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Olmsted Scholar Feature: Design Communication

by Amanda Jeter, 2010 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

The profession of landscape architecture offers a nuanced understanding of how to design meaningful cultural places that have positive relationships with environmental systems. Unfortunately our ability to convey this vital message to the public is limited by our communication skills. Upon his retirement as editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, William Thompson commented that “overall, writing in this profession is in a very sad state [and landscape architecture] will never reach its full potential in this age of communication with the handicap of bad writing” (The Dirt ASLA, 9/14/2009). To help improve communication, I have directed my research and advocacy focus as a graduate landscape architecture student to help promote writing skills and design communication within the profession.

In 2008, I led a group of fellow first-year graduate MLA students at the University of Colorado Denver to start ROOT—an annual publication highlighting the values and concerns of landscape architecture students and professionals. The 2009 inaugural issue, Unexpected Landscapes, featured an interview with Walter Hood, an article about the efforts of Chilean landscape architects to recover native plant materials, and a piece exploring the trapezoidal green roof installation on David Adjaye’s Denver Museum of Contemporary Art.

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A visit by former ASLA president Angela Dye inspired the 2010 ROOT topic, Resourceful Obstacles. Mark Twain commented that “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over,” and Resourceful Obstacles addresses Colorado water law and its attendant limitations on sustainable water use as well as economic and theoretical obstacles to ingenious design. Resourceful Obstacles features contributions by Michael Leccese (former senior editor of Landscape Architecture magazine), a profile on landscape architect and acclaimed writer Anne Whiston Spirn, and a case study on the effects of Colorado’s water law through the story of Riverside Cemetery.

Visit www.root-land.org to see PDFs of both publications and post comments on our blog. Also on the ROOT website is information on submitting articles to ROOT volume 3, Forgotten Spaces.

Amanda received her Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture this summer while completing an internship at Rocky Mountain National Park. She is currently a lecturer at the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Presidential Management Fellows Program

by Lauren Lesch Marshall, 2010 Olmsted Scholar

In the United States, the Federal Government owns nearly 30% of the land, totaling approximately 650 million acres, and working as a Landscape Architect in the federal realm means having an impact on this huge footprint. Landscape Architects in the federal realm work on a wide breadth of issues, including but not limited to landscape design, construction oversight, project planning, land use planning, sustainable recreation planning, ecological restoration planning and implementation, and national program management and coordination.

It was this breadth of opportunity that drew me to federal service, a career pathway I entered through the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program in June of this year. The PMF, which is open to those finishing graduate school, is a competitive program designed to recruit future leaders to public service. It offers accelerated promotion potential and career development through trainings and rotation opportunities where you can “test out” other jobs and parts of the country. Historically the program has not drawn a high number of landscape architects as applicants, but this is a trend I hope to see reverse over the next several years; our ability to reach across disciplines and think holistically makes us ideal national leaders and excellent candidates for the program.

I work out of the Washington Office of the U.S. Forest Service, and my PMF experience thus far has included engagement in a variety of national policies and programs. I work on primarily collaborative planning issues, including assisting in the management of a restoration program that allocated $10 million dollars to national forests for restoration work this year. I am also helping to enhance the way that national forests work with partners to plan across borders. On my upcoming rotation, which is required by the program and will last from four to six months, I will hopefully be working on a national forest out west. While my supervisor and I are in the early planning stage for this opportunity, I hope that my rotation will give me an opportunity to flex my site design muscles through on-the-ground restoration and recreation projects.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in May with a Masters in Landscape Architecture, Lauren became a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C. She works as a part of a team to manage a landscape scale restoration program, enhance open space conservation, and publicize the key role Landscape Architects play in the public realm.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Upcoming Research on Infrastructural Regionalism

by Emily Vogler, 2010 National Olmsted Scholar

21st century America operates in a globalized world where interbasin water transfers, mass human migration, international trade, and invasive species create complex relationships between distant geographies. Increasingly, designers are asked to develop proposals that respond to this global context while acting locally to incorporate current approaches to sustainability and design. The region is increasingly important as an intermediate territory that bridges the global and the local scale and serves as a platform from which to address infrastructural networks that are the organizing frameworks for our cities and rural areas.

As the 2010 National Olmsted Scholar, I will conduct research on infrastructural regionalism. I will use the existing networks of Water, Energy, Industry, Transportation, Culture, and Ecology as starting points from which to investigate five city-regions across the United States. Each of these networks links urban, regional, and global issues and is key to making our cities productive ecosystems nested within a sustainable regional framework. In addition, these networks can provide a foundation for the development of a metric that evaluates sustainability at the regional and site scale. This metric should be both quantitative and qualitative; both experimental and theoretical; and should include aesthetics and humanity.

I will document each region through the plotting of existing networks and flows, photographs, interactive community mapping projects, and transects that originate from points of maximum population density and extend to the rural surroundings. Each regional investigation will culminate in a mobile exhibition that will engage the public in a dialogue on the topic of  “the region” and propose a design agenda that bridges the regional and local scales.

Stay tuned to this blog series for updates on my research, including the regions I have chosen to investigate.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in May with a Masters in Landscape Architecture, Emily began working with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in New York City. She is currently working on the ARC Competition to design a wildlife overpass structure in Vail, Colorado.