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Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Receives LAF Medal


Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, O.C., O.B.C., FCSLA, FASLA, BCSLA is the 2017 recipient of the LAF Medal, the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s highest honor. The award is conveyed to a landscape architect for distinguished work over a career in applying the principles of sustainability to landscapes.

On October 20 at LAF’s 32nd Annual Benefit in Los Angeles, longtime friend and colleague Virginia Burt accepted the award on Cornelia’s behalf. The record crowd of over 600 supporters watched in rapt attention as a video acceptance speech from Cornelia was played. That video is posted here.

“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction. This award celebrates all that is possible in our profession. Thank you so much for honoring my commitment to the land and to this precious planet.”

The LAF Medal is the latest of the many honors that Cornelia has received over a career that spans seven decades.These include the Governor General’s Medal in Landscape Architecture from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, the ASLA Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award from the International Federation of Landscape Architects, appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and honorary degrees from a number of Canadian and U.S. universities.

Olmsted Scholar Events in Los Angeles


To recognize and build community among our 2017 Olmsted Scholars, LAF held a series of events in Los Angeles on October 19-20. Of this year’s 81 Olmsted Scholars, 38 traveled from across the U.S. and Canada (and from as far away as Hong Kong!) to participate. The Olmsted Scholars Program honors students who are nominated by their faculty for demonstrating exceptional leadership potential and using their ideas, influence, communication, and service to advance sustainable design and foster human and societal benefits.

The events kicked off with the Olmsted Scholars Luncheon where the scholars had the opportunity to meet each other, the LAF Board of Directors, Board Emeriti, staff, and program sponsors. The luncheon included the award certificate ceremony and short presentations from 2017 National Olmsted Scholars David de la Cruz (MLA, University of Washington) and Lauren Delbridge (MLA, Virginia Tech).

David, winner of the $25,000 graduate prize, discussed his interest and work on environmental justice issues in his home community in South Central Los Angeles. David will work collaboratively with educators, school administrators, and students at under-resourced high schools to “build youth leadership around urban environmental issues in working-class communities and communities of color.” Lauren, winner of the $15,000 undergraduate prize, shared her thesis project and investigations into the complex nature of coal ash ponds where she is utilizing landscape architecture to develop remediation strategies that have the potential to transform these contaminated sites into multi-functioning places for human interaction, education, and experience.

Following the luncheon, the Olmsted Scholars participated in small group discussions facilitated by LAF Board Emeritus members and special guest 2011 Olmsted Scholar Billy Fleming, Research Coordinator at PennDesign’s The McHarg Center. Each shared their path, aspirations for the profession, and their own personal and professional development goals as they transition from school to professional lives and communities.


The day concluded with a visit to Studio-MLA’s new office space on an industrial site overlooking the Los Angeles River. Thank you to LAF Board member Mia Lehrer and to Studio-MLA Senior Associates Claire Latane and Kush Parekh for hosting and sharing your inspirational and impactful work in Los Angeles.

The activities culminated the following evening with LAF’s 32nd Annual Benefit in the historic ticket concourse of Los Angeles’ Union Station. The Olmsted Scholars were among the over 600 attendees who gathered to catch up with friends and colleagues and support LAF. The scholars were recognized as part of the program, which featured the launch of LAF’s The New Landscape Declaration book and recognition of 2017 LAF Medal recipient Cornelia Hahn Oberlander.


Thank you to the generous Olmsted Scholars Program sponsors whose support makes the financial awards and events like these possible. Lead Sponsor: The Toro Company; Annual Sponsors: EDSA, HOK, OLIN, Sasaki Associates, IRONSMITH, LandDesign, Thomas C. and Gerry D. Donnelly, Steven G. King, FASLA, and Bill Main, Hon. ASLA; Promotion Partner: American Society of Landscape Architects.

More photos from this year’s Olmsted Scholars Luncheon and LAF’s 32nd Annual Benefit can be found on LAF’s Flickr Photostream.

LAF at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting

If you’ll be in Los Angles for the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO, we hope you’ll join us for these fun and thought-provoking events. LAF will participate in three education sessions, host our popular Annual Benefit at the historic Union Station, and launch a new book featuring the “Declarations” and discussion from our landmark Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future. We hope to see you!

Endless Questions: The Heart of Research (FRI-A08)
Fri, Oct 20, 8:30-10am
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 503
This Education Session with Cynthia Dehlavi of the Office of James Burnett, Josiah Cain of Sherwood Design Engineers, and Jason Long of OMA, and LAF’s Heather Whitlow features presentations and discussion on the what, why, and how of forming and running a research entity within a professional design practice.

In Pursuit of Big Ideas: Time-out for Research, Innovation, and Thought Leadership (FRI-B10)
Fri, Oct 20, 10:30am-12pm
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 503
In this Education Session, LAF’s Jennifer Low, Mark Robbins of the American Academy in Rome, John Peterson of Harvard GSD’s Loeb Fellowship, and Anatole Tchikine of Dumbarton Oaks discuss research and fellowship opportunities that allow landscape architects to develop and explore new ideas and research that can inform design practice.

LAF 32nd Annual Benefit 2017-annual-benefit-250x220
Fri, Oct 20, 7:00-10:30pm
Union Station - Historic Ticket Concourse (*Registration Required)

Join top designers and leaders from practice, academia, and industry for a lively evening with great food and drink in this iconic venue. Proceeds support LAF’s research, scholarships, and leadership initiatives.

LAF Booth in ASLA Expo Hall (#1663) 
Sat-Sun, Oct 21-22, 9:00am-6:00pm
Los Angeles Convention Center
Stop by our booth for book release festivities, including giveaways and author receptions 4:30-6pm both days.

The New Landscape Declaration at ASLA Bookstore nld-book-250x220
Sat-Sun, Oct 21-22, 9:00am-6:00pm
Los Angeles Convention Center
The New Landscape Declaration: A 21st Century Call to Action features 32 essays and reflections from LAF’s unprecedented 2016 Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future. The book launches at the ASLA bookstore, and LAF CEO Barbara Deutsch and Past-President Kona Gray will be on-hand to discuss on Sunday 9:30-11am.

Alt-Practice Outside the LA Studio: Exploring the Breadth of the Profession (MON-C07)
Mon, Oct 23, 1:30-3:30pm
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 152
In this Education Session, LAF’s Barbara Deutsch, Betsy Anderson of the National Park Service, Sean Batty of Portland’s TriMet, and Pamela Galera of the City of Anaheim discuss careers beyond the private design firm where landscape architects can have powerful impact.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Urban Environmental Education in South Central Los Angeles

By David del la Cruz, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar


“¿Crees que llenemos el camion?” (Do you think we will fill up the bus?) my mom eagerly asks the night before we take a hike to Temescal Canyon.

Saturday morning we wake up at dawn, dew still on cars. I pick up my nephews and meet my mother at the Slauson Recreation Center. Of course we filled up the bus.

When I show up, the bus driver shares her excitement on having a bus full of people. She is ready to get moving on our short family hike on this breezy Los Angeles morning. We finally get off the 10-E freeway and get onto the Pacific Coast Highway. A foggy Pacific Ocean vista leaves the kids in the bus in awe.

This family hike took my neighbors to the Santa Monica Mountains, far from the center of the city. As we pull up to the park for the hike, the last person trickles out, and a few people scream out, “Foto del grupo!” (Group photo!) I go ahead and take the picture of our large group. We are met by Coral, Park Ranger at the Santa Monica Mountains, and Lily, our Trail Lead. They share park and trail etiquette with us before we start the hike.

This initial trip was a great welcome back to Los Angeles after my 3 years at the University of Washington where I finished my coursework in landscape architecture.

In my last year in school, I organized a range of events in collaboration with organizers in South Central Los Angeles — from the Dreamers of South Central Los Angeles to helping South Central Arts build a base of membership along with PAINT L.A. Adding to these fruitful collaborations, this hiking trip was a collaboration with the Resident Advisory Council of the Pueblo del Rio Housing Projects. My mother is a part of the Resident Advisory Council, and she is also a respected community leader.

I look up to her and the commitments she holds with her community — from the church to the day-to-day house visits she makes to her neighbors, talking about health, checking in with and offering consejos (counseling) to her community. Her organic leadership is part of what has shaped my own ethic in leadership, along with community organizations such as Communities for A Better Environment and East Yard Communities for a Better Environment. These organizations provided me a grounding in the environmental justice movement in Los Angeles.

I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, a large community south of downtown that has swaths of vacant land, polluted lots, and, most importantly, community members with exceptional abilities in finding ways to continue living under these conditions.

I am commited to environmental justice, and one of the ways this commitment can unfold is by exploring environmental education in the community that raised me. There are countless organizations throughout Los Angeles promoting environmental education by taking trips like the family hike I helped organize with community leaders and the National Park Service out of the Santa Monica Mountains. Nonetheless, I am interested in how environmental education takes on the issues of urban areas in working-class communities and communities of color.

Landscape architecture has given me the ability to think through urban environmental education and the ways that site design and community engagement can tackle issues of pollution at the broader level, and inclusion at the local level. I aim to use the skills of this profession to expose younger generations throughout my community to see how landscape architecture may be able to weave together community engagement with something as technical as phytoremediation.

My 2017 National Olmsted Scholar award will be used to look at these different aspects of South Central Los Angeles to work through addressing the legacies of environmental racism and historic disinvestment that impact this largely black and brown community. By understanding the impact that urban environmental education might have, working with youth and within the K-12 education system will help in building future leaders in the environmental field.

I plan to work closely with Los Angeles Unified School District and organizations committed to expanding open and green space in the region to continue building youth leadership around urban environmental issues in working-class communities and communities of color. Some of the leading organizations committed to this vision include From Lots to Spots, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, Pacoima Beautiful, among others.

The guiding research question for my Olmsted Scholar project is: How can vacant land in Los Angeles temporarily be used to support an urban environmental education ethic for high school youth?

David de la Cruz, a first generation student in higher-education, received a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington in June. He was selected as LAF’s 2017 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $25,000 graduate prize.

LAF Olmsted Scholars: Ready to Act on the New Landscape Declaration, Part 3

Inspired by LAF’s 2016 Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future and the New Landscape Declaration, a group of ten Olmsted Scholars developed their own response focused on moving forward with deliberate actions to meet the ambitions set forth in the Declaration’s four calls to action.

Through a series of blog posts, we are showcasing their action plans. We recently introduced Action 1 and Action 2, and this week we present Action 3:

We will work to raise awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contribution.



  • Use clear, relatable language in public presentations. Do not use jargon.
  • Foster citizen urbanists and community partners.
  • Promote the profession via social media. 
  • Educate the public on the benefits of working with landscape architects.
  • Evaluate current communication strategies and explore non-traditional and contemporary communication methods.


  • Partner with branding/marketing professionals to create a campaign to position the landscape architectural design process as relatable and relevant to the public.
  • Increase opportunities for idea competitions or conferences that foreground multi-functional, “artful and performative” landscapes to stimulate fresh solutions to local and global issues and gain visibility for the profession.
  • Seek short-term and alternative projects for their ability to catalyze public conversation, stimulate new ideas and teach the profession how to fail forward.

You can download a PDF copy of the full The Olmsted Scholar Agenda: from Declaration to Action, which includes all four action plans and corresponding precedents for reference and inspiration. The document is a framework for a more detailed action strategy that can be used to inspire, direct, and hold us all accountable. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to be the beginning of a larger dialogue to address the concerns and hopes stated in the New Landscape Declaration.

Stay tuned later this month for our final post in this series on Action 4: “We will work to support research and champion new practices that result in design innovation and policy transformation.”