What’s Next?

Landscape architects answer the call to define our post-pandemic future.

By LAM Staff

In late April, the magazine staff put out a call to landscape architects to tell us the intentions they are setting now for the future, and what they’ve learned working under the pandemic’s constraints that they might want to build on afterward.

We heard back quickly, with nearly 100 landscape architects weighing in within a few days, and a range of the responses fill the next several pages. While there were many different opinions about the experience of teaching, working, and learning remotely, several things poked up over and over. The need for enhanced communication and clarity—with colleagues and clients—was one of the most frequently cited lessons. Working from home has yielded seismic changes to design processes, with many landscape architects vowing to incorporate more geographical flexibility into their future practice and, notably, into hiring. Across the board, students expressed real anxiety about their employment prospects, underscoring an urgency already felt to find ways to retain early career designers and new graduates. Fewer cars, lower carbon emissions, less paper, and more time outside and with family were cited by nearly everyone as eye-opening, unexpected benefits. But for most respondents, the pandemic is a call to action. Sona Greenberg, ASLA, a midcareer professional from Seattle, put it like this: “We’ve worked within a flawed system for a long time. COVID-19 and adjacent world events have exposed these flaws to more of the world and thereby have offered us an opportunity to build something better, locally and globally.”

Photo courtesy Ashley Ludwig, ASLA.

Ashley Ludwig, ASLA

Firm Leadership
New York, New York

 

I believe this pandemic has cut to the core of why many of us practice this profession: that access to nature is a human right and essential to living a healthy life. It also shines a light on the inadequacies of that access in America and the quality of open space available to those in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

I’m hopeful that efforts to better those neighborhoods will be given even more attention and funding in the future, and that our profession will look to make a greater impact in the most vulnerable communities.

Wendy Andringa, ASLA

Firm Leadership
New York, New York

 

On a professional level, I have observed a newfound sense of shared humanity during this crisis. I feel I have grown closer to my project teams as we all work in self-isolation, and I have witnessed the rapid growth of several young designers against the odds. Everybody has to be on their game and they are rising to the occasion, so to speak. I collaborate to inspire confidence in young designers since they are the future of the profession!

C.L. Bohannon, ASLA

Educator
Blacksburg, Virginia

The opportunity to push landscape architecture practice to the next level is here. It is now that we as landscape architects need to be leading design efforts to truly address the needs of society. I think more public works projects need to be undertaken. I feel like the opportunity in design education to rethink how we teach design thinking and design strategies to prepare our graduates to address contemporary issues is upon us.

Ellen Burke, ASLA

Educator
San Luis Obispo, California

 

The private story of the pandemic has played out on social media in posts, memes, and videos. Among the diversity of experiences shared, one thread catches my eye as an opportunity for landscape architecture: people proudly sharing their make-do innovations—the ways they made do with less, used what was on hand, and improvised responses to lack of materials or ingredients. Social media is often the home of depictions of perfection—documentation of carefully curated experiences, each achieved through attention to consumption, taste, and pursuit of “the best.” Somehow, in this new embrace of improvised making do, I can’t help but see an opportunity for a landscape architecture that explores this mind-set now and beyond the pandemic.

We know that as a society we are using our resources twice as fast as they are replenished. But we seem helpless to stop ourselves, even as we voice genuine concern. In our current design ethos, we pursue perfection, with material and craftsmanship selected to support experience and storytelling. Using what is at hand, what is known, what is easy to achieve, or what is commonplace can seem as if we aren’t elevating the field to its true potential. Could a pride in making do combined with the contextual and social intelligence of design lead us into a recalibration of design choices (for material and method) that respond to constraints not of a viral pandemic, but of the carrying capacity of the planet? This is not a call to “doing more with less” in the spirit of enforced austerity measures. Instead, it is an opportunity to shift what we mean by innovation, to redefine it from a craft of excess to craft within constraint, a choice to be proud of the ways we can recognize limits and work within them.

Photo by Taylor Brown, courtesy Falon Land Studio.

Falon Mihalic, ASLA

Midcareer
Houston, Texas

 

Being a small, nimble practice with low overhead has major advantages during times of crisis. We’ve been able to pivot our work in response to projects that are in limbo by focusing on other areas of our practice. Our affordable housing work, grant-funded design research projects, and materials research, for example, are getting more thoughtful attention while the commercial projects are slowing down. There’s no shortage of work for us because we have a diverse mix of project typologies and client sectors in addition to serving a very particularly scaled site niche. We work on project scales that larger firms don’t typically take on, and I’m seeing that as a huge advantage right now.

Our design review meetings have transformed in great ways now that we meet virtually. Because we can screenshare, we do virtual walk-throughs of 3-D models together with clients and consultants; the 3-D modeling process has become a more collaborative tool instead of just a workflow tool for production and presentation. We will carry this forward by bringing the 3-D model on a laptop to future in-person design reviews and collaboration meetings.

Let’s leave behind the old paradigm of long hours in the office as the measuring stick for a firm’s success. I’m so over it. And let’s allow for more flexible work/lifestyles that contribute to health and well-being instead of sending everyone toward burnout. I think we have to leave behind the overwork paradigm if we honestly are committed to building an equitable profession and world.

Ramsey Silberberg, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Berkeley, California

 

What has been very successful for my firm is having all of our projects in BIM 360. I will be continuing to look for tools to improve our work from remote locations and digital collaboration. I have learned how valuable being together with a large roll of trace is—and how much nuanced conversation happens through drawing instead of words. I am still looking for ways to fully replicate this.

John Laatsch, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Denver, Colorado

 

Where and how do we rest the stress we will have to live with?

Vincent Ryan, Student ASLA

Emerging Professional
Syracuse, New York

 

It is never too soon to have an off-site plan that includes server access, printing accessibility, and conference calling that is scaled to firm size.

Jesse Markman, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Oakland, California

 

Before COVID, I was on the road often, and typically would wait to get back into the office for collaborative design and review sessions. Now that this is not possible, I have a new outlook and approach on how to tackle this important part of our creative process. Previously, I would prefer to use pen/pencil to sketch ideas for projects. Now I am much quicker to use digital sketching tools (i.e., Microsoft Surface pen/tablet) that can be quickly distributed to team members and clients. There is something lost in this process, but what is gained outweighs the negatives once the kinks have been worked out and we have become familiar with the tools.

Photo by Stephanie Weber.

Conner Bruns, Associate ASLA

Emerging Professional
Dallas, Texas

 

As cities across the United States have implemented social distancing and self-isolation guidelines, the streets are being reclaimed by pedestrians and cyclists. I am heartened to see cities like Boston, Minneapolis, Oakland, and others repurpose streets into car-free zones so that the hordes of people escaping to recreate outdoors have ample room to do so without compromising safety. I hope that this tremendous opportunity opens people’s eyes to the value of pedestrian-oriented environments and that some cities fight to keep it that way afterward. After all, it will enhance the cities’ resilience for the next time this happens, and it cuts down on the vehicle emissions that make COVID-19 more deadly.

Photo by Jeff Wheeler.

Anna Bierbrauer

Educator
Denver, Colorado

 

Environmental justice can no longer be a niche side practice of landscape architecture—it needs to be front and center to the professional practice. The disproportionate impact this is having on communities of color and indigenous communities reveals decades of inequities, many of which have been writ large in the built and physical environment. Now more than ever, we as designers of public spaces, private spaces, “natural”-esque parks, or modern plazas have a responsibility to consider how our work furthers or corrects past inequities.

Brian Jencek, ASLA

Firm Leadership
San Francisco, California

 

Every project is now a health care project. The most fundamental metrics used to program and define open space have changed. No longer is a single person a three-foot-by-three-foot pixel on space plans. Going from nine square feet per person to 36 square feet per person is a profound change to critical dimensions that shape our built environment. How then do these new design metrics align with social norms, cultural conventions, and human interaction?

Photo courtesy Arianna Zannetti, Associate ASLA.

Arianna Zannetti, Associate ASLA

Emerging Professional
Detroit, Michigan

 

Is it weird to dream of a good redline critique on your drawing?

Ash Hoden, ASLA

Midcareer
San Rafael, California

 

The value of flexibility. It was amazing to see a 30-person office pivot in one week to function entirely remotely on projects involving a combination of hand and digital graphics.

Rob Kuper, ASLA

Educator
Ambler, Pennsylvania

 

As an educator, I will consider having occasional virtual pinups and virtual desk critiques with students. Doing so will reduce my carbon footprint, as well as those of my students, by reducing emissions associated with traveling to campus. Moreover, I will be more willing to give virtual feedback to students between classes, rather than asking or expecting students to wait for classes, or receive written feedback about their work via e-mail that may be less than clear. Students also appreciate having video or audio recordings and redlined documents (PDFs) to refer to when revising work. With in-person desk critiques, students must rely upon their memories, vague sketches that were done during desk crits, and whatever notes they may have happened to take or jot down during the desk crit.

Katie Martinovic, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Prairie Village, Kansas

 

Site visits are important to start the process. Photos are great, but nothing can replace a site visit.

I think this experience will highlight the importance of having access to green space and parks for all neighborhoods and communities. I am enjoying long walks with my daughters and spending lots of time with them. I know that this experience will bring us closer together, and it also makes me thankful for their teachers!

Paul Kuhn, ASLA

Midcareer
Cary, North Carolina

 

When COVID-19 started and much of the country was shut down except parks and greenways, it was fascinating to see usage triple on our trails. We had heard about minor conflicts on trails between pedestrians and cyclists as our 80-mile trail system was growing and becoming more popular. COVID-19 and the increased use of the greenways brought some of these conflicts to the forefront. Multiuse trails are great for low volume, but high volume can cause conflicts. We already have a project in design where we are going from our standard 10-foot width to 12-foot width.

Thomas Tavella, FASLA

Firm Leadership
Milford, Connecticut

 

Our cities and towns are made up of approximately 60 percent public rights-of-way. Now that people have experience working in conditions where they don’t have to jump in their cars every morning, we can ask ourselves: Do we really need so much space dedicated to the motor vehicle? Landscape architects are uniquely positioned to assist our cities and towns in reimagining these spaces to make safer and healthier communities.

Amanda Coen, ASLA

Emerging Professional
New York, New York

 

One of the biggest lessons to come out of this is that our profession can adapt to working from afar. We seem to have been one of the few professions remaining that demanded a physical presence, but we see that being thrown into question. There is no doubt that there are benefits to physically working together to draw through ideas, build physical models, and experience sites, but we will see some openness to other ways of working as well coming out of this.

Photo courtesy Dana Brown & Associates.

Gaylan Williams, ASLA

Firm Leadership
New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Colleague interaction is like spice to a design, and we are cooking a bit differently these days. Our staff is now making more design moves and gestures based on their own creativity. This could lead to more original design works, and the diversity of our firm can be more expressed and even flourish.

Sadik Artunç, FASLA

Educator
Mississippi State, Mississippi

 

Although it is possible to a degree to teach online in landscape architecture, the technology is not currently ready to replace face-to-face desktop critiques in teaching design. It is not easily adaptable to teaching ecology in the field; it is not possible to teach design/build courses online. So, I will spend more time on how to further enhance what we are capable of doing online and dedicate more time to subjects or areas that we have not been effective teaching online.

Rita Manna, Associate ASLA

Midcareer
Santa Cruz, California

 

Our remote office is absolutely thriving, and this is 100 percent going to be our new normal. Providing our employees with the freedom of remote work is an important asset that improves work–life balance and has resulted in higher yields from our employees. We also enjoy the video chats. We are working on filling the gaps and improving our systems. We also have improved upon our daily workflows. We have implemented daily meetings where we lay out all tasks for our employees and what needs to be done. Then we take a hands-off approach for the rest of the day, which gives the project managers and the designers the space to get their work done without micromanagement or interruptions. This approach empowers our designers and frees up our project managers. It has turned into a win–win for everyone.

Jeffrey A. Gebrian, ASLA

Firm Leadership
West Hartford, Connecticut

 

The most significant segment of my practice during this pandemic is absent. And that is the personal presence and contact to meet, discuss, and present all aspects of my work to client, owner, committee, etc. Like it or not, we are one of the high-contact design professions that rely on the in-person verbal skills in our tool kit along with visuals and graphics. Different communication skills are required. Unless I am able to go back to the pre-pandemic period of personal contact, I will have to work in the absence of my clients and colleagues. While this is not a part of my persona, I will figure something out while waiting for the vaccine.

Andrew Wickham, ASLA

Midcareer
Sacramento, California

 

People are now recognizing the power and importance of public space to daily life. We, as a society, always understood at some level how important our local parks, trails, and plazas are, but now more than ever we are realizing just how important those spaces are to our health and well-being. We took those spaces for granted, and now that they have been taken away, we can feel their true value. The public park system should be looked upon as part of the health and well-being infrastructure for a community, and part of a truly resilient (against natural disaster, social disorder, or pandemic) and sustainable future.

Rachel Loeffler, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Northampton, Massachusetts

 

I am able to focus on one task at a time and see it through, rather than being interrupted by the daily demands of working in teams in an open-studio environment. In the future, I would like to offer more remote work opportunities to members of the firm during the work week, including myself. A greater portion of my day is spent communicating with staff and teams, which means production work gets shifted further or more compressed. In addition, I am able to optimize productivity by curating my daily interruptions, creating a virtual boundary around creative/production time, which was not possible in our firm before. Previously, each morning I would take a deep breath and brace myself as I walked into the office and headed toward my desk. Open-studio environments and open leadership structures mean that at any moment I could be interrupted by clients or staff or fellow leadership to deal with and address a pressing issue. Work seems more integrated in my life, rather than compartmentalized.

I’ve been able to slow down my internal processing and immerse myself for hours. It feels like the quality of the work has benefited. Sometimes, however, the Internet connection isn’t great, and it can feel frustrating to wait for a command in CAD to complete.

Photo by Annalisa Aldana.

Jeanette Ankoma-Sey, ASLA

Midcareer
Arlington, Virginia

 

It is not a surprise, but seeing the rapid, wildfire rate that vegetable seeds (food growing products) have been sold out and all things “grower” have exploded in the wake of the current pandemic, it is clear that a lot of people are interested and desperately seeking to grow food. The profession has worked hard to separate itself from being the gardener or hands-on landscape-minded; however, times like this are harkening to those practical skills.

Brodie Hegg, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Monterey, California

 

I plan on expanding my office in the future to include the designers that I want to work with, regardless of where they live. This will give me the freedom to collaborate while cutting down overhead, thus making our projects more affordable to our clients.

Jana Vanderhaar, ASLA

Midcareer
Reno, Nevada

 

Being able to communicate better when facial expressions are missing. Listening becomes more important.

Photo by Adam White, ASLA.

Adam A. White, ASLA

Midcareer
Chicago, Illinois

 

Getting up from your desk and walking around really helps! I feel it helps with a mental restart. I know I get stuck at my desk way too often when I am in the office. Having dogs and giving them extra walks helps. Maybe we need an office dog! I have also made more time to read LAM. It has helped inspire some design ideas at home since I am not out exploring the neighborhoods or casually talking about design with coworkers to spark ideas.

Matthew Wilder, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Atlanta, Georgia

 

I would love to think this might have a dramatic shift in patterns of commuting, working, etc. But I am not optimistic. We watched Atlanta see a seismic shift in traffic when our interstate collapsed a few years back, but now traffic is back to normal and transit ridership is even lower than before the highway fire. Will any of this change in how we move about today stick? Or will we be right back to jammed roads and dirty skies?

Adriana Hernandez Aguirre, Student ASLA

Student
College Station, Texas

 

People will be more aware of the anthropogenic impact on the environment. We just saw China banning the consumption of specific animal species, so there will be new policies, new lifestyles, and our appreciation for the Earth and the people around us. I am excited to start my professional career this year because, even though the economy is in recession and there is a job freeze, the number of opportunities available to landscape architects throughout the next decade will be essential to bring about change and a more sustainable future.

Thaisa Way, FASLA

Educator
Washington, D.C., and Seattle, Washington

 

The time to read is critical.

Brent Thomas, ASLA

Midcareer
Wichita, Kansas

 

While this is a new and uncertain time, we believe that we’ll be better communicators because of it. We are being forced, as design professionals, to find better ways to convey and receive information and feedback. We’re working on new methods to gather public comment virtually, instead of via in-person dot or Post-it note exercises. We’re also rethinking how we visualize projects and how clients and the public digest information. For years, there has been a shift to more engagement online to varying degrees of success, and what we do during this crisis will force us to get better.

Michael Barker

Midcareer
Ontario, Canada

 

There is no substitute for working collaboratively and face to face as designers. Videoconference is fine short term, but it won’t replace the energy that can only be created when people are face to face. Whether it is internal office work, client discussions, or public engagement, technology can only assist the human-centric design process; it cannot replace it.

Joe Johnson, ASLA

Emerging Professional
Lansing, Michigan

 

I require more structure, which means that working remotely is something I have to compartmentalize and provide structure (working hours, separation of work and private life). I’m more likely to take a shorter lunch and take a few more little breaks throughout the day, which helps kick-start my creative process and reduces fatigue from staring at the screen nonstop.

Frederick R. Bonci, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

I’m interested in what the short-term and long-term new normal will be. What will drive our programming and designs? What will drive our project economics? With less tourism and travel and more stay-at-home attitudes, how will our focus change in the design of the public realm? Our college campuses? Hopefully, the drop in pollution levels will finally get people to embrace our efforts to combat climate change. This should be a major emphasis for our profession—the investment in large-scale ecosystem design to define regions, especially in developing areas.

Baxter Miller, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Corona, California

 

Ask me that question in a year and I will tell you how the remote work and learning processes have affected the work process. It is too early to tell.

The campaign that ASLA released, “Life Grows Here,” is the best message landscape architects can use to connect our profession to our communities at all levels. It is a unifying message of hope and recovery.

Shawn Balon, ASLA

Midcareer
Richmond, Virginia

 

One of my biggest frustrations is the amount of paper needed for multiple county development submittals. (Sometimes 7–14 different construction document sets are requested at a time.) Not only are we having to think about how we can develop, review, and deliver drawings digitally, but city and county staff are now discovering new ways to receive and approve drawings digitally. This is just the start of where we can go in the digital age.

In addition, when discussing remote work, this is also a good opportunity for companies to begin rethinking and strategizing hiring practices and remote work policies. To retain and attract future talent, design firms need to rethink their policies that will provide new progressive standards for the profession. I would love to be able to continue my evening walks with my husband and pups when we return to the office. We always just seemed too busy before to make that happen.

Gary Sorge, FASLA

Firm Leadership
New Haven, Connecticut

 

I can only hope that our elected leaders and the world’s population recognize other global threats. COVID-19 evolved over a few months. Other looming threats involving agriculture, food security, climate change, supply change, mobility, and access to open space, clean air and water, etc., could be—as difficult as it is to imagine—far more impactful than COVID-19. Landscape architects are part of the solution, taking the proactive steps in policy, planning, design, and operations to make a difference.

Rebecca Leonard, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Austin, Texas

 

I believe that there will be more interest in suburban communities after this crisis. Virtual work will be more feasible, and the extra space will make a buyer feel better. Nevertheless, buyers will expect some level of urban experience in their suburban communities. Landscape architects can best show these communities how to create urban vibrancy in more sparsely populated places.

Pauline Burnes, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Arkport, New York

 

People in general are more concerned with a potential food shortage in this country. They have been used to abundance and diversity in the grocery stores. Rooftop gardens, planting more edible landscapes (blueberries instead of barberries), kitchen herb gardens. We as horticulturists and landscape architects can create a new normal in landscape design, especially in the way private properties are designed.

Instead of being fearful of being near one another, I hope that we would draw close to one another in collaboration and cooperation. That we would become a nation of producers instead of a nation of consumers and be more self-sufficient in our products. The word “sustainability” seems overused, but that is what we need. I would like to see a future where older generations are more respected for their knowledge and experience. I’d like to see a future where younger generations would learn from the older generations and have a greater interest in growing and storing their own food and sharing with others. And one in which we would be better prepared for the next emergency.

Amelia Wilcken, Student ASLA

Student
Logan, Utah

 

Landscape architects will be able to see, as the restrictions are lifted, where people flood to. This will give them answers about what people miss and can help us know where and how to focus future efforts to make those places even more valuable to their experience.

As a graduate student right now, I had some promising internships that had popped up previous to this situation, but now they seem to be melting away as companies are trying to navigate working from home. I dearly hope that my experience in school will be enough for companies to be interested in hiring me even though it’s looking like there won’t be much professional work to include on my résumé from this summer. And that’s okay, as I understand that everyone is doing their best. I will still try to take on individual clients for their yards, but I hope firms will be understanding next summer when they consider whom they will be hiring.

Kerry Blind, FASLA

Firm Leadership
Atlanta, Georgia

 

Remote working has actually facilitated our working together as a team—we are more in contact and constantly touching base through a variety of platforms. It seems, anecdotally at this point, that we are actually being more productive and have more free time. It will mean less need for office space as we grow and decentralize. Standing around a table and throwing sketch paper and markers down has been collaboration of the past. We are now seeing how to do the same without being in the same room or even the same city. This is a game changer for working between offices.

Photo courtesy Marc Miller, ASLA.

Marc Miller, ASLA

Educator
State College, Pennsylvania, and Ithaca, New York

 

The implicit framework in studio culture is a combination of energy, expectations, and modeling behavior. Large studio spaces will certainly be reconsidered as a space of risk, although there may be no easy compromises. How studio content will be disseminated and documented will also come under reconsideration, perhaps having an impact on what technologies are used and how. At the foundation, the risk of outbreaks will have an impact on how faculty will need to think about how they teach design presentation and communication. I’m making these comments specific to a design program, but these are concerns that will affect higher learning across the board. Anyone who teaches in a large lecture format, like introductory level courses in math, science, and the humanities, will potentially be affected.

Robby Layton, FASLA

Firm Leadership
Boulder, Colorado

 

The places we create—public spaces in the outdoors—are now some of the most necessary and contested components of the human environment as a result of the pandemic. The role of the landscape in human health and well-being has never been more obvious. These imperatives must drive the work we do.

We all need to keep our eyes on the long view when this has passed, while keeping our hands on the wheel to get through today.

Michael Hill, ASLA

Midcareer
Washington, D.C.

 

The most important lesson is that the design process isn’t going to be a cure-all for this situation. We are dealing with deep, entrenched inequities in access and health, a consumerist impulse that is wrecking the natural world, and widespread disdain for both science and expertise of any kind. They won’t be solved by design process alone. We’re going to need to become political about things that are not in our wheelhouse if the profession is going to remain relevant. We need to collaborate more with environmental scientists, land managers, and people in the outdoor recreation world to create meaningful outdoor experiences. We need to keep the lessons of this event in front of a populace well-versed in self-distraction and not learning from history. We need to remember that Olmsted was both a landscape architect and a social activist, and that activism is what informed his best design.

Isaac Hametz, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Baltimore, Maryland

 

Permanent acceptance of elastic waistbands as business casual attire.

Kene Okigbo, ASLA

Emerging Professional
Omaha, Nebraska

 

Access to nature through parks and trails is vital. In this pandemic, their use in Nebraska has increased by 52 percent ([now 98 percent] according to Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report). This should not be easily forgotten, and we should use this data to prove that we’re using these spaces during the best and worst of times. We can’t stop investing in these resources with one of the lowest barriers to entry in the community.

I’m hoping for a future that doesn’t lump “budget cuts” with “parks budget cuts.” Creating spaces where people can engage with nature, within city limits, at a safe distance from their neighbors is a necessity today, but we need the foresight to invest in them continuously.

Photo courtesy Surfacedesign Inc.

Michal Kapitulnik, ASLA

Firm Leadership
San Francisco, California

 

Beaches, parks, and trails are packed with individuals looking to move their bodies and engage with the elemental feeling of being in open space. In the past, we as a firm have considered how the landscape can serve as a tool to enhance cognitive thinking. Many of our clients have been drawn to this narrative, since “productivity” is a metric that has currency within the economy of their work. What I think is clearer now is that the landscape has a more essential value to humanity, one that goes far beyond capitalist metrics.

This crisis has called into question whether the public realm (sidewalks, plazas, etc.) is best serving citizens in its current form, which optimizes for efficiency rather than quality. It has also underscored how essential it is to have a network of connected landscapes within cities. Landscape architects will need to leverage, expand, and connect public open space to create a more sustainable and equitable network of landscapes. This network of landscapes has the potential to catalyze a new way to engage collectively in the public realm by framing a diversity of scaled experiences within larger open spaces.

Tom Woodfin, ASLA

Educator
College Station, Texas

 

I’ve spent hours riding my bicycle and walking around my neighborhood looking at the common areas that don’t really do much except provide lawn and trees and mow-and-blow contracts. No productivity or ecosystem services. Is this the best we can do with our suburban landscapes?

The kindest result of being purposefully isolated is the lack of noise. It had been several years since I reduced the noise intruding on my own creative thinking: the noise of notifications coming from media, the noise of meetings, the literal lack of noise from roads and highways nearby and fewer planes flying overhead. Giving myself over to the quiet silence that this time has provided has been a reminder of how ideas emerge. The time together with others is much more treasured and recognized as a gift. For landscape architects, we know that we create the places for people to gather and at a scale where they can gather with appropriate distances.

I have encouraged my students to start their gardens or at least start seeds in a pot. To be reassured by the sprouting of seeds with sun, water, and soil and to understand that the basics of growing life are still the same, haven’t changed much, and don’t require the latest or greatest. Just attention and thoughtful application of water. To watch the weather and the dryness of the pots and the slow progress of life beginning this spring.

Photo by Tomás de Matteis.

Sarah Fitzgerald, Student ASLA

Student
Berkeley, California

 

I hope that employers have learned that we can actually do our jobs from home! Even letting employees work from home just one or two days a week could collectively have an enormous impact on reducing vehicular pollution and relieving stress from our overburdened public transportation systems.

Karen Ford, ASLA

Firm Leadership
Portland, Oregon

 

As a sole practitioner with one assistant and a home office, the way I work has not been materially changed by the COVID-19 situation. It has always been my intention to stay small and flexible. At the moment, I have five projects in construction and am fortunate to be able to continue fieldwork here in the Portland area. Importantly, I have learned to slow down. In the current work climate, I am able to let my design work sit and percolate a bit, with reduced deadline pressure.

I have noticed in past years, during times of crisis (downturns in the 1990s, 9/11, the 2007–2008 recession), that my client base wants to turn inward, be home more, get their hands dirty, and basically create outdoor spaces that will hold and nurture them. I have received four calls for new work in the past week. I do not know where these contacts will lead, but I clearly hear that people want to be home, want to be outside, and wish their surroundings to be beautiful and functional. I am hoping for a renewed national appreciation of the healing value of the outdoors. The big dream is to see this embraced and adjudicated on a national political level. That would be a dream come true.

One thought on “What’s Next?”

  1. Nature is important to make our lives beautiful and serene. It is a great deed to be in this profession during this time. I work at https://www.brooklynz.com.sg/. Here we see that we create sustainable and modern designs that stand close to nature. The crisis has actually increased the demand for staying close to nature.

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