News & Events

LAF News

Stay up to date on LAF!

Subscribe to RSS Feed

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.

osp-declare-action-3-530w

ACT NOW

  • 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.

PLAN NOW

  • 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.”

LAF Olmsted Scholars: Ready to Act on the New Landscape Declaration, Part 2

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. Earlier this month we introduced Action 1 and this week we present Action 2:

We will work to cultivate a bold culture of inclusive leadership, advocacy and activism in our ranks.

osp-declare-action-2-530w

ACT NOW

  • Join local and global advocacy boards, governmental committees, and allied professional organizations.
  • Encourage students and emerging professionals to seek out alternative career paths in government, non-profit, advocacy, activism, research, health industries, technology, agribusiness, etc.
  • Pursue work or build relationships with clients who focus attention on marginalized communities, endangered ecosystems, and neglected places. 

PLAN NOW

  • Seek funding sources and structures for design activism and advocacy projects.
  • Make community engagement and public service a requirement for ASLA membership and/or CEUs for licensure.           
  • Expand local and state advocacy programs to encourage ecological development and reuse opportunities in urban areas while also protecting vital ecosystems and supporting underserved rural landscapes
  • Support local and national policies and programs that strengthen landscape architecture’s professional value.

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 next week for a post on Action 3: “We will work to raise awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contribution.”

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

After the close of LAF’s 2016 Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future, a group of Olmsted Scholars in attendance gathered over beer and pizza to rehash an intense 2 days of presentations and panel discussions on the demands and ambitions of the profession for the next 50 years.

Inspired by the Summit and the New Landscape Declaration, 10 of these Olmsted Scholars continued to converse through conference calls and Google documents to produce 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 over the next few weeks, we will showcase their action plans. We begin with Action1:

We will work to strengthen and diversify our global capacity as a profession.
osp-declare-action-1-530w-zp1

ACT NOW

  • Join or volunteer with professional organizations that nourish diversity.
  • Financially sponsor and volunteer for landscape architecture student career discovery programs for K-12.
  • Financially sponsor and volunteer for projects in communities in-need.
  • Seek short-term and alternative projects for their ability to catalyze public conversation, stimulate new ideas and teach the profession how to fail forward.

PLAN NOW

  • Champion diverse leadership and client-bases within workplaces.

  • Support entrepreneurial career paths within the profession and encourage transdisciplinary collaboration beyond the design professions to break into new markets and push innovation.
  • Seek funding sources for interdisciplinary, global reach and alternative project types.
  • Evaluate existing project delivery methods and test new platforms.

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 next week for a post on Action 2: “We will work to cultivate a bold culture of inclusive leadership, advocacy and activism in our ranks.”

We are the next generation and are ready to act.

The Olmsted Scholars who contributed to this effort are: Leann Andrews (2013 National Olmsted Scholar), Andrew Bailey (2014 Olmsted Scholar), Zach Barker (2013 Olmsted Scholar Finalist), Marin Braco (2012 Olmsted Scholar Finalist), Nina Chase (2009 Olmsted Scholar), Kim Dietzel (2015 Olmsted Scholar), Karl Krause (2008 Olmsted Scholar), Tim Mollette-Parks (2009 Olmsted Scholar), Andrew Sargeant (2016 Olmsted Scholar), and Nate Wooten (2016 Olmsted Scholar).

LAF’s Olmsted Scholars Program recognizes and supports landscape architecture students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication, service, and leadership to advance sustainable design and foster human and societal benefits.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Race, Remembrance, and Landscape in Greenwood Cemetery

By Azzurra Cox, 2016 National Olmsted Scholar

greenwood01This past September I attended Antigone in Ferguson, a dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Antigone staged at Normandy High School in St. Louis County. Produced by the NYC-based theater group Outside the Wire, it brought the classical story of justice, loyalty, and redemption to a community that has been grappling with such questions — most publically in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in June 2014. Michael Brown was shot by a police officer a mere eight days after graduating from Normandy High School. His body, not unlike Antigone’s brother’s, was left in the harsh sunlight for hours. As audience members reacted to the stunning production with tears, praise, and probing questions, I couldn’t help but wonder in which auditorium seat Brown had last sat, how he had clapped, what had moved him. For an afternoon, that space became a living memorial.

What brought me to St. Louis was another site of memory just one mile away from that auditorium, in Hillsdale. Established in 1874 as the first non-denominational African-American commercial cemetery in the St. Louis area, Greenwood Cemetery is a unique cultural landscape and at the core of my research as a National Olmsted Scholar. Its 32 rolling acres house 6,000 marked graves, and up to 50,000 burials, including Dred Scott’s widow, Harriet Robinson Scott, and other notable figures. As one of the region’s late-period rural cemeteries, Greenwood speaks to both the typological and civic traditions of the picturesque cemetery; most poignantly, it embodies the right to be remembered for those who had to fight for that right. Although I haven’t yet been able to trace Greenwood’s original designer, the plan appears to reference Paris’ iconic Père Lachaise Cemetery, which inspired the notion of the American rural cemetery as a democratic space. Indeed, the people buried at Greenwood represent the full socioeconomic spectrum of the African American community, from artists to veterans, from civil rights leaders to school teachers. Greenwood historian and advocate Etta Daniels is fond of saying that the site embodies an entire historical narrative of black St. Louis.

That history is too often unspoken. A vibrant community space through the Jim Crow era, upon de juro desegregation Greenwood saw a sharp decline in use, after which divestment and rising poverty engulfed both it and the surrounding community. Today, Greenwood appears as an expanse of green surrounded by rows of modest homes, punctuated by vacant lots and boarded-up windows. Hillsdale is 96% African-American, a demographic typical of some of St. Louis’ northern suburbs. Its estimated median household income is less than half of Missouri’s median income. Ferguson, the birth of #BlackLivesMatter, lies a mere five miles away. It’s within this context that 32 acres of a vital place of African-American memory have been practically erased from the map.

Today a non-profit citizens’ group, the Greenwood Cemetery Preservation Association, is advocating for its clearing and restoration. My goal is to continue working with Association President Raphael Morris, Etta Daniels, Shelley Staples Morris, and other members to reimagine Greenwood as a vibrant, layered public space — one that blurs the distinction between cemetery, park, and museum. Last summer, I laid the groundwork for this long-term project by investigating and documenting the site’s cultural and ecological performance, learning from and getting to know Association members and other stakeholders to understand their desires for the site, and identifying ways in which I can lend my support and expertise. As someone who, unlike many Association members, does not have direct emotional and generational ties to the site, I see my role as an advocate above all.

greenwood02

No amount of prior research could have prepared me for the spatial power of Greenwood. In the heavy St. Louis summer, the site was bursting with life. The canopy in the northern elevated portion (what I call the Forest) enveloped rudimentary paths in birdsong. Along the central axis (the Field), many hours of volunteer work had carved clear sightlines across a shallow valley. Many of the site’s urban borders (the Edge) were characterized by fencing or neglect as residents turn their back on the site. And almost everywhere, gravestones appeared in various states of reveal. Throughout this range of spatial typologies, decades of neglect enabled unusually high species diversity.

greenwood03bThe site — and the possibility of its revival — prompts questions about the narrative and political agency of place and the role of design on sensitive, sacred ground. A site of cultural memory has essentially been erased by its very material. But where we see biomass, we too often forget design. The state of Greenwood today is just as much a product of carefully designed systems — in this case, racial segregation and discrimination, as well as local and national political decisions — as were Olmsted’s parks. Yet while the tangled mass of vegetation does naturalize the structural violence embodied in the site, it is also a living testimony. Greenwood’s many histories are both covered and spoken by the landscape. So, how can design introduce new social life into a space with so much life and history already rooted into its soil? How might the site be reinterpreted as a hybrid public landscape? To what extent can landscape, as both medium and tradition, help render visible Greenwood’s many legacies? 

These are the questions I continue to ask in this work. The next step is to work with Raphael and the Association to design a multi-phase implementation plan for the future of Greenwood. Ultimately, we want to leverage the site’s layered cultural, ecological, and historical legacies into a resource for the immediate community, the metropolitan region, and beyond. The opportunity for this project to spark that feedback cycle — whether by engaging Normandy High School, addressing conditions of vacancy in Hillsdale, or creating employment opportunities — is both exciting and very daunting. Fundraising is also core to the project, with the goal of establishing a perpetual care fund to secure Greenwood’s future. And this may well be a pivotal moment, as awareness of the cultural and political significance of neglected African-American cemeteries is growing near and far. The future of Greenwood Cemetery is about a landscape, but it’s fundamentally a matter of cultural heritage and racial justice — what is past and what is yet to come.

Azzurra Cox received a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is currently working at GGN in Seattle. Azzurra first learned of Greenwood Cemetery thanks to Seth Freed Wessler, who reported and wrote a powerful piece on the site in the aftermath of Ferguson.

Olmsted Scholars in New Orleans

2016-olmsted-scholars-01-530w

To honor our 2016 Olmsted Scholars, LAF held a series of events in New Orleans on October 20-21. Forty of this year’s 76 Olmsted Scholars traveled from across the U.S. and Canada, with some coming from as far as Peru and Portugal to participate. Top landscape architecture students are nominated to the Olmsted Scholars Program by their faculty for demonstrating exceptional leadership potential.

The Olmsted Scholars Luncheon kicked off the first days’ events, giving the scholars the opportunity to meet each other, the LAF Board of Directors, Board Emeriti, staff, and program sponsors. The luncheon program included an certificate ceremony and a short presentation from 2010 National Olmsted Scholar Emily Vogler (Assistant Professor, Rhode Island School of Design) who discussed the her latest research and prototyping efforts to both support and reveal the process of coastal restoration within the urban context. Presentations from our 2016 National Olmsted Scholars, Azzurra Cox (MLA, Harvard Graduate School of Design) and Casey Howard (BLA, University of Oregon), concluded the program.

Azzurra, winner of the $25,000 graduate prize, presented her research and on-going work to develop a vision for the revival of Greenwood Cemetery, an endangered heritage landscape that was the first non‚Äźdenominational commercial cemetery for African Americans in the St. Louis area. Casey, winner of the $15,000 undergraduate prize, shared her first-place team project for the 2015 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge focused on food systems. Inspired by existing drainage technology used in agriculture, Casey and team developed a concept for a living filtration system to restore soil health, protect watersheds, and preserve productive lands.

2016-olmsted-scholars-03-530w

Following the luncheon, the scholars participated in a facilitated Leadership Conversation with LAF Board Emeritius members, discussing how to continue to pursue their passions, stay accountable, and keep motivated as they transition from school to the workforce. Through facilitated calls over the course of the next year, these conversations will continue allowing the scholars to share goals, stories and experiences with a network of peers. These dialogues are part of LAF’s ongoing effort to build leadership capacity and strengthen the community of the now 468 Olmsted Scholars named since 2008.

To round out the day, the 2016 Olmsted Scholars ventured across town for an office visit at Spackman Mossop and Michaels, an international landscape architecture and urban design firm with offices in both Sydney, Australia and New Orleans. The scholars met with firm Directors Elizabeth Mossop and Wes Michaels to discuss some of their current projects in vacant land management, stormwater design, and urban revitalization in New Orleans, Detroit, and Chattanooga.

2016-olmsted-scholars-02-530w

The events culminated with LAF’s 31st Annual Benefit at the historic Civic Theatre in New Orleans. Olmsted Scholars mixed and mingled with their peers and over 500 other Benefit attendees. In addition to recognizing the scholars, the program featured the public unveiling of the  New Landscape Declaration with a live reading by outgoing LAF President, Kona Gray. Guests also enjoyed live music from New Orleans jazz legend Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers.

Thank you to the generous Olmsted Scholars Program sponsors whose support makes the financial awards and events like these possible. Photos from this year’s Olmsted Scholars Luncheon and LAF’s 31st Annual Benefit can be found on LAF’s Flickr Photostream.