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Sustainable Destination: New York City

LAF’s 2012 Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes raised over $12,000 to support the Foundation’s reseach and scholarhip programs and featured a one-of-a-kind prize: a trip to New York City with a day of private tours led by Michael Van Valkenburgh and staff. The winner, Ashley Brenden, a Site Designer at SmithGroupJJR in Phoenix, was selected from over 175 entries. Ashley made the trip in March to celebrate getting her MLA from Arizona State University, and she shared the following report about her experience:

sweepstakes-nyc1Tour guides Michael Van Valkenburgh and Laura Solano with Ashley and Scott in front of Teardrop Park's Ice-Water Wall

“We cannot thank LAF and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) enough for the wonderful trip to NYC! My fiance Scott and I spent five days exploring every part of the city we could, meeting new friends, and finding unique old and new landscape architecture gems at every turn.”

“The tour day with team members from MVVA was certainly one we will never forget. We started our day meeting Michael Van Valkenburgh and principal Laura Solano at Teardrop Park. The park embodies the complexity of sustainable design and the need for sustainability to be interlaced in all processes of design, construction, and maintenance practices. Sustainable design elements included stormwater management techniques, water reuse, use of recycled content and local materials, and a site-specific plant palette.”

sweepstakes-nyc2MVVA's Jason Siebenmorgen and Matthew Urbanski lead Ashley and Scott through Brooklym Bridge Park.

“The tour continued with other members of the MVVA team, who walked us through the intricacies of the design of Javits Plaza, Hudson River Park, Union Square Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Scott and I got to see first-hand how these projects contribute to a sustainable social and environmental network. We are so grateful for the time Michael Van Valkenburgh, Laura Solano, Steeve Noone, Matt Urbanski, Jason Siebenmorgen, and Marisa Rodriguez spent with us.”

During their five days in New York, Ashley and Scott stayed at the Element Times Square West, an eco-chic hotel with green features ranging from 100% recycled content floors to shampoo and bodywash dispensers rather than wasteful mini-bottles. They enjoyed some wonderful local restaurants and even took in a Broadway show. Towards the end of the trip, Ashley and Scott went to Long Beach, Long Island to work with All Hands Volunteers on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

all-handsAshley and Scott worked on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts on Long Island with All Hands Volunteers.

“This organization has been a favorite of mine, and the trip offered a perfect opportunity to join in reconstruction efforts. A discussion on sustainability wouldn’t be complete without recognizing the resiliency of our culture and the role that organizations like All Hands play in creating a sustainable system. When, as designers, we create space — be it a park or a home or a community square — we contribute to its sustainability by providing opportunities for people to find meaning and connection in and with these spaces. This meaning often translates to people safeguarding these spaces from destruction and rebuilding after damage.”

“The day of volunteering offered us the perfect opportunity to reflect on the many sustainable social and environmental elements of the MVVA projects we visited. Not only has MVVA designed beautiful public open space, but the firm and the community have demonstrated a deep investment in these spaces. MVVA has shown a commitment to implement current sustainable design methods while simultaneously discussing ways to ensure future resiliency against natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.”

Special thanks to MVVA for generously providing this prize package. LAF’s 2013 Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes will kick off soon, using a similar model of designer-led tours. A second clue about the destination city: it is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. — more populous now that at any point in its history — despite being one of the cloudiest.

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