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2012 National Olmsted Scholar and Finalists

jackohly500x700Jack Ohly, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, was selected as the 2012 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $25,000 award. Jack will receive a Master of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning degree in May and plans to use the award to build on his previous work in agroforestry and community development in Northeastern Brazil to develop a set of regionally appropriate models for more ecologically and culturally vibrant public space.

Also honored are this year’s four National Olmsted Scholar Finalists, who each receive a $1,000 award:

  • Marin Braco, State University of New York
  • Tina Chee, University of Southern California
  • Tera Hatfield, University of Washington
  • Fadi Masoud, Harvard University

An independent jury of leaders in the landscape architecture profession selected the winner and finalists from a group of 46 graduate and undergraduate students who were nominated by their faculty for being exceptional student leaders. These top students earned the designation of 2012 University Olmsted Scholars and join the growing community of 175 past and present Olmsted Scholars.

The 2012 jury members were: Lucinda Sanders, FASLA, President, LAF Board of Directors and CEO, OLIN; Tom Tavella, FASLA, President-Elect, ASLA and Director of Design, Fuss&O’Neill; Joseph Lalli, FASLA, President and CEO, EDSA; Douglas Reed, FASLA, Principal, Reed Hilderbrand; Joseph Ragsdale, ASLA, FAAR, Interim Department Head and Associate Professor, Cal Poly Pomona; Brad McKee, Editor-in-Chief, Landscape Architecture Magazine; and Kate Tooke, 2011 National Olmsted Scholar and Design Associate at Dodson & Flinker Associates.

Now in its fifth year, the Olmsted Scholars Program is the premier national award and recognition program for landscape architecture students. Past National Olmsted Scholars include Andrea Gaffney from the University of California, Berkeley (2008), David Malda from the University of Virginia (2009), Emily Vogler from the University of Pennsylvania (2010), and Kate Tooke from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2011).

Olmsted Scholar Events in San Diego

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From Oct 30 to Nov 1, LAF held a series of events in San Diego to meet and honor the 2011 Olmsted Scholars. Fourteen of this year’s 40 Olmsted Scholars attended, with National Olmsted Scholar Kate Tooke participating remotely via Skype following the recent birth of her daughter.

The events culminated with LAF’s 26th Annual Benefit, where the Olmsted Scholars were recognized during a special ceremony. Outgoing LAF Board President Kathy Garcia presented certificates to each scholar and said, “The future is in great hands with the caliper of these landscape architectural students. They are so inspiring!”

LAF staff, Board Members, and program sponsors had the opportunity to meet and interact with the Olmsted Scholars beforehand during a special luncheon. “It is always so energizing to meet these future leaders of the profession,” remarked LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch. “I was amazed at the variety of backgrounds and experiences that this group brings to landscape architecture — everything from farming to landscape history to cooking.”

Following the luncheon, the scholars participated in a brainstorming and strategy session on how to add value and further build the community of Olmsted Scholars, who now number 130 as the program enters its fifth year. Many of the Olmsted Scholars also came by the LAF booth in the ASLA Expo Hall to share their backgrounds and impressions on camera. The footage will be used to produce a video on the 2011 Olmsted Scholars for LAF’s Conversations with Leaders in Landscape series.

Photos from the Benefit and other events can be found in the photographer’s Picture Gallery or LAF’s Flickr Photostream.

Since 2008, the Olmsted Scholars Program has recognized and supported faculty-nominated students with exceptional leadership potential from each accredited university. For 2012, LAF is planning a number of events for all Olmsted Scholars past and present to mark the 5th-year anniversary of the program. Stay tuned!

National Olmsted Scholar Receives $25,000 Prize

It has been an exciting year for 2011 National Olmsted Scholar Kate Tooke, who received her Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May. The latest cause for congratulations? The birth of her daughter, Tessa on October 1!

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Because Kate will not be able to attend this year’s Olmsted Scholar events in San Diego, LAF Board member Mark Dawson, FASLA met with her closer to home to present her with the $25,000 award.

Elizabeth Brabec, JD, ASLA Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst will represent Kate during the Olmsted Scholar ceremony at the LAF Annual Benefit on Oct 30, and Kate hopes hopes to participate in the other activities remotely via Skype.

We wish Kate and her family all the best!

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Schoolyard Reform as Urban Greening

by Kate Tooke, 2011 National Olmsted Scholar

Nationwide approximately one-third of all school-age children attend urban public schools. For the most part the campuses of these schools mirror their surrounding city environments: high density neighborhoods mean that schools serving large student bodies have been built on small lots where outdoor space is tight and pavement is plentiful. In an era where education reform, public health and environmental issues are all frequent topics of public debate, these small urban schoolyards have come into focus as places of great potential. They are natural community centers where we can not only encourage active recreation, but also create diverse educational landscapes that foster future environmental stewards and contribute to the ecological health of the surrounding city. Across the country and worldwide grassroots groups are slowly transforming urban schoolyards into playgrounds, parks, edible landscapes and outdoor classrooms with widely variant benefits for children, communities and the environment.

01-ktookeschoolyards01My masters thesis research sought to understand the ways in which schoolyard reform movements contribute to urban greening efforts as well as how renovated schoolyards engage urban youth with urban ecology. As a former Boston public school teacher I chose to focus my study on the Boston Schoolyards Initiative (BSI), which has renovated 78 public schoolyards in the city since 1995. I examined 12 elementary schoolyards in depth, comparing pervious surfaces and canopy covers before and after renovations as well as diagramming and quantifying how vegetated spaces overlap with areas for play and learning in the new schoolyards.

01-ktookeschoolyards02The results indicated some valuable increase in canopy cover (after 30 years of projected growth) as a result of BSI renovations, but little to no impact on the amount of pervious surfacing on school sites. In other words, most renovations in the sample group included some tree plantings, but paved areas generally remained paved. In addition, I found that although play and learning space accounts for over 50% (average) of renovated schoolyards, less than 8% of this play and learning space generally overlaps with ecologically-rich vegetated areas (usually a well-designed but fenced outdoor classroom). I divided the schoolyards into 5 typologies based on their quantities and configurations of play versus vegetated space, and my thesis ultimately recommended one schoolyard typology upon which to model future renovations (see figures).

01-ktookeschoolyards03

Informal interviews with BSI staff, schoolyard designers and school personnel revealed concerns about maintenance, vandalism and safety as the primary reasons that more vegetated and sustainable features were not included in most renovations. My thesis identified a pressing need for a culture of small, safe-to-fail experiments as a way to begin addressing these commonly-faced challenges.

As the 2011 National Olmsted Scholar I plan to develop a design toolkit focused on making ecosystem services transparent, educational and sustainable features of urban schoolyards. I will travel to research successful features at targeted schools around the nation as well as engage school communities and schoolyard designers in dialogue about what systems could work. The research will form the basis for practical, replicable plans of small experiments which can be implemented during renovations and monitored by students as part of an integrated academic curriculum. Please stay tuned to this blog series for updates on my research and the developing toolkit.

Kate graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in May with a Masters in Landscape Architecture. She works at Dodson Associates in Ashfield, MA and is currently engaged in designing an outdoor classroom and natural playscape for a new public elementary school in the city of Westfield, MA.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Waste Landscapes

by Caitlin Harrigan, 2010 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

Simultaneously fascinating and repelling, waste landscapes reveal much about the ways in which we order and respond to our environments, and how we will evolve with those environments in the future. I believe that landscape architects have much to offer to the design of waste landscapes. By shaping these typically marginalized places in an ecologically revealing way, we can begin to unveil and recognize the destructive effects of our consumptive lifestyles. But more importantly, we can create spaces that inspire people to contemplate and recognize the value of environmental quality as well as the development of strategies that enhance ecological function. As places that facilitate meaningful human interaction and activity focused on recycling, waste and reuse operations can galvanize a group of people around a common cause. They can help facilitate the paradigm shift from mindless consumption to thoughtful conservation. There is immense potential for waste places to act as local rallying points – spaces that remind us that there is such a thing as enough.

harrigan-image-1-bsmThe Marpole WasteWorks: An eco-revelatory precinct

As a graduate student, I studied the intersection between waste, landscape, and design while working on my thesis, The Marpole WasteWorks. I considered an alternative way of thinking about waste landscapes by viewing garbage as a potential, rather than a problem. I proposed redesigning a municipal waste transfer station into an eco-revelatory materials recovery precinct that diverted refuse into economically-viable reuse and recycling ventures. The benefits of the redesign included increased public awareness regarding consumption and waste generation, reduced waste transport costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced demand for landfill space, and improved site ecological functioning.

harrigan-image-2The Marpole WasteWorks: Elevated walkway / viewing gallery constructed out of repurposed shipping containers

The redesign acted as a publicly visible and accessible model of sustainable municipal infrastructure. It employed eco-revelatory design principles to highlight currently hidden processes as a means of reconnecting community members to solid waste and operational systems. The precinct addressed the need to embrace a paradigm shift – one that champions sustainability principles and reconnects people’s behaviours and actions with their physical consequences.

This past September, I traveled to South America to stretch my legs and explore a continent that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. While in Boliva, I passed through the small town of Uyuni, a once-crucial mineral transport junction high in the Andean plateau. When Bolivia lost its seaports to Chile in the Pacific War, the national railway col- lapsed, and with it, Uyuni’s economic importance.

harrigan-image-3-m81Train graveyard in Uyuni, Bolivia

Locomotives rolled to a final stop in the outskirts of town, where the skeletal remains of hundreds of rusted-out steam engines still sit. Every year, this train graveyard is visited by thousands of tourists, including myself. While I walked the old tracks and explored the corroding train carcasses, the surreal beauty of this entirely unique waste landscape struck me. To think, this place has become both an attraction and amenity by virtue of the waste that sits here.

Waste landscapes come in all forms — landfills, transfer stations, train graveyards — and all possess qualities that can provoke, inspire, and delight.  Their inherent disorder is compelling. As landscape architects, we have the ability to illuminate the significance of the disarray through sensitive design intention. The aesthetic, ecological, and educational opportunities buried within are remarkable. Let’s dig in.

Caitlin Harrigan received her Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of British Columbia in May. She is now back in Canada after four months of traveling in South America and is currently updating her portfolio.