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Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A recent history of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is as follows:

In April, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report on its investigation into the reassignment under Zinke of 27 career members of the department’s Senior Executive Service, high-level staff whose jobs are to “provide institutional stability and continuity” across administrations. More than 40 percent of the executives reassigned, CNN reported, were nonwhite. Ten of those employees told the inspector general’s office they believe their reassignments were for “political or punitive reasons,” including past work on climate change, energy policy, or conservation. The inspector general was unable to figure out whether the department followed legal requirements and guidelines for internal reassignments because “DOI did not document its plans or reasons” for the reassignments. Several department employees told CNN they had heard Zinke say that diversity was not “important” at the agency, which employs nearly 70,000 people, more than 70 percent of whom are white. Zinke’s office denied his ever having made such comments.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed also in April that it is looking into whether Zinke violated the Hatch Act, which forbids certain kinds of political activity by most employees of the executive branch, by announcing an exemption for Florida from a sweeping plan to begin opening nearly all of the United States’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration. The exemption, the only one given to a whole state, was staged as a victory for Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is running for one of Florida’s Senate seats. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I’m not sure how many magazines with advisory boards actually put them to work, but at LAM, we meet with ours monthly by phone and find their advice invaluable. The LAM Editorial Advisory Committee (you can see its members on our masthead, page 6) is drawn from a cross section of ASLA’s membership. Each month, a different member leads the call, along with a backup, and those two people together set the agenda and lead the conversation. The topic is entirely of their choosing. Those of us on the magazine staff occasionally chime in, but mainly we listen.

A recent call was led by two early-career professionals who focused the conversation on the ways landscape history is taught in landscape architecture schools. In particular, they wanted to address the overwhelming bend in the history curriculum toward European design traditions and values. “We don’t see a lot of landscape architecture not designed by white men,” one said. “What do we accept as ‘high design,’ and how can we challenge how these [notions] are rooted in Eurocentric design principles?”

The question expands easily beyond high design to human spatial behavior, preference, and need. In any case, it’s an especially pertinent subject given the broad recognition within landscape architecture that the profession is overdue for diversification if it is to address the issues confronting the modern world. “In the past, landscape architecture history was taught along European garden types and sprinkled in other influences such as Chinese and Japanese gardens,” noted one of several committee members who is a university educator. “Now that it’s a global profession, people are talking about other influences. A lot of people elsewhere are trying to make sense of (more…)

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Sasaki Principal Gina Ford’s prescriptions for landscape architecture’s future are a succinct set of progressive values: diversity, equity, and collaboration. At her Landscape Architecture Foundation presentation titled “Into an Era of Landscape Humanism,” the designer of the Chicago Riverwalk outlines how landscape architects have to reflect the diversity of the growing populations they serve in order to meet clients’ needs, design in ways that address historic gaps in access to restorative landscapes, and collaborate across professional boundaries to knit together holistic and healthy environments. It’s a definition of landscape design that begins with human needs and social realities, and lets landscape architects’ unique and critical talents flow into the world from there.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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Avenida Houston is a 60-foot-wide promenade in front of Houston’s convention center. Image courtesy of Jonnu Singleton/SWA.

Avenida Houston was designed to celebrate the flyway paths of migratory birds and the vibrant energy economy that has made Houston attractive to domestic and international migrants alike. But in early February a new set of visitors will be attracted to this linear plaza: Football fans drawn by the suite of Super Bowl programming unfurled at the nearby (and newly renovated) George R. Brown Convention Center, and Super Bowl LI, to be played a few miles away at NRG Stadium.

Avenida Houston, designed by SWA Group, is a four-acre, 60-foot-wide strip of space that turned a desolate and unforgiving stretch of multilane traffic in front of the city’s convention center into an informal promenade. Two central themes, seemingly opposed, animate this new public event space: Houston’s industry and nature. “The conversation really started as, (more…)

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

Postcommodity, Repellent Fence, 2015. Image courtesy Museum of Walking/Angela Ellsworth.

From the upcoming February 2017 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Instead of a sensible and humane overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws to deal with current realities, we are apparently going to get a wall between the United States and Mexico. It was among the most outlandish promises of the Trump campaign, if only one of its rank xenophobic turns: a gigantic blockade stretching from the Pacific Ocean, through the Sonoran Desert, and down the Rio Grande River to the Gulf of Mexico, with fear as its mortar. During the first week of the new Republican-led Congress, the House Republican Policy Committee chair, Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, told the Washington Post that legislators are looking for ways to begin work on such a wall under existing law and with American (not Mexican) money. The existing law Messer means is the Secure Fence Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush, which called for 700 miles of actual fencing and a “virtual fence” of beefed-up surveillance along the Mexico border. That work remains incomplete. Barriers block less than half of the 1,954 miles of international boundary. Theoretically, a resumption of building could begin to lock it all up later this spring.

The human effects of this simplistic idea will be mixed. A big wall will stop some population flow, but hardly all of it, and it will kill informal cross border commerce. Ecologically, though, it is likely to be a catastrophe. It will fragment habitat on a huge scale in one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America—the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas alone is said to have (more…)

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From We Declare in the May 2016 issue, five landscape architects, scholars, and advocates revisit “A Declaration of Concern” for the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration.

 

INTO AN ERA OF LANDSCAPE HUMANISM

BY GINA FORD, ASLA

Fifty years ago, the voice of our profession was eerily prescient, undeniably smart, and powerfully inspired. It was also, let’s admit it, almost entirely white and male.

I note this with no disrespect to the six incredible leaders of our profession who penned the Declaration of Concern. Clearly, their call—to reconcile the needs of humankind with sound knowledge and respect for the natural processes of our environment—is as relevant (or even more so) today as it was then. Equally, their edict for landscape architects to command the technical skill sets associated with natural resources and processes—geology, physiography, climatology, ecolog—remains of vital importance.

Yet, as we look forward and consider the significance of climate change, demographic shifts, and income inequality, the Declaration’s “man” as nature’s antagonist feels strangely abstract and incomplete. To maintain relevance over the next 50 years, the profession needs to (more…)

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Citizen scientists and experts work to catalogue and identify as many species as possible during the BioBlitz event.

Species experts and families work to identify and catalog as many species as possible during the BioBlitz event.

Since 2007, the National Park Service (NPS) and the National Geographic Society have teamed up to create BioBlitz, an annual event that celebrates the wealth of biodiversity in the United States. Each year, thousands of families sign up to search for and learn about different species of plants, animals, and fungi, among others, in various national parks across the country.

For the centenary year of the NPS, BioBlitz 2016 will be held at Constitution Gardens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where ASLA joins a variety of organizations at the Biodiversity Festival to speak on the importance of soil quality and health. “This is a great opportunity to reach out to potentially thousands of families and let them know what landscape architects do,” says Karen Grajales, the manager of public relations for ASLA, who will be joining Virginia Tech landscape architecture students and other ASLA staff members for the event.

To learn more about BioBlitz and potentially get involved, please click here.

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