ASLA Announces 2022 Professional Awards

ASLA 2022 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Palm Springs Downtown Park, Palm Springs, California. RIOS / Millicent Harvey

Twenty-eight Professional Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in the landscape architecture profession

By Lisa Hardaway

ASLA has announced its 2022 Professional Awards. Twenty-eight Professional Award winners represent the highest level of achievement in the landscape architecture profession. All winners and their locations are listed below.

Jury panels representing a broad cross-section of the profession, from the public and private sectors, and academia, select winners each year. The 28 winners were chosen out of 506 entries.

The Professional Awards jury also selects a Landmark Award each year; this year’s Landmark Award celebrates “Crissy Field: An Enduring Transformation” by Hargreaves Jones for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Crissy Field, in San Francisco’s famed Presidio, features restored coastal habitat, recreational amenities and historical interpretation.

ASLA 2022 Landmark Award. Crissy Field: An Enduring Transformation. San Francisco, California. Hargreaves Jones / Hargreaves Jones

“ASLA Professional Awards for decades have recognized the most significant achievements by landscape architects nationwide, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their extraordinary contributions to their communities and the profession,” said ASLA President Eugenia Martin, FASLA. “Many of this year’s winning projects were focused on reconnecting communities to landscapes, illustrating the important role landscape architects play in creating places for communities to live, work, and play.”

ASLA 2022 Professional Residential Design Award of Excellence. Edwin M. Lee Apartments. San Francisco, CA. GLS Landscape | Architecture / Patrik Argast

“These award winners underscore how landscape architects are problem- solving some of the biggest challenges facing communities around the globe,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen. “From equitable community gathering spaces to addressing climate change, these winners represent the cutting edge of our industry.”

ASLA 2022 Professional Urban Design Honor Award. Denny Regrade Campus. Seattle, Washington. Site Workshop / Stuart Issett

Beginning this year, award winners will be archived in the Library of Congress. In addition, Award recipients and their clients, will be honored in person at the awards presentation ceremony during the ASLA 2022 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Francisco, California, November 11-14.

AWARD CATEGORIES

General Design

Award of Excellence
Palm Springs Downtown Park
Palm Springs, California
RIOS

Honor Award
From Brownfield to Green Anchor in the Assembly Square District
Somerville, Massachusetts
OJB

Honor Award
West Pond: Living Shoreline
Brooklyn & Queens, New York
Dirtworks Landscape Architecture P.C.

Honor Award
Riverfront Spokane
Spokane, Washington
Berger Partnership

Honor Award
10,000 SUNS: Highway to Park Project
Providence, Rhode Island
DESIGN UNDER SKY

Honor Award
Domino Park
Brooklyn, New York
James Corner Field Operations

Honor Award
A Community’s Embrace Responding to Tragedy, The January 8th Memorial and the El Presidio Park Vision Plan
Tucson, Arizona
Chee Salette, Tina Chee Landscape Studio

Urban Design

Award of Excellence
HOPE SF: Rebuild Potrero
San Francisco, California
GLS Landscape | Architecture

Honor Award
Midtown Park
Houston, Texas
Design Workshop, Inc

Honor Award
Shirley Chisholm State Park
New York, New York
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Honor Award
Denny Regrade Campus
Seattle, WA
Site Workshop

Residential Design

Award of Excellence
Edwin M. Lee Apartments
San Francisco, California
GLS Landscape | Architecture

Honor Award
Coast Ridge Residence
Portola Valley, California
Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture

Honor Award
Quarry House
Park City, Utah
Design Workshop, Inc

Honor Award
Crest Apartments, A Restorative Parallel for Supportive Housing
Van Nuys, California
Tina Chee Landscape Studio, SWA Group

Honor Award
Refugio
Santa Cruz, California
Ground Studio

Analysis & Planning

Honor Award
Connecting People and Landscape: Integrating Cultural Landscapes, Climate Resiliency, and Growth Management in the Low Country
Beaufort County, South Carolina
Design Workshop, Inc

Honor Award
Moakley Park Resilience Plan
Boston, Massachusetts
Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Honor Award
Preparing the Ground: Restorative Justice on Portland’s Interstate 5
Portland, Oregon
ZGF Architects

Honor Award
Reimagine Nature and Inclusion for Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah
Design Workshop, Inc

Honor
Accelerating Rural Recovery and Resilience: The Pollocksville Community Floodprint
Pollocksville, North Carolina
NC State University Coastal Dynamics Design Lab

Communications

Honor Award
Talk Tree to Me: Facilitating a Complex Conversation Around Trees in Detroit
Detroit, Michigan
Spackman Massop Michaels

Honor Award
Miridae Mobile Nursery: Growing a Native Plant Community
Sacramento Region, California
Miridae

Honor Award
Open Space Master Plan, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
New York City, New York
Grain Collective Landscape Architecture & Urban Design PLLC

Research

Honor Award
Curbing Sediment: A Proof of Concept
The Ohio State University
Halina Steiner & Ryan Winston

Honor Award
Soilless Soils: Investigation of Recycled Color-Mixed Glass in Engineered Soils
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
OLIN

Honor Award
Alabama Meadows
Auburn, Alabama
Emily Knox, ASLA; and David Hill, ASLA

Looking to Olmsted in the Era of Global Urbanization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Task Force members include:

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

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

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

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

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

Advisory Group members include:

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

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

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

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

Presidio Tunnel Tops: Infrastructure Designed for 360 Views and Fun

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Doyle Drive Bridge in the north end of San Francisco, which had moved vehicles through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge since the 1930s. As a result, California’s department of transportation (Caltrans) embarked on a planning effort to re-engineer the roadways and interchanges through the Presidio. During those discussions in the 1990s, landscape architect Michael Painter, designer of the parkway system within the 1,500-acre Presidio, offered a plan for replacing the viaduct, which had severed the upper areas of the Presidio from Crissy Field, with tunnels. His idea was that with tunnels, the city could then use the space on top for a new park. More than thirty years later, James Corner Field Operations has realized this vision with Presidio Tunnel Tops, a 14-acre park designed for kids and their families.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / James Corner Field Operations, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

According to Richard Kennedy, ASLA, principal-in-charge and head of the San Francisco office of Field Operations, Caltrans had offered to form the soil from the tunnel excavation and other landscape work into a flat top and a triangular edge. But the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, the Golden Gate Park National Parks Conservancy, and Field Operations had other ideas. They would rather sculpt the land. “We decided to create a topographical design,” Kennedy said, eventually using more than 90,000 cubic yards of soil. And in order to do this, they first had to look deep underground.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / James Corner Field Operations, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

Given San Francisco is an active seismic area, the Presidio Parkway tunnels, which were completed in 2012, had to be engineered for stability. This meant the rest of the adjacent Tunnel Tops landscape, a project that started in 2014, also needed to be engineered in a similar way. “That way, in the event of another earthquake, everything would move as a contiguous system with no differential settlement,” Kennedy said.

MKA, a Seattle-based engineering firm, set the tunnel park on 40-foot-deep stone columns arranged in a 10 by 10-foot grid. Each column, comprised of gravel, is 3 feet in diameter. This complex subterranean work isn’t apparent on the surface of the park, but for Kennedy it shows that the park is also infrastructure, and that infrastructure investment is needed for landscape architects to realize their vision.

“It’s a new vision for this area of the Presidio — open public parkland. Before, the perception was the Presidio was a kind of commercial office park. Our goal was to invite the public in with disarming and sometimes obvious elements. On opening day, there were over two thousand children in the playground,” Kennedy said.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / James Corner Field Operations, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

Field Operations organized Tunnel Tops into three landscape zones. The first zone is a “platform,” a flat landscape on top of the tunnels at the same level of the Presidio’s main parade, which essentially acts as an extension of the historic military base.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Ryan White, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

“We purposefully designed it as a platform to leverage the incredible panorama. This elevation of 40 feet enables visitors to turn 360 degrees and see everything — from Marin to the Golden Gate Bridge, to Alcatraz Island, the Presidio, and the Palace of Fine Arts. This is an experience visitors couldn’t have had when the viaduct blocked views.”

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

The second landscape zone is what Field Operations calls the Cliff Walk, a set of trails and gathering places that intentionally focus visitors on landmarks at vantage points. “We used the slope to a great extent. As visitors wind through the trail, their body position moves, so they see different elements of the horizon. It’s surprising, awesome, and highlights the drama of being on the edge,” Kennedy said.

Along this edge are charismatic benches made of cypress trees that had been culled from the Presidio. Kennedy said Field Operations had hoped for sculpting a large piece of driftwood but no such trunk large enough appeared on the park coastline (another was found and used in the playground). Instead the benches are sculptured out of 9.5-inch wide planks and “assembled Jenga-style” into a curvature that resembles a tree. He said as cypress wood dries, it becomes metallic grey and when it catches the light sparkles like a silver fish. The perfect wood for a vista over the Bay.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

The Outpost, an interactive play landscape, is the third zone. It’s where most visitors may enter Tunnel Tops, off of Mason Street, which bisects the upper area of the Presidio and Crissy Field. Other draws here include the new Crissy Field Center and adjacent Field Station, two environmental learning centers designed by architecture firm EHDD, with exhibition designers at Studio Terpeluk, which will teach kids about anthropology and ecology. This area is “designed to appeal to a broader sweep of families,” Kennedy said.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

Given the upper portion of Tunnel Tops needed to be flat and highlight the panorama, Field Operations could use the lower portions nestled in the slope to add more intricacy without obstructing views.

Custom play elements are designed to bring children into the vistas. For example, there is a gap in the Outpost’s climbing wall on axis with Golden Gate Bridge. “Moments like this can create positive memories and life-long connections to the outdoors,” Kennedy argued.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

The Outpost is also designed so that as the plants grow in overtime, the playground will feel more like the marshlands of Crissy Fields. The same plant species are found in the play area. “Labyrinthine trails will form, adding a layer of mystery.”

Play elements extend east from the Crissy Field Center creating an inclusive environment for toddlers to preteen children. The elements escalate in complexity as children move outwards from the buildings.

Near the Field Center, there are simple play areas comprised of sand and water for the youngest children. Older children can then enjoy a tunnel through a large driftwood trunk, which lets them to burrow through or climb above, along with slides set in boulders.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)
Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

The bird’s nest sculpture, which is modeled after an oriole’s teardrop nest, enables children to climb on the outside and perch at the top, or climb from inside the nest and “poke their head out like small birds.”

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

The most difficult element is the forest den, which is a pile of logs. The interior of the structure has a small room filled with ropes and nets. “The exterior of the pile is purposefully challenging to climb and was designed to provide a sense of graduated risk. I have watched as some children became very nervous as they climb further towards the top. While the children can play safely, they can experience challenges, which also challenges themselves. I have seen children form teams. It asks them to be more brave,” Kennedy said.

Presidio Tunnel Tops / Rachel Styer, courtesy of Partnership for the Presidio (Presidio Trust, NPS, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy)

On opening weekend Kennedy also saw teenagers climbing to the top of the logs to experience the view. For them, Field Operations has also designed seating areas that will eventually be enshrouded in marshes.

The new park includes over 200,000 plants of 200 varieties, many of which support birds and pollinators. Approximately 50 percent are native and drought-tolerant plants, chosen for what the climate will be in a few decades. The native plants were grown from seed in a nearby Presidio nursery to ensure they are “genetically specific to this landscape,” Kennedy said. The Presidio Trust “invested in plant communities that will last and can coexist with existing natural resources in the national park.”

The upper level landscape, which is connected with the manufactured military landscape of the Presidio, offers Mediterranean plants from countries like Chile and South Africa that will better blend with the existing non-native cypress and eucalyptus trees and gardens. In the Outpost, Field Operations focused on incorporating 100 percent native plants.

Presidio Tunnel Tops was made possible by a number of organizations. The Presidio Trust, a non-profit organization, has a mandate to preserve the historic military base and has restored 150 acres of landscape to date. The Presidio in turn is part of the 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service, the country’s largest urban national park. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the non-profit arm of the park and raised $98 million of the $118 million project, while the Presidio Trust provided the other $20 million.

The Tunnel Tops is just one part of a broader revitalization of the Presidio. CMG Landscape Architecture, a San Francisco-based firm, is creating a plan to update Crissy Field, the beloved landmark designed by HargreavesJones that opened in 2001.

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

Elks Children’s Eye Clinic / Mayer/Reed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASLA Earns Health and Wellness “WELL Certified Gold” Label for its D.C. Center for Landscape Architecture

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture,  with front canopy, Washington, D.C. / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

By David Jeffrey Ringer

It’s the first Gold certification in Washington, D.C., and largest project in the capital to receive a human wellbeing-focused WELL Certification

ASLA has been awarded WELL Certification at the Gold level for its Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, becoming the first WELL Certified Gold-rated project in Washington and the largest WELL Certified project to date in the nation’s capital. The prestigious WELL Certification is awarded by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) through IWBI’s WELL Building Standard (WELL), which is the premier building standard to focus on enhancing people’s health and well-being through the buildings where we live, work and play.

“ASLA pursued WELL Certification because of our commitment to our members, our staff and our community, and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved,” said ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen. “ASLA is founded on the premise that good design leads to healthier, more sustainable and equitable environments, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner and lead in advancing initiatives like the WELL Building Standard.”

Created through seven years of rigorous research and development working with leading physicians, scientists, and industry professionals, the WELL Building Standard is a performance-based certification system that marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based scientific research. The ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture earned the distinction based on seven categories of building performance: Air, Water, Light, Nourishment, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.

ASLA worked with architecture firm Gensler and landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden to build a new Center that embodies the values of the profession and the organization.

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture ground floor exhibition space / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

The project integrates new construction into the existing space and footprint; captures and reuses stormwater runoff; maximizes daylight within the space; increases occupant comfort and wellness; provides flexible, collaborative work spaces; and models environmental values, with a focus on improving indoor air quality, lighting, nourishment, and promoting active lifestyles.

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

To ensure opportunities for interaction with living things and natural surroundings, a biophilia plan describes how the Center incorporates nature through environmental elements, lighting, and space layout.

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA
ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

Project features that helped ASLA achieve its WELL Certified Gold rating include:

  • A range of air-quality steps, including filtration, increased ventilation, and volatile organic compound reduction;
  • Optimal water quality through the use of filtration techniques and periodic water quality testing;
  • Enhanced natural lighting for all occupants through the creation of an atrium, circadian lighting design and low-glare workstation design;
  • Fitness opportunities that promote active lifestyles; and
  • Materials and furnishings selections that optimize comfort and cognitive and mental health and that evoke nature in their design.

WELL is grounded in a body of evidence-based research that explores the connection between the buildings where we spend approximately 90 percent of our time, and the health and well-being impacts on the people inside these buildings. To be awarded WELL Certification by IWBI, the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture underwent rigorous testing and a final evaluation carried out by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which is the third-party certification body for WELL, to ensure it met all WELL Certified Gold performance requirements.

ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

The ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture has long been committed to innovative design features that promote health and wellness and environmental sustainability. The Center features a green roof, one of the first of its kind built in 2005; a green canopy; a side garden designed by Oehme van Sweden, which includes a 700-gallon rainwater cistern used for irrigation.

ASLA Green Roof / EPNAC
ASLA Green Roof / EPNAC
ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture side garden, with cistern / Halkin Mason Photography, courtesy of ASLA

Numerous lines of research demonstrate the mental and physical benefits of green space for people, which is one of the reasons landscape architects seek to integrate high-quality green space into office environments.

The Green New Deal Superstudio Comes to the Sweetwater River Corridor

Sweetwater River channel, National City, San Diego county / USFWS Pacific Southwest Region, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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.

At the American Planning Association‘s National Planning Conference, students from Garcia’s class outlined their visions for a three-mile-long segment of the river that courses through National City, a primarily Hispanic and low-income industrial community.

“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.

Pepper Park, National City, San Diego county / Port of San Diego’s Public Parks, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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.

REPRISAL: A Proposal for the Future of the National City Marine Terminal / Ethan Olson

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.

REPRISAL: A Proposal for the Future of the National City Marine Terminal / Ethan Olson

“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.

Renewable power plant next to freeway in National City, San Diego county / Jared Green

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.”

National City Sweetwater River Corridor Plan / Rashma Saini

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.

Sweetwater River Corridor Plan: Bolstering the Urban Canopy in National City / Mitchell Kadowaki

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.

Explore more of the GND Superstudio proposals created as part of Garcia’s class.

Olmsted 200 Celebrates FLO’s 200th Birthday

Prospect Park, New York City / AndreyGatash, istockphoto.com

Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture, was born on April 26, 1822, so this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. To explore and celebrate his life, work, and legacy, the National Association of Olmsted Parks (NAOP), ASLA, and other founding partners launched Olmsted 200.

As part of the celebration, the U.S. House of Representatives recently acknowledged Olmsted’s important contributions to American society. On March 29, Representatives French Hill (AR) and Debbie Dingell (MI) introduced a bipartisan proclamation honoring Olmsted’s legacy, which included a reference to ASLA being co-founded by his son.

April marks the peak of the Olmsted 200 celebration. Throughout the week of April 25, Olmsted 200 will be sharing content live from New York City, where NAOP, ASLA, and other founding partners will be celebrating. Olmsted’s New York City parks will be hosting Olmsted 200 partners and friends during multiple events.

Although the Olmsted Birthday Gala has sold out, there are several other events — many free — happening in NYC, for those who are local to the area or visiting for this monumental occasion.

The Olmsted 200 website also features an ever-changing national calendar full of in-person and virtual programs and events.

Upcoming events include:

Central and Prospect Park in New York City share many similarities, while also reflecting Olmsted’s evolution as a park designer. On April 12 at 12.30pm, the Central Park Conservancy and Turnstile Tour guides will simultaneously livestream from each park as they highlight, compare, and contrast Central Park’s arches, meadows, and natural features to parallel features found in Prospect Park. Learn about Olmsted’s lasting influence on landscape design and public space and see examples of how these designs have been adapted to better fit with modern-day recreational uses and ecological practices overtime. This is a virtual program over zoom; suggested donation $10.

“The Genius of the Place”: Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architecture, and Arkansas on April 14 at 6.30 pm CT. Kimball Erdman, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Arkansas, will speak about Olmsted and the history of landscape architecture. Tom Hill of Hot Springs National Park will discuss Olmsted’s brief encounter with Arkansas. And Chris East of StudioMain will address landscape architecture possibilities next to the Main Library in Little Rock.

Olmsted 200 is teaming up with Central Park Conservancy for a very special Instagram Live on April 25 at 10:30 am ET.

The Evolution of Olmsted’s Sudbrook Park from The Baltimore Architecture Foundation and friends will be held virtually on April 29.

Franklin Park: Past, Present, Future on April 30 from 2-4 pm ET. The Boston Society of Landscape Architects is organizing a free walking tour with John Kett, ASLA, principal, and Lydia Gikas Cook, ASLA, senior Associate, with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture. The firm is leading an interdisciplinary team with Agency Landscape + Planning and MASS Design Group to re-imagine Olmsted’s Franklin Park, part of the original Emerald Necklace.

The National Association for Olmsted Parks’ Chicago Bicentennial Gala will be in-person on June 17 and include several tours.

Explore all upcoming events.

For previously recorded presentations, including the most recent Conversations with Olmsted program, visit YouTube.

Also, hosting an Olmsted 200 event of your own? Submit it to the calendar, and please consider using the press kit and press release templates to share with local media.

Olmsted 200’s website also includes a blog, Shared Spaces, which features diverse voices exploring Olmsted’s living legacy. Olmsted 200 will continue throughout the year and is interested in posts from those willing to share information about local projects, personal reflections, site histories, and more. To submit blog posts, contact Olmsted 200.

Interview with Sadafumi Uchiyama: Designing Peace and Harmony

Sadafumi Uchiyama / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden

Sadafumi (Sada) Uchiyama, ASLA, is the Chief Curator and Director of the International Japanese Garden Training Center at the Portland Japanese Garden. Uchiyama is a third-generation Japanese gardener from southern Japan, where his family has been involved in gardening for over a century. In addition to his background as a gardener born and trained in Japan, Uchiyama is also a registered landscape architect in Oregon and California, with Bachelor’s and Master’s of Landscape Architecture degrees from the University of Illinois.

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

The mission of the Portland Japanese Garden is “inspiring peace and harmony.” The Garden identifies itself as a place of inclusion, anti-racism, and cultural understanding. How has the garden advanced these goals throughout its history? How have these goals taken form in the landscape?

It’s not what we do, but who we are and how we exist. We take a passive approach, but that doesn’t mean we don’t contribute to these goals.

There’s no prescription for how to enjoy the garden. Typically, a tour involves listening to what the guide is talking about, but we intentionally do not do that and only offer basic guidance. Our tours are very quiet. We just answer questions. We leave everything up to the visitors, because they have their own reasons for coming to the garden. It could be for tourism or because someone lost a loved one or had a new baby.

We don’t prescribe but be there all the time in the same way. We listen and then if a visitor chooses, we strike up a conversation. We have conversations that may be difficult, but we listen and talk.

We see our Japanese garden as a depository of all kinds of emotions. There’s not much signage and interpretation. Each visitor comes with a bag full of things or nothing. And then when the conversations start, we are ready to engage.

Everyone is a human being. Language, cultural background, and ethnicity doesn’t matter. We are accepting. We welcome the human being. We provide the essential experience of being a human being in harmony with nature. We try to bring human beings closer to that harmony.

When Nobuo Matsunaga, former ambassador of Japan to the U.S. visited Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.” Some 300 Japanese gardens were designed in the U.S. in the aftermath of World War II to help heal the relationship between the countries and create understanding. What makes the Portland Japanese Garden so beloved in Japan and the U.S.?

Well, it took 60 years at this point. You can imagine how bumpy the relationship was with the city just barely 10 years after the war. But we believed in the power of the garden. We owe a lot to local people, the community. We still define ourselves as caretakers of the garden for the community, which has been our tradition. Portland and the people of the city made the garden possible.

Instead of trying to overcome the differences, we embrace similarities. There are so many similarities between the Pacific Northwest and Japan. The climate is one thing. The hills, beautiful streams and rivers; that’s what Portlanders and Oregonians embrace. There was a natural acceptance of what is Japanese because it wasn’t totally foreign. We are a Japanese garden in the Pacific Northwest forest.

Designed in 1963 by Professor Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University, the garden combines eight different Japanese garden styles. What are these styles and what do they signify? How do they come together as a whole?

Professor Tono was clear from the get-go why he designed the garden. It’s really nothing but education in a broader sense: community education. He didn’t intend to create a masterpiece, but wanted to offer an introductory range of gardens.

That approach led to his original five gardens. Normally, when we design Japanese gardens, there is usually one theme or type, but he intentionally showed the spectrum of gardens, all different but what we call Japanese gardens. He designed a strolling pond garden, sand and stone garden, flat garden, tea garden, and natural garden, then we added a few, including through the recent Cultural Crossing expansion.

Strolling pond garden at Portland Japanese Garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden
Tea garden at Portland Japanese Garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden
Natural garden at Portland Japanese Garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden

We are very conscious about not copying or recreating the classic garden style, but advancing it. What can Japanese gardens become? Our responsibility is to also move the tradition forward, because tradition is only one little step within a long evolution.

A new, smaller courtyard garden is more like an agricultural field. Then we added a cascade garden to the forefront of the Japanese Garden, which is actually outside of the garden itself, because we like to provide for those who are not paying admission.

Often sand and stone gardens are referred to as Zen gardens in the U.S. but that isn’t accurate. They are dry landscapes, referred to as karesansui gardens, guided by the principle of the “beauty of blank space.” These gardens are designed for contemplation, rather than meditation. How do you explain the growing interest in “blank space” landscapes and buddhism over the past few decades?

It’s about the feeling of relief. An object is tangible — visible and touchable. We conceive what it is and generate feelings. But a void, or nothing, makes us think. In some ways, it actually frees us to change the mode, or forces us to change the mode of thinking, by not thinking. If you have all objects, there is friction. Having the void space provides lubricant for our thinking.

Void space is very important in all Japanese art: calligraphy, for example. An object only exists because of the void.

Sand and stone garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden

It’s important, especially in today’s world, to step out. Our ability to learn is tied to our ability to step out of “us,” “me,” and “my.”

You are there in the garden because of others. It’s a similar notion: only because of the void can the object exist and be identified. It’s relevant to how we live in our society and cross-cultural. The void is a very wise tool. If we can carry that tool, we can be able to see.

The void in sand and stone garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden

The flat garden (hira-niwa) further elaborates on this dry landscape style, adding trees and plants that provide color for all seasons. The garden is meant to be experienced from a single viewpoint, looking out beyond Shogi screens in the pavilion. You describe the void as a way to focus on an object in the sand and stone garden, but here that idea has evolved. Why is the expression of seasonal change important in this landscape?

The experience of the garden has both physical and temporal aspects. The flat garden with white sand, lined with pine, cherry, and maple trees, presents the notion of the passage of the time. By providing essentially a still picture through the flat garden, you become much more keen it. You are not physically moving, so you can catch time. But time also has its own way to move independent from our movement.

Flat garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden
Flat garden / Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden

Often, there are no flowers in Japanese gardens. Compared with English gardens, there are certainly less. But when flowers exist in Japanese gardens, they are manifesting the passage of time.

Japanese gardens, in a skillful way, give you a sense of the clear passage of a season. That means you can anticipate what’s coming next. That anticipation is the beautiful part. We need to place ourselves in that cycle, so there’s a reason to live and something to look for.

A few years ago, you led the Cultural Crossing expansion of the garden with Portland-based landscape architecture firm Walker Macy and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, creating a 3.4-acre set of spaces that includes a new pathway to the garden, entry sequence, visitor buildings. The addition seamlessly blends architecture and landscape architecture, Japanese aesthetics with ecological design. What does this project mean to you and how did you guide the project?

Given I have been garden curator for 14 years, it’s really the culmination of my service. The intent of the expansion was to release pressure on the existing garden. In 2015, we started to see close to 400,000 visitors a year. That’s a lot for five and a half acres.

We knew the time to expand would come, so we were well-prepared. Our goal was not expansion in the sense of make the space bigger, but to instead create a new experience outside the garden. The goal is to maintain the tranquility of the original garden, because that’s why people come. No matter if the visitor is in high school student or elderly, they are coming for tranquility, so we have to absolutely defend and maintain that.

It’s nice to have shelters, and, in the wintertime, have a sip of tea and visit exhibition and workshop spaces. In Japan, gates delineate sacred space and secure activities. The entire new space and the facilities serve as a gate to the existing garden.

ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Cultural Crossing Transforms Portland Japanese Garden into a Place of Cultural Dialogue. Portland, Oregon. Walker Macy. Portland Japanese Garden / Jeremy Bitterman

It’s a quintessential Japanese experience. Like in a small village, there’s the agricultural field surrounding the village, then semi-natural wooded areas, then wild nature. Typically, the village shrine is built right on the edge of the wild nature, so there is always the journey. We have emulated that.

When Kengo Kuma first visited the garden and looked at the site, the only one thing he said was, “Uchiyama-san, I don’t think we need to do much.” He was totally in tune with the land. We termed the concept for our expansion as editing the land, as opposed to creating something. We worked with what’s given. After all, we are surrounded by the triple environmental zone, so it’s the most difficult place in Portland to do anything. We embrace and treasure and only touch what is needed. That was the only discussion I had with him in a really substantial way. Once we agree on that editing part, the rest was really easy, because we know where we’re going. And the land actually told us.

ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Cultural Crossing Transforms Portland Japanese Garden into a Place of Cultural Dialogue. Portland, Oregon. Walker Macy. Portland Japanese Garden / James Florio

The new entry sequence also gives people to time to switch their mindset from the hustle and bustle to being ready to see.

We live in such a divided country and world. How does Portland Japanese Garden offer principles that can guide other cultural landscape exchanges in post-conflict contexts? And can approaches taken in the Portland Japanese Garden serve as a model for other forms of cultural exchange beyond landscape?

Our goal is not necessarily to have a Japanese garden. That’s really the means. A Japanese garden is really just a beautiful means. The garden enables us to invite everyone. Everyone can enjoy. But we are a place, an occasion in time, to enable them to think and have conversation that otherwise may be harder to have elsewhere.

I’ve never seen anyone fighting in the garden. Somehow the garden brings emotional stability. The garden helps people go back to who they are — human beings, just speaking different languages and with different hair and skin colors. Those things don’t matter. We have all been around the same height for 150,000 years. Two eyes; two ears. That creature feels the same fundamental things.

We’re passive as opposed to active in terms of addressing those issues. But there is very few places in the world that just welcome any time, rain or shine. We are there to receive your emotion. And that’s what we’re talking about exactly: that is the model. We are rebuilding the model by way of Japanese garden. Creating a space where everyone can express emotions and can have a conversation. That’s all.

The garden is non-denominational. If you think of a building, once it’s complete, it has functions and names. A garden is a garden, that’s it. A garden can be a wedding venue or a place to cry. The beauty of gardens, and not just necessarily Japanese gardens, is the space is built with our psyche as human beings.

We, nature, and the garden are the facilitators. The important thing is to facilitate.

New Research and Roadmap for Creating Healing Green Spaces

The Power of Sacred Places — 25 Years of Science and Evidence-based Design of Healing Green Spaces: A Landscape Architect’s Guide / Nature Sacred

Landscape architects can play a powerful role in changing lives — possibly in ways most haven’t fully contemplated. The spaces they design have the potential to measurably improve the health and well-being of those who spend time in them.

At Nature Sacred, we have spent the past 25 years creating green spaces – or what we call Sacred Places – with the sole intent of bringing nature to people so they could benefit from this restorative, healing connection. From the very beginning, we asked ourselves: how can we work with communities to create spaces that more fully capture the benefits nature has to offer? How do we incorporate established design principles while, at the same time, create spaces that resonate with people and their lived experiences? We knew instinctively that the two went hand-in-hand.

Working with landscape architects, academics, and on the ground with communities, we honed an approach to creating green spaces where people live, work, play and heal that is a blend of scientific evidence and ground truth. We’re sharing this approach in a new report that we released just two weeks ago at ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Nashville.

The Power of Sacred Places — 25 Years of Science and Evidence-based Design of Healing Green Spaces: A Landscape Architect’s Guide” is part research and part practical guide, and shares key insights gained through having co-created more than 100 Sacred Places across the country in communities, many under-resourced; in prisons, at universities, and in hospitals. A handful of these sites were also implemented as part of an expansive, decade-long design, build, and research project.

The report, written by Nature Sacred’s Neha Srinivasan, MLA; and edited by Nature Sacred Design Advisor and University of Maryland Assistant Professor Naomi A. Sachs, ASLA, PhD, is intended to be a resource for landscape architects interested in creating green spaces that are designed to encourage contemplation and connection with nature.

Over the years, the science around the nature-health connection has continued to grow. While anecdotally, most wouldn’t argue with the statement that time spent in nature is health-building, the scientific evidence proves that nature has remarkable therapeutic benefits. Not to mention, our approach to designing nature spaces in cities is so critical to preserving our natural ecosystems and mitigating the negative health and ecological impacts of global warming.

The role of landscape architect is more influential than at any other point in history.

Using this research, landscape architects and designers can make stronger health-based arguments to decision makers and number crunchers to integrate thoughtful design of green spaces into larger planning projects — nature zones for recharging and wellness that will become magnets for the community.

For the research portion of this paper, we focused our attention on four domains: nature’s impact on individual, community, economic and ecological health. A few highlights of the research:

Individual health: Time spent in nature can reduce cortisol levels and symptoms of depression; research also suggests it can slow cognitive declines in people with dementia and improve memory and concentration — including in children with ADHD.

Community health: Easy access to shared green space and tree canopy in particular can influence drops in acts of aggression, violence and crime by 40-50% especially in public spaces, where trees are 40% more effective at reducing crime than trees on private property.

Economic health: Researchers have observed improvements in health perception comparable to a $10,000 increase in annual income with the addition of just 10 trees.

Ecological health: Healthy natural spaces provide carbon sequestration, filtration of air and water pollutants, reduced load on drainage systems, and decreased intensity of the deadly urban heat island effect.

All of these benefits can be reaped in small instances of nature — a pocket park, for instance.

Some of these benefits are what you might call passive; i.e. the sheer existence of the trees or well-planned green spaces will help address challenges related to carbon sequestration and water pollutants whether the community engages with the space or not. However, for many of the individual and community health benefits to kick in, people must engage with nature. Spend time in the green space.

And this is where Nature Sacred has spent a lot of energy over the past two decades — looking at how to best engage the community and how to best design so that the community embraces, and spends time in, their green space.

Suggestions for design

We grouped specific design suggestions into three outcome categories: making people feel welcomed, encouraging them to explore and play, and giving a site a specific purpose or two.

And central to the Nature Sacred approach: incorporating elements that are familiar to a community or reflective of its culture. This can go a long way toward helping nearby residents see themselves represented in a space, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will spend time in space and that it will become a Nature Sacred’s approach to designing landscapes involves four guiding principles, four design elements and one signature fixture. These ensure that our Sacred Places are optimally suited to meet the needs of the people they serve.

Four guiding principles

Every Sacred Place is designed to be:

Open and welcoming to everyone.

Nearby where people live, work, play and heal. Only when green space is conveniently reachable can it become an integral part of people’s everyday lives.

Community-led — This refers to both the creation and long-term stewardship; this is key ensuring the space is deeply rooted within the spirit of those it will serve.

Sacred — Meaning, this is a community-led space that strengthens ties, restores connection to nature and offers solace and rejuvenation.

Four design elements

Every Sacred Place incorporates a portal, path, destination and surround; a response to humans’ overarching need for cohesive structure in landscape. It’s important to note though that there are as many interpretations of these elements as there are Sacred Places.

Portal — An entry point to the site that indicates that one is stepping into an intentionally created space.

A Sacred Place at St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Church, Falls Church, Virginia / Dave Harp

Path — A guide, slowly leading visitors deeper into the space and giving them a journey to follow.

Naval Cemetery Landscape, Brooklyn, NY. Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects / Maureen Porto

Destination — An end point to which the path leads. In Sacred Places, this is often the Nature Sacred bench, which holds a waterproof journal to collect the thoughts and musings of visitors to the space.

A Sacred Place at The League for People with Disabilities, Baltimore, Maryland. Anne E. Gleeson with Agency Environmental Restoration, Inc.

Surround — A design feature that creates the sensation of being embraced and sheltered within the space — a feeling of refuge and safety.


Healing Garden and Labyrinth at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland. J. Christopher Batten / Neha Srinivasan

In the paper, we share images, examples, of how these elements have been interpreted by communities in their Sacred Places. For instance, at the Sacred Place at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia, peace poles decorated in the many languages of the diverse immigrant community around the church serve as the portal into the space. And at the Sacred Place at Brooklyn’s Naval Cemetery Landscape, a boardwalk, a suspended path, leads visitors through a wildflower meadow, allowing them to experience it without disturbing the former burial grounds and native plants growing beneath their feet.

More examples of the interpretations of these design elements can be found in the paper as well as on our website.

We believe the research and guidance laid out in this paper, coupled with a landscape architect’s own experience, can lead to the creation of more green spaces that truly improve society on multiple fronts. As advocates for nature, the planet and people, landscape architects are in an ideal position to communicate to clients and partners the crucial need to value and prioritize green space in our built environments.

Download the paper.

If you are interested in collaborating with us, or serving as a design advisor, we invite you to connect with us.

Alden E. Stoner is CEO of Nature Sacred. She served on Nature Sacred’s board for nearly 15 years before transitioning to CEO.