July 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm #173543
In on-going discussions I have been having with various members of the lounge, I have been forced to ask myself, am I out of touch with the direction of Landscape Architecture? Should landscape architecture be driven by design and land usage, or should landscape designers focus on the “ethics of the environment”? Is there room for Landscape architects who want to make money by desinging strip malls and golf courses, or should all LA’s become a social factor, changing the opinions of the public to embraces enviromental issues?July 31, 2009 at 5:10 pm #173565
so we are mediators? that is where I disagree. I think we should be leaders. Olmstead’s interpretation of democracy in park design was new – as was his re-interpretation of the site, for the Prospect Park competition. Ian McHarg was famously argumentative, whether for drainage or GIS..Is it enough to simply install more drip irrigation in the central valley, when we can define our jobs as not using any water in the landscape at all? And if we cannot see where our responsiblity lies, as ‘stewards of the earth’ , then we must rely on others to tell us where our responsiblity begins and ends? Everyone chimes in with the great schools of environmental design – Cal Poly Davis, Cal Poly SLO, but they should be called the great schools of doing what has been done already for thirty years, the great schools of interpreting what they think ‘public opinion’ is, by some non-existent polls…(man I love abstract arguments like this! sorry!) I am not saying don’t do the strip malls. I am just saying we need to try a lot harder, and have a lot more faith in our leadership in design..and designing for conservation….July 31, 2009 at 6:24 pm #173564Ben YahrParticipant
Design, land usage, and environmental ethics are one in the same, on every project. You cannot choose to address one or the other. Of course, every project requires compromise. It appears that you are trying to get someone to say that its OK for an economic or client service attitude to trump responsible, innovative design.
Its my belief that the health, safety, and welfare of the general public includes not only the personal well being of a potential user, but also the well being of the environment, as the health of “the environment” affects society at large.
Personally, there is absolutely no room for me to make money designing strip malls etc. But if my firm were involved in such a project, I would participate to the best of my abilities so that the project could be completed successfully (from a HSW and hence “environmental” standpoint). As Andrew mentioned, it’s better to be involved and have a small positive impact than to not be involved at all.
While I think that we should be leaders, it seems that in reality we are much more often mediators. That’s the beauty of the field; landscape architects are in the position to put forth leadership in a design, even if it is a small positive voice on a large team of architects, engineers, and developers. Because if we don’t speak up, and exhibit leadership, innovation, and environmental responsibility, then what is the point of our profession?
Landscape architects do need to try harder, become leaders, and suggest innovation rather than repetition any chance they get.July 31, 2009 at 8:27 pm #173563
I think whenever LA’s talk about this, we tend to do it in terms of ethics and values. What happens when we look at these issues as scientific and economic issues as well? If you can design a golf course that wastes fewer resources and reduces maintenance, why not at least bring up your ideas? Wouldn’t less waste and maintenance be beneficial to your client? It’s the equivalent of arguing over the “ethics” of shooting ourself in the foot. Why would we shoot ourselves in the foot in the first place? Isn’t design just problem solving? Aren’t environmental issues just another problem to be solved?
Andrew is right. We are not unethical if we design things other than environmental restoration projects. Humans change the environment to suit them, just like a lot of other animals. But changing the environment is not the same thing as removing our environment from the rest of the world. Our cities are still subject to the same laws of physics and ecology as the rest of the planet. When we don’t take this fact into consideration, we get environmental problems.
Beavers certainly make changes to the environment, too, by building dams. But when they do it, they don’t kill fish or turn the landscape into a desert. We humans are certainly smarter than giant rodents. If other animals can change their environment to suit their needs, without destroying the resources they depend on, so can we. It’s just another problem to be solved. Forget the ethics, let’s just do it.July 31, 2009 at 9:41 pm #173562
I agree “forget the ethics” good design should take care of the issues that are put before you in the design development phase of a project. I like people who want to make their projects fit their environmental visions, but I feel that environmental ethics fits low on my list of priorities, for others it is the number one priority. If I have the opportunity to educated a client or design/suggest a system or solution that saves resources, cleans the air/water, or reduces energy costs then I am happy to provide the access to the information to my client but they make the final decisions as to what the are willing to invest in the project. As much as we all want to be leaders in the design process, the local government and the client are the true leaders in the ethics departmentJuly 31, 2009 at 10:21 pm #173561Ben YahrParticipant
That raises a bunch of red flags for me… It is our duty to put our diverse knowledge and training to use, educate others, and “do the right thing”. Clients cannot be trusted to be the end all of ethics, likewise with government. This is precisely why ASLA has a code of ethics.August 1, 2009 at 1:43 am #173560
I think responsiblity to the environment is a constraint through which good design can be reached. There is never only one way to do something. so if you start out your thinking realizing the constraints of sustainablitly, and then get to good design through the constraints, you have met your professional responsibilities..
for me the basic question is, is it ethical to continue to install irrigation systems (low-water or not) for ornamental landscapes in the central valley, labelled as steppe, with 10″ of rain a year..August 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm #173559
Well stated Andrew I totally agree!August 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm #173558
Keep in mind that when I say “forget ethics”, I mean that ethics is not the only reason we do what we call sustainable design. There are scientific and economic reasons for eliminating irrigation in the central valley. When we say “I have an environmental ethic”, it is easy for other people to say “yeah, so what, I don’t”. You can argue ETHICS back and forth that way all day with neither side being swayed.
Those who know me know I have a stronger environmental ethic than most. Why else would I go on and on about permaculture. It’s just that I know some people are more likely to do something right when they can see that it does something for them rather than just the rest of the environment. I’m guessing that what Bob and others object to is the ethics part. Saying that we SHOULDN’T use irrigation is not the same as saying WHY it works better to not use irrigation or pointing out concrete examples. We cannot win over people by scolding them. Take your time and build your case. You have to understand why people object before you will be able to convince them. Often they are more reasonable than you think, but just don’t have the same knowledge on this sort of thing. If you argue about ethics, you get an emotional response, which is not what you want. See what I’m saying?
Ultimately, the environmental movement has less to do with saving the rest of the biosphere than it does with how we build our own environment. In the long term, most ecosystems can recover. The real problem is in how we build our infrastructure, right? And that is mostly a technical issue, right? That is what I meant.August 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm #173557
I don’t agree..I do not see any environmental bandwagon – it is too bad you are assuming my view is extreme, I nowhere stated that onlyl extreme enviornmentalism qualified at all..But where is the environmental design happening? I see a profession that sees itself as followers, translators of the public opinion…I do not see any green agenda happending hardly at all…Here and there, a bit, but mostly it is business as usual…Where do you live that environmentalists rule? I want to move there! Where I live we have no water, no water recylcing AT ALL, huge resistance to even talking about less use of water…much less figuring out the best ways to reduce water use..And this is not a discussion for your client, Andrew, it is among us professionals, and it is related to practicality..simple practical things we can BEGIN to do to try to conserve water – lets not even begin to address the many other enviornmental issues there are…
Sorry the whole word environmentalism seems to make you angry..But I do not see anything really happening on that front. Even all the ridiculous hoops we have to jump through for SEQRA and NEPA are just for show..It has all been figured out..How would you like to be a kit fox who was given holes in the median barrier to cross the six -lane highway, that was just stretched across your habitat..? This is the kind of ‘tyrannical environmental ‘ solution to the problem of finding and endangered species..forget it kit fox..We have the NEPA permission in the files, now you try to cross the highway..August 1, 2009 at 10:05 pm #173556
Your views are extreem to the standard view of most people, most people on this forum are very green freindly and even some of us look at the kit fox and ignore it, our bad, the general public could give a flying fruit loop over the kit fox, the spotted owl, the xyx animal of the day, and that is sad but true. Eliminating all irrigation in the central valley is an extreem viewpoint. I have to deal with environmental city councils every project, they are demanding higher standards with every project and while not to the level you would like to see things are changing. go look to the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, etc.) for a view in how politic are played when it comes to landscapes and government, Palm Desert is ver afflent and they have set extreemly high standard in elimnating medium and high water use plants, increasing the amount of inert materials required in landscapes, massive restrictions for turf and limitations on water use, it works for them they like the situation they have, they like the look they are creating and they do not have to worry about alienation of businesses or residents, next to them is Indian Wells, they love the lush cool look of turf and date palms, this is there history and this is the image the residents want in their community, the next town to the east of Indian Wells is LaQuinta a very Golf oriented community who saves the reclaimed waters for their golf courses (a huge money maker for the city) and do their public landscapes as desert effecient, lastly is Indio a poorer community that is trying to make their city better, they want to get jobs into their community and they want to add residents so they were very loose on their requirements for landscape, now they want to shift directions and become a desert landscape community and place restrictions on developers, the developers are just leaving to find a more friendly place to build, on valley with one massive aquifer amd four widely different views on how to use that water, now try to impose one world order on all of california and see were that get you.August 2, 2009 at 6:51 am #173555
I think Olmstead would be surprised at your characterization of the co-opting of our profession by ‘certain’ groups for leftist environmental causes. He beleived that his passive back to nature parks were the answer to improving the entire urban fabric, in fact essential to that fabric. Also why is environmentalism left wing? Don’t christians feel we are stewards of the earth..? No one is screaming at you for nudging a project as best you can. that is what we do…I just want to know why we are still using irrigation in the central valley, for ornamental purposes. What do you think of that? Isn’t is possible to do designs (my client is the public, who have actually no real say in the design until they see it.!)…. Is that leftist? To want to save the water for cities and farmers, or to want to try to begin to be part of the water solution…It comes down to some 2″ pipe..That’s all.August 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm #173554
Do you think developers and others see no practical side to environmentally minded solutions? Do you think they really only see it as some sort of new religion? Look at how you phrased one of your own statements: “using water and other stressed resources in an irresponsible manner is shameful and unethical”. I’d say it’s also impractical. I think most of us see it thatway, but no one ever talks about it that way. Instead they talk about ethics. So everyone else just sort of assumes that’s all there is to it, and that we are all crazy activists, whose only goal in life is to save cute, fuzzy bunnies. I like cute, fuzzy bunnies, too, but my main goal is to apply the science of ecology to my work in order to get around problems.
Is there something really messed up in the way we debate this sort of thing? It’s so full of faulty assumptions and political views and stereotypes from the sixties. Essentially we are debating the ethics of whether we should poison ourselves and deplete all the resources we depend on. Isn’t that somewhat ridiculous? Shouldn’t we be talking about ways not to poison ourselves and deplete all our resources in a realistic way instead? Isn’t the fact that Bob assumes it’s all about ethics a warning sign? Yet, when I asked him about saving his client money with environmentally-friendly technology he said he’d gladly do so.August 2, 2009 at 9:09 pm #173553
Dear Andrew G I do not think you are a right-wing religious person, we were both using these rhethorical devices to make an argument – has nothing to do with who you are..! You are simply arguing for more moderation and practicality, and I am saying I don’t see any action towards low-water where I live – and I want to set an example (plus I have the opportunity to set an example..) I just wonder why there is not more environmental consciousness, where here in the central valley we (it seems to me) are almost on the ropes – worst air in the country, farmers marching for water..
There was never any intention to disparage your personality, or even that of right -wing religious people, in any way..I was saying I think the distinction is specious, actually – religious groups, some of them, are deciding to take conservation very seriously..so I did not think the right-left dichotomy you were presenting was accurate..
That is all..Nothing about who you are..And yes, presentation is incredibly important..I agree..August 3, 2009 at 2:45 am #173552
Yes I would save my clients money and be environmentally sensative when possible, but I also reallize that desinging a landscape for a Best Buy or a Costco puts food on the table for the people I work with, if a sensative issue was on site then I would love to spring into action and find a way to save the fuzzy bunnys of the world but if there is no opportunity then there is no opportunity. When possible, I love to use subsuface drip irrigation and ET compensating Irrigation controllers, and reclamed water, I try to use inert mulches and gravels as much as possible, I plant as many water saving plants as possible and try to design in a way that minimizes maintenance and other energy uses. I do this as my personal action, I do not force it upon my client and I do not openly brag about it. Sometimes I do these things because I am required to by a governing agency, and sometimes I don’t add the enviromentally sensative systems because a project gets value engineered… but that is the real world of landscape architecture, I cannot ignor the city requirements in said parking lot, I cannot leave trees out of the plan because they use too much water, the city or county has shade requirements, they also have planning ordanaces that dictate the appearance of their community upon which I must design my landscape. I must conform to the requirements of the community, I know that this statement will be requoted and used against me… be a leader and not a follower, etc. I live in a real world with real problems and not all of these problems are environmental.
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