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.”

Coming Soon: New Landscape Declaration Book

nld-fulltitle-530w

This fall, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and Rare Bird Books will release The New Landscape Declaration: A Call to Action for the Twenty-First Century. This landmark book features the 32 “Declarations” written for LAF’s 2016 Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future, along with excerpts from panel discussions and an opening essay by Richard Weller of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design (PennDesign).

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, LAF asked a diverse group of preeminent landscape architects to reflect on the last half-century and present bold ideas for what the discipline should achieve in the future. Well beyond the public conception of the profession as “gardener” or “park designer,” these landscape architects discussed their role in addressing weighty issues like climate change, urbanization, management of vital resources like water, and global inequities. Their ideas were used to craft the New Landscape Declaration, a manifesto for landscape architecture in the 21st twenty-first century.

The book features original essays from James Corner, Gina Ford, Randy Hester, Kate Orff, Mario Schjetnan, Martha Schwartz, Carl Steinitz, Kongjian Yu, and other thought leaders.

“The 32 declarations collected here are good to think with. Each has some wisdom that will help you form your own answers to the challenges the New Landscape Declaration presents.”
                                                       — Richard Weller, PennDesign

The book will be launched at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Los Angeles October 20-23, with limited quantities available at the official bookstore. In early November, the book will be fully-available through online retailers.

Preorder your copy today on Powell’s, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon!
240-page hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 9781945572692

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Illuminating Sites of our Multicultural Heritage to Promote Social Justice

By Kristi Lin, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

Although I had heard my Japanese-American grandparents talk about being incarcerated during World War II, it wasn’t until I went to Manzanar National Historic Site, a former Japanese incarceration camp, that I realized their stories were real. Walking the actual paths behind the barbed wire fence at Manzanar allowed me to get a glimpse from their perspective. What I experienced in this landscape ignited my passion to protect the civil rights of all people today so that this history is never repeated. At Manzanar, I discovered the potential of landscape architects to promote social justice through illuminating sites of our multicultural heritage.

klin-01-530wLeft: Ready to pass into dining room, 1942 (Image: Stewart Francis via Wikimedia Commons); Right: Our walk to the barracks, 2016 (Image: Kenji Lo)

After entering Manzanar, I walked on the worn sandy paths to the barracks. From there I went to the mess hall and latrine. Walking in the footsteps of those who had traveled these paths countless times, I could not help but imagine: what would I do if I had to live like this? My grandfather was a U.S. citizen, born in Berkeley, California and beginning high school when he and his family were forced to leave their home and go to an incarceration camp. What would I do if I had to leave all my friends and live in this desolate place because of my ancestry? I had heard “camp stories” practically since the day I was born, but it wasn’t until going to Manzanar that I could put myself in their shoes.

klin-02-530wLeft: Pool in pleasure park, Manzanar Relocation Center, 1943 (Image: Ansel Adams via U.S. Library of Congress); Right: Bridge in pleasure park, 2015 (Image: Kristi Lin)

The views were incomparable to any of the black and white photos I had seen before. The dry desert punctuated by the barbed wire fence made me feel powerless to speak up, demand a fair trial, or escape. In stark contrast, I was calmed by the view of Merritt Park, a Japanese-style garden in Manzanar that the incarcerees designed with placed stones, a pond, and delicate plantings to provide respite from their bleak surroundings.

Witnessing Manzanar made me think about the relevance of this story to today. For my grandparents, looking like the enemy caused them to lose their civil rights. As their granddaughter, it is my duty now to protect the civil rights of all people. Towards this goal, I have helped lead Manzanar Pilgrimages, a program where diverse college students, community activists, and former Japanese-American incarcerees travel together to Manzanar and build cross-cultural understanding.

What can landscape architects learn from Manzanar about designing interpretive sites? Recently, I interviewed landscape architect Dennis Otsuji, FASLA who helped the National Park Service design Manzanar National Historic Site in the 1990s. Otsuji organized design charrettes with a team of Japanese-American landscape architects, all of whom were formerly incarcerated. The team included: Asa Hanamoto, FASLA; Ronald Izumita, FASLA; Hideo Sasaki, FASLA; Joseph Yamada, FASLA; Frank Kawasaki, FASLA; Robert Murase, FASLA; and Ken Nakaba, FASLA. Understanding the importance of circulation and views in site design, the team’s first priorities included restoring the original street grid, barbed wire fence around the whole site, and guard tower at the visitors’ entrance. These were all restored in the locations and materials of 1942 to ensure undeniable authenticity. When I asked Otsuji how landscape architects can promote social justice, he said that the most important goal is to interpret historic sites with accuracy.

klin-03-530wLeft: Manzanar street scene, 1943 (Image: Ansel Adams via U.S.Library of Congress); Right: Manzanar interpretation, 2016 (Image: Kenji Lo)

Reflecting on Manzanar, I am convinced that landscape architects can use their understanding of circulation, views, and resource protection to help illuminate sites significant to our multicultural heritage and thereby raise awareness about the importance of diversity and inclusion. How do we measure the success of such landscapes? I believe we must ask, are we offering visitors the chance to experience history accurately and authentically through honoring artifacts and significant sites? How many people are visiting? Is the landscape connected to programs through which people can engage with it from multiple viewpoints and after they have visited? Can we help increase diversity in the National Register of Historic Places where only 3% of the 77,000 properties listed were explicitly associated with African-American, Mexican-American, and Asian-American heritage in 2004? (Data from “Historic places and the diversity deficit in heritage conservation” by Ned Kaufman, 2004. I could not find statistics on sites associated with Native Americans and Pacific Islander Americans.) Through using landscapes to help tell diverse stories, I believe that landscape architects can promote social justice and become agents of change.

Kristi Lin graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Davis. She is currently a fellow at The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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.”

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Coal Ash Wastescapes - Advocating for Designed Remediation

By Lauren Delbridge, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar

Landscape architecture naturally combines aspects of science, engineering, ecological understanding, and design in a way that sets us apart from scientists, engineers, ecologists and other designers. We as a profession have the skill set to tackle large-scale issues, which is an aspect of the field that has always captivated me. I quickly became drawn to design projects focused on the remediation of disturbed sites, and I began to find my niche in the complexities of scientific engineering, natural systems, and experimental design.

Nearly 140 million tons of coal ash are produced each year in the United States. 

As coal is burned to produce energy, the ash created during the process is collected, mixed with water, and piped to create ponds, which are typically unlined. Coal ash itself contains questionable amounts of heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic, and lead that become problematic as these unlined ponds allow seepage into the underlying groundwater systems.

ldelbridge-01-530wData from EPA Coal Ash Waste Sites as mapped by the Sierra Club

I framed my year-long thesis project around the issue of coal ash ponds and delved into the complex nature of coal ash, the workings of coal-fired power plants, existing engineering strategies, and applied methods of phytoremediation and bioremediation. With EPA rulings mandating the safe closure of coal ash ponds across the United States, I recognized the great potential for thoughtful, designed remediation strategies that would safely transform a coal ash pond into a space for human interaction, education, and experience.

ldelbridge-02-530wIllustrations show the path of coal ash.

I focused my work around Dominion’s Chesterfield Power Station, situated along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia. As the largest coal burning power station in the state, the site offers opportunities for remediation at a large scale that could act as a precedent for the treatment of other coal ash ponds across the country. One of the more unique aspects of the site is the adjacent Dutch Gap Conservation Area that creates a distinct juxtaposition between the degraded industrial landscape and thriving ecological habitats. In addition to remediating the coal ash ponds and designing with people in mind, my project also responds to the surrounding ecological conditions.

ldelbridge-03-530wMy thesis project focused on Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield, Virginia.

The most challenging aspect of my project was creating a landscape that was more than a beautiful space. I worked to design a system of remediation that would continue to accept coal ash waste as the Chesterfield Power Station continues to burn coal. The coal ash waste travels through a series of remediation cells and is ultimately transformed into a growing medium. The act of turning waste into soil is the ultimate form of responsible waste management.

The extensive research that went into discovering strategies to remediate coal ash was a huge part of my project, and informed my design work in ways that went well beyond the explorations that I had engaged in previous studio projects. While site inventory, analysis, and synthesis played a role in design development, the overlay of remediation processes introduced me to a new way of going about site design. This coal ash remediation project was ultimately a culmination of science, engineering, and ecology that came together as a space designed to be beautiful and to foster human education and experience. While still experimental and theoretical in nature, “Coal Ash Wastescape” opens the conversation to what coal ash ponds could become in their future lives.

ldelbridge-04-530wThe Productive Wastescape design sends coal ash waste through a series of remediation cells, ultimately transforming it into a growing medium.

I am interested in continuing to merge science, engineering, and ecology in an artful way to create landscapes that offer more than just a beautiful view. Beginning to understand the complexities of remediation has inspired me to seek out opportunities for landscape architects that expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the profession. I plan to continue research on the remediation of coal ash and get involved with organizations that have the motivation and mandate to explore alternative solutions to the disposal of coal ash. As these conversations develop, I would like to focus more attention on the future of the coal ash pond site as a whole. 

In addition to staying involved with the developing conversation about coal ash, I plan to travel to remediated or reclaimed landscapes of note to expand my knowledge of redesigned disturbed lands, with a view to documenting a set of case studies. This documentation could be used as an educational tool for public and/or industry information and as a basis for further design research. Even though to date, very little remediation work has focused on coal ash ponds specifically, much could be learned from current projects that deal with similar issues while creating spaces for people to experience.

I want to push the profession of landscape architecture into conversations currently dominated by scientists, engineers, and ecologists. I feel that we as designers should hold the power to bring together these technical fields in a way that creates environments for people.

Lauren received a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Virginia Tech in May. She currently works at LandDesign in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was selected as LAF’s 2017 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $15,000 undergraduate prize.