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Archive for the ‘PEOPLE’ Category

BY KOFI BOONE, ASLA

Julian Agyeman works toward sustainability that embodies justice: “I’m the one who asks the awkward questions.”

FROM THE MARCH 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, is a pioneer in the overlapping terrain of social equity, environmental justice, design, and planning. His decades of scholarship, including the groundbreaking book Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (The MIT Press, 2003), have shaped global dialogue on the links connecting improved environmental quality and social equity. In a recent conversation, Agyeman shared his thinking on aligning issues of social equity and environmental justice with teaching and practicing of built environmental change. This interview has been edited and condensed. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

Landscape architects can do more than talk about diversity—they can act.

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The high school students were pretending to be plants. They crouched in front of giant, wall-sized pieces of parachute cloth, china markers in hand, and slowly grew, black lines following suit. Recalling the movement of the prairie grasses just outside, they waved and swayed and curled in on themselves, a collective interpretive dance that evoked the native grasses and wildflowers that they had been studying all morning. Quickly a mass of black lines became a monochromatic prairie, a temporary mural inspired by the small patch of native grassland visible from the hallway window.

Leading the drawing exercise was Erin Wiersma, an artist and associate professor in the art department at Kansas State University. Wiersma is best known for her massive biochar “drawings,” which she makes by dragging huge sheets of paper across freshly burned prairie. The exercise at J.C. Harmon High School, located in the largely Hispanic Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood of Argentine, was part of Grassland Interview, an interdisciplinary art and ethnography project created in collaboration with the landscape architect Katie Kingery-Page, ASLA, the associate dean of Kansas State’s College of Architecture, Planning, and Design. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Students at LABash 2018 discuss what they’d like to see in a resource guide for students about environmental justice. Image courtesy Roane Hopkins.

In late April, ASLA’s Board of Trustees voted at its spring meeting to eliminate the fee for student membership in the society. Yes, that’s right: Membership is now free for students, student affiliates, and international students. The change took effect May 1. Nonmember students who wish to join need only to fill out an application online. Current student members needn’t do anything—their memberships will renew automatically at no cost until graduation.

“I am excited about the change in the student membership fee structure for multiple reasons,” says Dennis R. Nola, ASLA, the society’s vice president of membership and the chair of the bachelor’s degree program in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland in College Park. “Now, more than ever, is the time for ASLA to think creatively about engaging students and their transition to emerging professionals.”  (more…)

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BY BRICE MARYMAN, FASLA

Needs tending: the great nearby, in Seattle. Photo by Brice Maryman, FASLA.

Don does not live here or there, but “around.” We don’t know if he’s experiencing homelessness or receives a housing voucher. He’s too proud to tell us, instead deflecting vaguely with “around.” During the past few weeks, he has been knocking on our door every day, looking for work. He is 60-something, with a wild beard and a broken-down physique from a lifetime of hard labor. He seems always glad to work. We try to find things for him to do around the house. He and I both weed the garden. We at least offer him some food. Before the stay-home, stay-safe orders, Don’s primary source of income came from cleaning up bars after closing time: sweeping floors, taking out garbage, mopping the bathrooms. Now that the bars are closed, there is no money. The veneer of stability he had is peeling away, leaving him to confront a terrifying future.

Our immobility is unprecedented, for Seattle during the pandemic and for the human animal across our history. Last week, the New York Times confirmed what Seattleites have been feeling for weeks: Our lives have compressed, rescaling to just beyond our homes. Residents of the Emerald City used to travel some 3.8 miles per day, and have now adjusted to a retiring distance of just 61 feet. When have we traveled less and been more attuned to our neighbors, like Don, and our neighborhoods? In this focus on the commonplace, we have seen small dramas, marveled at the mundane, and questioned how design can serve us as we face down this crisis in the great nearby. (more…)

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BY F. PHILIP BARASH

Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Photo by F. Philip Barash.

NOTES FROM BEACON STREET.

 

My living room in Brookline, Massachusetts, recently became a home office, and the windows face Beacon Street. Beacon is roomy, with a 160-foot section designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to have sidewalks, carriageways, a bridle path, and one of the earliest electric streetcar tracks in the United States. Over the past weeks, I’ve spent more time staring at this landscape than I had ever imagined possible, amid an eternity of e-mails and Zoom conferences; a lifetime of listlessness and egg sandwiches. Olmsted designed Beacon Street at the invitation of Henry Whitney, a shipping heir who had amassed parcels along a two-and-a-half-mile corridor from central Boston to the edge of Newton. Beacon Street, Whitney said, was to be a democratic rejoinder to Commonwealth Avenue, just east, where only the Boston Brahmins tread. Commonwealth may have stature and statuary, Whitney said, but Beacon would have public transit for common people: “The laboring man, the mechanic, the clerk, and […] the poor woman.” Whitney didn’t account specifically for humble writers like me, but looking upon the trickle of people outside my window, I know what he meant.

A couple in matching pom-pom hats. A jogger, wearing a neon vest, veering into traffic lanes to keep a safe distance from a jogger wearing neon sneakers. A delivery van. Another, pausing on my block. A dog encased in a vest. Two old women, the first leaning on a walker, the second leaning on the first: a breach of distancing, but a stabilizing posture. A plumber. Teenage boys choking with laughter. A baby carriage steered by a woman with her face hidden by a surgical mask. Another masked face. Another.

In CityLab, Richard Florida speculates about a coming spatial order. Sidewalks will have to get wider and procedures at the airport retooled “like we did in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures.” In the wake of 9/11, as I remember it, anyone who dared enter an airport with a covered face was a target of hostility. Women in hijabs were subjected to automatic searches; Sikhs were harassed. As people in masks and hoodies walk up Beacon Street, I wonder how we will retool our judgments. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A panel discussion hosted by the Boston Society of Landscape Architects and moderated by Jack Ahern, FASLA, offered guidance to students entering the workforce. Image courtesy Timothy A. Schuler.

The graduating class of 2020 finds itself in limbo.

 

Even before the novel coronavirus sent the world into lockdown, Afrouz Rahmati planned to finish the final semester of her master’s in landscape architecture remotely. A third-year MLA candidate at the University of Maryland (UMD), Rahmati had an internship lined up at a nonprofit parks organization in Los Angeles, where her family lives. The plan was to spend the spring working on a regional-scale greenway project and finishing her thesis, which focuses on the intersection of landscape architecture and gerontology.

To work in the United States, however, Rahmati needed authorization for what’s known as pre-completion optional practical training (OPT). OPT allows international students to accept temporary employment in their fields of study. Rahmati grew up in Isfahan, Iran. She worked as an architect before emigrating to the United States in 2017, when she enrolled in the landscape architecture program at UMD.

By March 2020, Rahmati’s OPT authorization still had not arrived. By the time it did, the country was fully in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization that had offered Rahmati the internship—which she preferred to keep confidential—e-mailed to say that things were uncertain, but that she could maybe join them in the summer. She hasn’t heard from them since. Now she is applying to full-time positions, but is finding that most employers are also unresponsive. Rahmati worries about what will happen if she can’t find a job. Foreign students have just three months following graduation to secure employment in their fields of study and apply for post-completion OPT—a timeline that now feels alarmingly short. Rahmati says the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has yet to announce any changes or updates to the OPT program’s rules.

The transition from college or graduate school into a professional landscape architecture career is one of trepidation but also buoyant possibility. But for the graduating class of 2020, it’s as if a giant pause button has been hit. As cities remain under orders to shelter in place, firms of all sizes are halting the hiring process. Summer internships have been canceled. Recruiters have gone quiet. Students on the verge of graduating now find themselves in a kind of extended intermission, a limbo in which they can neither remain in the cozy world of their universities nor make the leap into professional practice. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy ASLA.

In the podcast world, landscape architects are nonnative species—you can find podcasts about other design professions, but landscape architecture is by comparison low profile in this exploding media. This month, two landscape architecture podcasts are launching, one of which focuses on emerging professionals. (more…)

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