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A Transnational Perspective on Cultural Landscapes


Like Joe himself, Christine Chung, the 2018 recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, places great value on service to her community and to the profession. Christine is a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Pennsylvania with an interest in urbanism and cultural landscapes. Christine has lived all over the world. She grew up in Auckland, Seoul, and Toronto and brings a transnational perspective to her work. As a landscape architect, she leverages the interdisciplinary nature of the discipline to explore how social and ecological movements can be supported through design and how historical preservation can safeguard the intangible qualities of communities’ cultures.

Living and working in Vancouver as an undergraduate, Christine became familiar with the rhythms of the city’s Chinatown. Though she had daily conversations and interactions with neighborhood residents and spaces, she had “a feeling that there was a city that we know, and then there was a city that we had forgotten, inhabited by those we had forgotten.” Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada, formed in the history of racism and segregation. Today, the neighborhood has been the subject of much debate as development and revitalization plans push its low-income, senior Chinese immigrants, First Nations, transients and otherwise marginalized people to the edges of the community. At the same time, the area is losing its cultural heritage; new developments are being welcomed in to attract a younger more affluent crowd as the community’s long term residents have settled in other districts of the Vancouver metropolitan area. The city has been active in protecting the physical manifestations of culture in its historic Chinatown district, but Christine advocates for the city to further acknowledge that there is more to the community than just its landmarks, but both the tangible and intangible cultural values of its people, tradition, and narratives.

In 2012, Christine employed the medium of documentary to bring attention into this crisis of culture. She co-created intangible: Heritage for the Future, a project that portrayed heritage as “not merely physical artefacts, but a fluid and living concept taking the form of oral histories, social practices, and street life in between buildings.” The film advanced the importance of protecting the community’s oldest members and their way of life as gentrification and diminishing spirit of place loomed over Chinatown’s cultural landscape. Doing so would promote not only community health, but a fuller and more productive city future. In 2013, Christine, in partnership with Creative Cultural Collaborations and Reconciliation Canada, co-created a mural depicting the cultural and historic connectivity of the First Nations, Chinese, and Japanese communities that converged in Vancouver’s historic Downtown Eastside.

christine-chung-supplemental-image-530pxChristine collaborating with local artists on the Radius mural

Now through her graduate work, Christine remains committed to demonstrating the capacity of landscape architecture to address issues of disinvestment, economic decentralization, and racial inequality in urban settings. Currently she is in collaboration with a team on a project that focuses on understanding the ongoing urban water crisis and water shutoffs in in the city of Detroit, which will be featured in Architectures of Refusal and  Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination journal of UrbanNext. The project considers how architectural design research can bring critical attention to social issues. According to the accompanying text, the project will be “an exploration of how the forces that are driving Detroit and the management of the water of Detroit are coming together to direct it through a neoliberal market driven logic that suggests that it is dismantling its black and poor neighborhoods.”By applying her professional experience and knowledge gained in the classroom, she aims to facilitate a basis of preventative health for neglected communities.

At PennDesign, Christine will continue to maintain a focus on urbanism and cultural landscapes. With the support of the 2018 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, she will commit greater attention to creative pursuits and social activism, which she believes to be two sides of the same coin. She is intent on expanding the definition of preservation beyond physical landscapes to include sustaining the cultural practices of urban communities.

Looking toward the future, Christine envisions a leadership role for landscape architects to “create momentum for ecological and social movements.”



June 26 Webinar: Olmsted Scholar Perspectives


Please save-the-date to join us on Tuesday, June 26 3:00pm to 4:00pm EDT for a live Q2 webinar to hear past Olmsted Scholar National winners Azzurra Cox, Grant Fahlgren, and Erin Percevault share their personal and professional endeavors inside and outside of the office and how they balance these pursuits within the demands of their responsibilities as full-time designers in private practice.  If you would like to register, you can do so via this link:

These quarterly webinars are curated and inspired by the topics of interest of our Olmsted Scholars community. Last year we featured panel presentations on activism and advocacy, bridging academic and practice, and highlighted the professional journeys and challenges for three distinct and unique landscape architecture professionals in different stages in their career and perspectives in practice. We’ve featured past Olmsted Scholars as well as guests such as David Seiter from Future Green Studio, Gina Ford from SCAPE, and Billy Fleming from the Ian McHarg Center and co-founder of the Indivisible Project.

Erin Percevault, 2014 National Undergraduate Olmsted Scholar

Erin earned her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with Honors from Louisiana State University in 2015. After research work with the Coastal Sustainability Studio and the completion of her thesis on emerging energy landscapes, she went to Bhutan where she studied rural livelihoods and conservation practices with the School for Field Studies. She then joined Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and moved to NYC. Recent projects at NBW include Hudson Yards in NYC; the Gardens at the Jay Heritage Center; the Omega Institute Campus; and the Peabody Essex Museum. 

Grant Fahlgren, 2015 National Graduate Olmsted Scholar

Grant is a project designer at the award winning firm PFS Studio based in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2015 he was named the Graduate National Olmsted Scholar while obtaining his Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of British Columbia. His thesis research and Olmsted proposal on the potential of traditional ecological knowledge to inform adaptations to climate change has expanded into his professional practice through work with coastal First Nations communities, participation with the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects as a founding member of the Indigenous Issues Task Force, along with conference presentations and publications.

Azzurra Cox, 2016 National Graduate Olmsted Scholar

Azzurra Cox is a landscape architect passionate about cities and public space. Her interdisciplinary background in social theory and the humanities informs her approach to the discipline, including her interest in the power of landscape to shape and reflect collective social narratives. Azzurra holds an MLA from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a BA in Social Studies from Harvard College. Concurrent to independent creative projects and ongoing research on landscapes of memory in St. Louis, Azzurra is a Designer at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

We encourage you to spread the word to your colleagues, friends, and professional networks too! In the meantime, you can also check out our Q1 call from March featuring Wes Michaels from Spackman Mossop Michaels on the Caño Martin Peña Restoration Project in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Using Drones as a Landscape Performance Assessment Tool

By Rachael Shields, MLA Candidate, University of Georgia

Our University of Georgia (UGA) team is participating in the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and includes professors Alfie Vick, Brian Orland, and Jon Calabria and me. We are studying Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and the University of Georgia’s Science Learning Center. The landscape architect for both projects was HDR’s Atlanta office.

Drones are currently a hot commodity in the world of package delivery or air strikes, but they are just beginning to take off in the design field (pun intended). Drones became part of our CSI research process when the need arose for high quality post-construction aerial images because online map imagery sources were not up-to-date. Collecting aerial imagery and video are increasingly common uses for drone technology in the design and planning professions. During the process of acquiring imagery, our team realized there were many fascinating advantages in using a drone — beyond the conventional uses.

uga-drone-530wThe drone our UGA research team used, prior to flight

The drone we used allowed us to collect data we never would have been able to otherwise. For this portion of the project we brought in Roger Lowe, a professor in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, who is a specialist in spatial information technology and has a remote pilot certificate, also known as a “drone license.” In order to fly over UGA’s Science Learning Center, we first had to get flight clearance. Before flying, Roger made sure to check the weather and to become aware of any hazards that might affect the flight like powerlines, trees, and structures. He also knew to keep the craft at a maximum of two hundred feet above ground level. While imagery with a lot of people using the landscape would be great, drone flights over people are not permitted.

After flying, the imagery data were transferred to Agisoft PhotoScan, software that processes the images and produces data that can be opened in ArcGIS. For our research purposes, we captured a terrain file to show the topography of the site. PhotoScan also produced an orthomosaic, a seamless aerial formed from a group of orthoimages. Third, through the use of laser light reflected from terrain, structures, and vegetation, the drone is able to capture lidar data in the form of x,y,z measurements. This produces a point cloud that allows 3D analysis.

uga-sciencelearningcenter-dem-530wDrone-captured digital elevation model of the Science Learning Center


uga-sciencelearningcenter-aerial-530wDrone-captured aerial image of the Science Learning Center

The exciting potential we began to notice with this kind of technology is longitudinal monitoring. Future classes at UGA could track changes in the Science Learning Center’s landscape over time. For example, imagery can track the change in the area of shade cover, the effectiveness of the stormwater management methods on site, or even map changes due to erosion. Additional analyses with ArcMap, Grass GIS, and HydroCAD would provide cutting-edge landscape performance evaluation tools not seen in traditional methods.

In conclusion, drones have the capacity to provide a whole new landscape performance toolset. Drone technology is new to us, and we hope to include some of the unique aspects of drone data analysis as we continue to document our projects as Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs. So far, we have learned that drones have great possibilities, the extent of which, we are still trying to understand.

Research Assistant Rachael Shields and Research Fellows Jon Calabria, Brian Orland, and Alfred Vick are participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which supports academic research teams to study the environmental, social, and economic performance of exemplary landscape projects. 

LAF Symposium and Awards Dinner Recap

On May 17, 2018 in Washington, DC, LAF hosted two events to showcase and celebrate leading-edge thinking and achievements in landscape architecture and sustainability. Thank you to all who attended! Photos from the events are posted to LAF’s Flickr page.

LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium

The sold-out symposium showed how six landscape architects are tackling a range of pressing issues, including homelessness, resilient water management in India, and reconceiving public space in the American south. The symposium is the culmination of the year-long LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership, a unique program and $25,000 award that supports working professionals as they develop and test new ideas.

symposium-alpa-530wAlpa Nawre presents her work on design interventions to address water and other issues in rural India.symposium-scottdouglas-530wScott Douglas asks, “How have 60 years of innovation and technology not affected highway corridors?”

 The powerful presentations left audience members energized and emboldened:

“The symposium reminded me of the real breadth of issues we can work on as a profession. It’s easy to get overly focused on your own projects and forget the far-reaching impacts we can have.”

“I was impressed by the scope and importance of all that landscape architects do.”

“As an architect, I was reassured that our professions are in line and pursuing the same problems, but also encouraged to see a new, vibrant, human-centric take through the eyes of landscape architects.”

Recordings of the presentations will be posted in early June. In the meantime,  look for great event summaries from ASLA’s The Field and Land8:

symposium-fellows2-530wSymposium presenters and LAF Fellows Harriett Jameson, Nicole Plunkett, Claire Latané, Scott Douglas, Alpa Nawre, and Brice Maryman


 2018 LAF Awards Dinner

The Awards Dinner honored the 2018 recipients of the LAF Medal and Founders’ Award, our highest honors for individuals and organizations that have made a significant and sustained contribution to the LAF mission of supporting the preservation, improvement and enhancement of the environment.

Carol Franklin received the 2018 LAF Medal and provided a retrospective of Andropogon’s work, including their experimental and pioneering ideas about ecological design. Among the memorable moments was this remark about the extradinary effort involved in turning ecological restoration into art: “It’s like spending two hours in front of the mirror so that you can look natural.”

dinner-carolfranklin-530wCarol Franklin, a founding principal of Andropogon, accepts the 2018 LAF Medal

Diane Regas, President and CEO, accepted the 2018 LAF Founders’ Award on behalf of The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and provided an overview of the organzation’s work, particularly its new 10-Minute Walk movement to put a quality park within a 10-minute walk of everyone in U.S. In describing their schoolyard-to-parks projects, Diane said, “We like to think that we are helping to inspire and train at least a few landscape architects of the future.”

dinner-tpl-530wThe Trust for Public Land's Diane Regas accepts the 2018 LAF Founders' Award from Awards Committee Chair Dennis Carmichael

These leadership events and the LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership were made possible by the many generous contributions to the LAF: 50 & Forward Campaign.

Announcing Our 2018 National Olmsted Scholars

The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is delighted to announce that Elizabeth Camuti, a master’s student at the University of Virginia, and Karina Ramos, an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, were selected as LAF’s 2018 National Olmsted Scholars.

camuti-liz-photo-500x700Liz Camuti, University of Virginia

Liz receives the $25,000 graduate prize and plans to leverage the award to continue her ongoing research about new forms of socio-ecological infrastructure for isolated populations threatened by climate change and extreme weather, specifically the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her work advances a design methodology that couples advanced digital technologies with local knowledge. Liz will use the award to support travel, tools, and surveillance technologies to better understand how infrastructural improvements implemented in the wake of recent storms might interface with new forms of human occupation. Liz graduates with a Master of Landscape Architecture in May.

Karina receives the $15,000 undergraduate prize and will use the award to design a physical plan for Puente Piedra, an emerging town 55 km away from Lima, Peru. Inspired by David Gouverneur’s “informal armatures” approach, which provides a framework for the processes of informal urbanization, Karina will first conduct case study research in her hometown of Los Olivos, an adjacent district that evolved through the planned growth and development of an existing informal settlement. She plans to present her findings and recommendations to Peru’s federal housing and urban development agency. Karina graduates this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture.

ramos-karina-photo-500x700Karina Ramos, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Also honored are six National Olmsted Scholar Finalists. The graduate finalists, who each receive a $5,000 award, are:

  • Rachel Ison, University of Southern California
  • Nicholas Jabs, University of Pennsylvania
  • Steven Nuñez, University of Texas at Arlington

The undergraduate finalists, who each receive a $3,000 award, are:

  • Toni Candanedo, Arizona State University
  • Bryce Donner, University of Florida
  • Karen Lomas-Gutierrez, University of California, Davis

Two independent juries of leaders in the landscape architecture profession selected the winners and finalists from a group of 50 graduate and 35 undergraduate students nominated by their faculty for their exceptional leadership potential. These top students earned the designation of 2018 University Olmsted Scholars and join the growing community of 634 past and present Olmsted Scholars.

The 2018 jurors for the graduate award were: Adam Greenspan, LAF President and Principal at PWP; Shawn T. Kelly, ASLA President-Elect and Principal of Kelly Design Group, LLC; Kimberlee Douglas, Associate Professor and Director of the Landscape Architecture Program at Philadelphia University; Susan Szenasy, Director of Design Innovation, Metropolis Magazine; Brian Jencek, Principal at HOK; Skip Graffam, Partner and Director of Research at OLIN Partnership; and David de la Cruz, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar (Graduate) and Project Manager at Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

Jurors for the undergraduate award were: Stephanie Rolley, LAF President-Elect and Professor and Department Head at Kansas State University; Vaughn Rinner, ASLA Immediate Past President; Paul Voos, Department Chair at Morgan State University; Zach Mortice, Architectural Journalist and Web Editor at Landscape Architecture Magazine; Jim Laiche, Water Conservation Business Manager at The Toro Company; Tao Zhang, Principal at Sasaki; Ron Kagawa, Landscape Architect at Kimley-Horn, and Lauren Delbridge, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar (Undergraduate) and Landscape Designer at LandDesign.

Now in its eleventh year, the LAF Olmsted Scholars Program is the premier national leadership award program for landscape architecture students. The program honors students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication, and service to advance sustainable design and foster human and societal benefits.The LAF Olmsted Scholars Program is made possible with support from Lead Sponsor: The Toro Company; Annual Sponsors: HOK, IRONSMITH, Kimley-Horn, LandDesign, OLIN, Sasaki, Thomas C. and Gerry D. Donnelly, Steven G. King, FASLA, and Bill Main, Hon. ASLA; Promotion Partner: American Society of Landscape Architects.

Thanks to the generous support of LAF’s 50 & Forward Campaign donors, starting in 2018, the Olmsted Scholar finalist awards increased from $1,000 to $5,000 for graduate students and $3,000 for undergraduates.