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Olmsted Scholar Feature: Waste + Abundance

By Kate Chesebrough, 2016 National Olmsted Scholar Finalist

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Life creates life by making anew and reconfiguring material. Today, we are covering our planet with garbage. We have plastic bobbing in waters after storm events and hillsides strewn with illegal dumping. Waste in the landscape is an indicator of the need for care. Its presence uniquely signifies spaces that have been forgotten, are de-valued, or are otherwise being robbed of integrity. We must counter the mindset and the material of waste with creative strategies.

Philosophy of Waste

Trash is deeply seated in everyday cultural practice and is the result of deeply held values. Assigned worth indicates whether it was wasted or time well spent, wasted energy or a meaningful investment of intention. The concept of waste is a black hole that blame, regret, and frustration can be thrown into. 

Garbage is a physical manifestation of manufactured materials with the eventuality of uselessness. The social and environmental costs of producing waste are externalized from the production of shiny new things. Wasteful practices depend on an economic system that prioritizes immediate gratification and maximum profits, but minimizes accountability.

Waste informs and creates scenarios outside of itself. Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter describes an “agency of things” that reverberate across natural and cultural systems. Waste is filling the landscape as it escapes the intended stream of material disposal. This is where landscape architects clearly need to act.

Political Challenge

As designers and landscape stewards, we need to have a seat at the table and exert influence during cultural, economic, and legislative discourse about waste. What if myths about the value of materials are kept alive by voices louder than our own? The opinion of the landscape architect is profound, as we speak on behalf of the landscape and the public as a codependent whole. Critical discourse about post-consumer waste means that it is no longer worthless, allowing us to re-identify with waste as both a concept and a material reality. That pause is the only place where ideas can be tested and change is possible. These are political acts. We all have a stake in this.

Design Solution

The presence of waste in the landscape is illustrative of how we can design better places and holistic systems. A thoughtful waste inventory reveals where it accumulates, what it is made of, and what it was used for. These patterns inform complex dynamics of cultural practices, user groups, topographic and hydrologic relationships, and how the site connects with others. This is an imperative design challenge, and our potential responses are limitless. We can lead the way to clean up the mess.

Toward Abundance

We can create places that hum with life at many levels. Our creative process must be generative if we wish to carry on. We must recognize waste as a political decision, as a social responsibility, and a material opportunity. We can accept this design challenge for the sake of the landscape. Together we will promote the agenda of an aesthetic of abundance.

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2016 Olmsted Scholar Finalist, ASLA Associate Member, and SUNY-ESF graduate Kate Chesebrough is a landscape designer, artist, activist, and yoga instructor living in Ithaca, New York.

LAF's Barbara Deutsch Honored with Women in Sustainability Leadership Award

With great pride, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) congratulates our Executive Director, Barbara Deutsch, FASLA, who has been recognized with one of Green Building & Design (gb&d)’s 2016 Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards. The awards celebrate the achievements of women who are making lasting change and strive to identify, support, and give opportunities to future women in leadership.

deutsch-headshotDeutsch is among 15 executives from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, who will be honored at the third annual awards, presented on Oct 4 in Los Angeles on the eve of the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

“I am so honored to be part of this group of such amazing and influential women who are moving the needle on sustainability from a wide range of strategies,” said Deutsch.”I am thankful to the women and men who have inspired and mentored me throughout my life to help me achieve in many ways.”

“As more and more women move into positions of decision-making authority and leadership, we can do more to support and learn from each other. The WSLA is a great opportunity to connect, share our stories, and hopefully inspire others.”

gb&d magazine presents the third annual Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards in partnership with the United States Green Building Council with support from the MetroFlor Corporation, Steelcase, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and United Airlines. The winners were chosen by a judging panel that includes Rochelle Routman of MetroFlor, Kimberly Lewis of the USBGC, Amanda Sturgeon of the International Living Future Institute, Angela Foster-Rice of United Airlines, Leith Sharp of Harvard University, and Chris Howe and Laura Heidenreich of Green Building & Design.

Congratulations to all of the honorees!

LAF is Hiring: Program Manager

parkingday-staffSending Arianna (center) off with a bang on PARK(ing) day 2016

LAF is seeking a highly-organized, creatively-analytical, results-oriented Program Manager to lead our signature Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and support other Landscape Performance Series initiatives. The full-time, 40 hour/week position in Washington, DC offers a first-hand opportunity to guide transformative research and promote “next practices” in sustainable design. For more details, see the full job announcement on our Opportunities page.

Arianna Koudounas, who served as Program Manager since June 2014, is moving on to work as a Transportation Planner position at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a nonprofit organization comprising officials from 22 local governments in the Washington, DC region. Arianna received her Masters of Science in Urban and Regional Planning degree from Georgetown University last December and is excited to put her many skills to work in a regional planning role.

We will miss Arianna’s poise, pinch-hitting, and puns, but we are happy that she can continue to champion sustainable landscape solutions and bring the landscape perspective to the transportation field. And we know that when we really need a fix of Arianna’s humor, we can catch her at one of the many performances she does with the Washington Improv Theater. Best wishes, Arianna!

Research and Practice: Your Input Needed

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Landscape architecture is a practice of continual inquiry with investigation at its core. But how and why do we undertake research? How do we assess its legitimacy? Where does basic research fit in? And how might we better transform knowledge into practice?

On Friday, October 21 at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Annual Meeting, LAF will participate in a panel to consider these questions. Eric Kramer of Reed Hilderbrand, Kate Orff of SCAPE Landscape Architecture, and Heather Whitlow of the Landscape Architecture Foundation will discuss these issues in an interactive panel session that aims to probe and envision the next frontiers of landscape architecture research.

To prepare for the session, we want to know how practitioners are using and engaging in research. If you are a landscape architecture practitioner, please take a few moments to complete this short 6-question survey:

https://PollEv.com/surveys/0xPIroHHH/web

asla2016-120wWe appreciate your input, and look forward to sharing and discussing the results during #ASLA2016 in New Orleans. Mark your calendar:

Research and Practice: What Does It Mean? Why Do We Do It?
Fri, Oct 21, 10:30am-12:00pm
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Room 271

Thanks for PARK(ing) with Us!

parkingday-2016-image2-530wOn Friday, September 16, LAF teamed up with BrightView and Island Press to celebrate PARK(ing) Day 2016. We took over two on-street metered parking spaces to install our temporary parklet at the corner of M and 20th Streets NW in downtown Washington, D.C.

Amidst the sounds of nearby construction work and the ever persistent jackhammer, our parklet provided a much-needed respite and buffer from Friday’s traffic, noise and chaos. BrightView graciously provided two flat-bed trucks’ worth of materials for the day — materials already enroute to their own project site for permanent installation — including container shrubs, grasses, and trees. The vegetation shielded park visitors from the M Street traffic as they enjoyed their lunch, browsed the Island Press books in the outdoor library, or stopped to pose for a “polaroid” picture.

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PARK(ing) Day 2016 brought 35 temporary installations to the streets of Washington, D.C. PARK(ing) Day newbies stopped by to learn about this international event to raise awareness and advance dialogue about how we use our urban public space. Those already hip to this 12-year tradition came prepared, using the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) online map to target our spot and bring along their own party!

Since it’s inception in 2005, PARK(ing) Day continues to be met with surprise, delight, and appreciation from passersby. For each individual mourning the loss of a parking space, there are many more who love the parklets and would like them to stay — forever. And fortunately, in Washington, D.C. there is a way to make that happen. DDOT piloted a Parklet Program beginning in the summer of 2015. The progam allows parklets, like those seen on PARK(ing) Day (but more durable), to be installed for year-round enjoyment. Many cities across the U.S. — from Sacramento to Minneapolis to Phoenix — have similar programs. Inquire with your city’s DOT for information.

For more photos of our PARK(ing) Day festivities, visit LAF’s Flickr page.