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FEATURE: We Declare

Reformulating a historic agenda after half a century.

FROM THE MAY 2016 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia in June of 1966, Ian McHarg, Grady Clay, Campbell Miller, Charles R. Hammond, George E. Patton, and John O. Simonds presented “A Declaration of Concern” on behalf of landscape architecture, reproduced below. It was a statement on the growing crisis in the natural environment and the claim of landscape architects in averting the environment’s total destruction. To the degree the declaration was dramatic and self-regarding, it was also true. It preceded much of the formal regulatory protection—preventive, punitive, and remedial—of resources that we know now. The declaration’s alarm over pollution and ecological ruin speaks for itself, but it managed to be both critical and optimistic. Its hope lay in the ability of landscape architects to figure out across disciplines how to make nature and society work as a whole, healthy system.

In 2016, the Landscape Architecture Foundation marked the half century of “A Declaration of Concern” with “The New Landscape Declaration,” a gathering of landscape architects, scholars, and advocates at the University of Pennsylvania in June of that year. The foundation, which was also turning 50, asked a number of participants to write declarations of their own for the occasion as latter-day responses to the original. Five are linked to below. Landscape architects have by no means retired the threats of 50 years ago, and other threats have proliferated around them, but the moral vision of the profession conceived at the midcentury has enlarged accordingly.

“A Declaration of Concern—June 1966” 

We urge a new, collaborative effort to improve the American environment and to train a new generation of Americans equipped by education, inspiring example, and improved organizations to help create that environment.

A sense of crisis has brought us together. What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow. We are concerned over misuse of the environment and development which has lost all contact with the basic processes of nature. Lake Erie is becoming septic, New York City is short of water, the Delaware River is infused with salt, the Potomac River with sewage and silt. Air is polluted in major cities and their citizens breathe and see with difficulty. Most urban Americans are being separated from visual and physical contact with nature in any form. All too soon life in such polluted environments will be the national human experience. (more…)

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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 BRIAN BARTH

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is all the rage in academia these days. STEM degrees confer significant prestige in a high-tech world, and STEM education is funded to the tune of billions of dollars by the federal government. Privileges afforded to STEM students include eligibility for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which excludes non-STEM students. Minority students are incented to pursue STEM degrees by grants available to those who attend historically black colleges and universities and Latinx-serving institutions.

STEM is also deeply enmeshed in immigration policy. Out of concern that the flow of native-born STEM graduates falls short of labor market demand, the United States offers foreign graduate students in STEM fields an extension on their F-1 student visas to encourage them to remain in the country as high-skilled workers—a boon to the students, but also to firms that are seeking to retain top global talent in a country increasingly bent on tightening its borders. F-1 visa students in any field of study are eligible for 12 months of “optional practical training” (OPT), a form of temporary work authorization that may be used for jobs or internships related to their field. But in 2008, an additional 17 months was offered solely to students in STEM fields; in 2016, the OPT visa extension grew to 24 months, for a total of three years of work authorization.

The three-year OPT visa extension is no small trinket for foreign students who are eyeing U.S. degree programs. The ability to stay in the country after graduation greatly enhances their job prospects, which in turn enhances their long-term immigration prospects: The H-1B visa that typically comes with a job in an American firm is a well-worn path to a green card and, eventually, citizenship. Because STEM figures so heavily in career choices and funding streams, professions of every stripe clamor to get in its tent. But the door is heavily guarded.

The list of federally designated STEM fields is maintained not by the Department of Education but by the Department of Homeland Security—specifically by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, better known as ICE. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Homes along old Highway A1A in Summer Haven, Florida. Photo courtesy St. Johns Public Works.

The McHarg Center—a new research initiative that will study the intersection of urbanism and ecology—is dedicated to studying how “urban growth and all of its related infrastructure can relate better and be better tuned to ecosystems,” says Richard Weller, ASLA, chair of the landscape architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania. The center is awaiting its formal launch next year with an exhibition, book, and conference timed to the 50th anniversary of Ian McHarg’s seminal book Design with Nature. In the meantime, the center, housed within PennDesign, has invited Jeff Goodell, the author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown, and Company, 2017), to visit for an inaugural lecture on March 29, at 6:00 p.m. in the lower gallery of Meyerson Hall.

In the spirit of McHarg’s research, Weller envisions the McHarg Center as an intensely multidisciplinary place. “When he completely overhauled the curriculum at Penn, he stacked the building with scientists,” Weller says. Likewise, Penn’s McHarg Center will invite scientists, designers, engineers, and public policy experts into an (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Improbable Botany. Illustrations by Jonathan Burton. Published/Curated by Wayward.

Wayward is a collective of landscape architects, architects, urban growers, artists, and other assorted creative types who design landscape installations for “exploring new models for how green space can work in cities,” says its founder, Heather Ring. The group’s experimental and often temporary projects emphasize creating “narrative environments that tell stories through the spaces.” The projects have included chromatic explorations of algae growth and weaving slow-growth sculpture from living trees.

It’s an outsider’s perspective on landscape design that might have earned Ring’s London-based band of designers the high school graduation accolade of “landscape architect most likely to commission a science fiction anthology,” because that’s just what Wayward has done.

Having raised nearly $16,000 during a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wayward will publish (more…)

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The artist and landscape designer Patricia Johanson sees her ecologically driven, site-specific artworks as a way to weave together two disciplines that seemed to have parted ways a long time ago: science and art. She imagines them to be “parallel explorations” that share the same goal (exploring and interpreting the world), gone about in different ways. “In a way, we’re like inchworms,” she says in an interview from 2010. “We’re out on a twig, feeling around, testing the air. Where do we go from here? What can we learn? And you begin to look at these things, and you begin to discover the world. I think that’s what scientists do, and I think that’s what artists do.”

Johanson grants herself the opportunity to try it both ways. Her Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California, clocks in to perform all the progressive landscape-as-infrastructure functions asked of it. It’s a sewage treatment plant, and a park with three miles of trails whose wetlands help filter and clean Petaluma’s water. It’s also a wetland wildlife habitat where visitors set up easels and sketch the landscape, part of which playfully resembles a mouse (with two beady little eyes that are islands in a pond) from above.

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BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Molly Meyer is capitalizing on a surge in demand.

Molly Meyer is capitalizing on a surge in demand.

From the July 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Molly Meyer, a Stanford University-trained biogeochemist and the CEO of Omni Ecosystems and Rooftop Green Works in Chicago, is part of the green roof industry’s emerging generation of innovators. Meyer’s approach to green roof design emphasizes affordability and simplicity, with the goal of maximizing biodiversity. Through her sister companies, Meyer sells and installs a specially designed green roof tray system that supports unusually diverse plant species in shallow growing medium, most notably in veneer meadows. Meyer recently cofounded a third company, the Roof Crop, which began cultivating its first rooftop farm in April.

You’re from Indianapolis, which is a fairly large city. What drew you into soil science?

I loved playing outdoors as a kid. By the time I got to college I was looking for opportunities to do schoolwork outdoors. There were a lot of classes and research opportunities [for which] I could work outside and travel for by doing (more…)

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Richard Weller is the new chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Landscape Architecture Department

Richard Weller is the new chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Landscape Architecture Department

In late November,  the University of Pennsylvania named the new chair of its landscape architecture department: the Australian landscape architect Richard Weller. The previous chair, James Corner, ASLA, had led the department since 2000 and will continue to be a professor there. I recently caught up with Weller on his wife’s cell phone and asked him about his plans for the department. What follows is an edited and condensed version of the conversation.

Is there a reason why you don’t have your own cell phone?

To be honest, I just don’t like telephones. I just thought that was sort of intrusive—you randomly ring up people and dial into their lives. I prefer email.

What drew you to the landscape architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania?

There has been a sequence of people at Penn who have been very influential and led the academic discipline. Penn’s always been front and center.

What drew them to you? 

I have had an intellectual relationship with some of the people there going back to John Dixon Hunt. I’ve written about Jim Corner’s work. Penn’s Press published my first book, called Room 4.1.3: Innovations in Landscape Architecture, which was a very risky book because it was so conceptual. I’ve done work that tracks the entire spectrum of what a landscape architect can do. I’ve done the smallest gardens that are all about meaning and allegory all the way to large scale planning. It’s always been about what is in this project that will critically make some contribution to the discipline. Of course, the short answer is that there’s not that many people around, either.

What do you hope to do with your new position as chair?

First thing is to consolidate Penn as the world’s best design school. In many ways it’s a legendary school. It has great alumni. But the school can’t rest on its laurels. We have to guarantee that the students coming out of Penn are going to be leaders and visionaries and critics. We’re not just filling up the offices, Penn’s about leadership, intellectual leadership. I’m interested in large-scale phenomena, things like population growth, climate change. (more…)

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