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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 JONATHAN LERNER

Cornell students bring visions for climate adaptation down to the Hudson shore.

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The Hudson River is tidal, gaining a mean elevation of only two feet for 150-plus miles inland from the Atlantic. It is flanked, almost without interruption, by bluffs and cliffs. Most communities along it have only a slender strip of land at river level. Historically, industries and infrastructure were sited below, with more salubrious parts of towns built up the slopes. Most industry is gone. Communities want to reinvent their riverfronts, which means contending with the tides and storms of a changing climate. They’re getting help from Josh Cerra, ASLA, the director of graduate studies in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University. With collaboration from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, he has been bringing community-based “Climate-Adaptive Design” studios to Hudson River towns.

The studio has obvious pedagogical value. Students learn site research and engagement skills, and to imbue design with climate science. Meanwhile, it lets Cerra pursue an interest in applied education and cross-disciplinary experiences. In developing their concepts, his students get “consultants”—other students, from Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. To assess the studio’s benefits, Cerra is collaborating with a Cornell researcher who studies behaviors and conservation management. Their inquiries, he says, include “how working with engineers or other technical partners may enhance learning innovation” for landscape architects. And then there is the studio’s value to the towns, which are gifted with provocative visions for their futures. (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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FOREGROUND

The River and the Real World (Education)
A Cornell studio meets the streets when Josh Cerra, ASLA, has his students tackle
Hudson River towns.

FEATURES

   On-Ramps, On Time
Talk about diversifying the profession and capturing young talent is plentiful. Some landscape
architects are making bigger moves.       

Big Bend in the Road
In Far West Texas, people are willing to travel a lot of miles for art and nature—as well as for plentiful oil and gas and a clear path to the border with Mexico. A road project by Texas DOT has people thinking about the costs of a busier future in the state’s last wild place.

All this plus the regular Now and Goods columns. The full table of contents for May can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 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 posting May articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Big Bend in the Road,” Jessica Lutz; “On-Ramps, On Time,” Evert Nelson; “The River and the Real World,” Kevin Kim. 

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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. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Milwaukee’s city-sponsored recreation program was established in 1911 for the purpose of benevolent social engineering. Its goal was the civic integration of burgeoning, and mostly poor, European immigrant populations. It offered classes in the English language and U.S. citizenship, as well as arts and industrial crafts, sports, clubs, and other entertainment. In some locations there were showers and, during the Depression, workshops for repairing one’s own shoes. These programs were frankly geared toward acculturation and the transmission of mainstream ethics such as team spirit and wholesome presentation; a 1918 list of tips for staff advises that each neighborhood location “must have its own yell and song,” and to “instruct young men to remove hats upon entering buildings.”

The recreation program was placed within the school system, an atypical arrangement. It’s still there today, as the Department of Recreation and Community Services of the Milwaukee Public Schools. Over time, this department acquired the use—and responsibility for maintenance—of 52 neighborhood parks, called playfields. Most were constructed between 1912 and 1974, occupy around three acres each, and are pretty bleak. Typically, they have space for sports such as basketball and softball, a field house with restrooms, maybe a patch of grass. Some have amenities for younger kids—wading pools, slides, and swings. At about 20 of the parks, the department now runs free, drop-in Summer Playground activity programs. Inner-city Milwaukee is still immigrant rich, though ethnicities have changed. Many residents are Hispanic, most of Mexican origin. Some are Asian, including a relatively large Hmong community. And more than 35 percent of city residents are African American, descended not of immigrants, but of migrants who moved north around midcentury for plentiful jobs. Milwaukee was an industrial powerhouse then, but no more. The poverty rate approaches 30 percent. One index of the economic situations of kids who use the playfields is that last year the Summer Playgrounds served them nearly 29,000 free meals—lunch and supper, five days a week.

As Milwaukee’s fortunes fell, the playfields deteriorated. Many now are simply expanses of cracked and heaving asphalt with no shade, broken play equipment, backboards minus hoops, boarded-up field houses, and hostile accretions of chain-link fencing. Custer Playfield, for example, “was a very dark place,” says Beth Rosenow; she’s a neighborhood safety coordinator for Safe & Sound, a nonprofit that tries to build bridges between communities and the police. “People were afraid of who was hiding behind a bush. Nobody used the park unless it was for drinking, smoking weed, a place for kids to hide and do inappropriate things—teenagers, young adults.”

In 2014, Blake Theisen, ASLA (then with SAA Design Group, now the principal owner of Parkitecture + Planning), was hired to conduct a facilities assessment. His report ran to 861 pages. “It showed we had $25 million in identified projects,” says Lynn Greb, the recreation department’s senior director. “Like, holy cow! And that was all just for replacement, not development or design.” Realizing that the department was unequipped to define a comprehensive strategy, Greb hired Pam Linn, FASLA, as recreation facilities project manager, the first-ever landscape architect on the public school system’s staff. (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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