A Santa Monica Backyard Is Remade for Outdoor Entertaining – The Los Angeles Times, 8/22/19
“Landscape architect Joseph Marek’s clients made do with their Santa Monica backyard for six years, but eventually they decided that previous owners’ “improvements” just didn’t fit their lifestyle.”
Thanks to the efforts of WxLA — which is led by landscape architects Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Jamie Maslyn Larson, ASLA, Steven Spears, FASLA, Rebecca Leonard, ASLA, and Gina Ford, FASLA — and all its gracious donors, the cost of the conference for the six who win the scholarship will be completely covered.
According to the group, the purpose of the scholarship is “to aid in the professional development and success of young and emerging leaders in our profession.” Furthermore, the scholarship “intends to promote gender justice and help level the playing field for women in the profession. As such, preference will be given to female candidates, including non-binary and transgendered female candidates.”
Make America Graze Again – The New York Times, 4/22/19
“Nashville’s Zach Richardson uses sustainable practices — and a flock of sheep — to clear overgrown landscapes.”
Design Center Unveils Land Bridge Study – Nashville Post, 4/23/19
“There are many local urban place making experts and hobbyists alike who have often contended the single-greatest drawback to Nashville’s failure to maximize its most effective form and function is not limited to the city’s lack of comprehensive mass transit.”
Pier 35 Eco-Park and ‘Urban Beach’ Is Open to the Public – 6sqft, 4/23/19
“After years of anticipation, Pier 35 on the East River waterfront is officially open (h/t Curbed). The project, designed by SHoP with Ken Smith Workshop, consists of a new eco-park and an “urban beach” anchoring the northern flank of the East River waterfront esplanade and providing much-needed public space on the waterfront.”
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) seeks a full-time summer communications intern. The intern will research and update ASLA’s sustainable design resource guides, create case studies on resilient design, and write weekly posts on landscape architecture and related topics for The Dirt blog.
• The internship is full-time Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, from June through August.
• The intern will research and update sustainable design resource guides.
• The intern will provide communications support for the Smart Policies for a Changing Climate project, including creating case studies on resilient landscape design.
• The intern will create original weekly content for The Dirt, covering projects, events, and new publications.
• The intern will also have the opportunity to attend educational and networking events at the National Building Museum, Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks, and other museums and think tanks in Washington, D.C.
• Other communications projects may come up as well.
• Current enrollment in a Master’s program in landscape architecture.
• Excellent writing skills. The intern must be able to write clearly for a general audience.
• Excellent photographic composition and editing skills.
• Proven research skills and ability to quickly evaluate the quality and relevance of resources.
• Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to interact graciously with busy staff members and outside experts.
• Working knowledge of Photoshop, WordPress, and Microsoft Office suite.
How to Apply:
Please send cover letter, CV, two writing samples (no more than 2 pages each) to email@example.com by end of day, Friday, March 29.
Phone interviews will be conducted with finalists the week of April 1 and selection will be made the following week.
The 10-week internship offers a $4,500 stipend. ASLA can also work with the interns to attain academic credit for the internship.
The internship is in-house located at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture, the national headquarters, which is conveniently located in downtown Washington, D.C., one block north of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station on the Red, Yellow, and Green Lines.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is now accepting entries for its 2019 Professional and Student Awards, the world’s most prestigious juried landscape architecture competition.
Each year, the ASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture from around the globe, while the ASLA Student Awards give us a glimpse into the future of the profession.
Award recipients receive featured coverage in Landscape Architecture Magazine, the magazine of ASLA, and in many other design and construction industry and general interest media. ASLA will honor the award recipients, their clients, and advisors at the awards presentation ceremony during the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego, November 15-18.
The prestige of the ASLA awards programs relies on the high-caliber juries that convene each year to review submissions.
Members of the 2019 professional awards jury are:
Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Chair, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, CA
Henri Bava, Agence Ter, Paris, France
Kofi Boone, ASLA, North Carolina State University, Durham, NC
Gina Ford, FASLA, Agency Landscape and Planning, Cambridge, MA
Deb Guenther, FASLA, Mithun, Seattle, WA
John King, Honorary ASLA, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA
Pam Linn, FASLA, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee, WI
John Vinci, Vinci Hamp Architects, Chicago, IL
Keith Wagner, FASLA, Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture, Burlington, VT
Both Stephanie A. Rolley, FASLA, Kansas State University, on behalf of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and Gale Newman, ASLA Texas A&M University, on behalf of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) will join the jury for the selection of the Research Category.
Members of the 2019 student awards jury are:
Diane Jones Allen, ASLA, Chair, Design Jones LLC, Arlington, TX
Diana Fernandez, ASLA, Sasaki Associates, Upton, MA
David Gouverneur, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Robert Gray, ASLA, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, Kansas City, MO
Damian Holmes, World Landscape Architecture, Melbourne, Australia
Kendra Hyson, Associate ASLA, The Neighborhood Design Center, Washington, DC
Maki Kawaguchi, Gehl, New York, NY
Signe Nielsen, FASLA, Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, P.C., New York, NY
Daniel Tal, ASLA, Ambit3D LLC, Lakewood, CO
Both the ASLA Professional and Student awards feature five categories: General Design; Residential Design; Analysis and Planning; Communications; and Research. The Professional Awards also include The Landmark Award, while the Student Awards include the Student Community Service Award and Student Collaboration categories.
Professional awards entry fees are due by February 15, 2019. All submissions are due by 11:59 PST on March 1, 2019.
Student awards entry fees are due by May 10, 2019. All submissions are due by 11:59 PST on May 17, 2019.
Many of the sessions will also qualify for continuing education credit with the Green Building Certification Institute (toward LEED AP credential maintenance), the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and other allied professional organizations and state registration boards.
Education session speakers selected from this process will receive a full complimentary registration to the ASLA 2019 Conference and may also be eligible for reimbursement for one night’s hotel stay at an official ASLA hotel (an estimated $750 value).
Landscape architecture professionals wishing to present at the San Diego conference need to be active members of ASLA. Allied professionals are encouraged to both submit presentations and speak but are not required to be members of the Society. To coordinate proposals and network with potential speakers, we encourage you to use the CFP Google Group.
Interview was conducted at the ASLA 2018 Annual Meeting & EXPO in Philadelphia.
How can landscape architecture educators strike a balance between teaching students about the big picture issues — climate change, urbanization, biodiversity loss — and the practical aspects of designing and building a project in the real world?
The curriculum has to strike the balance. Education should be project-based, because that is the education we’re best at and what really works for designers. Some of those projects start small and work up in scale, and then others start large and work down in scale.
I remember a project when I was teaching at North Carolina State 35 years ago. Arthur Sullivan, who had taught at the University of Pennsylvania and was a scientist, ran a wonderful studio where he asked students to analyze a suburban house, an urban house, and a rural house. He asked them to analyze every bit of water and trash — to discover these homes’ impact on the world. What would have to happen for them to achieve zero resource use? So, it was a small focus, but it looked out.
Whenever students are doing something small — like working out their water system — they’ve got to know where every drop of water ends up. They have to have a realistic view rather than just, “Oh, this is what they did in Portland, and so we’re going to do it here.”
The issue is learning to look at the specific situation and then back out and look at the impact of the small on the large. At the same time, you can look at the impact of large-planning decisions on how small projects are built.
How does landscape architecture education incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles, which are viewed as so critical in today’s job market? How is education focused on STEM strengthened by design thinking?
It’s fascinating how in the last decade science and technology curricula have been looking to design schools for design thinking. There’s hardly a well-known engineering, computer technology, or environmental science department that isn’t in some way teaching design thinking now.
What they’re after is out of the box thinking. They are trying to help their students not only follow linear systems, which is the tradition in engineering, but to break out and bite the blue apple. I know one faculty member used to say: “Take that risk, try something that has not yet been prescribed.”
Landscape architects are deeply connected to the environmental sciences. We have been working with environmental scientists through the entire course of the profession. It has become more precise because regulatory requirements have become more complicated. There is still a lot of our population that is aware that when you build a project, it will have impact on the local bay or river, the ocean, and air quality. Because of that awareness, we have clients, particularly government agencies, that want to understand the impact of making a particular decision.
For the most part, all of the good, strong, creative design firms in the country rely on specialists — sometimes landscape architects who have also studied some aspect of ecology or someone who started in ecology and maybe studied landscape architecture or environmental planning. Nobody does anything by themselves any more; there are very complex teams.
As educators, part of what we have to do is to help people find their place. We help them understand the breadth of possibilities and the complexities. Everybody — even if they are the most technical, nerdy kind of person doing very specific things — wants to reach outside the box to solve a problem.
We must recognize each site is unique and you have to solve a situation for a particular site. I’m tired of seeing Portland green infrastructure details appearing in projects all over the country. Every time I go to see a student project somewhere everybody’s thrown in the images of Portland. There probably is a better solution someplace else. The ability to craft things to the unique situation is really important.
How does landscape architecture education need to evolve to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student body and a diverse society?
Undergraduate and graduate landscape architects need to recognize that other people, particularly those in other cultures, see the world differently than they do. People have different value systems. Just because you think it’s wonderful to have a coffee shop on the edge of your project doesn’t mean everyone does.
Now, I think most educators think, “Well, then you do community projects.” But there are other ways as well. Classmates can learn from one another.
I taught the large architecture and landscape architecture urban studies courses with 140 students at University of California at Berkeley. These young freshman are trying to figure out what they want to do in the design world. And talk about diversity — it is Berkeley, where white males are in a minority, and there’s everybody — Southeast Asians, lots of Latino students, African-American students.
They learn from one another if you set up a situation where they’re working in teams. I used to do an exercise where one student makes a collage. If they were going to design a park, they would make a collage of the images of their ideal park. Then we would draw names and someone else would design for this other person’s park. Well, if you grew up in the valley of California of Latino background, your images were quite different from the preppy from New England. I did this years ago at NC State. There, I had a guy from West Texas and a woman from Massachusetts. All of her spaces were enclosed in green, and all of his were vast and open. They had trouble making the transition to the other’s spatial value system.
Community projects are one way to do it, but they’re very complicated, and it takes a sophisticated teacher to do them. They’re best done after students have some experience and build up some skills because there’s often the danger of both disappointing students and the community. They can be excellent experiences, but an experience in which students realize not everybody sees the landscape exactly the way they do.
Brad McKee, editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine, has called you “sublimely practical.” Do you believe the devil is in the details? How do you teach students to care about the details when they are making something?
Materials are design opportunities. They are the opportunities where we can be the most creative.
Many of our design leaders just do an extraordinary job now. But they didn’t 40 years ago. When I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania 40 years ago, it was asphalt with wood trim and brick-banded concrete and that was pretty much what we learned. Poured-in-place concrete. We’ve broadened out quite a bit.
The best way to teach and for students to learn to be creative is through observation. I taught a field trip course at Berkeley. All we would do is go to projects where my colleagues in practice in the Bay Area were very generous to show them projects under constructions, talk about the choice of materials, source of the materials, the problems in installing them, how they worked.
The students would also do a post-material construction evaluation — go to projects and make their own observations, take notes, keep a detail notebook. They would go out with some kind of measuring device. I have them use notebooks with grid paper. They would have to draw-to-scale sketch– not hard line, just draw over a grided scale, a detail of a bike rack or curb edge. They would keep that notebook throughout the semester.
What I was trying to do is give them a new pair of eyes. It’s been very rewarding when I have a student who years later says, “Oh, I still do that. I still go out and look, measure, and try to understand.” We can’t possibly teach in school what you need to know about materials and detailing. What we can do is get people excited about them, make them curious, and give them a new pair of eyes.
The other thing I do in the field trip course is go to offsite manufacturing, so students become familiar with how things are fabricated. The digital age has given us so many different ways to produce materials, with all of the laser cutting and digitally-run equipment that are creates in shops and then installed in the field. These trips also armed students with building techniques they then used in my design-build class.
What’s the worst construction errors you’ve ever seen? And the worst mistake in the application of materials?
I’d be hard pressed to pick one project. I did a lot of work for speculative developers in the D.C. area who were not prone to spend a lot of money. They had some very basic ways of building: poured-in-place concrete, three-inch pipe rail. You’ve seen some of the work over at Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. They built in pre-cast concrete.
What we tried to do in the Crystal City Water Park is use the materials as best we could so the developers were comfortable using and maintaining the park.
Some of the biggest mistakes are made when your budget and your ideas about what can be built are misaligned. One of the construction field trips we used to go on visited Ron Herman’s very high-end residential projects. They were wonderful to see, because Ron would work with granite that had been cut so precisely to a quarter of an inch. Students could understand the tolerances that he was able to work with, because he had the money. Then we’d go to a public bid project in Berkeley where they were doing poured-in-place concrete. There, you shouldn’t have the expectation that you were going to have the kind of precision that Ron could have.
You learn and observe, but you’re not going to do that while you’re in school. All you can do is set people up to ask: what kind of craftsmanship can I get in this particular situation? Who are the local craftsman? How can I bring them in?
Maybe landscape architects and architects are not very adventuresome about finding the local craftsmen and getting some real bargains out of them in terms of crafted benches, detailing in the landscape. But others are. Many of our most creative landscape architects — even with modest budgets — do this.
You gotta craft to your situation. That’s where I see the worst mistakes: an expectation that every line, every joint is going to line up. If it’s going to the low bidder in a public project, it’s probably not going to line up.
Should all landscape architecture educators practice and all practitioners teach?
No, but some of them should on both ends. Every landscape architecture faculty should include people that have practiced or are actively practicing. That doesn’t mean bringing in the local practitioner to teach a materials class. We need a number of people on the full-time tenure-track faculty who have a role in running the department and developing the curriculum with experience in practice.
Departments also need people who strictly do research on speculative, creative projects like Alan Berger at MIT, or James Corner, ASLA, at the University of Pennsylvania, when he started out. If you have that range of people, then they begin to start conversations with each other.
It takes work on the part of faculty to integrate practitioners who are not being paid. Many of them are very generous, but they really have a time squeeze. I mentioned the construction field trip course. I couldn’t do that without participation of practitioners. But I had to cultivate that relationship. Full-time faculty have to cultivate relationships with local practitioners.
What was it like to be the first woman to run the landscape architecture department at Harvard Graduate School of Design? Did you feel supported or like you had to overcome sexism?
When I studied architecture, I was the only woman in my class. I did not have a woman colleague until I went to the University of Pennsylvania to study landscape architecture. Not only did I have a women student colleagues, but Carol Franklin, FASLA, was one of my instructors. That was a whole new world.
I have my #MeToo stories, believe me, because I was the only woman. I was pretty accustomed to dealing with those kinds of situations.
My colleagues on the landscape architecture department were wonderful. I was the only woman. Well, Anne Whiston Spirn, FASLA, was there when I first went, but then she left, and there was just me, and then I hired Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, who became chair of the landscape architecture department at the University of Virginia and later dean of their architecture school. I have liked having women around.
It was a little more difficult with some of the architecture faculty and administration who put me in a girl box. The girl box is helper-mate. Good administrator; take care of the problem. I’m not saying that my landscape architecture colleagues were like that. Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA; Carl Steinitz; Laurie Olin, FASLA; and Peter Walker, FASLA were all terrific to me. They appreciated that I took care of the administrative crap and tried to do it well, but I never felt that they put me in a box.
The first year I started teaching at Harvard, Carl warned me that I would have nearly 90-year-old Norman Newton teaching in the first semester studio with me, even though he’d been retired for 30 years. Norman was known for dismissing women. He was often criticized that his history book didn’t even cover Beatrix Farrand in any comprehensive way. That just kind made me more determined to reach out and develop a bond with him, which I did through an exhibition of his work on construction details. It was also good for me, because it sent me in a whole new direction of how to teach construction. That was the inspiration for me teaching students to go out, observe, and measure existing details.
There are more high-profile women landscape architects and educators than ever before. How has it changed for women practitioners and educators over the past few decades?
It has been terrific because we support each other. With the commissions I sit on, I have been in the position to advocate for women’s firms to be hired. It was no compromise on my part, because we’re talking about Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) and firms like that. But I’ve found you still have to advocate. The more of us out there, the more we can advocate for each other. There’s now a significant old girls’ network.
There are still obstacles. I know women-owned firms where the heads of the firms, even some of our most talented people, struggle to get the interview for a project. The obstacles are more subtle and much less than they used to be.
I want to give thanks to people like Thaisa Way, FASLA, who has writing about the many women from the 1910s-1903 who were doing significant work and were never talked about. At Landscape Architecture Magazine, from Grady Clay up to the current editor Brad McKee, there has been a real effort to make sure women aren’t shunted to the side. Grady Clay was very good when he put Martha Schwartz’s Bagel Garden on the cover of the magazine. When he hired me as construction editor when I was in my 20s — rather than some of the other people who applied — he was a rebel.
Los libros de actividades de ASLA – Descubre la Arquitectura Paisajista es para cualquier persona que esté interesada en la arquitectura paisajista, la arquitectura, la planificación y la ingeniería, y para aquellos que les gusta dibujar, garabatear e inspirarse. El enfoque principal de los libros es la arquitectura paisajista, que ofrece a los lectores la oportunidad de ver muchos dibujos, lugares y paisajes creados por los arquitectos paisajistas.
Realiza un viaje a través de una ciudad imaginaria para aprender sobre los elementos básicos de construcción de la arquitectura paisajista. En este libro de actividades, aprenderás sobre la arquitectura paisajista, verás bocetos de profesionales de la arquitectura paisajista y tendrás la oportunidad de dibujar y colorear dibujos. Este libro está dirigido a lectores de 9 a 12 años de edad.
Realiza un viaje por los Estados Unidos para ver algunos de los grandes lugares diseñados por arquitectos paisajistas. En este libro de actividades, aprenderás sobre la arquitectura paisajista, verás bocetos de profesionales de la arquitectura paisajista, tendrás la oportunidad de dibujar y colorear dibujos, y resolverás problemas para planear tus propios proyectos. Este libro está dirigido a lectores mayores de 13 años.
¡Comparte los libros!
¿Tienes un amigo/a que esté interesado en la arquitectura paisajista? ¿A sus hijos/as les gusta la idea de mezclar el arte con el medio ambiente? ¿Eres un profesional de la arquitectura paisajista que visita una escuela local y busca una actividad interactiva divertida?
Si eres niño/a, adolescente, padre, madre, maestro/a, estudiante no graduado o profesional de la arquitectura paisajista, hay muchas maneras de compartir los libros de actividades. Para empezar, comparte con familiares, amigos/as, compañeros/as de clase, vecinos, otros profesionales y miembros de la comunidad.
Y no olvides compartir tu trabajo. ¡Publica tus dibujos con #ASLAactivitybooks para mostrar al mundo tus talentos creativos! No te pierdas las futuras iniciativas de ASLA, incluyendo las copias disponibles para su distribución y las ediciones traducidas al español.
Diseño de un dispositivo digital
Los arquitectos paisajistas crean dibujos en papel y en dispositivos digitales. Si estás interesado en realizar los libros de actividades desde tu dispositivo digital, echa un vistazo a algunas de las aplicaciones y programas gratuitos que aparecen a continuación y que incluyen herramientas de dibujo.
Chip Sullivan is on a mission to inject a dose of magic and mystery into the study of landscape design.
Sullivan, FASLA, is a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley. His philosophy as an educator builds on his artistic training and is rooted in his belief that art and creativity are missing in the practice of environmental design.
As a graduate student in landscape architecture, I both learned from and taught with Sullivan throughout my time at Berkeley. Here are four lessons Sullivan instills in every landscape student:
1. Always, always, always bring a sketch book
Sullivan’s first lesson to all of his students is never, under any circumstances, leave home or the studio without a sketchbook. Sullivan is an avid sketch artist, making copious drawings not only in the field but during meetings, lectures and conversations. Sullivan believes documenting the landscape through sketch is crucial to understanding place and ecological systems.
Doodling during class is not only acceptable, it’s required. Sullivan tells students to sketch non-stop, encouraging them to draw slides and illustrates their thoughts, during his lectures.
Megan Bradley, a long-time student of Sullivan’s, from undergrad into Berkeley’s graduate landscape program, said this mantra has stuck with her through the years. “One of the most important things Chip taught me was to always bring a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. Now it’s a lifestyle!,” she said.
2. Use art to explore sustainability
In his course “Drawing a Green Future,” undergraduates from all backgrounds and fields of study at Berkeley learn basic drawing conventions, through unconventional techniques, as a way to explore issues in environmental design and sustainability.
This is many students first design course. As such, Sullivan embraces an iterative, imperfect learning process, using a range of drawing materials (like sticks!) and exercises that shift focus from artistic talent to allow all students to tap into their own creative process.
Sullivan teaches plan, section, and perspective through sketch, watercolor, and building models and dioramas. The course shows how people move through space — with exercises on drawing the human figure through cartoon, which is his expertise, and sketching from live models.
3. Document your design process
Sullivan’s teaching focuses on telling a story through design and documenting the creative process. A cartoonist who has been deeply inspired by film, his students use story boarding as a way to think through how user might experience a space and capture the process through a mix of art and media.
The studio “Energy, Fantasy and Form,” taught students how to incorporate sustainable and low-energy elements into a design. In their final project, students created series of stop-motion videos to document their design of a green wall on campus. Brandon Yip, an undergraduate in his final year of study, was a student in this class as well as multiple others throughout his time at Berkeley.
Yip said that in Sullivan’s classes, “we learn that landscape architecture is beyond singular reality. We learn to think about spaces in a multidimensional, omnipresent way, unlocking our mind to the possibility of the overseen and under-appreciated.”
4. Let your interests guide your practice
Where his students go, Sullivan follows with unwitting encouragement and positivity.
Sullivan’s personality and distinctive interests have shaped his career as a designer and teacher. He encourages students to allow their passions to do the same.
Sullivan got his start in the field at Sasaki Associates as a landscape architect and planner, before transitioning to academia at Berkeley where he’s taught a variety of subjects within the College of Environmental Design — from design studios to seminars.
In his decades of teaching, Sullivan has written five books on drawing, cartooning, and unconventional means of understanding, visualizing, and teaching landscape architecture. In his latest book, Cartooning the Landscape, Sullivan explores relationships between art, nature and environmental consciousness in an inventive, visual narrative style.
He is interested in landscape as a form of enlightenment and transformation and has embedded this interest into Berkeley’s graduate curriculum. In 2016, Sullivan orchestrated a session “Do Landscapes Dream? Alchemy, Voodoo and Spirits of Place” at the ASLA Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
He expanded this topic into a seminar, reviving professor emeritus Randy Hester’s Sacred Landscapes course, where students explore ideas of “sacredness” in the landscape through a series of design projects. The seminar explores sites that illicit deep emotional connections through weekly drawings exercises that encourage students to approach design as a work of art and cultural experience.
Landscape architecture students: Do you have a professor who inspires you? Let us know if you want to write about them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can a video game help bring landscape architecture to the masses?
According to Deirdre Quarnstrom: absolutely.
Quarnstrom is the general manager for Microsoft’s Minecraft Education program, which promotes the popular video game’s use as an educational tool. She is also a director at Block by Block, a nonprofit partnership between Microsoft, Minecraft-creators Mojang Studios, and the United Nations that uses Minecraft to broaden community engagement around public spaces in the developing world.
At the ASLA 2018 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Quarnstrom was joined by Lauren Schmitt, ASLA, and Anaheim parks manager Pamela Galera, ASLA, to discuss how landscape architects can use Minecraft to expand and deepen the community engagement process.
Minecraft was first released in 2009, and since then has sold 150 million copies worldwide. The game allows users to create, modify, and explore 3D landscapes constructed out of one meter blocks. According to a 2016 article in the New York Times, it is the third most-selling game in history, behind only Tetris and Nintendo’s Wii Sports.
“Minecraft is a game, but at its core, it’s also a really powerful building tool,” Quarnstrom said. “Because it is blocky and not precise, it becomes a very accessible way for people to start building.”
Quarnstrom pointed out that many non-professionals find it difficult to understand how two-dimensional drawings translate into three-dimensional space. Minecraft helps bridge that gap, and in doing so, allows more people to participate in the design process.
“In the developing world, we find that the planning processes are often dominated by men,” Quarnstrom explained. Block by Block facilitates community engagement sessions using Minecraft to reach those usually excluded from those conversations, especially children, women, and the elderly.
These engagement sessions are not confined to a screen. Participants use site visits to contextualize the study area and then hold brainstorming sessions to discuss their ideas and address challenges. It’s only after those steps that the teams begin to develop their designs in Minecraft.
At the end of the workshop, the participants present their designs and rank ideas. Those blocky Minecraft designs are then handed off to professionals, who use them to develop buildable projects. Block by Block funds construction and works with local officials to ensure they are maintained after construction. According to Quarnstrom, Block by Block has successfully completed 75 projects in 30 countries.
When Minecon, an annual Minecraft convention with 15,000 attendees, was slated to come to Anaheim, California, Quarnstrom was struck with an idea. Why not bring the same process for a project in the festival’s host city?
As it turns out, the timing was perfect. “When we were approached by Block by Block, we were in design on the upper half of the Anaheim River Walk, and there was an opportunity for a children’s playground,” said Galera, Anaheim parks manager and landscape architect.
“We wanted this playground to be cool; we wanted it to be something very special.”
Galera and her team have used other tools for community outreach in the past, including open houses, pop-up meetings, and craft sessions building model playgrounds with ordinary materials like cups, straws, and string.
Galera worked closely with Block by Block to bring neighborhood children into the design and planning process for the new playground. They first created a basemap of the project site in Minecraft, which was loaded onto laptops for the participants to work on.
They then gave the participating children a “crash course in urban design” so that they could understand the project’s constraints and limitations. Finally, the children worked in groups to develop their ideas and build their models in Minecraft.
The playground they designed is now under construction.
“For opening day, when we have our dedication, we’ll have the children out there and celebrate their contributions,” Galera said. There will also be a mural painted on a wall at the back of the park that will permanently commemorate the children’s involvement in the process.
Galera sees Minecraft not just as a tool for community engagement, but also as a way for landscape architects to engage with children about the profession and expose them to landscape architecture as a potential career path. In the case of the Anaheim project, she said that many of the participants were children of migrant farmworkers for whom the experience may have been their first encounter with landscape architecture.
“This is our challenge as landscape architects: our profession is nature-based, but it’s also people-based. We have to evolve to make sure our profession continues. This is just another tool. We shouldn’t be afraid of it; we should embrace it.”