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LAF at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting

If you’ll be in Los Angles for the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO, we hope you’ll join us for these fun and thought-provoking events. LAF will participate in three education sessions, host our popular Annual Benefit at the historic Union Station, and launch a new book featuring the “Declarations” and discussion from our landmark Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future. We hope to see you!

Endless Questions: The Heart of Research (FRI-A08)
Fri, Oct 20, 8:30-10am
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 503
This Education Session with Cynthia Dehlavi of the Office of James Burnett, Josiah Cain of Sherwood Design Engineers, and Jason Long of OMA, and LAF’s Heather Whitlow features presentations and discussion on the what, why, and how of forming and running a research entity within a professional design practice.

In Pursuit of Big Ideas: Time-out for Research, Innovation, and Thought Leadership (FRI-B10)
Fri, Oct 20, 10:30am-12pm
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 503
In this Education Session, LAF’s Jennifer Low, Mark Robbins of the American Academy in Rome, John Peterson of Harvard GSD’s Loeb Fellowship, and Anatole Tchikine of Dumbarton Oaks discuss research and fellowship opportunities that allow landscape architects to develop and explore new ideas and research that can inform design practice.

LAF 32st Annual Benefit 2017-annual-benefit-250x220
Fri, Oct 20, 7:00-10:30pm
Union Station - Historic Ticket Concourse (*Registration Required)

Join top designers and leaders from practice, academia, and industry for a lively evening with great food and drink in this iconic venue. Proceeds support LAF’s research, scholarships, and leadership initiatives.

LAF Booth in ASLA Expo Hall (#1663) 
Sat-Sun, Oct 21-22, 9:00am-6:00pm
Los Angeles Convention Center
Stop by our booth for book release festivities, including giveaways and author receptions 4:30-6pm both days.

The New Landscape Declaration at ASLA Bookstore nld-book-250x220
Sat-Sun, Oct 21-22, 9:00am-6:00pm
Los Angeles Convention Center
The New Landscape Declaration: A 21st Century Call to Action features 32 essays and reflections from LAF’s unprecedented 2016 Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future. The book launches at the ASLA bookstore, and LAF CEO Barbara Deutsch and Past-President Kona Gray will be on-hand to discuss on Sunday 9:30-11am.

Alt-Practice Outside the LA Studio: Exploring the Breadth of the Profession (MON-C07)
Mon, Oct 23, 1:30-3:30pm
Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 152
In this Education Session, LAF’s Barbara Deutsch, Betsy Anderson of the National Park Service, Sean Batty of Portland’s TriMet, and Pamela Galera of the City of Anaheim discuss careers beyond the private design firm where landscape architects can have powerful impact.

Olmsted Scholar Feature: Urban Environmental Education in South Central Los Angeles

By David del la Cruz, 2017 National Olmsted Scholar


“¿Crees que llenemos el camion?” (Do you think we will fill up the bus?) my mom eagerly asks the night before we take a hike to Temescal Canyon.

Saturday morning we wake up at dawn, dew still on cars. I pick up my nephews and meet my mother at the Slauson Recreation Center. Of course we filled up the bus.

When I show up, the bus driver shares her excitement on having a bus full of people. She is ready to get moving on our short family hike on this breezy Los Angeles morning. We finally get off the 10-E freeway and get onto the Pacific Coast Highway. A foggy Pacific Ocean vista leaves the kids in the bus in awe.

This family hike took my neighbors to the Santa Monica Mountains, far from the center of the city. As we pull up to the park for the hike, the last person trickles out, and a few people scream out, “Foto del grupo!” (Group photo!) I go ahead and take the picture of our large group. We are met by Coral, Park Ranger at the Santa Monica Mountains, and Lily, our Trail Lead. They share park and trail etiquette with us before we start the hike.

This initial trip was a great welcome back to Los Angeles after my 3 years at the University of Washington where I finished my coursework in landscape architecture.

In my last year in school, I organized a range of events in collaboration with organizers in South Central Los Angeles — from the Dreamers of South Central Los Angeles to helping South Central Arts build a base of membership along with PAINT L.A. Adding to these fruitful collaborations, this hiking trip was a collaboration with the Resident Advisory Council of the Pueblo del Rio Housing Projects. My mother is a part of the Resident Advisory Council, and she is also a respected community leader.

I look up to her and the commitments she holds with her community — from the church to the day-to-day house visits she makes to her neighbors, talking about health, checking in with and offering consejos (counseling) to her community. Her organic leadership is part of what has shaped my own ethic in leadership, along with community organizations such as Communities for A Better Environment and East Yard Communities for a Better Environment. These organizations provided me a grounding in the environmental justice movement in Los Angeles.

I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, a large community south of downtown that has swaths of vacant land, polluted lots, and, most importantly, community members with exceptional abilities in finding ways to continue living under these conditions.

I am commited to environmental justice, and one of the ways this commitment can unfold is by exploring environmental education in the community that raised me. There are countless organizations throughout Los Angeles promoting environmental education by taking trips like the family hike I helped organize with community leaders and the National Park Service out of the Santa Monica Mountains. Nonetheless, I am interested in how environmental education takes on the issues of urban areas in working-class communities and communities of color.

Landscape architecture has given me the ability to think through urban environmental education and the ways that site design and community engagement can tackle issues of pollution at the broader level, and inclusion at the local level. I aim to use the skills of this profession to expose younger generations throughout my community to see how landscape architecture may be able to weave together community engagement with something as technical as phytoremediation.

My 2017 National Olmsted Scholar award will be used to look at these different aspects of South Central Los Angeles to work through addressing the legacies of environmental racism and historic disinvestment that impact this largely black and brown community. By understanding the impact that urban environmental education might have, working with youth and within the K-12 education system will help in building future leaders in the environmental field.

I plan to work closely with Los Angeles Unified School District and organizations committed to expanding open and green space in the region to continue building youth leadership around urban environmental issues in working-class communities and communities of color. Some of the leading organizations committed to this vision include From Lots to Spots, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, Pacoima Beautiful, among others.

The guiding research question for my Olmsted Scholar project is: How can vacant land in Los Angeles temporarily be used to support an urban environmental education ethic for high school youth?

David de la Cruz, a first generation student in higher-education, received a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington in June. He was selected as LAF’s 2017 National Olmsted Scholar and recipient of the $25,000 graduate prize.

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.



  • 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.


  • 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


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.