Open space and equity meet in landscape design.
By Zach Mortice
The venerable Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship—pairing early career designers with nonprofits and community organizations to develop equitable housing and open space—has opened to landscape architects for the first time. Enterprise will award two of its five fellowships to landscape architects, and applications are due July 9. New fellows will be announced in early 2018.
Christopher Scott, the program director for the Rose Fellowship, says Enterprise wanted landscape designers to take part in these three-year fellowships because over the past several years, “there’s been a national dialogue around open space movements [as] a catalyst for equity.” Beyond pure public policy, there is growing awareness in the community development sector that the design of open space plays a key role in the health and vitality of neighborhoods.
And landscape design, he says, is a way to defuse the endless gentrification paradox attached to the redevelopment of some low-income communities: how to improve the public realm for everyone without egging on displacement. Quality landscape design can create equally accessible public amenities available to all; ideally they are ones that have been crafted with a broad range of the community’s input. “I think there’s an element there for landscape architects to be a communicator of the vision of residents to those capital investments that are going in,” Scott says, “which leads to a bigger idea of the community feeling they own those spaces, rather than feeling they’re being pushed out by these capital investments.”
Because landscape architects are more tied to exterior environments and the neighborhood connective tissue among individual buildings, Scott says they’re better able to coordinate ways that communities in need can be knit together with public space. And the growing awareness that access to quality outdoor space has positive influences on people’s health and wellness has also made landscape architecture a discipline vital to the ambitions of Enterprise, an affordable housing nonprofit.
Each Rose landscape architecture fellow will work with a different organization. In Philadelphia, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is on the cusp of a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to invest $500 million in its local parks, Scott says. The Rose fellow there will work on open-space equity issues with the low-income communities that abut these parks. The goal, beyond upgrading the city’s park spaces, is to see how the leadership of landscape architects can drive broader organizational change within the conservancy.
The other Rose landscape architecture fellow will work with the Trust for Public Land in St. Paul, Minnesota. This early career designer will examine how the parks advocacy nonprofit’s local initiatives translate onto a national scale, especially with respect to how they can work with affordable housing developers to ensure that parks and housing are mutually supportive.
The fellowship’s intense focus on interdisciplinary practice will be a key focus for landscape architects, as it has been for architects since the program’s founding 17 years ago. “We’ve had fellowships where architects are doing landscape work, urban design work, or even urban planning-level work,” Scott says. “We ask architects to be more than just architects, and I think that’s the same thing we’re going to ask [of] landscape architects.”