Much is being said about the pandemic and governments responses to it and that it could be the opportunity to rethink the way we live and our reckless pursuit of life and consumptive behaviour that threatens our existence here. Despite more than 50 years of warnings of an environmental tragedy and the threat of global warming, selfish interests in most of us persist and, like new years resolutions that faded before the first week of the year, will we return to old habits and allow vested interests in our every day tools, smart phones, computers, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Amazon etc suck us back into the endless rat race of desire, working to fulfil transient goals and wanton pleasure?
I have been following New World Same Humans, David Mattin’s weekly newsletter on trends, technology, and society for a few weeks now and the questions he raises about the meaning of things is worth a read.
Despite its obvious flaws and contradictions, I like philosopher John Gray’s book “Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals” in which he questions our ability to think beyond our selfish needs and reaffirmed my scepticism in what we as individuals can do in the face of human nature to affect wicked problems like climate change, inequality, poverty and social justice. It resonates with the classic Stoic point of view that the world is an “Immutable Mutable” and one should act on oneself rather than trying to effect change on the world.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
This is similar to the ideas of “self-helpers” I once read in my “youth” like Stephen Covey, who time and cynicism and my own slackness, relegate to th e dust heaps of our overburdened bookshelves, now rendered obsolete in these days of Google, Kindle and Netflix. Still, in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” one of the concepts he uses to derive his habits is the concept that there is a Circle of Concern, which is the things you reflect or worry about, your health, your kids behaviour, the dog barking, climate change, governments corruption etc., there is another circle the Circle of Influence which is where you are able to focus your efforts on to affect change, generally this is smaller than your circle of concern. By focusing on the things one has the ability to change, the Circle of Control, largely within oneself, one gains strength and willpower and thus ones circle of concern shrinks to the things on can change and as one success, one’s circle of influence grows as one’s confidence and potentially humility and compassion drive one to assist others we sees struggling in our environment.
Rather that fight against what seems inevitable in a “global world” we can act locally while thinking globally, a small change in our own attitudes and behaviour can lead to much larger impacts than we might imagine.
Years ago there was a large graffiti painting on a wall in Main Road, Salt River, Cape Town that read ” “If every man would help his neighbor, no man would be without help.” I wish I had photographed it, it is now gone but the thought lingers………
Jared Green has written a review for The Dirt of a new tool for assessing the climate footprint of landscape projects. The tool is free and quite easy to use, but requires soem modification to apply to areas outside of the USA.
Let’s be frank: landscape architecture projects can add to the climate crisis. If projects aren’t purposefully designed and built with their carbon footprint in mind, they are likely contributing more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than they can sequester over their lifespan. Projects can incorporate too much concrete and other carbon-intensive materials, too few trees and shrubs, or require industrially-produced fertilizers or gas-powered mowers or pruners for long-term maintenance, running up long-term emissions.
Instead, landscape architects can design and build projects that are not only meant to be carbon neutral, but go further and become “climate positive,” meaning that over their lifespan they sequester more greenhouse gas emissions than they embody or produce.
She has also thrown down the gauntlet with a new challenge: if all landscape architects and designers use the approach, they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere by 1 gigaton by 2050. That would put landscape architecture well within the top 80 solutions found in the Project Drawdown report.
According to Conrad, Climate Positive Design “is not only an opportunity to re-imagine how we design our world from every aspect, but a responsibility.”
Using the site’s Pathfinder tool, landscape architects and designers can establish and then ratchet up specific sequestration and emission reduction targets for their own projects. “A target of five years is suggested to offset carbon footprints for greener projects like parks, gardens, campuses, and mixed-use developments. For more urban projects that require a greater amount of hardscape to accommodate programming, twenty years is the targeted offset duration.”
Through her research, which includes illustrative and useful case studies produced with CMG, Conrad found that “targets could be met without changing the program or reducing the quality – the projects merely became greener.”
I have for many years admired the gardens and landscapes of Chilean Landscape Architect, Juan Grim. This has largely been from a few images in magazines and books, so I was very pleased this morning to read an interview with him by Lucy Munro on the PLANTHUNTER Here are a few excerpts and pics to wet your appetite to read more.
“On the coast of Los Villos in Chile, a garden balances on the edge of a clifftop, limbs of wandering shrubs crawling over the rock face towards the depths of the Pacific Ocean below. The architect of the seaside shelter, Juan Grimm, can be found hidden within the many pockets of the garden, experimenting with unusual plant combinations or admiring a newly sprouted shrub whose seed arrived on the wind. His enduring wonder for the minutiae of the natural world is one of the many reasons Juan Grimm is considered South America’s most outstanding landscape designer. With a career spanning over thirty years and a design portfolio that includes nearly a thousand hectares of public and private gardens across Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Chile, Juan is the master of creating natural spaces in harmony with the richly diverse landscape of South America.”
After thirty years of creating public and private gardens across Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and your home country, Chile, what keeps you excited about landscape design? When I first began designing and building gardens, I thought about how they would develop over time. Due to the little knowledge of botany and gardening that I had then, I worked with great intuition, without being very clear about the final results; I wanted the years to pass quickly, to see the newly planted trees mature. Today, after thirty-five years of experience, and with the privilege of having seen so many of these trees develop and grow old, I am deeply motivated to continue to create public or private green spaces; knowing that these places will endure over time for the use and enjoyment of future generations.
What does a typical day in the life of Juan Grimm look like? The vast majority of my days are dedicated to garden design; projecting and drawing in my studio, with the advice of the team that accompanies me. Another important element of the day happens in the field – supervising and distributing plants in the gardens that are in the execution stage; work that is fundamental for me because on the site, many things are decided that are impossible to resolve during the planning stage. It is in these moments that the garden begins to take on a life of its own. On weekends, I spend my time in my house on the coast, enjoying the landscape and the garden; I never finish intervening.
Can you please tell us a little about your life growing up and how this influenced the person you are today? My childhood was always closely linked to contact with nature; family summers on the coast were repeated for several years.
My connection with the sea – the infinite space, the rocks and the vegetation that appears very delicately from the coastal edge towards the interior – was a very important experience in the direction that my professional life would take.”
Initially, you trained as an architect. What prompted the change to landscape and why? My training as an architect was essential to recognize my passion for nature. There was no event that determined a change; rather, my architectural student projects always involved the landscape. Once I graduated, I had the opportunity to present a project to the first Biennial of Young Architecture. The proposal was the design of a park and an urban structure strongly affiliated with each other. I won first prize at the Biennial, and this confirmed to me that my path was in landscape design.
What is your design philosophy? I consider that there are interesting and fundamental concepts for the good design of a garden; notions that I seek to incorporate in my work, and whose presence will become evident as the garden grows and the projected space acquires form and volume. Movement, exuberance, infinity, sustainability and mystery.
One distinctive feature of your style is your choice to design primarily with native plants, or plants you have grown from seed. What is the thought process behind this? Native vegetation, anywhere in the world, is the vegetation that best adapts to the demands of the climate and other characteristics necessary for its optimal development. There are times when a project is located in a place where there are no nurseries available to acquire these plants. This was the case of the Tambo del Inca Hotel Project, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in Urubamba, Peru, where we went to the mountains to collect seeds from trees and shrubs, which were then grow in our own nurseries. Today those trees have already reached full maturity, and the garden is a reflection of the intimate landscape of the gorges of the Sacred Valley.
Global warming, and the climatic changes that our planet faces, makes it imperative that landscape gardeners increasingly use native vegetation, because with their high efficiency in adaptation and prosperity, they ensure the best energy economy in a garden, with optimal results.”
While many of us landscape architects and the other technologists affiliated to our profusion believe that the discipline of landscape architecture holds the key to improving man’s poor record of environmental and social justice, and that landscape itself is of greater value and worth that society places on it i.e. the value of public space and public landscapes to society for mental and physical health, recreation values and ecological services provided by urban green space as well as the economic benefits accruing to property owners adjacent to high quality green spaces, the money to fund these projects and to pay for the services of the providers of them, is sadly for the most part, not forthcoming. This appears to true no only here in Africa, but as a recent essay in ASLA Landscape Architecture Magazine by Brian Barth documents is the case in the USA as well and is likely a global problem.
As I commented in a previous post Design and the Future of Landscape Architecture, this very relevant to the current educational and work crisis that Landscape Architecture faces in South Africa and many other parts the world:
These excepts from are from the MAY 2019 issue of LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE and the full essay can be read there.
“In many respects, we’ve entered a golden era of landscape architecture. The profession’s profile appears to be on the rise, as environmental crises become more urgent and unavoidable and landscape architects increasingly take on lead roles in major projects. Interest in stormwater management, habitat restoration, and the public realm has expanded dramatically in recent decades, driving demand for landscape architecture services. The industry took a hit during the Great Recession, but since 2012, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ quarterly survey of firms (which tracks billable hours, inquiries for new work, and hiring trends) has found consistently robust growth.
One would expect new recruits to flock to the profession thus. But this is not the case. The number of people working in the field of landscape architecture peaked at around 45,000 in 2006, then nose-dived to about 30,000 in 2013. The post-recession boost in demand for services, though welcome, did not translate into warm bodies at the office. By 2016, the most recent year for which Bureau of Labour Statistics data is available, landscape architecture employment had dropped below 25,000.
Student enrolment in landscape architecture programs has followed a similar trend, says Mark Boyer, FASLA, a former president of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture who is currently the head of the landscape architecture program at Louisiana State University. “Things started looking bad in 2009, and by 2012, there was no program in the country that wasn’t off by half in their enrolment.” Collection of enrolment numbers at a national level was inconsistent during that period, but ASLA data shows that from 2013 to 2017, enrolment in bachelor of landscape architecture (BLA) programs declined an additional 15 percent. Enrolment of master of landscape architecture (MLA) students remained flat from 2013 to 2017, though the number of domestic MLA students slid by 16 percent, with the balance made up by an influx of international students.
Stephanie Rolley, FASLA, the head of the landscape architecture program at Kansas State University, says the gap between the demand for services and the supply of designers predates the recession. “We knew at least 15 years ago that we were not filling the positions of retiring landscape architects, so we’ve seen it coming. We just don’t have enough people to fill the slots.”
So what is it blocking prospective students from seeing the value of a degree in landscape architecture?
One way to assess the psychology of career choices is simple arithmetic: the cost of a degree divided by the income-earning potential it provides. In other words, the return on investment, or ROI, a person can expect from an education.
While there are many ways to crunch those numbers, and innumerable variables based on personal circumstances, student debt and median income are the most readily available apples-to-apples data for comparing education ROI across professions. According to Design Intelligence, the average MLA student leaves school with $39,284 in student loan debt. Median pay for landscape architects, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, is about $65,760 per year, for a 1.67 ratio of income to debt. For architects, the ratio of median income to graduate student debt is slightly better at 1.72; interior designers have it slightly worse at 1.32. I was unable to find student debt data for planners, though employment in the planning field is expected to grow 13 percent by 2026 compared to 2016 levels, about twice the rate of landscape architecture. Architects have the highest average income of the four professions (more than $78,000), but a low projected growth rate of 4 percent.
Those numbers provide little indication that allied professions are the culprit in siphoning off would-be landscape architects. Those fields are also haemorrhaging students: Graduate student enrolment in architecture and planning programs fell by 10 and 11 percent, respectively, from 2013 to 2016.
A more likely culprit is the information technology (IT) industry, in which the median pay is $84,580, and some specialties pay upward of six figures. Unlike law and medicine, which offer high income-earning potential but come with proportionally higher tuition, careers in tech are unlikely to incur greater education costs than the design professions, leading to a high ROI ratio. And for the entrepreneurially minded, the seven-, eight-, nine-, and 10-figure potential of tech executives dwarfs that of design firm owners.
While landscape architecture lost a third of its workforce during the recession, the tech industry barely registered a blip. Since then, tech has continued its march to world domination, or at least domination of the campus career office. A 2018 analysis by CompTIA, a tech industry professional association, found that IT job postings were up 30 percent from the previous year, with astronomical growth in some specialties: in artificial intelligence, 149 percent, and 370 percent for blockchain positions.
For the rare breed who pursues a career in landscape architecture, money is clearly not the driving force. But even students in mission-driven professions can be smart about maximizing their ROI.”
Kristopher Pritchard, ASLA’s director of accreditation and education, sees other changes on the horizon, albeit less charged ones, that the profession has little choice but to adapt to.
The growth of online education has added a wrinkle to students’ choices, for example, with implications for both tangible and intangible value. Online courses tend to be cheaper per credit hour (though not always); you won’t incur moving costs upon enrolling; the cost of rent is not a factor in school choice; and class time is flexible, making it more feasible to hold a regular job, or raise a family, while earning a degree.
Pritchard says that some landscape architecture programs now offer certain courses in an online format. He’s heard from several schools who are considering a fully online landscape architecture degree program, but only one, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, has done so to date (bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available). The Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board approved accreditation standards revisions to allow online programs a path into the accrediting process last year, though as of this writing the Academy of Art University has not pursued accreditation, which is required for licensure in some states.
Whether an online degree becomes accredited or not, it’s fair to question its value in a profession rooted in collaborative studio culture. But in Pritchard’s view, educators will have to find a way to make it work. “Online education is growing exponentially, and if we don’t keep up with that, we’re going to be left in the dark,” he says. “I get a lot of calls about online degrees from people interested in studying landscape architecture, but they’re working or have children, or some other reason prevents them from moving to a place with a program. So there seems to be a need out there among people wanting to get a landscape architecture education, but not in the way it’s currently structured.”
Pritchard points to another potential disruption down the road: Landscape architecture could one day be a master’s degree-only profession. “There’s a question floating around about whether that’s where we are headed,” he says, noting that while BLA enrollment has dipped, MLA enrollment has been steady enough to encourage three new programs to open since 2013. But that steadiness rests on the fact that 41 percent of MLA students now come from other countries, mainly from China (see “ICEd Out,” LAM, February). Pritchard worries that trend may not continue indefinitely. “We’re looking at what’s going to happen to those programs if fewer international students enroll, because of visa issues or whether they’ll even be allowed to come because of their nationality…or whether they’ll even want to come here based on some of the politics that are happening right now.”
Would a greater emphasis on high tech help siphon prospective students from the IT orbit? Pritchard thinks it wouldn’t hurt. He occasionally hears from students who complain that their professors seem to be stuck in the Stone Age. But ultimately, the problem lies in where society places value, not in the actual worth of the profession. To avoid being left behind in a fast-paced world, landscape architects have to get better at selling their brand, demonstrating that the future lies not in the next great gadget but in healthy ecosystems, healthy cities, and healthy people.
“I think that our profession has not adequately explained what we do and generated public understanding of how landscape architects’ work impacts quality of life for people,” Rolley says. “It’s something there’s been a lot of talk about, but not enough action.”
I herewith repost eh response ot he is article form Tricia to this article _ it makes lot of sense to me :
I humbly offer a comment to this story. My intention is to offer a different point of view and a possible solution or two. I have done a bit of research and from my own experience in LA school – studio needs to be re-imaginated. Those classes were my biggest expense and sorry to say I got very little knowledge from it. Yes, part of the issue with LA schools is the expense. Why is it so expensive? Studio. And it’s not just LA but Architecture and Interior Architecture studios as well. Personally, I was surprised by the teaching methodology for teaching students how to do a project. I can only speak for my school. There was no teaching actually. It was students attempting to teach each other and critique each other’s projects instead of the instructor. Sometimes we got feedback from the instructor – but rarely. All of the time students we just given examples and then told to go figure it out with no reference material and no instruction. Our only option was to find and watch YouTube videos to learn software and graphics. I did my homework. The book “Landscape Architecture Research: Inquiry, Strategy, Design” by Deming and Swaffield describes this teaching method as a process. huh?? What !?? Okay for the record, since the LA schools were inviting people from different majors to go to their graduate schools and “bring their ideas”. Be careful… I have a few. First of all, I whole hardly disagree with this teaching method. To date, I have not found good scientific studies in the Psychology of Learning journals to back this up. None. And secondly, this was just blind leading the blind and no one was (actually, even though we all pretended to smile) happy – neither students nor instructors. There is another point to make as well. Most of the ads I’ve seen for firms require a license and experience. There are very few who offer entry level. One reason I’ve heard over and over again is that we don’t want to invest in teaching you – for you to leave. Well then, I suggest that the managers learn how to teach in order to bring their entry level people up to speed faster. Since LA is so broad maybe we should take teaching more seriously but other professions need to teach better too. In conclusion, part of the issue is, in my professional opinion, that college programs and employers go back to school too, and learn “how to” teaching methodologies. LA is a fantastic profession! And, I’ve meet people who would love to do it. We can make it affordable. We can teach better. And, we must. Our planet’s ecological systems might depend on at this point. Thank you for reading this far. I hope it gives everyone some food for though
If landscape architects want to remake the world, we can start by remaking our discipline.
A thought provoking critique of the role Landscape Architects actually play in society versus what they believe they do, this very relevant to the current educational and work crisis that Landscape Architecture faces in South Africa and many other parts the world : Here are few excerpts from the long article, quoted and acknowledged, in the interests of generating a similar discussion in other parts of the world: “Design and the Green New Deal” fromPlaces Journal by Billy Fleming who is the Wilks Family Director for The Ian L. McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design.
Aa Dr, Ida Breed, senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria where the undergraduate Landscape Architecture program has been terminated due to poor enrolment numbers, says in a private correspondence: ” I think the article is very right in the money to say that the profession is mostly dominated by neoliberal and elitist project briefs, yet, landscape architects are often very bad at showing what they are already doing. Relevant work is happening, but as we know we are low in numbers, and there is a need for more volunteers and more participation from industry and practitioners in work that does not only profit our/ themselves… More could be done!”
“It is the main duty of government, if it is not the sole duty, to provide the means of protection for all its citizens in the pursuit of happiness against the obstacles, otherwise insurmountable, which the selfishness of individuals or combinations of individuals is liable to interpose to that pursuit.” 25 Frederick Law Olmstead
I don’t know when the myth of landscape architects as climate saviors began, but I know it’s time to kill it. The New Landscape Declaration — a book emerging from a 2016 summit attended by the brightest thinkers in our field — frames landscape architecture as an “ever more urgent necessity,” if not the foundation of civil society. As engineers shaped the built environment of the 19th century and architects the 20th, landscape architects have claimed this century as their own. 1 That’s a bold statement for an obscure profession whose 15,000 U.S. members spend most of their time designing small parks, office courtyards, and residential projects for private clients. Yet it’s not just landscape architects who see a big future for the field. Famed industrial designer Dieter Rams has said that if he were starting his career today, he’d focus on landscapes, not machines. And public officials have recruited landscape architects to the front lines of urban development (as James Corner’s High Line and Thomas Woltz’s Public Square frame Hudson Yards) and climate resilience (as the federal program Rebuild by Design ties hurricane recovery to coastal defense). 2
I don’t know when the myth of landscape architects as climate saviors began, but I know it’s time to kill it.
But if The New Landscape Declaration sought to articulate and elevate our professional ideals, mostly it exposed the gap between rhetoric and reality. The book arrived in fall 2017, a few months after David Wallace-Wells published his alarming article, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” with its memorable opening line quaking, “It is, I promise, worse than you think.” That 7,000-word jeremiad was later expanded into a bestselling book, with acknowledgments thanking the dozens of climate writers, scientists, and activists who informed the author’s research. This is mainstream media’s most comprehensive account of the climate movement, and it contains no mention of work by landscape architects. There is no commentary on Rebuild by Design. It’s as if landscape architecture does not exist. Setting aside the justified critiques of Wallace-Wells’s apocalyptic framing, what does it mean that landscape architects are missing from this prominent book on a topic we claim as our own? Is our discipline a necessity? Are we closing the gap between ideals and practice? We are not, I promise, saving the world. 3
We don’t need playful design proposals; we need high-impact built projects — prototypes for the resilient futures we’ve been promised.
Contemporary practice is focused on sites, not systems; and on elite desires, not public interests. Our work is limited in scale and subordinate to client mandates. Rather than challenging or subverting these core structural constraints, Rebuild merely tweaks the machine of disaster recovery and redevelopment. Such incrementalism has been a key feature of landscape architecture — and much design-based activism — for decades. Though some scholars have credited designers with central roles in social and environmental movements — from the Progressive Era, to the New Deal, to the radical politics of the 1960s and ’70s in America — I would argue that that landscape architects rarely contributed to the organizing and the politics of those movements. 20 By and large, we have been bystanders to progress, not principal actors. If the gap between our ambitions and impact is ever to be narrowed, it won’t be through declarations of our principles. We must rethink how landscape architecture engages with social and political movements.
We seem to have forgotten an important lesson about Olmsted: his eagerness to enter the political arena and challenge the status quo.
ut here again we see designers as participants in, not leaders of, the social movements of their time. In the postwar era, they went through the same cultural realignment as the rest of the country, reorienting away from public works and land conservation and toward greenfield development and roadside parks, away from cities and toward suburbs. Landscape designers also made what was in retrospect the fatal mistake of lending their technical skills to urban renewal programs that reinforced racial segregation. 27 When the backlash to urban renewal began — sparked by Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities — planners and designers lost much of their access to large-scale projects, and those who still worked for public agencies saw their power diminished. As Thomas Campanella argues, they became professional caretakers, “reactive rather than proactive, corrective instead of preemptive, rule bound and hamstrung and anything but visionary.” 28
The environmental movement galvanized by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring achieved great success in regulating pollution — influencing the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency — but it was less successful in compelling a truly sustainable program of land use. Put another way, it had tremendous influence over how we live, but almost none over where we live. It was in this era that Ian McHarg produced the seminal work that would make him the most consequential landscape architect of the last half century. McHarg was a singular figure in the field, a public intellectual who mixed with people like Margaret Mead, Julian Huxley, and Loren Eiseley, moving between academia (as chair of landscape architecture at Penn), government (as an adviser to White House commissions, task forces, and environmental policy boards), and popular media (as host of the CBS show The House We Live In); and through these activities he sought to place environmental design at the center of American life. He aimed to reinvent nearly everything about the discipline of landscape architecture — its methods of inquiry, its scope and scale of impact, and its cultural and political position. For a brief moment, it seemed he would succeed.
Landscape architects have not yet meaningfully dealt with the unforeseen consequences of McHarg’s rational philosophy; with the fact that his technocratic legacy would leave the field ill-equipped to negotiate the major cultural and political realignments of neoliberalism — the hollowing out of governments at every level, the privatization of public services, and a waning belief in the ability of governments to bring about big, positive change. 34 Beginning in the 1980s, urbanists and designers were forced to defend everything from clean air to mass transit to public education through the narrow lens of cost-benefit analyses. Landscape architecture, a small and client-centric profession, with no real institutional or political presence, was overwhelmed by the rise of an anti-government, anti-science movement amongst conservatives. By the end of the century, landscape architecture had become once again a largely project-driven enterprise, dependent upon the elite, private interests that now shape urbanization, even in ostensibly public spaces. 35
At key political flashpoints of the past decade — Occupy Wall Street, the Standing Rock protests, and, now, the Green New Deal — landscape architects have been conspicuously absent. Our field has responded to neoliberalism with ever larger global corporate practices, a proliferation of boutique design firms, and a retreat from public service. We have ceded most government work to engineers. Professional societies have further depoliticized the field, ensuring that landscape architects are locked out of the policymaking process and constrained by the limits it imposes. 36
The revival of an activist federal design bureaucracy is necessary to the success of a Green New Deal. It also presents a unique opportunity to create alternative models of practice in landscape architecture.
That means our professional societies need to find ways to train a rising generation of landscape architects for careers in public service — or, as the organizers behind The Architecture Lobby have shown us, we will need to build new institutions. Starting tomorrow, the ASLA and Landscape Architecture Foundation could offer awards and fellowships for designers engaged in bureaucratic and political work, as they do for excellence in private practice. They could make the case that truly public spaces and infrastructures are funded by taxes and run by governments, not by corporate partners or the donor class. We need to dismantle the philosophies of neoliberalism and philanthrocapitalism that underwrite many urban development projects, and withdraw support for disruptive urban tech startups. As Levinson writes, “not only are the self-appointed change agents unwilling to push for meaningful action that might threaten the systems that have allowed them to accumulate vast wealth; often as not they’ve caused or contributed to the very problems they are claiming to solve. The modus operandi is not structural reform but personal generosity. The arena is not electoral politics but the free market. The ethos is patronage and volunteerism.” 45 Too many leaders in our field occupy positions of incredible power and prestige, while maintaining that they must make the best of a bad system. But we cannot be content with merely narrowing the gap between our ideals and our reality. The politics of design belong at the center of landscape architecture, and our institutions have an obligation to do more.
We need to train a rising generation of landscape architects for careers in public service. Students will need coursework in public administration and finance, political theory, and community organizing.
Educators, too, have a unique responsibility to change the culture of the profession. The students who wish to fill the ranks of the new design bureaucracy need coursework in public administration and finance, political theory, and community organizing. We can offer scholarships and awards for public-interest achievement, and give internship credit for working with political campaigns or community organizations. And we can acknowledge — through our public programs, our scholarship, and other aspects of design education outside the studio — the extraordinary moment we are in, our complicity in creating it, and our responsibility to develop alternatives.
Whatever form the Green New Deal eventually takes, it will be realized and understood through buildings, landscapes, and other public works. Landscape architects have knowledge and skills — from ecological management to systems analysis to mapping and visualization — that are essential to that project. Now is our chance to re-institutionalize design expertise in government and, at the same time, to break the stranglehold of neoliberalism that has long undermined the ambitions of landscape architecture. Let’s get started. 46
Having been involved over the last 10 days in a green industry and City of Cape Town consultation on “Alternatives for watering of gardens and landscapes” as a response to the water crisis in Cape Town over the last three years; a nationally convened crisis meeting with Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA) and the representatives of the green industry to discuss responses to the decision by the University of Pretoria to close the BSc Landscape Architecture undergraduate degree that has been running successfully for more than 30 years, due to poor uptake of students for this degree; a two day Co-Create Design Festival in Cape Towns V&A waterfront focusing on urban regeneration and resilience and last night I attended an APES presentation and a discussion by Stephen Granger who is the Manager of Major Projects and Landscape Architect Ancunel Steyn both of the City of Cape Town on “Focus On Preserving & Managing Environmental Resources Plus Important Public Open Spaces Under Increasing Development Pressure”
Both these presenters, who are experienced and highly qualified professionals, highlighted the value of urban natural environments and the problems of establishing, managing and preserving these fragile but valuable spaces.
All of these functions that I attended seemed to me to have a clear thread that highlighted for me, in many ways, the lack of a clear understanding, on the part of most professional participants, and even more so the “public,” of the value of the urban living environment for the sustenance, resilience and survival of its inhabitants. This goes hand in hand with the low value our society seems to place on the individuals and professions that are engaged in establishing, protecting and managing these vital components of the urban fabric. This is so, despite all the green hype of business, sustainability buzzwords in the media, ecological services valuation studies, and climate change attention given by politicians and environmental activists; The people on the ground who have the knowledge skills, experience and passion to provide these services are not afforded the status or remuneration by our society – this similar to the poor pay and conditions of service of other industries providing basic and vital services to society such as nurses and police.
This post on The Plant Hunter by Georgina Reid has a similar story to tell of the problem in Australia and the rest of the world
Where’s a Gardener When you Need One?
As a high school student I had no idea what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. When I did a careers quiz as a 16-year-old and it suggested I become florist, I was offended. If it were suggested I become a gardener, I would have been equally as offended. A combination of ignorance and ego and a culture intent on de-valuing work that actually matters, meant I thought I could do better.
Even in my early days of being a landscape designer (I came to plants as a mature age student, after dumping my ideas of what constituted a sensible/smart career) I never called myself a gardener, and would get quietly offended when people introduced me as one. I am ashamed of this now. ‘Gardener’ is a title I both own and aspire to in equal measures.
My experience, as embarrassingly outlined above, illustrates an issue more profound than personal. It describes a crisis of perception with increasingly vast social and environmental impacts. Gardening, and it’s slightly more serious sounding sister, horticulture, is rarely seen as a valued, intelligent or financially rewarding career pathway. Gardening is a hobby, not a vocation. Gardening is un-thinking, un-skilled manual labour.
When viewed in this way, what 18-year-old in their right mind would choose to become a gardener, to study horticulture? What career adviser or parent would suggest taking on a career that won’t earn much money, offers little social status, and involves bloody hard work?
On the flip side (which is, of course, where I sit), what other career is there that’s more important than caring for and sustaining the land we live upon and the lives that exist in relation to it? When our existence as a species is drilled down to hard truths, there’s few things more important than growing and caring – the twin roles of the gardener.
Yet truths don’t seem to fly these days. As our climate gets hotter, wetter, drier, wilder; as our dialogue with each other and the natural world becomes confused and disjointed; knowing the world, the actual real world, is strangely devalued. Horticulture, the science of growing and caring for plants, is rarely found in Australian universities anymore. In a paper titled The Workforce Challenge in Horticulture, Professor Jim Pratley states that in 2010 there were fewer than 80 graduates in horticulture from Australian universities. This has halved since the 1980s.
The experience of Daniel Ewings, national Operations manager at Andreasens Green Wholesale Nurseries, Sydney echoes the decline in formal horticulture study. He’s found it increasingly difficult to recruit apprentices over the last 10 years. “School leavers these days seem to want to go into a less hands on field than horticulture.” And if they do want hands-on, there’s other issues: “Trades like carpentry offer much higher rates of pay. So if you want to work with your hands, outdoors, there’s better paying options than plants.”
For Daniel, working in a plant nursery is a starting point for a wide range of careers in horticulture like further study in landscape architecture or design, managing garden maintenance teams for councils, owning a nursery business, and more. And the money, well, it comes too. “Horticulture starts off with low pay. But if you’re really good at it, and if you love it, you’ll end up making money”, Daniel says.
The horticulture industry is facing a skills shortage, according to Daniel. “We really need to try and lift our game on recruitment. We need to try and find ways to attract young people to the industry”.
On one hand, there’s less people choosing horticulture as a career, and on the other, the importance of the job has never been greater. City planners and councils are realising the importance of ‘green infrastructure’, as they call it, and are creating policies around it. Our future cities need to be integrated ecologies. They need trees, gardens, green roofs, wetlands, urban forests, parks and farms. “But how do we tend to this proposed nature in our cities?” asks Thomas Gooch, a Melbourne based landscape architect and one of the trustees of the newly launched Global Gardening Trust. “Typical maintenance regimes won’t cut it. Positioning gardening as infrastructure to tend these proposed natural systems in our cities is a really important investment.”
Highlighting the value of gardening as infrastructure in a changing climate is one of the premises of the Global Gardening Trust. Founded by a group of young, passionate professionals connected to the gardening world, the trust is currently offering a three-month internship at De Wiersse – a historic 38-acre garden in the Netherlands. “This program begins to support and learn from established gardens like De Wiersse”, Thomas says. “Things like succession planting, gardening with the rhythms of plants and seasonality.” The heaving, growing and transformative nature our cities need, and are thankfully moving towards, needs to be gardened not maintained. There’s a difference.
“There is a clear distinction between gardening and maintenance. Maintenance is about doing as little as you need to keep it green – creating a bullet proof minimum viable product. Gardening is about investing time and materials into planting, managing plant and soil health, pruning over time, giving plants space to flower. That difference is where we’re positioning the trust”, Thomas says.
“If you invest in humans as gardeners to care for landscapes, you’re going to get richer plant diversity, more pollen stocks and stronger insect health. We’ll have landscapes that are more adaptable to changes in climate because we’ll understand the rhythms and patterns of nature.”
The Global Gardening Trust puts great value on the role of the gardener to create and sustain beauty and create and sustain life. “The Trust is not about falling into a romantic narrative, it’s about valuing the rhythms of nature and giving that a profession. It means hard work, discipline, turning up and doing it beautifully,” says Thomas. Romance is a good thing and certainly a driver for many in the garden, but it’s only the beginning. “Putting a value on gardening can put a value on where we’re heading. A society that values plants and systems, and that is integrated with nature is a clever society – one that supports all life, not destroys it.”
With all the doom and gloom that talking about climate change in the anthropocene engenders in ones audience, all the hype and positivity I can muster flags when I read about the size of the problems faced and the inadequacies and failings of individuals and governments to act, and in fact my own poorly implemented and limited attempts to do something! It seems as if it is extreme hubris on my part to say we can change our lifestyles, consumerist habits or other people’s desires. I was pleasantly surprised while I was researching on LAF’s (Landscape Architecture Foundation) website for a recent magazine article, to discover Martha Swartz talking about the book edited by Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown The most comprehensive plan ever to reverse global warming” Having viewed the website’s info and watched the video I am eagerly awaiting the book.
As Martha Swartz says in the interview on LAF’s website ” I was introduced to Drawdown by Pamela Conrad, a Senior Associate at CMG Landscape Architecture, while preparing for a conference presentation on climate change with her two years ago. We gave a presentation about the book, why it’s important, and why it’s important specifically for landscape architects. We got up there and talked about what climate change is and why it’s so urgent that we address it. What really struck me about Drawdown is that it gave metrics for its solutions. They weren’t theoretical, but actionable ideas”
Here is Paul Hawken, the projects instigator, the books editor and the evangelist of the crusade to make a difference, telling us what inspirited him and how it can affect us and what we can do ourselves, more than just lamenting the lack of efficacy of our recycling or our governments alternative energy strategies!
Here is a load of evidence from The Dirt that new designed ecologies are possible on a large scale and that they involve code sign past the usual silo-like boundaries of academia and professional affiliation. The US Army Corps of Engineers who are often reviled for their failings e.g. in New Orleans , are here showing us that it is cheaper and more efficient to design with natural systems and flows than against them.
“We rely on natural processes and landscapes to sustain human life and well-being. Our energy, water, infrastructure, and agricultural systems use these processes and landscapes to satisfy our most basic human needs. One motivation, therefore, for protecting the environment is to sustain the ecosystem goods and services upon which we depend. As we emerge from the sixth decade of modern environmentalism, there is a growing international awareness of opportunities to efficiently and effectively integrate natural and engineered systems to create even more value.”
One might understandably think this was written by a landscape architect, or excerpted from somewhere on the ASLA website. In fact, it comes from the forward of Engineering with Nature: An Atlas, a new book by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineering with Nature (EWN) team, led by environmental scientist Dr. Todd Bridges.
Over the last eight years, Bridges has quietly built the EWN initiative out of the Army Corps’ Vicksburg, Mississippi headquarters, working with a team of engineers, environmental scientists, and ecologists to develop pilot projects that prove the viability of engineering large-scale infrastructure in partnership with natural systems.
Now, after successfully completing dozens of projects across the U.S., Bridges is pushing to take EWN to new heights. The initiative’s 2018-2023 strategic planenvisions an expanded portfolio of engineering strategies and project types, deeper interdisciplinary and community engagement, and heightened public awareness of EWN goals, activities, and success stories.
To that end, Engineering With Nature: An Atlas documents more than 50 engineering projects completed in recent decades that exemplify the EWN approach. The projects are grouped according to typology, including chapters on beaches, wetlands, islands, reefs, and rivers. Reflecting the collaborative approach of the EWN initiative, only half of the case studies profiled were carried out by the Army Corps. The remainder were executed by partner NGOs in the US and government agencies in England, The Netherlands, and New Zealand, countries which have made substantial investments of their own in innovative coastal and water-based
An Atlas also includes projects that retrofit conventional infrastructure to provide ecological benefits, such as creating nesting habitat for terns on top of breakwaters in Lake Erie, or efforts in the Netherlands to redesign coastal reinforcements to serve as habitat for marine plants and animals. Reminiscent of SCAPE’s Living Breakwaters project off the southern coast of Staten Island, these projects demonstrate an increasing interest in designing infrastructure that provides multiple benefits.
Despite its title, At Atlas does not contain any maps or diagrams to orient the reader–an unfortunate omission that makes it difficult to grasp the scale of the presented projects. Instead, the projects are depicted using solely perspective and aerial photos.
While these photos are informative, the book would have greatly benefited from the development of a graphic language to more clearly and visually communicate the impacts of the presented projects and the issues they seek to address.
Despite these omissions, the breadth and scope of projects presented in Engineering with Nature: An Atlas makes a considerable impression, presenting a range of strategies for designing infrastructure with ecological, social, and cultural benefits at multiple scales.
Perhaps most significantly, An Atlas suggests there is great potential for meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration between the Corps and landscape architects. As landscape architects increasingly seek to broaden the field’s scope to include the planning and design of large-scale systems and ecologies, this collaboration may prove vital. Engineering with Nature: An Atlas begins to paint a picture of what such a collaborative practice may look like.
This view an idea is relevant to the articles I have been posting on the site the last few weeks and to the idea of requiring all design to become CARBON POSITIVE as I state in feature post On Advocacy
Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and wrong duration. It is we who have made carbon a toxin—like lead in our drinking water. In the right place, carbon is a resource and tool.
The world’s current carbon strategy aims to promote a goal of zero. Predominant language currently includes words such as “low carbon,” “zero carbon,” “negative carbon,” and even a “war on carbon.”
The design world needs values-based language that reflects a safe, healthy and just world. In this new paradigm, by building urban food systems and cultivating closed-loop flows of carbon nutrients, carbon can be recognized as an asset rather than a toxin, and the life-giving carbon cycle can become a model for human designs.
The new language signals positive intentions, leading us to do more good rather than simply less bad. It identifies three categories of carbon:
Living carbon: organic, flowing in biological cycles, providing fresh food, healthy forests and fertile soil; something we want to cultivate and grow
Durable carbon: locked in stable solids such as coal and limestone or recyclable polymers that are used and reused; ranges from reusable fibers like paper and cloth, to building and infrastructure elements that can last for generations and then be reused
Fugitive carbon: has ended up somewhere unwanted and can be toxic; includes carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, ‘waste to energy’ plants, methane leaks, deforestation, much industrial agriculture and urban development
Working carbon is a subset of all three categories and defined as a material being put to human use. For example, working living carbon is cultivated in agricultural systems. Working durable carbon is recycled, reused and reprocessed in circular technical systems; and working fugitive carbon includes fossil fuels used for power.
The new language also identifies three strategies for carbon management and climate change:
Carbon positive: actions converting atmospheric carbon to forms that enhance soil nutrition or to durable forms such as polymers and solid aggregates; also recycling of carbon into nutrients from organic materials, food waste, compostable polymers and sewers
Carbon neutral: actions that transform or maintain carbon in durable Earth-bound forms and cycles across generations; or renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydropower that do not release carbon
Carbon negative: actions that pollute the land, water and atmosphere with various forms of carbon, for example, CO2 and methane into the atmosphere or plastics in the ocean
Offering an inspiring model for climate action begins with changing the way we talk about carbon. Our goal is for all to embrace this new language and work toward a Carbon Positive design framework; and in doing so we may together support a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world—with clean air, soil, water and energy—that is economical, equitable, ecological, and elegantly enjoyed.
I have been involved in the practice of landscape design, construction and management my entire life, I love plants and everything to do with the natural and built landscape, while I have had my head buried in the sand of personal interests and passions for many years and I have often been a poor people’s person, I am now acting positively for change and to not being “part of the problem” but working on co-creating a resilient and awesome future with all of those who share my passion.
I believe the landscape profession is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in addressing the most important issues of our time and I am positive we will do so. Challenges include: adaptation and mitigation of the impacts of climate change; addressing moral, social, economic impoverishment and inequality; building resilient new infrastructure that runs on clean energy; co-creating and managing innovative urban places that provide social and ecological justice for all peoples and species.
We can develop a clear vision of our role and capacities, nurture inclusive leadership, embrace advocacy and activism, seek commitment and action from those who feel the same as we do.
To be committed means:
Be more and keep on learning – know the terminology and science of climate change, improve your cultural literacy, read widely, expose yourself to dynamic, uncomfortable circumstances and people; get to see others point of view. Take part, if not in government, then in your local area, PTA or ratepayers association, take part in ILASA, SALI or SAGIC or your own professional or business organisation; assist on an awards committee or organise a function.
Become a visible exampleof the current best practice: evaluate your personal and business actions and act to reduce your carbon, water and waste footprint and aim to become carbon neutral or better, carbon positive.
Build equitable teams; partner across disciplines, practices and publics; mentor young people towards leadership; encourage involvement in real physical networks and form communities of interest with others who share your passion.
Become invested in where you live, assist those who are less fortunate, advocate for what you believe in, give assistance and support to organizations and people who are making difference. Act where you see social or ecological injustice, get to know your local area and national political representative, advocate for the positive role of landscape to them.