Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architecture
Multiple Responses:
Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor public areas, landmarks, and structures to achieve environmental, social-behavioral, or aesthetic outcomes. It involves the systematic investigation of existing social, ecological, and geological conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of interventions that will produce the desired outcome. The scope of the profession includes urban design; site planning; stormwater management; town or urban planning; environmental restoration; parks and recreation planning; visual resource management; green infrastructure planning and provision; and private estate and residence landscape master planning and design; all at varying scales of design, planning and management. A practitioner in the profession of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.

Landscape architects design, often working with landscaping or other construction companies to install those designs. Think of the fashion designer imagining an outfit while a clothing manufacturer makes the apparel, or an artist designing a wall poster that's printed by another company. Landscape architects and contractors are complementary but highly distinct professions.

Beyond construction companies, landscape architects often collaborate with a whole host of other professionals to make up the design team. A project like the High Line not only includes landscape architects, but architects, engineers, and multiple contractors as well. Other projects may include planners, horticulturists, soil scientists, medical professionals, or other specializations in order to solve the design challenge.

Quick: Name one famous landscape architect. Did you immediately think of Frederick Law Olmsted, considered by many to be the father of the landscape architecture profession in the United States? You may know of him because of New York’s Central Park, which he designed with Calvert Vaux, another landscape architect. But do you know the name of a famous landscape architect practicing today? During National Landscape Architecture Month, celebrated during the month of April, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the profession and what exactly landscape architects do. It goes far beyond planting trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Landscape architecture encompasses the design of almost anything under the sky. Think of iconic places like Boston's Emerald Necklace and the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. But also consider your downtown square, your local park, or even your own backyard. Green roofs, urban farms, and corporate campuses—all define landscape architecture.
ASLA Blooms
The colorful blooms of Silene caroliniana gave ASLA's green roof a burst of color at the beginning of spring.
Photo courtesy American Society of Landscape Architects.
Green Roof
A view of ASLA's green roof in its entirety from a nearby building.
Photo courtesy American Society of Landscape Architects.
Blooming sedum on ASLA's green roof.
Photo courtesy American Society of Landscape Architects.
Landscape architecture covers a huge spectrum, perhaps best understood by the profession’s mantra: achieving a balance between the built and natural environments. It requires a multidisciplinary approach involving environmental science, art, ecology, and much more, leading to extraordinary results like restoring endangered wetlands, reducing hospital stays, securing government and other buildings, and removing toxins from rainwater. These aren’t pie in the sky. These are what landscape architects are designing right now.

Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the national professional association representing landscape architects. ASLA promotes the profession and advances its practice through advocacy, education, communication, and fellowship. Central to ASLA’s mission and all outreach is stewardship of the land.

ASLA also works to increase the public’s awareness of and appreciation for the profession of landscape architecture and its contributions to quality of life. ASLA is an active advocate for the profession at the local, state, and national levels of public policy involving licensure, the environment and sustainable design, livable communities, surface transportation, historic preservation, and storm-water management issues, among others.

According to Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA, landscape architects have long been creating environments that encourage daily exercise, provide clean air and water, and even supply nutritious food. This helps combat growing epidemics of depression, obesity, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. “Landscape architecture, more than any other design profession, epitomizes green design, and public health has always been an integral concern for landscape architects,” said Somerville. “National Landscape Architecture Month provides a great opportunity to highlight what landscape architects do to help everyone get outside and get healthy.”

Above all, ASLA is the voice of the landscape architecture profession. And as that national voice, ASLA has put practice to action. The Society built a green roof on its Washington, D.C. headquarters to demonstrate the environmental benefits of green roofs as well as to showcase what landscape architects contribute to this type of project. You can read about the Green Roof and schedule a tour to see it yourself.

ASLA has also helped to transform land development and management practices through the nation’s first voluntary guidelines and rating system for sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings, in an interdisciplinary partnership called the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. The guidelines and rating system represent years of work by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists, and design professionals as well as incorporate public input from hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations to create this essential missing link in green design. Major funding for SITES™ is provided by the Meadows Foundation and Landscape Structures.

More locally, last year ASLA launched The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Washington, D.C. This online, mobile-friendly guide helps visitors and locals discover more than 75 historic, modern, and contemporary landscapes in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA. Expert commentary and more than 800 photos are provided by 20 landscape architects.

The Museum is celebrating the work of landscape architects during April. Join us on April 3rd for a Spotlight on Designlecture that features M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, whose Yards Park in Washington, D.C. demonstrates the profession’s important role in creating people-centric places. And in a Smart Growth lecture on April 17th, Kim Mathews, RLA, ASLA, principal of Mathews Nielsen, discusses resiliency and renewal through the lens of her firm’s Cinderella projects on New York City’s urban edge.

So, thank a landscape architect next time you stroll through a park, or walk down a bustling street with outdoor cafes, seating, etc. They had more of a hand creating those places than you might think.

Landscape architects plan and design land areas for parks, recreational facilities, private homes, campuses, and other open spaces.

Landscape architects typically do the following:
  • Confer with clients, engineers, and building architects to understand a project
  • Prepare site plans, specifications, and cost estimates
  • Coordinate the arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures
  • Prepare graphic representations of proposed plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
  • Select appropriate materials for use in landscape designs
  • Analyze environmental reports on land conditions, such as drainage and energy usage
  • Inspect landscape work to ensure that it adheres to original plans
  • Seek new work through marketing or by giving presentations

People enjoy attractively designed gardens, public parks, playgrounds, residential areas, college campuses, and public spaces. Landscape architects design these areas so that they are not only functional but also beautiful and harmonious with the natural environment. Landscape architects also plan the locations of buildings, roads, walkways, flowers, shrubs, and trees within these environments.

Landscape architects use several different technologies in their work. For example, through the use of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software, landscape architects prepare models of their proposed work. They then present these models to clients for feedback to demonstrate the final look of the project. Many landscape architects also use geographic information systems (GIS), which allow them to present data visually as maps, reports, and charts.

Landscape architects undertake projects that seek to enhance the natural beauty of a space and provide environmental benefits. They may plan the restoration of natural places disturbed by humans, such as wetlands, streams, and mined areas. They may also design “green roofs” or rooftop gardens that can retain storm water, absorb air pollution, and cool buildings while also providing pleasant scenery. Managing stormwater runoff is another important part of many landscape architectural plans because it protects clean water sources and natural ecosystems from pollutants. Landscape architects also play a role in preserving and restoring historic landscapes.

Landscape architects who work for government agencies design sites and landscapes for government buildings, parks, and other public lands, as well as plan for landscapes and recreation areas in national parks and forests. In addition, they prepare environmental impact assessments based on proposed construction.

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