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That's a Wrap! LAF Summit Draws over 700

Thank you to all who attended The New Landscape Declaration: A Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future on June 10-11. (And to the 75 presenters and panelists who worked hard to prepare the thought-provoking content!) With 715 attendees coming from as far away as China, Argentina and Australia, the event surpassed all expectations!

eo7i4493-530wLAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch welcomes attendees to the Summit.

Inspired by LAF’s 1966 Declaration of Concern, the Summit featured 25 “Declarations” from key thought leaders and nine thematic panels, taking a hard look at whether the landscape architecture profession has fulfilled its promise and how it can effect change looking forward to the next 50 years.

Overarching themes of humanism, interdependence, and concern regarding climate change ran through most of the declarations and discussions. Other common themes were the increasing importance of cities; how landscape architecture can contribute to managing and preserving vital resources like water, food and biodiversity; the importance of integrating communities into the design process; and how to communicate the value of landscape architecture to the broad public.

eo7i5589-530wAesthetics Panel with Ken Smith, Maria Goula, Chris Reed, Mikyoung Kim, Claude Cormier, and Adam Greenspan

A few highlights from the two days include:

  • James Corner of Field Operations stressed that with continued population growth, cities are the future and will demand new organizational frameworks. Landscape architects are well positioned to lead because they see the city as a kind of dynamic ecosystem and can go further than planners and engineers by striving to embed beauty, desire, and pleasure into the system.
  • Kate Orff of SCAPE declared that she is “interested in making publics, not projects.” She emphasized that landscapes can be a pilot for physical and social change if designers invest in building ecological constituencies and community capacity.
  • Mario Schjetnan of Grupo de Diseño Urbano in Mexico City called landscape architecture to a global perspective, as most of the urban expansion and environmental deterioration is happening in the so-called developing nations.
  • Nina-Marie List of Ryerson University asked what will become of wilderness, wild things, and the wild in man as we continue on this relentless trajectory of global urbanization. She asserted that “E.O. Wilson’s half earth movement is a blunt instrument that needs designers.”
  • Blaine Merker of Gehl Studio emphasized happiness and sustainability as self-reinforcing systems. He advocated for a new mentality of design humanism that fosters human-scale development, local social ties, people-powered mobility, and places for common ground.
lafsummitupenn038-530wThe Summit ended with a toast to the next 50 years.

LAF is synthesizing all of the ideas, discussions, and audience input from the Summit to draft The New Landscape Declaration, which will be released for public comment this fall. (If you have thoughts to share, be sure to leave them here.) Stay tuned!

Photos from the Summit are posted at:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/landscapearchitecturefoundation/collections/72157669772284841/

Video footage from the Summit is posted at: (more clips are being added)
https://vimeo.com/album/4012058

Storify social media summaries are at:
https://storify.com/lafoundation

Can't Attend Our Summit? Add Your Voice to the Conversation

declare-530wOn June 10-11, landscape architects from around the world will gather in Philadelphia to present their big ideas and engage in lively debate about realizing landscape architecture’s potential and effecting real world change. Speakers at the Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future will deliver a series of decisive ‘Declarations’ that respond to LAF’s seminal 1966 Declaration of Concern. On the second day, thematic panels will reflect on the ‘Declarations’ and discuss how landscape architecture can make its vital contribution in the 21st century.

We want your voice to be part of the conversation — even if you are not able to attend the Summit. What do you declare?

How can landscape architecture make its vital contribution to help solve the challenges of our time and the next 50 years?

For inspiration, you can check out this month’s Landscape Architecture Magazine where five of the speakers’ essays are printed and posted online at:
https://landscapearchitecturemagazine.org/2016/05/19/we-declare/

Share your thoughts, make your statement of leadership and ideas, challenge, poeticize, incite — we want to hear from you! #LAFSummit

Why YOU Need to Be at the Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future

On June 10-11 in Philadelphia, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is convening preeminent thinkers and influencers from around the world to set the course for landscape architecture to make its vital contribution in the 21st century. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of this historic event, engage in dialogue, get inspired, and help propel the profession forward!

laf-summit-speakers-600w

Top reasons you should attend The New Landscape Declaration: A Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future:

  • 25 “Declarations” of bold ideas for what landscape architecture can achieve
  • 10 thematic panels about how to effect real world change
  • 0 concurrent sessions – all attendees see every presentation and panel
  • Dedicated breaks for intense conversation with speakers, panelists, and attendees
  • Lunches, snacks, and champagne toast included
  • 14.75 LA CES Professional Development Hours

LAF celebrates 50 years with this historic event. For more information and to register, visit: www.lafoundation.org/summit

Has Landscape Architecture Failed? Reflections on the Occasion of LAF’s 50th Anniversary

By Richard Weller and Billy Fleming, University of Pennsylvania

In 1966, Campbell Miller, Grady Clay, Ian McHarg, Charles Hammond, George Patton and John Simonds marched to the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and declared that an age of environmental crisis was upon us and that the profession of landscape architecture was a key to solving it. Their Declaration of Concern launched, and to this day underpins the workings of, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF).

To mark its 50th anniversary, LAF will hold a summit titled The New Landscape Declaration at the University of Pennsylvania involving over 65 leading landscape architects from around the world. Delegates are being asked to deliver new declarations (manifestos, if you will) about the profession’s future. Drawing upon these statements and the dialogue at the summit, LAF will then redraft the original 1966 Declaration of Concern so that it serves to guide the profession into the 21st century.

On one level, redrafting the declaration is relatively straightforward: it would simply need to stress the twinned global phenomena of climate change and global urbanization — issues that were less well understood in 1966. On another level however, the redrafting of the declaration is profoundly complicated because if it is to be taken seriously, then a prerequisite is to ask why, after 50 years of asserting landscape architecture as “a key” to “solving the environmental crisis” does that crisis continue largely unabated? Seen in this light the declaration can be read as an admission of failure. Consequently, we must ask:

If McHarg and his colleagues were justified in placing such a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of landscape architects, why have we failed so spectacularly to live up to their challenge?

In our defense, we might argue that landscape architecture is a very young and very small profession and an even smaller academy. We can also protest, as many do, that other more established disciplines — such as engineering and architecture — have restrained our rise to environmental leadership. We can argue that the status quo of political decision-making makes it impossible for us to meaningfully scale up our operations and work in the territory where our services are needed most. These justifications (or excuses) all contain aspects of the truth, but we argue that landscape architecture over the last 50 years is less a story of abject failure and more one of a discipline taking the time that has been needed to prepare for a more significant role in this, the 21st century.

From the last 50 years of landscape architecture we have three models of professional identity and scope: the landscape architect as artist (for example, Peter Walker), the landscape architect as regional planner (for example, Ian McHarg), and the landscape architect as urban designer (for example, Charles Waldheim). Rather than see these as competing models cancelling each other out, perhaps what we have really learned from the last 50 years is that each is somewhat incomplete without the other. If however we make a concerted effort to combine these three models, then perhaps we begin to really give credence to the notion of landscape architecture as a uniquely holistic discipline, one especially well-suited to engage with the contemporary landscape of planetary urbanization and climate change.

Considering our historical moment, one is reminded of the incredible optimism with which the moderns announced theirs. In 1920 the great architect Le Corbusier launched his journal L’Esprit Nouveau with the declaration: “There is a new spirit: it is a spirit of construction and synthesis guided by a clear conception … A great epoch has begun.” A mere 46 years later a small group of landscape architects would declare that epoch as one of environmental crisis. And now, precisely 50 years later as we acknowledge their original Declaration of Concern, the International Commission on Stratigraphy is expected to formally announce the dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch: a new geological period defined by the fact that the earth’s systems are now fundamentally and irreversibly altered by human activity.

The philosophical and practical consequences couldn’t be greater: in short, Nature is no longer that ever-providing thing ‘out there’; it is, for better or worse, the world we have created and the world we are creating. The landscape of the Anthropocene is one of permanent ecological crisis. As such, the Anthropocene is overwhelming, but since it is by definition a human creation, the Anthropocene is something we must take responsibility for, something we can design. This doesn’t automatically mean the hyper modernity of geoengineering planetary systems, but it does return us, humbly and critically to McHarg’s concept of stewardship.

This is now landscape architecture’s century —  all the major issues of the times are at root about how we relate to land — and if by the end of it we are still small, weak and ineffectual, and if the world is a worse place than it is now, then we will only have ourselves to blame.

Richard Weller is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He serves on the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Board of Directors. Billy Fleming is a Doctoral Fellow in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.