

Nature-based planning and design solutions are in demand. Public, non-profit, community, and private clients are looking to landscape architects to plan and design nature-based solutions to impacts such as wildfires, sea level rise, flooding, drought, extreme heat, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

According to landscape architects, designers, and educators surveyed, these are the top solutions requested by clients for each climate impact area. Note: Not all climate impacts are relevant to the respondents’ regions.

Extreme heat solutions:

  • Street trees (64 percent)
  • Shade structures / canopies (60 percent)
  • Tree groves (35 percent)
  • Parks (35 percent)
  • Green roofs (31 percent)

Flooding solutions:

  • Bioswales (62 percent)
  • Rain Gardens (61 percent)
  • Permeable pavers (59 percent)
  • Trees (54 percent)
  • Wetland restoration (45 percent)

Drought solutions:

  • Native, drought-tolerant plants (67 percent)
  • Low-water, drought-tolerant plants (65 percent)
  • Irrigation systems (48 percent)
  • Greywater reuse (36 percent)
  • Landscape solutions that increase groundwater recharge (35 percent)

Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation solutions:

  • Increase diversity of native tree and plant species (58 percent)
  • Native plant gardens (57 percent)
  • Increase use of plant species pollinators rely on (52 percent)
  • Ecological landscape design (41 percent)
  • Ecological restoration (35 percent)

Wildfire solutions:

  • Firewise landscape design strategies (27 percent)
  • Defensible spaces (22 percent)
  • Land-use planning and design changes (19 percent)
  • Forest management practices (17 percent)
  • Wildfire risk or impact assessment (14 percent)

Sea level rise solutions:

  • Nature-based solutions (33 percent)
  • Erosion management (30 percent)
  • Beach / dune restoration (25 percent)
  • Other coastal ecosystem restoration (21 percent)
  • Berms (19 percent)

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also now a key focus. Landscape architecture projects can incorporate Climate Positive Design practices so that they absorb more carbon than they emit over their lifespans. Projects at all scales can act as natural and designed carbon sinks, storing carbon in trees, shrubs, and carbon-sequestering materials, such as wood and pavers. 27 percent of respondents stated that “all, a majority, or about half” of clients are requesting projects that reduce or store greenhouse gas emissions now.

The top five strategies sought by clients to reduce emissions include:

  • Parks and open spaces, which include trees and grasses that sequester carbon.
  • Tree and shrub placement to reduce building energy use.
  • Habitat creation / restoration, which can increase the amount of trees and plants in a landscape, remove invasive species, and improve the overall health of natural systems, and the amount of carbon stored in landscapes.
  • Elimination of high-maintenance lawns, which involves reducing the corresponding use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and fossil-fuel-powered lawn movers and leaf blowers.
  • Minimizing soil disturbance, which helps keep intact carbon stored in soils.

Clients are also requesting materials that store carbon, such as woods and carbon-absorbing concrete.

Top five solutions:

  • Recycled materials, such as pavers that incorporate a high percentage of industrial byproducts.
  • Reused materials, such as wood or concrete, which eliminate the need to produce new materials.
  • Trees that absorb higher amounts of carbon than others, which include white oak, southern magnolia, London plane tree, and bald cypress trees.
  • Carbon-sequestering shrubs, groundcover, and grasses, such as native grasses with deeper roots than turfgrass.
  • Solar reflective materials that bounce back more sunlight and therefore reduce heat absorption and air conditioning energy use and expenses in adjacent buildings.

See full results of the survey

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (November 1-15)

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Honor Award. Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park: The Adaptation Palettes. Tianjin City, China. Turenscape, China and Peking University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture / Cao Yang

The Man Turning Cities into Giant Sponges to Embrace Floods — 11/11/21, BBC News
“One of China’s most prominent urban design thinkers and Dean of the prestigious Peking University’s college of architecture and landscape, Yu Kongjian is the man behind the sponge city concept of managing floods that is being rolled out in scores of Chinese cities.”

What Designers of Video Game Cities Understand About Real Cities — 11/12/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“The complex urban settings in computer games can feel as believable as the cities they’re based on. But the rules that govern them are very different.”

Philly Chooses Firm Design Workshop to ‘Reimagine’ Ben Franklin Parkway — 11/10/21, PBS
“‘The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, a historic cultural epicenter that has the opportunity to become a vibrant, bustling public space for all Philadelphians,’ said Mayor Jim Kenney. ‘The team selected to carry out this work is as bold, spectacular, and rooted in local pride as the Parkway itself.'”

An Iconic San Francisco Park Gets a Masterful Makeover — 11/08/21, Fast Company
“Willie ‘Woo Woo’ Wong Playground, designed by CMG Landscape Architecture and Jensen Architects for the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, has been an important public space in tightly packed Chinatown for nearly a century.”

AN Sits Down with the 2021 Landscape Architecture Firm of the Year, Stimson — 11/05/21, The Architect’s Newspaper
“The practice, founded by Stephen Stimson in 1992, produces sharp work that straddles the urban and rural realms. This quality is baked into the firm’s operations: Stimson and his wife and co-principal, Lauren, maintain a farm–cum–living laboratory in central Massachusetts, just north of Worcester.”

It’s Time for America to Talk About Bike Parking — 11/05/21, Streetsblog
“A historic commitment to increase bike parking in Paris has U.S. advocates wondering why cycle storage doesn’t get the same level of attention in American cities — and sharing policy strategies that could help.”

Climate Change Is Now the Main Driver of Increasing Wildfire Weather, Study Finds — 11/01/21, The Los Angeles Times
“The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at what’s known as the vapor pressure deficit, which basically describes how thirsty the atmosphere is, Fu said.”

ASLA Statement on COP26: Limited Progress on Climate Change Not Enough

ASLA 2021 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Recreation at the Intersection of Resilience – Advancing Planning and Design in the Face of Wildfire. Mariposa County, California. Design Workshop, Inc.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), which represents 15,000 landscape architects, is dismayed by the slow, incremental progress made by world leaders at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, towards achieving a 1.5°C limit to global warming.

According to the well-regarded Climate Action Tracker, commitments by countries as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would currently result in an increase of at least 2.4°C of warming by 2100. The group states that “with all target pledges, including those made in Glasgow, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will still be around twice as high as necessary for the 1.5°C limit.” Furthermore, “stalled momentum from leaders and governments on their short-term targets has narrowed the 2030 emissions gap by only 15-17% over the last year.”

“Landscape architects are disappointed by the lack of progress and ambition at COP26,” said Tom Mroz, FASLA, ASLA President. “While there were some positive steps taken, including the recognition of the role of nature and nature-based solutions in addressing climate change, there is zero time to waste in getting on a path to cutting emissions by 50%, at a bare minimum, by 2030. The impacts of wildfires, extreme heat, flooding, and other forms of climate change on our communities and natural environments only continue to worsen.”

ASLA acknowledges some limited progress occurred at COP26. The Glasgow Climate Pact, signed by over 200 countries, includes a commitment to update NDCs and ratchet up greenhouse gas emission reduction targets next year at COP27 in Egypt, rather than waiting until 2025, as previously agreed as part of the Paris Climate Accord.

The importance of ecosystems in addressing climate change was also recognized and incorporated into the pact. World leaders highlighted the key role of healthy terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests, wetlands, and prairies, in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping communities adapt to climate change.

Also, a clear connection was made between the worsening climate and biodiversity crises. Countries recognized that preserving and restoring ecosystems is crucial to protecting the world’s remaining biodiversity. Indigenous communities managing much of the world’s remaining intact ecosystems should play a lead role in future conservation efforts.

This text in the pact was a step forward:

[The Conference of the Parties] emphasizes the importance of protecting, conserving, and restoring nature and ecosystems, including forests and other terrestrial and marine ecosystems, to achieve the long-term global goal of the Convention by acting as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and protecting biodiversity, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards.”

“World leaders need to do much more to address both climate change and biodiversity loss. With greater ambition and support at the national level, landscape architects can do even more to achieve key climate goals through large-scale ecological planning and design,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO.

ASLA also supports additional coalition pledges announced at the Glasgow conference:

Ending Deforestation by 2030: More than 100 world leaders, representing 85% of the world’s forests, agreed to end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. Twelve countries have committed $12 billion of public funds and companies have committed an additional $7.2 billion in private investment for conservation and restoration, including $1.7 billion for Indigenous peoples. In the U.S., House Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer introduced legislation that would establish a $9 billion trust fund at the U.S. State Department to finance bilateral forest conservation efforts in developing countries.

“Since the very beginning of our profession with Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architects have focused on conserving and restoring ecosystems and enhancing biodiversity,” Mroz said. “We can play a critical role in helping all communities protect and restore ecosystem functions, particularly those that lack green spaces.”

Global Methane Pledge: More than 100 world leaders also committed to reduce emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, by 30% by 2030, as part of an initiative led by the U.S. and European Union. According to EU estimates, a 30% cut in methane emissions could reduce projected warming by 0.2°C (0.36°F). The pledge covers countries that are responsible for 50% of all methane emissions. Methane is released from livestock, agriculture, the production of natural gas, and landfills.

“Communities impacted by landfills are typically among the most historically marginalized and underserved. Landscape architects have proven they can plan and design solutions that safely capture methane emissions from landfills. We can help more communities around the world transform toxic garbage dumps into green spaces that capture and store methane,” Carter-Conneen said.

Landscape architects plan and design with nature to help all communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Landscape architects use Climate Positive Design approaches that transform parks and open spaces into natural carbon sinks. They develop resilient nature-based solutions that reduce the impacts of extreme heat; coastal, ground, and inland flooding; sea level rise; pollution; and wildfires. They also increase biodiversity and protect and restore ecosystems, which underpin life on Earth. Learn more at: https://climate.asla.org