Author: Stephanie Roa

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Feeling the Weather [Land8x8 Video]

The weather affects us every day, but rarely receives the attention it deserves. Often relegated to small talk conversation, we downplay the many ways weather influences our daily life, culture, and health. The weather – the day-to-day state of the atmosphere generally perceived as a combination of temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind – is a moment in time. However, when we move beyond a single weather event and study the weather of a place averaged over time, a pattern can be established. The climate, or the pattern of weather moments, is not as easy to perceive, but greatly affects ecosystems and communities around the world. 

Falon Mihalic, founder of landscape architecture and public art firm Falon Land Studio, seeks to give form to this invisible force that impacts our lives and shapes the landscape of our communities. Using visual art, Mihalic aims to connect the weather to our changing climate in ways that spark dialogue with the public. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Houston, TX, Mihalic shared examples of her firm’s built and speculative work to walk the audience through the “why” and “how” of feeling the weather.

The weather brings out many feelings, ranging from poetic, sublime, strange, dramatic, or even tremendous. To depict the fleeting, often intangible feelings of weather, Mihalic combines art and technology, presenting climate research in a legible and accessible form. As a landscape architect, Mihalic understands the effects weather has on the landscape, often tasked with providing creative and innovative design solutions for climate challenges such as increasing precipitation, drought, and heat stress. As an artist, Mihalic attempts to translate this knowledge in a way that resonates with the public and inspires societal change. 

One such project, Color Cloud, is a site-specific public art installation that celebrates the unique skyscape over Houston. Made of polychrome mesh, the installation was inspired by the breathtaking beauty of the Houston summertime storm clouds. This immersive, colorful public art installation serves as a gateway into the experience of cloud-gazing in the city. In addition to the artwork, Mihalic’s firm created a crowd-sourced map depicting the best local places for cloud-gazing. This temporary project got the neighborhood thinking about and celebrating the natural beauty of their environment. 

Image: Falon Land Studio, LLC

Color Cloud; Image: Falon Land Studio, LLC

At a similar neighborhood scale, Climate Pulse is a weather-responsive light sculpture that incorporates technology to depict local changes in temperature and humidity. Sited in Houston’s Emancipation Park, this temporary installation was designed as a parametric sculpture with responsive lighting integrated into the structure. Using an algorithm that translated temperature data into colors, the sculpture emits a glow of color based on ambient temperature. At high humidity levels, the lights sparkle to warn of impending rain, bringing attention to the changing weather and climate patterns of the site.

Bayou Beacon aims to depict weather data and climate impacts on a regional scale. The Buffalo Bayou is the main river flowing through the center of Houston, Texas. The bayou has experienced many major flooding events, including Hurricane Harvey in 2017 where extensive rainfall brought the bayou to record high water levels. The surrounding communities are greatly impacted by storm surges, but their vulnerability is not always perceived. Utilizing real-time data, the art installation will showcase the rise and fall of water levels, expressing the Buffalo Bayou as a shifting, dynamic system. This prototype intends to bring the bayou’s water levels into the public eye, forcing viewers to confront the reality and urgency of sea level rise in their community.

Climate change makes us more vulnerable to heat stress, poor air quality, and certain diseases. However, the effects of the changing environment on our human health are often invisible, and therefore easily forgotten. From Invisible to Visible is a project aimed at making air quality legible in the built environment. Mihalic’s team is currently developing prototypes of an air quality monitoring device that provides real-time air quality information to the public. By making the invisible problem of poor air quality visible to the public, the project aims to build social capacity and raise awareness on climate issues.

Through her work, Mihalic seeks to take the wonder embodied in the weather and translate it into something expressive that brings users into direct conversation with the future. Artists and landscape architects play an important role in building climate literacy and community resilience. Mihalic calls her fellow colleagues to bring the topic of the weather out of the realm of small talk and onto a larger societal platform.


This video was filmed on June 26, 2019 in Houston, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lighting Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium Goes Virtual: Part 2

This year’s annual LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium showcased leading-edge thinking in landscape architecture to address a breadth of pressing issues. During this two-part virtual event, the six 2019-2020 LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership recipients presented their projects as the culmination of their year-long fellowship. The symposium is a celebration of the fellows’ journey to develop their leadership capacity and work on ideas that have the potential to create positive and profound change in the profession, the environment, and humanity. 

< RELATED: LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium Goes Virtual: Part 1 >

Established in 2016, the Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership was created to “foster transformational leadership capacity and support innovations to advance the field of landscape architecture”. This $25,000 fellowship is an opportunity for professionals to dedicate the equivalent of 3 months’ time over the course of one year to a proposed project that has the potential to bring positive change and expand the discipline’s impact. The funds provide mid career and senior-level landscape architects the ability to think deeply, reflect, research, explore, create, test, and develop their ideas into action. In addition to the funds, the LAF Fellows receive project support through facilitated discussions, critiques, mentorship, and explorations of transformational leadership that occur during three 3-day residencies in Washington, DC, as well as monthly conference calls.

Like many recent events, the symposium saw a change of format this year and was hosted virtually. This is just one of the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic is expected to impact the landscape architecture profession. While quarantine has illustrated the importance of public space, it has also reminding us that access and treatment within these spaces in unequal. In a joint statement prepared by the 2019-2020 cohort, the Fellows recognize the systemic racism rooted in landscapes, and the progress to be made toward addressing urban inequity, stating: “Watching these events unfold, it became clear that the discourse in landscape architecture must change; that our work has too often been complicit in the marginalization and oppression of black and brown lives. It is up to us to imagine new futures, to dismantle oppressive power structures, and embrace our differences.”

In this moment of crisis, the urgency of the Fellow’s research topics have become even more apparent. As past LAF President Cindy Sanders stated, “Now, of all times, is not the time to stop programs that supports innovation and leadership development. The events of the last few months have only underscored our collective need for transformational leaders who can take us through these difficulties to a more sustainable, equitable, and just world.” This symposium provides a platform to bring important conversations to broader audiences and bring about much-needed societal change. 

This online event was broken into two sessions, each day featuring presentations from three of the Fellows. The second session featured fellows Nick Jabs, Associate at PORT Urbanism, Pierre Bélanger, landscape architect and founder of the Landscape Infrastructure Lab, and Hans Baumann, an independent practicing landscape architect.

Nick Jabs – Working Landscapes and the Middle American City

In the design profession, there is lack of critical engagement with Middle American cities. Neither entirely rural or urban, the identity of these “smaller out-of-the-way towns” are often ignored, however their viability is critical and currently in danger. Fellow Nick Jabs set out to explore this often overlooked section of America in an effort to better understand the driving forces that have, and may in the future, shape its physical and cultural landscapes. In his presentation, Working Landscapes and the Middle American City, Jabs explores the past and present condition of Middle American cities through the evolution and intersection of their working landscapes.

Jabs’ research explores the shape of Middle America throughout time, and how the buildings, landscapes, and manufacturing infrastructure have changed along with it. Through a timeline of historical settlements, resource extraction, trade, transportation, and factory production, Jabs outlines the milestones that catalyzed change for the region. He argues that change, either in growth or decline, of post-colonial Middle American cities can consistently be linked back to the extraction and processing of natural resources or manufacturing. As he states, “The dual interwinding projects of capitalism and colonization manifests through manufacturing have shaped and reshaped the physical and perceived identity of Middle America, and especially the form of it is cities.”

Just as manufacturing has shaped and reshaped Middle America, so will our current climate crisis affect the future development of this region. Jabs argues that, due to their history, these communities are uniquely positioned to lead a low-carbon future, stating: “These communities not only have the natural, infrastructural, and physical capacities to make this happen. They have the cultural legacy as well. The very things that have defined the identity of Middle America are the necessary point-of-departure to make this transition.” He envisions a future in which Middle America is the engine for delivering the promises of the Green New Deal, providing decarbonization, justice, and jobs. The Green New Deal policy proposal would provide substantial investment in manufacturing and clean energy systems, places emphasis on bringing environmental, racial, and economic justice to vulnerable communities, and aims to meet 2030 and 2050 carbon goals. If enacted, we could witness a transformation of the region from one predicated on an extractive, destructive paradigm to one that is reciprocal and productive, with an interconnected relationship between the workers, the work being done, and the environment.

The identity and structure of this region has been shaped many times in the past, and it can be shaped again. In a final call-to-action, Jabs pronounces: “It is up to us – through our priorities, our budgets, our activism, and votes – to determine that future.”

Pierre Belanger – Landscape as Foundation for Revolution and Resistance

As landscape architects, we are stewards of the land. But whose lands we are on, and who are we accountable to? When we consider that the land in the U.S. and Canada was obtained through treaties with Indian tribes and acknowledge the history of these reservation lands lost to white development based on broken promises, we come to realize that we are accountable to the histories and legacies of those lands. Fellow Pierre Belanger provided a deeply moving and provocative presentation, Landscape as Foundation for Revolution and Resistance, that considers this question, opening a lens on the past to better understand the extreme climate of oppression and inequalities today. Presented in the form of spoken word, Belanger shares a letter he wrote to the editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine, Brad McKee, critically questioning the professional establishment and academic institution’s unwillingness to address matters of diversity, history, and legacy in landscape architecture.

Belanger proclaims that now is the time for the profession to confront its legacy rooted in dispossession, domination, and exploitation. “Our under-education of white supremacy, the inhumanity of design, and the injustice of the environment, our negligence, ignorance and silence are monumental,” he asserts. In order to clarify who we are as a profession and what our field represents, we must participate in a critical deep dialog and come to terms with histories of slavery and legacies of racism in the U.S. Landscape architects must decide if they want to champion change by engaging in deep dialogues about spatial injustice and racial erasure to rise up against legacies of white supremacy and dismantle settler colonialism. To work closer to the communities that we are accountable to, Belanger started a non-profit organization, OPEN SYSTEMS, and, with his co-founders, drafted a 38-point Deign Manifesto, continuing his mission to reclaim landscape, land, and life.

Hans Baumann – Immaterial Outcomes: Tribal Sovereignty and Design Collaboration at the Salton Sea 

How would our understanding of the land change if landscape architects engaged more regularly with tribal communities? Tribal communities represent an incredibly diverse resource for understanding the places that we live and work, and yet we as design professionals do not acknowledge their expertise. Several of the 2019-2020 Fellows chose to research topics related to marginalized communities and tribal lands. However, Fellow Hans Baumann is the only to have immersed himself in a long-term collaboration with tribal members. In his presentation, Immaterial Outcomes: Tribal Sovereignty and Design Collaboration at the Salton Sea, Baumman reflects on his collaboration with the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians of Southern California, sharing how landscape can act as a medium between design methodology and Indigenous knowledge. His work illustrates why landscape architects must engage with North America’s diverse tribal peoples, especially during the current era of unprecedented ecological change.

The tribal lands of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians surround the Salton Sea, the largest body of water in the state of California. Once a freshwater lake seen as a place of livelihood, the water quality has declined in recent years largely due to agricultural dumping, and the result is a shrinking, increasingly saline waterbody. Efforts are being made to better protect the quality of this important water resource, and Torres-Martinez is eager to take an active role in restoration efforts. As the largest private landowner in and around the Salton Sea in the lower Coachella Valley, the tribal community has a cultural connection to this unique ecosystem, however Baumman discovered that only 2.3% of maps in “Salton Sea Atlas” make reference to the Cahuilla peoples, tribal land holdings, or tribal reservations – effectively erasing the community’s ties to the region.

While this is very much an ecological issue, it is much more personal for the tribal community. And, while the tribe’s connection has been largely ignored to-date, their long-standing relationship to the land offers an important perspective. Baumann suggests that these cultural and ecological issues are interdependent and is working to bring the cultural perceptions to the maps and representational frameworks. In the Fall of 2017, Baumann met with the community’s tribal government, suggesting an inclusive approach to the Salton Sea crisis – one that emphasizes the community’s personal and cultural connections to the water. A partnership has since been formed, developed through a series of community workshops led by artists and culture bearers in the tribe and supported through a youth apprenticeship. Baumann’s role is to support the development of ideas in the community workshops and to facilitate continuity over the life of the project. 

As an outsider, Baumann has learned much about the process of working with tribal communities, emphasizing that this work should not follow a linear process. Relationship building and trust is critical, and factors such as deadlines can turn relationships into transactions. Through this partnership, Baumann has concluded that we must dismantle the thinking and assumptions that exist in the field of landscape architecture that has historically isolated us from these tribal allies. We must reframe our role and understand that we are entering a long term process of listening and consensus-building. In conclusion, he states: “This is not a call for us to lead the way. What it is is a call for us to step aside; to make space; and to find the interest and capacity to support the work being done by tribal governments and tribal peoples now, in the present.“


Presentations from Part 2 of the 2020 LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium can be viewed on the LAF website. Those seeking continuing education credits can earn 1.0 PDH (LA CES/HSW) following successful completion of a short quiz.

LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium Goes Virtual: Part 1

This year’s annual LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium showcased leading-edge thinking in landscape architecture to address a breadth of pressing issues. During this two-part virtual event, the six 2019-2020 LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership recipients presented their projects as the culmination of their year-long fellowship. The symposium is a celebration of the fellows’ journey to develop their leadership capacity and work on ideas that have the potential to create positive and profound change in the profession, the environment, and humanity.

< RELATED: LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium Goes Virtual: Part 2 >

Established in 2016, the Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership was created to “foster transformational leadership capacity and support innovations to advance the field of landscape architecture”. This $25,000 fellowship is an opportunity for professionals to dedicate the equivalent of 3 months’ time over the course of one year to a proposed project that has the potential to bring positive change and expand the discipline’s impact. The funds provide mid-career and senior-level landscape architects the ability to think deeply, reflect, research, explore, create, test, and develop their ideas into action. In addition to the funds, the LAF Fellows receive project support through facilitated discussions, critiques, mentorship, and explorations of transformational leadership that occur during three 3-day residencies in Washington, DC, as well as monthly conference calls.

Like many recent events, the symposium saw a change of format this year and was hosted virtually. This is just one of the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic is expected to impact the landscape architecture profession. While quarantine has illustrated the importance of public space, it has also reminding us that access and treatment within these spaces in unequal. In a joint statement prepared by the 2019-2020 cohort, the Fellows recognize the systemic racism rooted in landscapes, and the progress to be made toward addressing urban inequity, stating: “Watching these events unfold, it became clear that the discourse in landscape architecture must change; that our work has too often been complicit in the marginalization and oppression of black and brown lives. It is up to us to imagine new futures, to dismantle oppressive power structures, and embrace our differences.”

In this moment of crisis, the urgency of the Fellow’s research topics have become even more apparent. As past LAF President Cindy Sanders stated, “Now, of all times, is not the time to stop programs that supports innovation and leadership development. The events of the last few months have only underscored our collective need for transformational leaders who can take us through these difficulties to a more sustainable, equitable, and just world.” This symposium provides a platform to bring important conversations to broader audiences and bring about much-needed societal change.

This online event was broken into two sessions, each day featuring presentations from three of the Fellows. The first session featured fellows Jeffrey Hou, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of Urban Commons Lab at University of Washington, Liz Camuti, Landscape Designer at SCAPE, and Diana Fernandez, Associate at Sasaki.

Jeff Hou – Design as Activism: Educating for Social Change

Facing environmental and social crises on a global scale, how can landscape architecture education prepare students to become changemakers in meeting these challenges? Fellow Jeff Hou sought to answer this question in his presentation Design as Activism: Educating for Social Change, in which he presented a framework of actions to reposition and transform landscape architecture education for social change. Using design as a vehicle for change, the profession of landscape architecture has the capacity to make a more meaningful contribution to society in terms of equity, justice, and resilience. To grow our collective capacity and build future leaders, Hou suggests we need to better integrate design activism into the educational curriculum.

In his research, Hou explored the different expressions of design activism, the skills and knowledge needed for practicing it, and the actions needed to integrate it into curriculum. Working alongside his students at University of Washington and receiving input from a network of university program leaders and practitioners across the county, Hou created a 50-page document titled “Design As Activism: A Framework for Actions in Landscape Architecture Education”. The document outlines a series of principles to guide actions that programs can take to integrate design activism into their curriculum. As Hou states, “Each of these actions represent an opportunity to transform the way we teach and the way we learn, to expand the skills and knowledge of our future professionals, and to recognize the power of design in bringing about change.” Calling on us all to make this transformation happen, Hou plans to distribute the documents to universities around the country and seek endorsements from leaders.

Liz Camuti – Un-Checking the Boxes: Learning to Read Between the Lines of Climate Resilience RFPs

Although socially and economically marginalized communities are the first to be affected by climate change, their voices are often some of the first to be ignored. Fellow Liz Camuti invites us to think differently about resiliency planning and our capacity as landscape architects to give voice to vulnerable communities. Using the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles – a sliver of island 80 miles southwest of New Orleans – as a case study, Camuti’s work, titled Un-Checking the Boxes: Learning to Read Between the Lines of Climate Resilience RFPs, questions: 1) how criteria for a “successful” project might evolve through a different form of RFP, and 2) how designers can adapt their roles to break cycles of erasure and control that have shaped environmental history in Louisiana.

The residents of the Isle de Jean Charles are Louisiana’s first climate refugees. The historic homeland to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, this primarily American Indian community has lost 98% of its land due to rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion, and subsidence in just two generations. In 2002, seeing the need to relocate this community to safer ground inland, the US Amy Corps of Engineers identified a new site where the community could rebuild and began planning for resettlement. But the majority of residents and tribal leaders from Isle de Jean Charles did not want to relocate due to their culture’s close ties to the land. Despite the extensive design and planning process, many residents feel that the new plans do not reflect the goals and objectives that the community had for themselves. While many hoped this resettlement would provide a blueprint for the future as rising seas are projected to advance upon more low-lying communities, it is clear that the project did not understand the true cost of relocation.

In her research, Camuti delved into this project’s Request for Proposal (RFP) document and the resultant design process to understand why a well-intended design solution failed to meet community needs. Unfortunately, parameters set forth in RFP documents are often not reflective of the structures and traditions of the communities said projects seek to assist. Engagement is often limited to reducing conflict instead of investing in authentic collaboration, leaning into tensions, and wholeheartedly seeking community support. Camuti proposes a re-thinking of how landscape architects review and respond to RFPs, re-evaluating how RFPs define client, cost, scale and time, public participation, and cultural history. She asserts that we need to go beyond “checking the boxes” to address the true challenges unique to each community. As Camuti states, “We have the capacity to develop more creative ways of reading between the lines of RFPs in order to truly serve communities.”

Diana Fernandez – Heterogeneous Futures: Design-Thinking Alternatives for Anthropologically and Ecologically Diverse Landscapes

By definition, public space belongs to the people –  to all of them. But how people experience space is very different depending on their identity and public spaces often fall short from meeting the goal of welcoming people of every age, gender, race, income, or sexual orientation. As Fellow Diana Fernandez explains in her presentation, public space has historically been built by a hegemonic discourse, excluding the lived experiences of marginalized communities. As landscape architects, Fernandez believes we need to increase the pathways for these voices to be heard. In her research, titled Heterogeneous Futures: Design-Thinking Alternatives for Anthropologically and Ecologically Diverse Landscapes, Fernandez seeks to ensure public landscapes reflect the multiculturalism of the people that inhabit them.

In the U.S., the shaping of public spaces has been historically determined by institutionalized requirements and power structures, prioritizing Euro-centric principles of design and intentionally restricting “undesirable” populations, such as the homeless or skateboarders. These practices have continued to plague and perpetuate injustice and inequality in the public realm. Fernandez’ research builds on the current movement of landscape architecture toward incorporating social, cultural, and linguistic knowledge as critical aspects of the design process. By focusing on community-defined design excellence and allowing the community to define beauty, we can create spaces that are more resilient and representative of communities of all backgrounds.

Heterogeneity is a term often used to describe the resilience of ecological or biological systems. The diverse qualities of heterogeneous landscapes enable them to thrive when exposed to outside forces, such as natural disasters, environmental change, and pandemics. Asserting that we need embrace heterogeneity as a landscape process, Fernandez identifies key indicators for designers to practice in the design process. By adjusting our state of consciousness, we can make space for learning, unlearning, healing, and acceptance of differences in public space. For more information about her research, visit Fernandez’ website, Heterogeneous Futures.

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Presentations from Part 1 of the 2020 LAF Innovation + Leadership Symposium can be viewed on the LAF website. Those seeking continuing education credits can earn 1.0 PDH (LA CES/HSW) following successful completion of a short quiz.

The Aesthetic of Proof [Land8x8 Video]

As designers, we are constantly seeking new tools and strategies to better express our design vision. Technological advances have enhanced our visualization capabilities dramatically over the years, from hand-drawn perspectives to photo-realistic renderings and 3D digital models. Yet, much of what makes a landscape unique – the feelings, smells, and sounds of the natural environment – are not being communicated in our graphics. Andrew Sargeant, landscape designer and visualization specialist for Lionheart Places LLC, believes that augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) provide greater potential than all previous rendered visualizations of landscapes. During his presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Sargeant shared why he believes immersive technology is the future of landscape representation.

A pioneer of design technology in the field of landscape architecture, Sargeant is keenly interested in developing innovative ways to visualize the design work of landscape architects. From site analysis to design iteration to client communication, immersive technology has a lot to offer the discipline. Currently, the sensory factors we experience in landscapes – sounds, scents, and the feeling of warmth or wind – are missing from our visual representations. Our graphics do not effectively show all of the potential experiences and temporal qualities of designed landscapes, often misrepresenting the key characteristics that make a space special or unique. Immersive technologies provide a more realistic experience, allowing users to more fully interact with a design and experience the changing seasons. As Sargeant states: “A picture is worth a thousand words, but an experience is worth much more.” With VR and augmented reality, designers are able to provide clients and community stakeholders with interactive experiences of designed landscapes. 

The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) recognized the potential this technology has to advance the profession by selecting Sargeant as recipient of the 2018-2019 LAF Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership. This yearlong program is intended to develop ideas that have the potential to create positive and profound change in the profession, environment, and humanity. During his fellowship, Sargeant endeavored to discover the latest visualization tools and explore the possibilities immersive technology can provide to the profession.

Disillusioned by the “sunny day” renderings, which do not show the lived experiences and experiential qualities of the landscape, Sargeant began exploring how to use VR to bring landscape representations to life. Utilizing video game design engine Unity, Saergent explored the capabilities of this software to gain a better understanding of the challenges, considerations, and successes of immersive technology. While the software has a steep learning curve, he was able to successfully integrate this tool into his practice. During his presentation, Sargeant shared an example of a project east of Austin adjacent to the Colorado River, susceptible to rising flood waters. Because of the site’s unique location, the design solution needed to address rising tides and accommodate change. Sargeant utilized immersive technology to depict the site during a 100-year storm surge, complete with the visual and auditory stimulants of heavy rain and booming thunder. By demonstrating the experiential qualities of the site, Sargeant was able to show how immersive technologies foster a sense of authentic human experience

Sargeant believes the adoption of immersive technology will give landscape architects a competitive edge, and inspire new ways to think and design. To encourage the spread of immersive technology, Sargeant is actively working to successfully integrate immersive technology within professional practice and academia. He hopes that these solutions can be made available for all to use in the design of and advocacy for public space.

Follow Andrew Sargeant on Twitter and Instagram @bydesigndrew


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Plant Stuffing [Land8x8 Video]

From urban farming to forest bathing, there has been a growing desire to connect with the natural world. In an effort to bring nature to urban settings, some landscape architects are turning away from conventional horticultural practices, where plants are organized in orderly rows and treated as separate, distinct clumps, in favor of a freer aesthetic that reflects the wildness of nature and is attuned to ecology. During her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Jennifer Orr, a founding principal of Studio Balcones, discussed the importance of designing “wild” landscapes in the public realm to help restore ecological diversity in urban settings. Orr advocates for crafting landscapes that work with nature instead of trying to control it. This plant-driven approach for public landscapes aims to reconnect people with larger natural systems.

To achieve the performance goals of today, plants must do a whole lot more than just be ornamental. They must provide wildlife habitat and food, filter stormwater runoff, support biodiversity, enrich soils, cleanse air, reduce the heat island effect, and improve mental health WHILE making spaces more beautiful. Achieving these broader ecological goals requires an understanding of how plants fit together. Naturalistic design takes cues from nature, organizing plants the way nature does, in richly layered, diverse communities. Plants are fit together in ecological combinations and arranged in an intermingled style, bleeding into each other. This plant-rich design approach yields multi-purpose, beautiful landscapes that support biodiversity.

Orr is not the only landscape architect calling for a revolution in planting design. The naturalistic movement originated in the Netherlands over 30 years ago, with famous garden designer Piet Oudolf at the forefront of the movement. More recently, projects like the High Line in New York City and Chicago’s Laurie Garden (both designed in collaboration with Piet Oudolf) have brought this type of planting aesthetic to urban environments, launching the public awareness and popularity of naturalistic planting design. Intended to be ever-changing, dynamic, and emotion-laden landscapes, these places make us reconsider the role of landscapes in public spaces.

As described by Tony Spencer in an article on his blog, The New Perennialist, naturalistic plantings are composed of a series of interwoven plant layers together forming a community, abstracting the patterns and relationships found in nature. He writes: “Particular attention is paid to how each plant grows from the roots on down—whether it clumps or runs, and how well it responds to stress and competition. Every detail of a given plant’s habit provides a clue into how well it plays with others and what ecological niches it can fill”.

jennifer orr plants land8x8

Image: Studio Balcones

Mastering this art requires a deep horticultural knowledge and an understanding of the intricate relationships between plants. Fortunately, as popularity grows, so too have resources and publications to master this design aesthetic, including Nigel Dunnett’s Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide (2019), Claudia West and Thomas Rainer’s book Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes (2016), and Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes (2016) by Margie Ruddick.

So, how can we actualize the power of plants to more effectively drive ecological function in our towns and cities? In urban environments, where space is at a premium, Orr suggests “plant stuffing”, or planting as many plants in as many spaces as possible, to underscore the importance of plant layering and variety.

This type of “wild” planting design is often perceived as messy or formless, leading to concerns over maintenance. Orr asserts that we should embrace the messiness of nature, while also understanding that there is a right balance to strike in naturalistic planting design. Designs should interpret nature, but also be legible. To achieve this balance, selecting the right plants – plants that are adapted to the soil and climate of a specific site – is key. If done correctly, this planting approach actually requires less labor over time, avoiding the typical maintenance burdens of watering, mulching, spraying, and pruning.

Orr encourages designers to experiment with the naturalistic planting style, see what examples of best practices are out there, and discover the beauty of gardening in a naturalistic style. By harnessing the power of plants, we as landscape architects are able to create resilient, memorable, and vibrant landscapes.


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Altering Human Habits [Land8x8 Video]

Spending time outside not only makes us feel healthier, it also impacts our long-term wellbeing. Studies have shown that people with high exposure to green spaces yield significant physical and mental health benefits. Yet, most of us do not prioritize outdoor activity in our daily lives. According to the EPA, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors, leaving very little time for outdoor activity each day. To promote human wellbeing, we need to alter our daily routine to accommodate outdoor activity. In her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Houston, TX, Cynthia Dehlavi, Senior Research and Design Associate at OJB Landscape Architecture, shared how landscape architects can use design to influence human habits and increase people’s daily exposure to green space.

During her presentation, Dehlavi walked participants through a meditative experience to demonstrate the effects that our surroundings can have on our bodies. Research has shown that an indoor, sedentary lifestyle impacts your mood, causes fatigue, disrupts your sleep cycle, and even increases your chance of catching an infection. This has a tremendous effect on our bodies including eye strain from staring at a screen, back pain from a hunched seating posture, and lung disease from poor air quality. Conversely, spending time outdoors provides measurable health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving concentration, and strengthening your immunity. Dehlavi recognized that landscapes can fulfill many of our bodies’ needs. Motivated by a desire to help others receive the restorative health benefits nature provides, Dehlavi began to consider how she as a landscape architect can use design to influence individuals to make positive changes to their daily routine and pursue a healthier lifestyle. Here are a few ways Dahlavi and her team at OJB are using design to shift human behavior and promote wellbeing:

Bike or Walk to Work 

More than 85% of workers drive to the office every day. For many of us, this daily commute feels like a chore, but it could be an untapped opportunity to fit outdoor time into your day. Changing your mode of transportation from vehicle to foot or bicycle can reap huge health benefits. Not only is your physical health improved, studies have also shown evidence that productivity and positivity are increased when people change their behavior to active commuting. To promote an active commute, landscape architects are working with cities and towns to implement more pedestrian and cyclist friendly practices, such as dedicated paths or protected bike lanes and bicycle rentals.

cynthia dehlavi land8x8 image

Take Breaks

Since the average person spends 12+ hours a day sitting – i.e. at their desk, behind the wheel, or in front of the TV screen – taking breaks is essential. However, one study has shown that only one in three workers actually step away from their desk to take lunch. While skipping your lunch break may seem beneficial to completing a deadline, it actually reduces your productivity and deteriorates your mental state. Without taking adequate breaks, overall work performance begins to suffer. While finding time for a break can be challenging, it has shown to increase productivity, improve mental well-being, boost creativity, and encourage healthy habits such as a healthy lunch, exercise, or meditation. To encourage movement throughout the day, landscape architects are teaming with office building developers to provide both active and passive outdoor amenity spaces including walking trails, picnic benches, and gardens.

Take It Outside

While the benefits of being outside are well-established, 65% of employees say that their work is the reason that they don’t get outside as much as they would like. Studies have shown that employees with a view of nature perceive lower levels of job stress and higher levels of job satisfaction. To capitalize on these benefits, employers are starting to integrate the outdoors into the workday. Companies are re-imagining their office space to bring the outdoors in, opting for natural light, fresh air, and indoor plants or natural building materials. In addition, with remote work technologies, it’s easier than ever to take your work outside or hold outdoor meetings. Landscape architects are working with clients to provide outdoor workstations.

While Dehlavi is motivated by the desire to improve wellbeing, she also acknowledges that encouraging an increase in people’s daily outdoor activity will also benefit the profession of landscape architecture. She states: “If we change the culture from only being outside 7% of the day to 20% or more, then there is more demand for high-quality landscapes.” By altering people’s daily routine, we can increase the need and demand for better outdoor living, working, and relaxing spaces. Dehlavi encourages landscape architects to be better advocates of human wellbeing, designing spaces that allow for a shift in human behavior and increase daily exposure to green space.


This video was filmed on June 26, 2019 in Houston, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Managing Risk [Land8x8 Video]

The work of landscape architects work involves complex decisions and responsibilities — detailing and designing projects, observing construction, achieving owner satisfaction, and ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Landscape architects are subject to professional liability as a direct result of the higher expectations placed on us due to our specialized education and training. When a project doesn’t go according to plan, owners can file lawsuits against the design firm. Risk are inherent in the landscape architecture profession, but we rarely talk about it. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Marissa McKinney, Principal at Austin-based landscape architecture firm Coleman & Associates, discussed the many ways in which design professionals expose themselves to legal liability and how design firms can mitigate risk.

Analyze Risk

Risk management should begin before a contract is even signed. To reduce unforeseen problems, it is important to identify potential risks early on, and analyze the risk’s potential impact and its likelihood of occurring. Before taking on a new project type or working with a new client, as yourself “is it worth the risk?”. By planning a risk response and implementing it, you avoid, minimize, and/or accept the risk.

Set Owner Expectations

Professional liability claims are often a result of a failure to manage expectations. A well-written contract is the first step to reduce liability, and is the best way to set both parties’ expectations on a project. It sets a clear understanding between the client and designer of the landscape architect’s scope of work, and the quality and timing of the final product. A contract allows both parties to clearly document their mutual understanding for project requirements and obligations, which should reduce the likelihood of a later dispute. Poorly written contracts and ambiguous language can expose firms to unintended risks. While standard contract forms, such as those provided by ASLA, are a useful first step, getting legal review of standard contracts is another important assurance.

Communication is Key

When unexpected schedule delays or cost overruns occur, communication to the client is key. Lack of communication may result in a big – and often costly – surprise later for the client. Make sure that the contract details all the terms of your work – including deliverables, deadlines, and pay rates – so both parties have everything in writing. If a project’s scope changes or you take on more responsibilities, it’s a good idea to modify and re-sign the contract so that these changes are spelled out and can be covered should something go awry. Regularly check in with the client throughout the project so that you can manage expectations and stay aware of new or shifting priorities. Be proactive by taking and distributing comprehensive meeting notes and getting direction in writing to prevent disputes later on.

Practice Standard of Care

Although landscape architects strive for perfection in their work, errors happen. Most mistakes are caused by the complexity of the design coupled with human limitations – i.e. a code requirement might be over-looked or dimension miscalculated. By using the standard of care clause, professionals can protect themselves from liability if the issue of negligence should arise. Under this standard, the design professional is held to use the same degree of care as is ordinarily practices by other reasonably competent landscape architects. The standard of care sets realistic expectations; however, it is typically the responsibility of the landscape architect to perform quality control of their drawings, ensure drawings are properly coordinated between consultants, and review bidding documents for compliance with client instructions, regulatory code, and other requirements. However, landscape architects routinely do not guarantee construction outcomes because they are not capable of making those guarantees come true.

Reduce Responsibility

Much of the risk occurs during construction. A landscape architect’s approach to construction administration can greatly affect risk exposure and its outcomes. Contractors are your first line of dense in flagging potential errors. Encourage them to ask about suspected errors and omissions and respond quickly to their requests to set a pace for a constructive dialogue in the future. The landscape architect should also conduct site visits to ensure construction quality. Should potentially costly decisions need to be made, reduce liability by allowing the client to make those hard decisions. Unfortunately, the design firm is not always contracted to perform construction observation services, or an exhausted fee limits their ability to control liabilities. For this reason, clear expectations and an understanding of responsibility are again vital.

Depending on the contract language, the landscape architecture practice can be held liable for the negligence of contractors or sub-consultants working on a project. Even if you’ve detailed and specified suitable materials, there is no guarantee that the construction project manager will follow your instructions or that you will be made aware of substitutions. If there are flaws in the finished product due to construction mistakes, the owner could sue the landscape architect for negligence and hold them liable for damages. Similarly, McKinney shares an example of a practitioner who included the structural engineer’s mark-ups of a retaining wall within their landscape architecture drawings. When the wall failed, the client held the landscape architect responsible despite the mistake being caused by the sub-consultant. It is important that you avoid accepting responsibility for other people’s negligent acts. One way to do so is through the use of an indemnity clause. Indemnity is an agreement to assume a specific liability in the event of a loss, shifting risk from one party to another.

mckinney land8

Emerging / Specialized Risks 

Today, landscape architecture projects are expected to mitigate climate change and respond to a host of constantly evolving future variables. As projects become more complicated and require specialized expertise to achieve desired environmental outcomes, the risk landscape architects face is heightened. Similarly, complicated projects require more customized details and increase liability. Practitioners should expect proper compensation for taking on such risks, while also protecting themselves from undue liability by ensuring they are up-to-date on latest practices, curating a sub-consultant team of knowledgeable experts, and managing client expectations.

Liability Insurance

To protect against expensive lawsuits, most landscape architecture and design businesses carry professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance. These policies protect the firm and its employees from lawsuits caused by poor communication, changing project requirements, negligent acts, errors or omissions in the performance of a service, and budget overruns. Professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal costs to defend against a claim. Additionally, insurers offer ongoing risk management services to insured firms, including legal review of standard contracts, and continuing education on ways to reduce or avoid unnecessary liability.

Proper risk management strengthens client confidence, increase profitability, and ensures a high quality of services rendered. We must take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and mitigate risk. During her presentation, McKinney stated that the profession as a whole does not put enough emphasis on professional practice, and urged professionals to talk openly about their own experiences, continually elevating the risk management standards not only of their own practice, but of the professional as a whole.  Do you have risk management advice based on issues you’ve run into? Share it in the comments section below!


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lighting Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Creating Better Places [Land8x8 Video]

The research is clear: Spending time outdoors, especially in green, natural settings, is good for our health. A growing body of research is demonstrating the positive measurable effects spending time in nature has on our well-being – from reducing mental distress, increasing physical activity, and extending our life span. In fact, spending time outside is so vital that doctors around the world have begun prescribing time in nature as a way of improving their patients’ health. Unfortunately, natural settings are not readily accessible to everyone, and the quality of our outdoor environments are not always conducive to human well-being. Understanding that how we shape our environment impacts our health, Stephen Cook, Principal at the Planning and Landscape Architecture firm Hitchcock Design Group, is striving to improve human health through the design of the built environment. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Houston, TX, Cook shared specific project examples of the health benefits landscape architecture projects can provide, and the important role designers play in the improvement of human health.

Despite the many benefits nature provides for human health and well-being, we spend very little time each day outdoors. The average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors, according to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Furthermore, due to the poor quality of our outdoor environments, the time we do spend outdoors may actually be harmful to our health – especially in urban environments where pollution, noise, over-stimulation, and other city-stressors are high. A shortage of green spaces and a technology-centric culture has further disconnected us from nature. What design strategies can be deployed to create more healthy outdoor environments, and how can we captivate an audience when they are outdoors – taking them away from their screen to gain the full benefits of their time in nature?

Healthy, quality outdoor spaces encourage social connectedness, safety, physical activity, and sensory stimulation. Well-lit, tree-lined sidewalks enable safe and convenient physical activity, while well-designed parks and plazas create inviting spaces for social gatherings or quiet relief. Through his career as a landscape architect, Cook has worked on a variety of projects that promote wellness through sensory integration, connectivity to nature, and physical engagement. His work spans from therapeutic gardens at healthcare facilities, to community playgrounds that interweave play and education.

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Image: Hitchcock Deign Group

The Lynn and Jerry Flaherty Family Respite Garden at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois was designed as a “journey through the woods”, bringing the serenity of nature to the rooftop garden. Featuring natural materials and lush plantings, shade structures the mimic the canopy of a forest, and a small water feature, the space provides a place of respite for staff and families while offering patients attractive views from their rooms. Bison’s Bluff, a playground in Schaumburg, Illinois, extends learning to the outdoors, using play to educate children of all ages about nature. The nature-based playscape immerses children in an ecosystem that includes native grasses, woodland trees, a stream and a pond. As the children explore these ecosystems, they are able to relieve stress, develop cognitive skills, and grow their appreciation for nature.

These examples Cook shares show that thoughtfully designed outdoor spaces can enhance the positive health benefits provided by being outdoors, renewing us both physically and mentally. So, take a walk outside, disconnect from technology, and breathe in the benefits of being outdoors. Your body and mind will thank you for it.


This video was filmed on June 26, 2019 in Houston, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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UT Austin [Land8x8 Video]

As the Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture celebrates the completion of its 15th year at the University of Texas at Austin, Director Hope Hasbrouck reflects on the radical change the program has experienced since its establishment. This transformation, Hasbrouck explains, is in response to the changing context of landscape architectural design. As perspectives within the profession shift to re-orient design goals from program to performance, research and academia topics have expanded to explore the dynamics of urban systems, historical and theoretical basis for design approach, and the complexities of multidisciplinary projects. During her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Hasbrouck shared five words she is seeing in academia that she believes will guide the next practices of the profession of landscape architecture.

Antifragility

Sustainability and resiliency are words that have become fixed in the lexicon of landscape architecture as communities strive to become better able to recover from disruptive natural events. Allan Shearer, Associate Dean for Research and Technology in the School of Architecture, is taking this concept one step further and researching how cities can not only be resilient but learn and improve from disruptions, effectively improving a cities capacity for change over time. The antonym of “fragile”, the term “antifragile” characterizes entities that gain from disturbance. By testing for antifragility in dense urban areas, we can understand the survivability of systems, including urban systems, under conditions of dynamic stress and create a framework for development that manages these presently unknown sources of stress. Shearer’s research centers on how individuals, communities, and societies create scenarios of the future and how these descriptions of possible tomorrows are used to inform present day decisions.

Hybridity

Landscape architecture is one of the most hybridic, complex, and ambiguous forms of design. It is also thus one of the most synthetic of design practices, simultaneously bringing together multiple disciplines in one work. A cross between the natural and built environment, landscape architecture balances art and science to weave together people, buildings, and site. Associate Professor Mirka Benes studies this concept with her graduate design students during her “Hybridity in Landscape/Architecture” course. During this course, students map the extremely hybridic fields pertaining to design today, from concepts of merging indoors and outdoors, re-conceptualizing threshold and boundary at project and at urban scale, dealing with the ambiguities of ground, to the ancient and very modern notions of changing meanings when materials, designs, and ornament are recycled. In addition to her teachings, Benes is also researching hybridity in preparation for her upcoming book that maps hybridity in landscape architecture, from Roman antiquity to today.

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Care-Work

Maggie Hansen is an Associate Professor whose work investigates how “care taking” serves to maintain and build community. Theories of “care-work” come from feminist political science, where an ethic of care is described as essential to democratic citizenship. The human actions that maintain and repair our world, our environment, and ourselves are often overlooked and undervalued, yet these actions are essential to sustaining everyday life. “To care about something, we must first notice it – and landscape architects, as engaged citizens, have an important role in raising consciousness and inspiring action on behalf of our shared environment,” Hasbrouck states. With a background in community-based design, Hansen’s work focuses on re-valuing the significance of human action in sustaining the environment. From a deep engagement process during design to regular maintenance and advocacy on a site’s behalf, these actions of “care” contribute to a project’s long-term success.

Information Space

From Building Information Modeling software (BIM) to Virtual Reality (VR), the digital toolbox available to landscape architects is continuing to grow. These tools have the capability to 3-D model data including volume, time, cost, systemic performance, and lifecycle maintenance. As practitioners integrate these tools into their workflow, it is critical to understand the best tool to support the desired level of inquiry. Adam Barbe, lecturer and founder of coLAB workshop, and Hope Hasbrouck are exploring the capabilities of the multi-dimensional digital workspace to support meaningful decision making.

Provocation

Associate Professor and founding Principal of FORGE Landscape Architecture, Phoebe Lickwar is examining the ways in which agriculture have been integrated into landscape design, resituating agriculture as a design process. Lickwar’s research and practice are focused on agricultural landscapes and the integration of regenerative agriculture-based systems in landscape architecture. Lickwar’s work aims to conserve these ecologically and culturally significant landscapes by documenting post-agricultural sites and studying how urbanization has led to a transformation in farmland and rural communities. Her book “Farmscape: The Design of Productive Landscapes” examines the integration of agriculture and landscape architecture through history.

Experimental and forward-thinking, these five words begin to frame the current identity of the Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, the evolving priorities of practitioners, and the practices that will guide the future of the profession.


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Leveraging Inevitabilities [Land8x8 Video]

“The future of landscape architecture includes me,” proclaims Katie Coyne, Certified Ecologist and Principal at Asakura Robinson, a planning, urban design, and landscape architecture firm. With a background in both ecology and community planning and sustainable design, Coyne leads the Urban Ecology Studio at Asakura Robinson, working alongside planners and design professionals to incorporate resilient design principles into the firm’s work. While Coyne works alongside landscape architects, she is not a professionally trained landscape architect, so when asked to present on the topic of “Next Practices in Landscape Architecture” for the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Coyne considered the economic, cultural, social, and ecological goals that must be balanced for a resilient future and developed the following 10 points to guide the future of the profession.

  1. The future of Landscape Architecture is not a silo. In order to solve the complex challenges of climate change, rapid urbanization, food insecurity, and inequality (just to name a few), we need to be collaborators. Landscape architects are working on dynamic projects that require a diversity of perspectives and expertise. By leveraging our partnerships with planners, engineers, scientists, ecologists, and policymakers, we can work together to put the best solutions forward.
  2. The future of Landscape Architecture is multi-scalar and uses systems thinking. Landscapes are complex systems. The challenge of contemporary landscape architecture is to manage the dynamic interrelationships between cultural and environmental systems across scales. In response to Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston created a resiliency strategy to increase the capacity of individuals, communities, and systems within the city to survive, adapt, and thrive in conditions of shocks or stress. The strategy is a roadmap to build resilience, recognizing that many systems that must work together in order to succeed. In order to measure Houston’s resilience, the city studied 12 drivers of resiliency – including leadership strategies, health and wellbeing, economic prosperity, communication infrastructure, and environmental assets. This framework can be used to evaluate existing policies, identify areas of weakness, and measure progress across neighborhood and regional scales.
  3. The future of Landscape Architecture actively advocates for equitable practice and results. Community engagement is common for landscape architects, but few projects actually empower citizens to define their own vision for the future. Vision Galveston, a nine-month community-visioning project, focused its outreach efforts on inclusivity, ensuring that the demographics of the community were represented in their engagement results. The project gathered public input in order to analyze problems, identity solutions, and ultimately provide recommendations for new policies and programs to address an array of problems facing the city – ranging from resiliency, the economy, housing, jobs, education, parks, land use, and transportation. Reaching 15% of the community, or over 7,500 people, this project mobilized the citizens of Galveston, empowering them to take ownership of their public space.
  4. The future of Landscape Architecture aims for both science-based and community-empowered practice. Through the use of scientific analysis and community engagement, we can ensure equitable outcomes. With a desire to expand access to the health benefits of parks, Houston used both scientific and community data in order to identify the park investments that would have the most impact on community health disparities. The Healthy Parks Plan for Travis, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties used GIS data to identify high need areas based on community health, socioeconomic vulnerability, flooding vulnerability, poor air and water quality, and park access. Then, the project engaged these high-need communities to determine the desired park amenities that would ensure park use by community members. With this community feedback, the team created design guidelines that ensure parks have a mix of physical, mental, and environmental health opportunities.
  5. The future of Landscape Architecture is not the last phase of the design process. Landscape architects should be involved in the entire process – from ideation to realization. The pre-design phase is critical to establish project goals, identify opportunities, anticipate problems, and maximize potential. When possible, landscape architects should advocate for these services, as early collaboration with the client and consultant team will increase the diversity of ideas and can prevent conflicts later on.
  6. The future of Landscape Architecture stacks benefits literally and systematically. In order to integrate nature into our cities, we must deploy unique strategies to provide green infrastructure on parcels where buildings or other impervious surfaces limit what the standard landscape code can accomplish. Functional Green, a proposed standard listed in Austin’s Land Development Code, sets a target score for each development parcel that represents the ecological function of a site relative to the total site area. This is an ecosystem-services based metric that sets a baseline of what we should expect from developers working in our most dense, urban places. Developers are given the flexibility to provide a range of landscape elements such as plantings, green roof, and porous pavement to meet their Functional Green score. By layering these benefits, the goal is to achieve enhanced ecological benefits in the city.
  7. The future of Landscape Architecture responds to different cultural, ecological, and historical contexts. In order to create a place that is embraced by the community, designs must reflect the diversity of users and the history of the site. When asked to assist San Antonio with their Trail Design Strategy – which includes a growing network of 69 miles of multi-use trails that wind through the regions natural landscapes and many of San Antonio’s major waterways – Coyne and her team broke the system into six unique “Character Areas”. The interventions recommended are based on the unique cultural, ecological, or physical context of trail segments, ensuring that the trail enhancements reflect the unique character of the neighborhood in which they will be placed.
  8. The future of Landscape Architecture is dynamic because climate is changing. With the occurrence of extreme weather events – such as flooding, drought, and tornadoes – continuing to increase in frequency, we need to design parks to be resilient to change. Designing parks to flood is one solution that landscape architects have executed. Gene Green Park in Houston was designed in collaboration with the Harris County Flood Control District as a dual use detention basin and park amenity. Amenities capable of withstanding periodic flooding are located within the detention basin, including an amphitheater stage and seating, a BMX track, trails, sports fields, and wetland plantings.
  9. The future of Landscape Architecture is dynamic because small change helps people cope with big change. While build physical infrastructure to make cities and communities more resilient to the large-scale impacts of climate change, we cannot overlook the importance of soft infrastructure need for community psychological wellbeing. Our surroundings have a significant impact on our mental health and physical wellbeing and rapid change can mobilize stress. In order to help vulnerable communities adapt to and cope with change, we must foster resilience in individuals by creating landscapes that provide social support networks, uphold one’s connection to place, and maintain connection to one’s culture.
  10. The future of Landscape Architecture is political. Public policy has major implications on the work of landscape architects. The New Landscape Declaration presented bold ideas for what the discipline should achieve in the future. If we wish to answer this call to action, we must go beyond simply participating in the discourse – we must lead the discussion. We must work as community advocates, engage with policy leaders, and champion new practices that will result in design innovation and policy transformation.

Katie Coyne Land8x8

Coyne’s 10 points are intended to push the profession of landscape architecture into the future, mobilizing individuals to take action towards positive change. Some practitioners are already implementing many of these 10 points, but it will take an intentional effort by the entire design community – and allied professionals – to realize Coyne’s vision of the future.


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lighting Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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Eco Altitudes [Land8x8 Video]

Cars take up a ton of real estate in America’s cities. From local roads and on-street parking stalls to elevated highways and multi-story parking garages, cities devote 50 to 60 percent of their space to cars. If we could reclaim this valuable land from vehicles, imagine the many ways cities could be transformed. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to become a major catalyst for urban transformation, providing cities with the opportunity to reclaim their urban public space. As cities prepare for the advent of AVs and other new mobility technologies, Amna Ansari, Architect and Urban Designer at SWA Group, believes that design professionals have an essential role to play. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Houston, TX, Ansari explores how we might shape these emerging technologies to ensure that streets are given back to the people – not cars.

Not too long ago, self-driving cars were merely a fantasy, but now it appears that their adoption isn’t too far away. PwC estimates that by 2030, 40% of the mileage driven could be done in autonomous vehicles. With the coming rise of AVs on our city streets, city planners are already projecting the impact this technology will have on cities and communities. Depending on how cities leverage these new technologies, the outcomes could be beneficial to ease congestion and reduce pollution or could further exacerbate congestion and sprawl. To ensure that the changes will enhance instead of hinder the urban experience, cities need to set the right policies in place.

houston protoype amna ansari land8x8

Image: UltraBarrio

Streets designed for AVs have the potential to be safer, quieter, narrower and more efficient – allowing room for other uses to fill in. These auto-centric city spaces previously used for parked vehicles or wide lanes can be re-purposed to provide lush tree plantings and parklets, gracious sidewalks and bike lanes, and additional public transportation options. Due to reduced parking needs, land currently used for surface and garage parking can be reclaimed for parks, housing, community space, or other much needed amenities. Some cities are already considering ways to free up land for development, including boosting mass transit and cutting down on excessive parking requirements. 

“As designers, let’s guide these emerging techs to take shape based on what we value first – cities, and how we can improve, maintain and protect our habitats.” – Amna Ansari

Before long, AVs will have a strong presence in our public realm. If leveraged properly, these technologies will create new and beneficial opportunities for the urban environment. In order to shape the future we want to see, it is vital that design professionals are involved in the discussion. As cities begin to think about how to incorporate AVs into future planning, Ansari reminds us that we should ensure public space is given back to the community.


This video was filmed on June 26, 2019 in Houston, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lightning Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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8 Degrees of Connection [Land8x8 Video]

What brought you to your profession of landscape architecture? Who encouraged you along your career path? Who has helped you succeed and attain your professional goals? These are among the questions landscape architect Shaney Clemmons, Founder and Principal of Shademaker Studio, considered as she prepared for her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX. When asked to present on the topic of “Next Practices in Landscape Architecture”, Clemmons reflected on those people who played a key role in her professional life and used her presentation as an opportunity to share her belief that fostering, appreciating, and maintaining these connections are key to the future of the profession.

Coupling two sociology theories together, six degrees of separation (the theory that any person can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries) and the ripple effect (a spreading and usually unintentional effect or influence), Clemmons crafted her own theory: 8 Degrees of Connection. This notion is based on her belief that at least 8 people have played a key role in each of our career paths and brought us to where we are today. During her presentation, Clemmons shared her 8 influencers, how their actions inadvertently affected her career decisions, and how practicing 8 degrees of connection can strengthen the community of landscape architecture.

“It is my belief that the next practices of landscape architecture are rooted in connection, and the simple action that you take tonight can have a ripple effect on our tomorrow.”

What brought you to your profession of landscape architecture? For Clemmons, it was Gene Gibson – extension agent for 4-H at University of Idaho – who introduced her to the term “landscape architect”. Many of my peers came across the profession in college, either by accident or through the advice of faculty advisor. I first learned of the career from a friend whose father owns a residential design-build firm. Whatever brought you to the profession, this introduction to the field is your first influencer. From there, she traced her time at University of Idaho – a campus designed by the Olmsted Brothers – where she learned about Frederick Law Olmsted and her passion for the profession was solidified.

Who encouraged you along your career path? Following graduation, Clemmons entered into her first job at a design firm – an opportunity she received through a connection with a fellow UIdaho alumnae. This connection opened the door to 17 years of practicing landscape architecture in Seattle. Through the ups and downs of her career, the community of landscape architecture was a driving force that kept her moving forward. She found additional encouragement from online resources, such as the Build Blog (or hey, Land8!), where the design community gathers to share information and elevate the profession. This belief that transparency makes everyone stronger led Clemmons to strive for transparency as she developed her own practice 2 years ago.

shaney clemmons land8x8 image

Who has helped you succeed and attain your professional goals? As a sole practitioner, much of Clemmons’ work involves collaborating – with architects, builders, clients, and even other landscape architects. Clemmons attributes these relationships to her success. Clemmons’ exercise reinforces the value of cultivating new relationships and appreciating existing ones. Whether through repeat clients or forming new partnerships, connectivity proved to be critical in Clemmons’ professional success.

This theory Clemmons created, 8 Degrees of Connection, highlights the power each of us has and reminds us that even the smallest action that may seem inconsequential to you can have a huge impact on somebody else.So, as we look to the future of landscape architecture, reflect on those who have influenced you, and consider how your actions can influence others. These connections will hopefully lead to a larger, more connected, and more influential community of landscape architects.


This video was filmed on June 25, 2019 in Austin, TX as part of the Land8x8 Lighting Talks sponsored by Anova Furnishings.

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