Earlier this month, the 16th annual Park(ing) Day took place across the country, transforming parking spots into public spaces. Landscape architects were encouraged to empower PreK-12 students to DREAM BIG and re-imagine streetscapes in front of schools, libraries, and community centers. The idea was to help students discover how to improve public spaces, strengthen social connections, and boost health and well-being.
Highlights from Park(ing) Day 2022 feature creative transformations and inventive alternatives to an automobile-dominated environment:
The ASLA Utah Chapter challenged third graders at Calvin S. Smith Elementary School to design a mini-park in place of two parking lots in front of their school (scroll through images at top). The chapter then incorporated the sketches into their parklet.
“It was an amazing experience to involve the kids. They are so talented and loved learning about landscape architecture and getting involved in the community,” said Aaron Johnson, ASLA, vice president of visibility and public affairs with the ASLA Utah Chapter. “A few of them came to see their work displayed at Park(ing) Day. They were very excited to show their designs to their parents.”
In Manhattan, Kansas, ASLA student members from Kansas State University partnered with a local public library to help kids learn about parks and landscape architecture.
In Brighton, Massachusetts, PreK-12 students from Boston Green Academy got to plant seeds, experiment with soils, and talk with landscape architects about urban heat, environmental justice, and the role of nature in cities thanks to the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.
ASLA New York teamed up with Futures Ignite and students at WHEELS PreK-12 to create a pop-up park as part of a block party in Washington Heights, New York City. Their space offered kids free plants and drawing opportunities. And ahead of Climate Week NYC, landscape architects educated the public on landscape architecture and climate and environmental issues.
“This is what a #schoolstreet should be every day,” wrote ASLA New York Trustee Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA on Instagram. The kids were able to imagine the many benefits of using their streets for “fun, games, learning, and relaxing in green spaces.”
ASLA student members from Florida International University designed and built an ADA-compliant raised garden bed for their Park(ing) Day installation in Miami, Florida, later donating it to Neva King Cooper Educational Center.
And, lastly, landscape architecture students from the University of Georgia led the transformation of an alleyway in Athens, Georgia into a welcoming space for older students to gather for music and urban sketching.
This year, ASLA brings Park(ing) Day to PreK-12 schools, libraries, and community centers across the country. And this year Park(ing) Day isn’t just one day, but a full weekend — September 16-18.
Let’s help students re-imagine streets one parking space at a time. Using a parking space in front of a school, library, or community center, landscape architects can partner with PreK-12 students to think outside the classroom. Help students discover how to improve our public spaces, strengthen social connections, and boost health and well-being.
Step 1: Connect with your local school, library, or community center
Seek out art or science teachers, librarians, or after school program leaders.
Step 2: Make your pitch
Explain the purpose of Park(ing) Day and share the positive results of past Park(ing) Day celebrations in your community.
Step 3: Pair up with a group of students
Make yourself and your organization available to lead a group of students in the redesign of a Park(ing) Day space.
Step 5: Design and build a Park(ing) Day space with students
Partner with students, teachers, librarians, and community center leaders to DREAM BIG and plan and design a Park(ing) Day space. Source sustainable materials that can be recycled or reused. Reach out to local nurseries or firms for donations of big ticket items like a tree, plants, a bench, or bird bath that the school, library, or community center can keep.
Step 6: Post images of your Park(ing) Day installation to your social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) using the hashtag #ParkingDay and tag us (@nationalasla)
Make sure you have permission or signed release forms from anyone you photograph.
ASLA will highlight the best posts from students, firms, and chapters across our social platforms!
Lastly, be sure to encourage teachers and students to Save the Date for DREAM BIG with Design 2022, September 22-23. A free online event, DREAM BIG will immerse PreK-12 students in design-centered strategies that address some of the most critical issues of our time. Live, interactive sessions will explore the future of landscape architecture and apply design techniques that can be aligned with interdisciplinary curricula.
WxLA is an advocacy initiative for gender justice in the field of landscape architecture founded in 2019 by a group of landscape architects and planners — Gina Ford, FASLA; Steven Spears, FASLA; Jamie Maslyn Larson, FASLA; Cinda Gilliland, ASLA; and Rebecca Leonard, FAICP.
Over the past three years, the organization has raised more than $55,000, sending 27 emerging professionals to ASLA Conferences on Landscape Architecture. This year, WxLA is back, offering scholarships to a new group of emerging leaders so they can attend the ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Francisco, November 11-14.
WxLA states that the purpose of the scholarship is to aid in the “professional development and success of young and emerging leaders” by covering costs associated with in-person conference attendance. Applications are due August 31.
She told the in person audience of hundreds in downtown Washington, D.C. that the foundations of the landscape architecture profession feel like they are now “shaking,” but a path to a more diverse, equitable, and sustainable profession is in development. This path will be forged by continuously “cultivating the next game-changing ideas” and “removing obstacles in order to design effectively.” Over the course of a year-long research project, the six fellows, which include both emerging and established professionals, were asked to “transform themselves in order to transform others.”
Landscape architects once led roadway design, argued Ellen Oettinger White, who is a PhD Candidate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux invented the concept of the parkway in the 1860s, and for decades landscape architects led interdisciplinary teams of engineers to construct roadways that prioritized landscape beauty. But with the rise of the Interstate Highway system in the Eisenhower era, “they lost their power.” Today, hundreds of landscape architects work in state departments of transportation and have “deep expertise” with road design, but they must now work collaboratively in teams led by engineers to exert their influence.
White said the 1930s were the height of landscape-architect led roadway design. In 1932, the Transportation Research Board’s Landscape and Environmental Design Committee was formed. The 1950s saw a loss of “positional power” for landscape architects with the rise of highways and freeways designed for high-speed travel. But with the Highway Beautiful Act of 1965, an effort led by Lady Bird Johnson, there was a greater focus on roadside native plants and wildflowers, increased flexibility in design, and a new, larger role for landscape architects (see image at top).
The more recent clear-cutting of trees along highways in many states provides an opportunity for landscape architecture to reclaim roadway design, White thinks. In Georgia, 13 percent of roadside acreage has been cleared. “Engineers see this as a safe landscape,” because fewer trees means fewer collisions with trees. But there has been a growing backlash in Georgia and other states where landscape beauty has been sacrificed in favor of notions about safety. “There are 5 million acres of public roadsides in the U.S. There are 1.1 billion car trips taken each day. Driving is the only way for millions to interact with the landscape.” White thinks roadsides provide an incredible opportunity to not only offer the benefits of scenic beauty, but also sequester carbon, restore ecosystems, and create safe wildlife corridors.
N. Claire Napawan, ASLA, associate professor at University of California Davis, said her landscape architecture students are “so creative, engaged, and diverse, but they are entering a profession that is not diverse.” As part of her fellowship, her goal was to diversify landscape architecture pedagogy, reassess syllabi, and realize diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments in order to better resonate with diverse students. This involved re-evaluating outdated textbooks that fail to put diverse landscapes at the center.
Through her process, Napawan discovered one important truth: “We love stories. We love stories with heroes and villains, origin stories, and stories of transformation.” Stories have a deep impact on how we frame our understanding of the world. But too often our important stories are incomplete or not inclusive. For example, she said she had been teaching about Frederick Law Olmsted and Central Park, and up until recently didn’t know the story of Seneca Village, the freed Black community of landowners that was displaced to make way for the park. This led her on a “search for stories that are missing in formal education.” But a challenge became apparent: “how do you know what is missing, if it was always missing?”
Looking outside the landscape architecture academic discipline for answers, Napawan explored history, feminism, and critical race theory, academic disciplines “asking different questions.” This led her to her next conclusion: “We live stories. We are the stories we tell ourselves.” That is why it’s so important to encourage personal storytelling among diverse landscape architecture students. She relayed growing up bi-culturally in Bangkok, Thailand, and Scott County, Iowa, with her experiences either centered or marginalized, depending on her context. Students need to be provided with more diverse landscapes as learning tools to find ones that resonate with their own complex histories. “Design is storytelling. Storytelling needs to make room for multiplicities and radically different precedents. We need new stories for diverse design. And we need to leave space for new stories.”
“We need to advance the science of landscape architecture,” said James A. LaGro Jr., a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and editor-in-chief of Landscape Journal, the academic journal of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA). With a masters of landscape architecture and PhD in natural resource policy and planning from Cornell University, LaGro called for improving the scientific evidence of the benefits of landscape architecture. He argued that is key to the growth of the profession and increasing its impact.
With a comprehensive vision for how landscape architecture profession can grow in the future, he issued multiple calls to action to ASLA, LAF, CELA, and Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). He called for increased pathways to advanced research degrees, including fellowships and scholarships, and multiple career paths outside private practice. To build a greater evidence-based practice, the landscape architecture profession should model itself after medical fields, with a clinician and research-based approach. Key to achieving this will be increased partnerships between university landscape architecture programs, firms, non-profit organizations and foundations, and government agencies. “We must foster partnerships — this is where the real synergies come in. Academics need to learn what research issues are from practitioners.”
More PhDs in the field of landscape architecture can also help improve research methods. “PhDs can ask more sophisticated questions and get more sophisticated answers.” He sees the rise of firm-based research labs as an implicit criticism of academia. Landscape architecture firms want to find solutions to “complex social problems and advance the profession, but they are not getting what they need from academics.” But he also cautioned that the case studies and research often created by firms have limited research value. “We need more systematic reviews, meta-analysis, and randomized control trials to create convincing evidence for policymakers. We need better evidence.”
Get In. We’re Going to Save the Mall. – 06/08/22, The New York Times
“The second wave of mall building in the 1970s often targeted low-lying areas that were difficult to develop for residential or other uses, and rightly so, as they were bottoms, or stream beds prone to flooding. Meriden Hub Mall in Meriden, Conn., was one such site. In 2007 the city began working on a plan, using local, state and federal funds, to replace the mall with a 14-acre park, opening access to Harbor Creek, creating a public space that also functions as a water retention basin and building a bridge and amphitheater.”
How New Orleans Neighborhoods Are Using Nature to Reduce Flooding – 06/08/2022, Grist
“For many New Orleanians, water management isn’t about billion-dollar levees or century-old pumps. It’s about small, nature-based projects like that rain garden or pavement that allows water to soak in, new wetlands, or streets lined with trees.”
Solution or Band-Air? Carbon Capture Projects Are Moving Ahead – 06/07/2022, Yale Environment 360
“Long discussed but rarely used, carbon capture and storage projects — which bury waste CO2 underground — are on the rise globally. Some scientists see the technology as a necessary tool in reducing emissions, but others say it simply perpetuates the burning of fossil fuels.”
PRIDE: Creating Inclusive Landscapes for All to Enjoy — 06/01/2022, Luxe
“For landscape architect David A. Rubin, empathy and accessibility are core qualities of business and personal ethos. The founding principal of DAVID RUBIN Land Collective—a nationally certified LGBT small business enterprise studio with locations in Philadelphia and Indianapolis—urges designers to shed light on the challenges of others by asking a simple question: ‘How can I help you?’ Here, Rubin underscores the value in taking risks and seeking commonalities over contrasts.”
Boston’s Heat Plan — 06/01/2022, Architectural Record
“The Heat Plan follows a nearly decade-long collaboration between Sasaki and the City of Boston and is a new and critical component of the Climate Ready Boston initiative, which seeks to address the short- and long-term effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and extreme precipitation.”
The Green New Deal Superstudio inspired thousands of planning and landscape architecture students around the world to envision better futures for underserved communities. With the goals of the Green New Deal Congressional proposal in mind, Kathleen Garcia, FASLA, a lecturer at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) led her undergraduate planning students through multiple studios to re-imagine the Sweetwater River corridor, just south of the city of San Diego, near the border with Mexico.
“National City is a front line community” in dealing with the combined impacts of climate change, pollution, and inequities, Garcia said. The community and river corridor gave her studio opportunities to explore the three goals of the Green New Deal — decarbonization, jobs, and justice.
According to Garcia, the community is “crisscrossed with freeways and rail lines, polluted by heavy industry along its riverfronts, and separated from most remnants of nature.”
The rich lands around the Sweetwater River were once home to the Kumeyaay indigenous people, but is now a “flood-control channel.” The floodplain and grazing lands have been “converted into strip malls, scattered housing, auto dealerships, industry, active rail lines, and at the river’s mouth, a major marine terminal,” where nearly half a million imported cars arrive annually.
Climate change promises to increase the threat of wildfires and exacerbate existing urban heat islands, flooding, and air pollution in the community. “Local jobs are few. Residents commute at least 20 miles in congestion to jobs elsewhere. Native heritage has all been but erased. The city is highly dependent on car sales for its tax base. However, what will transportation look like in a cleaner, greener future?”
The students in her class range from third- to fourth-year students and major in diverse subjects such as planning, psychology, data sciences, and engineering. They are “looking for ways to make a difference,” and the Green New Deal inspired them to envision a much different National City and Sweetwater River.
Much of National City Maritime Terminal is built on fill, which is “not friends with sea level rise,” said Juli Beth Hinds, an instructor of planning at UC San Diego, who participated in the tour. The mouth of the Sweetwater River, which is along one edge of the Maritime Terminal, can only be seen from the tiny Pepper Park, one of the few public green spaces along the waterfront.
Here, Ethan Olson, a third-year student who is majoring in planning and urban studies and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in landscape architecture, brought out his boards to show his ideas. He proposed a new open space corridor through the industrial area surrounding the port, but on the inland edge to provide space to retreat from sea level rise.
The new corridor would serve as a green spine for mixed-use development, including housing and retail, and local job creation that isn’t dependent on transporting cars out of the port. Olson also envisioned weaving in bike infrastructure and properly connecting the Bayshore Bikeway, along with boosting local healthy food production.
Olson noted that the Port of San Diego and nearby Naval facilities are already planning for sea level rise, with some projections indicating a potential of 9 feet by 2100. Much of this critical coastal infrastructure is under threat.
“The big scope of the Green New Deal Superstudio appealed to me. Climate change isn’t an environmental issue alone, but also an economic, social, planning, and political one. The Green New Deal doesn’t ignore that. I like it as a concept,” Olson said.
Nine students presented their ideas over the next three hours at locations throughout National City. The bus stopped at a strip mall and big-box store district; a desolate riparian green space at the outer edge of a parking lot; the location of a major swap meet; next to a solar power installation alongside the freeway; and in a deserted dealership along the Mile of Cars, a string of automobile showrooms.
At the Gateway Marketplace strip mall, Rashma Saini, a third-year student majoring in developmental psychology, walked us through her planning ideas, crafted with the perspective of a typical National City high school student in mind.
Envisioning a new direct connection to the high school across the Sweetwater River, riverfront promenade, and shopping and entertainment district, Saini wants a high-quality space for the many Mexican students who study in San Diego, a place for them to hang out with friends before returning by bus to Tijuana. “It’s important that students feel welcome. We need to focus on their mental health and well-being.”
A later stop in a parking lot near a Burlington Coat Factory offered a close-up view of the channelized river. Here, Mitchell Kadowaki, who recently graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in environmental systems, showcased his plans for improving the urban tree canopy of National City. The now concrete-lined river is ripe for restoration as a riparian corridor, providing habitat benefits.
Through his research, he found that only six percent of National City is park land, much lower than the San Diego county average. But he noted that significantly expanding the tree canopy with the wrong tree species, improperly sited, could also further contribute to the drought by taxing already low water reserves.
Hinds noted that “tree selection is a live issue” in San Diego county. Until recently, palm trees, which offer few ecological benefits, have been specified as part of city plans. Eucalyptus trees, which are also not native and can be a wildfire hazard, can’t be removed from UC San Diego’s campus “unless they are diseased.” One way to increase tree and shrub diversity in the county could be to restore habitat for birds, including the endangered California gnatcatcher.
Stricken with drought in 2015, the San Diego Housing Authority shut off irrigation to street trees, killing them in the process. This impacted underserved residents that already have fewer street trees, amplifying the effects of heat islands and air pollution. San Diego is now exploring greywater re-use for irrigation, and there are a growing number of contractors who can do these kinds of projects, Hinds said.
Through the Green New Deal Superstudio projects, Garcia sought to show there is a “lot of overlap” between planning, landscape architecture, and urban design disciplines.
What she learned working as a landscape architect at WRT and planning director for the City of Del Mar is that “you get better solutions when you get people outside their boxes and comfort zones.” Landscape architecture and planning, in particular, use the “exact same problem solving but just at different scales.”
Her undergraduate students learned the stages of planning, explored different disciplinary lenses, and some are even inspired to become landscape architects.
The program, which launched in February 2022, is designed to support women of color in their pursuit of landscape architecture licensure and provide mentorship opportunities that position women for success. The program aims to increase racial and gender diversity within the profession and was inspired by ASLA’s Racial Equity Plan of Action, which was released in 2020.
The first class of the program includes 10 women who are among the most statistically underrepresented groups in the profession of landscape architecture. The class includes women based in Hawai‘i, California, Washington, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and Florida who are involved in private and public practice and landscape architectural education.
The first class includes:
Diana Alcantara Ortiz, ASLA, Landscape Architectural Assistant 1,
San Francisco Public Works, Bureau of Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, CA
Jessica Colvin, Assoc. ASLA, Assistant Campus Landscape Architect,
University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Alexandria Dial, Designer, Studio Outside, Dallas, TX
Ana Cristina Garcia, ASLA, Associate, GGN, Seattle, WA
Adriana Garcia, ASLA, Senior Designer, SALT Landscape Architects, Long Beach, CA
The program will provide each of the 10 women with a personalized experience that provides up to $3,500 to cover the cost of sections of the Landscape Architectural Registration Exam (LARE), along with exam preparation courses, resources, and mentorship from a licensed landscape architect.
“ASLA is committed to achieving a diverse profession that is welcoming and accessible to all. We are proud to take this first step to lift up women of color in our landscape architecture community, by providing them with the support network they need to achieve licensure,” said Eugenia Martin, FASLA, President of ASLA.
“We are honored to partner with these 10 dynamic women who seek to overcome obstacles, advance their own careers, and contribute to the communities they serve,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO. “We look forward to learning from them how to best grow our equity programs and resources and make our community even more inclusive.”
ASLA supports and defends licensure for several important reasons. Licensure protects public health, safety, and welfare and signifies a level of professional competency that oftentimes leads to achieving greater career and business success.
A recent report by The Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing found that among highly complex, technical fields, such as landscape architecture, a license narrows the gender-driven wage gap by about a third and the race-driven wage gap by about half.
The ASLA Women of Color Licensure Advancement Program was initiated with a generous $100,000 donation by former ASLA President Wendy Miller, FASLA, and James Barefoot; Marq Truscott, FASLA; Rachel Ragatz Truscott, ASLA; and CLARB.
Fighting Flooding in Houston and New York — 05/31/2022, Architectural Record
“‘These types of projects are often deployed opportunistically, connecting to existing trails, open space—or leveraging adjacent infrastructure projects,’ explains Scott McCready, principal at landscape architecture firm SWA Group’s Houston office. That approach can result in already well-served areas’ seeing greater investment, but leaving needier neighborhoods behind, which McCready says ‘is an ongoing challenge to all involved.'”
How the ‘Queen of Slag’ Is Transforming Industrial Sites — 05/30/2022, The New York Times
“For more than 30 years, Julie Bargmann, a landscape architect and founder of D.I.R.T. Studio (Dump It Right There) in Charlottesville, Va., has focused on contaminated and forgotten urban and postindustrial sites, dedicating her practice to addressing social and environmental justice.”
21 Questions with Landscape Architect Signe Nielsen — 05/30/2022, Curbed
“New York’s ‘21 Questions’ is back with an eye on creative New Yorkers. Signe Nielsen is a landscape architect who has practiced in New York for over 40 years. Her firm, MNLA, designed Hudson River Park; Little Island, in collaboration with Heatherwick Studio; and the Governor Island master plan, in collaboration with West 8. Nielsen is the president of the city’s Public Design Commission.”
Yes, You Can Save Lives by Planting Trees, a New Study Says — 05/27/2022, Grist
“For a study published earlier this month in Frontiers in Public Health, researchers looked at 35 metropolitan areas within the U.S. They compared satellite data showing changes in how much greenery a city had with mortality data for people aged 65 and older from 2000 to 2019. Using these measures, they estimated that even small increases in greenery could have saved over 34,000 lives over the past two decades.”
The Social and Economic Benefits of Green Schoolyards — 05/24/2022, Trust for Public Land
“While gray schoolyards had a moderately lower initial renovation cost ($2.3 million compared to $2.6 million for green schoolyards), they yielded no benefits over time, with schools continuing to sink money into resealing asphalt. After the initial investment, green schoolyards brought in almost $600,000 in net benefits.”
How Countries Weaponize Landscape Design in War — 05/16/2022, Fast Company
“Landscape design presents itself as a tool capable of influencing the health and well-being and, therefore, the hearts and minds of local populations. Ultimately it can achieve military objectives through the planning and planting of green space.”
Some other #WLAM2022 highlights: At Ball State University, landscape architecture students explored the topic through a classroom assignment. Kansas State University highlighted how attending LABash 2022 at Louisiana State University allowed their team to connect with landscape architecture professionals and students from across the country.
Meet the Unsung Heroine of the Nation’s Most Celebrated Gardens — 03/29/22, Fast Company Design
“During a five-decade career based in deep horticultural knowledge and a style-agnostic approach guided by detailed interaction with her clients, Beatrix Farrand came to be one of the most famous landscape designers in the world. It’s an unlikely tale told in the biography Beatrix Farrand: Garden Artist, Landscape Architect, by Judith B. Tankard, out today from Monacelli Press. If some consider Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted the father of American landscape architecture, Farrand could easily be called the mother.”
Turning Cities Into Sponges to Save Lives and Property — 03/29/22, The New York Times
“Around the world officials are moving away from the traditional, hard infrastructure of flood barriers, concrete walls, culverts and sewer systems, and toward solutions that mimic nature. They are building green roofs and parks; restoring wetlands, swales and rivers; digging storage ponds; and more. Such projects — called by various names, including sponge cities, porous cities or blue-green infrastructure — also improve city dwellers’ quality of life.”
A Rogue Leader’s Plan for the Heart of Budapest — 03/26/22, Bloomberg CityLab
“The project is a way for Orban to put his mark on Hungary’s imposing capital, a city that since the end of communist rule in 1989 has grown into a confident, more cosmopolitan mix of foreign students, cuisine from around the world and yet with strong Hungarian identity rooted in its 19th century architecture. But, as ever with such urban revamps, there’s controversy, and in Hungary it’s political as well as historical and financial.”
Report: Over Half of U.S. Waters Are Too Polluted to Swim or Fish — 03/24/22, High Country News
“Back in 1972, U.S. legislators passed the Clean Water Act with a 10-year goal: Make it safe for people to fish and swim in the nation’s waters. Fifty years later, around half of all lakes and rivers across the country that have been studied fail to meet that standard, according to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, a D.C. watchdog and advocacy nonprofit.”
Gary Hilderbrand Is the New Chair of Harvard GSD’s Department of Landscape Architecture — 03/23/22, The Architect’s Newspaper
“‘Gary’s sensibilities as a teacher and as a practitioner are one and the same—his unyielding efforts to reconcile imminent, often intractable forces of urbanization with ecological sustainability, cultural history, vegetative regimes, and thoughtful kindness are central to his pedagogy and practice both,’ said Sarah M. Whiting, dean of the Harvard GSD.”
Father Figure: Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted Celebrated as Originator of U.S. Public Parks System — 03/19/22, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“April 26 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, and Olmsted 200 is a movement celebrating his vision — a vision that included public parks for all people. He believed that parks are an important part of any community. Not only do they provide a gathering place for family and friends, but they improve air and water quality, protect the groundwater and provide a home for birds and animals.”
New Book on Megaregions Provides a Framework for Large-Scale Public Investment — 03/17/22, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
“Written by planning scholars Robert D. Yaro, Ming Zhang, and Frederick R. Steiner, Megaregions and America’s Future explains the concept of megaregions, provides updated economic, demographic, and environmental data, draws lessons from Europe and Asia, and shows how megaregions are an essential framework for governing the world’s largest economy.”