Archive for the ‘PEOPLE’ Category

Most feel the L.A. River needs to change, though they can't agree on what.

Most believe the L.A. River needs to change, though exactly how it should be done is still up in the air.

From the October 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The push to fix the 51-mile Los Angeles River over the past few decades has been a triumph of citizen-fueled advocacy. It has harnessed landscape architecture as well as politics, planning, economics, engineering, hydrology, and ecology toward a dream of a living river, with plants and animals and people (and real estate) close to the water. Persistence and skill, notably on the part of the group Friends of the Los Angeles River, led to the stunning endorsement last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of a $1 billion federal plan to restore natural habitat along 11 miles of the upper river. It was a bigger bet on the river than anyone expected. Since then, the big questions have been whether Congress will fund the plan and, if so, how much the federal government will pay and how much the city will pay. The city must buy land, clean up contamination, and build a public realm; a lot of how to do all that had been laid out in a master plan in 2007 for 32 miles of the river, from its headwaters in Canoga Park to downtown Los Angeles. As part of the large master plan team, led by Tetra Tech, the offices of Civitas, Wenk Associates, and Mia Lehrer + Associates developed transformative, landscape driven solutions for sites along the river.

It’s all been incredibly exciting. But now, rather than wait until Congress considers funding the corps’ plan, the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, an ardent river advocate, has been encouraging a whole other river plan but not telling anyone much about it. For this newer plan, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit the city chartered to direct its river strategy, asked Frank Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners, to begin studying the whole length of the river. OLIN is on board as a consulting landscape architect. Garcetti called Gehry’s work “a master plan, in the truest sense of the word,” and added, “To have the Olmsted of our time focusing on this, I think, is extraordinary.”

The Olmsted remark did not go over well among landscape architects. None of the revelations about the Gehry project went particularly well, not least because they were unexpected. Over the past year, some longtime river strategists have been shown the outlines of the Gehry team’s effort, but for the most part it unfolded in private until the Los Angeles Times reported on its existence in early August. Then came the disciplinary resentments in the landscape realm and, more important, the pains of people—professionals and laypersons—who worked hard to get the corps’ blessing on a major plan. Those people rightly worry that they may now have to spend more effort to defend what they have already achieved for the river. They worry because so little about the new planning process has been shared with them or with the public. The city’s emerging bid to host the Olympics in 2024 adds another layer of uncertainty to some of the river sites.

The revitalization corporation insists it is considering all the previous work for the master plan and the corps’ proposal in its new project, but one of its tendencies has been to speak as if Gehry’s team is starting a process of remaking the river rather than walking into the middle of one. Mayor Garcetti, who has made the river a serious project for his administration, could clear up a lot of confusion. He needs to ensure that the intelligence gathered so far around the river’s revival remains in play and will feed into any future plans. It would help to involve the river’s early advocates and designers much more closely than seems to have been the case lately, and to pay more attention to their considerable accomplishment. Visions for a better river could combine many ideas and forms. Coherence in the approach will be crucial in selling them.

Credit: By A Syn [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Since 2012, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has brought in big names in landscape architecture—Cochran, Van Valkenburgh, Galí-Izard, and more—to speak as part of its Landscape Lectures series. Each lecture is roughly an hour long and highlights the work and achievements of the speaker. The above video contains a playlist of the available lectures through the museum’s YouTube channel, starting with one of the first lectures in 2012 up through June 2015. The next lecture in the 2015–2016 series will feature Walter Hood on November 12. For more information, please click here.

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“If Women Built Cities, What Would Our Urban Landscape Look Like?” by Susanna Rustin from The Guardian on December 5, 2014.

BEDIT_Susanna Rustin portrait

Susanna Rustin

Every year LAM honors two articles that stand out in the realm of landscape architecture with the Bradford Williams Medal—one that has appeared in LAM, and one from outside the magazine. For the 2015 medals, articles from the 2014 calendar period were nominated by LAM’s Editorial Advisory Committee and then were narrowed to two winners from the nominees.

Earlier we announced Mimi Zeiger’s “Fresno v. Eckbo” as the winner for an article in LAM, from December 2014. Today we’re proud to announce Susanna Rustin, a feature writer at The Guardian, as the winner for an article outside of LAM for her December 2014 story “If Women Built Cities, What Would Our Urban Landscape Look Like?” Rustin’s article focuses on the need for diversity, particularly women, among those who shape the human environment.


The Bradford Williams Medal is awarded to two outstanding articles in landscape every year.

The medal’s namesake, Bradford Williams, was an editor and publisher of LAM in its earlier days when it was Landscape Architecture Quarterly. The medal was named to honor his contributions to the magazine and to ASLA. A list of past winners can be found here.

The medals will be presented at ASLA’s 2015 Annual Meeting & EXPO on Monday, November 9 in a ceremony at Chicago’s McCormick Place for the ASLA Student and Professional Awards.

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This season marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the city of New Orleans finds there is still a long way to go to fully heal. But there are a lot of great revitalization stories, including those involving the beloved green spaces at the heart of the city, old and new. This three-minute video highlights four of these spaces, including the 2013 ASLA award-winning Lafitte Greenway by Design Workshop, which connects City Park to downtown, and Arnold Park, which plays host to Jazz in the Park, a free, weekly concert from September to October.

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Mia Scharphie delivers a dose of start-up energy to people and projects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The merging of soul and role is a laudable idea—it refers, very broadly, to the ability to bring a set of personal, mission-driven values to your professional life—but it’s hard to integrate into full-time practice. For most designers, it means working on public projects with a community engagement component, or collaborating on one-off social impact design projects, or cordoning off pro bono work into a separate part of their business. Mia Scharphie wants to shake that up a bit.

Scharphie runs two consulting businesses—Proactive Practices, a research collaborative with Gilad Meron and Nick McClintock, and Build Yourself+, a workshop series. At first glance, they seem unrelated, but when you talk to her, you begin to see the kind of connections that are at the core of Scharphie’s work. Drawing on her training in landscape architecture (she began her career at the firm Public Architecture in San Francisco), which Scharphie says is “supercore” to spatializing community projects, she also brings in current thinking from the world of entrepreneurship, citing Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, and Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup as touchstones and agents for social change that shape both Proactive Practices and Build Yourself+.

Build Yourself+ is a six-week course aimed specifically at women working in the design fields, investing women designers with the skills to articulate issues and obstacles to their own success and then get past them. Scharphie says designers, and women designers in particular, can be hobbled by the total work ethic of design. “The strange irony of design is that we do these renderings of super-happy people in our parks walking with infinite numbers of dogs and strollers,” yet the design culture of work-all-hours doesn’t permit any of this. “There’s a disconnect between what we try to imagine for people and what our social lives are like.” It’s a workshop approach that frankly acknowledges that the personal is deeply embedded in the professional, and it builds on the current cultural conversations about gender equity and cross-cultural communications in the workplace.


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Find the LAM staff out and about in August and September:

August 14–21

DredgeFest Great Lakes, Minneapolis and Duluth, MN

September 16–18

International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market, Chicago

You can also find Landscape Architecture Magazine this fall at the following shows:

September 16–17

Design Americas, Miami

September 16–19

International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market, Chicago

September 22–23

Landscape Show, London

September 30–October 3


And as always, at more than 400 Barnes & Noble stores.

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July’s LAM looks at the long-needed rehabilitation of Babi Yar Park, a memorial ground in Denver dedicated to the lives lost in Kiev, Ukraine, during the Holocaust, by Tina Bishop of Mundus Bishop; a rethinking of Chavis Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, by Skeo Solutions, which embraces the park’s African American heritage through public engagement; and the ground-to-crown planting of the One Central Park high-rise in Sydney, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, with Aspect | Oculus and Jeppe Aagaard Andersen, where sprawling green balconies make what is said to be the tallest vertical garden in the world.

In this month’s departments, the Milan Expo 2015 centered on food sustainability seems to draw controversy from every angle; Molly Meyer is leading the charge for affordable, simpler, and greater biodiversity in green roofs; and nature reclaims lands once lost from the demolition of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. In The Back, an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History immerses visitors in the beauty of Iceland through sight and sound. All this plus our regular Now, Species, Goods, and Books columns.

You can read the full table of contents for July 2015 or pick up a free digital issue of the July LAM here and share it with your clients, colleagues, and friends. As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 200 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating July articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “The Global Cucumber,” Tim Waterman; “Green Roof Gold,” Michael Skiba; “A River Returns,” National Park Service; “Star Witness,” © Scott Dressel-Martin; “The Chavis Conversion,” Skeo Solutions; “Live It Up,” Simon Wood Photography; “Songs of Ice and Fire,” Feo Pitcairn Fine Art.

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