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April is just around the corner. Do you have your gameplan together for how you will celebrate and showcase the amazing work being done by the landscape architecture community? If not, read on for some links and ideas.
- Visit the American Society of Landscape Architect’s WLAM page to download your “This is Landscape Architecture” card, find social media links, and more. Share your favorite landscape-architect-designed spaces with #WLAM2017.
- Read and sign LAF’s New Landscape Declaration, and encourage your colleagues, classmates, clients, and others to do the same.
- Host a screening of our New Landscape Declaration documentary. This 20-minute film examines the role of landscape architecture and features exclusive interviews with over 25 prominent landscape architects from around the world. It will leave you inspired!
- Contact LAF to request a lunch-and-learn or webinar about LAF’s New Landscape Declaration, a 21st century call to action for landscape architects. Or schedule one of our landscape performance-focused presentations to learn how to use metrics and evidence-based benefits to make the case for sustainable landscape solutions.
- Participate in an event near you. From sketch crawls to volunteer projects, ASLA chapters, design firms, and others are hosting events throughout the month of April. This #tagboard can help you find activities in your area.
You can also follow LAF on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see how we are celebrating WLAM. Let’s make the most of this global public awareness campaign to demonstrate how landscape architecture affects our daily lives!
By Azzurra Cox, 2016 National Olmsted Scholar
This 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.
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.
The 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.
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
Office of Cheryl Barton
Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, LEED AP
Doug Hoerr, FASLA
CEO and Senior Principal
Mia Lehrer, FASLA
Mia Lehrer + Associates
Signe Nielsen, FASLA
Gregg Sutton, PLA, ASLA
Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden and Design Jury
Randall W. Mardis, ASLA, PLA
Kevin Campion, ASLA
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
Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship Jury
Kate Tooke, PLA, ASLA
Julie Johnson, PLA, ASLA
Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Washington
Sara Schuh, PLA, ASLA
SALT Design Studio
The Landscape Architecture Foundation is thrilled to announce the Fellows and recent Olmsted Scholars selected for this inaugural year of the LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership. Each Fellow receives a $25,000 award to support pursuit of their proposed project. Over the course of the year-long fellowship, Fellows dedicate 12 weeks of time to their project and participate in three, 3-day residencies in Washington, D.C. Participating LAF Olmsted Scholars have the unique opportunity to develop and advance their ideas alongside the LAF Fellows in preparation for a future fellowship, partnership, or funding opportunity.
Each of the selected fellowship participants put forth ideas that have the potential for profound change toward environmental and social equity and investment in the future of the landscape architecture profession. The 2017-2018 fellowship year kicks off at the first residency on May 4-6 and concludes in Spring 2018 with a final symposium to showcase completed work.
We look forward to working with this inaugural cohort as they tackle these important challenges and issues.
Meet the 2017-2018 LAF Fellows
- Claire Latané, Senior Associate, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles, CA
Advocating for Landscape Policy Progress at LAUSD Schools
A growing body of research points to the restorative and academic benefits of trees, green views, and multi-purpose landscapes for school children. And yet, most school districts do not mandate multi-purpose landscapes. Schools that do have these landscapes are located in predominantly white, advantaged neighborhoods. Often even these schools have classrooms with covered windows and playground policies that prevent students from accessing the nature right outside.
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest school district in the United States. What are the obstacles to implementing multi-purpose landscapes at LAUSD schools? How can we advocate for LAUSD to update its landscape policies to reflect the research? How can we communicate the importance of landscape to those making daily decisions that could allow children to access the restorative qualities of nature? It is time to catalyze the elevation of school landscapes in a district that can set an example. This project will leverage Claire’s writing and advocacy background to develop a communications initiative focused on changing policy and practices to revalue landscape in schools.
- Brice Maryman, Senior Landscape Architect, MIG l SvR, Seattle, WA
With compassion, respect and empathy, the HomeLand project intends to present proactive strategies that respect each individual’s “right to housing” and “right to the city,” while also enhancing public spaces that are significantly impacted by our current, haphazard strategies for managing homelessness. The project will explore the spatial manifestations of homelessness on the urban landscape, document current management approaches, and offer comprehensive, community‐based spatial strategies at the region, city and neighborhood scales to create better, more successful public spaces for all.
Brice is looking to develop proactive, multi‐scalar spatial strategies that government agencies, nonprofits, designers, and politicians can implement in their communities. The project will position landscape architects as uniquely qualified to develop a comprehensive, adaptable landscape management strategy that works for both for those experiencing homelessness and other public space users.
- Alpa Nawre, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Transforming Landscape Architecture Practice Through Resilient Water Management in India
Landscape architecture is a little known profession in India. About 800 landscape architects serve a country of over 1.25 billion people. This is a missed opportunity for the profession to engage with pressing questions that deal with how resources such as food, waste, and water can be better managed through the design of the built environment. This entrepreneurial project proposes to create a landscape infrastructure plan for an existing settlement in India by conducting research on local materials, plant palette, and construction practices that aid in resilient water management, designing and testing a part of the plan by implementing it on-site, and including the public and the policymakers in the entire process. By exploring designs for sustainable water management in the context of a developing country, this project will contribute to new knowledge in landscape architecture, provide a hands-on service-learning opportunity for landscape architects and students, increase public awareness of the discipline, and set new benchmarks for its practice in India.
- Nicole Plunkett, Landscape Architect, Cotleur & Hearing, Jupiter, FL
Creating Future Landscape Architects Through Education
Nicole looks to expand on the foundation she has built through her non-profit, the Future Landscape Architects of America (FLAA), to work towards the profession’s goals of increased advocacy and diversity. FLAA connects educators with practitioners and provides well-developed curricula and engaging projects to support the K-12 student discovery of landscape architecture. Established and founded by Nicole in 2015, the program has grown into a state-wide organization within Florida. FLAA has a volunteer committee of 16 landscape architects from Miami to Jacksonville and support from the University of Florida and Florida International University landscape architecture departments. Nicole has laid the groundwork in establishing a successful program that provides opportunities for students to learn about the profession and looks forward to making these resources available nationwide.
Meet the Olmsted Scholar Participants
- Scott Douglas (2016 Olmsted Scholar), Lecturer, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Multi-Purpose Highway Corridors
The United States of America is crisscrossed by networks of highways, railroads, and utility corridors, each of which was designed to serve a single purpose: move people and/or goods from point A to point B. However, a majority of these corridors encompass more space than they utilize, resulting in swaths of unused spaces, particularly along perimeter edges. Repurposing these unused spaces could transform the corridors into multi-purpose corridors, while continuing to support their original purpose. Scott’s thesis project, “Interstate Interventions”, explores possible improvements that could be implemented on the estimated 58,000 acres of planted shoulders and medians along the Interstates in the state of Illinois.
- Harriett Jameson (2014 Olmsted Scholar Finalist), Landscape Designer, Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Alexandria, VA
The Mississippi Delta Region is the most distressed region in the United States. Like its sister Appalachia, to the east, it is a rural region that has suffered enormous loss in the past 50 years due to sweeping changes in its main industry, agriculture. It is plagued with high rates of blight, poverty, obesity, environmental degradation, and opioid addiction. These issues are manifest in and exacerbated by the rural cultural landscape of the region—where access to health care, public space, and public transportation are rare, if existent at all. Harriett’s project aims to push the urban-centric profession of landscape architecture outside of its comfort zone, to address contemporary issues facing the rural 85% of this country’s terrain. It seeks to help the region and its people by presenting creative, landscape-driven solutions to the obstacles inherent in the cultural geography of the Mississippi Delta Region, in particular, and rural geographies of the U.S., in general.
The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is delighted to announce that on March 1, Megan Barnes will join the organization as Program Manager for LAF’s research initiatives, including the Landscape Performance Series, Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, Landscape Performance Education Grants, and research partnerships.
Megan’s background is in landscape architecture, international development, and the nonprofit sector. A two-time Peace Corps volunteer, she recently returned from Panama where she led a university program to develop a hydroponic garden and supported Panamanian wildlife conservation efforts. Her past experience also includes outreach and management work for the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy and horticulture training and master planning for Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Megan fills a critical staff role for LAF, leading our efforts focused on the measurable environmental, social, and economic impacts of sustainable landscapes. Linda Ashby, who has been serving as Interim Program Manager for the CSI program, will continue on through May to provide support and ensure a seamless transition for the five participating CSI teams.
We are thrilled to have Megan on board!