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Designing a Barcode Patterned Square: Täby Torg Square by Polyform Architects

Article by Gwgw Kalligiannaki Täby Torg Square by Polyform Architects in Täby, Sweden. In the 1960s, the City of Täby joined the Swedish “Million Programme” to help solve the housing problems in the city. The project’s goal was to build one million apartments in a short period of time and to provide a roof for all. Although the speedy rebuild was very successful, the town’s appearance was monotonous and lacked public space. Therefore, in the early 2000s, the Municipality of Täby decided it was time to resolve the issue and transform the public, urban life of their citizens. To do this, they selected the parking lot of the city’s main shopping center and converted it into a space to host public events and activities. Danish firm Polyform Architects was commissioned for the design of the New Centre and brought a sense of character to the city. Their design for a multi-functional square was cleverly organized into six themed squares, each with its own identity, and each providing different opportunities in public life.

Täby Torg Square Barcode. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

Organizing a Barcode Master Plan Polyform Architects chose to divide the project into a row of six smaller squares to create a patterned, human-scaled urban experience. The idea of a barcode form is supported from the direct layout of the site. Each square has its own identity, but they are all bound together. Although, the design is strictly based on linear elements, the playground area is a more unregulated configuration. Also, the entire site has a strong bond with light, using over 500 lighting elements, ultimately shaping different experiences during the entire year and especially on the dark, winter Sweden days. The Multi-Squared Pattern                    Faced with creating a multi-functional open space in a 10,000-square meter old car park, the architects elected to divide the site into six zones, each with its own role, providing space for all the public activities that occur in a modern square. The seating square was made to relax and enjoy, while the market square created a set for farmer’s markets and flea markets. Meanwhile, the stage space gives the square the opportunity to host theater and concerts and the light space consists of rows of lights with accent lights. Finally, the orange playground was created for children to play and have fun and the water square has 120 water jets that work in harmony and is the biggest water fountain in Sweden.

Täby Torg Square Playground. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

Täby Torg Square Water Fountain. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

Material Palette and Urban Equipment  Highlighting the barcode pattern, each small square is paved with different types of material such as natural stone, poured rubber, concrete, and cast iron. The way the materials were addressed shows a disposition to emphasize each square’s character and role both graphically and programmatically. Oversized L-shaped lighting poles were placed in a row along the square and serve a double role as urban furniture. Small pavilions made of black steel are positioned along the perimeter and are used as cafes or shops. Two rows of trees are planted on the sides of the square and are the only plantings. In addition, all furniture that has been used follows the simple outlines and the strict geometry of the project. Lighting Strategy                                   When designing for places where there are long, dark winter nights, lighting has a significant role in the attractiveness of a landscape project. The lighting plan in an open, public space should provide users the sense of security and emphasize the beauty of the site. This concept was reinforced in this project by Polyform. The uniqueness of each square is further defined by a different lighting design. Lighting poles and flooring spots are organized into six different zones, following the functional and morphologic features of each area. Additionally, the lighting elements form a total composition, making the square look like a big frame, where different scenarios can be hosted, every hour of the day, throughout the year.

Täby Torg Square Lighting. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

Täby Torg Square Lighting. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

Polyform Architects managed to create a new identity for the heart of Täby on the site of a once anonymous car park. Täby Torg Square is a project with minimal design, but boasts many opportunities. The linear design of the square with its clean lines gives the user the ability to focus on the function of each zone and underlines the flexible and dynamic character of the square. According to the architects, “It would be more accurate to call it a poli-square because the urban space actually contains six squares: the seating square, where people can sit and relax; the market square, for organizing markets; the stage square, for concerts and theatrical performances; the orange playground, for children; and finally the light space and the water square, which through the use of light and water complete the whole atmosphere of the place.”

Täby Torg Square Pavilion. Credit: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann

What is your method in organizing a multi-functional urban space? Full Project Credits Täby Torg Square: Architects: Polyform Design Team:  Jonas Sangberg, Thomas Kock, Jette Kristensen, Christoffer Lissau Lund, Ola Nielsen, Lotte Fjendbo Møller, Signe Hertzum, Nikolaj Frølund Thomsen og Lars W. Maarbjerg Consultants: Grontmij Malmø, ÅF Lighting, Sydark Konstruera, Tyréns, Anleka, KÅWE Konstruktioner HB og PK3 Location: 183 70 Täby, Sweden Area: 10000.0 sqm Project Year: 2015 Client: Täby Kommun Photos: Wichmann + Bendtsen, Ake Lindmann Construction Cost including VAT: 45 Million DKK Recommended Reading:

Featured image: Täby Torg Square | Täby, Sweden | Wichmann + Bendtsen, Åke Lindmann | 2015

What Roles Can Landscape Architecture Play for Physically Challenged People?

Article by Farah Afza Jurekh In this article we look at the fundamentals of universal design. Universal accessibility is widely considered by landscape architects. However, beyond functional elements such as crosswalks with sound cues, there are very few landscapes that are designed to engage the senses and provide benefits to the visually impaired. Landscape design principles offer an array of opportunities to the people who are visually impaired and physically challenged to ensure their ease in movement and comfort. Visually Impaired People When visually impaired people negotiate with the outside world, their hands and feet become their eyes. They use their feet to acquire surface information and fingers to recognize texture, form, and location. Additionally, the blind rely on other sensory organs to compensate for their lack of sight and their ability to hear, smell, taste, touch, and feel is more subtle than people with sight. By manipulating certain aspects of the landscape, a person who is visually impaired or physically challenged could have an enhanced perception of the surrounding environment. Sites that accentuate non-visual experiences can foster feelings of security, both physical and psychological, by creating alternative prompts and allowing them to navigate and identify spaces that may not be familiar. Importance of Tactile Surfaces Especially for Physically Challenged People Texture Texture, for this purpose, refers to ground surfaces, which can be used to denote footpaths for visually impaired people through their sense of touch. They are detected either underfoot or via a walking cane. Furthermore, changes in ground surface can be used to indicate an approaching hazardous area, such as a road or signal crossing, and show the correct direction to proceed.

ADA compliant color contrast detectable warning installation on a high traffic area in New York City. Credit: CC BY 3.0

Curb Ramps (Especially for Wheelchair Users) The slope, or the gradient of a ramp, should be designed to local guidelines. This is essential for wheelchair users where there are level changes between streets and sidewalks. In some countries, these curbs are equipped with audio systems that emit a warning sound when they are crossing roads. Varying Textures Can be a Key Design Tool Tactile paving surfaces can also be used to convey critical information about the location of amenities such as stairs, telephone booths, benches, etc. In this case, changing texture is used to stimulate their attention.

Low profile directional tactile markings are installed on busy pedestrian crossings in Japan. Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0

Living Textures Living textures are another way to enhance the experience for the visually impaired. Living textures refer to the feel of plants and trees. Apart from the feel, the fragrance can also be of assistance. Shrubs The chirping of birds can help the visually impaired identify places. With the use of more shrubs, more birds may be invited to flock around. A few recommended species include arrowwood, winterberry holly, and common snowberry.  Scented Plants Although these are only a few common examples, the choice of trees and plant species vary by region. Species should be selected based on their hardiness to the region’s climatic conditions. Examples include cherry plum, maple, tulip apricot beauty, and Arum maackia. Smell and sound also help visually impaired people. In addition to the aesthetic enrichment these plants provide, fragrant plants and the sound produced from the movement of trees and shrubs may aid the visually impaired, providing them with a reference to make judgments about their surroundings.

The future approach to Brickell Station along Miami’s Underline. Credit: James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Friends of the Underline

Special Texture Can be Used as a Landmark or Tactile Cue Vertical elements like walls with rough surfaces and other landscape elements such as statues and landmarks may convey information to the visually impaired through touch. Splashing Water Amidst Noisy Distractions Can Help Them Identify Places Another feature that can be used to trigger one’s sensory perception is water. Landscape architects love incorporating water into their designs. It not only provides a cooling effect, but can also create a vibrant ambience. Similarly, the use of fountains and the sound of splashing water can support the visually impaired to recognize places through listening. The Use of Legible Signage and Interactive Artwork Signs and signage are important components in urban design. The legibility of signs and signage and interactive artwork can provide the physically impaired with tactile surfaces, which can be perceived by touch. Next time you’re tasked with a universal design project, consider implementing different textured pavements, fragrant trees and plants, street furniture, and splashing water. These are just a few examples that landscape architects can employ to allow the visually impaired and physically challenged to move independently at ease. Do you think these ideas help? Please share your thoughts on how landscape architects can improve universal design. Featured image: Malecón Walk | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico | West 8 | 2011

Why Do Some Graduate Landscape Architects Have a Poor Understanding of Planting?

Article by Kamil Rawski In this article we examine what knowledge young professionals lack about planting that every landscape architect should know. In the pursuit of a landscape architecture degree, students have the opportunity to acquire a wealth of knowledge on planting, but as with other subjects there are some students who take this issue more seriously than others. Very often creating planting plans is reduced to composing different spatial forms due to size, shape, or aesthetic qualities of vegetation. In theory, designers are always able to make a space more attractive to the user by applying appropriate plantings, mainly because most people enjoy colorful combinations of blooming flowers. However, ornamental plantings aren’t the only situation where plants can be used. Treating vegetation as a vital element of the landscape can make the space more desirable by framing individual spaces with plants or by creating a specific rhythm of greenery, which could direct the viewer’s eye to the desired place. However, unlike hardscape elements, plants cannot be chosen simply because they “look good” or “match” the site. Rather, a variety of elements must be considered including planting zone, water needs, light requirements, and soil acidity, to name a few. It is important to keep in mind that what appears great on paper, unfortunately, doesn’t always work in the real world, so care must be taken to choose the appropriate plantings for each site.

Playa Vista Central Park in California by Michael Maltzan Architecture + Office of James Burnett. Credit: Michael Maltzan Architecture

Planning the Future Garden Time will always tell if we have selected the proper plants. This is where I would like to highlight the words plant selection because the rest of the article will be dedicated to this issue. Planting projects should be planned in such a way that the final product looks as if the designer envisioned it even many years after completion. Many graduate landscape architects also forget that plants vary in form and growth rate, so the planned effect is not always visible right away. Designing too many plants per square meter is often the result of a lack of such knowledge. Additionally, young professionals often underestimate horticultural knowledge, but plant specification is a very important skill. Apart from the fact that plants are supposed to look as the designer planned, they should also fulfill a number of environmental and natural conditions. The following elements are analyzed below.

A planting scheme of perennials and grasses by Missouri-based garden designer Adam Woodruff. Credit: Adam Woodruff

Climatic Conditions All plants are sensitive to varying temperatures, so selecting plants that work in the specific hardiness zones should always be taken into account. These zones were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and they are geographically defined areas where a specific category of plants are suitable to grow and function normally. Mostly, it is related to the ability to resist the minimum temperatures in individual zones, so in some countries it is also known as frost-resistant zones. If the plant is hardy to a specific zone it means that it’s able to resist the lowest temperature assigned to this zone. While planning plant selections there are also a variety of elements due to climate that must be considered including temperature pattern, annual rainfall, snow cover, direction of dominating winds, and length of vegetation period, to name a few.

The Minton located in Singapore by DP Architects. Credit: Marc Tey Photography

Soil Conditions I don’t think it’s necessary to reiterate how important the substrate is in the case of plant selection. Knowledge about which species of plants need acid, alkaline, or neutral soil is very useful. With this information, the right substrate can be prepared. Along these lines, knowing which plants to group together is also important, as is moisture content. Some plants need drier substrate than others and by grouping plants by their soil and moisture needs one can help to ensure longevity. Finally, soil permeability and fertility is another consideration that is worth mentioning. Of course, it all comes down to the plants’ overall environmental requirements. Location The location is partially related to the previously discussed topics. However, there are also aspects that are worth further investigation. Factors such as site topography and how much space can be planted must be considered. A good practice is to perform shade, insolation, and wind shelter analysis of the site for each location. Also, it is important to keep in mind that every plant needs a different environment to thrive.

Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Oregon by Atelier Dreiseitl and GreenWorks PC. Credit: Debbie Lusk

Furthermore, only some plants are pollution-tolerant so it’s important to select proper plants for urban or industrial areas. In addition, soil reclamation will be needed, in some cases, before planting the chosen vegetation for heavily neglected sites. Some of the most useful information that is strongly underestimated by graduate landscape architects is knowledge of phytosociology—the science relating to plant communities. Using native species to design is, in my opinion, the best practice for plant selection. The use of plants that would have taken part in an ecological succession will give us a higher probability that the plants will flourish. So, ask yourself…what plants would have settled in the site if it was left untouched? However, what can’t be forgotten is that some native species are invasive and it’s strictly recommended to avoid them. Physical Aspects There are many attributes that are responsible for the visual effect. After rejecting plants that do not meet the requirements of the given habitat, if one is wanting to increase the project value then plants should be chosen for such features as:

  • plant form (spreading, columnar, dense, conical, spherical, etc.)
  • color (ornamental flowers, leaves, fruits)
  • size (tall, medium, low trees/shrubs)
  • speed of growth (quick-growing, slow-growing)
  • structure of plants (deciduous, coniferous)
  • discoloration of leaves in autumn or evergreen species

Public plaza of the Galaxy SoHo designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and EcoLand Design Group in Beijing. Credit: Hai Zhang

It’s critical to keep in mind that the appropriate plant spacing will have a huge impact on the final result, therefore it’s key to consider the size of the adult plant. Ultimately, schools should put more emphasis on learning horticultural knowledge as well as basic issues about plant physiology. Understanding these aspects will allow future landscape architects to better plan plantings and become more well-rounded in their chosen occupation. The most important thing is to explore the area and select and segregate the plants according to their habitat requirements. Of course, a separate aspect is the subsequent care of plants, but that is a topic for another article. Do you agree that horticultural knowledge is very important in the landscape architectural profession? Let us know what you think and leave a comment. Recommended Reading:

Featured image: Jiang Wan Cheng Phase 1 | Nanjing, China | Cicada | 2016

Latest News Landscape Architecture July Edition

10-July-2017 – Latest News Landscape Architecture July by Brett Lezon | Edition No. 2 out of 5 In this week’s Latest News in Landscape Architecture we highlight National Park and Recreation Month in the United States, feature a proposed astronomy park in Hanoi, and examine the world’s most biodiverse city. Additionally, we showcase a book about retrofitting the built environment with green infrastructure, and don’t forget our YouTube Tutorial of the Week! This week we share a resource on quirky technological advances for designers. 10 of the Best Stories in this week’s latest news in landscape architecture:

  • 5 Super Cool Gadgets for Architects & Designers #3 (2017) Next Punch [YouTube Tutorial of the Week]
  • Which is the World’s Most Biodiverse City?
  • Moscow will Bring Back Gardens to the Center in 2017
  • Regreening the Built Environment: Nature, Green Space, and Sustainability [Book Review of the Week]
  • Why Do We See More Species in Tropical Forests? The Mystery May Finally Be Solved
  • Urban Greenery to Get a Major Push in Mysuru
  • July Highlights the Value of Local Parks, Recreation in Communities Nationwide
  • First Outdoor Astronomy Park in Southeast Asia to Be Built in Hanoi
  • Why We Should Be Graphically Designing Our City
  • Details of Major New ‘Urban Extension’ of Newton Abbot Revealed – Including 1,275 Homes

Latest News Landscape Architecture July Edition 02

  • 5 Super Cool Gadgets for Architects & Designers #3 (2017) Next Punch [YouTube Tutorial of the Week]

WATCH >>> 5 Super Cool Gadgets for Architects & Designers #3 (2017) Next Punch Throughout, this 13-minute tutorial, the presenter reviews five neat gadgets for the savviest of designers. From reMarkable, a paper tablet that replaces your sketchbooks and notebooks to Hovr, a tool that reinvents sitting—these gadgets can save time and energy. Related Article: 8 Apps for Landscape Architects and Designers

As urbanization continues, ecosystems in many cities are grasping for survival. Since 2011, 318 types of plants, 22 types of birds, and 24 types of animals are in danger of extinction. However, São Paulo, Mexico City, Singapore, Iquitos, and many other biodiverse urban areas have made commitments to protect and preserve their natural systems. Researchers have always been interested in determining the world’s most biodiverse city, but it’s not a simple feat. For instance, some cities lack the data necessary and have varying areas within their administrative limits. Still, according to Thomas Elmqvist, editor of Urbanization, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and leader of the United Nation’s City and Biodiversity Outlook Project, in raw numbers Cape Town could take the top spot. For now, we know biodiversity is under threat as human population has increased by more than 30 percent since 2011. Related Article: 5 Best Ways to Increase Biodiversity in Urban Landscapes WATCH >>> Ibirapuera Park | São Paulo, Brazil

The once extensive, green boulevard known as the Garden Ring located in central Moscow is returning to its former appearance. “The idea of tree planting and returning gardens to the Garden Ring is one of the key points of the reconstruction,” said the Strelka Design Bureau, which is responsible for the transformation. Hired for the project were sixteen well-known Russian and international firms including Latz + PartnerVilles & Paysages, and Snøhetta. Seventy-five percent of the Garden Ring is set to be completed this year. Related Article: Moscow Festival of Gardens and Flowers

“Regreening the Built Environment by Michael A Richards examines the relationship between the built environment and nature and demonstrates how rethinking the role and design of infrastructure can environmentally, economically, and socially sustain the earth. The case studies will demonstrate how existing “gray” infrastructure can be retrofitted with green infrastructure and low impact development techniques. It is quite plausible that a building can be designed that actually creates greenspace or generates energy; likewise, a roadway can be a park, an alley can be a wildlife corridor, and a parking surface can be a garden.” Related Article: 10 Projects That Put Sustainability at the Forefront of Landscape Architecture

A mystery, which dates back to 1835, may have been unraveled thanks in large part to a new study published in the journal Science. In the 1970s, Daniel Janzen and Joseph Connell hypothesized that the high plant diversity found in the tropics is due to the “presence of natural enemies that target specific species and keep population size in check and the tendency of youngsters of one species to settle far away from their parents.” That hypothesis was validated by forest ecologists Jonathan Myers and Joe LaManna after rigorously analyzing a dataset of 2.4 million trees from 3,000 species. They discovered in areas with higher numbers of adult trees, there were fewer young saplings of the same species. “It’s changed the way I think about ecology,” Myers says. “The enemy can actually have a beneficial effect in maintaining the rare species in these communities, especially in the tropics.”  Related Article: How a Holistic Approach to Landscape Architecture Prevents Rainforest Damage WATCH >>> A simple idea More Top Stories in the News This Week

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The Necessity of Advocacy: Amplifying the Intersection of Landscape Architecture and the Policies That Support the Profession

Democracy operates on engagement and relationships. To elevate the profile of landscape architecture, the public outreach of the profession’s government affairs must move beyond the virtue based rationalization and create arguments that resonate and connect. Without effective involvement, landscape architects risk substantial economic costs and lessen the overall impact of our work. McKinsey and Company notes that, “the business value at stake from government and regulatory intervention is huge: about 30 percent of earnings for companies in most industries.” That figures roughly $630M in potential impact to landscape architecture design services nationally, using figures from a 2015 NEA Report. From fighting regulation battles to continual challenges of marketplace jurisdiction and scope, it is clear that landscape architects face an uphill climb.

In the Venn diagram of landscape architecture public outreach, politics and policymaking occupies a small overlap in the perception of the requirements of everyday practice. Couple that small allotment of time with the fact that we all, presumably, have day jobs that account for at least 40 hours a week, and family obligations as well as personal time that make up the rest of one’s schedule and a problematic pattern starts to emerge given the social, environmental, and economic impacts at stake. The space allotted to think about professional service through ASLA, let alone government affairs and advocacy, shrinks with each overwhelmed moment, making the job of advocacy all the more difficult and geared toward simply managing crisis. The cost of this current meager model is dire.

While it’s true that the space for this conversation is minute and currently limited to a subset of a few wonks, activism and advocacy are the most important and meaningful thing we can do as professionals. In order for landscape architects to make the type of impact we know the profession is capable of, we must create space for these interactions to seize the attention of policymakers.

Over half of the states have had some challenge to professional regulations and licensure in the recent years.  The last few months alone have seen a dramatic uptick in the frequency of these attacks, mostly under the false pretense that licensure is unnecessary and that it serves as a barrier to otherwise qualified individuals to practice. At the same time ASLA fights state to state battles for the right to practice, the Federal Government Affairs team continually works toward maintaining the programs that employ landscape architects, making policymakers and allied coalitions aware of landscape architecture’s diverse role, while also uncovering opportunities for landscape architects to author our own legislation.

To compound the issues landscape architects face, the resurgence of Yellow Journalism does little to spur support for ASLA’s priorities. In a recent essay on how landscape architects adapt practice to realize the full potential of professional impact, I wrote, “The spectre of rhetoric from [the 2016 presidential] election will haunt us for generations.” The scandal and polarizing grandiloquent spurred deep political divides that make the typically bipartisan legislation ASLA supports frequently get lost in the shuffle or used as political bargaining chips. This actuality propels advocacy, making policymakers aware of the profession and its priorities, to a greater significance in the society’s public outreach efforts.

The Value of ASLA: Advocacy Day

Advocacy is the lens that I look at ASLA through. Why become a member of ASLA? Because the protection offered for my professional license and the economic impact to the work we do is tangible. Advocacy Day is one of the “boots on the ground” moments that showcase the value of membership.  Each year, delegates and leaders from each chapter of ASLA gather in Washington D.C. for mid-year meetings (Chapter Presidents Council and the Board of Trustees) combined with a one day lobbying event on Capitol Hill. ASLA’s annual Federal Advocacy Day fly-in, the society’s premier advocacy event, involves legislative briefings and meetings with home state Congressional offices of the chapter delegates. Across all the meetings, the chapters each discuss common priorities, from introducing/re-introducing the profession to key legislation that comes from a combination of critical programs, member identified priorities, and leadership driven initiatives.

This year’s event took place in the shadow of a flurry of political activity, sucking up the already depleted supply of oxygen in Washington D.C. From the President’s debrief on North Korea that dramatically involved busing all Senators to the White House, a looming government shutdown due to the Federal budget priorities of ACA and border wall funding, the threat of selling off public lands, a large scale march for the Climate, all of which marked the first 100 days of the new administration. They each contributed to an atmosphere abuzz with nervous anticipation and uncertainty heading into a day full of meetings, where a significant number of delegates were first time participants.

Leading up to this year’s Advocacy Day involved a variety of preparation meetings including webinars and preparing elevator pitches because you never know who you’re going to run into waiting for an elevator in the Russell Senate office building – I actually ran into Ted Cruz myself. Besides familiarizing themselves with the issues, delegates were asked to focusing on telling stories, because as great as statistics are, in-district stories coupled with that information connect and resonate.

Then there was a fire on the DC Metro. With no time to get nervous and meetings with the policymakers scheduled throughout the day (2 Senate and 1 House meeting per delegate, across all of the different chapters, with at least three representatives per chapter), delegates quickly made alternate plans to travel from the hotel meeting room to Capitol Hill. This year, the overall message for each meeting was in consolidating the different advocacy focus areas around landscape architecture as necessary infrastructure. For me, this means discussing Efficacy vs Efficiency, systems thinking vs linear problem solving. In this way, landscape architects ensure that investments in public infrastructure have high ROI and wise spending of taxpayer dollars.

Three primary “asks” the delegates make in the various meetings with their Congressional representatives. These included upgrading to a multimodal transportation network through supporting TIGER Discretionary Programs. Adequate funding for this program allows landscape architects to successfully assist more states and local communities with building multimodal projects that address congestion, improve safety, and expand economic opportunity. Additionally, ASLA advocated for landscape architect’s role in fixing our nation’s water management systems through the EPA Clean Water State Revolving Funds. Specifically, the delegates requested their representatives to support increased funding for these funds, which will allow urban, suburban, and rural communities to utilize green infrastructure projects to address water issues. Lastly, the delegates sought further recognition for public lands, parks, and other recreation areas as to be defined as critical Infrastructure. To do this, the delegates asked each Congressional representative to cosponsor bipartisan legislation introduced in the House and Senate to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The day was capped off with Representative Earl Blumenauer addressing the delegates as everyone regrouped and shared stories of their experiences. Congressman Blumenauer is especially involved in the Congressional Bike Caucus as well as the Trails Caucus, so his familiarity with the work of landscape architects was refreshing.  His call for continued engagement and enthusiasm succinctly encapsulated the day and served as a launchpad for future Advocacy Days.

What’s Next: Going on the Offensive

Between the schisms of party politics, the exhausting barrage of elections, and the tedious legalese language of actual policy – concluding that government affairs is best left to more enthusiastic practitioners is all too common.  While uncertainty continues to arise from contemporary political decisions, this must impel us to the action that Ernie Wong concludes in his call to action, “Landscape Architects and Civic Engagement.”

After the blitz of Advocacy Day, landscape architects have the the responsibility of continued active engagement with policymakers, maintaining and building relationships, and serving as resources on important (and related) concerns. During our representatives in-district time, we have the opportunity to not only attend town hall meetings, but showcase the value of landscape architecture through Site Tours (ASLA has a handy guide for that).

ASLA chapters have often promoted landscape architecture month through municipal and statewide Proclamations and Resolutions, where we author the language (Pro-Tip: Include a statement about the public health, safety, and welfare) that can then be used to demonstrate support of the profession should the need arise. These do not have to be one off events, but used within advocacy packets to continually showcase support of the profession from policymakers. Additionally, discussing landscape architecture as public infrastructure will help fundamentally change the tone of the profession’s message: from luxury to necessity. A small shift in thinking that will help landscapes advocacy across political divides. The profession will need a combination of these tactical approaches to fully leverage our capabilities and unique world view.

I have said before but it is worth repeating, “if we take our oath of stewardship seriously and embrace the declarations of the next generation of landscape architecture we have to do more. To do this work successfully, we must advocate at every level of government with clarity, consistency, and insight.” The space landscape architecture meagerly occupies within the government affairs and political dialogue is undersized and the cost of that is dire. Connecting business issues to virtue based concerns, landscape architects increase their understanding of the regulatory value at stake with government affairs.

Jonathon Geels enjoys solving problems by connecting people to new ideas through design, innovation, and advocacy. He is passionate about improving public health, the built environment, social equality, as well as resource management and hopes to engage other professionals with the same enthusiasm.

Urban Parks: Designers’ Perspective – Part II

“Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”
-Teju Cole

*This article is part 2 of a 2 part article. You can find Part I here.

How does proximity to the urban core affect an urban park?

“It depends on how you are defining “urban park.” Those within a 10 minute walk are most likely to use a park. A park in an urban area need not be in the urban core to be successful, provided that it serves a decent population and caters to that population’s needs.” – Landoll

“Your target demographics and stakeholders can vary greatly, whether it be a city of 10,000 or 500,000. Are you near a university where you will have young adults that always wants to be plugged in, study alone in intimate settings, or group settings with presentation pods? Is it a small community where parents and children can walk or ride their bikes to watch a movie in the park or run around in a playscape?  Are you at a public plaza where young, professional adults want a place to spread their legs from the apartments and play bocce or sit on a lawn and read a book? These spaces can also be places of demonstrations, protests, fundraisers, and community gatherings. The audience is crucial.” – Stout

Brooklyn Bridge Park | Image: Lexi Van Valkenburgh

“Site access is critical. At Maggie Daley Park, one of the main focuses was finding better ways for the public to access the park. This required looking at transportation patterns on a neighborhood level and also at the site scale to understand where nearby residents were accessing the park on a regular basis.”  Bird

“There is a correlation between the issues of the proximity and accessibility. Do people have to drive and how far/long people are willing to drive before they find it too far. In NYC, the public transportation system allows people travel distances with the same amount of monetary investment so people may be more willing to go a bit further for that favorite park. But not everyone has a car or money to use public transport. Many of the solutions to these problems need to be addressed during the early planning stage much as provided access on all fronts on the site scale.” – Tominaga

“Proximity is everything. To be the icons that 21st century parks aim for, we must consider location. Adjacencies to density of residents, office workers and retail opportunities are essential for a park’s survival. A successful urban park is a part of your daily life, while also being considered a weekend destination for city inhabitants and visitors. These spaces are extensions of our interior environments and must be lived-in to be successful, with varied places to sit, stay and use for recreation.” – Russo

So the adage of location, location, location holds true with parks. However, location, doesn’t necessarily mean downtown. Location means insightfully planned spaces that have a direct relationship to the surround communities and the needs of those communities. As cities densify and grow, investments will be made to build the city park stock and as means for enticing new residents.

Campus Martius Park | Image: Rob Specht

What, if any, benefits come from the combination of public/private investments?

“P3’s do provide financial resources, but nonprofits can also provide staff capacity, planning and research services, project management, and pre and post project evaluations beyond what the City could otherwise afford to do.  We can also help form foundations to help preserve a park’s legacy.” – Landoll

“There are efficiencies and innovations that come from public/private investments. These arrangements allow many projects to escape some of the bureaucracy that can weigh down publicly led projects which have strict rules of engagement and a standardized process. When outside entities can disrupt the normal design process and push for greater innovation, there can be a greater chance for creation of a unique space.” – Bird

When public dollars mix with private funds, the opportunity exists for abuse and the misalignment of public money from the public goals. While this is not often the case, it certainly garners the attention of the media. A quick search for controversial uses of public funds in parks will turn up several articles. Here are a few examples.

Hunters Point South Waterfront Park | Image:

Are passive parks still relevant? What purpose do they serve today?

“In urban areas, these spaces are certainly still necessary. They may not seem as engaging as active public spaces, but they are often essential public spaces especially for aging populations.” – Bird

“Absolutely. People, as humans, have an intense desire to connect with nature. Whether natural or man-made, the experience of immersion in natural elements is something we all need in order to unplug from our hectic, technology driven lifestyles.” – Russo

“Of course. Not only do they often occur in environmentally sensitive areas, therefore provide protection of these resources (wetlands, streams, buffers, forests, etc.), our most disadvantaged communities are often seeking stress relief for their mental health as much as physical health opportunities. Additionally, air quality is a big concern for many urban communities and our youth are losing their connections to nature. The natural aspects of parks can provide relief for many of these challenges.” – Landoll

A panel at the 2016 ASLA Meeting in New Orleans (The Primacy of Programming: Is it Lowering the Value of Design?) brought up a point of contention that exists between some designers and organizations like PPS. With all investors looking for a high ROI, designers are constantly, subtly if not directly, pushed to inject a variety of programming into urban parks. We should be asking ourselves how to do this in a way appropriate to the with the other needs of the site and if that is always the primary goal. Having a good understanding of the dynamics and the effects of active and passive programming will help designers appropriately meet the various needs of the community.

Riverfront Park and Ascend Amphitheater | Image: Aerial Innovation

How does a park inject value into an urban area? Are they amenities or assets?

“They are assets. They provide increased revenue from increased property values, can increase tourism, and these two combined can impact the collective wealth of the citizens. The use of city parks can provide savings to citizens as well, as they don’t have to seek out recreation opportunities from the marketplace. Then there are health benefits that result in savings on healthcare and on city subsidized healthcare. They can store stormwater, reduce water pollution, and improve air quality.  They can reduce heat island effect, making areas more livable. I could go on and on.” – Landoll

“Parks create value. Consider the High Line in New York, perhaps one of the most notable right now. Its founders were trying to find a solution to an aging piece of infrastructure by creating a community amenity. What they did was lay the groundwork for a world-renowned park that has skyrocketed land values, and catalyzed development along its edges. In this best-case scenario, this amenity to residents has become an asset to the city, as well as an international tourist attraction.” – Russo

“In urban areas where space is at a premium, public parks are an asset both economically and sociologically. The highest profile developments around the country are often directly connected to a thriving public park which have proven to be engines of economic growth. And the spaces themselves serve as needed escapes for all people within a community.” – Tominaga

Organizations like the Landscape Architecture Foundation are making great strides in defining and validating the value that landscapes like urban parks bring to our cities. You can check out over one hundred case studies and dozens of tools on their website:

Thousand Lantern Lake Park System | Image: SWA

Is gentrification by way of urban park important, vague, meaningless, to be avoided, or unavoidable? Can parks provide social equity?

“Finding ways to better understand how parks impact gentrification is one of the most important topics in the field I believe. Just as environmental issues have come to the forefront of the design world, social justice reforms will also play a big role in how the field changes in the near future.” – Bird

“Gentrification is unavoidable to a certain extent. Public housing programs help maintain existing communities to thrive but is often an uphill battle. If you look at any large successful park, it is surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate whether residential or commercial. However, a successful park will maintain sensitivities to existing communities and remain inclusive. It is often that public and private investment has brought some of the most successful parks to fruition and return on investment is expected.” – Tominaga

“Gentrification from parks can definitely happen, but do poor people not deserve good parks? Again, I go back to neighborhood and city planning and working with other service providers from the start to understand and mitigate potential impacts. Can parks provide social equity? Everyone deserves access to a good park, so cities can help improve social equity by providing equal access and opportunity through strategic investment.  Within the park itself, they can break down social barriers.” – Landoll

Gentrification has been a trending topic over the past decade, but is by no means a new topic. Social reform and the restructuring of the classes has always impacted our cities and mixed the politics of parks. We can look back to historic examples like Seneca Village, the once run-down community found on what is now known as Central Park. Even modern urban values push out those with less power and privilege. Our national Olympic venue models do this year after year. Here are some articles where you can explore gentrification further.

Read Land8 Blog: A Poverty of Landscapes

Read Planetzine Article: The Politics of Transforming Cities

Hudson Park & Boulevard | Image: Alex Maclean

Are urban parks social infrastructure?

“They should be. They often aren’t designed that way.” – Landoll

“Society is reflective in the built environment. The greatest symbol of a free and open society is a communal space that it shared for and cared for by all. These urban spaces are where the different classes, age groups, genders, and races collide on a daily basis as we live out our lives together. Our urban spaces, particularly parks, where people relax and unwind in cities are the great melting pots of shared space. These are the places where we really experience community and neighborhood. These spaces are essential to city life, our shared living rooms, so to speak. Everyone should have access to such a place.” – Russo

“Not only are parks social infrastructure, but they should be considered physical infrastructure of the city as well. Often a park can be considered less important than the highly engineered ‘infrastructure’ project, but parks have historically been shown to be key pieces of a city’s fabric. Especially as density in cities increases and environmental challenges are more present, having established parks available for use by citizens as well as playing a role in environmental remediation will lead to more successful urban space.” – Bird

As we step into the summer, be sure to get out and visit your parks. Pay attention to who uses the parks, what they are using at the park, and how they are using the park. Parks are nothing without people. Pay attention to the people. Design for the people!

*A special thank you to each of the professionals who took the time to share their thoughts and years of experience with our audience. Your valued input and insight pushes the envelope of design, public engagement, and healthy cities. Thank you.

If you are looking to explore urban parks more, we suggest you visit the following parks in person or on the web:

1. Beigijia Technology Business (BTB) District (Bejing, China) | Martha Schwartz Partners

2. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (London, England) | Harvreaves Associates

3. The Goods Line (Sydney Australia) | ASPECT Studios

4. City Garden (St. Louis, MO) | Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architecture

5. Hunters Point (Long Island City, NY) | SWA/Balsley

6. Maggie Daley Park (Chicago, IL) | Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, Inc.

7. Seaport Sqaure Park (Boston, MA) | Reed Hilderbrand

8. Philadelphia Navy Yards(Philadelphia, PA) | James Corner Field Operations

9. Riverfront Park and ascend Amphitheater (Nashville, TN) | Hawkins Partners

10. Tarkington Park (Indianapolis, IN) | Rundell Ernstberger Associates

Cameron R. Rodman, Associate ASLA, is a Landscape Designer at Stewart Inc., a multi-disciplinary design firm in Charlotte, NC.

Urban Parks: Designers’ Perspective – Part I

Maggie Daley Park | Image: Scott Shigley

“You can neither lie to a neighborhood park, nor reason with it. ‘Artist’s conceptions’ and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighborhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”
– Jane Jacobs

*This article is part 1 of a 2 part article. You can find Part II here.

The urban park has become the object of fascination and desire of many cities across the nation and the world. Everyone wants their sleek version of the High Line. Outside onlookers fantasize of their chance to make a name for their city and reap the benefits of such a wild success story, both financial and social. It would be easy to assume that projects like the High Line hold in themselves the recipe for creating an assemblage of prosperity, cultural vitality, innovation, creativity, and in the end, success. But is that what we find beneath the surface when we more deeply examine the phenomenon of urban parks like the High Line?

To find out more about the High Line, you’ll have to visit the park itself or read another article. It was our interest at Land8 to get down to the core of what makes urban parks successful. What attracts users? What ensures the care and longevity of a park? To do this, we reached out to a variety of landscape architects, landscape designers, and urban designers to get their thoughts on urban parks. They weighed in on what helps to create these special places in the hearts of our cities to a point of success and lasting memory.

Our respondents were Courtney H. Landoll, ASLA, PLA, Parks for People Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land; Carmine Russo Jr., PLA, ASLA, LEED AP BD+C, Partner, REALM Collaborative; Ryoma Tominaga, Senior Project Manager, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.; Matthew Bird, PLA, Senior Associate, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.; and Patrick Stout, ASLA, PLA, Rundell Ernstberger Associates.

A series of questions were provided to the group and their responses may just change how you previously thought about urban parks and the value that parks bring to a city. The purpose of this variety of questions was to encourage open thought and dialogue on urban parks with little guided direction. While common threads wove throughout their responses, variations therein, brought to the surface the deeper more important issues and challenged the notion that plug and play design concepts are responsible or even beneficial.

Main Street Square | Image: Rob Specht

Have you noticed any trends in Urban Parks?

“The trend I noticed is capturing the opportunity for derelict and underutilized spaces and repurposing them for a park. This is possible today perhaps due to the definition of what a park has evolved into. It’s no longer just a green lawn with trees and planting, but a place of respite from the daily grind.” – Tominaga

“The trends in urban park design, particularly in our largest urban centers, is the creation of an iconic community amenity that is emblematic of the city. An identifiable brand that provides an instant vision in people’s minds of the essence of that city as a notable place to be. Consider Millennium Park and the Lurie Garden in Chicago, how could someone visit that city today without a picture under the Bean?” – Russo

“Rapid densification and gentrification are marginalizing and displacing people, creating park equity issues, which then impact health. These drivers also put a burden on existing park infrastructure to meet the need of new populations who may have different wants and needs. These demographic changes often happen at a rate we are ill-equipped to solve and while wealth abundance can provide financial resources, it also creates many challenges.” – Landoll

At the core, parks often become reflections of the values which are in place, driving the direction of the investments within the city. Priorities will often surface in the public realm and a multitude of issues influence this decisions. While we have trends that are emerging around things like tangible objects, (i.e. splash pads, beer gardens, etc.) trends also exist which are intangible in nature and call the designer and the community to look beyond the physical and require them to examine what the object is achieving and/or providing. What needs are being met or need to be met? Do unifying central identities need to be developed for a city or does the city need to restore forgotten places? What role does programming play in activating the community?

Superkilen | Image: Iwan Baan

It seems that no matter the trend, value systems exist that press at the boundaries of what our society is willing to accept and stretch us to consider alternatives to traditional approaches. These design exercises in current trends require us to place value either in a physical interpretation or in a perceived reality. These choices construct a very real sociological paradigm which is either met with glowing support or vehement opposition.

What should one not include in an Urban Park?

“This is difficult to say on a broad scale. Each site may call for unique elements that may be completely inappropriate at a site a block away. The real answer is that things which do not enhance the user experience or relate to the site itself should not be included.” – Bird

“It’s not about what not to include but rather having the correct value system in place to provide what is needed the most. For example, in a small urban park will find a basketball court more useful than a tennis court depending on the demographic. A trail network may be more valuable to connect a broken link to a larger trail system that offers refuge to arid areas that have little shade throughout the city.” – Tominaga

Benito Juarez Park | Image: Edison International

Stout and Landoll both recognized the need to be mindful of the materiality and elements included. While at one time it was considered fashionable to design large expansive concrete plazas and sunken amphitheaters, these are now seen as undesirable and have even become associated with themes of vacancy and dereliction.

Awareness will play a large part not only in considering what elements to design into a park but which elements and programming are hindrances to creating successful spaces and valued public spaces.

While there are a variety of elements that one can have in an urban park, are there some essentials?

“It really depends on the community you are serving. Traditional white populations go to a park to exercise, traditional Latino cultures go to a park to spend time with family and friends, so there is no one size fits all. Beyond the basics, active programming can really help enliven a park while making it safe and inviting.” – Landoll

“People love water. It appeals to a variety of senses in numerous forms. It can create an interactive element for engagement or provide soft, white noise to calm one in a chaotic environment.” – Stout

“I think the essential part is the variety itself. This can be at a macro or micro scale, as in seeing a mixture of program in the same park, or seeing a blend of textures in the planting and material palettes.” – Bird

Tarkington Park | Image: Dan Liggett

“Providing for the target audience of today and future generations 10-20 years from now. This means it has to be inclusive to the public. Accessibility, program for all types of youths, activities for animals, and spaces for children throughout range of age groups. A park should be intentionally designed for the unintentional activities. A flexible, multi-purpose open lawn, can provide more value to a park that reaches a larger audience compared to an amazing dedicated children’s play space. The key is balance.” – Tominaga

Designing for the unknown and the people are key elements for creating successful parks. While some parks are designed for specific uses and programs, many urban spaces need to have the ability to invite the community into its spaces. Designing spaces that allow for choice and expression of self are great ways to give back to a community and provide opportunities where they can come together no matter their personal interests or place of origin. Variety only increases the usability of each park. After all, that’s the point of most urban parks, to get people to visit and service the needs of the community.

Hudson Park and Boulevard | Image: HYHK Alliance

What is core to designing a successful urban park?

“It’s important to understand that parks are part of the neighborhood fabric. They should reflect the communities they serve, serve their community’s actual needs (not what we think they need), and their success is dependent on good city/neighborhood planning. For example, if a city is lacking affordable housing or services related to substance abuse, parks can become a haven for the homeless or for drug activity, greatly impacting use of the park for others.” – Landoll

“It’s hard to define a core element in the physical sense. Demographics, contextual elements, and the community’s input all contribute to creating a strong sense of place. A park, or any space for that matter, should have flexibility it how it can be used. The world around us is constantly evolving and a space that can adapt becomes something that people identify with most passionately.” – Stout

“I would argue that one of the primary goals to designing a successful urban park is to instill a place that facilitates are memorable experience. This not only includes the finished product but the design process as well. The memorable experiences lie throughout all phases of design. From the initial concept, public outreach, defining what would provide the best value for the limited resources available on a project, construction, and continued maintenance of the site. A net positive experience among all constituents and the ends users will more often bring people back to the park and increase the likely hood of further public investment and more important increased quality of life.” – Tominaga

The Goods Line | Image: Florian Groehn

So while variety is good, a mindfulness needs to exist in the planning phase. Having an accurate awareness of the existing desires and the potential opportunities that exist in a site and the surrounding community will ultimately have great influence on the design. Success is found in revealing and empowering desires of the community. Without the input of those invested individuals, we end up with spaces which lack diversity and eventually fade.

This ends part one of our two-part article. You can find Part II here.

Cameron R. Rodman, Associate ASLA, is a Landscape Designer at Stewart Inc., a multi-disciplinary design firm in Charlotte, NC.

LA+ Takes on Landscape Identity in Their Spring Issue

LA+, published by ORO Editions, started out in the spring of 2015 as a unique, landscape-focused journal that deviated from the pack by not only bringing designers, but philosophers, artists, geographers, ecologists, planners, scientists, and others to the table for their take on a core theme in each issue. Since then, the folks over at the UPenn School of Design have covered the themes of Wild, Pleasure, Tyranny, and Simulation. Along with the individual theme, each issue ends up with its own unique tone and perspective. This season’s issue is Identity.

The concept of identity shapes the very core of what we do as landscape architects. “Place-making” is often the seminal charge of clients and the means they use to create, reinforce, or change the identity of a place. This process pulls from every aspect of our skill set. LA+’s Spring Edition explores how the ideas of place have evolved and how “sense of place as the the manifestation of cultural identity has been landscape architecture’s raison d’être and its main aesthetic contribution to the cultural landscape of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”

Not easing in, the editors start by literally comparing the landscapes of Nazi Germany to those “mass produced by today’s so-called ‘placemakers.’” Shots fired. The creative backlash against organizations like Project for Public Places is real and mentioned more and more often. What are we to make of manufactured identities? Is a 21st century programmed place any less authentic than one developed in centuries past?

Image courtesy of LA+

The initial brushes of the Identity issue wax romantic on the notions of self and personal identity. It surmises that only through the lens of yourself, can you truly take the next logical step and consider a symbiotic relationship with your convenient planet of reference. This symbiotically connects the life and health of the planet directly to you and your actions. However, though these philosophical ruminations are clear and convincing, are they really arguments that need to be made to the intended audience? A philosophical understanding of our entire industry notwithstanding, the invocations of meaning are thoughtfully pondered, but for this reader, mostly end up in the same place they started.

A more interesting evolution of the symbiotic premise is then applied to the idea of colonizing other planets. If humans are currently in a thoroughly vetted, interdependent relationship with Earth, then how do humans sync up with worlds of different origins and inhospitable environments? Are we hopelessly confined to being but guests and never capable of the sort of congruence we have with our current home?

Image courtesy of LA+

A brief and fascinating passage by Dirk Sijmons asserts that identity is, in fact, a verb, or more specifically, a process. He asserts that though in the past century, designers have clung to the idea that landscape form is just a creative output of the project constraints and an application of art, we forget to consider the massive importance of macro processes that shape space. In his example, the massive dam and weirs projects in Holland attest to human’s ability to shape and augment space to fit basic needs. Modern designers have used remnants and echoes of these forms to derive designs that supposedly echo the “genus of place.” Their assertion, however, under weighs the agricultural, industrial, and defensive motivations for the augmentation in the first place. The changing needs of inhabitants over centuries and their willingness to take on massive scale revolutions in the landscape are the true basis of identity. Consider the canals of Egypt, the rapidly spreading swaths of suburban China, the Hoover Dam of Nevada, or the artificial islands of Dubai where Sijmons asks if processes of civilization are the generators of identity, rather than social or colloquial elements landscape architects often use to derive form.

Image courtesy of LA+

Further considering manufactured uniqueness, Andrew Graan and Aleksander Takovski mine Macedonia’s “Skopje 2014 for lessons in identity.” Skopje 2014 is an extraordinary architectural makeover project in the namesake capital city of Macedonia that seeks to clear asunder the remnants of Ottoman and Socialist markers that unfortunately results in a “sense that one has stumbled into a fantastic landscape that desperately wants to be noticed.” Skopje’s array of massive statues of Alexander the Great and others seeks to create a “political economy of architectural spectacle.” While the statues and buildings are derived from historical references and hit all the notes of place-derived focuses, the product borders on infatuation and excess. How are we to consider the identity of these places years, and even decades, from now? Will Skopje be viewed as an exercise in abject nationalism, or will it meld into the fabric of Macedonia’s identity causing future designers to derive their forms from it?

Image courtesy of LA+

Finally, one of the most interesting reads from this issue is Branding Landscape by Nicole Porter. She asserts that ‘place’ itself has obvious intrinsic economic value and the strategic practice of ‘place branding’ seeks to exploit that value. Two case studies, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and Norway’s national park branding, outline her argument that these branded landscapes have been reduced to “functioning as commodified objects functioning as brands.” In both instances, the government harnesses the most cost effective way to impress and, consequently, express the commitment and efficiency of said government. She laments that “the irony is that producing place identities according to market-friendly typologies can destroy their true uniqueness and inherent value at the same time.” Her worry is that a capitalist ideology injected into the human-nature relationship is a slippery slope that forces everyone to be consumers.

LA+ Identity is another excellent entry into an already thoughtful collection of varied perspectives on the work that landscape architects do. While some of the more existential explorations of philosophy are valuable and necessary, the critique of pervasive ideologies and popular landscapes is even more essential.

Benjamin Boyd is a landscape architect practicing at Mahan Rykiel Associates in Baltimore, Maryland. Check out his profile on Goodreads to see what he has been reading. Ben often tweets about landscape at @_benboyd.

Land8 Acquires Landscape Architects Network

Seizing an opportunity to broaden its reach and significantly grow its network, Land8 is announcing the acquisition of Landscape Architects Network (LAN), a prominent online resource dedicated to highlighting the work of landscape architects around the world and spreading the latest projects, events, and news that impacts the profession. Supported by its 1.5 million Facebook followers, LAN has widely promoted the profession and provided a valuable resource for both professionals and those interested in the work of landscape architects.

Land8 and LAN will initially operate as two separate websites ( and, with strategic planning underway to merge the content of the two sites into one powerful resource and social network. Land8 has experienced immense success during its 9-year history, particularly with landscape architecture professionals in the United States. The acquisition of LAN extends that reach internationally and those outside of the profession.

Matt Alcide, Managing Partner of Land8, says, “We are thrilled to bring together Land8’s social networking capabilities, blog, and forum with the global audience and content that LAN has built over the years. With these two platforms and the amazing group of dedicated writers, millions will experience the important work of landscape architects, and professionals will have an even greater resource at their fingertips.”

The combined audiences of Land8 and LAN will prove an enormous platform for the field of landscape architecture.


About Land8
Founded in 2008, Land8 is the social network for landscape architects with over 19,000 user profiles. Landscape architects use Land8 as a resource to read articles, ask questions to the community of users, find employment opportunities, research, view design inspiration, network, and access other resources.


Contact: Matt Alcide

10 Reasons to Attend the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO

Each year, over 6,000 landscape architects gather for the largest assembly of landscape architecture professionals and students in the world: the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO. This year’s meeting will be held October 20-23 in Los Angeles. Here are 10 reasons why you should attend.

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

1. Learn outside the office (and earn credits, too)

Offering over 130 courses, including education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and general sessions, attendees are able to earn up to 21 professional development hours (PDHs). With the theme of Common Ground, this year’s session topics are centered on how design is able to bring people of difference perspectives together to find common ground for positive change. Beginning with the opening general session, A Glimpse into the Future of Design, the conference explores opportunities for social change, and how we as landscape architects can influence the future. Lecture topics vary from climate change resilience to BIM integration, and even addressing homelessness, so you’re sure to find something that interests you.

Los Angeles; (Image: ASLA)

2. Discover a new city

Held in Los Angeles, the conference provides plenty of opportunities to get outside and explore. Sign up for a field session, including sketching L.A.’s iconic movie locations, biking L.A.’s coastal waterways, or take a trip to Disneyland to learn about the magic of placemaking from Walt Disney Imagineers. Other options include taking a walking tour of the residential gardens of Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, or sitting back for a day at the beach.

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

3. Make connections

With over 6,000 landscape architects in attendance, this is a prime opportunity to make connections and gain new perspectives. Reconnect with former classmates at the Alumni Tailgate, held during Saturday’s EXPO reception, or increase your network by attending the PPN Reception, where you’ll be able to meet fellow PPN members in person. If you’re looking for a job or your firm is hiring, visit JobLink LIVE, where employers can host a tabletop display, and job-seekers can participate in interviews.

The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin (Image: TCLF)

4. Explore the work of Lawrence Halprin

While in Los Angeles, explore the work of one of the most influential landscape architects, Lawrence Halprin. Known for his focus on the social impact of design and attention to human scale, Halprin’s work left a legacy for the profession. Join TCLF for a reception at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum where The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin, a traveling photographic exhibition about his life and work, will be on view. Or, walk around and see a number of significant Lawrence Halprin postmodernist projects that are in the Los Angeles area, including the Los Angeles Open Space Network and Plaza Las Fuentes in Pasadena.

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

5. Find new products and innovations at the EXPO

The ASLA EXPO is the largest trade show in the industry, with hundreds of new products, services, technology applications, and design solutions. There are several opportunities available to walk around and discover new materials to use in your future projects, or you can visit the Learning Labs to preview the latest innovations and technologies offered by exhibitors. While you’re there, take a minute to thank the generous event sponsors and partners!

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

6. Get involved

There are numerous occasions to celebrate your fellow colleagues, or donate to those working to elevate the profession. Attend the ASLA Council of Fellows Investiture Dinner to honor the newest members of the ASLA Council of Fellows, or the ASLA Student and Professional Awards Ceremony and LAF’s 32nd Annual Benefit to recognize the accomplishments of top students and professionals. Raise funds for TCLF by attending their 13th Annual Silent Auction, where proceeds will benefit the Pioneers of American Landscape Design initiative. Bid on sketches, paintings, photographs, and other items created by award winning landscape architects, photographers, and allied professionals.

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

7. Refine your skills

Whether you’re preparing for the LARE or SITES AP, have questions about LAAB accreditation, or looking to refine your digital skills, the Annual Meeting has a host of workshops catered just for you. There are a number of opportunities to refine your skills, regardless of your level of experience. Students and emerging professionals can visit the Emerging Professionals Portfolio Review to have their résumés and portfolios reviewed on-site, and ensure their making a great first impression to future employers. Professionals can take advantage of the Professional Portrait Lounge, fully equipped with professional photographers and make-up artists. Stop by to have your professional portrait taken, and walk away with your complimentary print for professional use.

8. Land8 Happy Hour

The Annual Meeting isn’t just about workshops and education sessions, it’s also about having a great time. Always a popular event, you won’t want to miss the 10th Annual Land8 Happy Hour. Held this year at Lucky Strike L.A. Live, enjoy bowling, billiards, mingling, and a DJ dance party. It’s a great chance to catch up with old friends and make some new ones in a less formal environment.

ASLA 2016 Annual Meeting & EXPO; (Image: ASLA/EPNAC)

9. Meet your inspiration

With so many distinguished landscape architects in one place, don’t be surprised if you’re a little star-struck. Learn from and get inspired by James Corner, Mikyoung Kim, Thomas Woltz, and Jennifer Guthrie – just to name a few of the well-known landscape architects that will be leading education sessions. You can also meet your design inspiration by stopping by the ASLA Bookstore, where prominent authors will be available to sign books and take photographs.

Getty Center; (Image: ASLA)

10. Get out

While you’re in Los Angeles, get out and explore the city. Check out a concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, get amused at Universal Studios Hollywood, see contemporary art at The Broad, or get a breath of fresh air at Runyon Canyon. Los Angeles has so much to offer that you’re sure to head back to work reinvigorated and ready to create something incredible.


Register for the ASLA 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO at Hurry – early bird pricing ends June 30 MPT, and registration closes September 15th.

Stephanie Marino is a landscape architect practicing in Washington, DC.

How Different is the 2017 LARE?


For any LARE (Landscape Architect Registration Examination) candidate, knowing what to study given limited preparation resources is key. In 2012 the exam changed so that hand drawing was no longer used, and design, grading, and drainage became computer based. New verbal and graphic questions in various formats were developed for the first time. This was a dramatic shift in the exam’s history, and by now we’ve mostly adapted to this new format, which remains unchanged for 2017 exam cycles.

LARE Exam Format & Content Development

Underlying the exam format is the content to be tested, which is evaluated by CLARB (Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards) every five to seven years through a “task analysis,” a survey sent to about 20,000 professionals, asking what type of work landscape architects regularly do. CLARB says periodic task analyses keep the exam “legally defensible and relevant,” important because state and provincial licensing boards need trust in the exam’s ability to help ensure the protection of public health, safety, and welfare. Sample test questions from 20 years ago seem very different from those of today. Evolution is good, especially since content changes come from the field, not by administrators.

The most recent task analysis was completed in 2016. Out of 20,000 surveys sent, 3,488 respondents practicing in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico completed the survey. The previous task analysis overlapped with the exam format change in 2012, but we’re told that the Recession resulted in few changes that time. Now that the economy is more active, it’s not surprising to see some content change as announced on CLARB’s website.

How Many Questions?

Between November 2016 and February 2017, the CLARB website said that the number of questions for each of the four LARE sections had been reduced. For Sections 1 & 3, it said, instead of 100 questions, there would now be 85. Section 2 would go from 80 questions down to 70. Section 4 would go from 120 questions down to 105. This seemed like a nice change.

In mid-February, the CLARB website’s page listing the number of questions changed so that a new question category was added, increasing the total number of questions back up to where it had been since 2012. The new question category was called, “pretest items.” See CLARB’s LARE Orientation here.

Now we know how many questions are being field tested (my term) and don’t count toward your score. However, resist the assumption that any question you may be having a hard time with doesn’t count toward your score! If you downloaded the CLARB LARE Orientation during or prior to February 2017, make sure you have the most recent edition.

Even though no one divides their time per question evenly, it’s helpful to know how much time is allotted per question for each section. For section 1, one and a half minutes; section 2, 1.9 minutes, section 3, 2.1 minutes, and section 4, an even two minutes. Gain confidence by setting a timer for 90 seconds and imagining answering one question in that time. It’s going to feel long. With planning, the LARE does not necessarily present time challenges.

New and Rearranged Exam Content

Here are a few pointers on new content:

Section 1 – Project and Construction Management: Landscape maintenance is a new exam subject which now represents 10% of exam content. Some construction administration previously found on Section 4 has been moved to Section 1. Obtaining permits and cost estimates and collecting and analyzing performance metrics now appear in this section.

Section 2 – Inventory and Analysis: In my opinion, this section is least affected by the 2016 task analysis. Some new content called out on the CLARB LARE Orientation Guide are, “Gather stakeholder input, identify policy objectives, determine appropriate types of analyses, and interpret all sorts of site analysis data.”

Section 3 – Design: The new content area called, “Stakeholder Process” now represents 9% of this exam, which is new. Some items seem to have migrated from Section 4 into Section 3, such as, “Develop Historic/Cultural Restoration and Preservation Plan.” Other new content includes, “prepare preliminary quantities and cost estimates, and identify and develop performance metrics.” Note that this overlaps with Section 1 to a degree.

Section 4 – Grading, Drainage and Construction Documentation: New in this section are, “develop mitigation plan, develop traffic control plan and emergency access plan.” And as we know, erosion and sediment control are important to know in this section, though it is not called out by this name in CLARB’s bulleted list.

Join us for a webinar as part of the new Land8 LARE Webinar Series presented by Corson Learning. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the LARE.

“How Different is the 2017 LARE?” Webinar
May 31, 2017
8:00 – 9:00 PM EDT
Cost: $10
*Registrants will be emailed a special link prior to the event. Those who register and are unable to attend at this time will be emailed a recorded video of the webinar.

This event has passed. You may still access the recording of this webinar for $10 at the link below. The password to the video below will be emailed to you within 24 hours. 


Latest News Landscape Architecture May Edition

10-May-2017 – Latest News Landscape Architecture May by Brett Lezon | Edition No. 2 out of 4 In this week’s Latest News in Landscape Architecture, we feature several urban topics such as Amsterdam’s ‘Night Mayor’ and a series of technological solutions to aid global problems, highlight a proposed park in Taipei, and examine the results from a design competition in Tampa. Additionally, we showcase a book about environmental sustainability, and don’t forget our YouTube Tutorial of the Week! This week we share a resource on downtown master planning in SketchUp.

10 of the Best Stories in this week’s latest news in landscape architecture:

  • City Planning Workflow – 1: Downtown Master Plan [YouTube Tutorial of the Week]
  • Lessons from Amsterdam’s ‘Night Mayor’
  • Why Urban Trees Are Giving Us Life
  • Landscape Architecture and Environmental Sustainability: Creating Positive Change Through Design [Book Review of the Week]
  • How Amazon’s ‘Invisible’ Hand Can Shape Your City
  • Here Are Eight Startups Developing Technological Solutions to Global Urban Problems
  • Kinder Institute Releases Findings from 2017 Houston Area Survey
  • Building A Resilient City Through Design and Analytics
  • TRTC Unveils A Redesign Plan for Belt-Shaped Park
  • Can Tampa Undo its Post-War Planning Mistakes while Embracing its Environment? This Competition Explored How

Latest News Landscape Architecture May Edition 02

  • City Planning Workflow – 1: Downtown Master Plan [YouTube Tutorial of the Week]

WATCH >>> City Planning Workflow – 1: Downtown Master Plan

Throughout, this 17-minute tutorial, the presenter demonstrates how to approach urban planning in SketchUp via his workflow preferences. From a beneficial “”incremental random push-pull” plugin to importing an entire modeled city at once—this instructional video offers tremendous tips for any level user. Related Article: 10 Incredible Plugins for SketchUp

When a former nightclub promoter became Amsterdam’s ‘night mayor’ some were skeptical, yet over five years has passed and now cities like London, Paris, and Zurich have followed suit. London has even made it a formal position in the city administration, which Amsterdam hasn’t. Recently, the ‘night mayor’ himself, Mirik Milan, was interviewed at the Smart Cities NYC conference and besides acknowledging that he has a pretty cool job, Milan discussed entertainment policy, managing nightlife through data, and ‘Square Hosts’ (which are trained and paid social workers and the eyes and ears of the police). Related Article: Amsterdam Canal Ring | How Amsterdam Became One of the Most Sustainable Cities in the World  WATCH >>> Behind Amsterdam’s thriving club scene, this ‘night mayor’ keeps the peace

While the value of urban trees is well-known, many street trees still struggle to survive the first few years after planting. Often surrounded by concrete, in poor, compacted soil, it’s no wonder why it’s a growing concern. According to a study in Toronto, trees provide $28.2 million worth of services each year in the form of savings on heating and cooling, improvements to air quality and carbon sequestration. Though some cities have cut their forestry services, figures like these demonstrate the importance of the continued investment into these programs. Related Article: Choosing Urban Trees: The Essential Guide

Landscape architecture has a pivotal role in ensuring environmental sustainability through design interventions. This book takes a broad look at strategies and completed projects to provide the reader with a strong understanding of the sustainability challenges being faced by designers today, and potential routes to addressing them.” “Through case studies from around the world and interviews with leading landscape architects and practitioners, this book invites discussion about possible future scenarios, relevant theories and project responses in landscape environmental design. With hundreds of color images throughout the book, and additional study material in the companion website, Joshua Zeunert provides an overview of the multidimensional qualities of landscape sustainability.Related Article: 10 Projects That Put Sustainability at the Forefront of Landscape Architecture

As e-commerce continues to grow, cities should start creating more holistic designs for roadways, says Anne Goodchild, who runs the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Freight doesn’t appear to exist in urban planning, and that’s a problem,” she says. “Most people look at public transit and mobility, but they don’t appear to be living in a physical world. How can they plan complete streets when the words ‘freight delivery’ [aren’t] used?” Goodchild believes that through additional curb cuts (graded ramps between the sidewalk and the street) and larger loading zones “dwell times” would be reduced and everyone would benefit. More Top Stories in the News This Week

For all of the latest news in Landscape Architecture continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Do you have news to share? Send to News report by Brett Lezon

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