ASLA 2019 Conference in San Diego Recap
By Abigail Long
Student Chapter Co-President
(View from outside of the conference center)
Opening Session: From Climate Change to Climate Action: Building a Clean, Healthy, Sustainable Future
Speaker: Gina McCarthy (Former EPA Administrator under the Obama Administration and Director of the Harvard T.H. Chan Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment)
I had never heard of Gina McCarthy before attending the opening session, but I won’t soon forget her name. Every person I talked to was wide-awake and inspired after listening to Gina urge the profession of landscape architecture to do something about climate change. She implored professionals and students alike to use our skills, talent, and craft to make meaningful change and stand up for a world that so badly needs defending right now. She also made a good point in that, when talking about climate change, people have a hard time relating to melting glaciers and icecaps on the other side of the world. It’s important to use tangible, relatable examples, such as health, when demonstrating the effects of climate change.
Boots on the Ground: Measuring Landscape Performance in the Field
Speakers: Emily McCoy (Design Workshop), Danielle Pieranunzi (SITES), Dr. Kathleen Wolf (University of Washington), Michele Adams (Meliora Design)
As I’ve progressed in my academic career in the landscape architecture program at Temple, I’ve been able to grasp just how important the role of research is within the field. I’ve been increasingly interested in exploring research in our industry and am considering graduate school, so I was very much excited to attend this lecture. It did not disappoint.
- Defensible science is the most important part of any research being conducted. You must be able to defend your research and your findings.
- The more data you collect, the better the science.
- Some of the most important research being done regarding sustainable design is happening in Philadelphia. Emily McCoy talked about the methods of research she was involved with in the design of Shoemaker Green by Andropogon Associates.
- Random fact: In some cases, trees can emit more (embedded) carbon than they sequester when considering transportation and maintenance. So, it’s extremely important to consider a tree’s lifespan when specifying trees for a project.
Landscape Resiliency Through Integrated Planting Design and Management
Speakers: Travis Beck (City of Santa Cruz), Larry Weaner (Larry Weaner Landscape Associates), Laura Hansplant (Roofmeadow)
- It’s important to study and understand plant communities in designing for resilient landscapes rather than only focusing on excellence in individual plants.
- Sometimes a little competition among plants can be a good thing for long lasting plants. Fewer resources will make plants more adaptive and fitter for the long haul.
- Land management and maintenance of projects is something that needs to be considered at the beginning of every project. Considering how a client will and is able to maintain a landscape for years to come should be at the forefront of each design decision.
- Making mistakes makes you a better designer. Larry Weaner talked about how he’s learned the most from the mistakes he had made in projects rather than the successes.
After Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces Forty Years Later
Speakers: Emily Schlickman (University of California), Thomas Balsley (SWA/Balsley), Stella Kim (New York City Department of City Planning)
My class has had William Whyte’s formulas for successful public spaces drilled into our heads by our past two studio professors, so I was interested in hearing about the findings of the new research that has been done of revisiting Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The project studied 10 plazas in Manhattan that have been constructed in the last 15 years.
- While many things still stand true 40 years later after Whyte’s research, some things have changed. For instance, instead of people gathering in public spaces to chat or “people watch” most people dwell in public spaces individually and are looking down at their phones.
- In many cases, public spaces are hyper-programed (think yoga, outdoor movie theatre, etc.), not allowing much flexibility for naturally occurring entertainment.
- The technology that is used in a project like this has drastically changed since Whyte’s era of simple people watching and video recording. Along with behavioral observations and hand tabulations, the SWA group used heat maps to measuring dwelling time and video footage that automatically analyzed data.
See their findings here
What We’re Getting Right: Working Toward Gender Parity in Landscape Architecture
Speakers: Kate Douglas Kestyn (BrightView Design), Christine L. Hilt (CLH Design), Roberto J. Rovira (Florida International University/Studio Roberto Rovira), Rebecca Leonard (Lionheart Places)
Since I will be graduating and joining the workforce soon, I thought it would be a good idea to get a clearer picture on how the profession of landscape architecture compares to others in its equitable treatment toward women in the field. The Vela Project, created by Tj Marston, Samantha Solano and Catalina Dugand explores why the rate of women in the field of landscape architecture drops off post-graduation and sets out to examine why the picture becomes even bleaker when examining the data of women in leadership roles. This session was extremely informative, but sobering, to say the least.
- Women are outperforming men in almost every category of academic statistics (BLA and MLA graduates – 55% women, ASLA student awards – 55% women, and Olmsted scholar awards – 66% women) but only 27% of licensed landscape architects are women.
- Only 16% of professional awards (ASLA Awards + Council of Fellows) are awarded to women.
- Only 12% Advanced career leadership positions (ASLA presidents) are held by women.
- Almost no men were in the room for this lecture.
To find information on the project and to see their findings visit: http://www.velaproject.org/
Other lectures I attended:
Breaking Free from Tropical Hardwoods: New Alternatives for Sustainability
Speakers: Meg Calkins (North Carolina State University), Laura Solana (Michael Van Valkenburgh), Thomas C. Amoroso (Andropogon)
Queer Urbanism and Design: Past, Present, Future
Speakers: Sam Sikanas (W Architecture & Landscape Architecture), Addison Vawters (New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development), Emilio Martinez Poppe (Fourth Arts Block)
Inside the LA Studio with Andropogon
Speakers: Jose Alminana, Darron Damone, Thomas C. Amoroso, Lauren Mandel
ADA to Universal Design: Creating Healthy Communities Through Equitable Design Approaches
Speakers: Peter Caldwell (Asakura Robinson), Luis Gerardo Guajardo (Asakura Robinson), Jesus “Chuy” Lardizabal (Altura Solutions)
Design with Nature- Fifty Years Later
Speakers: Frederick Steiner (University of Pennsylvania), Anne Whiston Spirn (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Carter van Dyke (Carter van Dyke Associates), Baldev Lamba (Temple University)
Design with Nature panel (L to R – Lamba, Spirn, Dyke, Steiner)
Measuring What Matters: Metrics to Capture the Social Impacts of Public Spaces
Speakers: Lynn Ross (Spirit for Change Consulting LLC), Alexa Bush (City of Detroit)
- Student Climate Crisis Forum
- Alumni tailgate
- Women in Landscape Architecture walk through downtown San Diego, exploring open space projects designed by women in the group
- Meeting with PA-DE ASLA President Richard Rauso, and getting to meet the other Student ASLA Chapter presidents
- A free afternoon to explore San Diego. I travelled to La Jolla Cove and went on a guided kayaking tour to learn about the area’s unique ecosystem. A sea lion even came up and gave my boot a tap!
(Image credits: Abigail Long)