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Olmsted Scholar Events in Boston

From Nov 14-16, LAF held a series of events in Boston to honor the 2013 Olmsted Scholars, landscape architecture students who were nominated by their faculty for demonstrating exceptional leadership potential. Thirty-seven of this year’s 67 Olmsted Scholars traveled from across the U.S. and Canada to participate. Perhaps National Olmsted Scholar Leann Andrews best summarized the energy and camaraderie felt by all with, “This past week was nothing short of amazing.” 


The culmination was the LAF Annual Benefit at the Boston Harbor Hotel’s Wharf Room, where the 2013 Olmsted Scholars were recognized during a special certificate ceremony in front of the nearly 400 guests. “It was truly an honor to recognize this impressive group of individuals,” said outgoing LAF Board President Bill Main. “These incredibly bright, talented, and engaged young people will lead the profession in addressing future landscape issues.”

The Olmsted Scholars Luncheon gave the scholars the opportunity to meet each other, the LAF Board of Directors, staff, and program sponsors. Short presentations from the two National Olmsted Scholars provided insights into the amazing people and projects that the program supports. Leann Andrews, winner of the $25,000 graduate prize, discussed how she is melding her background in dance, landscape architecture, and global health. With the Olmsted funding she has been able to carry out her capstone project working with an informal ‘slum’ community in Lima, Peru to envision, design, construct, and sustain personalized home gardens. McKenzie Wilhelm, winner of the $15,000 undergraduate prize, presented her research on Alaska’s Pebble Mine and design interventions that could minimize the threatening effects of mining processes on fragile salmon habitat. 2009 National Olmsted Scholar Emily Vogler gave an update on her research on sustainable regionalism.

Following the luncheon, the scholars participated in a brainstorming session, sharing their thoughts on leadership and how to further build the community of Olmsted Scholars, who now number 243 as the program enters its seventh year. The scholars also participated in organzied tours of Sasaki’s Watertown office and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ Cambridge office, as well as informal dinners and other gatherings.

Thank you to the generous Olmsted Scholars Program sponsors whose support makes the financial awards and events like these possible. Photos from the Annual Benefit (now posted) and other Olmsted Scholar events (coming soon) can be found on LAF’s Flickr Photostream.

Welcome 2013-2014 Board of Directors

The new LAF Board of Directors took the reins on November 14 at LAF’s Annual Board Meeting in Boston. During a jam-packed three days of meetings and events, Board members demonstrated their vision, passion, and thought leadership in helping LAF to increase our collective capacity to achieve sustainability and cultivate the next generation of leaders.

Jacinta McCann, FAILA of AECOM began her term as President, succeeding Bill Main, Hon. ASLA of Landscape Forms, whose leadership and business acumen helped lay the groundwork for measuring and increasing impact as LAF approaches its 50th anniversary in 2016. Mark Dawson, FASLA of Sasaki Associates became President-Elect after serving for two years as Vice President of Finance.

Directors Laura Solano and Paul Bambauer assumed new roles as officers, joining three continuing officers on the executive leadership team. The Board also created a new executive position to focus on growing LAF’s leadership programs and initiatives, which will be filled by 2011-2012 President Lucinda Sanders. 

  • Vice President of Finance:
    Laura Solano, ASLA, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
  • Vice President of Development:
    Paul Bambauer, IRONSMITH
  • Vice President of Communication:
    Nate Cormier, ASLA, SvR Design Company
  • Vice President of Education:
    Kristina Hill, PhD, Aff. ASLA, University of Virginia
  • Vice President of Research:
    Forster Ndubisi, PhD, FASLA, Texas A&M University
  • Vice President of Leadership:
    Lucinda Sanders, FASLA, OLIN

Gregg Sutton, ASLA of EDSA retired off the Board after four years of service, including two terms as Vice President of Development. Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, CSLA of SWA Group left after five years as a Director. Emily Vogler of the Rhode Island School of Design rotated off after serving a two-year term as past Olmsted Scholar representative, and Susan Hatchell, FASLA rotated off after serving for a year in an Ex Officio capacity as an ASLA Representative.

Five new Directors joined the LAF Board, bringing experience and insights from landscape architecture practice and academia. Andrea Gaffney, LAF’s first National Olmsted Scholar, was selected for the open Director position for past Olmsted Scholars. ASLA Immediate Past President Thomas Tavella, FASLA will serve as the ASLA Representative. Welcome to the new Board members:

  • Andrea Gaffney, SWA Group
  • Kona Gray, ASLA, EDSA
  • Stephanie Rolley, FASLA, Kansas State University
  • Joe Runco, ASLA, SWA Group
  • Thomas Tavella, FASLA, ASLA Immediate Past President

We look forward to working with this accomplished group and continuing LAF’s growth and momentum in the year ahead. Thanks to all for your commitment and contributions!

board-ab(Some of) the 2013-2014 Board of Directors at the LAF Annual Benefit. (You try getting them all in the same place at the same time!)

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Ocean Planning to Advance New York's Renewable Energy Frontier

By Liz Podowski, 2013 University Olmsted Scholar

New York State is planning for a sustainable energy future — a future that addresses the causes of climate change, diversifies and modernizes the State’s energy system, and expands the renewable energy frontier from land into the ocean. Currently, the ocean provides a vast, untapped source of renewable energy, with winds that are stronger and steadier than land-based wind.

windspeedsWinds over the ocean are stronger and steadier than over the land.

With millions of people living in ocean-front counties, offshore wind is an almost inevitable resource for New York to develop. However, wind energy development in the U.S. has historically focused entirely on land due to past technological constraints. To ensure that New York State responsibly and efficiently takes advantage of this resource as it becomes increasingly accessible, the New York Department of State (NYDOS) is spearheading a planning process in a nearly 16,000 square mile swath of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ocean planning is significantly different from land use planning. First, all ocean lands are held in public trust and are managed by either the state or federal government, depending on distance from shore. The freedom to navigate these “open seas” is a deeply-held value among mariners and poses an inherent challenge to siting permanently-fixed structures, like wind turbines. Second, the ocean environment is dynamic, multidimensional, and largely unknown. At first glance, the ocean may appear to be a homogenous sheet of blue water. But a closer look reveals seabirds foraging above and below the surface, marine mammals migrating large distances, delicate corals colonizing the ocean floor, fishing vessels pulling nets through the water column, and shipping vessels transporting goods from port to port. Even physical characteristics are highly variable, whether vertically with depth or horizontally with currents and weather patterns. Taken together, this complexity necessitates a planning approach that seeks compatibilities among uses and resources (as opposed to zoning, which often discreetly separates them).

oceanuses-sm(1) New York’s offshore planning area (NYDOS). (2) Scientific exploration of Northeast U.S. Canyons (NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program). (3) Maritime industry (NYDOS). (4) New York Community Conversations (NYDOS). (5) Gulls off the coast of New York (NEFSC/NOAA Northeast Fisheries Observer Program). (6) Deep-sea corals (NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program). (7) North Atlantic Right Whales (NOAA).

NYDOS is developing a collaborative framework to proactively document and analyze existing uses and resources within this busy, complex, public place. Rather than conduct costly field studies of the entire area, NYDOS relies on the iterative aggregation and analysis of existing datasets to better understand the spatial and temporal distribution of ocean uses and resources. Partnerships are critical to this innovative process. Staff collaborated with federal, regional, state, local, and public stakeholders to synthesize, analyze, and translate extensive (and often disparate) datasets. For example, NYDOS organized a series of participatory mapping events with Long Island residents to better understand the type and location of recreational ocean uses — from surfing to wildlife viewing. This information is included in the New York Offshore Atlantic Ocean Study released in July.

Over the course of the next few months, NYDOS will further investigate the potential compatibility of offshore wind projects with ocean uses and resources throughout the development lifecycle — from site surveys to decommissioning. These “compatibility analyses” are critical to ensuring the success of future wind energy projects, as well as the continued viability of the ocean economy and the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Liz Podowski is a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow working with the New York Department of State in the Office of Planning and Development. She received an MLA from the University of Oregon in June 2013.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Transportation Discrimination and a Call to Change

By Dayton Crites, 2013 University Olmsted Scholar

In the last decade, the number of Americans choosing to pedal to work on a bicycle has risen by 61.6%. For a variety of reasons, our transportation options and desires are shifting. Yet as more Americans find reasons to abandon the car as their primary mode of transportation, they find themselves in a built environment that is ill suited to their choice.

Take my town of Austin Texas, which is renowned for its progressive attitude and recent growth in bicycle and pedestrian related infrastructure. Kudos to the city leaders for building a bicycle and pedestrian bridge spanning Lady Bird Lake and for significantly expanding the central bicycle network in recent years. Yet when one third of all 2012 traffic fatalities within Austin city limits involve a pedestrain or cyclist, and pedestrian and cyclists form approximately 2% of Austin road users, the ability of our designs to protect anyone who isn’t driving a car seems fundamentally flawed.

bike-laneThose that do not drive a car are not limited to the wild bicycle messenger and sweating triathlete riding through traffic — over 9% of American households do not even own a car. The official Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE) tests our ability as landscape architects to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those who will occupy our designs. If that is the true test of a professional landscape architect, our profession must begin to do more than just put bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks in our sections, plans, and renderings. We need to protect all road users and provide them a safe route to their destination.

Sometimes a bicycle lane or path isn’t enough. Austin’s 4th Street carries a separated pathway built west of and underneath I-35, Texas’ fourth most congested highway, which divides east from west Austin. As one approaches the highway, the two lane pathway dissolves into a faded crosswalk generally ignored by three lanes of 55 mph traffic. The cars have no requirement to stop, and it is up to the cyclist or pedestrian to gauge their movement and dart across the road. The only safety warnings afforded these travelers is the yellow diamond sign emblazoned with a bicycle silhouette, similar to the protection afforded deer on mountain roads. The signs indicate to drivers that unfortunately, there are unpredictable creatures — be it deer or cyclists — crossing the road, and drivers should try to avoid hitting one.

As designers of the built world, we have a responsibility to our profession and the future inhabitants of our landscapes to design places that take into account the needs of all users, and do not place convenience of vehicular transport over human health and safety.  It is clear that providing equal access for all road users is a complex problem that is not easily solved, but it does not mean we should ignore it, or that it cannot be solved.

Before the advent of the macadam road base, not many people would have thought it feasible that nearly all populated corners of the globe would be connected through a stone-like and resilient web of roadways, allowing personal locomotion across thousands of miles of then-wilderness. It may seem far-fetched, but we can build a better transportation solution. From localized actions like lowering speed limits where pedestrians cross I-35 in Texas, to broad steps like lobbying and advocating for a more balanced transportation budget, we can build a better world, and we must.

Dayton Crites received his MLA from Utah State University in 2013 and now works for Design Workshop in Austin, Texas, where he enjoys a peaceful daily bicycle commute and a collaborative and dynamic office. Professionally, he is working to further Design Workshop’s Legacy Design® processes through advanced GIS analyses and context sensitive designs.

Landscape Performance Research: Monitoring Green Infrastructure in New York City

By Mary Nunn, RLA & Nandan Shetty, NYC Parks Green Infrastructure Unit

New York City is the densest city in America and as a result, largely impervious. The impacts of this are numerous, including combined sewer overflows, flooding, and damage of infrastructure and property. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, the 100-year flood will occur as frequently as every 15 to 35 years in New York by the 2080s. Traditional wastewater infrastructure, such as overflow systems and treatment plants, comes at a high cost both financially and environmentally. In contrast, a green approach to addressing these problems — including green roofs, parkland bioretention systems, stormwater greenstreets, and right-of-way bioswales — supplies a myriad of social, economic, and environmental benefits in addition to managing runoff.

In New York City we are currently constructing hundreds of green infrastructure sites in the city’s most polluted “sewersheds”. The road to implementation remains perhaps one of the most challenging in the country, given the city’s degree of urbanization, physical and political complexity, and aging infrastructure. Given this, we have developed a university partnership model that aligns us with academics who are similarly motivated and interested in understanding these considerable challenges. Together, we undertand that green infrastructure is a new technology with many variables and unknowns. Our joint research challenge is to monitor performance, so that stormwater capture is quantified, cost effectiveness is known, and construction details and designs are constantly improved.

nashville-stormwater-greenstreetOur academic partners at Drexel University have used live tracking to monitor the performance of several constructed sites. At the stormwater greenstreet located on Nashville Boulevard between 116th Avenue and 209th Street in Queens (Nashville), 100% of stormwater runoff entered local catch basins and ultimately the combined sewer system prior to installation in 2011.

Over our 2012 monitoring season (April - November), we found that 21 out of 24 storm events were 100% retained within the site. During only three storm events, ponding inside the greenstreet caused brief overflows to the local catch basin. On an annual basis, the site’s performance suggests 74% - 86% retention of all rainfall over its catchment area, dependent upon annual precipitation variations. Furthermore, our data suggests that the Nashville site can retain 100% of the flow directed to it during all storms with less than 1.6 inches of rainfall.

In addition, Nashville was closely monitored during both Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, and it captured much more stormwater runoff than anticipated. Although the site was sized for a 5:1 ratio of catchment area to planting area, during Superstorm Sandy, inflow from the street was approximately 31 times direct precipitation on the site. Given the location of the site at a low point of the neighborhood, the increased ratio most likely occurred due to clogged drainage upslope. In total, approximately 40,000 gallons of water deposited by Superstorm Sandy either infiltrated into the site or evaporated.

We know that green infrastructure works, but there is much more to be gained by fostering a constant university partnership, especially given the scale of investment in these systems. A “design - build - research” feedback loop is requisite to monitor and learn how we can continue to improve performance-based green space.

Mary Nunn, RLA is a Landscape Architect with the NYC Parks Green Infrastructure Unit. At Parks, she has worked on a variety of projects citywide with an emphasis on sustainable design and stormwater management. Currently, she is responsible for the project management and design of green infrastructure systems in the Bronx River and Hutchinson River sewersheds.

Nandan Shetty is a PhD candidate at Columbia University, and has been working at NYC Parks Green Infrastructure Unit since 2008.  Nandan received a MS from Columbia University in Civil Engineering in 2013 and a BE from Dartmouth College in Environmental Engineering in 2008.