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A Transnational Perspective on Cultural Landscapes

cchung-photo-350x530w

Like Joe himself, Christine Chung, the 2018 recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, places great value on service to her community and to the profession. Christine is a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Pennsylvania with an interest in urbanism and cultural landscapes. Christine has lived all over the world. She grew up in Auckland, Seoul, and Toronto and brings a transnational perspective to her work. As a landscape architect, she leverages the interdisciplinary nature of the discipline to explore how social and ecological movements can be supported through design and how historical preservation can safeguard the intangible qualities of communities’ cultures.

Living and working in Vancouver as an undergraduate, Christine became familiar with the rhythms of the city’s Chinatown. Though she had daily conversations and interactions with neighborhood residents and spaces, she had “a feeling that there was a city that we know, and then there was a city that we had forgotten, inhabited by those we had forgotten.” Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada, formed in the history of racism and segregation. Today, the neighborhood has been the subject of much debate as development and revitalization plans push its low-income, senior Chinese immigrants, First Nations, transients and otherwise marginalized people to the edges of the community. At the same time, the area is losing its cultural heritage; new developments are being welcomed in to attract a younger more affluent crowd as the community’s long term residents have settled in other districts of the Vancouver metropolitan area. The city has been active in protecting the physical manifestations of culture in its historic Chinatown district, but Christine advocates for the city to further acknowledge that there is more to the community than just its landmarks, but both the tangible and intangible cultural values of its people, tradition, and narratives.

In 2012, Christine employed the medium of documentary to bring attention into this crisis of culture. She co-created intangible: Heritage for the Future, a project that portrayed heritage as “not merely physical artefacts, but a fluid and living concept taking the form of oral histories, social practices, and street life in between buildings.” The film advanced the importance of protecting the community’s oldest members and their way of life as gentrification and diminishing spirit of place loomed over Chinatown’s cultural landscape. Doing so would promote not only community health, but a fuller and more productive city future. In 2013, Christine, in partnership with Creative Cultural Collaborations and Reconciliation Canada, co-created a mural depicting the cultural and historic connectivity of the First Nations, Chinese, and Japanese communities that converged in Vancouver’s historic Downtown Eastside.

christine-chung-supplemental-image-530pxChristine collaborating with local artists on the Radius mural

Now through her graduate work, Christine remains committed to demonstrating the capacity of landscape architecture to address issues of disinvestment, economic decentralization, and racial inequality in urban settings. Currently she is in collaboration with a team on a project that focuses on understanding the ongoing urban water crisis and water shutoffs in in the city of Detroit, which will be featured in Architectures of Refusal and  Detroiters’ Spatial Imagination journal of UrbanNext. The project considers how architectural design research can bring critical attention to social issues. According to the accompanying text, the project will be “an exploration of how the forces that are driving Detroit and the management of the water of Detroit are coming together to direct it through a neoliberal market driven logic that suggests that it is dismantling its black and poor neighborhoods.”By applying her professional experience and knowledge gained in the classroom, she aims to facilitate a basis of preventative health for neglected communities.

At PennDesign, Christine will continue to maintain a focus on urbanism and cultural landscapes. With the support of the 2018 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, she will commit greater attention to creative pursuits and social activism, which she believes to be two sides of the same coin. She is intent on expanding the definition of preservation beyond physical landscapes to include sustaining the cultural practices of urban communities.

Looking toward the future, Christine envisions a leadership role for landscape architects to “create momentum for ecological and social movements.”

 

 

Changing Paradigms for Riverfront Development in India

mittal-photo-530wDhara Mittal, a Masters of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Michigan, is the 2017 recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA. Just as Joe valued  international exchange and giving back in service to one’s community and profession, Dhara is linking landscape architecture with advocacy to create a more sustainable future in her native Vadorada, India. By conducting an extensive analysis of a proposed development plan for the Vishwamitri River and introducing potential design alternatives, she’s gearing up to push for big system change.

The Vishwamitri River forms an ecological ‘spine’ in the city of Vadodara, near the concretized and dense urban neighborhood where Dhara grew up. The river is a unique piece of the city’s geological fabric. It functions as a haven for an expanding crocodile population and it has historically served as a resource for the community’s spiritual edification and daily needs. But it is also a site that has suffered gradual neglect and is frequently used as a receptacle for local waste and pollution. “If you go to the city now,” Dhara explains, “you can see that people have completely neglected the river and don’t even venture along it.”

vadodara-vishwamitri-riverAerial view of Vadodara and the Vishwamitri River (Source: Vadodara Municipal Corporation/Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project)

To address these issues, a new master plan for the area has been created through the government-led Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project (VRDP). Though it acknowledges the delicate ecosystem that the river sustains, the plan has received mounting resistance from both residents and stakeholders. Much of that opposition focuses on the engineered approach that fails to adequately address the ecological aspects of the river system. The opposition highlights the absence of critical social and environmental impact assessments and expresses concerns about displacement.

This was the backdrop in 2013 when Dhara started working at the Vadodara-based ecological firm, saa synergies. Staff members collaborated with a group of stakeholders and developed initiatives to create awareness about this missing aspect of the VRDP plan, invested in local mobilization efforts to reach students and small stakeholder groups, and incorporated efforts to petition the government to include better alternatives for the development. Through this immersive work experience, Dhara realized how relevant landscape architecture could be in reimagining more holistic riverfront development strategies. She decided to continue to advance this advocacy work in her masters program by engaging fellow students to take a closer look at the VRDP proposal. “I thought it would be interesting for other people to see how river systems are dealt with in a developing country like India.”

Through a collaborative effort at the University of Michigan, which included students from conservation ecology, environmental policy and planning, public health, and landscape architecture, Dhara and her team produced Vishwamitri: A River and Its Reign. The in-depth report outlines their rigorous analysis of the current VRDP proposal, including their investigation of the river’s ecological boundaries and watersheds, and then suggests more sustainable development alternatives for it.

vishwamitri-riverResidents, domestic buffalos, stray dogs, and trash share space on the riverbank. (Source: Vishwamitri - A River and Its Reign)

This fall, Dhara will make her way back to Vadodara to pursue the project further in collaboration with her team’s client stakeholder group. She will meet with policymakers and government officials, including the mayor, to share the report’s findings and amplify stakeholders’ and residents’ concerns.

Dhara sees this as groundwork to spark a paradigm shift in how India deals with its river systems. “In a city very close to us, [another] riverfront development has become so popular, that it’s almost the prototype that they’re using for all major riverfront development projects in the future,” she states, comparing the government-proposed riverfront design for the Vishwamitri River to the Sabarmati Riverfront Development in Ahmedabad. However, “this way of dealing with rivers is outdated. It’s important for people to see that there are other ways that can be equally generative in terms of economic gain, but that can also be ecologically stable.”

The alternatives that Dhara and her team propose for the Vishwamitri River focus on managing the water quantity and quality, a primary concern. They also consider changing land use relationships, such as a nearby village where the landscape has been deforested to serve agricultural purposes. “If you see [the VRDP] proposal, they deal with the river only within the city of Vadodara and that is a very piecemeal approach,” she explains. “What we’re trying to say is that the river has its own watershed boundaries. When you deal with river systems in an ecological sense, it’s important to look at the ecological boundaries instead of only the administrative ones.”

Along with other stakeholders and designers, Dhara sees incredible potential for the VRDP project to set a precedent. She hopes that it can preserve the river’s unique ecosystem, and that the ethical development of human environments is factored into the outcome. As similar development projects continue to emerge, Dhara is intent on advocating for a more holistic approach in the face of rapid urban development around rivers across India. “If you see large-scale design-related projects — especially river-systems related projects — there’s not much insight into the functioning of systems that is reflected in the design. I want to target and change that.”

Thank You to Our 2017 Scholarship Jurors

2017-scholarships-landing

Each year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation offers over $60,000 in awards through up to 11 different scholarships and fellowships, established by generous sponsors. The winners are chosen through a competitive application and selection process. LAF convenes juries to decide the winners of four awards, and we would like to extend a sincere thank you to this year’s jurors. We appreciate the energy you put in to the process and your commitment to supporting the next generation of designers!

LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA Jury

Cheryl Barton, FASLA, FAAR, LEED AP
Founding Principal
Office of Cheryl Barton

Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, LEED AP
Principal
ParkerRodriguez, Inc

Doug Hoerr, FASLA
CEO and Senior Principal
Hoerr Schaudt

Mia Lehrer, FASLA
President
Mia Lehrer + Associates

Signe Nielsen, FASLA
Principal
MNLA

Gregg Sutton, PLA, ASLA
Principal
EDSA

Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden and Design Jury

Randall W. Mardis, ASLA, PLA
President
Landscape Technologies

Kevin Campion, ASLA
Principal
Campion Hruby

Julieta Sherk, PLA, ASLA
Associate Professor, College of Design
North Carolina State University

Landscape Forms Design for People Scholarship Jury

Scott Rykiel, FASLA, LEED AP
Executive Vice President
Mahan Rykiel Associates

Terry Guen, FASLA
Principal and Founder
Terry Guen Design Associates

Bill Burton, FASLA
Owner
Burton Studio

Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship Jury

Kate Tooke, PLA, ASLA
Senior Associate
Sasaki

Julie Johnson, PLA, ASLA
Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Washington

Sara Schuh, PLA, ASLA
Principal
SALT Design Studio

Scholarship Winner Looks to Advance Ecological Design in Her Native Iran

sanazchamanara

As the first recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, Sanaz Chamanara embodies much of what Joe stood for during his 46-year career as a landscape architect, artist, philanthropist, mentor, and teacher. Sanaz is a young designer with a powerful combination of talent, work ethic, experience, and sense of social purpose that provides her with a strong platform to significantly advance the design of urban landscapes in her native Iran and potentially throughout the Middle East.

Sanaz is pursuing a Masters of Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She holds a degree in Architecture from the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) and a Landscape Architecture graduate degree from Shahid Beheshti University (BSU), where she ranked first in her graduating class.

Sanaz describes the suburb where she grew up in Shiraz, Iran as a “grey neighborhood” — an image that is in stark contrast to a place that was historically known as the “Garden City.” Shiraz is the capitol of Fars Province and one of the oldest cities in southern Iran. Over a century ago, Shiraz was covered by lush gardens, including hundreds of hectares of orchards in Ghasr-Dasht, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. However, many of these gardens and productive landscapes have been destroyed by decades of rapid population growth and private development spurred by increasing land values. The result has been overall environmental decline.

In “Revitalizing Urban Gardens, The Transfer of Development Rights in Shiraz, Iran,” Sanaz and her co-author Amirreza Kazemeini, a graduate student at Qeshm International University, propose that the City make shifts in policy to protect and support productive landscapes and their water resources and to identify more suitable areas for future development and urban growth.

Through this graduate research and her professional experiences in both Shiraz and Tehran, Sanaz came to realize that landscape architecture is still a fairly new field in her country and that its importance is often overlooked. She observed an absence of experts in Iran with an understanding of ecological processes and solutions to combat issues of pollution, drought, and flooding that are plaguing many Iranian cities today. Sanaz has been actively working to fill this void throughout her academic endeavors in landscape architecture.

“I didn’t learn about ecological concepts in my graduate studies in Iran, and that’s why I am here.”

Sanaz just completed her first year at the University of Michigan and is currently researching the application and design of green infrastructure towards social cohesion in Detroit. She sees many parallels that will help inform her work in the future. “The problems that currently plague Detroit I can definitely see happening to cities like Tehran in the future,” she observes, unless more sustainable development solutions and policies are put into place.

Sanaz is also passionate about gender-equal design in the landscape. As an Iranian born women, she has a distinct and essential design perspective. In a country that is dominated by the male point of view and where women are often marginalized — particularly in the poorer communities, Sanaz espouses the importance of landscape architecture in the design of spaces that can help provide both recreational and economic opportunities to empower women and promote more gender-equal communities.

Sanaz intends to continue her studies in the U.S. and pursue a PhD. Looking further into the future, she plans to move back to Shiraz, where she hopes to serve on the Board of Directors for the City to affect policies and lead the city toward a more sustainable future. And one day, she hopes to open a school in landscape architecture in her hometown, educating students on the principals of ecological systems and the critical role of the landscape architect in Iran. 

We commend Sanaz for her accomplishments and commitment to the field of landscape architecture, and we look forward to following her as she continues her academic and professional pursuits!

Thank You to Our 2016 Scholarship Jurors

Throughout its 50-year history, the Landscape Architecture Foundation has awarded scholarships to deserving students. This year, the total amount available increased significantly with the establishment of two new awards — the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA and the $5,000 ASLA-NY Designing in the Public Realm Scholarship. The now 11 different scholarships and fellowships were established and made possible by their respective sponsors.

Scholarship winners are chosen through a competitive application and selection process. LAF convenes juries to decide the winners of four awards. We would like to extend a special thank you to this year’s jurors — we appreciate your commitment to supporting the next generation of designers!

LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA Jury

Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, LEED AP
Principal
ParkerRodriguez, Inc

Lucinda R. Sanders, FASLA
CEO and Partner
OLIN

Martha Schwartz, DSc, FASLA, Hon FRIBA, Hon RDI, RAAR
Principal
Martha Schwartz Partners

Gregg Sutton, PLA, ASLA
Principal
EDSA

Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden and Design Jury

Virginia L. Russell, FASLA, PLA, LEED AP, GRP
Associate Professor of Architecture, Horticulture Program Director
University of Cincinnati

Randall W. Mardis, ASLA, PLA
President / Landscape Architect
Landscape Technologies
 
Susan Olmsted, AIA, ASLA, LEED AP
Associate Principal
Mithun

Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship Jury

Lisa Horne, PLA, LEED AP, ASLA
Project Manager
RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture

Kate Tooke, ASLA
Associate
Sasaki Associates

David Watts, PLA
Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Landscape Forms Design for People Scholarship Jury

James Burnett, FASLA
President
The Office of James Burnett

Dan Herman, ASLA
Principal
Rabben/Herman design office

Scott Rykiel, FASLA, LEED AP
Executive Vice President
Mahan Rykiel Associates