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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish.

BY STEPHEN ZACKS

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The state of Virginia has regulated landscape architecture as a profession since 1980, certifying practitioners through its professional occupational agency. In 2010, landscape architecture became a licensed profession in the state.

A few bills attempted to deregulate or lower the level of regulation back to certification, but none of them made it out of legislative committee. Around 2011, Republican then-Governor Robert McDonnell set up a commission to eliminate regulations in general, including of professions such as landscape architecture and interior design. Members of the Virginia chapter of ASLA persuaded the governor to remove landscape architects from the list.

Robert McGinnis, FASLA, an associate principal at Kennon Williams Landscape Studio and a member of the Virginia ASLA chapter’s government affairs committee, says that interior designers and landscape architects get targeted because people don’t know what they do. “They see the word landscape and think we put trees in the ground.” (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Jennifer Mok’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park, set on the planet of Batuu. Image courtesy Disney 2021 Marvel.

 

Dream Big with Design meets kids where they are to help them find their place in landscape architecture.

 

Jennifer Mok doesn’t have a job like most landscape architects. “We build worlds,” she says. Mok, a landscape architecture studio executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, designs theme parks and resorts. “Our designs have to be complete; it has to be immersive. It’s putting the magic into that experience [for] the guest.”

The newest example of this design philosophy is her team’s designs for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park. Set on the planet of Batuu, on the far rim of the galaxy, Black Spire Outpost is a dusty haven for villainy. There are seedy bazaars, parked space freighters, and spire-like petrified trees that meld into domed structures: unmistakably alien, but also of a piece with one of the most richly realized sci-fi universes ever made.

What Mok and her team of a dozen-plus landscape designers do is both a continuation of the legacy of Ruth Shellhorn, one of Disney’s first landscape architects, and also a wild extrapolation from it. As acts of sheer invention, where the singular purpose is amazement, these places are landscape architecture at a scale that’s unforgettable, and that makes Mok an ideal participant for “Dream Big with Design: A Showcase of Landscape Architecture and Pre-K–12 Design Learning,” ASLA’s two-day session of design introduction and education for primary and secondary school students. Mok and her team at Disney will present their work as landscape design Imagineers, along with landscape designers from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Legoland theme parks, and Minecraft-related programming, on September 23rd and 24th. “If it excites students to see what landscape architecture does with Imagineering, but opens up for them a world of, ‘This is what you could do as a designer, and apply that anywhere,’ that’s what we’re hoping to do,” Mok says. (more…)

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BY SUSAN COHEN, FASLA

FROM THE JULY 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

As a schoolgirl in Germany in the late 1930s, Cornelia Hahn was told to slow down—a Jewish girl must not win the school track meet. In 1938, after a harrowing escape from the Nazis—to England by train with her mother and sister—Cornelia made a point of never, ever slowing down.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who decided at age 11 that she would be a landscape architect, became one of the most renowned and admired practitioners of our time, building a distinguished, influential, and generous-spirited career that lasted almost eight decades. She died in Vancouver, British Columbia, her adopted city, on May 22, 2021, just a few weeks short of her 100th birthday. Until her final week, she spoke by telephone about the progress (and lack of progress) of her most recent project. (more…)

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BY KIM O’CONNELL / PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAHAR COSTON-HARDY, AFFILIATE ASLA

Three new landscapes in Washington, D.C., honor the common soldier and fill gaps in the capital city’s memorial narrative.

FROM THE JUNE 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

On the National Mall, it’s unusual to feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret, sacred space. The nation’s history is an open book on this great expanse, a story told in granite and marble, if somewhat unevenly, through dozens of memorials to significant events and people. War is the dominant theme, with monuments that speak of large-scale sacrifice in places like the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Other Washington, D.C., memorials revere larger-than-life figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the latter being the subject of a massive new Frank Gehry-designed memorial just south of the Mall, one of the most recent to undergo the multiyear, many-layered process of creating public space in the nation’s capital.

So it is somewhat surprising to come across one of D.C.’s newest memorials in a tree-lined grove set in a wetland—and that it is focused on a simple steel circle rising above the earth. Situated just beyond the famous cantilevered roof of the National Museum of the American Indian, this is the National Native American Veterans Memorial, which opened last fall to honor the long and underappreciated tradition of Indigenous military service. Although the memorial shares some traits with others in the capital city, where it’s not uncommon to see elemental shapes and enduring materials used as symbols, it’s part of a new wave of veterans’ memorials that seek to speak as much to the present and future as they do to the past.

Significantly, three recent memorials—the Native American memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, and the just-opened national World War I Memorial—also have things to say about the role of landscape architecture in elevating the voices of often-forgotten groups of people. They each focus on the common soldier’s experiences while making important civic connections to their surroundings. (more…)

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BY JENNIFER REUT

 

FROM THE JUNE 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

This spring, the Atlantic published an essay by David Treuer, the Ojibwe author of the highly lauded cultural history The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present. In “Return the National Parks to the Tribes,” Treuer puts his argument out front, and for the next 8,000 words, he doesn’t mince.

Treuer takes readers through an excoriating and sure-footed record of the national parks as sites of violence and dispossession, stopping only briefly to let readers take in Katy Grannan’s exquisite portraits of contemporary Native American people and their landscapes. The essay frontloads the murderous history of how tribes had been removed from their ancestral homelands in places that became Yellowstone and Glacier national parks and then starved out when they could no longer return to hunt or fish.

The narrative serves as a bracing jolt to set up the case that the national parks should be returned to Native Americans, who are owed these lands, and best suited to manage them in a responsible way. In the hands of tribes, the parks would be protected from the political badminton that sites like Bears Ears National Monument, and their people, have endured. With the maintenance backlog and reduction in park staff even as attendance has increased multifold, the National Park Service appears increasingly ill-equipped to steward the parks through climate change and into the next century. (more…)

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Cornelia  Hahn Oberlander, on site in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, in 2013. Photo by Anne Raver.

 

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a recipient of the ASLA Medal, died this weekend at the age of 99, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy of designed projects and a lifelong commitment to advocacy for the profession. Born in 1921, she fled Nazi Germany in 1939 for the United States, eventually attending Smith College and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, from which she graduated in 1947. Five years later, she moved to Vancouver, British  Columbia, with her husband, the late architect Peter Oberlander, where they both had high-profile careers for several decades. Oberlander designed many projects internationally, but her life and work are closely linked with the Canadian cultural landscape.

As word of Oberlander’s death spread, praise for her influence and activism appeared on social media, where she was called a “visionary,” “icon,” and “legend.”  Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, who served on the Oberlander Prize Advisory Committee, tweeted, “We stand on Cornelia’s shoulders. Great talent, creative risk taker, generous mentor.” Chris Reed, FASLA, of STOSS Landscape Urbanism, agreed, saying, “Cornelia leaves a stunning legacy of work and leadership, and humanity.”

Oberlander’s landscape architecture work has been extensively published in Landscape Architecture Magazine, as well as the general and design press. A selection of articles published in LAM and available online include “Permafrost Frontier,” a profile of Oberlander’s work in the Northwest Territories; “Canadian Modern,” profiling her work in Vancouver; and “Northern Terrain,” about Canada’s National Gallery.

Among the many opportunities to learn about Oberlander’s contributions are Susan Herrington’s Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape and the recent documentary City Dreamers, which focused on four influential women designers and critics: Denise Scott Brown, Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, and Oberlander. The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which conducted an oral history with Oberlander in 2008, announced in 2019 that a recently established international landscape architecture prize would be named in honor of Oberlander. The biennial prize will carry a $100,000 award as well as two years of public engagement. The Cultural Landscape Foundation has extensive information about Oberlander’s career and the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize on its website, as well as a recording of the livestreamed memorial service held on May 24, 2021.

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This spring, ASLA convened women of color leaders in architecture and landscape architecture education to discuss networks of mentorship, camaraderie, and solidarity. “Hear their Voices: Inspiring Stories from Women Leaders in Design Education” was moderated by Samantha Solano, ASLA, an assistant professor of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The lively, candid discussion included the following leaders in design education:

Diane Jones Allen, FASLA, director and professor of landscape architecture, University of Texas at Arlington

Maria Bellalta, ASLA, dean and faculty, School of Landscape Architecture, Boston Architectural College

Hazel R. Edwards, professor and chair, College of Engineering and Architecture, Howard University

Vini Nathan, dean and McWhorter endowed chair, College of Architecture, Design, and Construction, Auburn University

After a round of introductions, Solano directed the conversation with sharp, thoughtful questions. Much of the conversation focused on how women can support themselves and each other, navigating male and white-led organizations. Bellalta urged that women carefully consider options on whether to push ahead or to sit back and listen, weighing strategic, deliberative planning against action when trying to navigate around or through what she called “tall people with big voices.” Jones Allen says that leadership has forced her to overcome the desire to always be liked, a deeply entrenched aspect of gender-specific socialization that is more fraught for Black women. “Sometimes, as the director, or the chair, or the dean, you have to make the decision, and sometimes people aren’t going to like you,” she says.  Nathan, meanwhile, suggests pushing at these boundaries to ensure growth, to “follow a little bit of your fear.”

All of this guidance is a part of the omnipresent but seldom publicly acknowledged “inner work” women are forced to focus on in addition to their institutional responsibilities, Solano says. But the discussion also made it clear that the work of diversifying the ranks of design education and design itself isn’t just for women. Beyond the mental and emotional preparation women undergo to exist and thrive in male-dominated spaces, the panel also concentrated on benefits and working conditions that should be fundamental for everyone, but often affect women first, including more flexible working conditions and stronger partnerships between schools and firms. Nathan says that simply hiring more women is not enough. Organizations need to make sure women are placed in positions that control budgets. “Money is what translates into power,” she says, “and power is what translates into influence and impact.”

The panel webinar was hosted by the ASLA Committee on Education. For more information, please visit ASLA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Webinars page, which is available on ASLA’s DEI hub.

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