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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Miami Beach Soundscape Park by West 8. Photo by Robin Hill.

Registration opened yesterday for the 2020 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, which runs October 2 to October 5 in Miami Beach—a place rich with urgent landscape, climate, and water issues to confront, not to mention turquoise waves and a lot of fun amid the refreshing Atlantic breezes. As ever, if you book early, through June 9, you save on the registration fee (up to $300 off the on-site registration fee for professional members, if you book lodging in hotels where ASLA has reserved rooms for the event). Besides the many colleagues you look forward to seeing each year, there will be 120 ways to educate yourself and earn professional development hours in programs, field sessions, deep-dive inquiries, the invigorating general session, the ASLA awards, and the huge ASLA EXPO bustling with your favorite products, services, programs, and people.

ASLA has measures in place to ensure attendees a safe and enjoyable meeting, with the uncertain factors of the novel coronavirus pandemic first in mind. In a recorded message to prospective attendees, ASLA President Wendy Miller, FASLA, said, “These are not normal times, and this will not be a normal conference. But as of today, we are proceeding and adapting our plans for this fall.”

The ASLA staff is working closely with local meeting and tourism officials, convention industry experts, and the host chapter, ASLA Florida, to monitor guidance for large gatherings regarding group sizes and distancing provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local agencies. If the conference proceeds as planned, registrants who find they later wish to cancel will receive refunds minus a $100 processing fee. However, after August 10, registration fees are not refundable. Tickets for special events and field sessions are not refundable. Hotel deposits will be refunded if reservations are canceled three days before your arrival—check details with your hotel.

If the conference must be canceled, your registration fee will be fully refunded, as will the processing fee and costs of tickets to special events. Hotels will also refund your deposit. For airfares, you should check with your airline about reimbursement or credit policies.

Miller expressed optimism that ASLA can gather in Miami Beach within the bounds the pandemic imposes. “If you’re a conference veteran, you know how powerful the experience can be,” she said. “And we are committed to bringing that experience to our members again this year.”

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.”  Continue Reading »

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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. 

FAIR PLAY

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. Continue Reading »

BUILD IT RIGHT

BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy ASLA.

A long-planned guide on construction documents for landscape architects is aimed at experienced and emerging professionals alike.

 

This week, ASLA’s Professional Practice Committee has released  The Landscape Architect’s Guidelines for Construction Contract Administration Services, which offers practitioners guidance to ensure that landscape projects are constructed in accordance with their contract documents. The guide is especially aimed at younger practitioners and emerging professionals starting their own firms, who may have less experience executing built work. “We decided that what we really needed was something that provided someone who is opening a business a basic understanding of where the risks and liabilities, as well as the responsibilities, lay,” says (William) Dwayne Adams Jr., FASLA, an Arizona-based landscape architect, and the editor of the guide.

The guide is arranged chronologically through the life of a project, and it presents the construction process from the perspective of not just landscape architects, but also the client and the contractor. Adams says that construction contract administration responsibilities often get delegated down to younger practitioners without much experience, and because of this, it’s necessary to provide greater context on what project partners are working through. “So what you have is a very parochial view of the world, that the landscape architect is pre-eminent in all the matters of site construction,” he says. But in reality, “you’re a team member, and you need to know what the other members of your team do.”

Continue Reading »

IN PUBLIC: SEATTLE

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. Continue Reading »

A NEW NOW

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Not much good is coming from this parlous time, as the novel coronavirus floored just about everything people normally rely on, and with shocking speed. Some strands of hope, should they hold up with time, have appeared amid the desperate confusion. There is an odd but significant reassurance in how quickly so much of daily life buttoned up early on. That progress has been uneven, depending not least on brands of leadership. But once the severity of the situation everywhere became clear, enough people took heed of the stay-home advice that the numbers of holdouts thinned quickly if, alas, not to zero. Everything can change fast. The public compliance, the mass cooperation, happened without much pronounced role for the police, whose jobs have grown steep with new danger, like the work of all public safety professionals. Having everyone stay apart is the only way to contain the crisis. Each infection avoided supports the health care and public health community, who offer societies the only chances of stopping loss and getting through it all.

For landscape architecture, there’s a deep paradox. The bad part is that there is pain, and will be more pain as this business contracts along with everything else. The profession is looking into a future far more unknowable than during the Great Recession a decade ago, when it lost a generation of new landscape architects, and some not so new. Total employment in the profession, federal data shows, fell from 22,000 in 2006 to 15,750 in 2012. Membership in ASLA fell to 15,000, from 18,000 before the economy collapsed; it never bounced back. For emerging designers during the recession, there was no path forward, no new jobs, and many jobs lost. Interns had no place to get the office time they need to qualify for licensure. They went elsewhere. We are still feeling it.

The good part during this crisis is that landscapes for people have seldom seemed as vital and as visible. Continue Reading »