LAbash 2014 Brings Landscape Architecture Students Together in UW-Madison

Over 300 landscape architecture students from all over the U.S. and Canada gathered two weeks ago at Madison, WI to attend LAbash, an annual student-run landscape architecture conference. Hosted this year by the students of University of Wisconsin-Madison, LAbash offers landscape architecture students an incredible opportunity to enhance their knowledge and expand their social and professional network. The three-day event features an array of workshops, speakers, charrettes, and social events all focused on celebrating the students’ shared passion for landscape architecture.

Fifteen of my University of Maryland classmates and I enthusiastically attended LAbash this year, despite not knowing much about Wisconsin. We were pleasantly surprised with what we found. With a rich ecological and cultural heritage, the city of Madison has much more to offer than cheese curds and ice cream. Although the campus is situated at Madison’s urban center, the area is surrounded by a rich natural landscape including two lakes and wooded rolling hills. It was easy to see why the students chose "Naturally Designed" as this year’s conference theme.

The 2014 LAbash Planning Committee 

The Planning Committee of UW-Madison students did an excellent job coordinating the event! LAbash 2014 included many activities, from charrettes that challenged students to re-envision underutilized Madison destinations to a tour of the award-winning Olbrich Botanical Gardens for a taste of some of Madison's best gardens. The conference also featured professional networking opportunities, such as tours of the SmithgroupJJR office and informal meetings with SWA Group and EDSA representatives. If you missed the conference, keep reading for a recap of my personal highlights!


Kona Gray, Principal at EDSA, with students from University of Maryland 

The speakers at LAbash 2014 showcased the diverse range of interests in the profession and emphasized  the key role of landscape architecture in global climate adaptation. Two of my favorite keynote speakers include Kona Gray, Principal of EDSA, who encouraged the audience to blend context with innovation to create designs that would inspire others; and OLIN Partner Susan Weiler, who focused on the complex and collaborative processes of design and emphasized the fact that many systems must work concurrently to create a successful project.


Thinking with a Pen by Marc Hall from EDSA

The conference hosted a wide array of workshops that allowed students to get hands on experience with rendering programs, hand graphics, and planting trends. “Thinking with a Pen”, a workshop hosted by EDSA's Marc Hall, taught students how to develop their designs through the use of hand graphics. Students learned how to loosen up their drawing hand and improve their graphic styles. Eric Gilbey from Vectorworks also taught a Vectorworks introduction course to show the beneficial features and basic functions of the program. Other schedules workshops included a watercolor painting session with Jim Anderson, sketching techniques, and a lesson in Land F/X.

Student ASLA President Luncheon

Student ASLA President’s Brunch Attendees

As President of my chapter’s Student ASLA, I was fortunate to attend the Student Chapter President Luncheon, hosted by the National ASLA Student Representative Andrew Bernard. The event allows leadership members from different universities to converge and discuss their thoughts and concerns about the profession, and to contribute ideas to improve ASLA. Cameron Rodman, a graduate landscape architecture student at University of Tennessee, was also announced at the luncheon as the new ASLA Student Representative.

Social Events

After a long day of events, the evening socials provided a great way to wind down and get to know other students better. These events also offered students a chance to explore the best of downtown Madison. The LAbash 2014 team even rented out Madison’s remarkable Children’s Museum, a three-story building filled with interactive fun and fantasy. This incredible, hands-on venue was packed with imaginative and creative activities.

Students building with LEGOs at Madison’s Children’s Museum

On the final night, everyone gathered at Brickhouse BBQ in downtown Madison for Land8's Closing Ceremony. Customary to tradition, the torch (or in this case the Permaloc cup) was passed on to the LAbash 2015 hosts, Cal Poly San Luis. To top off a dramatic end to the conference, landscape architecture students cast their votes for which school would host LAbash 2016. Ohio State University won the crowd over with this incredible Pocahontas-inspired music video.

In just three short days, I gained an immense amount of knowledge and exchanged ideas with students from all across the country. This experience has expanded my network and increased my passion for landscape architecture. I encourage all landscape architecture students to attend and professionals to get involved so that this tradition can continue!

LAbash 2015 will be hosted by California Polytechnic State University in San Luis. View their bid video here.

Logo for LAbash 2014 Image via UW-Madison Department of Landscape Architecture

All other photographs © Stephanie Marino

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