The leading event for landscape architecture professionals and students took place in Boston, November 15-18 where more than 6,000 landscape architecture professionals and students from across the U.S. and around the world gathered to earn up to 21 professional development hours, to enjoy the fellowship of the profession, and to reconnect with the fundamental elements of design. Landscape architects are leading projects, not just participating on design teams. The practice is now recognized in all 50 states. While many suffered setbacks during the recession, Landscape Architect’s are the envy of their colleagues in allied design professions. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that landscape architecture was the first design profession to start hiring again after the economic crash—that was over two years ago. The agency now projects that demand for landscape architecture services will be far higher than for any other design service through 2020.
The annual meeting covered training on the latest design thinking on low impact development and rainwater management, which has been a major topic with ASLA for 5 to 6 years now. Green technology for rainwater management came from the Pacific Northwest with amazing case studies from Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Each year we learn from small firm owners across the country on how the manage their respective practices. A small firm roundtable of 4-5 principles talked about design, office management, office accounting for a small firm, and other office practices. This is always very helpful with our small firm.One session this year was about landscape forensics – “why things fail”. A concise presentation about how construction detailing and specifications can lead to certain failure even if constructed well.
Topics this year also included the Green Streets program in Boston. One of the more extensive across the board community driven programs for the conversion of typical Boston streets into pedestrian, bicycle, transit and car friendly streetscapes. Of great interested was a presentation on the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the waterfront park systems adjacent to Manhattan. Lectures included the head of the Hudson River Parks and Brooklyn Parks programs. This was an eye opening experience on how Sandy destroyed miles of electrical systems and completely destroyed multiple public waterfront parks. The session discussed the basic concept of “do you put it back”?
Lastly were two General Sessions on cutting edge topics for landscape architects. Geodesign and emerging GIS systems for design, a fascinating look into the practice of Jack Dangermond. Jack, a landscape architect by training, founded Esri in 1969 with a vision that a mapping and analysis framework could help us design a better future. Over the past four decades, the field of geography has come alive with the development of GIS. While landscape architects have been fascinated by GIS from the beginning, costs and other obstacles have limited its widespread deployment, particularly in smaller firms. The session explored how cloud computing, portable devices, web maps, real-time data, GPS, and other technology trends can provide enormous opportunities for landscape architecture professionals to be a more effective force in conserving nature, making cities more livable, integrating open spaces into urban design, and designing with nature.
The second general session was about Biophilic Design: People and Nature in the Modern World. It explored our connection to the natural world is part of our biological inheritance. Dr. Stephen R. Kellert, a pioneer in biophilia, set forth an account of nature’s powerful influence on the quality of our lives. Weaving scientific findings together with personal experiences and perspectives, Dr. Kellert explored how our humanity is deeply contingent on the quality of our connections to the natural world. He is the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. An award-winning author, educator, and environmental scientist, Dr. Kellert has written more than 150 books and articles and has also completed a 60-minute documentary video, “Biophilic Design: the Architecture of Life.”
The ASLA Annual Meeting hosted over 5000 landscape architects and design professionals in Boston this year. The Annual Meeting will be held in Denver next year from November 21 – 24th.