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LAF Events at the ASLA Annual Meeting

If you’ll be in Denver for the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO, we hope you’ll join us for one or more of the following events to raise awareness and support LAF programs. We’ll celebrate over $1 million awarded to students since 1986, honor our 2014 Olmsted Scholars, and launch the all-new, the next-generation of our award-winning Landscape Performance Series.

newheightsNew Heights, LAF’s 29th Annual Benefit
Fri, Nov 21, 7:00-10:30pm
The Studio Loft

Join top designers and leaders from practice, academia, and industry for a lively evening in the heart of Denver’s Theatre District. Enjoy cocktails, fine food, and amazing company, all while raising money to support LAF’s research and scholarship programs.

LAF Booth in ASLA Expo Hall (#1556)
Sat-Sun, Nov 22-23, 9:00am-5:00pm
Colorado Convention Center
Visit our booth to learn more about LAF, register for the Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes, and see the brand-new

Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes
Sun, Nov 23, 4:30pm
Colorado Convention Center
Join us at our booth in the ASLA Expo Hall as we draw the winner of our one-of-a-kind trip for two to Mackerel Beach, Sydney, Australia. You can make a donation to register to win right up until the drawing. Entrants need not be present to win. All sweepstakes proceeds support LAF’s research and scholarship programs.

Stormwater BMP Performance:
What Every Landscape Architect Should Know
Sat, Nov 22, 2:30-4pm
Colorado Convention Center
Don’t miss this Education Session moderated by LAF’s Heather Whitlow and featuring Bill Wenk of Wenk Associates, Jonathan Jones of Wright Water Engineers, and Jason Berner of the US EPA. This session will describe current initiatives to document performance, protocols for measuring performance, ways to design more effective systems, and the challenges the profession could face when levels of performance aren’t realized.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Rediscovering Colombia's Fucha River

By Viviana Castro, 2014 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

A river that was valued once as a source of life is now channelized to control its contaminated waters, with people fearing it and perceiving it as sewage rather than a natural resource. Rediscovering the Fucha River involves exploring the opportunities of the river as a public space, creating a vision that can change the perception of the river and demonstrate how people can experience its regeneration.

I began this exploration as my senior capstone project with the goal of understating the potential of urban river restoration in Latin American development. Studying this river in particular, however, brought up many aspects that brought a different value to the notion of restoration, where first there needs to be a rediscovery.

fucha01The Fucha River today in the city of Bogotá, Colombia.

Fucha — Muyscubum for “the great female” — was one of the sources of life for the Muysca tribe in the area of Bacata (now the city of Bogotá). The Muysca had a close relationship with the river, seeing it as the place of birth for all life forms. However, as Spanish settlement began to take place, the river was used as a hydraulic source for industries developing in the twentieth century. With this change, the waters began to degrade and the river began to be seen as a source of disposal. Even the term Fucha today can be confused with the Spanish vernacular fuchi, which is a way to describe a bad smell.

The river begins with high water quality as it flows down the steep mountain ranges but begins to degrade as it enters the urban core. By the time it reaches its last stretch, the river has lost its oxygen levels and has received waste from multiple polluting sources.

I interviewed people around the river edge, asking them about their impression of the river. People commented on the constant flooding, contamination, and waste disposal into the river, and compared their experience of the river in the city to the rivers in the countryside, where activities such as paseo de olla (traditional family picnics) take place around the river. How can our culture, and the built environment, contribute to the restoration of the river?

The Rediscovering the Fucha River vision utilizes public spaces as the way to encourage a new attitude towards the river. It takes into account four general scenarios found along the one-mile stretch that repeat along the river edge and illustrates how open spaces, residences, industries, and even how the surrounding truck parking lots can contribute to the restoration of the river.

By illustrating the river through time, we can show the steps that can be taken to help its regeneration. It can begin by allowing and encouraging the river to be observed, demonstrating its value and potential through art and recreational elements. With time, the river can be approached, and eventually it can be appreciated in its natural state.  fucha03

The Fucha River runs the risk of losing its meaning and natural function if it continues to be treated as it is today. Rediscovering the Fucha River involves understanding its meaning from the past, its role today, and what it will mean for the future. Overall, this vision aims to serve as an advocacy tool towards reconsidering the value of the Fucha River within the current development of the city. This river was part of our historical values and can be restored to bring our close traditional relationship with rivers to the city. In Bogotá, we can also have a paseo de olla. Let’s recuperate our Fucha River.

To see the full Rediscovering the Fucha River report, visit:

Viviana Castro recently graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (Summa Cum Laude) and a minor in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida. She is currently working at Dix.Hite+Partners in Longwood, Florida.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: 1936 Olympic Village - At the Intersection of Preservation and Renewal

By Katia Rios, 2014 University Olmsted Scholar

Just west of Berlin, Germany, adjacent to a village in former East Germany, lies an often overlooked yet significant landmark. Essentially an abandoned landscape, the remnants of the 1936 Olympic Village evoke a powerful past that dates back to one of the darkest periods in Germany’s history. The Nazi government conceived and built this roughly 130-acre complex to house the 1936 Olympic athletes, including the legendary Jesse Owens. It was transformed into a military base during the Second World War, and taken over by the Soviet Union as a sports training camp for its military. Finally, after the reunification of Germany, the landscape was abandoned with uncertainty as to its future. Only recently has it been rehabilitated to serve as an outdoor museum and witness to Germany’s past.


The 1936 Olympic Village is not only an emblem of Germany’s history, but also a unique example for understanding various topics in landscape architecture. As an abandoned landscape, the Olympic Village is a great opportunity to understand time’s influence on infrastructure and landscapes, in the context of environmental processes, deterioration and decay, and ecological resilience. The site provides the opportunity to explore the issues of cultural and historic landscape preservation, and the unique balancing of preservation and revitalization or renewal. As a public space, issues of community involvement are brought to the foreground and bring to light opportunities for public engagement. The 1936 Olympic Village lies at the intersection of these issues, and allows a unique example for understanding landscape architecture’s role in addressing these site conditions and the issues inherently embedded within this site.


My master’s report dealt with this complex site under these premises, bridging the gap between the depth of the past with the possibilities for the future. The design outcome allows history to come to the foreground while simultaneously planning and envisioning a revitalized purpose for the Village. Its intent is to provide visitors with a comprehensive history of the site, allowing them to reflect, process, and understand that history, and ultimately enjoy recreational opportunities within a large, ecologically-rich landscape. The design fosters a sense of exploration, allowing visitors to create their own experience within this unique place that has an incredible potential to become so much more than it is now.


Beyond the 1936 Olympic Village itself, the focus on a former Olympic Village site comes at an opportune time, in the midst of discussions around the future of the infrastructure and impacts of the most recent Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The 1936 Olympic Village is a reflection of the challenges of integrating Olympic Villages and Olympic infrastructure back into the folds of community after the Games have left. There is great potential for an examination such as this to answer similar questions for other abandoned Olympic Villages around the world. The uncertain futures of Olympic Villages highlight the issues surrounding redevelopment and reuse of infrastructure involved in such temporal and short-lived events. The discrepancy between the investment of host cities into the creation of Olympic sites, with the short-lived nature and fleeting use of these sites warrants more attention. Landscape architecture, in this context, provides an effective strategy for working through these discrepancies and contradictions.

Link to Master’s Report:

Katia Rios (Gedrath-Smith) completed her Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arizona in May. She now works as an intern at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol in Seattle, Washington, launching her career in landscape architecture.

In Remembrance: Joseph J. Lalli, FASLA

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Lalli on October 25, 2014. Joe was a great friend and supporter of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and was a key force in building the organization and developing what have come to be signature programs for us.

joelalliImage courtesy of EDSA

Joe served on the LAF Board of Directors from 2004-2009. During that time, he was Vice President of Development for 4 years, creating the annual Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes and raising over $145,000 for LAF with an EDSA match to its employees to build the EDSA Minority Scholarship. Through his Board service and ongoing leadership with EDSA as a Founding Sponsor, Joe helped to develop and enhance LAF’s renowned Olmsted Scholars Program.

“Joe is a very special person who has touched my life and LAF in a very meaningful and extraordinary way. He had such a giving and gentle but powerful way about him and a sensitivity that manifests in his work and the EDSA culture. Joe led and sustained a culture of philanthropy and giving back that is the heart and soul of EDSA. LAF wouldn’t be who we are or have accomplished what we have for the betterment of all without him,” said LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch, FASLA.

More about Joe’s life and legacy can be found at:

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Park City: Re-creating the Essence of "Park"

By Ryan Coghlan, 2014 University Olmsted Scholar

Today over half the world’s population lives in cities. With this number set to grow to over 80% by 2050, how best to grow cities has become a problem global in scope. Combined with land shortages, this growth has frequently lead to densification, and with it, increased strain on local resources and the environment. Left unchecked, this strain has the potential to threaten the long-term health of both society and the environment worldwide.

Throughout the modern era, parks have been vital to combatting the negative effects of such densification. Having historically been viewed as distinct from the surrounding city, parks have been able to perform functions that are forbidden elsewhere in urban environments. By taking on a variety of social, cultural, and more recently, ecological roles, parks have helped reinforce the systems that densification strains, allowing cites to grow and thrive over time. Today, however, the very land shortages and resulting densification that is creating the need for more parks also makes it impossible to create them as they have traditionally been conceived.

Inevitably defined in relation to the city in which it is used, “park” implies specific physical forms, functions, and values. By re-creating these qualities throughout the city, we can in essence reconceptualize the city itself as park. Such a city would have all the qualities of “park”, but permeated throughout rather than in discrete spaces. Through this approach, the city fabric could assume the roles that parks have traditionally played, allowing the city to continue growing and thriving.

For my graduate thesis I developed a framework and design approach that could help this reconceptualization of the city as a park to occur. To study how this might be done, I examined Vancouver, Canada and how the basic qualities of the city’s successful parks – for instance, their spatial properties, plant palettes and hydrological features – allow them to perform their roles within the city. Using this analysis as a guide, I then proposed four design prototypes that added these qualities to common urban spaces such as streets, alleys, and apartment buildings, such that the resulting spaces could perform both their existing roles and those of parks.


By creating ways for common urban spaces to perform both their current functions and those of “park,” densifying cities can continue enjoying parks’ many benefits despite their shrinking land base. By focusing on the qualities of parks, rather than their specific forms, we can begin to create new park forms appropriate for the dense urban environments of today. Given the extent of urbanization today and the ways parks’ benefits mitigate the effects of densification, this work I hope will ultimately help lead to more sustainable and healthy urban environments.



Ryan Coghlan received his Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of British Columbia in May 2014. He currently is helping develop a schoolyard design guidebook for parents and schools while working for the Vancouver School Board and University of British Columbia. He recently moved to London in the United Kingdom to pursue his career in landscape architecture.