Keyword Site Search

Connection, Protection, Fusion and Ethics
The Global Influence of Landscape Architects

By Leslie McGuire, managing editor

Zhongshan Shipyard park, Konjian Yu, PhD, IASLA

As the effects of the constant use and misuse of our planet and its natural resources start to filter into the consciousness of people everywhere, the solutions that Landscape Architects provide begin to loom larger and larger in the public arena. It is this, more than ever before, that is driving a deeply philosophical platform from which Landscape Architects are launching a blend, a hybridization, a fusion of design and sustainability with which to save the earth and create art while doing so.

The speakers at the ASLA convention are representative of this global thinking, and their highly ethical views are affecting both large and small scale projects. From large public parks to residential gardens, they are applying their philosophical approach to the land with stunningly beautiful results.

Bordeaux Botanical Garden, Catherine Mosbach, IASLA.
Photo courtesy of Mosbach Paysagistes/Catherine Mosbach

Meet the Keynote Speakers

Catherine Mosbach, IASLA:

Catherine Mosbach, IASLA, a prominent Landscape Architect from Paris with a pan-European reputation, is presenting her approach along with selected projects. Catherine Mosbach speaks out in her work against the "smoothing over of public space", pleading for the connection between person and location with the help of contemporary landscaping techniques. Her interpretations go far beyond the visual, stemming from a phenomenological view of the landscape. The new Bastide Garden at the Bordeaux Botanical Garden in France is designed to deal with issues of biodiversity, renewable natural resources and the dynamics and mutation of landscapes. The concept is that of the artificial "botanical object" for the layout of the gardens.

Water garden, Catherine Mosbach, ASLA.
Photo courtesy of Mosbach Paysagistes/Catherine Mosbach

Kongjian Yu, PhD, IASLA, Dean, Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, Peking University, Beijing, PR China

With the rise of urbanization, globalization and materialism, Dr. Yu believes landscape architecture must address three major challenges in the coming decades. The first challenge is the survival of humanity on earth. More than ever, large populations are exposed to disastrous natural forces, pollution and a shortage of resources, as demonstrated by catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the numerous floods experienced each year around the world.

The second is about cultural identity. Landscape architects and planners should lead the way to identify and design an ecological infrastructure that safeguards ecological processes and cultural heritage before the land development planning stage.

Kongjian Yu, PhD, International ASLA

The third is the protection and rebuilding of our spiritual homeland. Materialism is taking over China, as it is the rest of the world. The land, which used to be inhabited by various spirits that made the landscape meaningful and poetic, is becoming commercialized. Gradually, we are losing our spiritual connections to our land to superficial, exchangeable international images of the world beyond the earthly one, which landscape architecture is positioned to protect and rebuild. His major research interests include: the theory and method of landscape architecture and urban planning; the cultural aspects of landscape; landscape security patterns and ecological infrastructure.

Zhongshan Shipyard park, Kongjian Yu, PhD, IASLA

Jean Michel Cousteau: Honorary ASLA

Explorer, environmentalist, educator, film producer--for more than four decades Jean Michel Cousteau has used his vast experiences to communicate to people of all nations and generations his love and concern for our watery planet. In 1997, Jean Michel founded the Ocean Futures Society to carry on this pioneering work.

A non-profit marine conservation and education organization, the Society serves as a 'Voice for the Ocean' by fostering a conservation ethic, conducting research and developing marine education programs. Jean Michel serves as an impassioned spokesman and diplomat for the environment, reaching out to the public through a variety of media. He has produced over 70 films, and been awarded the Emmy, the Peabody Award, the Palme d'Or and the Cable Ace Award.

Zhongshan Shipyard park, Kongjian Yu, PhD, IASLA

In addition, Jean Michel along with his partner in the Ocean Futures Society, Richard Murphy, got investors to fund a Fiji island resort to keep it from being altered and undermined. They've just now finished their Big Sur Park, which was put together by Cousteau and Murphy. They retrofit this piece of land into an environmentally correct, sensitive and economically successful park. Says Murphy, "It's the best eco resort in the world in terms of landscapes, restored shoreline, native plantings, biodiversity and beneficial insects for pest control." Now 100 percent of their sewage is treated on site and used to irrigate the orchards and landscape so as not to send sewage to the ocean. They work with examples from temperate and tropical landscapes, while managing undersea landscapes, and thus maintain connections between land and sea.

Jean Michel Cousteau
Photo courtesy of Ocean Futures Society

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Recipient of the 2006 Olmsted Medal

During Mayor Daley's administration, Chicago has seen great growth and revitalization, even seeing its population increase for the first time since 1950. He has made civic improvement a high priority, announcing the desire to turn the entire Chicago lakefront into a park making Chicago "The greenest city in America." Mayor Daley is helping create initiatives to increase green roof usage within the city, Chicago City Hall's own rooftop, completed in 2001, being the pilot for the program. It will serve as a test for the impact green roofs would have on the heat island effect in urban areas, rainwater runoff and the effectiveness of differing types of green roofs and plant species for Chicago's climate.

ABOVE TO BELOW: Chicago City Hall Green Roof. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Honorary ASLA.

A Glance at the Education Sessions
Inside the Landscape Architect's Studio: Residential Design

Charles Anderson: ASLA, Residential Design in the Pacific Northwest

Charles Anderson, a 2006 Fellow, and Stephen Koch are discussing their firms and their philosophies within the context of Inside the Landscape Architect's Studio. They'll cover their styles and their histories as well as the history of residential landscape architecture in the Pacific Northwest Having worked with some of the pivotal landscape architects of recent times, such as Lawrence Halprin and Richard Hague, they have an inside track on movements and philosophies that have grown over time. They also intend to make the connection between their residential work and the other types of work they do.

Charles Anderson, ASLA
Photo courtesy of Charles Anderson & Associates

In the main, they are creating a hybridization of sustainability and minimalism. This combines the simplicity and elegance of minimalism with the necessity and ethics of ecological design. This is what Charles Anderson calls Urban Ecology. They have also done quite a bit of work in China, both residential and commercial. According to Anderson there are amazing things to learn working in this newly opened country. They just finished creating an 80-acre theme park in Dalian province called "Kingdoms of Discovery" which has 3,000 gigantic trees.

Mia Lehrer, ASLA, and Pamela Burton, ASLA
Residential Design as a Testing Ground

Mia Lehrer and Pamela Burton do a mix of both residential and larger projects. Mia Lehrer feels that residential design allows the landscape architect to begin by understanding the client. By connecting with the individual, one can begin to bring a vision to a project that is tangible. Both of them are thoroughly committed to sustainability, and they bring that forward to many of their clients. They make it their personal responsibility to guide the client on issues such as choice of drainage, conservation and plant materials.

Mia Lehrer, ASLA
Photo courtesy of Mia Lehrer & Associates

Mia Lehrer has become an environmental activist in her community, which in turn led to larger public works such as the Los Angeles River project and the Orange County Great Park.

Her work is kind of a laboratory. Craftsmen are willing and eager to explore ideas and materials. In addition, she is very interested in the problems of grey water, sustainable plant materials, cisterns, the use of local materials, recycled material, decomposed granite driveways and permeable driveways. "Residential work can truly be a laboratory of ideas and materials. No laboratory is too small. You can bring up larger scale environmental issues which will come to bear in the clients back yard," says Mia Lehrer. "This work is a passion, not a job."

Ken Smith, ASLA
Photo courtesy of Ken Smith Landscape Architecture

Ken Smith, ASLA, and Tom Oslund, FASLA
Residential Design

Ken Smith and Tom Oslund went to Harvard together and are still close friends. They are interested in the challenges of residential design work and the regional differences. They both do a range of work, and both will talk about how residential work ultimately gets into a larger arena. "There are things you can do in residential design that you can't do in public and vice versa, but residential gives you more room to experiment with ideas, says Ken Smith, who is currently working on the project of a lifetime, the Orange County Great Park in Southern California. "Ultimately, they cross fertilize. However, public work has its own frustrations--too many people, too many approvals, complex processes--so working with one family is very nice because the scale is very different."

Thomas Oslund, FASLA
Photo courtesy of Oslund and Associates

Tom Oslund's firm does very selective residential work. Says Tom Oslund, "Our work is pretty minimal and revolves around a larger idea about the garden or a landscape or a condition, which is done in a very simple way--no English romantic gardens here. It's more a cross between the French and the Japanese, with a few Italian principles thrown in." They've done a lot of interesting roof projects. One of their residential projects, a 10th floor loft with a big grass lawn, which is a detention area of course, but is actually a 22 by 44-foot badminton court built to NBAA standards. "The clients are contemporary art collectors who have lived in Frank Gehry and Phillip Johnson houses," says Oslund. "When they decided to move into a loft, they only kept a Reiman piece that was simple and white. We used the badminton court as a plane, but kept it simple like an Ellsworth Kelly. Like most interesting minimal work, it is very complex and detailed. One of the interesting things is that, historically, landscape architects have used space as artists do. Heavily influenced by art, they try to create artfully inspired places that work for people.

Robert M. Kost, ASLA
Photo courtesy of Robert M. Kost

Field Session Leaders

Robert M. Kost, ASLA
Transit Oriented Development

Participants in "Riding the Rails" will take a guided tour of the recently completed 11-mile Hiawatha Light Rails Transit line. The transit agency utilized a multidisciplinary team of five separate architecture firms partnered with individual artists and led by a single landscape architecture / urban design firm to develop unique place-based designs for each of the 16 stations. The Landscape Architects also prepared an aesthetic design guide for project elements employed with the entire light rail line.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Peter Rothschild, FASLA, The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The piece of land that is now the site of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was, 75 years ago, the Armory Gardens. The elaborate gardens eventually became a playing field. In 1988 the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board collaborated to turn the field into the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Now, at 11-acres, it is home to more than 40 works of art in the permanent collection and is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.
In 2005 the firm, Quennell Rothschild, won the Art Commission of New York City's Excellence in Design Award for the Reconstruction of Louise Nevelson Plaza as well as their Excellence in Design Award for the Installation of a Sculpture of Harriet Tubman by Alison Saar and the Redesign of Harriet Tubman Memorial Plaza.

Peter Rothschild, FASLA
Photo courtesy of Peter Rothschild

Shane Coen ASLA, The Evolution of the Minneapolis Parks and Parkway System

Minneapolis. The city’s name blends the Dakota word for water and the Greek for city. In the same way, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway blends the natural heritage and human history of Minneapolis. The Byway circles downtown Minneapolis, spotlighting native plants and waterfalls, archaeological sites, and innovative modern sculpture. Minneapolis has taken efforts to conserve the beauty of the prairie alongside its metropolitan area, incorporating large nature preserves that offer more than a simple view of wildlife. Through its variety of nature, history, and art, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway encompasses Minneapolis’ past, present, and future.

Shane Coen ASLA
Photo courtesy of Shane Coen

Related Stories

December 6, 2019, 12:45 pm PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy