The cityscape of Minneapolis was transformed into a mecca for landscape architecture enthusiasts as the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture unfolded, bringing together professionals, thought leaders, and students from the field. The annual event is a beacon of inspiration, fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and showcasing the latest trends and innovations in landscape architecture. With an impressive lineup of education sessions, a bustling expo, engaging experiences, and lively ASLA after-hours events, the conference proved to be a dynamic convergence of ideas and expertise. The theme of the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture was not just innovation; it was about scaling up and taking landscape architecture to new heights.
This was my second time attending the national conference on landscape architecture and my first as an emerging professional. Attending the conference post-graduation was a different experience than when I went as a student. As a student, I carefully selected each session for my thesis research and was awed at the expo hall. This time, I chose sessions that would help advance workflows and gain insight from other professionals. There are new sessions, speakers, and opportunities to learn from and experience each year. The conference always brings exciting ways to connect with former classmates, current students, industry professionals, and friends on the shared enthusiasm for landscape architecture.
From compelling sessions and exciting tours to new opportunities and a vibrant after-hours scene, those who did not attend missed out on a plethora of invigorating excitement for the profession of landscape architecture.
EDUCATION SESSIONS AND EXPO
The heart of any ASLA conference lies in its educational offerings, and the 2023 event in Minneapolis did not disappoint. The education sessions spanned diverse topics, from sustainable design practices and redefining urban green spaces to integrating technology in landscape architecture and harnessing the power of virtual reality in design. There were also many sessions like Developing Leadership, Advocacy, and Resiliency Among Emerging Professionals, presented by Anthony Castagnoli, Leah Heinzelmann, and Moises Andrani de la Rosa, and Reimagining Mentorship for a New Generation, presented by Jessica Pilon, Magdalena A. Aravena, and Alex Fenech that were targeted toward emerging professionals at the start of their careers in landscape architecture.
Some of my favorite sessions that I attended were:
Community as a Design Consultant/Landscape Architect as a Facilitator: Shifting the Design Relationship with speakers Sam Valentine, Biruk Belay, and Alexa Bosse.
- Through three built projects across Seattle, Philadelphia, and northeastern Brazil, this session explored elevating community voices to a position of expertise within the design team, centered on the idea that nobody knows a landscape better than the people who live in it.
Bucking the Trend: Fighting Sameness in Landscape Architectural Aesthetics and Representation, presented by Steven Lee, Matthew Gindlesperger, and Donna Bridgeman.
- Through reflections on design processes and case studies, this session explored how designers can move past “trendy” and reinvigorate the practice with fresh ideas and design approaches.
Putting AI to Work: Practical Applications of AI in Landscape Architecture, presented by Benjamin George, Philip Fernberg, Qing Lana Luo, Tony Kostreski, Matt Perotto, and Lauren Schmidt.
- This session demonstrated through tutorials how AI can streamline production and make way for creativity through the use of commercially available generative AI platforms.
So many sessions piqued interest that choosing which ones to go to was difficult! In addition to these intriguing sessions, field sessions also allow for a deep dive, immersive experience of the conference for those itching to get out of the convention center but not miss a thing, and L.A.R.E. workshops for an intense yet helpful dive into exam prep.
The EXPO also provides many opportunities to get an in-depth understanding of new technologies and products relevant to the field. Industry leaders and product specialists gather to communicate with design professionals and students for the ultimate knowledge-sharing and collaborative experience.
On top of educational sessions, field sessions, and the EXPO, the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture offers more opportunities to get involved in the profession for emerging professionals. At this year’s conference, I had the opportunity to present as a Game Changer at the EXPO.
ASLA’s Game Changer presentations are fast-paced talks where speakers have just seven minutes to share their innovative, game-changing ideas. First-time presenters, students, and emerging professionals are encouraged to apply to share their ideas. This year, presentations focused on scaling up the ASLA Climate Action Plan. The application process included submitting a one-minute video giving a compelling summary of a game-changing idea. Submissions are then reviewed and narrowed down to move to popular vote, where you can get your friends, colleagues, and design professionals to vote for your presentation and other presentations they want to see in person at the national conference!
I presented ideas from my thesis research and got an introduction to speaking on the national level at the ASLA conference through this experience. As an emerging professional and first-time speaker, the Game Changer presentation was an excellent opportunity to bring value to the profession and meet with other individuals about innovative ideas!
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
As the sun set on the conference sessions, after-hours events took the excitement to new heights. At the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis, there was no shortage of events to choose from to celebrate, mingle, and let loose with others in the field! The WxLA happy hour celebrated the 10 2023 WxLA Scholars who have demonstrated success as emerging professional or mid-career leaders in the profession. At the LAF 38th Annual Benefit held at the University of Minnesota’s stunning McNamara Alumni Center, designers, leaders, and students came together to celebrate and recognize the exceptional 2023 Olmsted Scholar students and showcase LAF’s transformative work.
There were other less formal events to get together with like-minded people in the field, like the PridexASLA Wig Party, Land F/X Halloween Party, and other industry-sponsored events. Of course, there is also the Land8 Happy Hour, which held three floors of fun and entertainment. These are great ways to connect with other conference-goers in a more relaxed setting!
Another great out-of-conference experience is exploring a new city and sightseeing. As a Floridian, exploring Minneapolis was a complete 180 to my usual! The landscape was filled with bright fall colors, and the skyways were a unique new way to experience a city. I even got a little taste of snow on my last night in Minneapolis.
The ASLA 2023 Conference in Minneapolis was an opportunity to redefine the boundaries of inspiration and innovation in the field and leave the conference energized and excited for the profession’s future. Each conference is full of opportunity, insights into the top technologies and ideas in the design world, and plentiful networking connections.
For those who weren’t there, there is always next year to look forward to. What will you discover, learn, or share at the ASLA 2024 Conference?
See you in Washington, D.C.
Lead Image: ASLA President Emily O’Mahoney (Photo by ASLA/Korey Davis Photography)